We sat down with Astralis star Nicolai "device" Reedtz, who was recently named the 5th best player of 2017, to discuss a series of topics concerning his rise to the top, his illness and the Major, among other things.
In this lengthy interview, Nicolai "device" Reedtz says that, during most of 2017, it was all about trying to cope with the pain as he battled with illness, which would force him to take a break towards the end of the year.
The 22-year-old will return to action at ELEAGUE Major Boston, but it will be Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen taking up the AWP after successfully handling the 'Big Green' in his teammate's absence.
Read on as device talks about being labelled a cheater during his early competitive days, handling the positive and the negative comments from the community, his preparation for the Major, and more.
I remember when you were 14 years old and accused of cheating. Now you are one of the best players in the world. Can you try to describe the journey from then until now?
Back then when I was younger, I think it was just part of the game. And still think it is today. When you are both really good and relatively unknown, people quickly label you as a cheater. It was really frustrating when I was in that situation, more than when I think about it now. But it's really not that weird: back then, if you were unknown and had not played any tournaments and then you played better than some of the top players in Denmark, you would definitely be labeled a cheater. You automatically go into a defensive mode, because I have always found it unacceptable to cheat and I have never had any intention of cheating. So I found it a bit low that weak, young people that couldn't really defend themselves were targeted. But the only thing I really remember, which I also have talked to my parents about, was really just to keep playing and prove that you were actually that good. Because then the acceptance and respect from other top players will automatically follow.
You said your parents have been involved. Have there been other people who have helped you along the way? Good players? You started playing with FeTiSh pretty early.
I think I had already proved myself as a good LAN player before I started playing on FeTiSh’s team on Copenhagen Wolves or even before I played on ruggah’s team. Back then, if my mates and I beat a good team on LAN, they would come over to check your computer for cheats. That was a bit of a border to cross, but when I joined a team with ruggah and then later with FeTiSh I was already over that period. They definitely helped me with other things as well, like performing under pressure and forgetting about outside things. I can't really remember when it happened, but at some point, I realized that the only pressure that really matters is the pressure you put on yourself. When you realize that as a player and as an athlete, and you can control the pressure that you put on yourself, then I think nervousness and other factors will be easier to control.
Now you are on the top, but you also talk about controlling the pressure. Do you ever have the feeling of, "What if tomorrow I suddenly can't perform anymore, is this over”?
That thought has never crossed my mind. I think self-confidence is a major factor in CS and if you go around doubting yourself, it will affect you on such a deep level, both psychologically and inside the game, that you won't be able to perform at all. So no, it has never really crossed my mind. Regarding my two-month break; I didn't have any thoughts about coming back and becoming an olofmeister or GuardiaN, I never thought that I’d have a difficult time to get back in shape again. I think that self-confidence and knowing just how much work it takes to get to that level, those things do not disappear in two months.So no, that is not something I fear.
I witnessed in Malmö just how many young people lined up outside your hotel and waited for autographs. How do you handle that?
I think the most important thing for me, and also the hardest, has been to filter the good and stick to that. It's almost impossible because when you then filter out the bad and the hate, then you wear blinkers and you won't see the good and positive comments or take time for your fans. So it's really about filtering it all in a good way, still showing that you are sincere and grateful for the support you get. Because if they hadn't been there watching your games, this career would not be possible. So it is important that you take some time to think about it, that you are, in fact, in your position because other people want to watch what you do. The hate is something that can, of course, take over because it's easier to read a positive comment and move on to the next positive comment than to read negative comments. That is just a fact, but it is something you learn to control and filter along the way. And if you don't, I think you are pretty much done in this business, because it's so easy to be a victim of the ‘army’ of negative people who just want to drag you down.
Do you think Counter-Strike players are more vulnerable than e.g. football players?
I think the difference between football players and Counter-Strike players is that we are so much closer to our fans on social media. Players like Neymar, Ronaldo or Messi do not have time and they do not follow, for example, Instagram so closely, so if anyone writes a comment on it, they won't read it. First of all, there are so many of them; then, because it never peaks their interest. But because CS players already are in the fan culture and have moved over to the professional culture fairly quickly, they have some kind of interest of being close to their fans, which gives them an option to be close to those who are negative, and I think that's the difference. I don't think we are more vulnerable, quite the opposite, I actually think sports stars get way more hate, they just don't see it.
