As the Apex Legends Global Series kicked off last weekend, fans eagerly awaited what seemed like a lobby of death. North America’s Pro League day two lobby, composed of Groups A and D, featured some of the game’s most popular and feared teams: TSM, G2, Cloud 9, and Team Liquid. These were some of North America’s most experienced squads, set up to clash at the start of the new season. They weren’t alone, though. Teams like reigning ALGS champs 100 Thieves, XSET, and SHEEEEEEEESH promised to make the lobby competitive from top to bottom.
None of those teams ended up in first at the end of the day. Instead, it was a team whose consistency makes them more quietly successful than other, more popular squads.
“I don’t think people realize how good we are,” Joseph “Frexs” Sanchez, in-game leader for Spacestation Gaming, told Dot Esports in an interview. “We’re kind of a new team… we have the brains. We have the fragging power. We just haven’t been able to show what we’re made of yet.”
If you’ve paid attention to almost any battle royale’s professional scene, you’ve probably seen the name Frexs. A veteran of H1Z1, PUBG, and even as a Fortnite duo with TSM leader and the consensus Apex CEO Phillip “ImperialHal” Dosen, Frexs has done more than earn his keep. If there’s a battle royale with a professional scene, he’s gone pro in it. The same is true for Apex, where he’s played for Cloud9, Reciprocity, NRG, and Spacestation, among others. And the word “consistent” has been attached to most of his teams.
Such consistency might have been enough to net easy placements in the early days of Apex Legends. These days, however, it’s a little bit more difficult, according to Frexs. “Everyone is so much better now compared to how it used to be,” he said. “Back in the day, everyone played really safe, played super smart. Now, there are teams that play edge [of the circle], and they can just fight everyone.”
Of course, this increase in aggression and gun skill is due to more than just more time put into the game. There’s also the tricky topic of input and the mouse and keyboard-or-controller debate. To hear Frexs tell it, it’s all about the controllers.
“There used to be only two controller players,” Frexs said when asked about the increase in teams playing edge and trying to take more fights. “Now, every team has a controller player. Controller kind of rules fighting, so most controller teams want to fight. It changed the game a lot.”
Frexs is uniquely situated to talk about how the different inputs change pro Apex. Throughout his battle royale career, he played on mouse and keyboard. This has also been true in his Apex career, and his free agent squad that Spacestation signed in spring 2021 was even named “MnK.” After finishing fifth in North America’s ALGS championship, however, he decided to make a full-time switch to playing controller after messing around with the new input and finding it fun to play. It’s hard to argue that the change hasn’t paid dividends for him.
And while some will spend time arguing about the competitive integrity of aim assist in a game that allows for different inputs like Apex, Frexs is going to take advantage of anything the game allows him to, knowing that he already has successful placements on mouse and keyboard to back him up. “I was already pro in Apex on mouse and keyboard,” he said. “I was already known for being a smart player. I think I’m the smartest controller player now. I have a brain and I can kill anyone.”
So, we know that experience helps, and we know that aim assist helps. But there has to be something more, right? Some special sauce that’s propelled Spacestation to the top so quickly in these last few months?
The secret ingredient, as Frexs tells it, is team chemistry. And the way to build team chemistry is good old-fashioned work. “I’m a firm believer that if you play the game a lot, you’re going to be good,” he said. “Half the pros don’t even play ranked.”
Frexs should know a thing or two about the work involved with grinding the game and putting a team together. Following his time with Cloud9 and Reciprocity, he was also a shot-caller for The Yungins and Frexs, a free agent team featuring Aidan “Rocker” Grodin and Nathan “Nafen” Nguyen. All three members of that squad would eventually be picked up by NRG. And when NRG moved on from Frexs in favor of former Rogue IGL Chris “sweetdreams” Sexton, Frexs got right back to work, forming Team MnK.
The ranked grind was especially important for Spacestation this offseason, with the departure of former teammate (and current XSET member) Jay “Claraphi” Stanley and the addition of Mark “Dropped” Thees. Alongside Angello “Xenial” Cardenas, getting the new lineup flowing together quickly was a top priority. The easiest way to do that in the offseason was just logging on and playing ranked together. “I think we’re the only team that does that, plays ranked all the time together,” Frexs said.
“When you play with the same people, you start to trust your teammates… the people who stay together always do better, in my opinion,” Frexs said when asked about building this Spacestation team and the fairly frequent practice of Apex teams forming new squads when things go wrong. “They play with each other, they know what they do and how their teammates play. People that make changes if it’s not necessary, if they just want to try something new, or they don’t stick it out because they had one bad tourney? I don’t think that’s good at all… I think sticking it out is obviously better, unless there is a free agent that’s clearly a better option. There’s loopholes, obviously.”
It’s hard to argue with that philosophy, looking through Spacestation’s recent placements. While the team was praised for its consistency even in their days as free agents, that consistency has turned from finals lobbies and top tens to frequent first-place finishes and top threes starting in the summer, when Dropped began playing with Xenial and Frexs. Now, the team looks to build on its week one victory in Pro League and continue to head towards bigger and better things: LAN playoffs, higher finishes, and maybe even a championship of their own. They’ll have to continue to prove that hard work, team chemistry, and a little bit of controller magic are the formula to win in the Pro League in the weeks ahead.
Don’t expect Spacestation to whither because they fly under the radar. And don’t expect Frexs to apologize for—as SCARZ player Dan “rpr” Ušić so eloquently puts it—trading brain cells for aim assist.
“Yeah, I did that,” Frexs said, a hint of a laugh creeping into his voice. “But I’m still the smartest.”