dfthaman, Co-owner of RLX
The first-ever MWEB GameZone Masters Series (MGMS), hosted alongside African Cyber Gaming League (ACGL), was held with the biggest prize pool of R10 000 for an online tournament in South Africa. As expected, many teams entered but only four could advance to the Grand Finals after two gruelling qualifying rounds.
On Sunday, 4 February, eXdee Gaming, going in as the hot favourites against Rocket Éclair, VxP | Elem3ntriX and Team Name, emerged victorious after one of the best and most interesting finals we have ever seen live, against Rocket Éclair. One game eXdee won 8-0 and then a few games later Rocket Éclair answered with 7 unanswered goals of their own. It was like two heavyweight boxers trading big blows– “one for me and one for you”. In the end there could only be one winner and it was the boys from eXdee Gaming mOTHER (Christian Massyn), NoClip (Sergio Frasca) & Timmy_JS (Timothy Santos). mOTHER became the first player and captain of a team to secure back-to-back major championship titles (he won the VS Gaming’s Championship last year at rAge with OK | Dangerkids – interview here).
I interviewed the main roster on their TeamSpeak channel, and it was such a fantastic experience talking to these gentlemen. The way they see and approach the game is inspiring and definitely worth the read. As a side note, we actually had to do the interview over two evenings because of how long these fun and informative sessions were.
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Congratulations on winning the first-ever MGMS and being back to back South African major championship winners. What was the team’s feeling after beating fierce rivals, Rocket Éclair?
mOTHER: It was a huge relief. We took the tournament very seriously and practised a lot so obviously losing would suck.
Timmy: When the ball touched the ground we all shouted as we were very glad and relieved.
Tell me more about this rivalry between you and Rocket Éclair?
mOTHER: It started in early 2016 after I left White Rabbit Gaming (WRG), after the Telkom Digital Gaming League (now VS Gaming) pre-season cup, to play with 1Perry in Dangerkids and then playing against Nianfo who was in WRG. So since then we have been playing against each other a lot and have met in many finals where it was always a close affair.
The MGMS Grand Final between the two of you was a close affair with many of the games won and lost by large margins. How did that happen exactly?
mOTHER: I think it was just a case of figuring each other out all the time. The first game we played they didn’t expect our playstyle since we haven’t played each other at all lately. But because both teams have good players at a very high level we were constantly adapting to each other.
How does one adapt?
mOTHER: You need to look at the reasons why you are losing or making mistake and then eliminate those mistakes as well as counter what the other team is doing. For example, if they are trying to boost-starve you then someone can make a call to the team that they should focus on taking the smaller boost pads to counter the boost-stealing.
NoClip: You have to start every game with a clear mind. And you can’t go into a game expecting to lose.
Timmy: You need to watch and learn from what the opposing team are doing; this you especially learn to do in EU ranked.
As you guys have been arguably the best team in the country for a while now, you also go into every tournament as the favourites. How do you guys deal with this?
Timmy: We just play; you have to try and ignore it.
mOTHER: Big teams can crack under such pressure as there is a certain status and keeping up of appearance that goes along with it that puts unnecessary pressure on you. There is a school of thought that can happen where you think to yourself “we are busy losing and we shouldn’t.” But there is also a school of thought that is solution-focused – “what are we doing wrong and how can we fix this”. We go by the second one.
What is your communication during games like? I always figured mOTHER as a guy who is kind of strict when it comes to comms and being focused on the game?
Timmy & NoClip: [laughing] – No, mOTHER is one of the first to start making jokes and stuff.
mOTHER: I am not always serious and make jokes too. Timmy is more the one to help us focus. But we try to have no unnecessary chatter. We also look around and be aware and speak to each other while it keeping short and sweet. For example, during MGMS Timmy would tell us that the opponents have just taken a specific big boost pad so then we know that one will only respawn in 10 seconds.
I think it helps that we are good friends and make good conversation. At school, I played full-back (rugby) and one of my best friends played on the wing-position and because of our friendship we had such good synergy on the field. This applies to Rocket League as well.
What would you owe the success of the team to?
NoClip: Having a clear mind and being focused.
