Leaving home to stage a comeback: cadiaN's return to the Major
Four years after he last played at a Major, Casper "cadiaN" Møller is back on the biggest stage after his team qualified for the FACEIT Major. After four wavering years outside of the upper echelons of CS, the 23-year old AWPer and in-game leader of Rogue sets out to prove that he's matured enough to deserve the spot.
"The next day was going to be special, and I knew that this was probably the best, or only shot, of going to a Major again."
The night before their upper bracket final at the Americas Minor in July, the captain of Rogue sits alone in his London hotel room, just like he's sat alone in his Las Vegas apartment so often during the last many months.
The payoff from nearly a year of hard work and, more importantly, living in solitude, away from his social and family life in his home country Denmark, rides on this one best-of-three against Complexity.
At this point, it's been four years since cadiaN last attended a Major.
Four years in and out of various teams, changing roles, not feeling like he has ever lived up to his true potential.
The best-of-three ends 2-0 in the favour of Rogue. The 23-year old Dane is once again going to the most important event of them all after playing one of his best significant LANs ever, netting a 1.19 rating at the Minor.
After the game, cadiaN gave an emotional interview on the FACEIT live stream, suddenly shifting to his native tongue to deliver a heartfelt, sobbing 'thank you' to his Danish fans and family:
TRANSLATION: "Thank you to all of you following me in the Danish scene. Your support feels amazing, being so far away from home. So thanks for that. And thanks to my friends and my mother, it really means alot."
"I needed to thank the people at home, because I’m not completely alone in this. My friends and family are there for me," cadiaN says, thinking back on the emotional moment.
"It was the culmination of sacrificing my ‘normal life’. It’s a pretty big deal to travel to a different continent to play. Especially considering the way I did it. There’s no gaming house here, I don’t have another Danish player accompanying me. I’m alone on the other side of the world, fighting to be the best at what I love."
At this point it's clear that qualifying for the biggest stage for the first time in four years, since DreamHack Winter 2014, is a huge relief for the veteran Danish AWPer. It's not something to take for granted, going to the Majors as pro player.
That's exactly what cadiaN did, though, as he recalls his attitude towards being a professional in the first few years of his career.
"When you’re in the circle of players who go to the Major, you sometimes forget to appreciate it," he says.
"You might be thinking ‘there are more Majors after this one, and if I don’t do well now, I’ll just do better next time.’ But you might not be playing that next Major. In CS, things move quickly, so it’s all about taking the chance when you can. I know that now."
cadiaN's career path has been anything but straight. As with many other promising youngsters, he's spent years in and out of various teams with various success.
He entered the scene as a talented AWPer in Danish teams such as oXzone and Xapso, before joining mousesports in early 2013 alongside current top players like Chris "chrisJ" de Jong, Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch and Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić.
Looking back at the following years in teams such as Tricked, CPH Wolves (with whom he played his latest major in 2014) and SK, the 23-year-old wishes he had been more adamant in polishing his sniper talents instead of attempting to fit in and continually changing positions and and playstyles:
"As time went on, I took on roles that didn’t really make any sense," he says when recalling the period before joining the European iteration of Rogue in 2016.
"In mousesports for example, I joined as an IGL. We had some okay results and some pretty bad ones. It was the same when I was in SK, where Michael "Friis" Jørgensen played the AWP instead of me. All that hurt my individual skill, or at least kept a lid on it. So if you back at the last four years, there’s certainly been fluctuations, and I hear people saying that I’ve only reached my peak now.”
Reflecting on past roles and results, the conversation shifts toward the perhaps most important key to success in pro CS, attitude and mentality. It might be a bit of a cliché, but it's no secret that many up-and-coming players, especially considering the fact that they're often young, have a hard time giving and receiving constructive criticism. cadiaN admits that he was no different:
“When I entered the scene, people were very positive about my skill level. But there was also murmur about my attitude, and I’ve had to work really hard on that. I used to be very self centered in my decisions. I couldn’t admit that there was stuff I couldn’t do or hadn’t learned yet. I also had problems adhering to the leaders of the teams I was in," he says, adding that he also sometimes neglected the basic principle of practicing:
"There’s also the aspect of the time I put into the game. I could have played and practiced a lot more back then, and I’ve learned from that, and I’m currently working harder at getting better than ever before."
