Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Through The Apex: An Interview With Penta's Herman "Nesh" Kobrin, Matthieu "Oraxe" Ribiere, Jack "Wacko" Middleton & Team Manager Iris "Tea" Ho

By Arran "Halo" Brown

The Apex Legends Preseason Invitational at the Alvernia Studios in Krakow, Poland, introduced fans to some of the scenes best players when they invited 80 different teams to take part in their 80 event on the 13th - 15th of September. It allowed developers Electronic Arts and Respawn to show just what developer back major tournaments will look like when the games pro circuit comes into effect soon. One of the teams who were invited to the event were Penta, who I considered as one of the teams to look out for during the tournament. With an experienced roster across multiple esports titles Herman "Nesh" Kobrin, Matthieu "Oraxe" Ribiere and Jack "Wacko" Middleton, are a team that have been together from the games early days of Apex Legends, playing in the European Apex Pro League and one that will need to be on many analysts radars after an impressive performance and an 8th place finish. Today the boys alongside team manager Iris "Tea" Ho, have sat down and answered a few questions following the Preseason Invitationals conclusion. 

Through the Apex is going to be an interview series where I take the time to speak to professional organisations and players, as we go through the season. To start the series I have spoken to Penta about the team, the Preseason Invitational event, the lack of media coverage and what they expect for the future of the game. 

First of all, congratulations on your 8th place at the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational. Before we get into that, who are you and what are your backgrounds in esport before Apex Legends?

Nesh: Thank you! I am Nesh from Germany, also known from the Overwatch scene, where I played for Teams such as Hammers Esports, 6Nakes and towards the end for British Hurricane. 

Oraxe: Hey, I'm Oraxe, I was previously pro player on PUBG in aAa and after Vitality. 

Wacko: Hi I'm Jack! Also known as WACKO. I started out way back at the beginning of Overwatch. At the start of Beta, I was grinding a lot and started to get into the competitive scene. Teaming with a couple of players that are currently at the top of OW, Spree, Neptuno, Luddee, Chipsa, Christfer. After getting burnt out on Overwatch I started grinding PUBG. Playing online leagues, mixing with other players and getting some solid results. G2 then approached me to make a team with them. My team had a lot of ups and downs in PUBG but I'm glad I landed on my feet in Apex with 2 amazing teammates. Couldn't ask for better.

As a Trio, you guys have been together since the early days of the Apex Pro League, so tell us your roles within the team?

Nesh: There's no specific role in our Team. The heroes we have given to ourselves came naturally, I decided to play whatever the team needed and adapted my playstyle, while the other two Oraxe and Wacko played their most comfortable picks. Other than that we basically share our thoughts and plans and decide as a team on how to progress.

Oraxe: I’m the captain of the team, and my role is to play Pathfinder.

Wacko: Our roles within the team came naturally. At the start, it was me and Oraxe building the team looking for a solid flexible 3rd. We approached Nesh and he was more than happy to be flexible within his role.

The Preseason Invitational was the first major tournament under the Penta Banner, what were your expectations coming into it?

Nesh: We were really well prepared. We had a plan for each Bracket and were ready to win the event.

Oraxe: The win and only the win, I knew my teammates were beast so I was confident to be in grand final and aim for the win.

Wacko: We had very high expectations as a team coming into the event. We had a game plan we worked hard on whilst we were boot camping. Confident we could win the event.

It's very clear that the Professional legend meta is Pathfinder, Wattson & Wraith and the gun meta the main weapons of choice were the Longbow, R-99 and Alternator, with the Peacekeeper creeping back this over the weekend. How do you guys feel about it and are there changes you would like to see?

Nesh: I think every gun besides of the longbow and the alternator with the disruptor rounds is in a good spot balance and meta wise. Longbow is too powerful in terms of fire rate/clip amount but also the new map layout helps too much for making it a game-breaking gun. Places like Cage or around Containment are areas that are too open and make the longbow way too powerful. The problem with the alternator with disruptor rounds is that its too easy to break someones shield, i would love to see a heavier damage falloff on that gun, because it doesn‘t take much effort to break someones shield through the whole map and you don't get punished for missing one or two bullets either since you have more than 20 bullets to shoot in a pretty high fire rate and deal 25 dmg per shot. 

