Witness Gaming arrived to the RCADIA Fortress LAN on the tail of a perfect ETF2L season going into playoffs. Although they weren't able to maintain a perfect record throughout the entire LAN, they got very close. Through the Invite Round Robin Stage, Witness Gaming remained unbeaten. They were still unstoppable through the Knockouts stage, winning every match 2-0 up until the grand final. In the final Witness Gaming put on a I-Cant-Believe-It's-Not-Scripted show against tf2easy, going to the fifth map and with 4 Golden Caps. Although tf2easy put up a monster performance, wG ended up solidifying their position as the top dog (Sorry Connor) in Europe.
With another crown to their legacy, Witness Gaming were hungry for even more and won the ETF2l Autumn 2022 Season, besting The League Of Shadows in the grand final. After their scintillating win against tf2easy , I managed to get 15 minutes of papi's time in between the post-game celebrations and sit down for a short interview in the reception area of the RCADIA Hotel.
teamfortress.tv: Firstly, congratulations on winning the LAN, maybe a closer match than you’d want against tf2easy. You had your ETF2L official against League of Shadows earlier today too, which was also a close win: Did you reset afterwards or try to bring the energy from the win into the LAN?
We tried to reset but I think generally it was just a bad day. Not to take anything from tf2easy, this was an amazing final. But of course, we wanted to be cleaner. I don't think we played our best and I don't think they played their best. It was just a big grudge match. The ETF2L game earlier was really poor from us. I think in general not a great day but in the end, we came out on top.
teamfortress.tv: How does this LAN match up to something like the iSeries in Birmingham or the Copenhagen Games?
I think it's different from iSeries because it's just European teams. It feels similar to Copenhagen, but it's been very competitive. To be honest, I didn't expect it to be so competitive, like 3rd-7th was very competitive. And obviously in the grand finals we had 4 golden caps and a 3-2 viaduct game — yea it was crazy. I think it's the closest since i58, which finished very similarly, on process with a golden cap and a reverse sweep.
teamfortress.tv: Staying on the topic of this being a European LAN, this is a great win for you guys, but do you feel the need to prove yourselves against an American team?
One hundred percent. We would love to go to America. It's just a question of the timing, fundraisers, and we want to go when it's at its most competitive. To be perfectly honest I wouldn't want to go this season because I would like to go against a very strong FROYOTECH. It would be fun to play g6 and the other teams, but I’d like to go when NA is at their peak. I would also really like to go with tf2easy, I think it would be cool to have two European teams there. I think it would be a really fun LAN but it's just a question of time and money. We do still feel the need to prove ourselves internationally, RCADIA is a great win but it's just a European win.
teamfortress.tv: In recent years, TF2 has gone under so many changes with scout speed, gunboats fix, and new round timers. As someone who had such a quick rise through the divisions, do you think Premiership teams are adapting well or some players have been left behind unable to adapt?
I think the newer players are adapting very well, I think the old-school players who come back struggle. Although, AMS has been very good since coming back. The round timer's a really big difference. Back in the day you could really sit on a lead, whereas now it’s just not really a thing. You kind of can but it’s really risky. To be honest I don’t notice the gunboats fix, maybe the scouts do. It’s been a while I don’t really remember how often I would die to a scout in my face. The game has changed but I think overall the newer players have it easier since its all they know.
teamfortress.tv: Are there any older players you expected to be big names in prem who got left behind, whether it was life that came in the way or some of the updates?
I think the obvious one to me is chris, the Irish guy. I played with chris at i63, and he carried me and was amazing. I guess he just couldn’t commit to playing on a team for full seasons. He’s been back every now and then to play a season or a playoff. He doesn’t play much but he’s very good. I think if anyone chris is a stand-out. I don’t think that’s an ability thing though, he just doesn’t have the time. AMS has also come back and actually has looked very good. I thought he would struggle more. Schockyy also come back and looked amazing, so maybe I’m wrong! But I feel overall the meta game favours the newer players.
teamfortress.tv: TF2 almost revolves around this instinctual understanding of the flow of the game and how it all functions. Was there ever a point during your time in Premiership where you felt you needed to step back and revaluate or change your understanding of the game?
I never took a break on purpose. But I was forced into one due to study and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I took a season and a half off or so. I went like open to mid to high to Prem, played two seasons of Prem and did relatively bad — 7th or 8th place I don’t remember. And I could feel my progression was stagnating. I then played s28 and it got a bit better, took a break until halfway through 30. When I came back, I think I realised what was really important, I had a lot of the wrong impressions about what was important about tf2. When I was a High or low-Prem player I just thought if I had better aim that I’d win, and that’s just not true. Its more about teamplay and I think a lot of people will struggle with this and get in a cycle of grinding MGE or DM. But some people have the opposite problem and only watch demos, and there’s a balance. You also need to find people you can play with and get on well with, and I got very lucky after i63 I made a team, and it went really well, and I never really looked back since playing with LUKAS, toemas, klassy, now with sils and domo, and credu and gink back in the day.
teamfortress.tv: You and Silentes I would consider the best soldier duo in Prem; people could maybe argue the world -
I think probably the world, let’s give it to us. There’s no Jay anymore, so.
teamfortress.tv: Is there anything you and Sils do specially or does it come down to both having great individual understanding of the game?
