North drew NRG in the first round of matches at IEM Chicago, a complicated bout for the Danes as the North American side come to the event in Illinois having just won cs_summit 3. North were able to beat NRG and tally their first victory at the event on US soil, 16-10, to move on along the upper bracket of the group stage after surprisingly not banning Cache during the veto.
During our conversation with cadiaN, the Danish IGL talked to us about the preparation for the match against NRG, having Cache as an ace up their sleeves, the trials and tribulations of North at StarSeries i-League Season 6, the hectic online schedule, and the team's confidence going into an event of the caliber of IEM Chicago.
Let's start with the match against NRG. They come from winning at cs_summit 3, which must have been a big confidence booster for them. How did you feel about drawing them?
It was a pretty rough draw, as you said they're a strong team, and we believed that even before they won summit. They're a very talented team, and if you look at the first round match-ups I think this is one of, if not the match, to watch. It was a tough draw.
Did you prepare anything particular for them, or did you just think that it's a tough draw and you'd see what happens?
We always like to prepare. We sat down when we saw the draw and we thought about the veto possibilities we had. One of the hurdles North has had for a long time is that they were only capable of playing six maps. They never played Cache. To this day, this is the first Cache game this five has played, as well, and you could clearly see NRG were caught off-guard. We started practicing the map because we knew that at some point it was going to be necessary to have that extra ban in the veto to push someone out of their comfort zone. Cache is a map that a decent amount of teams play, but nobody is really a specialist on it, which is why we thought it would be a good idea to add it, and this time it paid off.
As you said, first time on Cache, was it a trick up your sleeve for a match like today or do you actually want to become what you called a "specialist" team on it?
I think it's hard to become specialists on it because in some way it's a very advanced map but in other ways it's also super simple. Right now we'll just go with the flow and see what the results and the feeling we get in practice and tournament tells us about how good we can become in the map. Our main goal isn't necessarily to become a specialist, but if it happens, it happens.
You had a quarter-final exit at the last tournament you played, StarSeries i-League Season 6. Was that rough for you or did you take it in stride because it was your first tournament? How did it sit with the team?
I think reaching the playoffs was the minimum requirement or us as a team at that event. You also have to face that since we're a new team it's hard to be consistent. One thing that stood out for me during that tournament was the number of maps we played. It was a Swiss best-of-one group stage and we played different maps in the first four matches we played.
I don't think a lot of teams are capable of that, and I think it's a good sign for us, being a new team with a new IGL and gade also coming in, to be so versatile and daring to play different maps. It bit us in the butt when we lost a match we shouldn't have—which then made us have a bad seed in the playoff. We drew NRG, a super good team, and looking back at that game I think that we could have won it with one more week of practice. It may be silly to say, but it was the marginals that decided that game, and it always is in CS, but yeah. It was tough to go out early, but it wasn't the worst of results, either.
Did it feel good to get revenge?
A bit. I know North has had a hard time playing NRG for quite some time, and it happened with me in the team at StarSeries, so maybe this is the beginning of something new.
So looking past StarSeries, you've had more time to play together. Has that made you more confident coming into a big tournament like this?
Yes and no. As you said, this is a different caliber than StarSeries. In terms of practice, we've been working really hard—as hard as we possibly can—, to be prepared for the event, but you have to realize the consequences of playing both ECS and ESL Pro League. It's an insane amount of games, and when you have two or four official maps a day, you don't have the stamina to also practice four maps and develop new things. It has kind of been hurting us in the sense that it's hard to develop new things, but it has given us high-level match experience, which I'm sure we'll be able to use at this tournament.
It has been a recurring topic, Pro League and ECS being too many maps per week. What solution would you propose for that?
It's hard to give an answer to that. We've been playing really well in both leagues. We secured a spot in the ECS Finals, and we're number two in the league after Astralis. In ESL Pro League everything would have to go wrong for us to not make the finals. We're super happy with our performances and the games we've been playing, but you have to see it from the players' perspective, we get so drained from all of these online matches.
It's hard to always be fully focused because there are so many matches every day, although I think it's worse for the fans because it's just not interesting to watch. In other sports, you don't see Astralis vs. FaZe three times a month, but you do in CS. It consistently happens, at every tournament, every online league, and I think it's a shame because I want people to have something to get excited about. For it to not just be, "OK, it's Monday again, here we go, Astralis vs. FaZe." Maybe we need to split the league up into two different periods of the year, or the other option could be to minimize the number of games in each league by playing best-of-ones instead of two. It's hard to satisfy everyone right now, so we're just happy to be where we are.
One of the things you said is that playing all of these matches drains you. Do you think it could affect your LAN performances?
Yes and no. We are trying to make the best possible schedule. We don't necessarily have a lot of days off, we truly don't, we have two or three a month, but we try to have a different kind of intensity on certain days. Instead of every day being eight to ten hours, a couple of them are maybe just three or four. You play two or three maps, talk for an hour, and then you're off. That gives you a bit more energy and time to see your loved ones, time to be free to go to the gym or do whatever you feel like, which is very healthy for us as a team—to not think that you have to sit and play for ten hours. It's better to just be very productive during the hours in which we are at the stadium.