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"I take everything as a profit after we qualif[ied] for the playoff": Changed Elevate looking to carry SI momentum into Charlotte

Elevate had seven chances for international appearances fall apart in 2021. Now they have had two in a row.

Image via Ubisoft/@itsmeerror

While Elevate dominated the APAC region in 2021 and ended it with a SI 2022 qualification, it was a year of many missed opportunities. Or, as Paramin "Onigiri" Suwanwattana said it himself, a year of many “chokes”.

Hailing from the Land of Smiles, Onigiri lives up to his country’s nickname with a wide grin while saying that, before revealing that he feared the same would happen to Elevate in the 2022 season as well. After all, despite a successful debut at SI 2022, Elevate benched top-performer Sumate "Nay..Pew" Srimabut and lost Siwa "Nerix" Kaewtossapone to retirement.

Nerix, says Onigiri, lost interest in Siege and left Elevate to pursue a pro career in another game or continue his studies. Like many prior retirements and sabbaticals in Siege, excessive pressure was cited by Nerix as the cause of his deteriorating mental health. Benching Nay..Pew, on the other hand, was a decision that “everyone agreed upon”.

Elevate’s new signings did not look impressive at the start of the season. Saravut "markshortboyz" Mandee and Phuriphat "MrPuncH" Kessaneeyabut were both rookies and unproven and it seemed Elevate was in trouble when they lost to newly-promoted Renatus Gaming and hitherto midfield challenger Dire Wolves. 

“At the start that we changed the roster, so [we knew] it was not going to be easy to see the chemistry with the new players,” he explained. “After we can see the chemistry, as you can see we keep winning and winning after the first two matches.”

13 points from their final five games ensured that Elevate climbed to second in the APAC South standings with a +13 round delta. One loss and two wins in the APAC Playoffs later, Elevate were headed to the Charlotte Major.

“I take everything as a profit after we qualify for the playoff,” said Onigiri of his mentality heading into the APAC Playoffs. “We didn’t expect that we will come this far and qualify for the Major is very huge for us.”

Despite their status as greenhorns, both MrPuncH and markshortboyz have been playing like old hands on this Elevate team. MrPuncH has three clutches in the APAC Playoffs already, while markshortboyz leads the field in terms of defuser plants. Similarly, in the regular APAC South season, markshortboyz had the highest number of plants at a count of 10, while MrPuncH had the third-highest KOST in the league.

The APAC South Division Stage 1 featured Onigiri, DCH, and both rookies in the top five of various stat categories.

Identifying them as the replacements involved a set of personal connections, revealed Onigiri, as both players were on domestic rivals Sharper Esport prior to signing for Elevate. Sharper had been impressive in the Operation League Thailand in 2021, even beating out Qconfirm. However, after failing to secure promotion to APAC South, Sharper had disbanded.

“So, my manager contact these two guys,” explained Onigiri. “At the first we not sure that we can see the chemistry or not because they’re like from different team and maybe that the way they work in their team is not the same as us, so we kinda worried but in the end we can figure it out.”

The Charlotte Major will be a significant step up from domestic APAC South competition, however, and the three SI 2022 veterans will now have to guide their two rookie teammates through debuting internationally.

“We gonna keep telling them that there’s no pressure, just play like Ranked,” said Onigiri of his team’s plan to get them to perform in Charlotte, cracking another smile.

Even if the two debutants perform, though, Elevate seemingly have further issues to tackle with what looks like a limited map pool. Against CAG, Elevate were brushed aside on their opponents’ map pick, while Elevate struggled until maximum overtime against Knights and maximum regulation time against Talon Esports.

“We have our awareness on the map pool and we know that we struggle with that,” said Onigiri. “I have to say that we keep improving our map pool and strats on every maps. Right now we have a strat for every map and we just need to fix some problem that we struggle about in the scrim.”

Despite that shortcoming, Elevate is raring to go at Charlotte with this new roster. Not only will it be the first event in over two years to feature crowds, it will feature some entirely new teams and some -- like Elevate -- old teams with new faces.

“I think maybe Astralis,” answered Onigiri when asked about which team he’s most hoping to play. “They are really aggressive team and I saw how their gun skill is and they’re just like another LATAM team -- that’s just my opinion. … And NA, they’re just scary but they’re winnable.”

Elevate are aiming to win the Charlotte Major and they’ll take their first steps towards that goal on May 16, with the tournament running until May 22.