With the Elite Series playoffs in sight, an entire season can be defined by one result. It's as intense as it gets for the players involved – but spare a thought for the team managers as well. Two who will be in the bunkers this weekend include Adam 'Blanks' Heath of Reason Gaming and Prophecy's Robert 'Tatl' Evans. We sat down to chat with both of them about their management philosophies and how they built their franchises into title contenders.Robert is quick to note the lessons learned from Season 1, and the importance of talent scouting and building a strong core to each team:'I feel like a lot of the benefits each team seemed to gain from Season 1 is identifying what parts of their roster actually work. I mean for us, with SFV we took Shivryuken who was doing quite well in Season 1 and built on that with Akainu also staying, added in Zera, brought in DarkMoonHado as well and built on that two-man core into the four-man roster that's doing quite well for us at the moment. And the same thing for Rocket League – we took a roster that was really struggling in S1, took one of those members who was doing quite well in Mummisnow, added in two more (players), built that core around him and did quite well.'Robert believes Reason went for a similar philosophy for this season – and Adam is quick to agree.'Yeah, completely. With CS:GO, we changed it completely, went from a UK lineup to a Danish one that I've worked with some of the players before, so I knew exactly what I was getting into. In SFV we took Undacuva from Season 1 – he's a great character and a very very strong player, and he's shown that this season. He built such a strong roster for us, and he's already looking forward to Season 3 to find new players for that. Rocket League was a mess in Season 1, we started with a team who I don't think they fully understood what they were signing up for and the commitment that would involve, and so we ended up playing with more subs and drafts than the actual team that we started with. Part of that team was Rix Ronday who I turned to for Season 2, I was like 'do your thing, I know you're a good player, put together your roster and we'll just run with that and see how it goes.' We sit here now being 7-0, so I'd say it worked fine!'Perhaps the defining feature of this season was the ability of recruit players and subs to come in at a moments notice and secure crucial results – and Robert cites the importance of the Draft in that regard:'We were looking really for this season just to have reliable options to bring in, in case we had any issues with our main roster. This season it ended up being a lot more impactful for us than I expected with our pickup of DarkMoonHado, who we brought in against exceL when we had a passport issue with Zera that week. And DarkMoonHado came in in matchups that really didn't favour him and completely turned the series and gave us one of our biggest wins. It's really good to get that experience for them on stage in practice and let them show what they can do, and also quite vital to the teams because running a team in a league on a weekly basis is a big task in terms of management and organisation. There are going to be bumps along the road which is why you need those subs and drafts.'The draft was similarly important for Reason, as Adam points out:'We went into the draft without a full SFV squad, and we picked up Boltstrike from there straight away who has been a standout player throughout the season – he's really performed well and is just a great guy to have as part of the team. For CS:GO as well, having an all-Danish roster we also picked up a UK draft – Zeo, who I've been friends with for 7-8 years. I know he's a brilliant player and it's actually lucky we had him – one week, one of our players couldn't make their flight, so we ended up ringing Zeo – 'Nick, get on a train to London, you're playing today!' And he turned up out of the blue, no practice at all with the team, not speaking their language, and it was against Epsilon and we ended up going into double overtime and winning 22-18 with an unfit roster! And he did exactly what was expected of him, played his role perfectly.'Both managers are coming in with very different levels of experience in esports, and with three different squads to manage across the Elite Series season, each one has its own challenges as Rob explains:'I think you have to give and take in certain places. You have to apply a good standard to all your teams, but at the same time, each scene seems to have a different style that works for them. SFV tends to have big personalities, but oddly enough it's also one of those scenes where all the players seem really quite humble at the same time, mainly because of how the fighting community has always been very homegrown, so all the players come from that humble background. And coming into something big like this, they're all very easy to work with in a way, despite those big personalities. You really have to approach the (CS:GO) players in a very different way because of how much more developed that scene is – a lot of the players are used to working with management people, so they either have ideas from other management styles that they are used to that you may have to adapt to, or they just expect a certain standard or style that they are going for.'Conversely, Adam goes for a more direct, open approach across all his rosters:'I don't really change my style between