huNter: "Top 15 is not good enough; we will always want more"
DreamHack Open Rio is set to start on Friday with the first portion of the group stage, which will see Valiance pitted against three Brazilian teams in Group B: their opening opponent W7M, Sharks, and Redemption POA.
We quizzed the team's in-game leader, huNter, ahead of Valiance's campaign in Rio de Janeiro to get his thoughts on reaching their highest-ever position as No. 15 in the ranking and their chances to go all the way in Brazil as the highest-ranked side.
We also found out whether the team is comfortable with Vertigo, which will see LAN play at a notable event for the first time, and asked the Serbian about various other topics not tied to the tournament, such as the rumors linking him with FaZe and mousesports earlier in the year.
Your last LAN event was the UML Finals, where you claimed the title. How have you practiced since then and what are your expectations heading into this event?
We didn't have that much time to practice after UML Finals, but we fixed some mistakes for every map and added something new, changed something, and I think it will be good for us.
Our expectations are always the greatest, that's the reason why we are constantly progressing from day to day, and I think it will be the same case at DreamHack in Rio. We'll try our best as always and I think we have a good chance to win this event.
You were invited to attend this event. Do you think that tournament organizers are starting to pay more attention to your team?
Yes, we were invited to this event and that's a great thing for us and for our team. I'm happy because of it and I hope we will get even more invitations for big events.
We are in the top 15 at the moment in the HLTV ranking and I think that's great for us and more people know us now. I hope we will get more invitations for big events and we will keep grinding to be on a top CS:GO level.
You travel to Rio as the highest-ranked team in attendance. Is that an extra source of pressure? How is the team dealing with that the fact that it has reached its highest-ever place in the rankings?
We have no pressure ever, really, everything we want is to prove ourselves and to become better every day. We are in the top 15 at the moment and that's the first time for all of us to be amongst top-15 teams in the world. That's a great success because we started in November from zero and that's good, but not good enough, as we will always want more.
Your team has found themselves in the finals against another up-and-coming side, Windigo, on numerous occasions. Would you say a rivalry has developed?
Yeah, the Windigo guys are a great bunch of guys that are really talented and hard working. We are all good outside of CS and we are helping each other sometimes. They won WESG, which is great for them, and they are No. 13 at the moment, so we have two Balkan teams in the top 15, which is great for our scene.
We've played against them a lot in the last few months. I really don't like to play against them because it's a derby. They know everything, like what we will pick, ban, what we will do on every map, and it's hard to play against a team who knows everything about you.
And from the other side, I think they also don't like to play against us because it's the same. We also know everything about what they are doing, what they will ban/pick, who is holding what, etc. Every time we play it goes to the third map and it's really draining for both of the teams, we barely have any energy after a match against Windigo.
Of course, these type of matches are great for viewers, but they are really hard for us because you always need to adjust and have 100% focus throughout the match. But that's one of the reasons why we love playing CS.
FaZe and mousesports were both rumored to be interested in you during the reconstruction of their squads. Was there any truth to it? What did it feel like to be linked with such household names?
It's true for mousesports, but for FaZe I didn't hear about it and NiKo didn't tell me anything, so that's not true. I had a few offers from other teams, EU and NA, but not from FaZe. For mousesports, I had a conversation with karrigan, but nothing official, we just talked about me being one of the options.
Sure, that's a great feeling when the best teams in CS:GO scene want you in their teams, a great feeling really. It's a difficult journey to get to the level where these teams are noticing you, but I've worked hard for this opportunity, spending countless hours working on myself and my game in order to get here, and that’s something I will continue doing in order to become the best version of myself I can be.
With Vertigo in the map pool at this tournament, how comfortable do you feel playing the map?
We didn't have too much time to practice and prepare it, but we played it and it works well for us. I like to play that map because it suits our playstyle and if we have a chance to play it we definitely will because I think we are good on Vertigo.
What is your opinion about your group opponents and what have you done to prepare for them?
We don't underestimate everyone, ever. We want to beat everyone, focus 100% against every team and to always be ready. We approach every opponent like they are the best team in the world and we are always trying to keep our focus at 100%.
Of course, first we are focused on our game, and then only on the game of the opponent, but no worries for us, we are ready to play against anyone.
You, just like your cousin NiKo, have been putting in great performances while leading the team. What is the secret behind that? Could you explain what made you take up this role?
I'm not the primary IGL like NiKo is at the moment, I just want to help the team because nobody really wants to take that role full time. When we are playing online matches, practices, emi (our coach) is trying to lead with our help. We watch our matches and opponents together, create a game plan, what we should focus on during practice matches, etc.
On most LAN events he can't talk all the time, only in timeouts and between the halves/maps. But the thing is, before every LAN match, we create a game plan together and I'm trying to remember everything and to call. If something goes wrong, we have timeouts to fix it and when we need to mid-call I'm trying to do this with nexa's help sometimes. Maybe that is not the best way to do things, but it works for us at the moment. However, this will probably change in the future as one of us will have to step up and take over the IGL role full-time.