karrigan: "I believe that eventually we'll be really good [...] it's up to me to figure out which style will get the most out of this lineup"
Alexey "OverDrive" Birukov sat down with Finn "karrigan" Andersen for HLTV.org to talk at length about the Danish player's past and present, touching on topics ranging from the different teams and players he has played with to the state of the Danish scene.
In the interview, the new mousesports in-game leader karrigan and Russian community figure OverDrive discussed the Dane's career, including his time in Astralis and FaZe, getting together a new group of players to try and grind his way back up the ranking with mousesports, and a lot of other general subject matter.
Latest career moves aside, karrigan also talked about salaries and the burden on organizations, broadcast talent, his thoughts regarding age limits in gaming, keeping the fire alive after winning tournaments, the transition from 1.6 to CS:GO, and family.
Do you watch big tournament broadcasts? If so, do you think the casters are doing a good job?
I like the level of casting nowadays, a lot of new talented casters are coming up and there are a lot of tournaments, so if they like the job, if they like the game, every caster has a chance. It's good that they can get experience at lower tier tournaments and bring it to bigger ones, which is pretty similar to the way professional players do it. Just like every player wants to play on a big stage, every caster wants to cast on a big stage. Personally, I'm impressed by the work of Hugo and JustHarry, they do a great job.
How do you think casters can improve? It’s the most discussed topic in the CIS region because players don’t seem to like the CIS casters at all and they only watch the English broadcasts.
Casters have a lot of power because they have a large audience, so I can understand the Russian players when casters talk trash them if they don't fully understand the game because when a caster says something people believe it. It's really hard to find a caster who understands the game on a professional level and who also has an excellent voice, accent, and a will to cast games.
Some casters have a good understanding of the game, there are even some casters who are coaching good teams at the same time, and vice versa, coaches who also cast some tournaments. It’s nothing crazy if a caster says that a player did poorly or a team has a bad playstyle, it’s a part of our job. Some casters like you, some don't, and you just need to be focused on the game and not on what casters are saying about you.
If we’re talking about big tournaments, like a Major, casting is not only about explaining who did what right or who did what wrong, it's more about entertainment value and involving viewers and listeners, whereas analyzing... I was analyzing the Major playoffs on Danish television and my input was to say why this or that happened in a round, who played well and who played poorly, and not casting the game live because that’s a completely different thing.
Do you think there is an age limit for players at a high level?
I don’t think that there is an age restriction. You see a guy like f0rest, who's 30, and he was a monster at the Minor and then at the Major. What it comes down to is what you really want. When you’re 30 years old, you want to have a family, kids, you have different interests... You don't want to play until you’re 40, pouring everything you’ve got into the game, and then realize that you still do not have a family. With age, it's very important to understand the level you're at—if you're losing it, you should probably switch to something else. f0rest still puts everything into the game, so I can still see him playing at a high level in a couple of years.
What age are you planning on retiring?
It's very important for me to compete at a high level, I don't want to play at a low level. I want to win a Major, which is the only thing I have left to achieve in my CS career, so I'll try to do that at least until I'm 30. If something goes wrong, then I'll try switching to something else. I have a lot of experience and I've been in a lot of situations, so I can share that with younger players or with players who don't have as much experience.
When were you at your best?
I think I was at my best when I joined FaZe. I had a hard time at the end of my Astralis period and when I left the team I had a lot of will, passion, and motivation. I also wanted to show them that they had made a mistake. I was in good shape when I joined FaZe, but after the lineup changes I started to play more supportive roles, which I needed to learn. I haven't been really focused on myself for the past year, rather more on trying to improve the teams I have been in. I hope I can do both now, and I think I can be better than I was at the beginning of my time in FaZe.
I was the in-game leader in Envy and I was trying to fit four players into my structure and system, I was fully concentrated on micromanaging everything inside the game, so my own performances were very disappointing. If you go back and compare my demos from a year ago to now, with Envy, you’ll see two completely different players.
How do you stay motivated after winning a tournament?
