NiKo: "I was done with being the IGL even before I decided to leave FaZe; I just couldn't take it anymore"
On Wednesday, in possibly the most anticipated move of the year, dubbed "the biggest signing in CS:GO history", G2 announced the completion of the high-profile transfer of NiKo from FaZe after nearly two months of talks between the two organizations. The team will make their debut Monday as they will take on FURIA in Group C of the BLAST Premier Fall Series, which also contains Astralis and MIBR.
In the interview, the 23-year-old opened up on everything that factored in his decision to leave FaZe after over three years with the North American organisation to team up with his cousin Nemanja "huNter-" Kovač. NiKo also shed some light on G2's plans with their roster, which currently features six players, revealing that they will decide who to keep between François "AMANEK" Delaunay and Audric "JACKZ" Jug ahead of 2021.
Tell me about the decision to leave FaZe and join G2. What were your main motivations behind that move?
Obviously, the biggest motivation for this move was huNter. If huNter wasn't in G2, I probably wouldn't have joined them. He was the biggest reason. If I was ever to leave FaZe, I would always try to join the team he's playing for, so that's the clear decision, I think everyone already knows that.
But how it all started was basically this rough period after the summer break that we had, that month-and-a-half or almost two months when we underperformed at two events and my head was exploding after every game that we played. I was reading so many bad things about myself and the team. Whatever I opened, I could see some trash-talking directed at me, about me being the IGL, about the team playing badly, about Kjaerbye's signing, and all that kind of stuff. It all started from mid-August, and that's where I started to think that I couldn't really stay in the team anymore and I couldn't remain the IGL. Whatever I did, or whatever we did, I was the one to be blamed for every game that we lost, it was because of me, that I called badly... No one really knew the inside picture, what was happening inside of the team. I was the one to be blamed for everything, which is fine, it's understandable, but it all started from there.
It wasn't my first choice to leave FaZe. Firstly, I wanted to change some things within the team, but we didn't really get what we wanted. There were a couple of reports regarding ALEX, which was my priority before leaving FaZe. I wanted to get an IGL in the team, but that deal didn't go through, which I was really not happy with. It was the biggest opportunity for us to get an IGL, and a really good one that could lead our team, and we just kind of missed out on that move. There was one more option that I won't mention that we didn't get either, and after those two things that didn't work out, with all the results that we were getting at the beginning of the season, that was the reason why I made this decision.
I had other options, too. G2 wasn't the only option that I was willing to take, but the only thing I knew when I decided to leave the team was that I was going to play with huNter. Whether that was under Cloud9 or G2, that wasn't really set. Even when I decided I wanted to leave the team, I had no idea if some other organization was ready to match my buyout, so that was all speculation. We were just talking, huNter and I, about what we should do and what was best for us, and in the end, the reason why I decided to go with G2 was just that he wanted to stay [in G2] — which is understandable. He's been here for a year now and they have all the structure, they have the approach to how they want to play the game, they have the set roles in the team, Major points, everything, pretty much. I think that's the biggest reason why he decided to stay. If they didn't have all those things, I'm pretty sure we'd both be on Cloud9.
So are you just feeling relieved to leave all that behind, all the responsibility and the pressure?
Yeah, definitely. As I said, I was done with being the IGL even before I decided to leave FaZe. I just couldn't take it anymore. I don't think that I was doing a terrible job at it, but the pressure we had as a team and I had was just unreal, and that's just the biggest reason why this all happened.
But I'm really happy that I have nexa now, who will be the IGL, and I'm really happy that he's really open to getting help, as well. He reminds me of karrigan a lot, in that he wants to get help from teammates and I can have really good input on how we should play on another side of the map. I'm really happy that nexa isn't a strict IGL who needs to have everything his way because I believe I can help him a lot. And I'm just happy that I have no more pressure, that I'm not the one who's responsible for everything anymore. It feels great to just not be that guy anymore.
What's your response to people who say there could be a clash of authorities, or that you'll have a hard time giving up the main voice, which you had for a long time in FaZe?
It was even hard back when we got NEO, for example, and I had been the IGL for I don't know how long. It's very hard to go from talking all the time to not saying everything that we should do. That's going to be the biggest change. But there won't be any clashes. If nexa wants me to shut the fuck up and not say anything, I will do it. I'm just done with the responsibility of talking all the time. It's totally up to nexa how much he wants me to talk, and I'll just follow him and do my best on the other side of the map. I've gone back to my old roles, pretty much, on every map I'm going to be the lurker again. I won't be able to talk that much anyway because I'm going to be the anchor, I won't have that much info, so I'll just be giving some help here and there. But there won't be any clashes for sure, I'm just going to do as much as he asks.