Timmy: That the team have a collective mindset regarding Rocket League and the match at hand.
mOTHER: Balance is key – you need to practise but also feel physically comfortable such as being well-rested and eating healthy, as well as being positive.
One thing that I really appreciate about your team is how you guys seem to share the knowledge and tools you have about Rocket League – for example, the video put out by eXdee about team plays and how you have recently shared the link to a live whiteboard on the RLSA Discord.
mOTHER: Yes, I believe it is important for scene-growth to share what you have.
It was quite evident that you guys practised a lot before MGMS and used tools such as a live whiteboard. Tell us more about a typical weekly training schedule?
mOTHER: Before we formed part of eXdee Gaming we were a bit lax. We played from Monday to Sunday for about one hour per night and more before a tournament. Now with the eXdee contract we have more rigid hours that were stipulated by them after having a discussion with us. So now it is two hours per night and seven on the weekend – so a total of 17 hours per week as a team. We play casual games to bond but when work on strategies we take it seriously. Also, as a warm-up before a match we used to do ranked but after speaking to some Dota players they advised against it as potentially losing your desired rank can be a negative blow right before a match. So now we do some EU casual to get our skills up and then do a scrim against a South African team to get used to the ping.
I saw your organisation’s owner, De-Wet Lombard, watching and supporting you guys on the MGMS stream. Seems like he is really involved and supportive?
mOTHER: He is a very nice and chill owner. We appreciate it. There is a clause in our contract that says both the organisation and the team and its players will show loyalty to each other. This is a huge part in what initially attracted us to this organisation – it’s not just about gaining earnings but rather gaining family.
“… there is also a school of thought that is solution-focused – ‘what are we doing wrong and how can we fix this.'” – mOTHER
mOTHER, a back-to-back major champion winner and captain.
Give us an example of a strategy you guys developed using the whiteboard and how it gets initiated in-game?
Timmy: We have generic defence rotation and once we break the pressure we then fall into attacking rotation. There isn’t a set role for each person – everyone should and can do anything. So we try to build from the current play.
mOTHER: We don’t have any set plays but rather use dynamic plays. So we have one main rotation applicable everywhere while the other strategies are situational – most of them are obvious when to carry out.
NoClip: Our game is controlled and adjustable and adaptable. We don’t do the only thing we are good at like passing plays. You have to mix it up.
mOTHER: Yes, in the beginning when we formed we only did passing plays as we are good it at and then people figured that strategy out too quickly and cut our passes out.
Timmy: Rocket League should be thought intensive and one should have a good ground-control game. Your game-endurance is always important.
I heard from mOTHER that you guys are taking this week off after winning MGMS? What is the reason for that?
mOTHER: We rewarded ourselves. Training and practise takes its toll so after a big tournament win like this we need a break.
Timmy: You need to take a break from something every once in a while – very important. Otherwise what you are doing can take its toll on your mental game. You need to realise when to take a break during the day.
Sergio: Taking a break gives your brain a break and helps you to reflect on the game.
So you moved from Online Kingdom to eXdee Gaming. How did this happen and how can other local teams attempt the same?
mOTHER : Because we did so well last year I emailed some of the organisations that have teams competing at the highest levels such as at the VS Gaming Masters Championship. All of them basically told me that their contracts were already signed and that they are full of teams already. I later got approached by eXdee Gaming’s owner after we won rAge and I had a meeting with him and so things started.
To the people out there who want to become part of organisations – build up a portfolio and stay together as a team. You also need to be able to market yourselves as that is a very important aspect organisations are interested in – the relationships needs to be mutually exclusive. Rocket League is still small in our country so don’t expect full sponsorships immediately.
Originally, mOTHER, you guys (OK | Dangerkids) were going to continue after rAge, then disbanded, then you formed a new team with OK |Impulse’s NoClip and red Neptune’s Timmy_JS? Why Timmy?
Sergio: We felt bad for Timmy [everyone laughs]. No, seriously, Timmy is the most improved player in South Africa.
mOTHER: In 2016 Timmy and I already started speaking about forming a team. After rAge we tried out several players but after the first night of playing with Timmy, NoClip and I knew he was the one.
Timmy: I wanted to make a team and told mOTHER that if he was free we should team up.
