jks: "I'm at the point in my career where I really just want to win a lot of things; this is the reason why I came to Complexity"
Justin "?jks?" Savage was on Friday announced as the newest addition to Complexity, in which he will fill the spot left vacant by the departure of Owen "?oBo?" Schlatter. The move sees the Australian close a long chapter as he parts ways with the remnants of the team he had been a part of since he first entered the international scene in 2014.
We had a chance to sit down with jks for an in-depth interview, conducted after the first day of practice with his new team, to discuss what he is leaving behind with his split from the rest of the former 100 Thieves lineup and to look ahead to his challenge with Complexity.
Read below to find out more about how jks learned about the 100 Thieves organization's decision to leave CS:GO, why he decided to take on a new challenge, and what he hopes to achieve with the Benjamin "?blameF?" Bremer-led squad.
Let's start by looking at what you're leaving behind at first. Six-and-a-half years with AZR, over two-and-a-half years with jkaem, two years with Gratisfaction and liazz. What's the overall feeling like after leaving the team that you have played in your whole career? Are you excited to start afresh, maybe a little worried about the jump into new territory?
I've been pretty much on the same team since I started playing, even though the lineups have been a little bit different. It feels like I'm almost stepping away from my first team, even though it's kind of later in my career, I guess you could say. It was a really hard decision when I made it, but it just felt like the right time to do it considering everything happening. I've always wanted to move to Europe as well, and I had been thinking about playing in a different atmosphere with different players. I'm not saying there was anything wrong with my previous teammates or anything, I really enjoyed it and, obviously, I wouldn't have played with them for so long if that wasn't the case. I just felt like it was the best time in my career to actually make a change as big as this. Obviously, it's really sad, though, leaving behind everything I had, but I think we had a lot of good memories, a lot of good times. Even though there were quite a few ups and downs, at least in the last few years we made history for Australian CS and I feel like what we did was overall really good, we made some achievements that we can all be proud of. I don't have any bad memories from all those times. The way I look at it now, everything was great and I'm glad that I spent that long in that team. I'm super proud, very proud of it.
Can you describe the lead-up to this decision? What were the last few months in 100 Thieves like, with mixed results and the loss of your coach?
When we joined 100 Thieves, we had a good result in Beijing and then we had an up and down one at Pro League — I sucked there, so I think I was the main reason why we didn't make the playoffs at that tournament. But then after that, we bounced back at IEM Katowice 2020. we did make the playoffs and we had a really close game against fnatic, who were top four at the time, I think. Considering how the month before that had gone, I think that was a really good achievement for us. I think that if Covid-19 hadn't happened, we would have probably kept going on that path, we would have been just as good as in 2019, if not better.
I also don't think all those things that happened in the team would have happened, even though every now and then we'd get to a point where people got really annoyed with each other and shit like that, but I think Covid-19 just pushed everything over the limit. I think that's why we and kassad parted ways and it was just a tough time. Then we got Chet, and it honestly didn't fix things. It kind of made the atmosphere a little bit better, more chill and stuff, but results-wise it didn't really fix things. I think it was kind of a build-up of everything that had happened in the few months before that, and Covid-19 just made everything worse, of course. I don't think 100 Thieves wanted to get rid of us at all, we spoke to them and they were really considerate of everything that was happening with us and the organization, and they just thought it was the best way to part ways with us. It was just the way it all panned out, really, it was just really unfortunate.
When did it become apparent that the organization would leave CS:GO and what was your reaction to that?
Maybe like a week before it happened. We had heard some rumors, they were planning on having some meetings with us. Honestly, it all happened pretty quickly, actually. We had asked them if we could move to Europe and they were considering it. And then a week-and-a-half later they messaged us and said that we had to have a meeting. Basically, the board didn't agree that moving to Europe was the best idea for the company and stuff like that. Honestly, it's totally understandable from their perspective. Obviously, it sucks for us because we had to either leave and go to another team or go together and find another organization, and that is really difficult, but it wasn't anyone's fault, to be honest. I would mostly blame the whole Covid situation, to be quite fair, because if Covid wasn't happening we wouldn't be forced to stay in North America, we would be able to travel to events and tournaments, and that's where they get exposure from. And that had been one of the main reasons why they picked us up, of course. It's just really disappointing that the year had to pan out like this.
Talking about the possibility of moving to another organization as a whole team, was that ever an option or was it always clear that the team wouldn't be sticking together through this?
