Vitality will make their first LAN appearance on Friday as they will be attending DreamHack Open Atlanta after securing a spot at the North American event via the European closed qualifier.
The $100,000 tournament will come after a rough first few weeks for the French team, who failed their first three attempts to claim a spot in the closed qualifier for the Europe Minor and parted ways with coach Philippe "faculty" Rodier in the run-up to the Atlanta event.
In this interview, conducted before the announcement regarding the French coach, NBK- opens up about the team's current issues, their expectations for DreamHack Atlanta, his thoughts on star player Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut, and more.
This will be your first LAN event since IEM Sydney, six months ago. What is the feeling to be packing your bags for an event once again?
It has been a long time, that is for sure! But it is not like I have forgotten the feeling at all. We have been looking forward to that first offline event wearing the Vitality jersey, and it has finally arrived. I am just excited to play again!
How would you sum up this first month under Vitality? Results have certainly not been what many had expected. Did you expect things to go much smoother?
Yes and no. “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst”, as some would say; we expected more, but it will take longer than we anticipated to reach our best level in official games. Our general level curve has only gone upwards, which is positive. The one thing blocking us is that glass roof that we can’t go through during official games, which is replicating exactly what we are doing in practice.
Is it possible to draw some parallels between the team’s current situation and the troubles that your G2 team had during those first months?
I think the problems that team had and the ones we’re facing currently are very similar, indeed. The main problem is how to solve them, and the answer is different with this roster. We’re still on the path to figuring ourselves out, but, to me, it is just a matter of time before we manage to overcome it.
How have you prepared for DreamHack Atlanta and what have you been focusing on in practice?
We bootcamped in Paris for 6/7 days. We tried to use that time to focus on the basics, winning advantageous situations more often and adding structure to our CT side, which is what we were lacking. We are also trying to be better at individual decision making.
What are your goals for the event? Will you be more interested in seeing where you stand as a team or will you be aiming for the title?
It’s rather interesting for sure to judge ourselves in a LAN tournament, but we are coming for the win. We have not performed up to our expectations so far, so maybe a LAN win could change that? No idea, but we are competitors and will only aim for the gold. It is not going to be easy as all the teams there have the same goal because it looks achievable for everyone. It should be a good and entertaining brawl.
A lot of eyes will be on ZywOo, the team’s main carry. What are your thoughts about the player? Do you think he will be able to handle the pressure?
I think having some sort of pressure and goals is good for him, but he is fully focused on the game and on being a good member of the team. I am really happy about his spot and what he’s giving to the team, his raw skill is insane and so is his decision making. I think he can still become more efficient in our system by positioning himself better and knowing how to balance his aggressiveness and passiveness better.
Aren’t you afraid that the team might become too one-dimensional by relying heavily on his fragging ability?
I do not think that it is the case, or at least that’s not our goal. He’s the obvious heavy-hitter of the team, but our approach goes deeper than just, “ZywOo go kill”. But it is a real gift to have a player who is able to win crucial rounds/clutches out of nowhere, it makes our games easier.
How are you handling the IGL role? Is it just you making the calls, or do you get help from Happy?
I see the role as a direction giver. I set up the general game and I give the direction in game, I do not want to restrict any of the players. I generally have a plan, and when things are not going well I get some outside ideas from apEX and Happy, and we shift our game and adapt our style. I think our balance is in a good place right now, and I think the whole team is happy with how the in-game leader role is being handled and the direction in which we are going. Poor individual decisions and not playing official matches the same way we play practice games are the things holding us back. We are trying to take the steps to fix these issues.
LDLC far exceeded expectations at the recent IEM Chicago event. What are your thoughts on their results, and do you think that this puts more pressure on other French teams, like G2 and yours, to perform?
I think that it was amazing! I am really happy for them and what they have built together with their whole group (coaching staff + players). They have always worked in their corner and they are now exploding and showing their full potential. I also think that it is a great way to lift the whole scene up. When one team hits a high level (whether it is a new team or not), it generally brings the whole scene to a better level as everyone wants to catch up because of the rivalry inside of the country. It is a “If they have made it, we can do even better", sort of rivalry/mentality.