A lot of teams, when they first form, go through a honeymoon period where everything works and clicks, and then right after that they go through a rough patch and then have to work really hard on rectifying the problems and mistakes. Did that happen to you guys?
mOTHER: Exactly what you describe there happened to us! We went through our honeymoon period, then had to endure a rocky patch where nothing was working. Then I found the whiteboard which suddenly gave us structure and form again.
Some professionals sportsmen/women, like tennis players, will change a shirt for example if they are behind in a game just to refresh themselves. Do you ever do stuff like that in Rocket League?
Timmy: Yes! I do that all the time. I feel faster when changing decals and cars.
mOTHER: Another pro tip – warm-up in slo-mo mode (in a private match change the mutator of game speed). After a while switch back and you will feel faster and better again.
Timmy, you are arguably the most improved players in South Africa during the last couple of months. How did you improve so much recently?
Timmy: Back when I was bad I relished every opportunity to play against Dangerkids, red Neptune and Rocket Éclair. I just wanted to take part in everything. I also grinded ranked with Delta_Force_ZA a lot. I would also pick something to focus on everytime I practised, for example aerials or ground control. Then I implement it in ranked when I felt comfortable with it. I also watched the pros play and copied them.
Timmy, you have one of the most expensive cars in the games and had items such as the Titanium White Octane and Titanium White Zombas (which can sell for over $200). How did you acquire those items and why?
Timmy: I actually saw a video of JHZER playing with his white Zombas. Then I got money for Christmas last year and didn’t know what to spend it on. Because I spend so much time playing Rocket League I decided to buy one of the best-looking items – the white Zomba wheels. I got bored of it after a while and got myself a white octane.
NoClip, you have over 4300 hours in the game! But apparently some of it was spent doing other things besides playing matches. So let’s settle this debate once and for all – how many hours have you actually spent playing Rocket League?
I have spent about 1000 hours freestyling. I was part of a freestyling clan and have freestyled with the Pulse clan. Here are some videos from my old channels – here and here.
I don’t play too much ranked. For a long time I actually didn’t play at all because I was scared of my ping.
About 500 hours was spent trading.
But I have the most hours in training – I go to Freeplay a lot. This is where I get used to the walls and bounces and I feel today I can use the wall to my advantage against opponents.
“You have to start every game with a clear mind. And you can’t go into a game expecting to lose.” – NoClip
NoClip, one of SA’s most mechanically-skilled players
What are your team’s plans going forward?
mOTHER: We want to try and win the VS Gaming qualifier and place well. We want to qualify for the VS Championship at rAge at the end of the year. Besides SA tournaments, we also want to play ESL as much as possible. NoClip is in Grade 10 this year and we also have girlfriends and stuff so we are not always able to play everything. Personally I would also like invest more time into social media doing Rocket League-related things.
mOTHER & NoClip: Getting our streams up and going.
NoClip: Just continue playing and not have beef with anyone and be friendly with everyone.
What is your guys’ feeling on the growth of the local Rocket League scene and what more can be done to improve it?
Timmy: I like the growth – I am happy for new servers and the rapid growth. I am however upset at players leaving the scene and stop playing competitively.
NoClip: I hope the rest of the player-base can catch up to the current top players.
mOTHER: Rocket League in South Africa is only in its 3rd year which is still a foundation phase. There is bound to be new players and we have to train the new players and coach them in different ways. We also need to continue building the necessary infrastructure like RLX is doing. There needs to be a constant circle of replacement as well – as soon as someone steps down from competitive Rocket League a new equally skilled-person should be there to replace him/her. I hope for more up-and-coming streamers. More than one good team is always good for the scene instead of one team wrecking everyone else.
“Rocket League is one of the first games that I could just sit down and play. I used to get angry at games like Call of Duty.” – Timmy_JS
Timmy_JS, after his breakout-season in 2017, now finds himself on one of the top teams in SA with a big organisation behind them
What makes you keep practising?
mOTHER: I am very competitive so I always want to achieve something and I always have a goal with Rocket League.
NoClip: It is a great time to make friendships.
Timmy: Rocket League is one of the first games that I could just sit down and play. I used to get angry at games like Call of Duty.
