ATK sprayxD: "Everyone believes we can make it to the Major"

WIN.gg sat down with ATK’s Gareth “MisteM” Ries and new head coach Daniel "sprayxd" Kogan ahead of their opening match of ESL One Rio’s Middle East closed Minor qualifiers.  In-game leader MisteM dishes on Tyson "TenZ" Ngo and sprayxD explains what the team has its eye on heading into the tournament.

How did you and ATK build this roster, and how did you land on Tyson "TenZ" Ngo as your fifth?

sprayxD: I was approached by ATK’s CEO Warren Barkhuizen and when we talked he told me that he wanted to form a new team based out of South Africa. He already had some South African players in mind, so I asked if we could pursue international ones as well. The first guy I thought of was TenZ, purely because of the time he stood in for ATK with our last roster. 

He just impressed me, he’s got a ton of talent. He just had a bad time with Cloud9's environment. I think that’s a lot of talent wasted. I think that if we can put him into this role that he’s used to and get him in a good environment. I think he’s going to shine. 

You could see it in the online qualifiers when he was 40-bombing everyone. He won a crazy three versus one during that. The kid is insane. He’s a carry machine.

ATK's Minor Run Begins ESL One Rio 2020

How does coaching ATK compare to your previous roles in Counter-Strike, and what can you take from your experience with the former ATK roster to apply here?

sprayxD: It’s a leap coming to ATK. I joined them around the beginning of 2019 when they were still Bravado and were pushing through the trade. Before that, I was coaching tier three teams, mostly in Europe. Teams like Vexed and Euronics, unofficially, when they had the top-30 slot. Teams like LPSP, the Danish Squad. 

Overall, it was a great experience growing with [the former ATK roster] and feeling the ups and downs they went through. [Johnny “JT” Theosdosiou] and [Tiaan “T.c” Coertzen] realy helped me grow and understand the game better. Now, I get to pass it on to these guys and build another ATK success story. 

MisteM, what’s the biggest change coming from smaller teams to ATK? Is it the salary? Is it the support they provide?

MisteM: I think coming from South Africa especially, a salary isn’t guaranteed for us. [Players] never really get a salary from a team, it’s a rare thing. ATK is offering that to us, and I think that’s a big sign that your career is moving in the right direction. 

Coming from a lesser team like Sinister5 and joining a well-known organization like ATK is an opportunity you’ll take with every breath you have. It’s not something you’re going to take lightly. You need to be able to prove yourself.

ATK is basically the bridge that you need to take your career to the next level. I’m very thankful that I’m able to cross that bridge and take my own to the next level. To answer your question, it’s a huge step for many players coming from [South Africa] to be able to have this opportunity.

So how well does this roster work together? Is it easier coming from teams with players you know?

MisteM: Well, [Rhys “Fadey” Armstrong] and I haven’t played together before, but we’ve been friends since I was about four years old, so we’ve known each other for fourteen years. [Rieghardt “Flexeeee” Romatzki], [Josh “bLazE” Saunders] and I have been on a team together before. I’ve played with Flexeeee for two years and I’ve known bLazE for about five or six. 

As for TenZ, he’s someone that everyone on the team has admired. Having him on board is the next step that we needed to take moving forward. 

ATK's MisteM talks TenZ ESL One Rio 2020_

With regard to TenZ, how important is it to have him here with you in person?

MisteM: I think that it’s a benefit for both him and the team. Over the time we’ve been bootcamping in Dubai and we’ve all been face to face, it’s very important that the team gains that synergy and is able to see everything progressing in the right direction.

As soon as we first picked up TenZ there was just that immediate connection that’s very rare to see in most teams. We proved it in the open qualifiers when we were down against Team Rapid.CS that we can come back from anything. That’s one of the eye-opening things about this team; that “never give up” attitude that we have going forward.

We’re actually playing the qualifiers from the only place in Dubai that’s a verified gaming facility. [The qualifiers] are a big thing. That’s our main focus right now. 

With the closed qualifiers on deck, what’s the team’s goal here in the qualifiers and beyond?

MisteM: I think, realistically, being at the Major is the first goal, especially coming from a South African scene where you don’t really have a qualifier to even get to go to the Major. Traveling to a different country and being able to win it and just go to the Major is a big thing. If we go to the Major, we’ll be going as underdogs. It’s clear. Many people are going to use that against us, but we’re going to use our confidence against that. 

Our main goal isn’t to win the Major, but to do our best. We need to learn as much as we can because its the biggest event of the year. We’re going to learn a lot from it. Not many people have that opportunity to play in one of the biggest tournaments of the year with the best teams in the world. We’re going to learn so much from it. Whatever we take from that moving forward will only make us better. 

sprayxD: Our main goal right now is to qualify for the Minors. I think everyone feels comfortable that we’ll win the minor. We’ve got the tools, we’ve got the time, and it all depends on the closed qualifier. w

I believe that everyone [on ATK] believes we can get into the Major. When we get to the Major, it’s a learning experience from there. It’s a stage, it’s a place that we haven’t been to before. As MisteM said, we’re not expecting to win it all. We’re expecting to learn, and an upset wouldn’t be crazy talk, either. [laughs]

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