gob b: "For us, the most important time is now; this is the time we need to be on point"
BIG will have at Moche XL Esports their second LAN event since bringing in Denis "denis" Howell to replace Johannes "nex" Maget, who is taking a break from competitive gaming due to his persistent wrist issues.
The 24-year-old recently took up the AWP, giving Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz more freedom to shine, and he acquitted himself well in this first tournament in his new role as he helped the team to qualify for the upcoming Europe Minor with a 1.02 rating.
You come into this event on the back of a successful qualification campaign for the Europe Minor. Were you relieved to be able to qualify?
It was a relief not just because we made it, but also because it gives us more time. I do not even want to consider the days before the Pro League Finals, they were so chaotic, we just had like two or three days and it did not work at all. We started working really hard ten days ago, and we had a really good plan to follow, we worked our asses off 12 hours a day. If we keep working like this, then maybe we will be able to show what we can really do. It was more of a relief for me because now we have a little bit more time to be on point and probably surprise people at the Minor.
Since you did not have that much time before the second Pro League group stage, can we expect to see a better prepared BIG team at this event?
Yes, for sure. This year has been total chaos. There were visa issues, sometimes we could not practice... Now it feels like that we can really practice. I felt really good before Sydney, like we were having close games and we were getting better, but then we had visa issues and XANTARES could not fly with us, and then we had the nex situation in which he could not play because of the pain. There was always something blocking us, and now, at the moment, we changed tabseN's role a little bit again, denis has taken over the AWP. It is getting a little bit like the old days, tabseN is making room for us again, he is very important for our game. Everyone is working really hard, so you can expect us to at least play better at the next events.
How is denis' adaptation to an AWP role going, and what was the decision-making process behind that change like?
I was really happy with how tabseN played with the AWP, the problem was that we were missing someone that could fill his role. denis is a really experienced player, he is really smart and is getting better and better and learning, but of course that he needs some time. If tabseN makes a call mid-round, I can evaluate and coordinate everyone else. That always worked for us in the past, but we did not have the chance to play like that with the other lineup, we kind of forced him to keep the AWP and accepted that. Now we had the chance to change it, we tried it and it felt really well and natural.
smooya recently wrote that he felt it was a mistake to leave the team. Did you ever consider bringing him back?
I will speak for myself, we did not have a team discussion about it. I was always against him leaving or getting benched because I always felt good playing with him, but the problem was that he was not happy and we were not happy, and at the time it felt that maybe that was the right thing to do for him and for us. I thought it could be good if we brought him back because I think he is a really talented player and I have always loved playing with him, even though he is sometimes crazy [laughs]. I thought about it, but it is not like there was a team discussion or anything.
How is the communication in the team at the moment?
We still communicate in English, but XANTARES is taking German lessons. He is really good at it and learning really quickly. The plan is to switch to German in the future, I hope it will work out. I also think that, at the moment, communication is at its best for this team, because XANTARES is getting used to English, and we are working really hard, writing everything down, and everyone is doing it, not just the coach. We try to talk as much as possible outside of the game and the in-game communication gets easier. At the moment I cannot complain about communication.
What is the coaching situation like at the moment? There was a time when it was kakafu coaching the team, now it's LEGIJA doing it but he will be here because he has surgery. How are the two of them working with the team?
They have good chemistry. Alex [kakafu] is doing most of the time the analysis of the other teams and is looking at what we are doing right and wrong. Sometimes I say, 'hey we need this kind of strategy, can you draft it for us?', because we have other stuff to do, and they will both draft it. Niko [LEGIJA] is more of a motivational coach at the moment, but he is also really smart in-game. Alex is more of a preparation guy, 10-15 minutes before the games he tells us the smallest but still important things so we can have a good balance. Niko has some health issues so he needs to take care of them first. It is good to have two coaches so that one can also stand in for the other. It is not like which of the two has more to say, Niko is simply a better motivational coach, that is why he is most of the time behind us at tournaments. Both are really important for us, and I would recommend every organisation to have at least two coaches.
A lot of people perhaps expected XANTARES to play a bit differently than he has for your team because he has not been putting in the same kind of numbers that he did in Space Soldiers. Is it because of his role in the team, the fact that he may not be 100 percent adapted to it just yet, or is it the system in place that is the issue?
It was hard to say at the beginning. We tried to use him as an entry, but people also need to understand that the meta has changed a lot. Back in the day when he played for Space Soldiers, he was also the AWP player, his AK was his AWP, you could tell him to go hunt somewhere and he would kill people there. At the moment, there is the AUG and he just cannot go where he wants because he will just lose the duel as the AUG is too strong. This is also a factor that you need to consider because if the meta changes like that you need to adapt, you need to be smarter and you cannot take every duel. He is the most aggressive player I know, he always wants every kill on the map. We want our system to fit him and he tries to fit into the system. I talk to him about what he wants to do and we try to help each other out. For sure, we have not found the right system and he has not found the right path in the system. We are trying to work on that, it is a work in progress, and when our communication improves he will understand things a little better, like in hectic situations. I know there have been times in which we needed him to have a big game and that did not happen, but, overall, I am really satisfied with how he has been doing, he is working really hard to be a part of the system. Once we get more time, he will start getting those numbers again.
What are your expectations for Moche? How far do you think that you can go?
I would definitely like to go to the final, that is for sure. I know there is Windigo waiting if we beat VP. We will take every small motivation boost that we can get, so I think it is important that we do not underestimate anyone, and we won't. We will go step by step, and I would like to face FURIA in the final if we make it.
Your team tends to disappear for certain periods then come back with a bang. Last year, ESL One Cologne was a great event for you. Is that your main goal again?
We cannot deny that Cologne is special, but we obviously try our best at every tournament. Sometimes it is hard for teams to understand how to use their energy well. For us, the most important time is now, this is the time we need to be on point. It would have been great if we had played well a few months ago because of the rankings, but it would be worse if we played well then and poorly now. You need to try to have the right use of your energy, and for the last two years we have had good runs in the summer. I hope this year it will be the same.
Were you surprised to see Sprout qualify for the Minor, especially after you recruited denis, one of their most valuable players?
No, not at all. I knew how important denis was for them, but I felt like this was an opportunity for the other players to step up, and I felt like they have done it, at least Spiidi and mirbit. They have taken more responsibilities, and k1to is playing really well for them. I am really happy that they have made it. When we got them in the first round, I said that this was the best team out of the eight coming from the open qualifiers. They had played some really good games before, so they had a lot of motivation going into the qualifier, and they deserved to make it through.