Between that first stay with Rogue and the current one, the Danish AWPer assessed his options in an unstable Danish scene that was abundant with talent in mid-2017. He came close to signing with Heroic, as then-IGL Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer revealed in an HLTV.org interview at ESL Cologne 2017.
cadiaN himself now says that he couldn't make arrangements with any Danish teams that would satisfy him:
"My options in Denmark didn’t fit my expectations and ambitions for the level I wanted to play on and for the events I’d like to compete in. In spite of the notion that NA is a weaker region than EU, Rogue were at least in EPL, and NA is a really good place to showcase your skill, since you get to play against teams like Cloud9, Liquid and MIBR. If I had stayed in EU, I probably wouldn’t have been able to play many games against teams like Astralis", says the 23-year-old, who decided to move to Las Vegas to live alone in an apartment and set his mind on improving on past mistakes and attempt to be more consistent, mentally as well as mechanically.
"I knew that it would be extremely tough to be away from home, and if you look at other Europeans, especially Danes, who go to NA to play, not many succeed. I don’t know if you can call it luck, but I’ve certainly worked very hard, and that has paid off.”
Certainly, Rogue are doing better now than they were in the last part of 2017, going from playing EPL relegation to securing a spot in the final of DreamHack Austin 2018 as well as now qualifying for the Major, only losing the ultimately trivial Minor final to Complexity. cadiaN's troops also broke into the HLTV.org Top 30 for the first time ever in April and reached No.24 in early June.
That's not to say that the road to London hasn't been riddled with problems for the North American team. A string of roster changes, including a controversial move back and forth between the team and their rivals in Ghost by Matthew "WARDELL" Yu, made for an uneasy spring this year.
The team's rocky road, coupled with living in solitude and a feeling of missing out on an important part of his life in Denmark has inevitably lead to deliberations about quitting it all and going home, admits cadiaN:
“Of course I thought about that. But I believe in continuity above everything else. And you only have that if you stick around and work hard. I’ve changed teams many, many times in my career, so it’s been good for me to stay put and build something. I know we’ve had changes too, but we’ve kept the core of Spencer "Hiko" Martin, Daniel "vice" Kim and myself, and we now have a team that I believe in.”
After four years since participating in his last Major, and after almost six years in the scene in total, cadiaN says he has finally matured enough to be wary of his own shortcomings, to be humble, and, most importantly, to do the work that is required to be at the top.
"I’ve always felt, and still feel, that I haven’t yet reached my full potential. My career hasn’t been a walk in the park. There’s been a lot of bumps in the road, and I have really learned from them, learned how to overcome challenges, and that’s really helping me now.”
After the emotional interview following the Americas Minor semi final, cadiaN once again tears up as he calls his mother - his biggest fan:
"She watches every game, goes to HLTV.org several times a day and probably knows more about the scene in terms of roster moves, events, matches and ratings than most of my friends.”
In overcoming attitude problems, suboptimal role assignments and the plight of living alone, it makes sense that cadiaN would let out a flurry of feelings after qualifying for the biggest stage in professional Counter-Strike. When talking to him, it's obvious that his maturation as a player especially comes from learning to accept his emotions, learning to let them out, and learning to use them on the server instead of taking them out on teammates or - even worse - on himself.
It becomes clear that qualifying for London is the culmination of four years of both uncertainty and hard-fought self-improvement from the 23-year-old Dane:
"It means everything to me. To play at the Major is to be at the very top regarding prestige and the opposition you get to face. It’s the epitome of high quality CS. So it means a lot, and it’s been a tough fight getting back."