NBK: "We couldn't see a world where we could make it work long-term with Happy"
In our final interview from day one of the Europe Minor, we talked to Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt about the change of Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer for Alex "ALEX" McMeekin and all things Vitality at the tournament.
The Frenchmen are now safely through to the playoffs from first place in Group A, where they defeated OpTic in the opening match and Valiance — who previously took down mousesports — in a 2-1 series for a spot in the semi-finals.
To find out more about Vitality's recent change, which saw Happy exit the roster and former LDLC member ALEX come in, and about their run at the tournament so far, we spoke to their in-game leader in the following interview.
Talk me through the process of the change from Happy to ALEX and why that happened, what was the reason for that?
We tried working it out with Happy, but we still didn't manage to make it click together. It was both on a human level and in the game, we're just probably not seeing things the same way and so it led us to making that change before the Minor because we couldn't see a world where we can make it work long-term with him with everybody being satisfied, whether him or from our side. So we went through with the change and got ALEX, and since then we've been working as hard as we could for the Minor. So far so good, we have a good team spirit, good team chemistry, and I think it showed today.
You had more options in LDLC, what in particular drew you to ALEX?
A lot of people have been expecting AmaNEk, but, again, it's a matter of personality, where he's a bit more like Happy himself, and ALEX has a role of taking care of — especially on the CT side — trinomials, binomials, so directing ZywOo and RpK. He was in-game leading for LDLC, so he is pretty used to that and, on top of that, he can also focus on himself again. That allows him to be better individually than he was in LDLC, so he's going to have better showings than what he used to do in LDLC because he was leading, his focus was directed. We went for him because we want his guidance in the game, that's very viable for us, and because he's incredibly hard-working, he will get a very, very good personal level and that will also impact the team. Those are the main reasons.
It sounds like he slotted into the same things as Happy, has anything at all changed role-wise, position-wise?
It's mostly the same. He took a lot of Happy's positions, we swapped one or two things. For example, the lurking role, he's taking some of the positions that I had so that I can play more aggressively on some and direct the team better with the holes that I can find in the defense on the T side. But aside from that, it's mostly the same. He was not playing Inferno, so he has experience to catch up on there, that's our big part because we were undefeated on it, until today (laughs), and inexperience just shows. But it's something that we have to work on, and even then we lost a lot of rounds on banana with apEX and me. It's a lot of small things, but a big part of the work is done, everybody knows all the tactics, the way we want to approach the game, everybody is biting into my system and everyone is trusting it 100% on the same level that I trust them 100% to do what I want them to do. That trust we have is a big part now between one another. It can allow us to win 13-2 or 12-3 on the CT side of Dust2, for example, and that's very important.
Like you mentioned, ALEX was the in-game leader before in LDLC. Previously in G2 there was a bit of a problem of there being too many cooks in the kitchen at some point, with more people having input, are you shying away from that with ALEX, or will he have some input into calling or an overall playstyle?
The main difference compared to G2 is that we had a problem of let's say work styles. Some people in the team wanted to work a specific way and the other half of the team didn't, so we just clashed and there was some unhappiness on both sides. Here, ALEX came in with a very strict guideline in the sense that he's going to be a player, focused on himself, he's going to be lurking, he's going to be taking care of two or three people on the CT side, and that's it. I'm keeping the leadership 100%.
The only thing that we are going to do further in the future is discussing improving the game on a general basis because they had some ideas with LDLC that were working pretty good and we just didn't have time to do that because right now, we are just playing with my system. ALEX is going to give input later on. For now, we've just changed some stuff, just because of the fact that he came in, but aside from that, it's just my system, he's getting in it, trusting it 100%, in the future we will see if he has some input, some things that have to change because it doesn't work, stuff like that. That's the way we're working and we don't really plan on changing that.
Talking about the Minor itself, most people would see it as a big surprise that Valiance beat mousesports, did you expect that to happen at all, were you prepared for it?
I didn't watch the game, but it can happen. Valiance are a very strong team, they have a lot of very good individual players and the system LETN1 and emi are putting into place is working because they work a special way, but it suits them and the players they have. That's everything that matters. From there, I think mousesports were quite surprised. I came down to play all the open qualifiers and the lower-tier teams, and those teams are not bad! Those teams can surprise you, especially in best-of-ones, where mousesports are a team that is playing quite loose and they are just matching that. They have heavy fraggers. Surprising, yes, because mouz is supposed to be the strongest team out of the two of them, but it happens. And Valiance was a hard matchup for us, as well, because they were playing well. I'm really, really happy that we dodge that lower bracket in the group because that's going to be a f*cking sh*tshow.
I talked to nexa right before your match and he was talking about how they went hard on antistratting everyone in the group because of their advantage of having information on everyone, was that something that played a part in your match?
It just felt like it changed their playstyle, they have different types of approaching the game, either playing very loose with each player doing their own thing and fighting, but when they played against mousesports I caught a few rounds and they were playing very packed. And that's what they did against us, as well, they were coming out A slope and as soon as we started playing retake because they were just going in dry and trying to get the kills, we could just get one kill after another and retake the bombsite and win the round.
I think the diversity is missing in the adaptation in the game that they have, but I think their approach when they're coming into matchups is pretty good in the sense that they're right, a lot of teams are probably not going to watch them, specifically, but in our matchup that was a bit different because we played each other several times now in the past two or three weeks. We know each other well, we also play a lot of FPL whether it's us or them, the individuals, so we know what to expect from one another and it makes it a bit of a weird matchup. I was more afraid of playing Valiance than mousesports, to be honest, because with mouz I know they were probably not going to expect us on some maps, or some small things that we were doing, while Valiance just knew how we were playing (laughs), so it was a bit tougher. But Dust2 was definitely a surprise for them regarding how strong we came up and that's our second surprise, after OpTic.
How do you think you'll fare in the playoffs against the teams of the other group? ENCE topped the group and look strong, what are your expectations for that?
It's going to be tough! (laughs) At that point, the Minor is really, really strong and even if it's going to be the second team of the B group, it's going to be a tough matchup. Whether it is Windigo, North, or ex-Space Soldiers, regardless of who it is, it's going to be a tough matchup and we have to go get it. We're at a point in Counter-Strike where if you're not careful, any team can grab the win off you. I mean, maybe except for Astralis (laughs), but that's another story. You have to be at 100% no matter what and if you're the superior team, most likely you are going to win. But if you start having holes in your defence or in the way you are thinking and not trusting one another, that's when you can get overwhelmed and lose rounds fairly easily. Again, we're going to be focused on improving ourselves, that's the only thing we have control of, we can't control whether they're going to play well or badly, we can't do anything about that. We have to improve on Inferno, for example, and we just have to get better on some points in CS. That's what I told the guys right after the game, we have to get better tomorrow, we have to work and be even stronger when we come back for the playoffs because no team is going to give it to us. And we have to go get that Major.