Aleksib: "Maybe Na`Vi didn't take us so seriously at the Major, but now they do"
We got a chance to interview Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen on the evening of ENCE's one-year anniversary, ahead of the team's quarter-final affair against Na`Vi at StarSeries i-League Season 7.
The in-game leader spoke about the fashion in which ENCE were eliminated at BLAST Pro Series São Paulo, where a tie with Liquid in the last match of the round-robin saw the Finns miss out on a place in the grand final, as the North American side advanced on round difference.
We also asked Aleksib about the team's newly attained status of favorites after their strong showings at the Major, the inconsistency on Dust2 that they've shown lately, and Saturday's rematch with Natus Vincere in the StarSeries quarter-finals.
At BLAST you went out in a rather awkward way, where it came down to round difference and you didn't make it to the final. What were the feelings in the team about that?
Well, of course we had already known the format before joining, so... None of us thought that the worst case scenario would happen, but it did and the way the last round [against Liquid] ended was 5on3 for us and the time was low, but it was still a winnable round for us. After we lost that, of course the feeling is twice as bad because you think you are going to win this round.
But we didn't, so it's a shame, but we still proved that we can play top-level CS. We still beat very good teams. Against Astralis, we were even winning and they won a round where they stacked B, it was a great call by them... it's a shame that we lost that Dust2 game, but still, a very good LAN for us. Of course, we would have wanted to be in the revenge final against Astralis from the Major. After all the matches and on the second day, we thought we still played a great tournament, but, obviously, things could have been better. We were satisfied.
When these underdog runs happen, as you had at the Major, we often see them fall off at the next tournament, was there ever a worry for you that that could have happened at BLAST? Were you confident going into it that you would be able to replicate a similar form?
Before the Major even, I think we proved that at every big tournament we have been in. At the previous StarSeries, we won some best-of-threes against good teams. In Cologne, way back, we won best-of-threes and we played a tight match against Na`Vi in a best-of-three there. So there have been events where we played well against good teams. I think the only team we got crushed - obviously, there have been some games where we got crushed, but we are still showing that we just didn't play well one time against this caliber of teams.
I think that's some proof, but of course it catches everyone's eyes after the Major and everybody says that it is a fluke and stuff like that. For us, I think that after the Major we just thought that the previous tournaments haven't been flukes, so now we are really ready to match up against the likes of Liquid and Na`Vi and the rest. So going into BLAST, we were even more confident that we could win best-of-ones, even though it's a bit more random, of course. But still, we were focused on our own game and just really confident as a team.
For us, I think it just comes down to communication mostly. We aren't really that nervous anymore, but sometimes when we are feeling tired or someone is really frustrated or something like that, that really affects us on LAN, so if we just go into the game really focused and our communication is good, then we usually play our A-game every time. But some days here and there we just play really poorly, and when we talk about the match after, usually it comes down to not being so focused as we used to be, some communication errors and people not talking too much... Stuff like that.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the creation of this ENCE lineup. What do you think when you look back at this past year and the incredible improvement you've had?
It feels weird that it has already been a year. When we started, we lost some online qualifiers in round 128 or something like that. The start was very rough, but every time, we knew we would climb the wall of online qualifiers and that we were going to do it someday. Then we got the invitation to Moscow for the Cologne qualifier, GG.BET Majestic, and after we won that and qualified for Cologne, I think that was the moment everyone knew 'okay, now it's time for us to show what we're capable of.'
And we did in Cologne and after that, it was just the confidence of the players since we have a lot of new players, including me. After we started to participate in more events, every time we got back we were like 10% more confident in ourselves and in just the fact that it's not impossible to get into the top 10. Event after event, we were improving. Sometimes there was a sudden stop, but we never fell off, not too much at least. Sometimes we lost online, sometimes we f*cked up a qualifier, but we didn't think about it too much. We already knew what our capabilities are at LAN events, so we are just figuring out how to get the same mentality while playing online games.
A lot of people have been putting the tag of favorites on you, especially at this event, where you and Na`Vi were considered as the favorites from the start. Does that put any more pressure on you or do you not think about that at all?
Me, at least, I don't really think about it at all. Of course I know people are putting the favorites tag on us. I know we are capable of winning the event we are attending. We always go there to win. Being the favorites or people saying that we are the favorites, it doesn't affect us that much. It doesn't affect us, but it's cool to be the favorites, it has some meaning. It means that people are really considering you as a top team. When we're playing against a legendary team like FaZe or Na`Vi or Liquid or Astralis or teams like that, the mentality is still 'this is a good team, now we're going to play our A game' and everybody is really focused. But we just have to get the same mentality going into every other opponent.
You've looked quite confident at StarSeries aside from the series against Vitality, from which I particularly wanted to ask about Dust2, which you lost quite badly there. You obviously like to play the map, it's your most played one recently, but it has been inconsistent for you. Why do you think that is?
I think we haven't figured out a consistent way of winning games on Dust2, obviously. We are still putting up a good fight against better opponents and, usually, when we crumble, it's on our CT side. We are losing to stuff we've usually gone through before, but we still need some experience on the map against really good teams. It's still a map that we play a lot, so every match is a practice for us, I think. After every match we learn something new, we talk about it and how we are going to approach it differently in the next game.
When someone picks Dust2 against us, we don't think that it's a bad thing. We usually think that what we talked about before we're going to do this time and it's going to help us win. Even against FaZe, we had three match points, I think, and we just blew it, and we won against Spirit on Dust2 here. We are working on the flaws we have, but I think some of it is mental. We have gone through things, but when we play on the server, we need to do the stuff that we had talked about to win a game on Dust2.
You will play Na`Vi in the quarter-finals here again after beating them in the semi-finals at the Major. What do you expect from the rematch?
I think the match is going to be great. Both of us respect each other at this moment. Maybe the last time Na`Vi didn't take us so seriously, but now they do, obviously. I still think it's going to be a good game, both teams are going to prep really hard because it's two or three days waiting for the quarter-finals.
The only bad thing is that whoever wins that match is going against the winner of NiP and Renegades on the same day. It's quite tough to play two best-of-threes in a row, or it could be two best-of-threes with a break, but you're at the venue for 12 hours. It's even tougher to play two best-of-threes than the best-of-five final because you might play six maps in a row if there are tough matches. But we just have to get the mentality going into Saturday that first we need to focus on Na`Vi, and after beating Na`Vi we can focus on the other game, not putting too much thought on the other game and just focus on Na`Vi first.