valde: "Perhaps I cannot expect myself to have the same numbers as before, but I do not want our game to revolve around myself"
We had a quick chat with Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså after North's qualification for the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals to know about more taking over as in-game leader and the recent signing of Jakob "JUGi" Hansen.
The Danish team surpassed all expectations in the second round of ESL Pro League Europe as they topped a tricky group headlined by Natus Vincere after winning all three matches, losing just one map in the process.
It was North's very first LAN event since bringing in JUGi as a replacement for Casper "cadiaN" Møller - a move that also resulted in star player valde, the 20th best player of 2018, taking the reins of the team.
The 23-year-old's troops will begin a heavy period of activity this Tuesday at DreamHack Masters Dallas, where they will take on cs_summit 4 champions Vitality in their first game. After flying back to Europe, North will attend the LAN finals of ECS Season 7 and the ESL Pro League Season 9, with the closed qualifier for the Europe Minor in between.
In this interview, valde discusses his transition to an in-game leader, the weight that his new responsibilities has had on him, JUGi's adaptation to the team and his expectations for the busy season ahead.
This will be your second LAN event since taking up the IGL role. How are you finding this new experience? Has it been harder than expected?
Overall, it has been a pretty smooth transition for me, taking over the team captain role and thus the in-game leadership. I don’t think it needs to be said that in-game leading is a very demanding and challenging thing on a Counter-Strike team. There are lots of things to be taken into consideration, and becoming successful takes time and experience - two things I don’t have yet in this new role.
I wouldn’t say it has been harder than expected so far. I had some time to think the decision through and prepare myself mentally for the task ahead, and having a positive mentality towards my new role has been crucial for me. Perhaps I can’t expect myself to have the same numbers as I had previously, but with me being team captain now I don’t want our game to revolve around myself. My number one priority is to make my star players perform well and implement my system the way I want to. As long as we are a winning team that continues to take steps forward, I will be satisfied.
Had the team come to a point where it had lost faith in cadiaN’s calling? How would you describe the team’s evolution under him?
I feel like that is a matter which should not be discussed in public. Out of principle and respect, I don’t want to go into specifics regarding former players of the squad, but it was apparent that change was needed.
Could you explain why the team went for JUGi and not, for example, for someone like NaToSaphiX, who is also an AWPer and has experience as an IGL? How has JUGi adapted to the team so far?
To me, this question is very self-explanatory. Disregarding the fact that I knew him beforehand from my time in Heroic, JUGi has shown much more than any other candidate for the role. He has more experience at big international events and against top teams and a skill ceiling that no other available candidate could match. Furthermore, he is a very calm and stable player I can count on when it matters in the big games. In the end, it is not my business to compare players directly - my job is to make the best decisions possible for the team and in this case going for JUGi was a no-brainer. In terms of adaptation, he has been doing very well. It will always take time to come into a new system, especially as an AWPer, but I think he will only get better with time.
NiKo has made no secret that he dislikes calling and that this role keeps him from focusing 100% on the game. What steps are you taking to make sure that your individual performances, which have always been a win condition for your team, are not affected by you calling?
People tend to forget that there are plenty of in-game leaders who perform quite well despite having to shot call. Players like FalleN, gla1ve, nitr0, Aleksib, etc., so, actually, I am not too worried. Also, the more we get to play and the more my team understands the system, the more time and freedom I will have to focus on my game and perfect it, in order to retain a high individual skill level.
What are the key differences between the team when it played under cadiaN and now? When can we expect the team to have fully integrated your style and to be at 100%?
As I said previously, I don’t want to compare Casper and me directly. Everyone can draw their own conclusions by watching us play, but I can say that I am definitely looking to bring some major changes to the team, which I hope will become more and more apparent along the way. With regards to my style, it is an ongoing thing that you always work on when you’re an in-game leader. I want to continually be a step ahead of the curve and since we’re a brand new squad it is difficult to say when we’ll be at 100%. As long as we keep improving and I’m satisfied with our progress, I will be happy.
You have a very busy month coming up, with three LAN events and the closed qualifier for the Europe Minor. What are your expectations for these tournaments?
My expectations are simple: I want us to be able to look ourselves in the mirror when these tournaments are over and be proud of the effort we put in. If we played our hearts out and grinded hours day in and day out, then I will think that we could not have done more.