Luminosity Retals on leaving his career in the hands of majic
In a period of time when North American Rocket League has endured its darkest hour, Slater "Retals" Thomas is emerging as one of the region's brightest flagship stars, ready to lead the States out through the light at the end of the tunnel.
RLCS 2022-23 marked one of NA's collectively worst global performances ever, sparking roster turmoil where many stalwart teams have now broken up after a number of years.
But prosperity is running through the white stripes of the American Flag in this new revolution of rosters, and Retals specifically has a new beacon of light illuminating his way to stardom.
Following Retals' pen-to-paper signature on a Luminosity contract, GGRecon spoke to him about his new home, the consulted minefield of off-season transfers, a now not-so "comfy" North American region, and a best-friend relationship with fellow teammate Christopher "MaJicBear" Acevedo.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted prior to any rumours regarding the potential third-man signings of Reed "Chicago" Wilen and Carlos "CHEESE." Aguado.
Congratulations on your new organisation. How does it feel to land on Luminosity and what was the road like to get there this off-season?
It's nice. It's always uncertain after departing from an org, especially as suddenly as it was with OpTic.
It was definitely a little scary, but we couldn't be happier with Luminosity.
Luminosity has quite a storied career in esports - massive in Call of Duty, for example - but they've only really dabbled in Rocket League with a couple of bubble teams.
What have they told you about why they wanted to get back into Rocket League, and, no disrespect to the other iterations of their teams, with a more high calibre team like yourself and Majicbear?
There are very, very, very few people who know how good bubble players and teams really are, and I don't blame any organization that's picked up a team that wasn't as good as they thought they were going to be.
Thankfully, with me and MaJic being at the top last year, and me being at the top for the last few years, it's going to be a fun season. I'm excited for it.
Content is quite a key component of your career as well. Is this something that you will be looking to get involved with while you're at Luminosity and collaborate with their portfolio of streamers, similarly to how you did at previous orgs?
We've talked about it quite a bit, and I think it was one of the main reasons why Luminosity was the org that we chose. In a perfect world, I would love to push the ceiling for whatever org you're on, and Luminosity are good people. I'd love to do that here.
What was your time like on OpTic, having to balance your playing schedules with content and streaming mainly out of the HeczQuarters? How was your time there?
Optic was awesome. I had no complaints about the staff, about the pro players on the other teams, or the content creators. Some of those guys I still talk to daily or weekly. So, no complaints there.
Our team last year... left a lot to be desired. The personalities didn't match as well as I thought they were going to, and that led to a season of frustration for everyone involved.
I know that the results didn't quite go as planned, but what would you have liked to have done better?
There's not a single person to pin this on. All four players on the team, me, Magic, AJ, and even Greg, I think all of us could have done a lot better.
The biggest thing was maturity and just being open with each other. This year it's something that I'm super focused on with my new team.
Over the last few years, and especially the last 12 months, your personal brand has rocketed by creating content and collaborating with others.
Do you think that makes you a more prosperous and attractive player for organisations like Luminosity to gamble on? And then, subsequently, does having a big personal brand help you get better teammates in Rocket League at all?
Teammates, not 100 per cent sure about that, but organisations, absolutely. I try to say it to as many pros as I can, "You're only doing yourself a disservice by not grinding it out". We're all putting in the hours, all you have to do is turn on the camera.
I know, for a lot of people that's tough, but for some of these super talented players, you don't even have to have the camera on. Just press 'start streaming' on your OBS. No mic, no cam, just play the game. And you'll make hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, and create a fan base.
There are different levels to it, but for the bare minimum, it's not that hard, and I wish more would do it.
We've seen content creation in Rocket League stifle somewhat recently, but as you say, for the basic stuff, it can be as simple as just kicking off OBS and getting running.
In terms of anything different for pros like yourself, what are your thoughts on scrims being publicised?
I don't mind scrims being publicised, it's just right now we're in that period of uncertainty where no teams are announced, no orgs are announced, so it's tough.
I'm not a huge fan of it personally. I think that other teams could love it, but I think that it's tough to be as open as you want and criticized as much as you want while being on camera and in public. It gets pretty intense and the team environment is not for everyone.
It's something that I don't think we will continue in the future, but if a team can pull it off, I'd love it.
The only reason I say that is because we all want to see Rocket League succeed, and viewership is a big part of that. It's that one esport that could crack mainstream viewership, and having it continually grow is something that we all want.
On that topic, and for a player who also appreciates the power of content, would you like to see something like The Grid return?
