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Q&A: CLG reltuC on his new lineup, Valve coaching rules and loving Counter-Strike

Counter Logic Gaming’s new Counter-Strike roster did better than expected at Northern Arena over the weekend with rookies Ethan “nahtE” Arnold and Yassine “subroza” Taoufik. Slingshot’s Blake Bottrill caught up with team captain Stephen “reltuC” Cutler ahead of their matchup on Saturday against Cloud 9 for insight on the new squad, their upcoming qualifiers and loving the game.

Blake Bottrill: You guys had a really close set yesterday with NRG and I saw subroza take that second game really hard. How do you feel the first LAN with the new roster is going?

Stephen “reltuC” Cutler: I think it is better than anyone expected. Considering we have only been practicing with this team for like two weeks it’s hard to get every map down. It depends on what maps we play. It could be really good or it could be really bad.

BB: You guys actually took turns popping off. You had the first game, subroza took Game 2 and Ethan brought it home. How important is it to know that any one of your teammates can carry a game when you need them to?

SC: That is what a team needs to be top tier. If you can get everybody on at once then anything is possible going into any tournament.

BB: Northern Arena has had a lot of struggles with production. What was the general feel in the team? Were people upset or just tired? Is it hard to stay focused with so many delays?

SC: It depends on when you play. I think I was up at 10 a.m. expecting to play at noon and we didn’t play the first match until 3 p.m. I was up all day and ready to play at the scheduled time, but it’s kind of expected. You can’t expect every tournament to be perfect. You have to be a competitor and just fight through it.

BB: You guys have undergone a lot of changes in the lead up to this season of ESL Pro League. You and James are the only two remaining from the original CLG roster. Is it tough trying to adjust to so many roster changes over the last year?

SC: Yeah definitely. This team was built around friendship and that was one of the main things people talked about. We were like the North American Virtus.Pro. We never made roster changes really. Now that we went from Peter to FNS to FugLy and then FugLy got replaced for Kenny and now tarik and Josh. It is different for us but we are adapting pretty well right now.

BB: You’ve got three young guys and two veterans on the roster. How much of your role is now helping to teach the guys?

SC: Koosta has been to a decent amount of LANs, so it’s not really him. For the newer guys, the younger ones, they are moving into the house soon. After this tournament they will be moving into the house so I’m sure we’ll be more of a role model there but it’s only been like a week and a half so there isn’t much we can teach them right now. It’s our first LAN.

BB: Ethan is only 16 and this is his first LAN. Are you surprised with how well he’s playing?

SC: As far as subroza and Ethan, they both showed up. Me personally, I thought it would be just testing the waters. They wouldn’t be terrible but they wouldn’t be really good. They have impressed me so far. It’s exciting.

BB: You’ve got ELEAGUE qualifiers coming up in two weeks. The whole qualifier is single elimination. Do you think that might facilitate some surprises?

SC: One of the tough things is because Ethan is 16 he won’t be able to play with us. That’s gonna be pretty bad for us, so we have to find someone to replace him. As far as single elimination, I don’t really like it, especially with the stakes and what is on the line for ELEAGUE. Anyone can beat anyone. The top teams in NA right now could get knocked out in just one map, you know? It’s kinda shitty.

BB: Who don’t you want to see in your bracket besides SK? Do you think there is any team that has had your number recently?

SC: A team that’s hot right now is Cloud9. It’s funny because I think we play them for the ESL New York qualifier as our very first match and we are playing them here next so we can’t even avoid them. They are super hot right now and Liquid has always been decent. They were kind of in a slump when they first came back (from ESL One Cologne), but they are always a tough team to beat. So neither of them, but it’s kind of hard to avoid those three teams.

BB: Like you said, Cloud 9 looks really hot after picking up autimatic. Is this the first time we might see a clear cut No. 1 in North America?

SC: I’m not exactly sure. I think it’s the honeymoon phase. I feel like every team gets that. You can ask me back in three months and I’ll give you my answer but there is never going to be a clear cut best team in NA.

BB: A couple weeks ago Valve announced changes to coaching and everyone was outraged. How big of a role does Grt play in your mid-game and mid-round play?

SC: I mean Grt is somewhat new too, and this is our first LAN. He wasn’t really doing much in the beginning because he was helping with the tryouts and trying to see who would be a good pick for us. I don’t think it is going to affect us that much. hazed is in-game leading right now so Grt is just coaching. I feel more bad for the people that were using a coach for in-game leading. I personally don’t like the change but in Counter-Strike it has always been without a coach anyways. We’ll survive but I don’t think it’s for the best.

BB: I asked Steph about the CLG purple games last month. Do you think Counter-Strike is too busy? Do players need more time to realize that they should be having more fun?

SC: I guess it depends on the stakes of the tournament. That was more of a smaller LAN and was more for fun in general. It was definitely fun to play with the girls team. They are good players too. Sometimes they need just the exposure of other pro players for them to shine.

BB: I ask a lot of older pros this question and get really divided answers. How much longer do you see yourself playing Counter-strike? Until it no longer becomes enjoyable? Or would something else make you quit?

SC: I’ve always been a competitor. I love Counter-Strike so I’m going to play as long as I possibly can and I feel like I can compete. I just want to play, I don’t think there is ever going to be a time where I just…

BB: Pack it in?

SC: Yeah. Say even if my skill went down and I can’t compete anymore, I would still be salty that I can’t. I feel like I would still try to play even if I couldn’t.

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