loWel: "If we can mirror what we did in practice during our matches we’re going to surprise a lot of people"
We caught up with loWel before the StarLadder Major kicks off in Berlin, where he will be back at one of Counter-Strike's most prestigious events for the first time since 2017. The Spaniard and his team are set to kick off against FURIA at 14:30 and will fight for one of the eight coveted spots at the Major's New Legends Stage.
We started the interview with loWel going over the 22-year-old's career since his breakthrough with mousesports and followed it all the way to HellRaisers' preparation at the organization's Kiev offices over the past few days, tackling some of his personal highs and lows, his and the team's current form, and what led him to once again make the jump into an international team competing at a Major.
You played your first Majors with mousesports back in 2017, Looking back, how do you remember that period?
Signing for mousesports was incredible since it was the breakthrough that I had always wished for, being able to play at the most important events. I was able to compete at two Majors with great players from whom I learned a lot both inside and outside of the game. It’s a period that I will never forget and for which I’m incredibly thankful.
After a bad result at PGL Major Krakow two years ago you left mousesports. Can you tell us a little bit about how that all happened?
A few months before the Major I was quite uncomfortable and lacking motivation because of things going on in the server, especially after NiKo had left. I wasn’t happy in my role and with the general atmosphere. When we were knocked out of the Major I sat down with the management and we agreed that I should look for other options, which was good for both parties as they got two great players in suNny and STYKO.
What plans did you have when you left the team?
My plans were to take some time off, to rest, and to explore my options, but always with a positive mindset and with the goal of going on to become a better player in a new team.
You then played for Dignitas, Tempo Storm, and the Spanish WESG mix-team Wololos. How do you remember that part of your career?
To be honest, that was one of the hardest periods of my career, especially with Dignitas and Tempo Storm because we never managed to have a big impact on the scene. We had good teams on paper, but we were always lacking something to keep growing, especially an IGL that could lead us. I don’t regret that time at all, though, since it was a great learning experience and it made me stronger mentally both as a person and a player.
Playing with Wololos was a very beautiful experience because we were able to show that there is enough talent in Spain to make some sort of breakthrough, and we made the whole country proud with our effort and were able to reach heights that no other Spanish team had reached before.
That set the foundations for Movistar Riders. How was that project born?
mixwell contacted me asking if I wanted to be a part of the project while I was still in Tempo Storm, which was disintegrating at the time. After the Wololos run I had no doubts that creating one of the best possible Spanish lineups was the way to go.
How was your time there?
Other than everything that happened when I left to HellRaisers, it was an incredible experience, and I will never forget all of the moments lived with that team, good and bad. I think we had a great team but we weren’t able to reach our full potential when it really mattered. I have no regrets because creating a national team and giving the Spanish scene some hope was one of the highlights of my career.
It didn’t quite pan out and you decided to leave. What was your thought process when making the decision to move on?
The decision was simple. My goal is to be the best, win the most important tournaments, and to keep growing day by day. We didn’t have any notable results after nine months and I knew that with HellRaisers I would have more opportunities to attend the tournaments I have always wanted to play in and gain the experience I need to keep getting better. This is the type of opportunity that doesn’t come around every day and after a lot of thought I felt like I had to leave Riders. I told this to my teammates and the organization before leaving, and there had also been some things happening in the team that I wasn’t happy with.
There were some roster changes in the works without me or the organization knowing that I didn’t agree with and I thought removing a player wasn’t the solution while some of the other players weren't working as hard as they could. Instead of changing our structure or trying to change our roles, they decided to take the easy way out and use changing a player as an excuse. After saying I didn’t agree with this, there was a bad atmosphere in the team, people weren’t communicating well, morale was low, etc. Even without any of this happening I would have probably left the team because my goal is to be the best and fulfill my dreams, but us choking during important moments and our inability to fulfill our potential were the extra factors that pushed me to finally leave Riders and join HellRaisers.