You are now 22 years old. In ten years, you will be almost the same age as TaZ is today. Will you still be here then?
I find it extremely hard to see ten years into the future, but I can see myself playing for ten more years. It's always been in my interest to stay fresh and healthy and extend my career by making some good lifestyle choices, like eating healthy and exercising, amongst other things. So, yes, I have the interest to continue for as long as I feel I am good enough. I think that if there comes a time when I feel I’m not good enough and the motivation and desire to work hard to be good enough are not there anymore, then I think I would rather retire as a player and do something else in this business than continue as a player.
What is the main reason that you think it is hard to look into the future, even if it is just a few years?
If you think too much about the future, besides the fact that it is hard to predict, it makes it hard to go from one tournament to the next two weeks later and still develop your game and perform. For me, it's about sticking to my routines and being able to perform from tournament to tournament and build an Astralis era somehow.
So now you are back, how was it to be almost two months out and just sit back and look at your team play?
I was so sick during the first part of my leave that I did not have the energy for anything, but yes, it was extremely hard to just be on the sidelines and watch your teammates play. It was extremely frustrating because you somehow feel that you were supposed to be a part of both the ups and downs and also of the solutions when things were not going well. Especially when you are sick and you have nothing to do the whole day, you also keep track of what is happening. So it was really hard personally, and I could sense that it was also hard for my teammates when I talked to them. It was really tough but that was just the reality at the time, I could not play with them and I just had to accept it.
What did you do during your time off and when you returned to get back in shape?
Basically, I played when I felt that I had some energy for it. I played around 20 hours a week and I followed almost all tournaments because there was a lot of time for that, seeing if the meta had developed and what the other teams were doing right. And when you watch your team play from the outside and you see some of the new ideas a new player brings in, as well as some of the same mistakes that you commit when you play, then it gets interesting. You get another perspective on things, so I think I have some stuff I can contribute in that way. And then I tried to get better, most of 2017 was about me playing while being sick, whereas now I am going towards a point where I can play and feel good at the same time. And I can improve my game, because 2017 was more about being on autopilot as a player. To be able to function as a human without pain was the biggest problem that I had.
Will you reach your top level before the Major?
I would say so. We played a great deal while we bootcamped. Top level is pretty subjective, and a top athlete hits their peak level around 10-14 days a year. So it's a bit random if you hit the flow at precisely that tournament or at the tournament after. We are of course aiming to peak at the Major, based on our practice results and my gut feeling, I think the possibility is just as high as it was before I took my leave. We will have to see how it pans out when we get there.
So would you say that was not as tough for the team as it might have looked like to an outsider?
They had two months in which they attended three tournaments with two different players, so it was very tough for them. But after the winter break, I feel like we are in a bit of a honeymoon period, that period that a team goes through after a player change, where everyone can feel a renewed energy and we are all back together, because people obviously missed each other. I think it has given us all fresh energy, and it feels a bit like one year ago, when we were heading to the [ELEAGUE] Major, last year. It feels a lot like the same team spirit we had back then.
So, you will win?
I would say that, in a Major, there are so many random factors in the BO1 format in the Swiss system, but also in the bracket draw. Looking objectively at the Major, I think we have a big chance to win. FaZe are also really on point, but they already have a tournament now and SK have a stand-in. Of course, you can’t count them out because of that, but our chances of winning it are really good.
If you end up in the final, who would you rather meet?
If we end up in the Major final, I would, of course, want to meet FaZe, because I think if you look at the Major objectively, they are the team who should be in the final. Unless they are once again struck by their group stage curse. But definitely, FaZe.
To all the young boys who dream of becoming the next device and take the trip to the top: Do you have any advice for them or something that you would have done differently if you could had the chance?
I think the possibilities are so much bigger now. Amongst other things FACEIT has launched a bunch of national and international hubs, like FPL and FPL qualifiers, making it possible for players to get spotted much earlier. So I think they should definitely use that. Then I think it's important to have a balance in your life. And don't think you are the next device or coldzera and quit school to play 12 hours a day. A lot of it is about having a balance in your life and some routines. That will also make you have another perspective about the game, so it's not just a game, and then you can learn from it earlier than others. It's a lot about maturing when you play CS, so definitely stay in school. And also continue to have a lot of activities outside CS, that is very important. Be social around CS and don't lock yourself in and make yourself play because you think it makes you better. You have to enjoy it and find the right balance.