KayJay and RBG: Striving for the Top

June 20, 2020
Interview and Article written by: Mike "Nartouthere"

What's up everyone, this is Nartouthere, and I've got a great interview for you all with Coach KayJay from RBG Esports. This squad is currently the #1 team in Advanced with an 8-0 record. RBG are also participating in Winners League Invite, Mythic League Invite, and finished first in Club Conflict. KayJay and I discussed everything from the structure of the RBG team, the shortcomings of last season, the hot start to this season, and even the effect Valorant has had on the game. This article has it all. Enjoy!

To all those who don’t know your team. Do you mind giving us an introduction about your team?

Teams been together for about 9 months back to ESEA Advanced Season 31. In Season 31, they got a new roster and picked up Walco and wiz and needed a coach. They picked up myself and we have been working hard ever since to make MDL. My expectations going into the team is that we need one season to work on things and next season we will qualify for MDL. The third season would be our peak season. It kind of didn’t happen like that. In the first season, we didn’t make qualify for playoffs and that was expected from me. Second season we fell short against SKDC and Trivium (Warriors International) in playoffs. Everyone that follows Advanced knows what happens there. We got pugged on and got clapped. This is our third season together and we are peeking really hard and doing really well. I think the sky’s the limit for the team right now. 

Kieran "KayJay" Playfair

Can you go more specific about yourself and your players? 

Coach KayJay – I started coaching back in 2014/2015 when I was picked up by Team Liquid. I was their analyst for about a year. Their roster back then was adreN, FugLy, Hiko, EliGE, and nitr0. Coached that team a bit and went to a few LANs with them. Roster changed a bit, s1mple came s1mple went, koosta came koosta went. I left the team and went to TSM where I was an analyst working with Coach valens. The players were FNS, SEMPHIS ,Twistzz, SicK, and autimatic. I coached that team for 6 months. I got bored of CS:GO and went to Overwatch and coached a couple of teams there. Then I took a break from coaching and worked on my personal career. I finally came back and this is my 4th or 5th season back. 

Gmanchew – Team captain and IGL. The whole mastermind behind the team. He has a bunch of good strats. His calling style is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Overall a good player.

Walco – Support player. Weirdly our second IGL. In some of the maps you’ll see gmanchew lurk and Walco will come in and does mid round calling and helps with small team movements.

Pwny – One of my fraggers. He is chad of a fragger and just kills everyone. It doesn’t matter who is in front of him. He will put them down. 

HexT – Another one of my fraggers. He is a bombshell of a fragger and kills everything.

Wiz – Awper. He keeps us humble and keeps us focus. Sometimes we get too loose and he’s there to keep us steady and focus on what we need to do. 

Who is the team’s star player? 

It comes and goes with the map we're on and who is carrying on that day. Probably HexT because he is the first one in sites. Usually in teams you have the first player go in, he dies and second player trades him. Some maps HexT goes in and the whole site is clear, especially on inferno, he is one of the star players.

Most underrated player on your team?  

Wiz – He isn’t a JoJo or s1mple. It’s not him versus the world where he’s trying to kill 4 players every round. He’s more of a real big anchor for the team and a huge reason why this team is good. Yeah, he doesn’t get 5-6 kills a round but his comms are what we need. He adds stuff to the team that we really need and he's the overall the dark horse of this team. No one thinks he’s the reason why we are doing really well, but in our team, everyone knows he plays a huge factor in our success. 

In the lower NA scene, it’s rare to see a team that is very strategic. Your team has a very tactile approach to the game. Many would say RBG is the most strategic team in Advanced.  Is this due to gmanchew or yourself? 

When I joined the team, I felt strategic wise, they were solid. Going into the team, I knew that would be our strong-point. I didn’t know until a few months later, everyone on the team was really smart. For example, let’s say our B execute didn’t work. It is not just gman or myself talking about what went wrong. Everyone is putting in their opinion and we all get on the same page and find the middle ground of what we want. It was really easy for us to fix issues as long as we have time. We sit in the server and take 20 minutes and fix the issue. When it’s solved, everyone’s happy and everyone’s on the same page.

Another reason why we are one of the more strategic teams in Advanced is because we’ve been together for so long. What’s the second oldest roster in Advanced? I think it’s a season old, 3 months. We are 9 months. We have had 9 months of adding strats and changing our game plan. If we go into a match with a current game plan and that doesn’t work then we can fall back to our old strategies and game plans. That helps a lot with us being more strategic than everyone else because we have been together for so long. 

