Maka: "I don't ask myself where my limits are; I try to push them day after day"
Heretics beat Dignitas, ENCE and Complexity in their first ESL One: Road to Rio matches before falling to fnatic in a three-map series that saw two of the maps go the full 30 rounds and falling short against Astralis in their fifth fixture. Crucial to the French team's recent success has been their AWPer, Maka, who is leading several of the tournament's stats leaderboards, including rating and opening kills per round.
(Photo courtesy of Fraglíder)
We talked to Maka to hear his thoughts regarding Heretics' strong start in ESL's Regional Major Ranking tournament, his timely spike in form since giving up the role of in-game leader and some of the news in the French team's camp.
LoWkii said he expected you to make it big as a player in an interview back at the WESG 2017 Europe & CIS Regional Finals, your first LAN outside of France. Did you think you would make it to where you are now back then? What was your history before that?
I started playing CS for fun during the summer of 2015, after being injured doing sports, and I studied economics at the same time. I then started competing with some friends in late 2016/early 2017. I joined Limitless at the end of 2017 and began to enjoy playing competitively. I found what I had lost from my highschool days, when I competed in traditional sports.
At first I didn’t even aim to be a professional, but when LoWkii and company came to me I started to take it more seriously. I was happy after what we achieved at the WESG 2017 EU & CIS Regional Finals and I started thinking about playing at a professional level. After that first LAN outside of France, I always aimed to play at a higher level and worked hard to reach this level of competition, and although I worked a lot I often made choices in order to pursue my studies, which may have slowed down my progression.
You’re having a really great moment right now, individually, leading the statistics leaderboards in ESL One: Road to Rio. How did you find such good form?
Individual performances are nothing if the team doesn't follow. I have good teammates around me now, there is a good atmosphere, a good working mood, and it has allowed me to develop as a player, which is reflected in my performance.
What have been some of the big moments in your career, and what has led to you suddenly exploding as one of the hottest players at ESL One: Road to Rio?
I think my best time was at the end of 2018, after qualifying for the Minor with 3DMAX. We won MDL twice, including the Season 29 Finals in Dallas, which gave us access to ESL Pro League. I'm performing well now and I'm happy because the whole team is working hard to make Heretics one of the best teams in the world.
What has helped me show great performances during this tournament is the way I approach every game mentally, be it in practice or official games. It is kind of hard to keep that killer instinct mindset every game, but I work hard on it.
Lucky took over in-game leadership recently. How has that changed the dynamic in the team? Has that freed you up to be able to focus more on your own game?
I took over the IGL role after Davidp left. It was interesting because we were performing well, and I enjoyed being the IGL even if I had to put in many extra hours outside of our team practice, but Lucky really wanted to try and give me more freedom by taking over the IGL role. I was surprised, but it left me more room to work on myself. I'm helping him as a secondary caller with kioShiMa now, and I feel freer, I'm more focused on my aim and I think it was the right thing for the team to leave the IGL role to Lucky.
Heretics has gone through quite a few player changes since you joined the Spanish organization. As one of the original players in the roster, how is the atmosphere in the team now?
The atmosphere is very good. We've found a balance between the older and the younger players, between the experienced and the rookies. We all get along very well and enjoy working together, which wasn't always the case in previous lineups.
You recently signed 18-year-old Nivera, who was unproven at the level you're playing at now, but it seems he’s doing quite well for himself. How has the adaption period been?
Nivera is an intelligent and talented person. We have done everything to facilitate his integration and he has found his place in the team and is progressing day by day.
Nivera was formerly an AWPer and now picks it up in some situations as a secondary sniper. Do you feel any extra pressure to play well with the AWP having him on the roster?
Not really. The roles were defined before his arrival and with his approval. Nabil is a very good sniper, but his rifle level is also spectacular. Although I do kind of have to prove that him rifling and leaving me the AWP was the right call for the team, so maybe unconsciously it helped me reach the form I'm in.
You got off to a 3-0 start in ESL One: Road to Rio with victories over teams that on paper were the favorites. Did you expect you would have such a strong start in the tournament?
Seeing the group, it's clear that we weren't the favorites. We were the weakest team, on paper. This tournament is allowing us to measure ourselves against the best teams in the world, which also allows us to evaluate our own level. We need these kinds of matches to improve. We've had a good start, now it's up to us to keep going in order to reach the playoffs.
What have been some of your favorite moments from ESL One: Road to Rio so far?
I hope the best times are yet to come.
What were the team’s goals before the event started, and what are they now?
We couldn't play matches against the best teams in Europe except during the Minor qualifier, so our basic objective now is to keep showing ourselves. Tickets for the next tournaments in order to win "RMR" points are priceless. We have to do our best in order to be invited to the next events and win as many points as possible since we want to get a spot for the next Major—Nivera and I have never been to one before.
Where do you think your personal ceiling is? Do you hope to become one of the top French teams with G2 and Vitality?
I don't ask myself where my limits are, I try to push them day after day. If we still consider G2 a French team, then yes, why not make ourselves a place between them and Vitality?
How about the ceiling for Heretics, how far do you think you can go? Do you think you can stay at the top level and keep playing the way you are against the world’s top teams in the future?
I don't know what the future is going to bring. In any case, this team hasn't lived up to its full potential yet. In terms of how far we can go, time will tell. I don't know how I’ll play in the near future against top teams, but if I can put up good numbers against top teams and keep winning I’ll be happy and work to find the consistency that I lack.
All CS has moved online now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Do you think that has affected you and your team at all? coldzera hinted the other day that Movistar Riders could be doing well because they are playing from home, do you think some of the smaller teams are benefitting from the current situation?
There is always a difference between online matches, in which you play quietly from your office, and offline matches, where you have to adapt to the conditions on the spot. I would have preferred to have these results in Brazil, and I imagine the same goes for the other teams. The situation being what it is, it's also emotionally difficult to stay at home all day, not being able to enjoy your friends and family during the break days.