teams; I'm always direct, to the point and as honest as you can be with certain things. As Rob said, dealing with (CS:GO), it's different because they are used to this sort of situation. But I'm quite lucky with the Danish guys, I've worked with some of them before, so they understood me, I understood them, so it was just like falling back into old habits with them. And with SFV, although they are individual players, the Reason squad really act as a team, they've got each other's back all the time, they all listen to Steve (Undacuva) who is the team captain, and dealing with Steve is just so easy – you can just tell him straight forward if something's not working, tell him and it's sorted. Across the two seasons I've never needed to go into 'full management' mode to get anything done with any of the teams – apart from chasing flight forms, which is a bit of a nightmare!'Both Reason and Prophecy have teams going into their respective playoffs for the first time. But whilst lack of experience in knockout matches might be an issue, Rob argues that in such a high-pressure format as the Elite Series, where every win is absolutely vital, the difference between a high-stakes league match and a semi-final aren't that noticeable at all:'For a lot of the players, and the whole unit as a team, I feel like the playoffs aren't much more different than everyday at the office; it's a league format but at the same time, you can reach a certain point where it's make-or-break. In SFV I feel like every round is always a knockout round! The pressure of every single game just seems so high, that I can't imagine playoffs being that much different.'Adam points out that the best-of-three format for the CS:GO playoffs creates additional challenges, but is confident that his Danish squad have shown enough grit and determination to withstand the heat of playoffs:'(With CS:GO) it's slightly more stressful, as you go into a best-of-three format, so no matter what you've done in the first game, you've got to replicate that and improve on that.That's the one thing the Danish guys have got over teams I've had before; their endurance is phenomenal. We've come into games and gone 11-4 down first half, and I'm sitting in the crowd thinking 'I can't take this!'. And then we just take it round after round – they don't drop their heads, they just go 'okay we've just gotta do this.' They never take no for an answer, they just keep on doing what they need to do.'With the playoffs just days away, neither manager is showing much signs of nerves, although Rob admits that his team's SFV semi-final clash with Infused is a matchup worthy of the final itself:'I'm certainly confident coming into playoffs; I really believe in our rosters, we've performed great, I'm really proud of how they've done, and hopefully they can be really proud of the results no matter what. For SFV, semi-finals are definitely gonna be the difficulty for us...with Infused having dropped that last game unexpectedly and ending up in the matchup versus us. I'd arguably say the two strongest lineups coming into the SFV playoffs are in that matchup. It certainly feels like if we get through Infused...there's never an easy game, but at the same time it's a bit of a breather once we're through that. And then for Rocket League, you have the nagging worry of the last few weeks, identifying the problems – hopefully we were able to fix them and we're able to go into the playoffs and get the semi-finals done, make it to the finals against Reason and finally lift that trophy!'Adam has similar concerns about CS:GO semi-final opponents Envy, but remains very confident that Reason will be lifting two trophies by the end of Season 2:'With CS:GO, we've got a tough one straight off the bat – we're against Envy which is the team that beat us before (in Week 1). I think if we can overcome that, the trophy's ours – there's no reason why we can't replicate wins against teams we've already beaten. Rocket League...after an unbeaten season, realistically I can't see us not making the finals. We're up against Method first off, their main roster's not playing so we'll be against most of their subs, so that should be an okay game for us. And then coming into the finals...(laughs) I mean if Rob SOMEHOW overturns Endpoint, I guess we'll face him, if not we'll be up against the Season 1 champions, and we'll take the trophy of them. I visualise having two trophies at the end of the season – so long as we beat Envy in CS:GO, we'll have two trophies.'As far as these guys are concerned, all the Season 2 silverware will be going home with them in some way; the questions is how the spoils will be shared out. 'I think it'll be quite prophetic that either Reason or Prophecy take two trophies home – it'll be one or the other' notes Rob, before Adam quips 'Well you can take the SFV one, I'll take the other two. How about that?'We'll leave them to figure it out amongst themselves, shall we?
Reason & Prophecy - Ready For The Playoffs?
With the Elite Series playoffs in sight, an entire season can be defined by one result. It's as intense as it gets for the players involved – but spare a thought for the team managers as well. Two who will be in the bunkers this weekend include Adam 'Blanks' Heath of Reason Gaming and Prophecy's Robert 'Tatl' Evans. We sat down to chat with both of them about their management philosophies and how they built their franchises into title contenders.