It was nothing that we discussed. I think people had an idea that some players wanted to go their own ways, like, for example, jkaem wanted to move home. Whether or not that was with us, that would have been a question for later if things panned out that way, but they didn't. In the past, we had switched organizations, so it could have been a thing, potentially, but with the way things panned out it wasn't.
It just fell apart with jkaem and yourself moving in another direction?
I think the guys knew that I was interested in considering other offers and so was jkaem. I think it's basically just the way it went, to be honest. We didn't have any talks about moving together as a team, even though I think we could have done that. It's just the way things went, people wanted to move in their own directions, I guess you could say. Maybe not everyone was on the same page, but it's just how it happened.
Was there other interest in you outside of Complexity, from teams like the new Cloud9, or even mousesports and FaZe, who have been going through rough patches and made changes? What kind of offers did you get during that period?
I don't really want to divulge those offers, but I definitely did get offers from European and from North American teams. I did get a few — it wasn't a lot or anything like that, but it was a few and they were really interesting, and I appreciate all those organizations and players reaching out to me. It obviously makes you feel good when you know that other players want you to join their team. I did get a few offers, but in my mind Complexity was the safest. I think from a role perspective in-game it worked out really well on paper, and they've had good results this year already, so I thought that I could improve this team by joining. I thought that this was the most solid offer. And I get to live in Europe as well, which is something that I wanted to do beforehand.
You didn't get to play against Complexity before, they made the move to Europe pretty much as soon as they could, but did you at least watch them play before you joined? What did you think about them?
I watched a few of their games. I think from the outside you can tell that their preparation is really good. They know how to counter other teams and what they need to do, what they need to change in their own game to mix it up versus different teams. I thought they were all really solid players, or I wouldn't have joined the team, obviously (laughs). And like I said before, oBo and I play a lot of similar spots, so for me to fit into the team I don't think it will be as hard as it would if I had a completely different role and played different spots on maps. When I watched them, I did notice that stuff, but from an outside point of view it's always really hard to know how the team works without actually being in the team, so I didn't really have that much information on it.
Can you elaborate on what made you said yes to Complexity and what you hope to bring to them?
For starters, I think the team is super skilled, I think they have a hard-working in-game leader in blameF, they have RUSH and k0nfig, who are super experienced. They have been playing for years now and they've won a lot of events. Other than that, they have poizon as well, who is a really good up-and-coming AWPer. For someone who is pretty young to join his first top team and play as well as he has, it's really promising. Most people would agree that you need a really good AWPer and a really good IGL to have a successful team, so those two factors were big for me. Of course, from the organizational perspective, I know Complexity treats its players really well and Jason [Lake] is a really passionate owner, and as a player it's something that you really want from an organisation. You want that support and you want the owner caring about how his team does. Other than that, it's just the things that I said before, how I thought I would fit in pretty well with the roles and make it an easier transition. And, obviously, the team has a lot of potential and I think that we can actually win a lot of tournaments. I think we have the potential to be really good.
Can you speak to what the negotiation process with Jason Lake was like?
It went pretty smoothly. He just contacted me and we had a couple of chats and everything seemed to align really well. He worked some things out with my agent and I think things went really smoothly. It was probably the easiest transition I've had so far. We were both on the same page about what we wanted from each other and things went super smoothly, I was pretty happy with how it all went.
Speaking about the roles in the team, SPUNJ noted how on CT sides oBo's positions and yours were pretty much the same, but on the T sides there are potential clashes with blameF on the outskirts of maps. How are you going to deal with that?
Honestly, I don't actually think there are that many clashes, at least from what we spoke about prior to me joining the team and prior to our practice games. Everything seemed to just fit. There are a couple of maps where I'll switch up positions, but it's not a drastic switch, it's spots that I've played before anyway, so I can just go back to them and re-learn them. It might take some time to get used to playing some other spots, but overall the majority of the spots and the way that I'm going to play are pretty much the same. Maybe there will be some different strategies where I'll have a different role just because it's a completely different system and a different team, but overall I think it's honestly pretty similar. And even if blameF did keep all of his roles, it's been working for them, so if I had to slot into other positions just to fill that spot I think it would be fine. I'm confident in my own ability to adapt and obviously it's been working for them this year, so I'd rather they just keep things the way they've been doing so they can continue that success with me and I can just slot in.
What about the fit from more of a cultural perspective? This is essentially only your second team at a professional level and until now you've almost exclusively played with your compatriots. How do you think you'll fit in in terms of chemistry in a team that, from the outside, seems very different from 100 Thieves, a lot more emotional and loud?