There was only one tournament after which it was hard to come back home and find what we had to improve, and that was ESL One New York, which we won really easily—the scores were like 16-6,16-5, etc. Most of the time you come home, you try to fix all of your mistakes, you try to get better, and the main motivation is to show everyone that we can be even better next time. My own motivation is to work on our strats because other teams think that we’re going to play the same way we did at the last tournament, but we won’t, we'll do something new. Usually, you get one or two days off after winning a tournament and then you start to work hard again.
Does your salary have an effect on your motivation?
I don't think it matters at all. If you’re a professional player you play to win tournaments, you play to be the best. You have a passion and a love for the game, you want to play on stage and compete against the best—that’s your main motivation. If you play for a salary you'll never be the best. Moreover, if you're the best team in the world you can make much more money than just through your salary, so that also becomes a motivation.
Has your success ever got to your head?
I have never had that and I never will. I've been playing this game for 18 years now and I started by playing 14 hours a day, sleeping in the hall at LANs, having a maximum of 50 euros in my pocket, and I made it to where I am now. My dream came true and I wouldn't be here without all of the fans and the people who support me and watch me play, and I really appreciate when they come to talk to me or take a picture with me. Only after losses am I maybe not in the mood for it.
How did you get your nickname?
When I was 11-years-old I was playing on deathmatch servers and changing nicknames all of the time, but once, after I had a really good game with 20 frags and 2 deaths, I asked my friend what I should call myself. He said karrigan, so for the next two weeks I played with that nickname and I was always top fragging. I figured it was my lucky nickname and I decided to keep it. It doesn't mean anything, but my friend was a fan of StarCraft and I found out that it’s similar to a StarCraft character named Kerrigan, so I think he got it from there. Many years later I also found out that it’s a female character, but it was already too late.
It’s very important for young players to come up with a special, unique nickname that stands out. It’s something I discussed with device. If you put device on google, you'll be referred to devices, but if you put dev1ce, you'll see device from Astralis. Your nickname is your brand, once you win a tournament or reach a high level, you can't change it... Xyp9x, for example, got his nickname by smashing the keyboard and using what came up on screen.
Do you miss the 1.6 times?
When CS:GO came out I really missed the 1.6 times. I was even close to quitting the game completely before I got the offer from TSM. I especially missed the times when I used to be the best, the late 1.6 period when I was winning a lot of trophies with fnatic.
Did you like CS:GO from the start?
I didn't like the game at the beginning. If you’re one of the best 1.6 players and move to a new game that you’re bad at, of course you don't like it. I needed about six months to like the game, although back then CS:GO was changing a lot and improving rapidly. After some time playing and after some updates I started to enjoy it more.
What differences are there between the CS:GO and 1.6 communities?
I think the professional community is pretty much the same. During the 1.6 times it was really, really hard to become a pro, so you needed to know someone to have a chance. Now, times are different, players just appear out of nowhere and make their way through FPL, like ropz or ZywOo. Also, players now are more open to playing with young players, unlike in the old days. They are ready to play with them and try them out.
Back in the old days, we also had more of a social life because of the level of competition. Today you need to practice six days a week to be at a high enough level, while back then you could meet with friends, go play soccer twice a week, and still be the best team. Also, during the 1.6 times, it was about passion. You weren't getting a lot of money from it, so you needed to do something else to earn money, and now that it's a job you have to have a different approach.
Can you tell me about the times with fnatic, Playing Ducks, mousesports, and n!faculty?
The first year of my CS:GO career was a mess. I was changing teams, switching languages and countries... I was trying to find where it was best for me to play and I was trying to find out which roles I should play as well. I was a main AWPer, I was a support player, I was an in-game leader... At the end of that period I decided to become an in-game leader since I had a lot of experience from my 1.6 career. I played for each of those teams for a few months and when the teams stopped improving I jumped to another one.
Also, what happened, is that I could have exams at some point, so I would tell a team that I couldn't play that month and they’d pick another player up, and when I came back I didn't play with that team anymore. My university studies were harder for me than I expected, so it was hard for me to stay at a top level. Only after joining TSM did the hard times end, when I became a top player in a top team knowing that in-game leading was my best role.
