Back in 2018, the MDL division of CS:GO was in its peak state. But, despite the wealth of young challengers and fledgling rosters that began appearing in the division, Corey " ruin " Hartog felt it was near impossible to escape the division and make that final leap to the ESL Pro League.

That year, after a career of playing and coaching in Counter-Strike, and following stints with a number of MDL teams, ruin closed up shop, pursuing a full-time job out of esports and retiring from the scene.

But with the release of Valorant and the game's new bustling scene, ruin has found renewed motivation and has returned to coaching, now signed with Complexity Complexity Inactive RetrQ Alex Kadan trial Governor Peter No truo Robert Pham jcrueL Joel Cruel agM Michael Abood . Since joining the organization, ruin has helped make sweeping changes to the roster's attitude and composition.

His impact on the roster can be easily seen from the team's results in the First Strike NSG Qualifier, successfully contending against some of the top teams in the region with a new-look roster.

With the UMG Closed Qualifier on the horizon and the last four slots in First Strike: North America on the line, we caught up with ruin about his return to coaching, his transition to Valorant, his impact on Complexity's rapid improvement, and the team's vision going into First Strike.

How was it moving from coaching in CS:GO to coaching in Valorant?

When I first started coaching Valorant, I didn't have a lot of experience with the game. I'd watched it because I have friends like Mike — my buddy agM — was already signed to Complexity. I had a few friends who were already professional, so I'd watch some of their games just to be supportive.

But I didn't really know anything about [Valorant]. So when I first joined the team, the main thing I did was just coach it like it was a Counter-Strike team. I didn't know a whole lot about agents, I didn't know a lot about team comps, I just started giving them general advice that I would give to any team. You could take the advice I was giving them and give it to a League of Legends team and it would be the same. It was all the team-based esports fundamentals that are transferable.

Now, to actually answer the question directly from CS:GO to Valorant. It's very similar, the fine details are different though.

What specific fine details are you referring to specifically? Are there greater details that are different or is it primarily only the finer details?

Well... So, I think as a coach, a lot of teams don't have great fundamentals. That's my biggest thing that I work on with any team. It's just: "Okay, are we communicating properly? How is our structure with the team? Do we know how to take a site? Like, do we know how to space things properly? Do our entry fraggers know how to create space?"

That's true of any game. That's as true in Call of Duty: Search and Destroy as it is in Counter-Strike. That is what I mean by saying the fundamentals are the same.

The finer details is how do we accomplish these goals. If the goal is to take map control, normally in Counter-Strike, it's like "Okay, well, I have smokes and flashes and molotovs, and everybody has the same stuff. So we can do it however we want. There's a lot of ways to do it."

In this game, it's like: two of our duelists don't necessarily have the best utility for taking map control, but they do have the best utility for getting just straight up kills. So you have to combine duelists together. You have to use your Omen and your Sova in combination with your duelists to push people around the map where you want them to go.

That's what I mean by the finer details, because in CS, anybody can do anything in this game. In this game, you have to have the right people in the right spots or it's not gonna work.

As far as agent compositions, I thought that was a bigger deal when I first started. Now I think you could make any composition work as long as you play within that comp. I know Brazil, for instance, has not dropped Sage at all. Apparently Sage still has around an 80% pick rate or something along those lines in Brazil.

I think that's fine. I don't agree with it, my team doesn't run Sage, full disclosure. But I've watched some of their matches, and they have a lot of Sage-specific things that they like to do. I think that's perfectly fine. I know Europe doesn't like using Reyna, while Reyna has like a 50% pick rate in North America. That's fine too; they like using more Raze than Jett and they play a different style where Reyna's strengths are very apparent to me.

But I guess Europe doesn't see it the same way, so I feel like it's interesting that team comps are not really a huge deal. But they're very stylistic, so you could definitely create some cool things. If you spent a lot of time learning a unique composition, that's definitely an advantage. If you could get it going to similar strength as what's the meta right now.

Back in 2018, you previously coached Swole Patrol for MDL in CS:GO and they eventually dropped you, reportedly because they didn't like your style. How has your coaching changed, especially since 2018?

I learned a lot from my mistakes, and I'm not the kind of person who lies to themselves about stuff. So when I make a blunder or a mistake, I feel like I'm very honest with addressing it and being able to fix it. I feel like [Swole Patrol] never wanted a coach, just from having been their coach for about four months. They didn't use me in the way that a lot of teams do.

It felt like they should have a coach, and that's the proper thing to have, but they didn't ever listen to what I wanted to do, or they didn't take any of my ideas. They didn't really seem to use me at all. So when they dropped me from being the coach, I was kind of surprised because we had just qualified for WESG in China and we had only one loss on our record in MDL and we were like 9-1. I got messaged over Steam at two in the morning and it said "yeah, by the way, we don't want a coach anymore."

It was like, "oh okay," and then I was like, "Well, what could I've done differently? What could I have done? That would have made you guys not want to drop me? What could I fixed?" and there was just no answer. They just didn't have anything to say. It's like, "Okay, well, that doesn't help." But, {laughs} okay. I'm an adult. I'm a professional.

