NiKo on leading: "I'm ready to just give up on it as soon as we have an option that we really want to go for"
FaZe are set to kick BLAST Pro Series off with their first match, which is slated to be against Liquid on Nuke, before closing out the first day of play against MIBR on Mirage. The European combine bombed out of the StarSeries i-League Season 7 group stage and will be trying to redeem themselves at the Watsco Center over the next two days.
In our conversation, NiKo went over some of the team's latest results, coming into the event in Miami, Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev's position in the team, searching for an in-game leader, and the tournaments that FaZe are putting their focus on moving forward.
Going back to the Major, 5-8th place, decent... You maintained the Legends spot, the least you were happy with achieving there, but after that, you had a couple of rough events, namely BLAST São Paulo and StarSeries. Where is the team standing right now?
Yeah, as you said, we finished 5-8th at the Major, which was not too disappointing for us, but it was not satisfying, either. We definitely had higher expectations, especially with the preparation we had for that event, but unfortunately, we didn't manage to bring our A game against Natus Vincere. After that, we had São Paulo, where we also messed up a lot, especially on the second day because after the first day we kind of had the chance to make it to the final, but the next day we lost to Liquid and after that match the team felt pretty bad because we knew that our chance of making the final was very low. That's the thing with BLAST, if you mess up on the first day, going into the second day it's very hard to focus, you just want to make the finals and you don't care if you finish in third or sixth place.
StarSeries was the event where we really got disappointed, we expected way better results, especially not having Astralis and Liquid there. We felt like we could make it all the way, or at least make it to the final. The match against Renegades, we could have won that match, or maybe we should have. If we would have done that, we could have gone 3-0 and the story would be completely different than what happened, which is that we lost in the group stage. Against ENCE, that game was weird, especially because we played so late and we made so many individual mistakes, which could have been caused because of that, and they had so many issues during the last match... The match against North, that was just... we messed up completely. It was not us playing, that was the worst game we played at that event. Unfortunately, it was the last match, which we couldn't afford to lose at all, it was just bad from us. We played way better against Renegades and ENCE, and even though we didn't win, we still showed some good stuff. We tried to win against North, we just had no chance, we messed everything up.
What did you mess up, what happened?
I don't know, we had a good feeling, we had a good preparation, it's just the way we played, we made so many individual mistakes, it felt like it was not us playing, I have no idea why that happened, maybe it's because we fell the pressure of going out in groups... it's hard to say, it was just not us playing against North, which you all could see.
What's the mood coming into this tournament, how do you feel? Are you thinking "it's fine, that wasn't us, we're going to be great here" or are you kind of worried, more of a "what if we continue playing this way" kind of thing?
We are not going to continue playing the way we did against North, that was really just not us playing, even if we played like we did against Renegades and ENCE, that was way better than against North. What I can say is that we are not going to play as poorly as we did against North, and for this event our goal is... I still believe we can win against any team any day, except maybe Astralis. We need to have a really good day to win against Astralis, and they have to have an off day. Other than that, I still think we can win against any team here and make it to the final, not easily, but I believe that we are still capable of making deep runs at events, and that's our goal for this event.
AdreN has now been in a weird trial/stand-in position for a while. How is that evolving, how is that moving along?
Yeah, first we took AdreN just for the Major, then after that we were satisfied with the way he played and obviously we didn't have that many options to bring an in-game leader or something like that, so after the Major we felt like, 'Okay, we can still keep going like this,' with me leading, and we did kind of okay at that event, so we just hope that we can still improve from there on and try to play with AdreN and see what it's going to look like, although unfortunately, it looked pretty bad.
I can't say too much, but we don't have too many options, we can't just go out there and just pick up a player, there are not that many options that are going to fit our team, there are not many in-game leaders out there we can get. Out of the ones we wanted to get, some of them refused, some of them we can't get because of buyouts, and stuff like that.
I see everyone saying that we should get an in-game leader, that I should stop being the in-game leader, but there are not that many options available to just go and get. We don't want to be forced into getting someone we don't want to play with, there is a lot of stuff going on right now and we are trying to find the best possible way for us in the long term, we don't want to just hurry things and just get someone we're not convinced by.
Is that the only change you would consider, bringing in an in-game leader?
Yeah, if we make one, that would be the only change.
karrigan said you're becoming better and better, that you're learning a lot and you could eventually become a really good leader, but you're just doing that because you have to. Are you ready to be done with that?
Yeah, I don't want to be the in-game leader, I don't think it's good for our team, I can do way more when I'm the second in-game leader. The thing is, this team needs a second in-game leader, it needs two guys calling all the time. We have players who don't take too much initiative, so you have to push them, you have to tell them what to do, how to react in the game.
Right now it's only me calling on every side of the map, and that's very hard to do because I don't see everything, I don't see what's happening on the other side, that's the biggest reason why you want to have another in-game leader. As I said, I'm ready to just give up on it as soon as we have an option that we really want to go for.
You haven't had much time after StarSeries, but did you have any time at all to look over stuff, change anything, figure stuff out?
Yeah, we didn't have that much time, as you said, because we traveled directly from Shanghai to Miami, but we watched the games we played there and the thing is, we lost two close games against Renegades and ENCE, and these games would have gone differently if we had not lost some crucial rounds, so we couldn't judge too much because if we had won either of those games we would have been in the playoffs, and then I believe we could have played even better than we did in the groups.
How important is BLAST Pro Series Miami for you guys, is it kind of a "make it or break it" deal?
The thing is, with BLAST events, especially with our team, obviously we are going from event to event, but we know anything can happen at this event, it can happen that you lose most of the games because it's best-of-one, but we can also end up going to the final. In my experience, we have always managed to play poorly at BLAST events, we played four of them and the best we did was winning two games, I think.
Our biggest goal and focus for now is the Pro League, we missed both the last ESL Pro League and ECS finals last season, so we don't want to mess it up again. In ECS we already threw one chance away, so now our main focus is the Pro League. Whatever happens here, even if we go 0-5, our main focus is gonna be just on Pro League, just to win that group, we believe we are still the favorites in that group and we are going to give it all at that event. StarSeries and this event are going to be the practice for Pro League.