Sergey “Ax1Le” Rykhtorov of Cloud9 was our guest to discuss the upcoming IEM Katowice 2023. Here, we learn how he became one of the top riflers in the world and what challenges C9 and Ax1Le encountered last season.
If you’re not in the top one percent and you don’t have any issue communicating, you do. Analysis from a member of Cloud9’s staff on the team’s mindset, the interz switch, and the Comeback
A lengthy exchange of ideas.
Tell me about your vacation.
I visited with friends and family, went on walks, and saw some of Denmark. Despite my best intentions, I refrained from firing up Counter-Strike.
My partner was instrumental in my efforts to better my English. I also have a lot greater need to use English for communication due to an increase in the number of tournaments I participate in, interviews I participate in, and international friends I have made. In the end, I was able to raise my English proficiency thanks to all of these means.
By 2021, you seemed to have exhausted yourself by competing in every competition possible. What would you choose, the ability to play BLAST in 2022 or more time to train?
I like competing in a wide variety of competitions and were disappointed to miss BLAST this year. It had a significant impact on our performance in tournaments and our HLTV rating. We were gradually demoted, with disappointing outcomes. We want to reclaim our former glory this year.
You dabble in other shooters like Warzone and Siege from time to time, right? Can improving reflexes be helped by learning new shooting techniques?
For me, constantly switching games was never an issue since I always play at my best regardless of where I am. Taking a week off from CS to play another FPS has no impact on performance. In certain cases, it may be beneficial, since switching up the controls forces you to take a step back and reevaluate the game in a new light.
— Two years ago, following the triumph in Katowice, we had a brief conversation. Have you undergone significant transformation? Where do Ax1le-2021 and Ax1le currently diverge?
— I like to think I have a newfound sense of assurance and perspective on the game as a result. As I believe that one should constantly be striving to become better, I now spend even more time than before on CS:GO; I watch demonstrations, look for new features, etc.
I was curious about the team’s weak spots at the time. Do you still have problems with communication and the overall atmosphere before matches, like you indicated?
Once we observe how we do against a new player on a local area network (LAN), we will be able to make inferences as to whether or not we have successfully addressed the challenge.
Golovin, a football player for FC Monaco, gave M0NESY a knife, and he plans to wield it “until he wins a Major”
Why do you appear like a perfect family with no disagreements despite having played together for almost 2 years and hearing stories of how difficult it is for other players to share bootcamps and responsibilities with the same individuals for so long (like Entropiq)?
There are no perfect teams where seven people get along perfectly all the time, and we are no exception. However, we are still working to better ourselves as a unit, and that is a natural part of any team’s development. Usually, any disagreements we have center around the game itself rather than anything deeper, and we are able to reach a consensus.
For a long time, we didn’t have to replace anybody on the squad, and as a result, we came across as a tight-knit unit. This is considerably more difficult than just switching out a player every six months, as is the practice amongst most other teams.
While the audience clapped for you at IEM Dallas, they booed you in Katowice and Rio. After going to so many LANs, is it hard to isolate the effect of the crowd? Would booths make a difference?
The issue is how the players respond to this reality; I don’t suffer from stage fright, so I try not to pay too much attention to the audience, but others may find it more difficult.
The supporters put a lot of pressure on you since you can hear everything from everywhere, particularly when there are no booths between you and the audience, unlike in Rio.
A booth is necessary if you wish to create a circular arena like the one in Rio, but is not necessary in other configurations.
I like the increased fan interaction in arenas without booths, but it’s quite distracting when the crowd is trying to aid one side more than the other. If there’s a way to make things fair for both teams, I’d really want to find it.
What we know about donk, a 15-year-old prodigy from Spirit Academy who has been admitted to FPL, including his crosshair, settings, and config.
What do you think, is he the next m0NESY?
You’ve returned to this lineup nine times, which has become known as “Comeback9.”
Any random Tec-9 or Deagle may easily make a great return in CS:GO, therefore you never want to leave without the trophy.
In many games, we sat back, played our game, and refused to give up because that’s how it works in situations like this.
Do so many comebacks point to the team’s and players’ abilities, or to issues with map setup?
Keep in mind that M4A1-S was too strong in that meta — often comebacks were on CT-side because it was difficult to play against this gun, which kills with four bullets and its spray is easily controlled. Individual actions of players were also important, so the meta and our skill combined to produce a successful comeback.
Initial reactions to being defeated by MOUZ?
Disappointment and the knowledge that we fell short of our own standards; we had a fantastic opportunity to go to the finals and play our game free of external pressure.
There were no other competitions scheduled for us after the Major, so we had plenty of time to recover from our disappointing loss.