What languages do you speak?
I speak three languages: German, fluently, since I'm half german, Danish, English, and I understand some Swedish, but I can't speak it.
How did you join TSM?
I was about to decide if I should stop playing or not. At that time we were in Dignitas and we had to make the decision whether we wanted to stay in Dignitas or move to TSM, and the team eventually decided to move to TSM. We were in TSM for about a year, or a bit longer, but we weren't happy with the organization. We thought that our salary wasn't good enough and that it didn't reflect the way we played. We won four or five small tournaments at the time and TSM promised us bigger salaries, but that never happened. The organization cared more about their League of Legends lineup than us, so we decided to move somewhere where we were more appreciated and fully supported.
We liked what Team Secret had done in Dota2, so we decided to make our own brand in the same fashion. We worked with Frederik Byskov during our time in TSM, so we called him to be our manager and to help us find investors. Also, it was very important for us that it was a Danish organization to get the support of the Danish fans, which we lacked when we had been in TSM. When we created Astralis, the Danish mass media started to write about us and it really helped improve our fan base.
How did you end up in FaZe?
It happened quite fast. We had a tough period in Astralis and we weren't on the same page, so after several bad results the team decided to replace me. A few days after being benched FaZe contacted me and I talked to a couple of the players and the coach. They needed a leader very badly, so we made a transfer in one week. I started to practice with them immediately and we went to our first tournament. The buyout wasn't as high as it would be today, so it all happened really fast.
Can you name your favorite wins and toughest losses?
The first one was at SL i-League in Kiev. It was the lineup with allu, rain, and kioShiMa, and we faced Astralis in the final. They were on a tournament-winning streak and we had just lost to them a few weeks back, so it was a great feeling to beat my ex-team and to break their streak. I won’t name ESL One New York as a favorite because, as I said, it was pretty easy, so the other one I'd say is the ELEAGUE Finals, the 500k tournament we won against Astralis. We had a lot of good wins in big arenas and stadiums, but those two meant a lot to me, maybe because I beat my old teammates.
My worst losses were the ELEAGUE Major final against Cloud9, which was a really tough one, but above that, I would mention the IEM Katowice 2018 final, which was even worse for me. The score was 15-14 in our favor and somehow flusha aced the last round, winning a 1vs2 situation, and then we went on to lose in overtime. Those two losses were very tough for me and for the team, we didn't recover from them and it caused Olof to take a break, which in turn made us have to play with stand-ins. I would say those two losses set the tone for FaZe in 2018.
Did you ever take part in removing players from FaZe?
At the beginning it was RobbaN, rain, and me who were trying to figure out how we could fit all of the pieces together. I never went alone behind someone's back to make a change, and all of the changes were made together. People questioned why we removed allu and kio during a period in which we were getting good results, but we felt within the team that something was missing and so we added GuardiaN and olofmeister. If we look at the results in hindsight, I think it was the right decision to make.
What was behind your departure from FaZe?
The other players and I had a tough time in 2018. Olof’s break kind of destroyed the finals streak we had. We brought in Xizt for two months, then we had news that Olof would come back, but he didn't... then we needed to find a stand-in for ECS in two days, so we called cromen, and then we ended up playing a few more events with him. We didn't have a long-term goal, the only goal was to win the Major with a stand-in.
We won two tournaments during that time, with two different players, and you need to think about my situation. Every time we got a new player I needed to think about how to fit this player into the whole system. Xizt and cromen are totally different players and I could put Xizt into Olof’s roles, but I couldn't have cromen play Olof’s roles, so then I had to change my own playstyle. I found the way to mix roles and call with that lineup, so we did really well and won those two tournaments—especially Sydney, where we beat Astralis.
When Olof came back after his break, he came back to a team that was really tired, a team that had lost its progression. DreamHack Masters Stockholm and the Major happened, and after those tournaments I felt that the team had lost its confidence in me and I had lost confidence in myself because we had not lived up to our expectations... and the results with Olof before his break and after were completely different. Even if the team knew I was a good in-game leader they lost belief in my calls and started doubting myself in the game.