I saw them all at Fragadelphia after that. freakazoid and I get along great. I'm still friends with Cooper and Zellsis . I don't talk to Ryan or SileNt as much, but as far as I know, we're on good terms. I just haven't spoken to them recently. But I still talk to Zellsis and Cooper somewhat often. So I think that was just kind of a weird situation.

After that, I coached Gorilla Gang with Vanity, oSee, hydrex, Ryan, and I forget who our fifth was at the time. I coached them for about a month and a half, and that was the last bit for me. I was like "okay, this, this isn't gonna work for me anymore. I think I'm just past this now."

You also coached for Excelerate, right?

I wasn't a full time coach [for Excelerate]. I guess that's why I differentiate the two of them. I was working full-time while I was coaching for Excelerate, whereas for Swole Patrol, I was a full-time coach for them.

I was very confident we were going to make ESL Pro League [with Swole Patrol], so I was full time. I wasn't doing anything else — I was coaching, I was prepping practice, I was doing everything that I could to make sure that team was good. Whereas with Excelerate, I was friends with the guys and they wanted me to coach. I was like, "yeah, I'll drop into a couple practices, I'll watch your demos, I'll give you notes, I'll come to practice and help out if I can."

I went to one LAN with them and that was a lot of fun. I think we took fifth place at that LAN, one of the Fragadelphia's. That was for-fun coaching that wasn't like my professional career. I wasn't anti-stratting people for that team, I wasn't doing hard analysis. I was just "yeah, these are some mistakes I see." Like "this, clean this stuff up. Here's a couple cool ideas you can run with," that kind of general stuff, at least for Excelerate.

So, moving to the present, what has been your current role in Complexity, considering you've only recently joined this team, whose core has been in the organization since the game's launch.

Initially, I feel like [Complexity] brought me in because the roster was not living up to its potential. They knew they had great players and they knew that they had a core that they wanted to work with, but they just weren't getting the results that should have been happening with the core that they had. So they brought me in to sit in on practice, see if there's anything I could point out, any advice I could give them to help get them back on the right track.

I was in a trial with them for probably three weeks of coming to practice. After that, the team and the org met and they agreed to make me an offer. I met with the org, we came to an agreement and that was that.

I would say the biggest thing with this team from what I started coaching that I think is true of a lot of teams is that [the team lacked] structure and that can be a killer. It doesn't matter how good your players are — if you can't get a kill, if you don't know where you're supposed to go, if you don't know where you're supposed to look, that can be a real problem.

Even if you have all the individual skill in the world, it doesn't really matter if you're not looking at the right spot. I think that was the first thing I really changed. We need a baseline, we need something that we can work off of and see improvement from. I don't want to say we were pugging, but when I came in, it was very lax; there wasn't really a lot of urgency.

I'm not saying no one felt like there's anything wrong, but people felt like "oh, it'll just like work itself out. Like, we'll figure it out. Don't worry about it so much." And I was like "No, this has to change. We need to get on this immediately."

Every scrim, we should be improving stuff. Every scrim, we need to go in with a goal and an objective and say "Okay, this is what we're going to try to work on at the end of the scrim. How effective were we isolating that problem and fixing it? What examples from within the scrim show that we're like making progress on this idea?" That's how we we started going forward with fixing what I would call the big problem.

So, going off of your mention of structure, I realize that this will ultimately be down to the organization and the players, but how has it been integrating sharky and JonahP into the roster, being the two trials on the current roster?

They've been really great. They've made it really easy. When we were looking for two players, we were looking for the right people. We weren't really concerned with agents or with roles, per se. We just wanted the people who would do the grinding do the hard work to show up every day ready to grind, and we definitely found them. I'm very happy with how they've been.

We did an extensive trial period. We dropped C0M and Frisco in mid-September and we did trials for about a month... maybe a little over a month, and we tried out a lot of people. A lot of people that are signed now to other orgs first tried out for us, and for one reason or another either they wanted to go a different direction or they weren't what we were looking for. That's what happens when you're doing that many trials.

But sharky was one we kept going back to. We like sharky a lot. For JonahP, [agM and I] actually knew him from Counter-Strike. agM had played on a team with him before, so we brought him in as Sova because he was playing I think in Tier 2 or 3 Valorant in a PUG team with some friends.

He was immediately really good. We were very impressed with him out of the gate, so we were instantly on the JonahP bandwagon. I think if anyone watched our matches from the last tournament, they could see why. He's extremely talented. I think he's probably the best Sova in North America, but I'm a little biased in that regard. He's really good.

sharky doesn't have a Counter-Strike background. He's a pro player from PUBG, where he was a top five player in North America. He has insane raw individual skill [and is] very dedicated and hard working. He is more [currently] learning the fundamentals that I was talking about before. He's got to get the tactical-shooter fundamentals going and then he's going to be on full blast too. He's not even not 100% yet and he's still doing really well.