Degster had a difficult time breaking into esports due to his young age, his avoidance of drugs, and his need to win over his traditional family.
—Who decided to put interz on the back burner?
We had a hand in picking who would make the team after tryouts, so it’s not like the coach and execs just decided to get rid of him.
Timofey is a really wonderful guy; I still remain in contact with him; we share a great deal of local memes; and it was painful to say goodbye to him when we lost the major and everyone knew that he or she would soon be replaced.
There is always someone who needs such players, and I have no doubt that interz will be summoned someplace in the near future. For the time being, he is playing FACEIT to retain his fitness.
— In your opinion, can interz rejoin the active roster?
If our findings are disastrous, though, it is a possibility.
With Nafany mentioning C9’s evolving playstyle on many occasions, what can we expect to see most of in terms of gameplay from C9 right now?
We’re currently putting in effort to improve our team dynamic by practicing calls and brainstorming new strategies for approaching rounds, and by strengthening our lines of communication with one another to better coordinate our actions in-game and make the most of every opportunity to make profitable trades.
Some observers have pointed out that Cloud9’s mental game still needs some work during matches; do you agree with this assessment?
We have improved psychologically over the last three years, so maybe this is less of a deciding factor today, but we will see how things go with the new player.
Do you have a therapist on staff at Cloud9?
I don’t really need him, but maybe he’d have detected some difficulty that we might work through. — No, we don’t. It’s impossible to tell whether we need him, since it all relies on the sentiments of each person.
How can Cloud9 achieve the consistency enjoyed by other premier teams? What is the secret to returning to the top tier in esports?
Since the CT side isn’t as dominant as it once was, we may be able to take advantage of the new meta. However, I believe we may benefit from a little more discipline and self-assurance, since this would let everyone to play to their full potential.
It seems as if the squad is divided into three factions, each led by a different player: Nafany, Sh1ro, and Hobbit.
Everyone can make a call, but there is obviously one person who is a bit more active than the others, and I imagine that this is the case on many teams.
In tense circumstances, it may be a major hindrance if you and I have opposing views or if there is a time lag that prevents us from coming out on top.
Cloud9’s Ax1Le and sh1ro are leading the way in Rio Major; yet, few people know that he was almost banned for account theft.
Then who would have been responsible for transporting Cloud9?
Snipers often have stronger statistics than riflers, making it harder for them to reach the upper echelons of HLTV player rankings.
It’s crucial to keep growing, becoming better at shooting, and enhancing your overall “game sense.” Despite the fact that other snipers may be facing more dire circumstances than I am, anything is possible.
I heard that your mouse [Zowie EC2-CW] broke in Rio, so please tell me what happened from your perspective.
My mouse died on the plane ride to Rio when the wire got broken, so I had to borrow a mouse from a friend for the games. However, I was able to use my own, brand-new mouse in the playoffs, and although it’s nice, it doesn’t compare to the one you’ve been using for the last few weeks.
You’ve been playing the same model for years despite having some bad times, such as leaping instead of firing, which analysts have attributed to missclick issues with your mouse.
Other models don’t work for me, but they’ve already corrected the major mechanical issues, so now the wheel doesn’t hop when you hit the left mouse button.
Since I’ll probably be using an M4A4 in future games, my tendency to inadvertently activate the silencer is no longer a concern.
Was there ever a time when you just weren’t feeling it? — Hobbit, referring to Ax1Le, “If he wants to play well, he will play well. It all depends on his motivation.”
No, I’m always driven to do my best, but there are days when it seems like nothing I do makes a difference and the game simply doesn’t go my way. Every match is different, and sometimes the rounds are played in such a manner that I don’t even have a chance to do anything.
Do you still bring your stuffed hedgehog, Alyam, everywhere you go? If so, how is he doing, and what is his winrate like on LANs?
Not sure whether it’s a coincidence or not, but I seem to perform better when I take Alyam. He was at IEM Dallas, but not the Major.
You guys were already a great squad, so why would such a huge club be interested in you? You guys stated that you were startled by the transfer to C9.
It’s simply that things were going downhill before Cloud9’s offer: people were ignoring us, and I had no clue what the future held for me or the team. When the offer arrived, everyone was relieved. Cloud9 was a breath of fresh air, and we are eternally thankful to them for providing it.
If Sergey, who has been sitting on the sidelines at Gambit, gets an offer to join the Youngsters, what would 20-year-old Ax1le say to him?
— I would tell my younger self to put in more time at work, learn more about the industry by seeing more demonstrations, value time with loved ones more, and not let little setbacks get me down.