INTERVIEW WITH ZRAY OF WILDCARD GAMING: "AS UNDERDOGS, IT'S OUR GOAL TO PROVE EVERYONE WRONG"
The excitement surrounding PCS4 Americas Grand Final continues to build as the region's top teams prepare to fight for their share of the $250,000 USD prize pool and PGC qualification points. Beginning on June 10th, each of our sixteen teams will have an opportunity to earn themselves a substantial payday and take another step towards the PUBG Global Championship later this year. That's the goal for each team, but there may be extra pressure for some of them this time around.
Since the PCS4 Americas Group Stage came to a close, there have been numerous org announcements, prompting some of the top squads to exchange their jerseys for something new. Accompanying the excitement and achievement that comes with this sort of announcement is an attached pressure to perform under the team's new banner. This may not be the case for all players signed recently, but it's fair to say that everyone wants to make their new org happy in the team's first event together.
Recently, Wildcard Gaming announced their return to PUBG Esports with the signing of Ascendance Esports, who exited the Group Stage in sixth-place. After the team secured the final direct invite to the Grand Final through their impressive play in the previous round, they were pleased to announce their move to Wildcard Gaming.
We asked Wildcard's in-game leader, "Zray", a couple of questions about the team's approach to this Grand Final, the Most Chickens ruleset, and what it meant to get picked up by an org prior to this event.
This roster came together prior to the ESL PUBG Masters and missed the Grand Final by just four points. How do you feel the team played during that event, and what lessons were learned while building synergy with each other?
Zray: I feel like we played pretty well, and we only had two weeks to rebuild the roster and practice. Top 8 out of 24 teams is super difficult too, especially considering how top-heavy North America is as a region. Overall, the lessons learned were necessary trust and communication between me and Zealot because we both call for the team. That and creating a more cohesive way of team fighting between the four of us, who have previously never played comp together before, besides myself and Maji.
What do you think makes this Wildcard Gaming roster special? What are the team’s strengths, and areas of the team’s game that you’re working on?
Zray: What makes this roster special is that we are a group of individuals who have been stuck on the cusp of Tier 1 and are just now making a breakthrough. That being said, we are younger compared to the top NA teams in terms of competitive experience and in general. However, that makes us even hungrier and more willing to put in the time and effort to succeed.
One of the team’s biggest strengths is our team fighting when the fight is in a controlled state. Something we have been working really hard at this past week of scrims is improving our macro in the new format. It’ll come with time, but it is especially easier with ‘Inn8’ around to coach us and help with a view from overhead.
The team earned the sixth and final invite to the PCS4 Americas Grand Final with a strong performance in the Group Stage. How do you feel the team performed in Groups, and what have you focused on to prepare for the Grand Final?
Zray: Although we made Top 6, which is a huge achievement within itself, we left so many points on the board as a team. It’s the little mistakes that do it for us, and in this new format for the Grand Final, our focus is to clean up those little mistakes and create a solid style of macro play to secure more Chicken Dinners for ourselves.
Prior to PCS4 Americas, “Inn8” was welcomed aboard to coach the team, how did that addition help the team during the Group Stage and in preparation for the Grand Final?
Zray: Like myself and the rest of the team, ‘Inn8’ has competed in competitive PUBG for a while now. So he offers a lot of in-game knowledge and gives us a different perspective on how mistakes can be fixed. Additionally, ‘Inn8’ helps us reset in between games, reminds us of what is important, what to take away from each set of scrims, and tries to keep us in an overall positive mental attitude. All of these combined are the steps towards winning this format; staying mentally strong is important in this marathon.
How do you foresee the Most Chicken format affecting this team in the finals? What’s been the toughest aspect of the format change for this event?
Zray: At the very least this format will make us better in the long run. It helps us reduce mistakes made both individually and as a team. The hardest thing we’ve experienced so far is a change in our macro and our overall playstyle. With the old format, we wouldn’t mind taking early fights. However, in the new format, if killing a team doesn't put us in a better spot in the zone, then there is no point in even fighting them. A lot of small things like that have come with this format and left us scratching our heads for a game or two before we got accustomed to it.
Competing under Ascendance Esports until this Grand Final, what does it mean to yourself and the team to sign with an org like Wildcard Gaming? What’s different about competing independently verse with an org like WC?
Zray: Being signed to an org is a dream come true. If you asked me, even just a few months ago, I wouldn’t have predicted any of this happening. Rebuilding the Ascendance roster, qualifying for the Grand Final, and having Wildcard reach out to us. It’s all happening so fast and I’m extremely proud of myself and my teammates for getting this far. I’m excited to do great things with Wildcard and dominate in the Final. Aside from the obvious, competing independently does come with less pressure, in the sense that we don't have an org’s following pulling for us along with the expectation to perform well.
On top of that, there are always the haters who want to see us fall, even when we are on the rise. As the underdogs, it’s always been our goal to prove everyone wrong and show that we can compete at this level. Now with all of our pieces being placed, hopefully, we can complete this puzzle of a format and continue to be among the best in the Americas.
Is there anything else you would like to say to the Wildcard Gaming fans, fellow competitors, anyone else?
Zray: Thank you to everyone. Our fans, our haters, past teammates. All of you have propelled us forward and are a part of our growth as a team. I’m proud of my team and our ability to adapt, alongside Inn8’s brilliant coaching. Thank you guys for believing in me. And finally, a thank you to everyone competing. You guys are what makes this game fun and playing against the top teams is what keeps the game competitive.