We took an opportunity to talk to LDLC about all things before, during and after their $100,000-worth triumph at DreamHack Winter.
After a string of 2nd places in tournaments leading up to DreamHack Winter, LDLC managed to win it all at the last major of the year, taking down NiP in the midst of Sweden 2-1.
The Frenchmen also survived a turbulent quarter-final duel with their biggest rivals fnatic, albeit via a forfeit, and then later took down Natus Vincere in the semi-final.
LDLC interviewed by HLTV.org after their big triumph at DreamHack Winter 2014
In our lengthy interview with all five LDLC members, we cover a range of topics from preparation, match analysis, the Overpass fiasco, grand final to individual player contribution, their contracts, upcoming tournaments and the future of CS:GO.
To start off, tell us was there anything missing in your preparation for DreamHack in hindsight? Is there something that you would like to do differently when preparing for the next major?
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer: Actually we lacked time to practice the maps better, you may not believe this but our preparation was kind of bad. We felt like we could have done way better, we were all feeling tired of these really intensive 1.5 months of bootcamping / events.
But I think in the end, at least I don't regret any second of the time I spent with the boys. Next time we have to prepare for a tournament we will focus on more communication within the team, as well as maybe some changes in the pure gameplay part, still have to fix some ideas.
Let's go over your run in Jönköping. In the group stage you beat ESC and NiP to advance as first seed. Did you prepare specifically for either opponent? Anything notable, such as anti-strats or good calls that you remember?
Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey: Of course, we prepared for both of the matches, not like anti-strats but just by the knowledge of how the team is playing overall and with a big focus on the veto to play maps we are comfortable and strong on.
You played five different maps at DreamHack, all but de_mirage and de_nuke, which you’ve previously played at times. Were you prepared for all seven maps, and how come you didn't play de_mirage in the playoffs?
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: We were prepared on every single map, at different levels. Historically, every team that we have faced had really good results on de_mirage (except for NiP, and mirage was left in the last 3 random maps).
We automatically banned mirage against Fnatic and Na`Vi, regarding how good these two teams are on that map. We had a group and a bracket that helped us avoid nuke and mirage, which are probably our two worst at the moment.
shox takes us through the quarter-final against fnatic
In the quarter-final you took fnatic down on de_dust2, and were beaten on de_cache. Can you walk us through those two maps? What were the key moments in each game?Richard "shox" Papillon: Dust2 was a tough game, we were losing 6-9 on the first side and I really think we could have had more rounds. Anyways, after that we really had a great T-side and managed to get all the key rounds so we reached the lead 10-1 and won the first map 16-10. I guess it was a really great T-side from our part.
The key moment in this game was the T pistol round and the T gun round when they were 2 AWPs and we took the round. After that we had the moneycycle with us and we could play our game properly.
After the first map, fnatic decided to play really agressively on cache when we were CT, we didn't really expect that and they had a fast and stack gameplay during their whole T-side, with a really bad moneycycle on our side, we didn't find the solution to block them and we fell 4-11 on the first side.
After that we knew it will be really hard, even if overall we have a good T side on cache, it wasn't enough to come back from our shaky CT side. The key moment in this game was clearly the CT side, we should have won the pistol round but we failed it and never managed to get few rounds in a row to get some money.
Next up was the now infamous de_overpass game. First of all, what were NBK and kioShiMa’s communications when they were first killed by olofm in the boost spot?
Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux: First we thought he was jumping with scout on the B balcony, then we thought it was the boost I made against NiP. Then we realized at 13-13 he could see everyone so we were a bit confused to find a solution, it was too late.
LDLC trying to figure out how fnatic's boost worked
What did you initially think when olofm got those kills from the boost spot? Did you for a second think it may have been some other place, as one of your players ventured there once more to be shot by his SCAR-20? What was your mindset about the situation at the time?
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: We realized where he was about 10 rounds in. Before that, we were just moving targets for him and couldn't do anything; everytime we were going to a bombsite, fnatic were heavily defending it, or we couldn't even reach the entry points!
During the game we tried to adapt by rushing some zones fast, but the general mindset was, at one point, that we were powerless. We couldn't find a single answer to that play and were definitely heading to a loss. It was a very tough side and end of the game.
You clearly went through a wide range of emotions regarding the protest in the fnatic game. Now that the dust has settled, how do you look back on the entire situation? Has your opinion on it changed?