Before the Major I just told the guys that if they did not believe in my calls it ruins my own game and it ruins the whole team's game, so the best thing to do was to have NiKo take over the in-game leading role at the Major. My role as a support player didn’t work out, so they had to replace me.
How did they tell you that?
I had the feeling it was going to happen when we were in Portugal, at the last tournament of the year. If you’re going to be replaced or benched, you just know it, you have that feeling in your stomach that something is up. I played that tournament pretty poorly and after that I was told by the team that they wanted to replace me. I also felt that I was kind of stuck, my role is to be an in-game leader and not a support player, so that scenario we ended up in was the best possible outcome for both parties.
I don’t have any bad feelings towards my ex-teammates, we’re friends and that’s very important for me, that I ended on a good note with both Astralis and FaZe. We had been through a lot of stuff together, and it would have been stupid to tilt and break relations after leaving the team.
Did you like the way NiKo called?
NiKo is a great caller, he's on the way to learning everything about the role and I tried to help him as much as I could when we were together. He has a great way to call and the team is able to play according to that style, which is different from the way I call. I try to go in first, to create space for my team, while he plays more of a lurker role and he calls around himself so he can make a play and time it late in the round. It's great when you’re one of the best players in the world and you can call tactics at the same time.
What is better for a caller, to be a lurker, a mid player, or an AWPer?
It's a tough question. We've seen a lot of different callers do a great job. If you lurk and call, you need to have a good second caller who's in positions where action is happening and who can evaluate the situation and make a call. Without this secondary caller it's really hard to call and lurk at the same time. Happy was one of the best at that. My style is to be in the mid lane, I get information from my lurkers and make a decision on where to go. FalleN is a great AWPing leader and he controls the game the way he wants to. There are different ways to be an in-game leader and you can't say that playing one style is right and another is wrong.
Tell me about your move to Envy.
Before the Minor I had a few offers, but I didn't want to join a team on a permanent basis. I wanted to take my time and see what team I could improve the most and how I'd feel there. With the offers I had, I didn't think that I’d have enough time to prepare for the Minor and qualify for the Major. When Envy asked me to play on loan I thought it was a good idea since I had nothing to lose. I liked to work with the guys, the mentality on that team and the way the guys wanted to improve was really good. I'm sad that I performed so poorly at the Minor because I really wanted to go to the Major, but, all in all, my time in Envy was a good experience for me.
Did you have any offers before mousesports?
I had a few, but I didn't have an offer from a top 20 team. When I join a team I need to know the short-term goal and the long-term goal, it's very important for me that the team has the right mindset and that the players trust me and can learn from me because I want to lead teams to a higher place in the rankings. When I came to FaZe we were like number 18 in the world and we just started grinding, so I believe I'm good at picking players and creating a good team which can grind through the rankings.
How did you join mousesports? Who called you?
mousesports contacted me right before I was going to sign with another organization. I didn't expect an offer from them because I had heard about their plans and I wasn't someone they were interested in. I guess something happened since the organization asked me to come build a new lineup with chrisJ and ropz. I quickly looked at the opportunities we had to add to the lineup and I'm very happy with the end result.
What are your feelings about your new lineup?
The new lineup is a very good mix of experienced and young, hungry players. The wildcard is frozen, who has been performing really well against tier 2-3 teams, and I expect big things from him in the future. It was important for me to have the right team with the right mentality because we’re going to work our way back to the top. People have to understand we have to start from zero with everything, and that takes a lot of time, but I believe that eventually we'll be really good and we’ll have a high ceiling, so it's up to me to figure out which style will get the most out of this lineup.
Can you say a few words about each player?
chrisJ is going to be a hybrid, the secondary AWPer, secondary caller, and he can play any role I need in a round. He is experienced and has been playing at a high level for some time now. ropz, the FPL God, is going to be an important piece in this lineup, he'll lock down the small sites as CT and play a lurking role on T. woxic, the crazy Turk, is going to be the guy with a happy mood and will be the main AWPer. I’ve had my eyes on him for a long time, so I was happy we were able to get him on board. frozen is going to be our entry, he has really solid mechanics and is able to do some crazy stuff. He’s young and I'm very impressed with him in practice so far, I think 2019 is going to be a big year for his career.
