NiKo: "[After playing our game vs. NiP] we knew that we could win this event"

We caught up with Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, the MVP of EPICENTER 2018, to hear how FaZe turned it around after a mediocre group stage and won the event over Natus Vincere.

Without dropping a map in the playoffs, FaZe won their third event of 2018, but the first one with Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer in the active lineup. Wins over NiP, Liquid, and finally, Natus Vincere, saw the European mixture lift the EPICENTER trophy and claim a $150,000 prize.

Having players that are good in mid-rounds makes FaZe a good Mirage team, NiKo thinks

In the interview with the MVP, we learned how they changed up their game after the group stage, with the win over NiP helping them regain confidence in their Mirage as well. Read the interview below to hear more of NiKo's thoughts:

I'll start with the semi you played today because before you beat Liquid, it didn't feel like anyone was taking you too seriously at the event due to the turmoil in the team, calling changes and stuff like that. I think the Liquid game changed that in a lot of people's eyes, so - how did it happen and what did you feel after taking down Liquid?

I think that we felt really great after beating NiP because we changed our game completely, comparing how we were playing in the group stage to how we were playing in the playoffs. When we were playing against NiP and could actually play our own game, we knew that we could win this event quite easily and we were just confident in it. I don't know about them not taking us seriously, I'm pretty sure that every team is taking us seriously even though we have struggled recently. But as I said, we just found our game and that was the most important thing.

Somewhere along the line, that your Mirage started looking super strong, it became your base map that you can build on and win series. When did that happen and how did it happen?

We have been struggling on Mirage online, for a few games I think, so we didn't really feel comfortable playing it at this event at the beginning, that's why I didn't want to pick it against Na`Vi in the group stage. After we picked it against NiP we just started feeling better and better on the map, so we just went with the map we felt the most comfortable at the event. We kept picking it even though they could see how we play, we still believed that we can play our game on that map and that it can be really good.

The way you played at the beginning of Mirage in the grand final, with these fast hits on A all the time, it felt like "if it works - continue doing it". Was that kind of the game plan you had early on against Na`Vi?

Against Na`Vi on Mirage, I knew that they watched the game we played against Liquid and we also started that game playing pretty fast. I also knew that s1mple was going to try to go B for the first few rounds because they thought we were going to try to abuse Zeus. So I called a few fakes on B at the beginning of the rounds, and then we just exploded A for, I think, the first two gun rounds. And then we actually went B when s1mple was not there, I think that was the third gun round. I just think the plan worked out pretty good.

The mid-round calls and adaptations, that was just you feeling the game? You obviously didn't have a lot of time to prepare, but is there enough of history between the teams that you have a feeling what they are going to do?

Yeah, we know how Na`Vi play, we know that they like to stack and that they like to play aggressive on that site to get info, so we are aware of how they are playing and I'm pretty sure that they know it as well. But Mirage is a map that just suits us pretty good because we have players like olofmeister who are really good in the mid-round situations. They have a good feeling about what to do in the mid-rounds. That is why our Mirage T-side is really strong.

When you saw Dust2 pop up as the second map, that was kind of a surprise, what did you think about that pick from Na`Vi?

It wasn't a surprise for us at all, we knew that there were three maps that were options for them, Train, Overpass and Dust2. We kind of knew that they were not going to pick Train because we played it in the group stage and I think we should've won that against them. I actually expected Overpass more than Dust2, but we knew that there was a possiblity that they pick it and we were actually really happy with them picking Dust2 since it was a map we practice, but it has kind of been random for us because it is really hard to play it online against online teams in the leagues. It is very random, but I'm just very happy we got to play a different map against them than we did in the group stage.

You say you practice it and you feel good on it, but what was the key to getting such a one-sided win over Na`Vi on Dust2?