What was the hardest thing for you as a team to grasp, e.g. practice times, rotations in-game etc.,?
mOTHER: Personally I feel it was to drop our bad habits. We grasped our rotations and offence/defence pretty quickly. But we had to unlearn bad habits from the past, for example, being very aggressive and ball-chasing.
Timmy: We were used to roles on other teams so we had to work hard to know our roles in the current roster.
NoClip: I think in the beginning it was rotations but suddenly we started getting them down quite well. So right now it’s just trying to play smoothly with the three vastly different play-styles we have coming in from three separate teams.
What fundamentals can you give to the aspiring Rocket League player out there?
Timmy: Solo-queue ranked a lot. That teaches you to adapt to every scenario in a game.
mOTHER: Consistency is key – where to position or strike the ball all the time. Also learn to adapt.
NoClip: Keep trying your best and make sure you practice everything because even if something seems basic it is actually more used at Grand Champ level then at lower levers as this is where you have to be more careful. Other than that just play with passion and make sure you’re enjoying it and not just trying to reap the in-game rewards.
Who is the best player in South Africa?
mOTHER: Magoo – he is so mechanically skilled. He is always changing and adapting as well as good in the air and fast. He is the full package.
Timmy: Mechanically – NoClip; Defensively – mOTHER; Adaptation – Magoo; Dribbler – Snowwy.
NoClip: To be honest, I don’t feel as if there is a best player. There are a lot of inconsistencies at the top with one player shining in one thing and then maybe another shining at something else. I think it is quite equal. Rank should also not be a factor when it comes to deciding this as it too has many inconsistencies. Rather, community-hosted tournaments should be an indicator where nothing is hidden in the dark.
Kaska7, eXdee’s reserve player for 2018, teaming up with mOTHER once again
How do you feel about seeding in tournaments hosted in South Africa? If it is fair to seed teams in different groups/stages due to their previous achievements or “experience points” or should it be completely random?
mOTHER: People are seeded because then the tournament can have the closest final possible. Entertainment value is important. Seeding makes a tournament fair as better and consistent teams should be rewarded with a higher seed.
Timmy: Football leagues do it well with round-robin-style formats where everyone play against everyone.
NoClip: I think it would be a good thing if it is accurate. As it gives the lower level teams a chance at playing in their skill level and maybe taking something from the tournament instead of being taken out before they get a chance.
What do you tell each other at the end of a game that is lost to help prepare for the next game?
Timmy: We try not to take the loss too hard and then go into the next game with a clear mind and clear slate.
mOTHER: You can’t change the past. Learn from it.
NoClip: We typically talk about what we did wrong and reflect on it. We also take a very small break in some cases. We definitely talk about what we can practice in training now which is great because then we have a specific goal.
There is a glaringly large difference in skill level between top teams versus other teams in the local scene. What advice can you give teams (especially newer ones) to motivate them and continue competing?
mOTHER: Make a decision on what you want. If you want to be in VS Gaming’s Premier Division then you need to be dedicated and put the hours in. Also, play against other teams as well so that you build up library-index of how you and your teammates play together and also know how others play.
Timmy: Understand that the other guys have lots of experience and hours and be realistic that it will take awhile to get to a high level.
NoClip: You have to get there somehow. I was once considered to run a bad team but as soon as I started putting in the hours I was more recognized. Typically we as eXdee see these teams very often and take note of them thinking to ourselves “wow, that’s a good contender”. We appreciate the grind some of these teams put in. So I can say that you definitely earn a lot of people’s respect just for trying.
Shoutouts to anyone?
mOTHER: The Dexterity and Kryptic Rocket League teams. I see you as one of the top teams in the future and give you the eXdee stamp of approval. And Gary must remember to set his alarm to wake up in time for the next tournament xD.
Also to RLX – we appreciate what you guys are doing and look forward to continue working together in the future.
Timmy: We notice those teams and they must not stop what they are doing.
Also shoutout to RLX. We appreciate what you guys are doing.
Also shoutout to wagter182, Magoo, Aether, Grinchmeister and cPZebra who introduced me to the scene. After one of the RLX tournaments where I played against cPZebra, I contacted him for tips and he really helped me regarding what I what was doing wrong and he was brutally honest which helped a lot.
NoClip: My mom! (Yes, She still takes care of me).