With changes to over a half of their roster before the start of the HGC Europe 2018, their qualification for the Western Clash Katowice as the fourth place team from the EU region was a surprise. But even bigger suprise was their performance at the tournament. Despite droping the first series, Team Zealots managed to sweep every team they faced to advance to the finals. There they faced Dignitas for the title of the best western team. Despite the enormous exhaustion (they played 13 games total on the final day) they almost managed to take the european gigant down, barely losing the deciding game on Towers of Doom with Dignitas having only 2HP on the core left. A big reason for their success was the stellar play of their support player Shad, who we sat down with to talk about Zealots, the Clash and of course Stukov.
You entered the 2018 season with 3 changes to the roster, the additions of Adrd and Chris, as well as you switching to support. How difficult was it for you guys to adapt to these changes, especially for you with the role swap?
Thank you !! All the changes needed their time for us to adapt to them. Not only to the players but we also have a new drafter and I had to learn a new role so it was more difficult than usually. For me it took a while, needed a lot of scrim time to learn my new role.
Every new team needs some time to adjust to such changes. Do you think this was the reason why you seemed a bit inconsistent in the first 5 weeks?
Yes. We have definitely been improving and our first weeks were obviously our weakest and this was a big reason why.
Thanks to taking wins over Fnatic and Dignitas you qualified for the Western Clash from the fourth spot. How did it feel to finally make it to a LAN event again, after being just one series short of getting to Blizzcon last year?
It felt really amazing. Last time we were very close to doing it (happy with the result anyways coming from crucible), but going to LAN again was great as my favourite part of competing are LANs. I love the tension, the nerves, the crowd, playing on stage is an amazing feeling.
What were your expectations going into the tournament? How did you expect the Clash to turn out?
I expected nothing from us really. Getting to the Clash was already big enough, so no pressures in that regard. Would not be too sad if we left the tournament before top 4. Expected Method to be top 3 at the clash and was surprised how well some NA teams did, especially Tempo Storm.
You started with the wrong foot underestimating Tempo Storm and loosing 2:0 quickly. Were you afraid that it was the beginning of the end or did you feel you still had it, as long as you focused properly?
I personally felt that Tempo did great. We didn't know what to expect when we faced them but losing to Tempo didn't bring our hopes down, because we knew they played good and that we could still do a good show in the lower bracket.
After that, in the lower bracket, you took out Team Freedom, Team Twelve and Fnatic pretty convincingly. Were you surprised how those series went for you and what were your plans going into the rematch with Tempo?
I expected us to do really well in those matches but was a bit surprised at how convincingly we won them. Winning so convincingly helped us into the rematch with Tempo. Also this time we were able to prepare from watching Tempo play and draft in the previous games, which was really important for our preparation.
The final vs Dignitas was full of unexpected turnarounds. You were one game down, managed to win 2 games in a row, just to lose the next 2. How hard was it for you guys to concentrate on the last 2 games, given they were your 12th and 13th game of the day?
We were so exhausted. It was really hard to keep the momentum from before but somehow I guess we were able to keep it up. I think our hype from how good we were playing in general helped us to stay in the game. It was noticeable but I think we managed it well.
It eventually came down to the wire. One last team fight to decide the winner. Do you think that if it was not for the exhaustion that you could have won the fight and taken the whole series?
I think we could have, with or without the exhaustion. It definitely did play a role, but I think if the match was played the next day it would still have been just as close and either of the teams could have taken it.
Zealots seemed to be one few teams that played around their comfort picks instead of blindly following the meta. Was it because you thought those picks can fare well against the meta if played properly or what was the reason behind it?
It was basically what we played in scrims and it worked. We like those heroes and obviously thought that they could work in this meta. When we tried them in scrims they worked really well so why not use them in a tournament too?
Talking of comfort picks. You showed some stellar Stukov play where you created picks left and right and basicaly carried games for your team. What is it about Stukov that you like this much? Especially with the high risk high reward "root in the silence" build you ran?
I think Stukov is a good hero in general. He has good healing and I especially like the playmaking potential he has that I miss having on other healers. Stukov can be played safely as a normal healer and you get the chance to create an opportunity to get kills with his Slow Silence combo (or root + silence at 13). He is also a great followup to a stun.
You showed that even supports can carry games and because of it many consider you the MVP of the Western Clash. Actually you were the only team to win a game with Stukov. Why is it that the other teams fail finding success with him?
Not sure, to be honest probably other teams didn't practice him that much or don't think he is good enough. It's really hard to guess because we just didnt see much Stukov from the other teams. I think he is one of the hardest supports to play because his passive is both his heal and his aggression potential so sometimes you have to choose what you use it for.
You are now viewed as the Admiral Gonzales, the Stukov god. Could you share a few Stukov tips or mention a few mistakes you often see other Stukov players making?
Of course! In general his W-E-D combo is pretty simple to understand, just need to aim the abilities. But his D has a very long cooldown (16seconds) and if you use it for your offensive combo you won't have it for healing your teammates. So what a good Stukov should know is when you can afford to use an offensive Bio-Kill Switch, because if you waste this cooldown the enemy team might get a free fight without your healing cooldown available. I personally work around this a lot by using my offensive as an engage or by trying to use both at the same time. Set up heals with Q and then look for a combo with Bio-Kill Switch that will explode both the ally heals as well as the enemy slows at the same time.
You guys are one of the few teams that attended the Clash still looking for an organization to represent. What would you say to any potentional organizations out there?
Well I think we can say we are the only unsponsored EU team with big chances of making it into Mid Season Brawl. Also the second best team in the west but most importantly we still have a lot to prove and to improve! So keep watching the Zealots evolution because its not our ultimate form yet!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Any shoutouts or final words?
Shoutout to all our followers and supporters, it would be much harder without you guys encouraging and cheering for us!