EliGE: "We've tasted how it feels to get wins under our belt, and anything other than a win is a failure"
Liquid head into 2020 refreshed after a busy year in which they played the most maps at Big Events out of any team. According to EliGE, this break allowed the squad to get some much-needed time off and recharge their batteries ahead of BLAST Premier, where they will take on MIBR later on Friday.
During our conversation with EliGE we found out about the team's aspirations for 2020, both generally and in the context of the ongoing rivalry with the Danes of Astralis. We also picked his brain on psychological issues mentioned recently in an interview with s1mple and got a gauge of the team's preparation heading into BLAST Premier Spring and their confidence levels against MIBR, whom they beat every time the two teams faced each other on LAN in 2019.
Tell us about your newly-elected role as Vice Chairman of the CSPPA. What does it entail?
Basically, it makes for an easier distribution of information from the main people at CSPPA through Xyp9x and me. If there's something that needs to be done really quickly, it's difficult to get every board member for every single meeting and it's been really tough logistically due to the timezone differences. If there's something that's urgent, they just need to talk to Xyp9x and me and get approval for something. It has made things quicker, simply because it's harder logistically to get everyone together.
2019 was a very strong year for Liquid. You won seven trophies and the team's players also scooped some individual accolades. Coming into 2020 fresh off of a break, what sort of ambitions have you set for yourselves in the new year?
I think that our main goals for this year are, of course, to win a Major and win as many finals as possible. We've already tasted how it feels to get wins under our belt, and anything other than a win, to us, is a failure. That is our main goal, and we'll be doing everything we can to make that a reality.
Your match-ups against Astralis were a recurring struggle in 2019. In the context of this rivalry, have you made some adjustments to try to improve your track record against them?
I don't think that there's anything specifically against Astralis that we can do because they're just a very strong, structured team. There's not really much for anti-stratting, it's all going to be about fixing the stuff that we do wrong. What types of different strats are we doing that we're not doing against other teams? Or maybe map pool-wise: what could we be doing differently in terms of what we're picking? Or confidence-wise: if someone has a confidence problem, maybe we get our sports psychologist to work on that?
Fixing up our overall team gameplay is going to be the best way to fix it. We're in 2020, there are no weak teams out there that you can just look at a demo and figure out how to anti-strat them, that's just not how Counter-Strike is anymore. You need to be a very sound team to be able to beat the best.
Last summer, you experienced performance slowdowns after a player break. Did you approach the recent one differently?
I think that people were still playing a decent amount during that break. During this one, I think more people from the team took it as a real break, where they didn't play as much at all. It's going to be important for everyone to have that type of a break, because we play and we travel so much throughout the year, over 200 days a year traveling and being away from our homes, which has been really tough on us all mentally. Towards the end of last year, we really felt how negative that is on all of us, so I think that it's going to be really positive for everyone to come in with a clean slate for 2020.
I don't think anyone's mechanics have really been that bad, it's always just been a mental thing. We're all really good players mechanically, and I think that the only thing has been how we're feeling mentally, stuff like whether people will put in enough work or if they feel burned out.
In terms of preparation heading into BLAST Premier, how are you feeling as a squad, and did you get the chance to bootcamp beforehand?
I think that right now I don't feel 100% prepared, I feel like I wish I had a little bit more time, but that's just kind of the way life is going to be, you're never going to be 100% prepared for anything like that. Getting thrown into the deep end is how I prefer it. I'm feeling pretty good personally, and I think that a lot of my maps are really strong right now. As a team, I think we're feeling pretty strong; it was a little rough when we were coming back from the break, but we really cleaned it up this past couple of days.
In a recent interview we published with s1mple, he explained that during the period of time that you played together on Liquid, he thought that you had a tendency to lock out mentally during matches if there were any tensions or arguments going on in the team. Do you agree with his assessment of the past? If so, do you think this issue has been resolved?
Yes, I think that when I was playing back then, in 2016/2017, I wasn't as mentally strong as I am now. It's something that I have worked on intensely since I've been on Liquid, making sure that I can stay in it throughout the whole game, that I'm still talking and that the level of communication doesn't drop or anything like that. Since 2018/2019 it's been a non-issue, I've worked on it so much with our sports psychologist, Jared, that I don't even see it as an issue [anymore]. And if there is anything, like if my communication does go down at all during a game, I can notice that and bring it back up a round or two after that. That's how strong my mental game has gotten since then and how much I've worked on it.
With these sorts of issues, you can work with a psychologist, but ultimately it comes down to the individual being able to work it out internally, something that doesn't always happen. Could you give some insight as to how you managed it personally, to get to a state where something that was a problem two years ago became a non-issue?
It's mainly the method in which our sports psychologist deals with it. If someone told me to visualise winning or visualise whatever it may be, I don't think I would have been as receptive to it, but the way that he deals with issues is really straightforward. He has a reason for why things are happening. I read two books about it (The Mental Game of Poker - Parts 1 &2), and I think they helped in getting as detailed as possible when it comes to "When I feel like this, what is actually the underlying issue?" For me, having a flow process of when I'm feeling like X, or when I'm thinking Y, I can do Z to fix it, and having a very structured way of dealing with things is one of the easier ways for me to deal with it. I think because our sports psychologist has that type of work process it has had a really positive impact on me.
Lastly, we're here at BLAST Premier Spring, where you will be facing MIBR in your opening match. You have a spectacular track record against them, but they are a bit of a question mark since they only recently introduced meyern. With this in mind, what is your approach to the match-up?
We're pretty confident going into the series. This has been a good match-up for the past two to two-and-a-half years or so. They are a new team coming in with meyern, and I think kNgV- is still pretty new to the team, so seeing how they're going to be adapting and putting him into their team will be really interesting. I know meyern is a really good player, as is kNgV-, and I think that they're really strong, so I think that it's going to be a pretty good match-up.