NaToSaphiX: "I keep getting pleasantly surprised [by how far we go]"
We had a long talk with Niels-Christian "NaToSaphiX" Sillassen about the creation of this Sprout lineup and how they went through both online stages of the qualifier all the way to the Minor, where they have so far defeated Kinguin in the first round.
After the match, we got a hold of NaToSaphiX to find out how the core of the team came to find Dennis "sycrone" Nielsen and Martin "PERCY" Wessel to finalize their roster back in May and what their struggles were during that time. The young Dane also took us through Sprout's point of view of the online qualifiers and their first win at the Minor against the Polish squad.
Let's go back a few months when you were finalizing the roster after innocent and kRYSTAL left, can you talk about the period and the options that you had before you came to the five that you have now?
We had a few options, I don't know if I can really be completely honest about all of them. At least with sycrone there wasn't really so much of a competition because there aren't so many good in-game leaders, we had a few others in mind, we also did actually contact another guy for the role at some point, but it didn't pan out, it was mutual, he didn't write to us and we didn't write to him, so I think we just found better things to do.
We desperately needed an in-game leader who could actually lead, at the start, what we wanted to, was to make denis or Spiidi the in-game leader, but I, coming from the Danish scene - obviously, denis and Timo they had mousesports, where you have a really strong fragger as an in-game leader and you don't have such a strategical approach. You might have, but the caller is probably not as good as a dedicated caller, he's just a fragger who then calls on the side. And that's become meta more recently over the past year, but for me, coming from the Danish scene, of course I want a dedicated in-game leader who works hard on preparing new strats, is really good at mid-round calling, all these things that are quite hard to practice if you're not a dedicated caller.
And so I actually went really far to get a proper caller, as I would call it, and that's why we picked sycrone. As for PERCY, it actually wasn't someone we had even talked about initially, but we ended up in a situation where we got let down by a guy that I will not mention and had to find a player basically the day that I was flying to the bootcamp. We had to find a fifth player. I've played in teams with PERCY and we knew we needed an aggressive entry-fragger, and I thought 'why not?', we'll see if he's ready. And PERCY is the type of guy who goes really far to better himself, but he's also the type of guy who I can call and the next day, or even on the same day if it's possible, will get on a plane and fly to a different country.
We needed that and we needed someone who was really incredibly motivated to play with us, and that's exactly what we got. The bootcamp, where we just kind of needed a filler, it also became kind of a trial period and he really passed with flying colors, he did really well. After that, we just never looked back, we picked him up, we've been grinding ever since and it's starting to pay off.
Give me a timeline of this, how long did it actually take from the point kRYSTAL and innocent left to the point where you found PERCY, how long did this take?
We knew that kRYSTAL was going to be out of the team already like three weeks before Copenhagen Games and we still went to the event with him. innocent was a bit more of a shock, at least to me, because I knew he was not so happy, but I didn't exactly know that he really felt like leaving.
Because of that, we all of a sudden lacked two players and it was right after Copenhagen Games, so it was going to be our last event together - considering that, I think we got a really good result, actually. Shortly after, we played with a couple of different players, maybe a half a month when we started playing again after Copenhagen Games and revitalizing the team, in a sense, and that's when I wrote to sycrone. I think the bootcamp when we got PERCY, which was the first time we played with him, was either mid-May or the beginning of May.
We've been playing ever since, and since then we have obviously not changed any players and the roster has just been solid. It's been paying off, especially when you have a dedicated in-game leader like sycrone like I already mentioned, but the more time you put into the same five guys, the better a dedicated in-game leader can work around it, so I think we're really starting to become what we should be.
So that's about two months that you had to prepare for this. When it did it really become apparent that this was going to work, how quickly did you realize you could have a chance to go on to the Major, or at least the Minor and work from there?
When we qualified for the Minor (laughs). At the beginning, it didn't go so well with sycrone but we decided to give it a shot, and for PERCY it was more easy for him to come in and show good form from the start. At the start, we didn't really know what we could make of this, sycrone hadn't been playing for some time and PERCY had been playing in the sub-top in Denmark, but it's hard to know with these players that have been on a high level and then dropped off a bit whether they can actually bring it back. They've managed to do it really well.
We played the open qualifier and I can tell you that I for sure did not expect us to even go to the closed qualifier, I think I've been to a closed qualifier once before and just that is a big achievement for me. Then we went to the closed qualifier, we beat Windigo on the first day - I didn't even play so well, but my mates were insane - and then after that I think we beat Red Reserve 2-0, where we were up 15-0 on Train, so that was completely crazy.
