Bubzkji: "We need to learn how to handle pressure in playoffs"
MAD Lions began their London campaign with a defeat to tournament favourites mousesports in a keenly-contested series before seeing off Heroic, a team they have yet to lose to this year after three matches.
Ahead of the Danes' quarter-final clash against OG, we quizzed Bubzkji on the team's recent success, including the qualification campaign for IEM Katowice, their roadblocks in the playoffs and his expectations for Tuesday's encounter.
Before we get into ICE Challenge: at the start of the year, you qualified for IEM Katowice, a monumental achievement for the squad. How did you manage to secure a spot at the Polish tournament?
I think one of the things we did that others didn't was that we came home early from vacation. Some other teams came home later, while we started on January 2. We had a bootcamp leading up to it, so we came really prepared for the new year. We knew that some teams weren't going to be in top shape because they were on vacation and would have to grind their hours. I think that was a major part of why.
After that, the team qualified for DreamHack Open Leipzig and placed top four at the event. Did the squad feel happy with the result or were you hoping for more?
Leipzig was a weird tournament because we played really well in the group stage; what normally happens with us at DreamHack Opens - I think I've been at six or seven DreamHack Opens and never gone out in the group stage - [is that] I always lose the semi-final. I don't know, sometimes we think that it's not optimal having an off day compared to the other teams that are playing on stage. We kind of feel it can be a disadvantage since you can't really practice at DreamHack Opens due to the fact that there are no practice rooms.
After Leipzig there was a conversation floating the scene as to who the second-best Danish team is. Seeing as you took down both Heroic and North on your way, MAD Lions were mentioned on several occasions - do you feel like this is the case?
I think right now we need more time to prove it ourselves, and the other teams need time to assemble themselves. For example, North just made a change and brought in MSL, I don't think it's fair judging them, saying that just because they made a change they're automatically a worse team, right? Both teams need some time and maybe when we get to late March, after the Major or something like that, I think you could get a better gauge as to who the real second-best team is.
When the Tricked squad was signed by MAD Lions, the team decided to sign peacemaker. Over the years he has been on a list of teams and contributed to their growth. How has he assisted MAD Lions since joining?
Luis (peacemaker) has had a long journey of teams, right? I think he has learned a lot in terms of what not to do. He has this reputation of joining a team, kicking people, then everything becomes a mess and he leaves. I think he has changed a lot, based on what I've seen and also from what I've heard from other teams. Right now he's helping HUNDEN because he needs to focus on his individual level as well, so he didn't have much time to look at demos of opposing teams. Luis really came into the team with a lot better of an understanding as to how to prepare for teams.
Hopping into ICE Challenge, we spoke with chrisJ, who mentioned that MAD Lions were one of the scarier teams mousesports could face in an opening match because of the troubles you had caused them in the past. What do you think it is that makes you such a difficult opponent for them?
I think there's credit due to Luis (peacemaker), he's doing a lot of preparation for better teams. I think worse teams play more randomly, like they don't have as much structure, whereas with better teams you kind of have an understanding of when they do certain things. You can respond to them, and we are getting way better at reading the game while we're live. Now we don't have to lose six rounds, and then go: 'Oh shit, they're rushing Long every round, we need to do something about this'. Before we get into the server we know they like to rush Long, and then we come into it prepared, knowing how to counter that Long rush. That's probably it.
In terms of the step the team needs to make to take down teams of the top tier, you can't really chalk it up to lack of experience, since you've been together for a while. In your mind, what is the step that MAD Lions need to take in order to start taking down those opponents?
It sounds obvious, but I think we just need to learn how to handle pressure in playoffs. If we look at our results, we don't dominate the group stage but we play really well, and then you get to the next stage and we feel that it's not the same. We have to replicate the feeling from the group stage, but I don't know how to do that. Maybe it's time, maybe it's more preparation or God knows what. We're kind of just trying to figure that out by going to a lot of events to find out the cause of us playing worse at playoffs.
Do you feel that there's a psychological side to it?
I think that if it doesn't go our way instantly, we get down too easily. We're kind of easy to mess with psychologically compared to teams who are maybe more stable because they've tried this so many times before, examining the situation and going, 'Calm down and focus'. We say we need to calm down, but I don't think anyone actually knows how to reset and just come back from it.
Your series against Heroic is a continuation of a successful streak against them. Could you give some insight as to what went well in the elimination series and why you're able to consistently outperform them?
I think our map pool plays really well into them. I feel like we have a different way of approaching the game than they have. They're more structured, while we have more freedom to do random stuff or individual plays, as we call them in the team. It really fits us, and Luis (peacemaker) knows their tendencies and maybe how Snappi likes to prepare. We had a good idea of their game plan every time, but sometimes they just out-called our game plan.
Lastly, now that you are in the quarter-finals, you will face OG, who are a bit unknown due to the very young nature of their roster. Plus, they now have ruggah, who will have done his research on you. How do you feel about the match-up?
Now there's way more time to prepare for each team, so they have definitely thought about all the vetoes. We have to go back and look at what they're going to do; we don't even know their map pool, we have never played them or even been close to meeting them in tournaments. We have never prepared for them, so we'll go back to the practice room and look at them. We need to figure all of this out before Tuesday, so I think that's going to be the way for us. One of our strengths against a team like them is our pretty strong map pool. Generally, we don't have too many bad maps, we don't feel like, 'Oh shit!' if a team picks a certain map against us. We don't feel like we just need to lose the first map automatically and bounce back on the following two.