Obviously, Na`Vi didn't play their best game on Dust2 as T, I just think that we hit our shots pretty good. I think that in the pistol round, first and second gun round I had good plays and I think olof came up with three headshots from CT as well. I think that they could've won some rounds but it went in our favor. But as I said, Dust2 is just a map that is mostly about the money situation, we had it on our side throughout the first half and that is why we took it over.

You played great and obviously deserved the win here, but people are already skeptical that you can continue with this style of play. What do you think, can you continue like this with BLAST and IEM Chicago coming up?

I haven't thought about BLAST at all, I was first going to see how we play at this event and now I want to see if people can actually counter it, or if it is our game that we are feeling comfortable playing. For example on Mirage, even though people saw a playing really aggressive and fast, I think it is pretty hard to counter because we fake a lot with the fast nades so they don't really know what we are going to do. Maybe on some other maps they could adapt and see how we play. I haven't thought about BLAST at all, and Chicago as well, I don't know what is going to be our gameplan for those events.

Any closing thoughts, shoutouts, anything you want to add?

I'm just happy that we finally won a trophy with olof, it has been a while, really. So I hope we are just going to keep doing this.

Sweden Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
1289
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.13
Bosnia and Herzegovina Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač
Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
1094
KPR:
0.81
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
eZaF for the second best team in the world and the 2nd best IGL, Nikola "NiKo" Kovac.
2018-10-28 21:13
I still think Astralis is better then faze so ez for 3th best team in the world
2018-10-28 21:16
#31
Dosia | 
Hungary Joco413 
name checks out
2018-10-28 21:38
#38
 | 
Albania Fleeperi 
considering where the level of Astralis is, Faze and other teams should know that they are all somewhere in 8th place...nowhere close to Astralis.
2018-10-28 21:51
#64
 | 
Bosnia and Herzegovina mantisbp 
will see :)
2018-10-29 04:37
#66
Xyp9x | 
India kaptain 
do you even math bro?
2018-10-29 04:48
#70
ZywOo | 
Indonesia dipakai 
+1
2018-10-29 05:46
Astralis are the only team playing like an international contender
2018-10-29 05:58
#75
 | 
Slovakia airen 
That's not how math works
2018-10-29 08:46
#77
 | 
Spain Kyuuta 
VP and NEO numba 1
2018-10-29 10:36
nt
2018-10-28 21:14
Ezaf Expected Nt forsaken 0/8 Cry is free Omegalul
2018-10-28 21:14
which one to choose? its really hard? XDDDDDDDD
2018-10-28 21:56
#8
allu | 
Sweden Dguyg 
EZ
2018-10-28 21:15
#12
 | 
Albania blizaardy 
WE KNEW THAT WE COULD WIN THIS EVENT" -Niko
2018-10-28 21:15
#13
 | 
France J0riS 
Faze Will dethrone asstralis
2018-10-28 21:15
+1111111111111111
2018-10-28 23:31
that name lmao astralis is number one all of the time
2018-10-29 05:32
Quite cocky for a guy that has a karrigan in hes team
2018-10-28 21:15
#55
NiKo | 
United States Wjl003 
He actually played some of his best at this event.
2018-10-29 00:17
Yet still failed to impress..1 decent tourney, and fanboyz forget how bad he usually is..
2018-10-29 21:51
#68
NiKo | 
Finland Lmao157 
