device: "Anyone in es3tag's situation would say yes; it was a unique opportunity for him"
Nicolai "device" Reedtz spoke about Patrick "es3tag" Hansen's departure, Emil "Magisk" Reif doing "75-80%" of the calling, and Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth returning to the lineup for the BLAST Premier Fall Series.
In an interview conducted ahead of Astralis' opening match of BLAST Premier Fall Series Group C against MIBR, device talked about reuniting the five-man lineup that won three consecutive Majors as Xyp9x looks to step back into the team after taking some time off due to medical reasons.
Quizzed on es3tag's departure to Cloud9, device said that he thinks his compatriot made the "best move for his career", noting that it made sense financially but also from the perspective that he will be guaranteed game time. The Danish AWPer explained that Xyp9x only started practising with the team regularly after their DreamHack Open Fall run, but noted that the 'Clutch Minister' had been observing scrims "for some time". Touching on the in-game leader situation, device clarified that Magisk is still the main caller, despite Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander's return to the team.
Touching on Astralis' opponents in the group stage of BLAST, device says they want to face FURIA but acknowledges that G2 with Nikola "NiKo" Kovač is also a "very scary" prospect. Playing their first official match with Xyp9x since May could cause some issues, device admits, but he insists that it is no excuse: "I think everyone expects us to go far, at least advance further and not go to the Showdown".
Since winning Pro League, how have you worked on implementing Xyp9x? Did he start practising with you right when it was announced he would play in BLAST, or was DreamHack still your primary focus?
Xyp9x has actually been with us in practice for some time now. He wasn't practising with us [at first], but he was observing the scrims, looking at the strategies, trying to see how he needs to play within his role, etc. When we won ESL Pro League and we had to play DreamHack with Patrick (es3tag), who is also an amazing player, we weren't practising with Xyp9x, we still focused on the DreamHack tournament because it meant a lot to us to actually have a chance of winning the last tournament we would play with Patrick. He was an integral part of our success in Pro League. In general, I think everyone was just really pleased with him.
Unfortunately, that didn't pan out the way we wanted to, but right after we lost, we started practising with Xyp9x, and he had also played a few practices here and there when we switched some people out that had to get some stuff fixed. So he has been with us in practice for some time, looking at the practice, but the main goal was to win the DreamHack Regional Major Ranking event.
What are your thoughts on es3tag actually leaving the lineup, from the perspective of Astralis being one of the most dominant teams of all time, and also the best team in Denmark? As a Dane, how do you look at the decision to leave that behind to go and join an international team?
He was actually asking me, in private, what I thought about the situation and, to be honest, I think this was the best move for his career at this point in time, even though we would've loved him to stay. I think everyone would've accepted the deal that Cloud9 offered, there is the money factor in it and also being secure in the lineup. He is still in the early stage in his career, even though he is 24 years old, he needs to go out there and play as much as he can, get as much experience as he can, and anyone in his situation would say yes even if they were Danish. It was a really unique opportunity for him and you never know, maybe we will link up in the future [again].
I will just say that everyone in the team understood him and did not push him towards it, but we let him make his own decision and let him know that nobody would be disappointed if he chose to go with Cloud9.
With Xyp9x on the roster going into BLAST, is this going to be another one of those situations where the team needs to get some officials games to get in the groove? Do you expect to be fully ready for this tournament or is there going to be an asterisk to your expectations at BLAST?
I would say that my expectations haven't changed a bit, I still think we have what it takes to win. As you say, there might be some situations we haven't been in for some time with Xyp9x, and that can be tough. Obviously, now we are also facing the North American region, which is something we haven't done for a lot of the year. So there are some new circumstances of course, but it is no excuse, I think everyone expects us to go far, at least advance further and not go to the Showdown. So we will take it as it comes, and moving on in the year, we really want to end it on a high note as we have in the last few years. I think that is one of the most important races to have as a team before you go on the winter holidays. Being regarded as the best team in the world is something we constantly strive for, and this year it has been tougher than in a lot of other years, so we really have to step up and win as much as possible to even be taken seriously in that regard.
Will Bubzkji play a part of any of the BLAST matches? Is that something you can share?
I'm not actually sure if I can say anything about that. (laughs) So yeah. We'll see. I don't think it's the plan, let me put it that way.
Talking about the calling situation, with gla1ve stepping out of the lineup and Magisk taking over and zonic helping in practices — what is the situation like right now? Is it still a mix of gla1ve and Magisk, or has one taken up the baton?