I see your team in many qualifiers and even practicing on Saturdays. Your team is very committed--it’s impressive. Tell us about your practice schedule. 

When I first joined the team, the team was new.  Maybe the first 3-4 months, we were doing 4 hour days. We did either 4 hour scrim blocks or like an hour offline and 3 hour scrim blocks. That was because we needed the reps as a team. We needed to just get used to certain things and running certain strats. This season, we've changed it up a bit. We are currently doing 2 hours of practice and it's usually offline. My team doesn’t need to scrim and dry-run the things we have been doing for the past 8 months. We are just adding new stuff and talking about situations we aren’t sure about and confirming we are on the same page. These days, it's about an hour offline and an hour scrim, or two hours offline and no scrims.  We watch demos and talk about stuff to keep our brains fresh. With where we're at now, we feel good enough to beat a lot of teams in North America. We need to get more consistent and our mental game needs to be improved a bit. That’s our main focus these days, our mental instead of in-game stuff. 

Let’s go back to last season of ESEA Advanced (Season 33). You finally qualified for playoffs, finishing the regular season with an impressive record of 13-3. You guys had a rough start (1-4), then won 12 games in a row ending with a great playoff seed. Your first matchup was SKDC. Losing 1-2 putting your team in the lower bracket. No one saw this upset coming. Would you say you choked? Do you think it was due to your first time in playoffs and felt the pressure? Bad match-up?

I wouldn’t say pressure, just a bad match-up. I have always known that my team is super smart. Whenever we play a team that plays standard, we exceed. We know what’s happening and we can outthink our opponents; we can out-rotate and we exceed in that way. In comparison to a team like SKDC who are playing with desi and OCEAN: They don’t have strats. They’re just calling stuff off spawns and doing what they feel like and going off their emotion. We struggled a lot with that play-style last season. 

In the lower bracket, you beat eRa Eternity and Kinship Black 2-0. You then lost to Trivium (Warriors International) 1-2 in a very close game, which knocked you guys out of playoffs and not qualifying for MDL regulation. Walk me through that Warriors International game. 

The Warriors International game was similar to the SKDC one in the sense of their play styles. That’s why we had some problems playing against them. The first map was their choice, Mirage. We played really well and won the map 16-12. We picked Overpass because they never played it before. They were super puggy on it and we lost that. The last map was Vertigo. We choked. They didn’t play it and we did. We couldn't predict their playstyle and that messed with us. That’s one of the bigger things that we are working on this season, being able to play against all different play styles and not under estimating teams that are playing different or lesser playstyles than ours.

After the season ended, what kind of talks did you and your team have? Were there talks to make a roster change?

After the lost, we took 1-2 weeks off and did our own thing. After grinding a season with 4-5 hours worth of scrims every day for 2-3 months, you kind of get sick of talking to each other and we took 1-2 weeks off to chill. We figured out what we wanted to do and we got back together. Some of my players did have MDL offers. We sat down and figured out as a team if it would be worth it for those players to leave. No one on my team--well I hope no one on my team is going behind each other’s backs and talking to teams and like, “Hey, you want to pick me up?”. We are all committed to our goal and want to make MDL as a team. When those MDL offers did come in, we sat down and talked. We came to the conclusion that if they did leave, the players that would be playing MDL would have a worse team than we currently did, even though it’s MDL. The players felt like there’s no point in leaving because we have something special in this team.

Once they cancelled the MDL offers, we sat down and discussed what needs to be changed. What went wrong last season? It was a small list which included getting better vs. puggy playstyles, a few mental things, and few game play things. We felt like if we played our game, we would be back in playoffs and back fighting for MDL. 

Now let’s fast forward to this season, ESEA Advanced Season 34. You are off to a hot start (8-0) and the last undefeated team remaining in Advanced.  Walk us through this season.  

Going into this season, for the first half, it’s really easy because we are playing teams that are brand new. Their map pool isn’t as big as our map pool. Their strat depth isn’t as big as our strat depth. No matter how wild they come at us, we are prepared. It’s going to be later on when we are facing the more structured teams, teams that have been together longer and have the same records as us--maybe we’ll see more fluctuations. But so far, it’s basically playing teams that are not at our level. 

Looking at your ESEA match page, the closest game you guys had this season so far was against Kinship Black (4-6) 16-14. Walk me through that game. 

It was kind of a flashback to SKDC and Warriors International. Three hours before the game started, we thought we had a FFW because they had 2 people on the roster. They added 3 people and pugged out that game. Train is a map where it is easy to figure out what the opponent are doing because most teams play the same, but they played really puggy and it caught us off-guard on our T-side where we only won 6 rounds (including pistol). Once we got on our CT-side, we calmed down a bit, took a tac pause, and figured out what their win conditions were and how we needed to play around that to close the game out. 