There's a bit of both. There’s definitely the coordination and the individual aspect as well. I think Sils in my opinion is the best soldier in the world. I’m really impressed by him every time we play. He’s an amazing team player and an amazing individual player. Every time I feed, I’m just so impressed when I spec him. Maybe this final not our best showing but I think in other games we showed how dominant we can be when we’re good. Maybe our teamplay was lacking in finals. But I think Sils is really good.
teamfortress.tv: I know a lot of people have been talking about the length of ETF2L seasons and the amount of time and effort you need to sink in for a full season. Would you prefer to see us move over to shorter events or do you think the season format is the best option?
I think it’s really tough to judge. The season offers some really great things, 2 months where you commit to real practice and another month with playoffs. If we moved over to a style of online cups and LANs, you might see the ability and skill level of the region fall. I know people have complained about season lengths in the past and I have too, when the playoffs are really long. But I think they force you to practice and even though people like to say, “we’re so good we don’t need practice”, you do and its very important. I think the seasons good, maybe they could shorten it a little bit. But if we moved to Online cups and LANs only, I think you would see the skill level dramatically fall off in Europe and you know we want to beat America so let’s keep practicing.
teamfortress.tv: On the topic of seasons, I find it so difficult to work a full-time job, have time for tf2 and have time for real life. How do you manage that as someone at the top of tf2?
Its incredibly hard. If you want to win you have to sacrifice a lot. In my team we played 3 times a week: Sunday Tuesday Thursday. And that means I have to take care of a lot of a real-life things the rest of the time, like a healthy lifestyle and everything during the week. Not getting too much into my personal life, but it can be very busy during the season and even be overwhelming. But at the end of the day, I want to compete, and it wouldn’t feel right for me not to play tf2 right now. I can just about balance it with work last year and study this year. A bit easier to balance with study but it is a sacrifice and all the prem players sacrifice a lot, a lot of them have jobs or study and it’s a big sacrifice. And I think people forget that I mean this is months and years of teamwork.
teamfortress.tv: During Witness Gaming's first proper season you ended up losing to tf2easy in the grand final. After those finals what kind of discussions were had in the team? Were there any big changes you saw that needed to be made?
Well, there was Copenhagen 2022 in the works, and we were very keen the first few weeks of the season and had some great results. When Copenhagen got cancelled, we kind of lost motivation. Around week 3 I know we played tf2easy and won 6-0, not saying we would've won the finals if we were motivated, but after losing that season I had a very honest talk with toemas and I just said If I'm going to do this I want to win and I want to put the effort in, I don't want to do this half-assed. From our perspective, the reason we lost the grand finals is we did not try hard enough or believe in the team. So, in that offseason, toemas and I said we wanted to make the best team we possibly can. We had not lost a season since kaidus played, and we kind of just stumbled through the season putting in the minimal effort to win, and we eventually hit the point where we weren't even putting in the minimum and we asked ourselves why are we doing this to ourselves? Let’s just try, build a really good roster, and try to win. It was a really difficult discussion, but we had to have it and I'm glad we did because we ended up with the roster we had now.
teamfortress.tv: Normally people like to end an interview with shout-outs, but are there any names or people you thought should have been at the top level with you or any names from the past you want to bring some nostalgia back for?
There's a lot. I mean gink, I played with him for a long time. Klassy, Lukas, of course, Lukas I love that guy, love him to bits. He’s here this LAN he's so nice. It's a real shame he can't play with his anymore due to his schedule, but it's been so great to see him. Kaptain, thaigrr, credu, seeds back in the day. I'm sure there's more I'm really sorry if I'm forgetting my teammates. Going back even further to the nunya guys, yllen, and condawg. I played against condawg this season it’s so much fun to play against that guy. Earl was the reason I went open mid high prem. He carried me through all the divs I was so bad, but he was insane on scout and carried me. Chris, samzi, funs, and zesty helped a lot, sil when I was a noob after i58 watched demos with me and AMS when he was on seven too. There were so many players who helped me through this, I don't even know how long it's been anymore, a 6 or 7-year journey. So many names and so many people who helped me.
Many thanks to papi for agreeing to an interview and taking the time to sit down with us. Congratulations to Witness Gaming for winning the RCADIA Fortress event and the ETF2L Autumn 2022 season. c u @ next time.