What's the difference between the American scene and the European scene?
Competition is harder in Europe. When you practice against teams in Europe you learn and get better much faster than you do in North America. There are not many top teams in North America, so you play pretty much the same teams over and over. We had a bootcamp with Envy for 10 days and all 10 days we played against Liquid. It's kind of annoying because you don't want to play the same team, you want to play against different teams to understand how your tactics work against different styles.
In Europe, even if you’re around top 30 in the ranking, you can play against dozens of teams that you can learn from. Another problem is that if you’re in North America and there is a tournament in Europe, all of the top North American teams are going to be bootcamping in Europe, so your practice is going to be poor.
What other regions would you like to play in during your career?
There are only two regions that I want to play in: North America and Europe. If I think about China, the culture is too different for me. I also consider CIS to be Europe, so I think that if at some point I don't have a team I'll be open to CIS offers.
Which scene do you like to watch most?
Since the Major, I have been following more the Asian scene. I want to see how TYLOO and ViCi evolve. Their results are pretty impressive, so I wonder if there are any other teams in Asia that can reach that level.
Why is the Danish scene bigger than the rest of the Scandinavian scene?
The Danish scene has a lot of great in-game leaders. We have gla1ve, MSL, HUNDEN, Snappi... That means that if you play in a top 5 Danish team you’re still able to learn about the game and improve as a player. I think in Sweden there’s a lack of in-game leaders. Maybe there are some coming up now, but in Denmark we have in-game leaders who have been doing it at a great level for a long time. Astralis have a great impact on the scene, too, because every young player is inspired by them and wants to achieve the same results. Also, young Danish players are particularly determined, mentally, and they’re extremely motivated to become top players. You don't see that kind of mindset everywhere.
What do OpTic and North need to become better?
North have been underperforming for a long time. I think the problem for that kind of team is that they don't have up and coming APWers. You have JUGi, mertz, cadiaN... but they’re not growing as fast as they should be. They’re not playing to their potential. Maybe it’s the in-game leaders’ faults, that they can’t find the best way their AWPers can play, or maybe it's a mentality problem.
You need a really good AWPer with a lot of impact to win high tier matches. For me, North is the most disappointing team. I think that valde is a top 5 player in the world and he shows an insane level. These teams could be much higher than they are now, but it’s really hard to say what has been going wrong for them.
Can you name your favorite lineup you were a part of?
I think the latest FaZe lineup was the best. We had great chemistry inside and outside of the game. For six months we were on the same page, no matter if we lost or won we still worked constantly and improved ourselves. It’s my favorite lineup and the most skilled lineup I have played in. Every player is unique in his own way and I'm disappointed that we didn't work things out when Olof came back after his break, but before that we had been the top team for three months or more.
Can you name your best teammate?
I think my best teammate has been rain. He never tilts, he's always the same, he always followed my calls... I played with him for around two years and he always impressed me with the way he did his job. For me, what a player brings to a team outside of the game is also very important. He is my best teammate in CS:GO and I hope I will play with him again later in my career. I don't think I can name someone I could call my worst teammate since I have always played in teams with very skilled players who shared the same mentality.
Who’s the most talented player in Denmark right now? And in the world?
If we’re talking about new players, blameF has a lot of potential. Abroad, I guess it’s ZywOo and sergej.
Are big buyouts good for players?
Big buyouts are bad for players, but you need to understand the organizations' point of view as well. They pay you a good salary, they support you, they cover all of your expenses, and if you suddenly don’t want to play, you can’t just leave the team, so a buyout makes sense. It’s the same thing in football, if you’re a good player and you’re not happy in the team, somebody needs to buy you out.
When you sign a contract you must be sure that you see yourself in that team for the duration of the contract. If you’re signing a two-year contract and in six months you’re saying that you don’t want to be in that team anymore, it’s bad for the whole scene.
How has your salary increased during your career?
