Swedish superstar and DreamHack Stockholm 2012 champion Marcus "ThorZaIN" Eklöf has left the German-based e-sports organization Mousesports and has signed to the North American team Evil Geniuses in an undisclosed contract. He joins a team with champions and fan favorites including Chris "HuK" Loranger and Greg "IdrA" Fields.
The signing will give ThorZaIN the opportunity to train in South Korea with Evil Geniuses partner SlayerS, where he will be able to practice with Korean teammates Lee "PuMa" Ho Joon and Park "JYP" Jin Young, along with SlayerS players Moon "MMA" Sung Won and the infamous Lim "BoxeR" Yo Hwan.
For the past year, the 21-year-old ThorZaIN has been part of Mousesports as his first major international team. His time in Mousesports saw him go from a middle-of-the-road Warcraft 3 player to a worldwide beloved Starcraft II champion. He kicked it all off by winning the TeamLiquid StarLeague 3 over Johan "NaNiwa" Luchessi in a thrilling seven-game series comeback, which saw him originally down 3-1. Most recently, he won the DreamHack Stockholm event in front of his hometown crowd, as roars, screams, and chants of "ThorZaIN! ThorZaIN!" filled the arena for minutes at a time.
With ThorZaIN's Mousesports one-year contract coming to a close, he decided to start something fresh with Evil Geniuses instead of re-signing to his former team. In his first interview since the signing, GameSpot spoke to ThorZaIN on his decision to switch teams, and what the future holds for him.
GameSpot: What made you decide to join Evil Geniuses (EG) over Mousesports and those other teams?
Marcus Eklöf: It was basically only between EG and Mousesports. The other teams gave me offers similar to what I had previously in Mousesports, so none of them were very interesting. EG made the best offer by quite a lot. In the end I spent a lot of time to think about what to do, but I decided to join EG to give myself new challenges. I've always had some kind of competition in myself to become the best in the team. Even though Mousesports has many great players with Stefan "MorroW" Andersson, Grzegorz "MaNa" Komincz, and others, I think I was the best player on the team, the most consistent. It wasn't that challenging for me.
GS: Why did you decide not to re-sign with Mousesports?
ME: I was already talking to EG before DreamHack, and the plan was to finish the contract negotiations before DreamHack, but it dragged out and then I ended up winning DreamHack. I guess it's good for me it dragged out.
GS: Did Mousesports approach you to re-sign before EG talked to you?
ME: EG talked to me early enough, a month before the contract was supposed to end. Mousesports obviously wanted to keep me, so they gave me a new offer when they heard EG was trying to get me.
GS: Did Mousesports match EG?
GS: Did you ask Mousesports to match EG?
ME: No, not really. I really like Mousesports. They're a great team and I have a lot of good friends there. They wouldn't match EG's offer, but gave me something similar in salary, and the ability to play in South Korea. If it wasn't too much worse than EG, I could have decided to stay in Mousesports.
GS: Did Mousesports not attempt to make that offer?
"I just want to be able to play as much as I can, to see how good of a player I have the ability to become. I just want to play as much as I can and not think about other things."--ThorZaIN
ME: They did, but it wasn't close enough to EG's offer.
GS: Was EG the only serious team that came after you?
ME: There was quite many actually, but that was when I had already decided to join EG. After I had made my decision, four or five teams came to me with offers. Evil Geniuses contacted me really early though, months before my contract was set to expire.
GS: What aspect of it did you think of the most when making your decision? Was it purely the money, the LAN practice in Korea, the aspiration for championships?
ME: I like to have good teammates obviously, but in the end I realized if I was going to take off another year from school, I'd want to be in Korea, and teammates wouldn't matter as much. Going to Korea was one of the bigger aspects of my decision.
GS: Was Mousesports not willing to send you to Korea?
ME: They could have and probably helped me find somewhere to practice, but EG could send me to the SlayerS team, and that's a big plus.
GS: How much of the EG-SlayerS partnership played into the reason why you signed? I know that the SlayerS guys have talked highly of you.
ME: I don't want to say it had a huge role, but it definitely mattered in some ways. When I was at the SlayerS house for 10 days before, during that short time I made many new friends, and most of those guys are still there.
GS: You've been friends with the Mousesports players for a long time, especially countrymate MorroW. How hard is it to leave those guys?
ME: At first it was really hard, and I didn't know if I'd be able to do it, but then I realized the only thing that would be different is that we wouldn't share hotel rooms at events. I'd still see them at the events, and I'd still be able to practice with them as much as before. It's not like you only play with your teammates. You play with all the top players. It wouldn't be as much of a difference as I originally thought it would be.
GS: EG has many champions on their team from HuK to PuMa. What are your aspirations?
ME: I just want to be able to play as much as I can, to see how good of a player I have the ability to become. I just want to play as much as I can and not think about other things. I'm more motivated to practice, to play and push myself to the limits. It wasn't so much different in Mousesports, but being alone is a different experience, and I find my expectations to be higher in EG.
GS: When will you be heading to Korea? How long will you be staying?
ME: I'll be going there after MLG Anaheim. I'll be staying there for a couple days before DreamHack, and then come back to Korea indefinitely. I plan on trying to compete in the next GSL season, but the goal is to improve as much as possible while I'm there. [Ed note: Following this interview, it was revealed that EG and SlayerS will be teaming up for the GomTV Team StarLeague, where ThorZaIN will be competing.]
GS: Your countrymate Naniwa finished top 8 last GSL Code S season. Does that give you any hope for achieving the same results in Korea?
ME: I mean, Naniwa's been able to compete and win against Code S players for quite some time. I actually think he's better than me right now. The skill difference between Code A and Code S can be so small, that it's going to be very difficult all around to compete. Some of the Code A brackets are easy, some are hard. It kind of comes down to luck in the end.
GS: You just won DreamHack. Do you feel you're playing the best you ever have in Starcraft II?
ME: No, I wouldn't say that. I always think I've been pretty good, but I've had some nerve issues, and at DreamHack I was able to overcome them. I'm not saying I was better than all the players at DH. I actually think Polt played poorly, so I don't think I was at any kind of peak then or now.
GS: You were in a hotel room with me this weekend watching the debut of the Brood War players competing in SCII. Are you worried about them taking over and winning everything?
ME: Not worried, more excited. I just want to see what happens with those guys. If they translate their Brood War skill over to SCII, they should be the best, but we'll have to see. I think they'll be top players in SCII, but I don't think if you give Flash two more months he could win a best of 20 with MVP. It's going to take them a while.
GS: Lastly, how did the rivalry between EG and Mousesports play into all of this for you? Did it make your decision harder?
ME: No, I didn't even think about it. I don't think I even consider it a rivalry, just something funny on Twitter. Maybe now we'll have a real rivalry.