I thought The Grid was awesome. Schedule-wise, they could have done a lot better. We were a little cramped for that RLCS X year. We're very blessed to play video games for life, but, it was a pretty stressful time.
I do think that with how much money these orgs are pumping into Rocket League, it has to do a better job at keeping them involved in the esports side of things.
We can use a little more. I think something like an esports tab, like a lot of the other esports have, could be really great. We've got to start making baby steps.
Looking forward for both yourself and Luminosity, you're yet to announce a third, have parted ways with AyyJayy, and stayed with Majicbear.
What's your relationship and partnership like with MaJic?
MaJic is, in the esports scene, my best friend. He's someone who I didn't know much about until about a year ago, but I've competed against him for years. I've known that he's super talented, super raw, unbelievably nice, and just a good kid.
But he's someone that I've grown to learn a lot over the last year by hanging out in person a ton and going in the trenches. We've had some low lows, but, he's someone that I think I value more than anyone in the scene.
He's got the potential to be a top 5, top 3 player - I think he's already a top 10, top 12 player. I've put basically my entire career in his hands. I trust him that much and he's someone who, in a time when we're looking for a third, I'm very confident with what I have already.
AyyJayy is a fantastic player, but as you said, there was a clear disconnect between maybe personalities and a little bit about your play style and whatnot.
Without spoiling who you'll be joining with, what type of player do you think would benefit you both?
We're in a weird spot because, in most free agency periods, there are three or four players available for three or four teams.
Now there are about eight to ten players available for three teams. It's a bigger pool than I've ever experienced in an offseason, which means more tryouts than I've ever experienced in an offseason, which also means it's taking as long as this because we don't want to rush into anything.
We don't want to pick up a third prematurely and not be happy with it. So we're taking all the steps required for it.
I think playstyle-wise, I'm not too worried. I think as long as we get someone with the same passion and the same dedication, then we'll be able to figure it out. I attribute that to how good our coaching staff is. So, right now, we're just looking for basically two things: One, who's got the talent? Who has the firepower to push us to the top? And two, who has the dedication the right teamwork and the right team attributes to make it work?
How do you gauge passion and mentality when trialling players? There are a lot of established pros that are already on the market - the guys from G2, Jstn., noly, all those types of players - but we saw NRG take a gamble on Frosty, who's pretty much unknown.
How do you guys grasp what type of passion and dedication such a breakout person would have? And is that something that you were considering?
It's definitely tough because Frosty basically spawned out of nowhere.
No one knew about this kid until, seriously, three or four months ago. No one had played against him. It's one of the craziest rise to glories I've ever seen in my entire life. Shout out to NRG for making that move.
Personally, though, it's not a move that I would be ready to make.
I do respect them for being ready to put in the work with him because he's going to need a lot of work. But, he's unbelievably talented and he could be one of the best. He's got a lot of room to grow, but we'll see how that goes.
Have you guys talked about the possibility of cherry-picking someone from anywhere else, or are you strictly going for free agents at the moment?
Everything's available. We're just trying to get the best fit for what's possible, whether that's someone on an established team, someone who is a free agent or that kicked off a team, or someone who has never been on a pro team. Whatever is the best option for us is what we're going to go for. There's not much limiting that.
NA has been very active this summer, for the first time in a long time, following a little bit of criticism for the region last year about the player pipeline, for example. How do you judge the criticism of North America last year?
I think that last year we did a terrible job at building teams, which sounds funny because the players have most of the control over that.
This year I'm very, very confident in our top teams being better at Majors. I think that, obviously some rosters are not announced yet, but the construction of the teams that I'm seeing so far looks great. So, I'm very excited for the season.
It got pretty bad last year to a point where, by the Boston Major, by Worlds, by Saudi, half of these teams were already broken up, mentally. So, we'll see. I have a lot of faith going into the season.
Do you think those long-term teams got a little bit too comfortable?
I wouldn't say comfortable. I would say that I think... EU is more risky with their moves.
I think that sometimes NA - yeah maybe it is that they were just too comfortable. EU takes more risks with their moves and at first it's like "will it work?" And then it usually does. So I applaud EU for that. They're doing well with roster-forming over there and I think NA is getting better at that.
For you, Majicbear, plus a third, and the rest of the Luminosity camp, what are your goals for next season?
I would not be competing if I didn't feel like I was contending for Majors and Worlds, so, I want to qualify for the LANs. I want to do good at the LANs. I want to keep building experience with him and keep getting better.
At the end of the day, I've just got to keep getting better, and when I feel like I'm not, it'll be time to go. I have high hopes though.