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer: Well first I want to say that there are, I think, no hard feelings between us and fnatic, obviously this event didn't put any of us in a comfortable position, but despite being rather young players, we are all adults, and we are smart enough to know we need to put this thing behind us.
I want to personaly apologize to cArn, we all got heated up, and I regret sending a tweet regarding him. It's not an excuse but we were feeling so cut off that we started getting desperate and mad, and we all know we should have handled it with more care, we felt the need to tell everyone our misery at the moment.
I don't want to re-open this case, as I said I want to have some closure about that event, even though it shadowed a part of this amazing tournament. The only thing I would have to say is that DreamHack also could have handled the situation a bit better... Anyway thanks to little robban (Robert) who was really a nice guy.
LDLC didn't expect to meet the new NiP with Maikelele in the final
In the grand final you took on NiP. Were you surprised they got that far? In our pre-event interview, NBK expected NiP to come in and surprise "some teams". Did their play exceed your expectations?
Richard "shox" Papillon: Tbh we didn't expect NiP to go that far even though we saw in the group stage they were clearly better than before. With what HellRaisers showed in the group stage and on internet practices, I think it was a surprise for everyone to see NiP just dominate them in the quarter-final.
For the semi-finals, the first two maps were not surprising at all, but with Inferno as last map, we really thought that Virtus will take it, but NiP showed a perfect CT side and managed to go to the final again. It was really a surprise for everyone I guess to see them go so far with a new player. They had a really good event.
Can you talk us through the first two maps that you split with NiP? On de_dust2 you had a decent defensive half and seemed in control after changing sides. However, on de_inferno you stood no chance. What happened?
Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey: We just had a good start on the defensive side so we were able to take a few rounds which is enough for a CT side on dust2 and after that, in T side, everything was good, we were able to win all our duels, the communication in the team was perfect, the rotation etc... everything was just perfect.
But when we changed to Inferno, it was a totally different match and we were another team, NiP played very well, they perturbed us and they won all the keys rounds in the match so it was a one way match for them.
It all came down to de_overpass - again. What were your honest thoughts after scoring four rounds on the terrorist side? Is that along the lines of what you expected? Were you confident you could win it, given a pistol round win?
Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux: We had a pretty bad T side, we knew it gonna be really hard to come back, but we never doubt about what we are capable of! There were many rounds I can remember that were so close and so intense, it was really a good match to play.
Happy: "We've said in the briefing before the map that I wanted all my players to give everything they had left"
At 13-15 NiP had two tournament points. What was your plan going into the following round? Who was the most vocal player on the team? What were the things you were telling each other?
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer: We were on the CT side, so there are no real "plans", you basically need to hit your shots and make the right decision in the heat of the moment. We've said in the briefing before the map that I wanted all my players to give everything they had left, to cry in the end whether we win or lose, and I think we did exactly that, we were strong enough mentally to overcome our deficit and managed to push into overtime and win the whole thing.
I think the most vocal person on the team at that time was SmithZz, he really showed he wanted the win over anything else.
In overtime scores often flip around as teams spend that two minute break figuring out exactly how to perfectly counter each other. This time your strong defensive play held up, and you managed to close out the game. What were you saying to each other going into the six most important rounds of your career, at least until now?
Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux: We just said to keep going like this on CT, they didn't find a solution, we didn't have to push or whatever, just trust each other at each bombsite like during the come back, we just needed to secure now and finish the match on T side.
What were you thinking during the one-on-one situation in the final round of first half of overtime? How relieved was the team after you won that round?
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer: Well I remember that round exactly, we were 2v1 but Maikelele killed NBK, then I was coming up from CT spawn. I flashed him and I knew he was going to take a shot, so i waited, peaked after he shot, and killed him when he tried to CZ me down. It was a pretty exciting moment but I was feeling really confident to be honest so I don't feel it was such an important moment. It just boosted the team confidence I would say.
NBK was the motivator throughout the tournament
A question for each - Can you all pick one player and talk about his contribution to the team at DreamHack Winter? Talk about his roles, any key moments you may remember, etc - anything memorable.