And we almost threw it, when we had 2-2 in the Swiss, we were all afraid that we weren't going to go to the Minor and I was already preparing what to write on Twitter, kind of, especially after the ENCE game, people had the wrong mindset. But for the last game, I don't think we have had a better mindset ever, and that's why we managed to beat a team like AGO.
We beat them, now we went to the Minor, now here we carry that mindset with us and with a good preparation here we managed to beat Kinguin on Nuke, which in my opinion is one of their stronger maps, so I feel really good about how it is now. The sky is the limit - coming into this today, I would say we'll probably just lose both matches. Now we won the first match, now I'll say we'll probably lose the next two matches and go out. But then we might as well win that, I keep getting pleasantly surprised and that's the way I like it, I don't like to set big expectations and then become sad, I'd rather be pleasantly surprised. We could potentially go to the Major, I don't know, but for me, I can't even...
It's safe to say this has been a bit of a surprise...
Yeah, definitely. I knew we had it in us, but we had a hard time getting it all together. We have the individual skill on the team, we have the team chemistry for sure, but we had some mental issues - mental issues sounds so bad, but it's just that some people, including myself, were a bit prone to tilting when we started out with this team probably because we've had so many issues and changed so many players.
It's just been a lot of issues constantly and now this was kind of a fresh start, so, finally, the coach is actually able to work on the mentality, because now we are five guys and he knows he's going to continue working with these five guys. Because of that we are all more motivated and we all put more time into the game. Now, it seems like we can never lose to poor mentality. People just do not get mad at each other, we don't flame each other, and even if someone says something bad to a teammate, we'll just instantly try to deescalate it so that we can talk to each other about it after the game.
I think that's actually the number one reason why we made it this far, you have teams like - I'm going to mention LeftOut, for example, which seems to be just a weird mix of players, and I just know they don't have the mental strength that we have. What we lack in firepower compared to a team like LeftOut, for example, we have tenfold in mental strength, and that's why we're going to go really far. Maybe not in the Minor, who knows, but at least in the future.
The Kinguin match felt a bit closer than it was scoreline-wise, there were a lot of clutches, close retakes - how was the match from your point of view?
Well, we started out really well, denis almost won the pistol single-handedly, I think he got four kills and did 90 damage to the last guy or something crazy. We did win a lot of close rounds, we won a lot of 2v3s, I think me and PERCY won a 2v3, me and Spiidi won a 2v3, then I also won a 1v1 and another 1v1, but also the first round they got was also a 1v1. So a bunch of clutches in there.
The clutches definitely favored us today, but I still think we were the better team. We had a 13-2 halftime on CT, I think we were never going to lose that game, even when it was 13-9, I just know with the mental strength we have we will win that game, I'm never worried. As soon as we got the first round, we just closed it out 16-9. To be honest, they are a phenomenal team, but we just outplayed them today, our gameplan was picture perfect and we all just stuck to it.
Can you tell me about what tow b does for you as your coach?
tow b is kind of a - sycrone put it perfectly in another interview he did - a bit of a father figure to us. Not only that, he's also kind of our mental coach and also our coach. He prepares all the demos, he works on our mentality so that it's the best it can be, and then if I'm struggling I go to tow b. If it's aim-wise, he'll probably just tell me to play more deathmatch or whatever, but if it's something mentally, then he can almost always help.
Besides that, what he did this morning, for example, we used one hour and 15 minutes on going through the gameplan only on one map - that was Nuke because we had a good feeling it would probably come to that - and besides that he made a motivational video with pictures, especially of denis and Spiidi because they are legends of the game, of their tournaments, he put some music on and it was so beautiful - it wasn't the one from The Fast and the Furious, but it was something like 'when I'll see you again' or something like that. The rest of us, it was the pictures from here, of us smiling, and then it's just clips only from the closed qualifier where it's not just the frags, but you can really hear how we react and how we communicate and all this, and how he reacts.
It just puts you in the right mindset going into the game and it's just perfect. He doesn't make those motivational videos so often, but he makes them when we need them the most. He did it leading up to the closed qualifier as well. You would think that professional players don't need motivation like that, but, in all honesty, it just brings us closer together. Those videos are really beautiful and I think in the highlights we can see we can all lift the team in certain rounds and we can also hear how we support each other when someone makes a sick play. I'm usually the first guy, or sycrone, to just yell something like 'OH HOW SICK ARE YOU' or something like that. Hearing those things is just so amazing and it really puts you in the perfect mindset.
He does everything, everything outside of the game he will fix it, I can't really put into words what he does because he just does everything, it's really, really nice, he's a great coach.