NiKo: "I took the IGL role after going 0-2; most likely just for now"
Despite a slow start, losing the first two games of the Major to BIG and Natus Vincere, FaZe have secured playoffs by beating mousesports, TYLOO and finally, G2. The last match was a BO3 in which FaZe overran the Frenchmen on Mirage and closed it out on Dust2 in Overtime.
One of the main talking points of FaZe's comeback was that, apparently, NiKo started calling for the team, which was confirmed in this interview. The Bosnian didn't rule out becoming a full-time IGL, but described the change as a temporary one, for the Major and potentially ESL One New York.
I'll start with the opening of the tournament that you had, obviously being on the edge of elimination after losing to BIG on Dust2 and that comeback that Na`Vi pulled off against you on Overpass. What was the thinking after those games, rewatching the demos and seeing the mistakes?
After we went 0-2, it was obvious that the game we were playing was not our game at all. We didn't have any confidence, we didn't have any communication, it was all panicked, all the moves we did were the wrong moves, wrong timings... everything we did was terrible. After every match we lost we sat down in the room and we talked about it for an hour, we watched the demo right after the match, we just talked about it, talked about BIG, talked about Na`Vi, and yeah, I'm just happy that we managed to find our game at the edge, comeback, and go to the playoffs.
What was key to changing that around, getting back the communication and the confidence? And why didn't you have it coming into the tournament?
We kind of had it, but it just disappeared when we started losing against BIG. And against Na`Vi, we started winning on the CT half but the communication was really chaotic, we just hit our shots and that is why we won the half. Then, once we started losing, we lost some crucial rounds, everything started going downhill, people started getting mad, there was the issue with communication, tilt... What changed after it, I think the biggest thing is the will because people really wanted to win. We never gave up, even though everything was going terribly for us, people never gave up. As I said, we went to the room and we talked about it and we tried to fix it, no matter the circumstances, we knew that we were capable, that this was not our real face. Yeah, it is just the will.
This kind of reminds me of the PGL Krakow Major, where you also started 0-2, do you think it was a similar situation or was it different this time since you were still working on everything?
It was not the same, not at all. Here we just played badly as a team, everything was just bad, but people still wanted to play, we still fought to make it better. At that time we just gave up basically, we didn't try to fix it, the mood in the team was really bad. After loses at this Major, we still kept a good mood and tried to fix mistakes. I think that was the biggest key why we are here in the playoffs right now.
I have to ask you about something that started with SPUNJ putting out at Tweet that "There is 95% that NiKo is calling for FaZe", and rain commented saying that you are trying new things, kind of cryptic, didn't want to comment clearly on it. But even on the cameras on the stream I think you can see that you are pretty vocal, talking between the rounds. Has it changed in that regard? You've been mid-round calling and having a lot of input before, but are you the no. 1, the go-to right now?
Yeah, we have changed the in-game leader after being 0-2. So, since the match against mousesports we changed the in-game leader, I took it over just to come up with something fresh in the team, to build some confidence in the team which we were lacking at the start, so people start believing in something. I think that was one of the keys why we are here as well. People needed something fresh to remind themselves how we have been playing before. How we have been playing at the start was just terrible, it was not us. I'm just happy that people have found themselves in the game, finally. So yeah, I took the in-game leader role after going 0-2 but it is only for this event and maybe New York. That is pretty much it.
You don't want to go back into it full-time, like back in mouz?
I can't say a 100%, but most likely it is going to be just for now.
Let's touch on the game you had here because it was the key one to go through. The first map was pretty confident for you guys, but on Dust2 you had a rough start, tell me about that first of all, what was holding you back at the beginning of Dust2?
Yeah, Dust2 has always been shaky for us, whenever we play an official it is always a different way we lose in. That is just the map, it is just so hard to play, it is always a different game, depending on the opponent and how they play. They played pretty good, they had a different way than anyone else I played against on Dust2. They were pretty good on balancing on how they take Short and Long, which was kind of hard to read, and they came up with something new which I saw on demos I watched last night, but still, I couldn't realize when they were going to do it. But I knew that we just need a few rounds as T because I saw that their T side is really weak and once we started rolling, it was really easy to read them. I think it all came down to the reads, I think they are really easy to read as CT and that is why we came back, especially with winning a kind of force-buy at the start of the second half.
Going back to the IGL topic and the style you have as a team, seeing the success that Astralis and Liquid have been having recently, even BIG to a certain degree with their style of play, focusing on flashes, flash assists, stuff like that... Are you happy with the style you have right now in FaZe or would you like to have a different approach to the game moving forward, somewhere down the road?
I'm pretty happy with the way we play, —or the way we played before. We just have to try to find the game we played before, I think it was one of the best styles. My goal now is just to find that style. I just want people to find confidence in doing what they are the best at. That is the whole point of why I'm in-game leading now. I just want people to feel comfortable again and make them do what they did before. Regarding the style, as I said before, we are going to keep this one, I think it fits us the most. Obviously, we need to adapt to some opponents, like Astralis or Liquid, even Na`Vi, they have the most different style I would say. We are just going to keep this and keep adapting to the other teams.
Outlook for the playoffs: I think you are going to be playing either Astralis or Liquid in the first round, which is obviously a pretty tough draw. Considering how you played in the group stage, what do you see yourself doing in the playoffs?
If we play like we did the last three matches I'm pretty sure that we can go really far at this event, especially when we get to the playoffs, I feel like we are going to play much better, with less pressure. This group stage was so painful to play, we were not scared to lose, but you always had it in the back of your mind that we might lose in the group stage of the Major. If we keep the same level I'm pretty sure we can go far in this event, we can surprise some of the teams by the way I'm calling now, it is not the same as Finn did before. So yeah, I'm looking forward to playing these top teams again.
More interviews from the New Legends stage:
Magisk: "Making history is always fun"
shox: "We've got three to four maps we're definitely okay with playing"
s1mple: "I don't want to be a bad guy, there is no point"
tabseN: "I feel like we can 100% win this tournament"
NAF: "When we got to overtime I was so pissed off; I'm like 'F*** this, I'm going to buy an AWP"
dephh: "We proved we can't just play Inferno, we have other maps up our sleeves"
STYKO: "[My new role] feels like I'm going to school every day, trying to understand a new subject"
YNk: "This game was just so hard because mousesports saved so much"
Edward: "If you feel calm during the whole game, the comeback is real, always"
nitr0: "I'm hoping we get Astralis, we can definitely put up a good show and a good fight"
Xizt: "Every loss is going to take a toll on your confidence, we had to slowly build it up again"
LEGIJA: "Before the Major, we said 'We will not practice to make Legends, we're here to f****** win'"
JW: "We considered twist after the early StarLadder exit; he wasn’t really interested"
jmqa: "After the last Major, our practice wasn't great, we didn't have good conditions"
flamie: "We still want to play Dust2 because no one is playing it well"
SmithZz: "We aren't completely ready at the moment, but we are getting there"
RUSH: "Hopefully, after the Major, our ranking will reflect how we actually are as a team"