For the first time in what feels like forever, things are different with CYCLOPS athlete gaming.
The Japanese team, which was long criticised for its persistence with the same roster throughout constant and unrelenting international failures, has finally made a change. This change was teased ahead of the Jönköping Major by CAG coach Fumiya "Fuji3" Fujisaki, who had said results there or at the Six Invitational 2023 would dictate changes.
And with CAG failing to progress past the group stages in Sweden once more, the change has come before next week's world championship event.
"We had the same members for so long time because we didn't have the players we wanted (available in the market)," said Fuji3 through a translator, in a SiegeGG interview ahead of the Invitational.
"However, with the development of the Japan League, the number of excellent players has been increasing."
But what seems to have truly spurred CAG into change were drops in their domestic fortunes in the big-money Japan League. In 2021, they won the Japan League on a canter, winning 14 straight games to take home about US$135,000. This followed a similar win in 2020, where they were Japan Championship winners.
However, in 2022, they finished a distant second to tier-two team SCARZ -- a large 14 points behind and only four points ahead of Fnatic and Crest Gaming in third and fourth place.
CAG also continued to struggle internationally in 2022, failing to progress past the groups at both Six Majors they attended. This extended the length of their failed playoff progression attempts to six.
"It had become difficult to win, so we thought it was the right time for change," said Fuji3. "There was (also) a sense of stagnation in the team, so we wanted to make (a change) as quickly as possible."
The change CAG have undertaken involved the release of Hideki "Gatorada" Nishida and the signing of Takashi "Arcully" Ono -- the first player change they made in over three years.
With such a long time between changes, working with Arcully will prove to be somewhat challenging -- notwithstanding the fact that the young gunner will make his tier-one debut at the biggest stage in Rainbow Six Siege. CAG also only started practicing with Arcully "in January", leaving them with a little over a month to work well together.
"With the signing of a new player, what had been easy for us became suddenly a little more difficult," explained Fuji3. "So, we started to have more strategy meetings before and after the scrim."
While the playing roster has changed, at least partially, the backroom staff have not. Though Fuji3 had expressed a desire to sign an analyst and perhaps even a sports psychologist after the Jönköping Major, that has not become reality yet. While he was not forthcoming as to why, he reiterated that the team was looking for one "as soon as possible". As such, CAG will be one of five teams at the Invitational to only have one support staff member.
This will make CAG's goal of a maiden playoff qualification that much harder. While only one team from each group will be eliminated, the Japanese share theirs with Charlotte Major grand-finalists Astralis, two-time 2022 semi-finalists Oxygen Esports, Jönköping Major champions Team BDS, and Charlotte Major quarter-finalists LOS oNe.
So, how do they plan to do it?
"I get CAG players to practice with an awareness of not only Japan and Asia, but also the world," explained Fuji3. "We have recently reworked our strategies. I think that is a big change. I don't think we can win the Invitational with the strategies we've been using, so we're continuing to come up with new strategies right now."
Catch CAG in action in just five days when the Six Invitational 2023 begins on Feb. 7.
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