C’mon dude he is a good support player and he fragged well too in this event
2018-10-29 05:17
#17
shox | 
India iejesus 
fuck off undeserved Mvp
2018-10-28 21:19
#32
 | 
Yugoslavia KaLuOP 
cry
2018-10-28 21:39
Undeserved? Then who deserves the MVP? You got balls in place of eyes Kiddo!! Everyone is a noob in dueling NiKo if you know some CS.
2018-10-28 21:44
#62
shox | 
India iejesus 
1.48 ranking > 1.30 If u dont know math "kid"
2018-10-29 04:06
Event win > losing 0-2 in the grand final. If Navi won then of course it’s gonna be s1mple.
2018-10-29 08:14
cry more
2018-10-28 21:46
#63
shox | 
India iejesus 
idgaf Just My Opinion
2018-10-29 04:06
i like indian action movies.
2018-10-28 21:48
I like their rivers.......full of tears ..xDDDD
2018-10-28 21:55
#46
 | 
Belgium KileaN 
I like their fights, when one man with mustache kills full gang with guns
2018-10-28 22:28
nt foresaken
2018-10-29 00:00
#89
 | 
Venezuela Kremator 
foreskin*
2018-10-29 21:50
#59
 | 
Philippines sup4hBas1c 
Simple deserves the mvp coz he naded himself luuuul
2018-10-29 03:38
#18
 | 
Latvia Tibro 
gg nice steal
2018-10-28 21:20
#20
 | 
Finland Smoonah 
hahaha wow such a big win !
2018-10-28 21:23
#82
M | 
Denmark aluko 
yes, because the event that ence won was much bigger
2018-10-29 14:58
#21
 | 
Portugal LeoNTC 
EZ FOR FAZE
2018-10-28 21:23
#22
smooya | 
United Kingdom Porking 
Really unexpected to see Faze win this event. Hopefully they can perform better at other Lans now.
2018-10-28 21:24
#23
 | 
India Jan7Y 
nice
2018-10-28 21:26
NiKooooooooooooooooo (L) (L) (L)
2018-10-28 21:27
haha niko fans everywhere now
2018-10-28 21:27
#26
 | 
Spain elskio 
Nip was the key
2018-10-28 21:28
#27
gatito | 
Spain urd 
ofc u knew u could win, astralis didnt play...
2018-10-28 21:29
#30
 | 
Poland Coldharbour 
Niko is fucking insane. Getting MVP while leading the team.
2018-10-28 21:36
#42
 | 
Netherlands ZoMilan 
He could be thinking he's 10x better than his team and just set everyone up so he can perform..
2018-10-28 22:04
#50
 | 
Bulgaria Amerikana 
he is not wrong then
2018-10-28 22:51
200 IQ Nikola
2018-10-28 21:46
#40
African Union wtbx 
Knew you could win it cos no astralis
2018-10-28 21:56
#43
 | 
Slovakia Georgy10 
#Niko=Top1
2018-10-28 22:05
NiKoooo (L) (L)
2018-10-28 22:05
Karrigan should go suck Nikos cock as a thank you for keeping him on the team after winning this event
2018-10-28 22:18
#57
EliGE | 
United States DervGuy 
LUL
2018-10-29 01:34
Lmaoo
2018-10-29 07:38
#47
shox | 
France KR1MEZ 
NIP LUL
2018-10-28 22:45
GOAT
2018-10-28 23:00
#52
 | 
Belgium HeHuang 
Faze up!
2018-10-28 23:04
#56
 | 
Spain snucks77 
finally ooooof
2018-10-29 00:46
#60
 | 
Indonesia autumnleaves_ 
They becoome strong again. Cant wait to see faze vs astralis ggwp
2018-10-29 03:46
Deserved it.
2018-10-29 03:47
Really? NiP was even more dead than FaZe.
2018-10-29 04:45
#67
France Dov 
Never expected nip would have so much impact on teams confidence lul
2018-10-29 04:57
Drank meme: Still zero major though XD
2018-10-29 05:51
congratz
2018-10-29 11:57
#80
 | 
Spain akproxx 
So he still igling gg karrigan bru
2018-10-29 12:57
#81
 | 
United Kingdom EKersh 
karrigan actually got some kills LUL
2018-10-29 14:16
#83
 | 
Finland ryltZ 
Karrigan played one of his best tournaments in faze, GJ
2018-10-29 15:45
good
2018-10-29 16:51
SG 553 and AUG is a huge buff to Karrigan
2018-10-29 17:03
Wow nice
2018-10-29 17:24
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