For the Legend picks, obviously, Wattson is not healthy for the game since she provides too much shield regen and defence to a team. It makes the paste of the game way slower. Teams can peak and trade with someone else without thinking about it, and even if they lost a trade they just refill their shield with the Wattson ult, which means they don't lose any resources. About Pathfinder and Wraith, I doubt Respawn will release such high mobility Legends that will replace those two, especially not pathfinder. They both give your team options to freely rotate throughout the map with barely any punishment if done correctly. What I really want to see released soon, is a support hero with mobility, that could make the game more interesting for the current Wattson players.

Oraxe: Pathfinder and Wraith are perfectly fine, they are part of the aggressive gameplay I like but Wattson is the worst character created for the competition side of Apex, it just makes everyone camp inside some kind of discotheque. I would like also a nerf on the longbow, maybe on the fire rate.

Wacko: When it comes down to meta in games I'm all for things being mixed up constantly. Right now the main issue with Apex is the Longbow. The gun is just way too strong. In my opinion, they just need to drastically nerf the drop off damage over range. You shouldn't be able to knock someone from 300m away with 2 shots if you have skull piercer. I feel like the other weapons mentioned are in a sweet spot and don't need any drastic changes. 

If any changes were to be made now in the game I'd say map changes. So many open areas with zero cover and zero options to do anything other than taking a fight. I'm all for playing aggressive and taking fights but a majority of the time it's best to avoid them, but with the current map design it's almost impossible. 

Touching on the Legend meta now. Wattson makes teams not have to think so much about micromanaging meds, which splits the good teams from your average team. If you have a Wattson Ult up you can freely peak without a trouble in the world. Wattson also has so many issues with her ultimate and fences now. Her ultimate is extremely buggy. Sometimes grenades can randomly get through her ult and her fences sometimes become invisible.

The tournament format used involved 80 teams, with a winners and losers bracket. Was something that we haven't seen before. It was positively received by the viewers but how did the format feel from a player perspective?

Nesh: I felt the format was great to play and watch, a lot of upsets could happen and you have to be consistent to be able to go through the brackets. The things I would like to change are the points that you get for kills. One Point is too much, maybe 0,5 would have been better. Then in the grand final, there should have been a limit for points, winning a game after getting into the threshold is too random. You can be unlucky with zones and so on. So adding a point limit would probably weaken the zone RNG factor and forces you to be consistent in point gaining.

Oraxe: The winner and loser bracket was fine, but the format for the grand final should be played in 2 days and not 1 day, we finished at like midnight after 11 games played.

Wacko: I honestly love winners and losers bracket in BRs, we didn't see much of it in PUBG. I really hope they keep this format going forward into the future events. A lot of teams could have awful games due to the circle not being in their favour. The final format from the viewer's perspective must have been really enjoyable. But it was so gruelling being up on the stage for almost 8 hours straight. I felt like fatigue really affected us all going into the final games of the series. Especially because we didn't eat, we didn't have a dinner break in 8 hours.

Penta had a strong tournament, you made the Grand Finals without dropping into the lower bracket, you placed in the top 4 in 5 of the 10 games you played in and yet you weren't considering a team to look out for by most media covering the tournament. How do you feel about that and do you now feel you've put yourselves in the minds of the media?

Nesh: I don‘t think that matters to us. What matters to us is to be feared or at least be respected by all the other teams competing.

Oraxe: I feel like media, even if it’s not easy, didn’t do their job well, because if it was the case they would know that we were one of the team to look out for.

Wacko: Most of the media at Krakow was focused toward NA teams, which wasn't a surprise to us. We honestly don't care too much about all the media stuff. We're just here to play our game and gain respect from the other teams.