This was something that I was kind of worried about before joining. I didn't know how I'd get along with the guys and stuff like that, and I think that's pretty normal when you join a new team. But so far, every time I've spoken to them and in the games that I've played with them, it's been really fun. Like you say, they are really loud, and honestly, I like that in teammates. I like when they're loud, even though I know I'm not the loudest player; it's nice to be around people who are loud. It does hype me up as well, even if I might not show it all the time, it does make me more confident. It's good to know that they're having fun and they're getting hyped up, so I don't think that'll be an issue at all. I don't think it will be too big of a deal. The only weird thing will be having people live in different countries because I'm used to always staying in the same place as everyone else, so in that regard I feel like I'll be a little bit more on my own, which is not a problem. I think it might be a little bit of a challenge, but I think it's something that I can deal with and just have to get used to. Other than that, it's been pretty good so far.
How much of a lifestyle change is that going to be, at the very least a temporary move to Europe? Have you figured that out, where you'll be living while you're over here?
I haven't thought too much about it just yet. I'm just taking it one step at a time, I don't want to put too many things on my plate and will try to figure out all the stuff that's going to happen down the line. I just need to focus on the tournaments coming up and getting fitted into the team. As of right now, I'm staying in the UK. I'm not sure where I'll live long-term because that depends on visas and things like that, and, of course, Covid as well, which makes all that stuff more complicated. But if I had to live in the UK long-term I wouldn't have a problem with that, I've always enjoyed travelling to the UK. But I don't think it matters too much. Ultimately, I am moving away from home to play the game, so regardless of where I'm living, as long as I can play against good teams and play good Counter-Strike and hopefully travel to tournaments when Covid is over, I don't think it'll be too much of an issue. Just as long as I'm living in a decent place where I feel like I can have a healthy lifestyle because I think that's pretty important for my mentality. At least that's what I've learned over the last few years.
Are you in London alone or is there someone else from the team there, too?
I'm staying in the same apartment building as RUSH and the manager of Complexity. It's just us right now, everyone else is living in their homes.
What are your thoughts on getting to play European teams for the first time since Katowice? Is it possible you're going to need to have an adjustment period individually after playing the same teams over and over in North America?
Honestly, I don't think so. Of course there are a lot more European teams than North American teams and the general level of CS over here is much higher than in NA, but I think I know how to play at the top level and I know the fundamentals and basics pretty well, so I don't think it's necessarily going to be a big challenge. The only thing that might be a little bit weird is the meta, which is a little bit different in Europe, but I think after a few weeks of practice I'll be pretty well adjusted to it. I don't think it'll take that long. But it definitely is a lot better than playing in North America, there aren't many teams left there and it was kind of getting pretty stale towards the end, so it's nice to be able to play a lot more teams. It's just overall better.
What has the experience with the team been like so far? What was the first practice day and getting to know the guys a little bit more like?
It actually went really smoothly for our first day. It's only just practice and every team goes through a honeymoon phase when they get a new player, but I think the fact that we click really well and they're able to balance the fun and the seriousness in the game, I think that's really good. And it's something that I've enjoyed a lot. I don't want to put too much stock into it because it's just practice and it's only the first day, but I'm excited to get into it and play the next few weeks of practice and the tournaments as well. I can't really answer that too well right now, but it's been pretty good so far.
What are your goals with this team?
Moving away from 100 Thieves was a really big step for me and a big decision, so I feel like I've taken a different approach and at least now I feel like I'm at the point in my career where I really just want to win a lot of things. This is the reason why I made the decision to come to Complexity. It's because I feel like we have a really good chance of winning a lot of tournaments and I felt like I needed to take a different approach to go to a team where I didn't really know anyone, to challenge myself a little bit more and to grow more as a person and as a player. I feel like when you step out of your comfort zone you learn a lot more things and I think it just challenges you to grow as a person and as a player. I just want to get a lot better and this is the right place to do that. As a team, I obviously want to win tournaments. I'm not going to have any unrealistic expectations, I think this team can win tournaments and they already have, and the caliber of the team is really high.
Do you have any message or anything you'd like to say to close this interview?
Thanks to all the fans from the past few years in 100 Thieves and Renegades. Hopefully, everyone continues to support me even though I've decided to move away from that team and go into uncharted territory, I guess you could say. I'm taking a bigger challenge and I hope everyone can understand my decision.