Jonah, on the other hand, as good of a fragger as he is, he's also an extremely smart player. He's a huge mid-round caller for us, and he makes a ton of decisions in mid-round and late round that win us rounds. He's great at calling for adjustments and reading into teams' defaults. He's not a secondary IGL, but if we had anything like that, that's what I would say. XP3 is the in-game-leader, but Jonah is one of the biggest proponents of our tactical success.

Now, moving onto First Strike, going into the NSG qualifier, I think that a lot of people were really surprised by your team's results, considering how much Complexity seemed to underperform in previous events. Is there anything you want to say about your team's run in that qualifier? Are there any games you're especially proud of?

When we 13-0'd NRG, that felt really good. I know that they said they didn't practice the map, and that's probably true - that it was a map they hadn't really had time to go over yet. But it's always the nice victory when you feel like you didn't make a mistake.

There was nothing that they could capitalize on. I played a lot of Counter-Strike and I don't know if I've ever 16-0'd a team in my own career. So being able to play a match like that to get into the closed qualifier — it's the third map and we just come out in 13-0'd them — that was huge for us. I feel like that gave us a ton of confidence.

Then the closed qualifier... it's hard because I feel like we see ourselves a lot differently than the community sees us because they still remember the old Complexity that didn't show up on match days and was lackadaisical. I don't know this as a fact, but I feel like we've been grinding this game harder than just about any other team outside maybe the top three. We're probably on the same level as them.

But we play probably eight hours a day. I do a ton of match review before and after practice. I'm always working with Xp3 on stuff in the server, we're full steam ahead. When I came in, we were practicing maybe three hours a day and a lot of times scrims get cancelled and practice would just sort of peter off. We would not really do a whole lot with our time.

The scrims weren't super productive anyway; we were scrimming not-so-great teams or teams that would not be great practice in general. That all has changed. We've completely transformed how we view practice and what we get out of it. I think the results speak for themselves. The hard part now is just staying in this area, like staying in this competitive spot where we can beat the top ten teams and top five teams.

Moving onto the UMG Closed Qualifier, is there anything you're currently thinking about it? It definitely seems like you guys have a pretty good group going into the playoffs, but is there anything you're particularly striving for in this event?

I think the thing we're striving for is decisive 2-0 victories out of groups. I feel like that's what I expect out of my team right now at the level we're playing. The only thing that I'm trying to instill in them right now is: we're used to being the underdog.

Looking at predictions, even on the NRG match, our community odds to win were 12%, and we felt we had pretty good odds. We figured we were going to beat NRG. For T1, we figured we'd also beat them and we had bad odds. Then for Gen.G, they're really good, they might show up against us, and we crushed them.

I'm feeling like, "can they beat us? Like, I don't know, I don't think they can beat us." I think we're the favorite in that group. Reading Reddit and Twitter and stuff like that, people seem to think we're not. I don't understand how they can come to that conclusion, but I respect [that]. I see my team every day, I see the practices go, I see the progress we're making, and I know the players and obviously I'm the coach.

I'm very confident in what we can do. But I don't see how you can look at that group and think we're not the favorite. What I'm looking at is 2-0 decisive victories over whoever we end up facing, because I don't know. Gen.G is obviously having a little bit of trouble getting Shawn integrated into their roster.

Moon Raccoons is on a huge high right now. They're beating everybody in these qualifiers. I think they beat FaZe 2-1. They're definitely a team I don't want to underestimate. I think people are very high on Moon Raccoons right now, which is partly why we're being underrated by the community right now. But I'm not going to sleep on them. They've got to be ready for a fight. I'm not going to take them lightly.

Then Serenity as the fourth seed. I know their org owner, he's a friend of mine. I haven't watched a ton of their games. But like I said, I want decisive 2-0's, I'm going to watch their games.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Just shout out to my team. We've been working hard. Since the announcement of First Strike all the way through November, and hopefully into early December has been a whirlwind of preparation and practice and everything. I'm really proud of my team for f*****g — excuse my language — working as hard as they have.

It's hard to come on every day. We practice six days a week, seven-to-eight hours a day. We've been doing this for over a month now probably and we're going to keep doing it until the end of First Strike. At least maybe we'll take a bit of a break once the last event is done. But we've been trying to make sure we're fully prepared, and that's hard to do.

I'm just really proud of my guys for sticking with the practice schedule, not getting complacent, not getting lazy. It's easy to want to take time off when we're practicing so much and no one's been complaining. No one's been wanting days off. We've just been grinding.

Complexity Complexity Inactive RetrQ Alex Kadan trial Governor Peter No truo Robert Pham jcrueL Joel Cruel agM Michael Abood will make their last attempt to qualify for First Strike: North America this coming Thursday in the UMG Closed Qualifier, where they'll be playing in Group C, taking on Gen.G, Moon Raccoons, and Serenity.

You can find ruin on Twitter at @CoachRuin and on Twitch at