Game 11 of the Grand Finals turned out to be the final one, where yourselves and eventual winners TSM fought for the low ground. Was it your intention to get into the 3v3 with them there and what was it that you could have done better in that situation?

Nesh: We didn't know who it was below us but that generally doesn't matter to us. And definitely we could have done it better, we could have played it way slower after knocking one, instead, we rushed it and were put in a bad position which followed to a team fight loss.

Oraxe: We knew TSM had the winning position, so we had to take that fight to win, we could have taken that fight better, maybe take our time more and prepare with a more coordinated plan.

Wacko: We didn't know which team it was below us. But we decided to make a push onto of them. It was a really sloppy push with lots of mistakes and we instantly discussed it after we died. We definitely could have done a lot of things better in that fight, we should have taken it slow and poked them down. They had no room to move.

Out of the teams who attended, who's impressed you the most and come out hot and who flopped in your opinions?

Nesh: 789 definitely impressed me. I thought they wouldn't be that great since they barely have any experience, but they came really well prepared and surprised everyone I guess. Then obviously North was a shock to me. The majority thought that they would do so well and at the end, they finished last at this event. Really unexpected results in general

Oraxe: I think the teams who impressed me the more are Wyvern and NRG, Wyvern got such an aggressive game style and it worked out, and I didn’t think NRG would make it that far. Even if they had a sub during this event I would say the team who flopped was North.

Wacko: I think everyone will agree that 789 came out of nowhere. They were looking solid in scrims but I didn't realise how hard they would show up at LAN. They played incredibly well, felt like they did a ton of homework on the end game circle locations. The team that flopped has to be North. Such a scary team to face online, have to be 1 of the best pure frag power teams on the game. Sad that they didn't get to compete with their full roster.

While we don't publicly know how the tournament circuit will look. What are your thoughts about an online and offline format compared to an outright league?

Nesh: In a League, you would play much more on LAN. You will be suited in a gaming house and live close to the place where the offline league is happening. Which means that you have easy access to Vod reviews, team talks and preparation in general. Compared that to minors and majors, is that there will be open qualifiers, direct invites and a lot more travelling and it requires more consistency than in a league. If you stop performing in one event you might not get directly invited to the next one and you will need to go through qualifiers. But I think I would prefer minors and majors, every event there could be a new team that makes it through qualifiers, there's more pressure, more consistency is needed and fast adaptation because everything happens in just a few days, wherein the league its 8 weeks or so. So a lot of time to think about preparation and adaptation.

Oraxe: I think the best format for BR would be some kind of minors and majors like we can see on CS and Dota.

Wacko: Online qualifiers are always a nightmare in BR games. At least in PUBG, so many issues with the TO, cheaters, issues with the game. I'd rather keep everything offline. If you place top 10-20 at the first offline event you shouldn't have to deal with the burden of online qualifiers.

Finally a question for Tea, you've just been hired as the Team Manager for Penta's Apex Team. What is your vision for the team and how do you feel the scene will progress regarding play and the way teams build their rosters?

Tea: I envision the team staying and growing together. They are all extremely dedicated and passionate; I hope they can continue with this energy and push themselves forward. They share a strong bond inside and outside of the game, which I feel is reflected in their team play. I feel the scene will progress well as EA's competitive gaming division have shown a lot of enthusiasm to connect with the competitive community. 

I hope that in 1-2 years we will have an ironed-out, healthy competitive tournament structure that will benefit organisations, players and the game itself. As the game develops, I hope it will become more dynamic; exhibiting meta shifts as new legends get introduced, so that rosters with strong adaptable and flexible players will rise above the rest.

While it is currently unknown as to whether Penta will be playing in this weekend's Apex Legends, Twitch Rivals at TwitchCon in San Diego. They have made it clear that from the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational, that they are going to be a team to look out for during the regular season.

(You can find more Apex Legends related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts) 
(Picture courtesy of EA)

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