NiKo: "We put broky as an AWPer on the T side and olof is back on the flank"
FaZe opened 2020 with a bang, having successfully qualified for the prestigious IEM Katowice tournament, taking place at the end of February. The squad recently concluded their first series of BLAST Premier Spring, where they successfully managed to best NiP in a straightforward 2-0, taking both Overpass and Mirage with convincing scorelines.
During media day we sat down with NiKo to talk about some of the issues the squad was experiencing towards the end of 2019, including their poor showing at BLAST Pro Series Global Final and the reasons behind it. We later learned about the adjustments the team had made over the break, and why Helvijs "broky" Saukants now finds himself AWPing on the T side of maps over Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer.
Your last tournament of 2019, BLAST Pro Series Global Final, was a bitter end to the year as you finished last. What was the period after the event like for the team? What did you discuss?
The BLAST Pro Series Global Final didn't really work out for us, we hoped for better results. We showed some good things against Liquid, and even though we lost the match, we felt like we were really close to winning it. It was still a really disappointing result, especially after Pro League, where we failed. We thought that at BLAST Pro Series Global Final we really had to step up and show a way better result, but we didn't.
After the event, we immediately knew what our biggest problems were, and mostly it was our attitudes going into the game. We weren't as hyped at the BLAST Pro Series Global Final as we were when we played IEM Shanghai, it didn't feel like we went into the match with much energy. We didn't really celebrate the rounds; we were winning, but it was just handshakes and stuff, it didn't feel like we were hyped. That was a big issue for us that event, and that's what we are trying to work on - trying to maintain the same energy and level for every match that we play. It's what we worked on in both of the bootcamps, we tried to practice in a way where we would have fun all the time, joke around and keep a good mood in the team. That's the biggest thing we've worked on since the BLAST Pro Series Global Final.
On a more positive note, you had a spectacular showing at the European closed qualifier for IEM Katowice 2020, where you surpassed ARCY and ENCE on your way to qualifying. Presumably, this result was a reflection of your preparation and bootcamp beforehand - how did you manage such a convincing showing?
We just felt comfortable playing. The bootcamp went really well, we had a five-day bootcamp before it. Everyone was hungry because we came back straight from vacation and we obviously really wanted to get a spot in Katowice, we didn't want to miss out on it. We came there with full energy and good preparation and, as I said, the biggest reason why it went so smooth was because we had really good energy in the team. It didn't matter that we had a close game against ARCY, we still managed to close it out.
I've never had a good experience with qualifiers, it's always hard playing them, especially when you're playing against underdogs or you feel like you have to win. You really have to take it as seriously as you do when you play an event. We did what we had to do, and I'm happy that we qualified.
Do you have any comments regarding the scheduling of the qualifier?
Yeah, the timing for us was terrible. Janko made a couple of Tweets because it was two days after our [Christian Orthodox] Christmas. The thing is, the official player break was till January 15, right? So we didn't expect to have anything before that and had planned vacations. Janko and I went on vacation to Brazil, and we came back on January 3. I hadn't played CS for like 15-20 days, so straight from Brazil I had to go to the bootcamp and start playing, which is not something we had planned for, right?
We wanted to have a few days at home, just to get into individual shape again, and then go to the bootcamp and prepare for the events, qualifiers etc. We tried contacting ESL, but it didn't really work out. They didn't even try to respond to Janko on Twitter, we tried to do it through the CSPPA as well, but they said they didn't have time to change it, even though I looked through the calendar a few times and I saw a few days that they could have adjusted it to. But yeah, it's just ESL things I guess.
At the time that you added broky, the team was actively in the process of figuring out how you want to incorporate him into the squad and how the roles needed to be rearranged to accommodate this. How is the progress on this? How comfortable is the team?
I think that we are pretty comfortable right now. We have changed a couple of things since the last season, so we're looking forward to showing people what we have changed. I'd say we are feeling as confident as we felt at BLAST Copenhagen. I don't want to talk too much about it, because we've made a couple of changes, but we know that we can be really good. We have really high highs, but also very low lows, so we are looking forward to hitting the highs and, hopefully, we'll show it at this event.
Closer towards the end of the year, olofmeister took on AWPing. Could you give us some insight into how that's been panning out for the team?
It worked out for us for a couple of events when olof was AWPing, but we saw bigger potential in him being a lurker for us because he has been doing a really good job of it in the past. We switched the roles right now, so we put broky as an AWPer on the T side, and olof is back on the flank. The biggest reason why we had done it was because broky wasn't feeling confident in the lurking role. He was not doing the job he was supposed to do, so he felt like he would be way more comfortable if he's in the group with people so that someone can control him and put him more towards the action.
That was one reason why we changed, but, overall, in the last season olof was doing a really good job with the AWP, but we have been missing those lurks on both sides where we keep making pressure. It makes our job easier when, for example, we're doing defaults and stuff. We made the change now, and so far it's looking good.