With the complete shutdown of sporting events and gatherings, Covid-19 has made this a very strange year. If we focus just on Counter-Strike, how have you found 2020 so far?
This year is complicated. Coming out of 2019, we had high expectations, and we started 2020 well with a win over NAVI at GG.Bet in London. At one point we were even 2nd in the [HLTV] global rankings. We weren’t at our best at [IEM] Katowice, though we managed to play at a good level and were knocked out just before playoffs. Then the pandemic started, we went home, and we became inconsistent. We may have finished 2nd in Pro League, but after that, the results really took a turn for the worse. However, I think that as a team, when you go through tough times and pick yourself back up, you come back stronger. I’m hoping that that’s what we’ll do for the rest of the season.
Effectively, the year isn’t over yet, with several significant events still to come. What are your main goals for the rest of the year?
Our main goal is to make a return to the top 5. But personally, the most important thing is that we can rediscover our form from last year and play well together. If that’s the case, then the results will come. We’ve set the top 5 as a target and we want to start next year in the best position possible.
You’ve been a member of the mousesports roster since 2019, how have you found it so far? Without wanting to make anything out of your age (30 years old), how does it feel to play with players much younger than you, such as Frozen, who is 12 years your junior?
When I joined mousesports, I knew that I was going to have to adapt to a younger squad. When I was in FaZe, the roles were a lot more experimental, but playing with younger players isn’t an issue for me. Even though they might lack experience, with a good mindset and good players you can gain experience very quickly. We’ve been able to see that last year with Woxic and Frozen. At the end of the year, they were able to perform very well on stage.
Do you ever think about when you’ll stop playing competitively?
There isn’t a set age limit on how long I can play. It all depends on whether I’ve still got the drive and the belief in myself to be the best. If that’s no longer the case, then that’s when my age becomes an issue (laughs). But at the moment I don’t see myself retiring any time soon.
There are lot of people that see you as one of the great minds of Counter-Strike. How proud are you of that image, and what sort of legacy would you like to leave behind once you do retire?
To be completely honest, I don’t really put a lot of thought into my legacy, or the way that I’m seen by the community. When I play, I don’t think about it. I don’t want to be proud of what I’ve accomplished up to now as I don’t want to catch myself resting on my laurels. Obviously once I do hang up my mouse, I reckon I’ll be proud of some of my results. But for the moment, I’m completely focused on helping the team make a return to the top of the scene.
How has the global pandemic impacted you, as both a player and as an individual?
In Denmark, we didn’t have that many restrictions and masks weren’t even obligatory. We did have an isolation period, but it wasn’t very restrictive and we were still able to freely walk around outside of our homes. I don’t think that the pandemic has affected me much other than that. The main thing is that I’ve been unable to travel and play LANs abroad like I have done for the last 15 years. I’ve found that quite difficult. In addition, I don’t think I’ve ever played this much Counter-Strike. Some days, it’s hard to do anything else besides play CS:GO. If the pandemic does have a second wave, I’m going to try to do things a bit differently and with a different state of mind.
What are the main differences between preparing for an online tournament and preparing for an event on LAN?
The preparation hasn’t really change that much. In both instances, the coaches work very diligently to prepare us for our opponents. For us, the main difference is team synergy. I think that since we haven’t seen each other or hung out together for a quite a while, that’s affected our team cohesion in and out of the game. We’ve still had some good bootcamps, which have translated into some good results as a team in the following tournaments. So I hope that our current bootcamp, which, unfortunately, we’ve had to do without Woxic, will help us rediscover ourselves. I also believe that the way that pressure affects other teams has become clearer during lockdown. Teams who struggle on LAN have nothing to lose playing online CS. We were one of the best teams before we entered this online era, so we’ve got much more to lose.
Has playing in online tournaments felt at all similar to LAN events? Do you still feel motivated to play in front of an empty crowd?
I’d be lying to you if I said that it’s the same thing as playing in front of a packed out stadium. But you have to keep in mind that these measures are important and they’re only temporary. Players are a bit less motivated — myself in particular. I live for playing in front of a crowd — that’s why I play competitively. Things are obviously different now; we’ve been telling ourselves that these measures may stay in place until the end of season, so we’ve got to adapt. But whatever the case may be, I still have that desire to win.
How have you been enjoying the player break?
Normally we only get three weeks, so we go on holiday and forget about CS for a bit. Usually, after 2 weeks of not playing the game, you have to start thinking about the upcoming season straight away. But this time round, we’ve had around 5-6 weeks off instead, and things have been a bit different. As we’ve had more time on our hands, I’ve been able to do a fair few things besides playing CS. I was able to see my friends, see my family, and go to Poland with my Fiancée to meet her family. It’s been nice, since we’ve been under less time pressure.
Shortly after the Player Break, you jumped straight back into a bootcamp. What do you get up to during a typical day of practice?
