MSL: "Getting benched was a huge kick in the gut"
After being picked up by Rogue following his exit from North, HLTV.org talked to Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen about the criticism directed at him while leading the Danish team and about the challenges he now faces in North America.
The 23-year-old made the move across the Atlantic to lead Rogue after North benched him in early October following several months of disappointing results ending with a somewhat surprising victory at DreamHack Masters Stockholm.
The triumphant feeling in the team wouldn't last long, though, as MSL's last event with North was the FACEIT Major, where the squad once again failed to impress by going out in the New Challengers Stage after losing to Spirit, HellRaisers and Vega Squadron.
In an interview with HLTV.org prior to MSL's first LAN-showing with Rogue at DreamHack Open Atlanta, the Danish caller opened up about the end of his tenure with North, his way of handling negative comments from the community, and what he will bring to the NA team going forward:
After some time in North with victories at smaller events, you won DreamHack Masters but were eliminated early from the Major. What was the atmosphere on the team like after an up-and-down period like that?
Those two weeks were a wild ride. Going from winning in Stockholm by beating some of the best teams in the world, only to lose to lesser teams at the Major. We went through every possible emotion and, of course, the atmosphere on the team was bad when we went out in London, we were all disappointed and sad.
You suddenly found success with the AWP and got the MVP medal in Stockholm, but still got benched. What was that like for you, personally, lifting a big trophy on the back of your own great performance, only to be replaced shortly thereafter?
Winning DH Stockholm was fantastic, it’s probably the event I’m happiest about winning ever, considering the teams we beat and the fact that we only had two weeks with niko before it started. The team spirit at that event is the best I’ve experienced on any team, and lifting the trophy alongside people I care that much about was amazing. Performing well individually was also great, of course, I’d never imagined I would do so well with the AWP, and especially not since I only had two weeks to prepare with it. I’m really proud of what I accomplished at that event.
Getting benched was a huge kick in the gut, and I’ve really been down after the decision. I didn’t see it coming at all. I finally felt like we had a team that actually was a team, and I would have liked to see how far we could have taken it, even in spite of the disappointing result at the Major.
You've received a lot of criticism as an IGL, and a lot of people called for you to be kicked from the team, with some messages being pretty harsh. What has that felt like for you? Has it been fair criticism?
Obviously, facing criticism is not pleasant, but I’ve always tried to look past it. Since 2015, I’ve almost constantly held a top 10 placement with my teams. I’ve always had the task of bringing up players from nothing, and when they got good, a better team bought them out. Still, I managed to keep an averaged top 5 placement on the HLTV ranking last year, and when I was kicked, we were top four in the world, plus I won two big events and a lot of smaller ones. When I reflect on the past four years, I’m proud of what I accomplished, especially considering I’ve never had four players who were already ‘educated’ and had their shit under control, like on a team like Astralis.
I know what kind of IGL I am and what type of person I am. I think about the team all the time and I’ll do anything to make others perform and feel well. It’s a lot of work, and no one outside of the team sees that. So, if you only look at the stats, it makes sense that I’m criticised a lot. That said, though, we’re at a place in CS right now, where everyone must perform, and that means I also need to change the way I think, think more about myself and develop more individually while still focusing on the team. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but it’s something that I work on every single day. Leading up to Stockholm, I focused a bunch on developing my AWP’ing game, and succeeded in doing so, so I hope and believe that I can develop my own game while still improving the players on the team.
You've moved on to new, exciting challenges in North America. How will you be using your experiences from the final months in North when leading Rogue?
I can especially use the last period in North, where we won two out of three events with two different stand ins. Our play style and tactics worked well since DH Tours, and we had the best T-side at Cologne in spite of going out in groups. So that’s a huge confidence boost for me, that my system works well on the T-side. For a long while, we had problems with our CT-side caused by bad team play, my own underperforming, but also just by the lack of team spirit. That changed, first when mixwell joined us in Valencia, but also when niko was brought on. Mixwell playing AWP, and layer myself picking it up calmed down our CT-sides, it became easier for us to play around a well-positioning AWP, it created more stability and and team play, which made everyone perform better.
Another factor was that niko cared less about himself and more about the team succeeding, plus the fact that he’s really funny, which changed the atmosphere on the team for the better and we just had more fun playing. What I’m bringing with me from North is that my system works on the T-side really well, I know how I can improve the CT-side and improve team play, and I can also play the AWP not and work on that. That said, there’s still so much to learn for me, like how I can make the team and myself more consistent.
Apart from your triumph at DreamHack Valencia, where mixwell stood in, you've only played in Danish lineups. What will it be like for you, calling, leading and generally speaking only English from now on?
I’ve only been playing with Rogue for a short while at this point, and obviously, it’s a huge challenge for me that everything is in English, but it’s a breath of fresh air for me, being challenged on other parameters. It’s difficult in the beginning, cause before, I didn’t have to think about how I say things, I could just say it. In chaotic situations, it can be difficult and frustrating, but overall I think it’s going well and I’m certain that everything will be natural and a lot easier for me after a few months.
NA has, as a region, become infamous for a lack of structure in both practice and officials. You're known for being a leader focusing on the tactical and structural side of things. Will this be a problem for you?
Like I’ve said, I’ve only been playing with the guys for a short time. They’ve taken really well to me and the way I want us to play. They definitely need to get used to the structure that I bring, but so far, they’ve been really hard working and positive towards it. Their individual skill has generally impressed me, but I can definitely feel that there’s a difference in communication and team play compared to what I came from, but I don’t think that has to do with NA/EU difference as much as which IGLs they’ve played with before, because every player must be taught how to communicate well and help out your teammates correctly.
We’ve been very privileged in Denmark by having great IGLs throughout history, who taught me and a lot of other players who are now at the very top. I love improving comms and team play, so I basically see it as a really cool challenge and experience. It’s a long term project, and my first goal is to reach the top 15 before March next year.
A lot of European players, and especially Danes, have not had the best success with leaving for NA and living away from friends and family while being expected to deliver 100 percent. I can only imagine it'll be even harder when you're in-game leading at the same time. What are your thoughts on this change in your life?
I actually feel very safe about it. I moved to Copenhagen and lived there for one and a half years when I played for North. That was three hours by car away from family and friends, and when you only have what amounts to one day off per week and you travel 100-150 days a year, there’s really not much time to see them anyway. So I’ve gotten used to not seeing family and friends a lot. Apart from that, moving to the US is obviously a huge leap, but I’ve actually been looking forward to it a lot. I think it can develop me a lot as a person, towards becoming a more open person and getting to know new people. Aside from the personal stuff, I’ll also become a lot better at calling in English, so the whole thing is mostly positive.