NiKo: "broky has been trialing with us for a week; we are convinced he is going to fit our team very well"
In our interview ahead of the start of the OMEN Challenge, a eight-player duel tournament with $50,000 up for grabs, we had the opportunity to sit down with NiKo.
The Bosnian player talked about his experience playing alongside Janko "YNk" Paunović, Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović, Marcelo "coldzera" David at a local LAN event, his relationship with the Brazilian player, and revealed that Helvijs "broky" Saukants will be playing for FaZe at two upcoming events.
Last week you were in Belgrade playing a local LAN with some of your former teammates, so tell me a bit about that experience and how it came to happen?
Yeah the tournament organizers came to us and asked if we wanted to play and have some fun and then I and Janko looked at our schedule and saw we had some free time for it to play. We talked to some guys we wanted to play with and obviously coldzera is living in Belgrade and is a close friend of ours so we asked him to play with us. kassad was also coming to Belgrade after the Berlin Major so he was able to play as well, and then we just got our friend for a fifth player. We just went there to have some fun and go back to a Serbian event for the first time in four or five years, so it was just nice to go there and meet some old friends and make the scene a bit bigger.
Back in the time when you were breaking out and even in 1.6, you were playing a lot of LANs, but now the young players don't get that much experience as it's mostly online, FPL and that's how they get into teams. Do you think the scene is worse off because there are not as many local LANs as before?
I think it is hard to say because back then you didn't have FACEIT or ESEA and you couldn't really practice as you can right now, but having some local LANs could help you improve more as a player and become more experienced. Even if you play local tournaments it's still a competition so you gain experience and always learn something from the LANs. I think the lack of the events in our scene is one of the reasons why it's not so big right now, but I feel it is growing with some Serbian teams coming up, like Maden is joining SMASH and now we have this BLUEJAYS team as well, obviously CR4ZY too, so yeah, I'm just happy our scene is growing a little bit.
Talking about the local scene, at the Major you lost to both kassad's team and also huNter's team, so that was probably a weird moment. In one way you would have wanted them both to succeed but you obviously didn't want to lose. What was that experience like for you personally?
Playing against kassad nowadays is kind of normal as we have been facing each other for some time now and it's always a tough game playing against them. I think the last few times we played against them it ended up 16-14 in either our favour or theirs, but playing against CR4ZY was something different and I'm just happy it wasn't the elimination game or the match to get to the playoffs because I wouldn't have been happy if we would've lost to them and got eliminated from the tournament. I'm obviously happy that they showed good results at the Major but it sucked for us that we went out in the groups.
Now with the CR4ZY guys' rise people often talk about the potential for a Serbian super team. In theory, aside from contracts and things like that, could a team like that work?
Obviously it could work and I would like to play in a Serbian team again as I haven't been in a Serbian team for about five years now and I would definitely love to play again. When we create a Serbian team it is different, we are more like brothers in that team and we get a lot closer than an international one, so I'd definitely love to, if it's possible at some point in my career, create a Serbian or Balkan team. I think it could work, but contracts nowadays are very hard to work with so I don't know how possible it is. It is same as GuardiaN, he wanted to play with STYKO and some other players. It is not a possibility right now but maybe it will be in the future.
nexa and huNter are in this situation now, nexa even said it publicly that he had six or seven offers, people want to sign them. You were in this situation before when you were leaving mousesports, a lot of people were probably interested. What advice would you give to them or any players like them that are in the situation they are right now?
I think it is hard to say from my point of view because I don't know if CR4ZY has reached their full potential, so it's unclear what will happen if they stay in this team and they don't make any changes, I don't know if they'll make the same run as they did in the Major, for example. I don't know if they can go further. But if they want to stay with the same team then they might have to make a change if they want to get to the very top. On the other side of it, even if they stay in CR4ZY they are in a good position to build the roster around nexa and hunter because they are the two stars on the team. Now they just need to decide which way they want to go, believe in it, and give it everything they've got.
Moving towards you as an individual, obviously this is a 1v1 tournament showcasing individual skill, and you have always been a player known for that but most recently you have had a dip in form. Tell me about having a slump, do you think it is normal to have at one point, do all players need to go through a slump at some moment?
