By: Trevor Schmidt
They were the pride of the USA at ESWC and really surprised the Europeans, who expected a performance reminiscent of the one put up by 3D at Clikarena. But zEx wasn’t at all phased by the travel; although even they were rather shocked at how well they played.
‘Through the ESWC event, not only did we gain more confidence, but we also realized that we have a good chance of taking at least top 3 at CPL. Since we had a roster that had never practiced together before, I attended ESWC hoping we would place at least top 10. Yet we placed 2nd, which totally surprised me,’ explained zEx|Boms, Quach.
zEx has played with a new level of intensty and tactical precision since the recruitment of Quach. He was the old leader of WEW, which featured a very talented squad, and he’s brought that skill to zEx. One improvement I have seen is much sounder defensive play by zEx, whose CT sides used to be far weaker than they are now.
In one of zEx’s biggest matches since their win over eoL at the last CPL, SK.swe saw firsthand zEx’s new and improved defensive play. It seemed ridiculous, their uncanny ability to leave the extra man in the correct bombsite on the initial rushes. Sunman and Volcano, Garozzo, both played the middle swing positions and had very good games. Sunman, rotating all over like a monster, took over a few rounds, really saving zEx and putting SK.swe in tough positions. These swing positions were made possible by the fact that zEx played a much less aggressive CT side than some of the other teams discussed in the playbooks, notably GG and 4K, whose do-or-die spots and unwise pushing up stood in stark contrast to zEx’s level-headed plan of defense. If one place looked weak it was alley where Lektrik, Cobb, had an off game. SK.swe seemed to score all of their round wins off of those alley rushes, combined with solid flashbangs from middle. They are going to need to take some pressure off of the Cobb and rotate quicker to the choke point on those harder rushes.
After first half turned out very successfully with a 10-5 score, Sunman again stepped up big time, winning the match with a huge clutch 2nd round. zEx gave up the first round and didn’t buy anything, leaving them with the $800 they started with plus the $1400 for losing the first round. SK.swe was able to buy MP5 and armor, but zEx countered with deagle and armor. Sunman’s four kills gave zEx the win and possibly the match as he really put SK.swe in a huge hole they never got out of. Gun rounds seemed very basic for zEx who either hit inner hard or rushed middle. The combination was enough to keep SK.swe from cheating in either bombsite with extra men.
4K was the next victim of a full save out first round by zEx. Again they left one guy in spawn while the remaining team held out until near the end of the round and then rushed. This time though they were able to leave Shaguar alive in the boosted area near T spawn. This cut down drastically on the money 4K had and they were left with what I call a broken save round, where some of the team buys guns while the remainder save. Broken save rounds can cause serious problems if the team loses the round and that’s what happened to 4K here.
zEx played the money game perfectly again, using the deagle armor combo to overpower 4K, take the guns of the players who had bought and pick up the round. 4K was forced to save twice in order for those who did buy to finally get guns themselves. Once things got into the gun rounds later in the half zEx liked to push guys into halls and middle, attacking the primary site then once they felt 4K rotate the guy from secondary they pulled out and quickly rushed through banana hall to secondary bombsites. These fakes really crushed 4K, who never got into a rhythm the entire half.
The other side saw zEx play very aggressively, in a style WEW used to play on this map. Quach may have had an influence on those strats, which caught 4K off guard and forced them into the halls and house area of the map. They did the same for most of the early rounds, then switched later to pushing hard in the hallways. They would have two or three guys rush hard up into the halls and get right above the stairs. This kept 4K off balance, and although it didn’t entirely work, Sunman ‘playing secondary site alone most of the map’ and Quach were able to neutralize any deaths the hall guys gave up with their pushing.
‘Our main success in my opinion was how we were able to work together as a team. First off on our early group pool match, we were disorganized since we’d never played together before. Then after several matches we became more organized and started playing with strats and coordination. Hopefully we’ll take this confidence we built from ESWC and, knowing that we have the ability to place really high, it will give us the edge at CPL,’ said Quach.
The old adage, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ really came into play here as Team 9 fed zEx some of their own medicine. After winning pistol round on a good split bombsite A rush, Team 9 won the next two and went into the important 4th gun round up 3-0. They failed on a bombsite B rush but their last guy left alive saved out the round and left zEx with hardly any money and since most of their team had already died they were forced to save. This was one of those rare situations where a team that wins actually has to save and one of the biggest flaws in the Max Rounds system of play. Team 9 did the same in the 8th round, really leaving zEx with limited money thoughout the half.
In the few gun rounds that did decide the match it seemed like Shaguar, Bengar, really played too aggressively in the middle, attacking frequently and often giving himself up for only one of the Team9 guys, leaving zEx in a 4v4 on a map that’s already T favored. zEx also liked to rush Long A with up to three guys, leaving catwalk completely open. Team 9 never took advantage of it but it would have been interesting to see how zEx would have responded to an all catwalk rush.
zEx didn’t look too bad on the second half; they tended to mix up their rushes and which site they were attacking, and avoided any obvious patterns like attacking B every fourth round. But sometimes things didn’t seem all that well thought out, especially when they started defaulting to all-out catwalk rushes during gun rounds. Overall they’ll need to work on getting entry kills a little more easily and on protecting bombsite B better if they want to defeat squads like Team 9. They seem to have better overall skill then Team 9 but lacked a little in the teamwork, leaving them short of the win.
For de_nuke, I checked out two of zEx’s matches from earlier in the year. The first was from the CAL-I playoffs final against TSG where zEx fell behind early as CT due to some good play by cripple, Loch, of TSG. zEx’s tendency in this match was to send one guy outside every round, normally Bengar. This worked in their favor for the most part as it kept TSG honest the entire half, but often it did not leave enough guys in the main assault force in the middle to get the needed entry frags and successfuly secure the site. Their main attack was a split upper rush with the guys inside throwing flashes followed by an outside rush into the main bombsite. This really overpowered TSG and was very well-timed. If they are allowed to do similar attacks at CPL it could spell doom for whomever they play.
The second match I watched for zEx on de_nuke was against esT at the Eastern Qualifier for ESWC. Their CT side during that half seemed very technically sound as their initial pistol round gave up the upper bombsite to esT. This has become a more and more popular idea as teams want to stack ramp and would rather retake that main upper bombsite than try and contest it with a 2v5 during pistol round. The key guy on this map should be Quach who will be playing outside for them. If he can have a solid game it should take the heat off of zEx’s other players.
One factor that needs to be kept in mind for zEx is the switch of Revenge for Volcano at CPL. Revenge has played with the team a lot, during CAL-I as their regular starter and at the ESWC qualifier in New York, so it shouldn’t be an issue like Dark is for 4K. Skill-wise I’m not sure which player is better but Revenge might have the edge in experience only because they have been sitting Garozzo to prepare for CPL. It is tough to predict how it will affect the team but a top 3 spot is definitely not out of the question. I expect them to do well and if they can prepare well and avoid falling victim to overconfidence, we could be looking at our CPL winner.