The only other game that you guys played that I wanted to get your feedback on was against Supernova on Inferno in Week 3. Before the game started, I thought this could be the preview of Advanced Finals in my opinion. You guys beat them impressively 16-9 despite a shaky start. Talk to me about this game. 

Inferno is a map where we are fairly comfortable on. We have been playing for so long. Going into that map, we had an idea of what they wanted to do. We won pistol and second round they won the force buy. After that, it snowballed a little bit for them. Once we were able to get our economy to a decent spot, we took a pause and talked about what they were doing and what they were trying to make us do. Once we figured out what they were trying to do to us, we just played a counter game to them.  No one at this level strats are deep enough to counter our counter to them. We only need to counter them once for us to start snowballing the game out. You’ll see that a lot in our games where maybe we have a rocky start but once we get going and start hitting our shots and getting our rhythm going, then it’s quite hard to counter us. 

Your next 4 games in Advanced are against Big Chillin, Addice, Rise Esports Club, and Thunder Logic. Who is the toughest opponent out of this group? 

I would say Big Chillin. I think they have been together a decent amount of time and they have some heavy hitters on that team. I think if we get more of a map like Mirage or Dust2, the map will be decided on who is hitting their shots and that can favor them. But if it’s more of a tactical map like Inferno, Vertigo, and Nuke, that is going to favor us. 

Every other team so far, Addice, I don’t think they’re playing that well. They have more of an easy schedule. They are getting their wins that way. Rise, we beat in Mythic League 16-1, 16-3. Us vs them on Mirage will be more of the same there. Thunder Logic are the second hardest behind Big Chillin because they have smart players and big hitters on that team. 

A lot of people have RBG as the favorites to win ESEA Advanced Season 34. What are your thoughts and do you agree? 

It’s hard to say. I don’t really care if we win this season. My team’s goal is to make MDL. If we get last seed in regulation and make MDL barely then I’m happy and over the moon. If we become first and qualify that way, cool, as long as we reach our goal, we don’t care what path we take. 

Give me your Advanced Power rankings for top 5. 

  1. RBG Esports
  2. Kinship – They have been playing well recently. We haven’t played them yet. In scrims, they play decently well. 
  3. Supernova 
  4. Big Chillin
  5. ImPerium – I’m going with a wild dark horse here. I feel like they need time to get going. They are going to be a really good team if they have more time. If they make playoffs, I feel like they can be a top 5 team. They are more of a strat heavy team so they need that time to get those strats together. 

Many NA players, including many promising teams and up-and-coming players are leaving CS to play Valorant (or just pugging their matches and not practicing).  What do you think of the NA CS scene? 

I’m happy and not happy they are leaving. I’m happy because there’s now a void to be filled and I think my team is number one in filling that void in terms of how we are playing and our results recently. I’m happy that way. I’m also not happy because there’s more competition leaving the scene. So like, kind of a give and take. Whereas like cool, we can be a better team and take their spot but then again we are probably not learning that much because scrims aren’t that good because those teams are disbanding and players are leaving the scene. 

As a result of players leaving for Valorant and teams disbanding, are you having trouble finding decent scrims? 

I’d say if we were on our old scrim schedule, then yes. Since our new scrim schedule solely consists of war- up scrims or 1-2 scrims on non-match days, it hasn’t been too hard. I can see a few teams struggling to get scrims more than before Valorant. 

What's one piece of advice you have for up-and-coming teams?

Biggest advice is don’t expect instant results. You’re not going to form a team and go 16-0 in the season. It took us 3 seasons to be where we are now. Just stick it out and work as a team. Biggest in-game advice I could give them is make sure everyone’s on the same page even for the smallest things. Take time and watch demos and talk about different scenarios and make sure everyone’s thinking the same way and is on the same page. My team, if we watch a demo, and I give them a round of what went wrong then most likely everyone on the team will say the same thing and come up with the same fix. We are all on the same page. We trust each other, and we been together for the longest.  My advice would be to just grind it out and be on the same page. 

Any shoutouts?

Biggest shoutout is to our organization, RBG for sticking with us for 3 seasons. They trusted us and myself in the process. I never joined a team thinking that “Hey give me 3 days and this team will be top 10.” It’s always I need time and I have a process to complete. Once I complete it, then I can promise the team will be good. They trust my process; they stick with us and have been supportive the whole way. Biggest shoutout is to RBG. 

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