You touched on the structure in G2. What's your view on the difference between FaZe, who seemed mostly player-led, and G2, where it's more of a top-to-bottom setup with the management and coaching staff in charge?
It's pretty hard for me to tell right now. We've only had like three days of practice, so I still don't know how they work when it comes to the games and everything, but I'm really happy that the coach has the biggest voice in the team, that he's the one who's going to say how everything should be done, because that's what we were missing in my past teams. My coaches didn't really have that kind of responsibility. They didn't have the last word in everything that was done in the team. It's something totally different for me, so I'm happy to have it and try it out, and hopefully it'll work out.
We saw reports of this move as far as almost two months ago, but it only came together recently. Why did it take so long for it to happen and for you to only start practicing with the team in the last few days?
The RMR roster lock was the biggest issue with everything. Before this, G2 didn't want to change anything before this last announcement regarding the Majors, because I think they would be losing a spot if they removed a player, so nothing was going to happen before that. I also wanted to help FaZe out as much as I could, I didn't just want to leave them playing with stand-ins all the time. I gave them like a month heads-up that I would be leaving the team so that they could find everything they needed. And we were just waiting for DreamHack to be over so I could change teams. Obviously, negotiations weren't easy, but they weren't hard, either.
We didn't want to rush anything. Our biggest goal was to have a set team for the next year. I think maLeK did an interview saying that we're still unsure about who we'll be playing with, so our biggest goal will just be to start afresh from next year.
Can you talk about what your options in terms of which player you will keep and what the deciding factors will be in the next couple of months?
I think it's best if I don't say anything, I'll leave that to our coach now. I cannot say anything because I didn't play with this team before at all before, so I don't know how we're going to fit with AmaNEk or how we're going to fit with JaCkz. They're going to have a bigger voice when it comes to that because they've played with both of them and they're going to see who fits better with this lineup.
Our goal is to have me, nexa, kenny, and huNter, and then to just have AmaNEk and JaCkz play the same role on every map to see how they're going to fit in those roles. And then we will decide who did better and that kind of stuff. But it's best if you ask maLeK about that, I don't want to give you the wrong answers.
With that, is it going to be a different G2 that we're going to see in terms of playstyle, or roles and positions? Has the team changed much to accommodate you, or can we expect to see more of the same G2 that we did previously?
I think you're going to see a slightly different G2, mostly when it comes to CT sides. I'm a very aggressive player, even on the T side I'm very aggressive, and I think they want to be a bit less structured. They were a really structured team before I came, they wanted to have all the plans, they wanted to know every move, every step they were going to make. That's going to slightly change because, when it comes to the CT side, I'm one of the playmakers, so I'm going to be changing the pace a lot and that kind of stuff. That's going to be totally different from what they had before. I think the biggest reason why they didn't really do it was that they didn't really have a role for that. nexa changed some roles for JaCkz because he couldn't be that kind of player because of communication or something like that, I'm not really sure, so nexa wasn't really comfortable in that kind of star player roles, he was always more of an anchor, he didn't feel natural in that role. That's going to be the biggest change, I'm going to be taking on that kind of role and just be more proactive on that side of the map.
You've said you haven't had much time together yet. How much can we expect from the team at BLAST this early into the lineup? Have you been able to get at least close to a point where you're confident about your chances?
Yeah, we will have had just three days of practice before the game tomorrow, but I still expect us to do very well. I have high expectations from the beginning, just based on the structure they had before, I believe that was really good, and with me being on the team I'm going to help them in a lot of ways. I think it's going to depend a lot on our first game. If we beat FURIA tomorrow I think we're going to have a really good tournament, but if we lose I think it can maybe ruin our confidence a little bit. But if we start off with a win, I think we're going to have a strong event because every time you change a lineup everything is good in the beginning, the honeymoon period and all that, so I think it's very important that we get a win tomorrow versus FURIA and that it will make our job in the beginning easier. If we lose in the groups, I think that's going to be a disappointment. I think everyone is aware of that when you bring such a player, you expect to do well from the very beginning.
Talking about FURIA, G2 has played them before, but you personally haven't officially. They're well known for taking people off-guard with their playstyle, especially if someone hasn't faced them before. What do you make of the matchup and of the team in general?
Usually, I'm very weak when it comes to that kind of playstyle. I'm not a big fan of those risky plays. I don't even know how G2 played against them, and I also don't know what to expect from FURIA. They were so strong in North America, I don't know if they're actually going to be that strong when they come to Europe. It's going to be fun to see them play in Europe. If they do as well as they did in NA, it's going to be very surprising to me because of their playstyle, but I can't say too much right now about them. We're definitely going to be ready for that playstyle.