Honestly, I never expected myself to play this badly as I did at the Major. I just thought that even if I have bad days or bad tournaments it will never be this bad, I think it was my worst event for the last three or four years. So as you said, I've been in a slump for I think three months now and I haven't been playing my game at all. I don't really know the reason but I'm going to try to get out of it and I'm going to work hard to not let it happen again.
What is your approach to individual practice?
I just play deathmatch, that's my only real practice I can 100% focus on. I like playing deathmatch and I think that's the only thing that makes me really consistent. I also play FPL from time to time but I don't feel like I get much out of it, so I just try to stick to deathmatch and practice against bots as well. There's not really any other ways to improve individually other than deathmatch and FPL. I mean, I didn't have problems like this for a long time, though, so I'm not sure if I have to start looking for other ways to improve or to get more consistent - I can't tell you much right now. (laughs)
A lot of players recently have placed a larger focus on getting fit, so does being physically fit make you a better player?
I think working out doesn't necessarily make you a better player, but a healthier player, which helps with focus and the way you play. I don't work out that much at home, but at every event, I always try to workout, go for a run or something like that as it can help you in many ways. There are a lot of players that don't see the benefits yet, but I have seen how it has helped me when I was losing weight and I just kept doing it even after I lost weight. I think it can definitely help any player to work out just a few times a week. You're not going to lose anything from working out, you can only gain from it, so I don't see why players aren't doing it... except that they are being lazy. (laughs)
In FaZe you've been in-game leading at certain points, and in mousesports before as well, but most recently you haven't been doing it. What is your take moving forward, are you open to going back to an IGL position if that is what the team needs?
If that's what is needed then I'm definitely open to going back to in-game leading because we don't even have a lot of options right now for an IGL. I mean there was one obvious choice in Aleksib, but we have asked around to see if he would fit our team and we basically decided he isn't the right fit for us so we will not be getting Aleksib nor have we even been close to talking to him about it. So all the rumors about getting Aleksib are not true. But yeah, I'm definitely open to being in-game leader again if that is what the team needs and if that is what the team believes will take us to the top again.
What are the plans for the roster moving forward? Do you know when you'll be able to finalize the team and have a set roster?
I can't really say much right now. All I can say is that people have seen us playing with broky. He's been trialing with us for a week and we are really happy with him and convinced he is going to fit our team very well. So we'll be using broky for ESL One New York and ESL Pro League, that's going to be his final trial to see how he performs on LAN and how he will be outside of the game because we've never met him. But we are really happy with him right now.
Other than that people have seen a lot of pictures with you and coldzera hanging out and stuff like that. There are rumors about GuardiaN leaving that haven't been confirmed yet, but tell me about your individual relationship with coldzera and what makes him someone you could potentially play with?
I don't know, ever since we met we have always fit together and especially now that he lives in Serbia very close to me. I talk to him and Janko and he's just a very close friend to us, that's why we are posting on social media together. We don't care if people think he is joining us or not because we are just super close friends and I think most people realize it. We both like to go out and have fun and stuff like that and that is why we fit together very well and one of the reasons we are so close.
What about on the side of CS, do you talk about CS and are your understandings and feelings about the game similar?
Definitely. We have been talking about CS every time at the events because every time we lose or they lose, we win or they win, we will still talk about everything on both our teams to try and find ways of improvement for our teams even though we aren't on the same roster. As I've said many times, I would like to play with him on a team and I don't know if it'll be possible but I hope it will at some point. I feel like we are on the same page when it comes to CS and even outside of CS, so it'd definitely be great to play with him.
Lastly, talking about this event, you're here playing against some of the best individual players in the world, there is prize money on the line but also bragging rights. What is your feeling about this event?
Every player is here to win and I think it is also good for confidence. Like it would definitely be nice for me to beat s1mple as he is the best player in the world right now, so I will not be happy to see him win if he wins in the final against me, but I will be happy for him if he wins the event against someone else. Like I said, every player is here to win the tournament. It's a nice event, a 1v1 event with good prize money, and we are all here to win.