I can’t talk numbers, but my first CS:GO salary was around 300€, and before I joined TSM I was making around 1000€. Then the salary went up by 300%, and it was a big money jump for me. Then again it went up by 300%. Top teams invest a lot in salaries and in this case the question is how to get the investment back. I think salaries will increase much more slowly now, and it mostly depends on what Valve plan to do with the game in the next year or two. It’s very important that the economic system that supports esports doesn’t break since there are high salary requirements for new organizations and they may just quit if they can’t get a return on their investment. We need to be careful not to scare new organizations away.
Can you tell me about how your coaches have impacted your career?
I have only had RobbaN, zonic, and Eley, the coach we had in Envy. I didn’t work with zonic much, he started to bring a lot of in-game impact to the team after I had already left, so I don’t think I got as much from him as the team has been getting. I did learn a lot from RobbaN. We were always on the same page and he made me believe in myself. He used to call in 1.6 the same way I do in CS:GO, so he understands what I want to do in the game. It’s always good for me to have a guy I can rely on at any time. He could always correct me and say when we had to play more simply and when we should do it in a tricky way, and he helped me to grow a lot as an in-game leader. I really needed the support he gave me after I came from Astralis because I didn’t believe in my calls, so working with RobbaN was really enjoyable.
Were you ever asked to fix a match?
I haven’t been asked to do it. It’s the most stupid thing in CS. You work to compete, to be on top, and then you throw all of your work for some skins or money... It’s the same as cheating and I can’t even imagine being in that situation.
Were you involved with people getting kicked from FPL?
I was not responsible for that. I don’t play FPL much, so I’m not in the circle of people who make decisions about who plays FPL and who doesn’t, and I’m glad I’m not in that position, but if the majority of players don’t like someone because of their skill level or because they’re toxic, the player should be removed—it’s as simple as that.
Can you name the lineup of your dreams?
I think that the last FaZe lineup was the lineup of my dreams.
Do you have a tough relation with any team?
I guess not. I’ve never been in a scenario where I have a conflict with any team. During the game you disrespect your opponent, but outside the game there should be respect from both sides. I always shy away from conflict and I’ve never been in a situation in which I hated someone. You respect or disrespect a person, you like or dislike someone, it’s normal in a competitive environment, but you don’t need to say everything to their face. You keep that to yourself and It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.
Do you like when players start to scream or swear at their opponents on stage?
I think it’s a part of our job, it’s a part of the show. When you laugh at your enemy or scream something at them, it’s not only about your emotions, it’s about entertaining the crowd. Also, I don’t really care when people shoot at a dead body. If someone thinks it annoys me, he can do it every time he wants, I don’t really care.
There was a famous tweet after I played against Astralis and we baited them into picking Cobblestone, in which device wrote to me saying something about not having won a Major. It was kind of funny and I laugh when people start trash talking each other because it’s just for fun and both players know it. All of this stuff adds fuel to the game and every storyline going into a game brings more fire to the fans.
Tell me about your family.
I have an awesome family. My father, mother, and my older brother support me so much, they watch all of my games. It doesn’t matter if the tournament is big or small, they are always with me, so I have all of their support. When I was young my father was afraid that I couldn’t live only off of playing Counter-Strike and he even switched the internet off at night so I couldn’t play. He apologized for it ten years later, and of course, now it’s all okay. He also told me to get a degree, and I wanted to prove so badly that it was possible to study and to play the game at the same time if you are disciplined enough. It was a hard period for me, to manage my time and keep my motivation and strength for both things, but I did it and I now have a master’s degree in business administration and auditing.
Will you let your children compete?
I will let them do it if they really want to, but, like all parents, I will have a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out. Sometimes gamers’ parents ask me what they should do because their son is playing the game 24/7 and they’re afraid that it won’t work out. I just tell them to make a timeline regarding when he wants to join a professional team, when he wants to win a tournament... so write this plan out for one or two years and if he doesn’t break through, the parents should find another option for the kid. Someone can play the game for five or six years and never know if they will succeed or not, so it’s always good to have a backup plan. I’m one of the lucky guys who get to live their passion, and I hope that young players who want to achieve something can feel that too.