You received some harsh criticism from fans when you left. What would you say to them so they understand your wish to go to HellRaisers?
Honestly, I don’t care about the critics. I could have explained everything that happened openly but that’s just something that doesn’t go with me or who I am. My former teammates, even though we aren't on speaking terms at the moment, are still people I appreciate, and I don’t want to talk poorly about our situation. I’ll be there for them if they need me.
The people close to me know how I am and what really happened in the team, but at the end of the day to become the best and keep improving you have to leave team-mates and people you appreciate behind. They’re hard decisions to make but you need to go down certain roads sometimes. Some people will understand better than others, but at the end of the day, you have to watch out for your own happiness, no matter what the rest say, and make your own path.
HellRaisers is a team that I’ve always respected. When they put in work, they can be at the majority of big events, and that’s what I had always wanted since the day I left mousesports. I had not been able to live certain experiences since then. Another reason for joining HellRaisers was ANGE1, he's a player that has been an example for me since forever and I really wanted to play with him. He’s making me grow as a player and I’m already learning a lot from him and the rest of my teammates.
This HellRaisers lineup started out with some rocky results. How do you see the team as it currently stands?
We’ve had a lot of problems when it comes to getting results. I couldn’t tell you why because we have a roster that is quite good on paper. I think that starting out on the wrong foot hurt our motivation. We weren’t able to show how good we can be at first, but we were able to beat some really good teams during our recent bootcamp in Kiev and to play quite well, which was surprising. That’s the level we have to play at in tournaments. I’m very excited for the Major because if we can mirror the way we played in practice during our matches we’re going to surprise a lot of people. We have a bright future ahead of us if we play the way we did at the bootcamp, but we have to show it when it really matters. Everything will become clear after the Major.
What did you practice during the bootcamp and how’s the atmosphere in the team?
We worked on our map pool and on polishing a lot of the details that made us lose rounds, especially in tight or clutch situations and I think we’ve become better at playing many situations we would typically lose in the past. The feeling is great outside of the server, I get along really well with all of my teammates and we don’t have any issues.
Is it hard for you to go back to playing with a fully international lineup?
Sure, it’s harder when compared to national rosters because if players are all speaking in their native language then the in-game communication is much more fluid. Having five people speaking the same mother tongue does make a difference during the most tense rounds and moments of a match.
What are the fondest memories that you have of your career?
I’ve had a lot of great moments, but without a doubt the best have been with mousesports. I met great players who have become friends and thanks to them I’ve lived incredible experiences, especially playing at the Majors, which had always been a dream. I’ve had some good events, but without a doubt the best was the ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals where I got an EVP mention after we made semi-finals. That was when I realized I had the potential to play against the best teams in the world.
What about the hardest?
When NiKo left mousesports and joined FaZe. He had supported me a lot in every sense of the word, I had learned so much from him and had so much confidence, which is very hard to replicate these days. He was also a really good friend and when he left I was shuffled into a support position that was very hard for me to play because I was completely inexperienced. I tried to learn it by playing and did as best I could, but I just couldn’t play as well as I did in other roles.
Your first Big Event since leaving Riders was the ESL Pro League Finals in Montpellier. How was it to play against the best teams again?
It was incredible, that’s where I want to be, especially when we got so close to beating Liquid. We lost the decider 14-16, I can’t wait to play teams like that again and hopefully beat them.
Where do you see yourself individually?
I think I’m at my best, especially after our bootcamp. I’ve been trying to work on my movement, on closing out rounds and trying to be smarter than my opponents. I think I’ve become much better in that sense, which helps me not have to try and always rely on skill.
How confident are you in your team? What are the goals for the Major?
I’m very confident after our bootcamp. As I said, we beat very good teams, so if we can play like that I’m sure we’ll be able to qualify for the New Legends Stage, but we have to show it in the server. Our goal, without a doubt, is to move on to the next stage.