It's Magisk that is the caller. However, they are constantly trying to make each other better, to get the right calls in, but in the end, Magisk has the final say. If we are in doubt or if we are in stressful situations — it is actually a talk we had recently —, Magisk is the go-to guy. And yeah, it is working out really well for us, and as you said, Xyp9x is back now and the last tournament we played as this five-man roster, ESL One: Road to Rio, we won and actually played really well. This was even before gla1ve went on his sick leave, and Magisk was calling there. I think they complement each other really well, it takes some time to perfect this, but that's the plan for sure.
Teams have tried similar things in the past, maybe not the same approach, but two players sharing the leadership. I think Vitality with NBK- and ALEX is the most recent and prominent example of when it went wrong. What do you think are the dangers and what do you need to work on to ensure it goes right?
I think that the most important thing, as I also stated before, is that there are no two in-game leaders. Magisk is the in-game leader and gla1ve is just complementing him and doing some mid-round help, but in the end, I think maybe 75-80% of the time it is Magisk doing the calls. I think that is the most important thing, you can't split it up on maps or stuff like that. Of course, people have some roles that are easier to call from on some maps, but I would still regard it as Magisk being the solo caller and he is just pretty lucky to have pretty experienced help at hand. That is how we look at it for sure.
There are a couple of organizations that are having a different approach to the extended roster. We just saw Vitality experiment with different players on different maps, and G2 said they were going to try out two combinations of the six-man roster until the end of the year before they decide on their five-man lineup. What are your thoughts on that compared to what you have been doing?
I think map-wise is the easiest way to do it, if you look at practice you know that every time Vitality play Dust2 they will probably practice with Nivera, right? That is a really smart way to go around with their business, something we are also speaking about of course. I think it is a year when we have tested a lot of stuff, a lot of other teams have also decided to test some of the stuff we have been doing - or their interpretations of how we have been doing things. I'm really excited about that as a player in the scene, I think this is going to be better for the players in the end. I think we can't disregard the stress that players have had to deal with and why we have seen so many people have such a hard time being professionals. I'm just excited to see that people have been testing a lot of stuff.
This year, more than any other year, organizations have dared to test a little bit more because no matter how you look at it, 2020 is not going to be regarded as the most competitive year of Counter-Strike. Testing a lot of the new stuff and doing it in tournaments is something nice for everyone involved. I hoped that we would have the same for maps, there have been so many opportunities where you could have new maps and updates in CS, but we haven't been blessed by that yet. I think it would've been a great year to test out a lot of new stuff, but it has mostly been happening on the team side and that is good. You have to see it as a really good thing for the players.
Talking about the BLAST Premier Fall Series, you are in a group with FURIA, not playing them initially but there is a good chance you could play them and I'm sure you've looked into that match as something that could happen and for which you've started preparing. What is your take on potentially playing them and how to deal with their unique super-aggressive style?
You mentioned preparing for FURIA already - we haven't really done that. As a team, in general, we have been looking at them a lot because they have this unique style and you want to incorporate some of the parts you can in your own gameplay. As someone who is regarded as a really passive AWPer, I look a lot at arT and try to see what I can steal from him, so to speak, and what is maybe too aggressive for some situations for us.
Right now, our focus is basically on MIBR and we can't really prepare for them, so we have been focusing a lot on ourselves. We've played FURIA before, but our preparation for that game is going to be the most important aspect of this group stage. If we can prepare well and try to build a gameplan that is really good against them, then they will be easier to manage, but you still have to take into regard that we haven't played a team that plays this way, so it's going to be tough no matter what.
Other than MIBR and FURIA, there is G2 with NiKo in your group, and that is one of the biggest signings we've had in the last couple of years surely. What is your take on G2 with NiKo and what do you think they can do with him in the lineup?
That is also why I mentioned that we haven't prepared for FURIA yet — because I actually think G2 have a big chance of playing well. I wouldn't say a honeymoon period is to be expected, but I'm definitely expecting a reformed NiKo because it seemed like not that he dropped in motivation but that it was tough for him to handle the role of being an in-game leader and the turbulent times they had in FaZe. They haven't had the best transitions with new players and I think he is just really excited, and he is one of the most skilled players — if not someone in the top three of the most skilled players in the world with ZywOo and s1mple. I'm expecting a lot from him and G2 in general, and I'm excited, no matter who we face. Of course, we want to face FURIA because we haven't faced them, but G2 with NiKo is also very scary.