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: Well, it was my first major with Happy. As everyone knows, he's the leader of the team and contributed a lot. Although I rarely saw him staying alone on a server to study tactics, he always managed to come with new ideas and new tactics! And regarding the event, he's been brilliant. He has been able to both out-smart our opponents by his tactical choices and by his gamestyle. So let's say that I'm pretty happy baiting for him, and to let him kill everyone! ;D
Richard "shox" Papillon: Well I will talk about NBK, he had been really constant the whole tournament but he really stepped up his game when we needed him like in the semi-final and the grand final. Moreover, I know Nathan from a few teams now and he did what he usually doesn't really do. When we were in the circle before our games, he always said some key words and pointed out things that are important and what we have to be focused on.
He had a really good mentality during the whole tournament and helped us a lot with the team-spirit. Moreover when you have someone like him in the team who you can leave alone in any situation, he'll always get 1 or 2 kills which are so important, that's just a gold mine.
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer: I will pick out ... It's actually really hard because during this event all my teammates had a really good personality and mental approach to the tournament. I will pick all of my team, I will not say this one gave more than anyone else. NBK gave crazy speeches before games that I never seen him do before, Shox knew how to adapt totally to his new role within the team and he did it brilliantly, kioShiMa had crazy skilled moments especially during the final and SmithZz gave his heart out during the games. Obviously I forgot a lot of things, but I can tell you I witnessed my team turning from one of the best into simply the best one, and it was magical to see.
Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey: I want to talk about shox, he is not the same player as before in the other teams, in this one he is the mid round caller, he has a lot of responsibilites on his shoulders and he is doing the hard job, things like being first in a rush (and he hates that) but he does it for the good of the team and that's the point I want to push on. That's what we want in our team, trust each other and everyone can do the work.
According to SmithZz, kioShiMa will be one of the best players next year
Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux: I would say Kio, he's the least experienced player in the team and I'm really proud of him. I'm playing really often with him on defense, he did his job, even more sometimes. I can remember at 14-7 when we were force buying against NiP on overpass, we had 2 CZs on A, and he managed to get 1 kill and put the other two on low health. That was the turning moment of the match for me.
I'm sure he will keep improving and he will be one of the best player of the next year!
This must feel like the ultimate validation that you made the right choice when the French scene was shuffled in September. With KQLY now VAC banned, was there ever a scenario in play where he would have landed in your team?
Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux: I think we have a really good lineup, there is a really good mood in the team, everything is perfect. We made the right choice and we are all happy with this line up, couldn't have been better!
NBK tweeted in disappointment once MLG announced NiP had been invited to the Aspen event instead of your team. Does this win only add insult to injury in a sense? Have you been in direct contact with MLG about possibly receiving a delayed invitation?
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: Yes, I have been in contact with MLG very briefly. I sent a full mail describing our team, our achievements and stuff like that. The only answer we received was when they announced publicly that NiP and Fnatic were invited. Sadly, very few teams have got their numbers regarding social medias and popularity! So that choice was understandable, but still frustrating as a player. Also add to the fact that we had to qualify for every event beforehand. But the beginning of a team is always tough; now I hope we proved ourselves!
At that time, NiP were on their downfall and weren't really deserving the invite (as the invite was based on the last major only). But after their performance at DHW, the invite is justified. And obviously, Fnatic fully deserve their invitation, and I can't wait to try to qualify and prove once again that we deserve to be there too!
Virtus.pro's new, possibly "the most expensive of all-time" contracts were just announced. Are your contracts expiring on January 1? Have you already negotiated a new deal with LDLC? Can the French organization pay you enough to keep you after this win?
Richard "shox" Papillon: Our contracts are basically expiring at the end of December, we are still in negotiation with LDLC for a new deal for the next season. We have some really big offers regarding us, but if LDLC can make the right deal, we'll defintly stay with them.
The team's manager and motivational coach MoMaN
What kind of role does MoMaN have in your team? Is he merely a motivational figure, or does he act as a coach in terms of in-game calls? Do you think your team could benefit from adding a coach in the future?
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: MoMaN is acting as both our manager and our motivational-coach. He's a key aspect of our team regarding everything that touches the players, our communication and solving "deep" problems. He is someone that has been around for more than 10 years, and his personality makes him very approachable and easy to talk to, and therefore to solve all our problems out of the game.
I know that in the future he will also try to look into the teams and how to approach different matchups. Maybe we will need a full-time coach once we reach our weakest point (that will happen at one point) to help us move forward, but I don't believe that it is a requirement to win.
Speaking of calling, how is Happy as an in-game leader? How differently does he call, compared to Ex6TenZ for example? Does he make all the decisions in-game, and if not, how much does e.g. shox contribute with mid-round calls?
