Although Vertex has been eliminated from ESL Challenger Melbourne 2023, the squad has once again represented Australia in another special moment of domestic Counter-Strike.
Snowball Esports was able to catch up with Vertex’s Toby “BRACE” Barnes following his loss to Bad News Eagles to discuss the event thus far, some challenges facing the squad, and what his team has been working on in 2023.
Despite a valiant effort, Vertex was knocked out by Rare Atom in a best-of-three that wrapped up late into the night.
“DreamHack  was the most fun I’ve had playing CS in a team,” BRACE said about being back on the stage in Melbourne.
“No other tournaments we get to play have a massive crowd [that is] biased towards us and a lot of players on our team really feed off that.”
Despite the final result not telling the full story, Vertex was able to put in a respectable effort in their opener against Bad News Eagles, wrapping up the match on Vertigo with a 16-10 scoreline.
“I think we just had a really rough start. Starting 0-7 down, losing the pistol, and in a best-of-one… that’s a nightmare,” BRACE said.
“What went well was our T side, and once we were able to adapt a bit, we were able to recover our CT side; we brought the half back with five rounds.
“Everyone was really mentally strong. We were happy the whole time and maintained that morale.”
Vertex has established itself domestically as the second squad behind Grayhound, but they are yet to really come alive on the international stage.
“Our level in previous rosters was simply too low to compete with international teams, whether we lacked the firepower or decision-making,” BRACE explained.
“We’ve been making a lot of the international events–even over Grayhound sometimes–but then we have a rough run.”
“At the RMR we had some unlucky circumstances, in the BLAST event we ran into a really hot 00Nation, and in the last DreamHack event we had issues in the lineup.”
Despite the string of international appearances that have fallen short for the squad, Vertex has persevered by leveling up the team where they can.
With their most recent addition Jared “HaZR” O’Bree adapting to the Wolfpack system, and interim coach David “Kingfisher” Kingsford lending a hand for the time being, BRACE explained why this iteration of the team is the best yet.
“He adds a lot to our team, [HaZR] is able to play off feeling and intuition; [he] is so sharp mechanically.”
“Outside of Grayhound I think we have the best individuals in the region. HazR was able to almost 30 bomb into Bad News Eagles.”Toby ‘BRACE’ Barnes, VERTEX
“[Kingfisher] understands how the best teams think and he is able to bridge that knowledge gap for us. Outside of the game, he helps us eat and sleep right and understands how to bring out the best in us.”
While Kingfisher has been assisting the Vertex squad recently, he is publicly seeking a permanent role with a team in a coaching capacity.
Although the team fell short in the end, BRACE commented on the group draw at Melbourne, which saw The Mongolz replaced by Movistar Riders after opting to travel to Europe early before the Major.
“[Vertex] look up to The Mongolz as a lineup. Movistar used to be really strong but I haven’t seen them as much recently outside of anti-stratting them.
“Movistar is more likely to win the event, but I think we would struggle more against The Mongolz. This group in general I think is more challenging than Group A.”
Movistar eventually cleared Group B in first, while Rare Atom was knocked out by Bad News Eagles, leaving Grayhound as the only APAC representative in the ESL Challenger Melbourne playoffs.
Vertex will get their next shot at an international LAN in the playoffs of ESL ANZ Champs Season 16.
Interview conducted by Bernadette Wong.