Paincakes interview (part 2): “I opened my eyes and thought how I can’t just be stuck in Tier-2 forever.”

In the second part of Fragster’s interview with professional Valorant player Jake “Paincakes” Hass, he reveals his experience with Akrew’s... Pedro | 8. September 2022

In the second part of Fragster’s interview with professional Valorant player Jake “Paincakes” Hass, he reveals his experience with Akrew’s departure from Valorant, why the team stuck together instead of pursuing other individual opportunities, his development as an IGL, and who he views as his biggest inspiration for his career.

Leaving Akrew

Pedro Romero: One month after the NA Challengers 2 playoffs, Akrew announced their temporary exit from Valorant as a result of them not successfully reaching the VCT partnership league for 2023. Can you describe the timeline at which you were notified about Akrew’s eventual move?

Paincakes: We all knew it was coming but they let us know a day before it was publicly announced. They were really cool and had been honest with us all the time so it’s not like it came out of the blue. And even after we lost in VCT and we’re at boot camp, they told us that they weren’t sure how much longer they can do this depending on what happens next year. And I think Riot did take too long to announce the Tier-2 stuff so they just were unsure of what was gonna happen.

Do you feel that added more pressure to the team’s performance in VCT qualifying?

I don’t think so. I think we just felt like we had nothing to lose. I think it was the opposite almost. We had been in this situation before. We had a new coach and fifth player so we just got out there and did all we could.

I can only assume that parting ways from Akrew must have affected your mentality. What was the state of your mindset after the announcement was made and how have you maintained your mentality during this time?

It was more of an eye-opener for me. It prompted me to think that if I really want to make it, I really have to start winning and do a lot better, so I’ve become a better individual player as well. I can’t just be at the very top of Tier-2 if I really want to make Tier-1. I really just have to work a lot harder. I opened my eyes and thought about how I can’t just be stuck in Tier-2 forever. I think getting dropped kind of made that vision a reality.

Did you feel complacent in the sense that you were satisfied with just getting a salary as a member of a Tier-2 org and not trying to improve out of that?

I wouldn’t say I was complacent. When I was on Akrew, we were good and I knew we could be at the Tier-1 level and we were always close to doing it. I was only shooting for the VCT and now that we know franchising is a thing and how it’s going to work, I can’t be at the bottom of that level. I have to be in franchising, you know what I mean? I just wanted the status of being “Tier-1” but now the status has changed to more than just that.

Returning to Tier-2 scene

Following Akrew’s departure from the scene, the majority of the lineup that made up its name stuck together and have continued competing in Tier-2 tournaments to the present day. Was there ever any different deliberation about possibly disbanding outright in order to look for other opportunities?

A week after the move, a couple of us tried out for some teams just to see what was out there, but we knew we were still one of the top Tier-2 teams. After we got dropped right after VCT, our motivation was definitely low because that was the last big tournament for the year if we didn’t qualify. We had some rough moments there, but once we saw the future, we definitely wanted to stay together because we knew we can do a lot.

Taking a look at the new format for next season, do you think that was the major reason why the team stayed together?

If we’re playing together and we’re on a team that can win and do a lot of big things, we would love to go as a team, work our way through the leagues, and reach Tier-1, whatever the format is. Also, if we keep playing together and start winning, people are going to get picked up individually to Tier-1. Either way, it’s a win-win if we just stick together instead of switching to different teams, but I think any of us would take a Tier-1 offer and we wouldn’t be mad if that happens.

You mentioned you’ve seen your past teammates get picked up by other orgs and find their own way. Did you feel discouraged by seeing your teammates get offers from big orgs while you had to continue making a name for yourself in Tier-2?

I don’t think I was discouraged because I knew we were all good players. I don’t think I ever get discouraged. I know I can play at the high level just fine. I’m just waiting for the right time.

In recent times you have picked up the role of IGL for your teams. How have you adjusted to that role?

It’s something I’m still trying to work on for sure. We recently added RockeT as our coach and he’s been trying to help me out. I definitely have a lot to work on, that’s kind of been my main focus. I’ve spent a bit on individual stuff but it has mostly been about learning on how to become a good IGL because it adds to you as a player. I don’t want our team to lose because I’m not doing good calls. I want to give us the best chance. It’s just been a work in progress.

Becoming an IGL and his biggest inspirations

What has been the biggest piece of advice that you’ve received while you were in the process of improving as an IGL?

It’s not even small things, it’s just a lot of things. I can’t really single out one thing. I think the only thing that helps me based on what my coaches have pointed out is that I’m a quick learner. I pick up things really fast and have been able to obtain a lot of information in a small amount of time too.

As someone who has competed in the Tier-2 scene for practically the majority of your career, what has been the biggest development you’ve seen in the amateur scene from the start of the game until now?

With the franchising thing coming out, it’s about how you can work your way up. For individuals and teams, there’s not much of a development scene right now. You could say all the orgs leaving is definitely not good for it, but I think that given Riot’s announcement, it should come back to normal. If you’re talking individual players, it’s just all the ranked players you see nowadays in the Tier-2 that are working their way up.

What is something from the Tier-2 scene that the pro scene can use for their own improvement?

I think it’s just about taking chances on players again. In Tier-2, you have the option to take chances on players a lot more and I don’t think Tier-1 does that as much. They tend to pick up people that they know already.

Taking a general look at your career, what would you say has been the biggest difference from the start of your career until now?

Just learning how to be a flexible player who does a lot of things and not just one thing specifically.

What player has been your biggest inspiration for your career?

It used to be nitr0 from CS who came and went in Valorant. Honestly, I really loved watching Marved and his improvement

What made Marved stand out from the rest of the scene?

I think it’s because I used to face him a lot when he was on FaZe. I think he just improved so much since joining OpTic–or maybe it was because of the team environment he’s in. Either way, I just really like watching him play and I’d like to be at that level one day. And I think it’s possible because we were at the same skill level when we both started out in Valorant, so it gives me motivation.