valde: "We're having good CT sides because our skill ceiling and firepower have been upgraded a lot"
In a post-match interview we spoke to Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså, who gave us insight into his approach to in-game leading, the degree of freedom that his players have and Jakob "JUGi" Hansen's impact on the team.
After the match against the Brazilians, we spoke to valde to get his thoughts on the performances in Dallas, his vision for the team now that he is the in-game leader, the degree of freedom he grants his players and JUGi's role and impact on the roster.
What were the team's takeaways from Dallas? Did you look to adjust anything specific coming into ECS?
I think my takeaway from Dallas was that we are improving at a steady rate, but we're obviously not where we want to be. I think, in terms of the time that we've been given with our new lineup, I actually think our performances have been quite ok. We've had two events so far, one of them was the Pro League LAN group, where we actually qualified 3-0, beating Na`Vi, BIG and Heroic in pretty convincing fashion to qualify for the LAN Finals.
Then we headed to Dallas without too much practice, where we got a top-eight finish, which I think wasn't a good result, but it wasn't a bad one either, it was kind of an "ok" result. I think the goal here at ECS is to get into the top four in the playoffs, so I think our tournament progress has been steady so far, and then you have to keep building so that it's not one step forward and two steps backward.
In Dallas, I spoke with Kjaerbye, who explained that you command a certain respect within your team, and this is seemingly a natural process. Why is it, do you think, that your players have this innate respect for you?
It's always tough to make an evaluation of yourself, but regardless, I think one of the main reasons, whether it's traditional sports or esports, is of course personality. Some people are just born with a certain personality, I guess, that leans towards being a natural leader - I think that's the case for me. Other than that I'm just a very determined person who knows what he wants, and I know what I want from my players as well. I think that's something very important when you're playing at an elite level whether, again, it's esports or traditional sports. People have to have someone they can look up to and just follow blindly, almost. One thing is of course personality, and then the other thing is that you have to take into consideration is performance.
I think, naturally, and this is no secret, if you're a good player, I think other people are more likely to follow you, just because of your recent or previous performances. I think a good example of such a person is FalleN. It's much easier to follow a guy that who you also know is a good player and knows what he's talking about; a guy like gla1ve is also a brilliant example. I think those are the main reasons - personality and performance.
The ECS Season 7 Finals are the third event that you're representing North in the capacity of an in-game leader. At this point, have you developed a vision in regards to where you want to steer the team in terms of a style?
I've already answered this question a couple of times, and what I've said previously is that in terms of playstyle, first of all, I don't want to compare cadiaN and myself, for example. I think that's more up to analysts and people in the business to evaluate how our playstyle is. I don't think about how our playstyle is, I just think about what we need to do in the specific game.
Some games, because the opponents lean towards it, you're maybe going to play a bit more strategically and structured, and then against other opponents we might play a looser style, because that's the given situation. I think my playstyle is very mixed, and I think it has to be such if you want to be a top team and contend with all the best. You cannot be too loose, or too structured, it has to be a mix of the two.
A testament to the function of your hybrid approach to the in-game was showcased well on the series against MIBR on Inferno, where you out-grinded the Brazilians in triple overtime. Well-timed CT aggression and retraction really allowed you to come back in the second half and served you well in subsequent overtimes. Talk to me about the decision-making process behind it - how much input do your players have outside of the plan you've devised for a given round?
It's really important as an in-game leader, in general, to give your players freedom. Sometimes when you hit a brick wall, and my calls aren't working, you need some players on the flanks to take some responsibility and give you some input to use. If I don't get any input from my flank players, I'm not going to be able to make good decisions. It's always going to be a factor in top teams to give your players some wiggle room and freedom.
I think I'm also fortunate enough to have good enough players who can make decisions for themselves, so if they see something exploitable in the other team's playstyle, they are always totally free to say: "Hey valde, we need to do this, because they are doing this", you know? Players have a lot of freedom, I think they have to have it.
Freedom is a large aspect of why JuGi has proven to be so effective on the team, particularly in the context of the previously discussed Inferno - his CT AWPing, which was expressed both passively and aggressively, really shut down MIBR. In terms of the role that you want him to fulfill, where does that stand?
You said it yourself, I think he's a very versatile AWPer. He can be very aggressive, he can also be very defensive. It's based upon what we tell him, and what our coach tells him before the game. Other than that, I think he basically won the entire game for us. If I had to point towards one specific player, he got so many opening kills for us, so many crucial kills. He's just a fantastic player when he has the confidence and the freedom to do what he wants. I'm really happy that we signed him.
Lastly, you and JuGi played alongside one another in the Heroic back in the day. Now you're back on the same roster - how do you feel JuGi has changed since back then?
It's been a long time since we played together in Heroic, I think it's almost two years ago now. In terms of age, he has matured a lot. He has also become more experienced in that he has played more big tournaments and has had many more seasons of online play and so on. I think it just overall matures you as a player and you become more experienced. You also become, I would say, more aware of your own playstyle. If something isn't working you have to be able to fix it yourself - it's not something I'm supposed to tell him. It's about having some self-awareness.
Other than that, I just think he's just a really good AWPer and I think the reason we're having these good CT sides is because our skill ceiling and firepower have been upgraded a lot, compared to some of our previous lineups. I actually think it's easier to fix T sides, because you can go into a demo and delete strats if they don't work, or add a strat if you need it, but the CT side is really reliant on individual plays and people being able to land multi-kills when they're facing an execute. I actually think it's much more crucial to have good CT sides, because that tells me that we are, fundamentally, a really skillful team, and then I'm sure that the T sides will get better as we go along the way and get more experience.