We usually get to the office around 10-10:30AM and then get started around 11AM. Recently, we’ve been working with our sponsors, who obviously weren’t really able to use us when we were playing online. As for practice, we play between five to six maps per day, followed by a debrief to talk about our mistakes. We then eat dinner together as a team. We all these things as a group and it’s exactly what we need to help us properly prepare for the coming season.
Has this been a typical bootcamp for you, or have you had to make some changes to adjust to the Coronavirus?
I’d say that this bootcamp is just like any other. The only major difference is that Woxic isn’t here: he wasn’t able to make it due to the pandemic. But we’re doing the best we can in the current circumstances. Other than that, everything is just like normal.
Let’s talk about Valorant for a bit. Have you played it at all?
I had to try it out for 30 minutes, but the game didn’t allow me to play with the same mouse settings as I use in CS:GO, so I didn’t want to play a game which I feel has a completely different movement system to CS. I think it’s potentially a good game, but personally I don’t really like all these ultimate abilities. When it comes to FPS, I’m rather old-school. Valorant may well turn out to be a good competitive game, but CS:GO will still have an edge over it for several years.
A fair few CS pros have made the switch to Valorant. How do you think they’ll find the transition to a new game?
I think that it depends on the player. You need to be motivated; if you’re only doing it for the money, it will never work — you can play for around six months, then everyone will be better than you. But if you want to be the best, if you have the skill and the right mindset, it’s possible. It’s a completely new game, and from what I’ve seen, especially when it comes to the recoil, it’s quite similar to CS, so that’s going to work in their favour. Also, I feel like the players that made the switch weren’t players on top teams. They were well-known players in the scene, but they never completely broke through to the top level. Mixwell had some highs and some lows, so for players like him or Pyth, it makes sense to make the jump. If I were in their position and I hadn’t carved out a place for myself in the scene after several years, I would make the transition as well. However, I don’t think that any of the current best CS players will move to Valorant, unless they get benched by their teams.
So it seems like CS won’t be dethroned from its position as the king of tactical FPS for quite a while still…
CS has a history. It’s one of the first online multiplayer games. Its history means that it’s not just any other game. People have played it with their friends since they were young, in places like LAN centres. In general, it’s a good game. It’s not all about your aim, as there’s a lot of strategy involved. You can also play it to relax, and there’s a load of good things for the both casual and competitive communities. Also, I think that it’s an easy game to understand. In DotA, the score doesn’t always reflect how the game is going, while in Counter-Strike it does.
As esports continues to become more mainstream, have more people begun to recognise during your daily life compared to the early days of your career? Has traditional media taken more of an interest in you?
In Denmark, the media has become really interested in esports these last few years. That’s because we have Astralis and essentially some of the best players in the world. I currently get recognised a lot more than I did five years ago. The community is constantly growing and that’s a great thing to see. I wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t have a large community and spectators. It’s good to see the scene come on leaps and bounds and I’m glad that we can keep writing history together.
Speaking of Astralis, they’ve been struggling recently and have made several changes to their roster. Which players do you think will be able to establish themselves in that side in the long term?
It’s hard to say at the moment, mainly because we’ve just finished the player break and I don’t know what’s going on in other teams. But right now I don’t feel like it’s a top team. The fact that we’re in an online era will paper over the cracks, so we’ll know what sort of team they are after these upcoming LANs. Given how much teams change from week to week playing online, it’s hard to say who the top teams are, and it has no bearing on LAN events, where the pressure is completely different. I’d say that everyone is a top 3 side right now, and we’re in the top 4! (Laughs).
We’re right in the middle of ESL One Cologne at the moment. Where are your aims for this tournament?
This is an important tournament for us as it’s the start of the season and we’ve been sliding down the rankings recently. There’s more pressure on our shoulders than we would have wanted, but that can work in our favour. We need to put up results — we can’t keep saying that they don’t count because we’re playing online. Before, we felt like we weren’t used to this format. But now that we’ve been able to bootcamp, we’re at our best and we need to reflect that in our matches. We’re aiming for the top 4, but the most important thing is that we play well as a team. If we make top 8 but show good progress, then that will still be a positive sign.
At the time of speaking, your team has not yet qualified for the Major in Rio. Are you confident that you have what it takes to make it to Brazil?
Our fate is in our hands — we just have to have a good performance in the next qualifying tournament. Right now, that’s our main focus alongside Cologne. If we show that we’ve improved during our matches this week in Cologne, I’m confident that we’ll manage to qualify for the major.
Anything you want to add before we finish?
I’d like to thank everyone who’s supported us and also our sponsors who stood by us during this difficult period. Also, thank you to mousesports who have looked after us. I’d also like to shout-out my teammates, who fight alongside me and are sacrificing a lot so that we can become a top team again. I hope that you’ll enjoy watching us play in Cologne.
Original content by Léo "Tipsalewo" Lecherbonnier.
Translation by James Whitmore