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: I've been playing with Happy as an in-game leader for a month, so I don't know him 100%. Regarding the preparation, they have the same approach. Knowing how to counter the opponent, relying on a panel of prepared tactics.
Happy takes care of most of the T-side; what happens between the spawn till the time we get ready for the tactic is all up to the players. He relies on us to work on how to take positions, how to be careful and not lose to snipers or aggressive players. And if we lose rounds because someone in the team failed by lack of research, he goes "Oh well, we're gonna lose then" while Ex6TenZ would've hit the table with his fist and took the matter in his hands. By that approach, we can keep our gamestyle and work altogether. On the CT-side, we have to take care of our spots and work on them; you either work and succeed, or you don't and you fail.
In-game, we trust Happy 100%. He has his gameplan, and if we try to interrupt and change it, we lose 16-4 (against NiP on inferno, for example). We are "allowed" to call almost anytime, but the big calls are mainly from shox, Happy and me when spotting specific weaknesses.
LDLC wish for bright future of the scene
Did you speak to Valve privately about the state of the game? If so, what were the things you told them you were unhappy about, or wished to change or improve in CS:GO?
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer: I used to do that with Ido a long time ago, I really like this guy and they are all very kind and listen to us, even though I get that they are... really patient with changes. Well I mean, the game is pretty much all good, the 2 real issues everyone is discussing at the moment are the CZ and the scout jump. And I would add also the cheating issue. I would say for my part finding ways to improve major tournaments and having a "clean" scene.
Everyone seems to be in agreement that CS:GO will continue growing, at an even more rapid pace, in 2015. Where do you think the scene is headed? What do you expect, and hope, from 2015?
Richard "shox" Papillon: I think the scene is headed in steps of LoL, it looks like since few months that we managed to get more importance than Dota2 scene or Starcraft2 scene. For 2015, I hope that we'll have more big events and that Valve will increase the prize money of 4 majors in a year so we can touch more viewers, more sponsors etc.. And the game will grow again and again.
I don't want an International or w/e, we need 4 majors/year so it's a good argument for the visibility of the sponsors during the whole year. And if we want CS to grow up and maybe one day to be as huge as LoL then we'll have to put more money in. And I guess with all the skins/stickers Valve had during this year, they clearly have enough resources to do it.
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: I think that if CS:GO wants to keep such a huge progression, VALVe has to put up a bit more into the game. By either linking the eSport cases straight to the tournaments and seeing the evolution of the cashprize progressing case after case, or by simply putting more money into the game. I would also love to see someone hired by VALVe to take care of the eSport side of CS:GO!
Regarding my expectations for 2015.. I don't really know! I appreciate the work that everyone is putting into the game, the big organizations looking to improve the viewership and the professionalism. Let's say that if I expect something, it would be to keep the same amount of majors, with more money and a different format.
Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey: I hope CS:GO will continue to grow for us (all players) & for the community, we want to play this game as much as we can and have a good spectacle in the next tournaments!
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer: It's already pretty neat, I feel though that it will keep improving. I'm amazed at how people keep getting into the scene, the numbers of viewers througout the year just kept getting up, it's crazy. Well we all know how it works "basically", more viewers, more audience equals better seeing and interest, more sponsors and money, more money better life qualities for players and better events etc etc. I hope we will keep growing and keep improving on the professional aspect of the game, it's all that I wish for CS:GO which has become a major source of entertainement for both the pro scene and the public.
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt: First of all I would like to thank the whole LDLC management team, who supported us since day 1 of this team and who made the trip to come see us live in Sweden. They have been helping us and gave us the chance to develop exactly how we wanted.
Also thanks to Ballistix, AOC and CoolerMaster! Also special shoutout for the support we received during the event: your messages gave us the extra motivation we needed to put the problems we had on the side and motivate ourselves 100%. Also thanks for the opportunity to review this whole event!
Also small thanks to Titan - they wanted to create one of the very best teams, and they made it. Unfortunately, that team is LDLC! ;D
LDLC will be taking part in ESL's upcoming Winter 2014/15 Pro League, as well as the European qualifier for MLG Aspen later this month. A few of their players are also expected to make the trip to Belgrade, Serbia for ESEC 2014 LAN Finals where they'll represent France.
Interview conducted by Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen and Petar "Tgwri1s" Milovanovic.