Snappi: "We are not happy with where we are right now, but we are happy with the potential that this lineup has"
c0ntact enter Flashpoint 2 hoping to improve on the ninth-place finish from the first edition of the league, with Rokas "EspiranTo" Milasauskas and Otto "ottoNd" Sihvo being the only two players who remain from that lineup. Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer took over as in-game leader in June, but only now is he able to start putting his footprint on the team, which was finalised two weeks ago with the signings of Rigon "rigoN" Gashi and Lotan "Spinx" Giladi.
The Danish in-game leader, who was a part of Heroic at the beginning of the year, was close to signing for Mongolian team TIGER alongside Owen "smooya" Butterfield in May before the deal broke down and he joined c0ntact. As the team conducted tryouts, he briefly linked up with the British AWPer, who was let go due to a clash of roles.
As c0ntact prepare for Tuesday's match against fnatic, we discussed with Snappi the reason why he entertained the thought of joining TIGER, the smooya experiment, and his expectations for the team moving forward. He also spoke about Heroic's unprecedented wave of success and how he hopes to develop his team's newest players alongside coaches Neil "NeiL_M" Murphy and Daniel "djL" Narancic.
You started 2020 in Heroic, a top-15 team, but found yourself on the bench after the failed move to FPX, which began a turbulent six-month period. Were the Heroic benching and your subsequent exit something you saw coming? How do you think the team would have evolved if you had completed the move to FPX instead?
Yes, I knew when the FPX move fell through that there was a big possibility that I would not be on the team long term. There were several things. I had a concussion in early 2020, which made it hard to focus in front of the screen and it gave me headaches, which is something I had never experienced before. I neglected it because you never want to let your team down when you have important qualifiers and tournaments coming up, but looking back I should have asked for a medical leave for 1-2 months, to make sure I was alright. I wasn't my normal self in-game during that period. Also, there was some other stuff, in which we probably needed someone objective like a sports psychologist to help us.
I can’t say they did the wrong move, because right now they are ranked No.1 on the HLTV ranking [Editor's Note: The interview was conducted prior to Monday's ranking update, which saw Heroic move down to second], even if it's online. They are doing amazing. I'm sure we would have done great as well, especially if we were given more tools to overcome the problems that we had. However, niko and TeSeS, plus HUNDEN as coach, are all instrumental pieces in their current success, and I think those three pieces made a major difference for them, a difference I'm not sure I could have replicated in the roles they occupy.
What followed were negotiations with a Mongolian organization, which fell through and you ended up standing in for Astralis. Looking back at the first half of 2020, what did you make of all that happened? Were there any positives to it, lessons learned, or do you see that as just a frustrating period in your career?
Some people saw it [joining TIGER] as a money move, and even though I was offered a good salary, it wasn’t the money that was the motivating factor. I had other offers I could have taken, but I felt like I needed to go out of my comfort zone to prove myself. I had been on consistent top 20 teams for four years, and had on occasions broken into the top 10, but never any more than that. The TIGER offer was supposed to be in Europe, making it possible to get the best practice. I felt if I could take a team that everyone expected to be bad and bring it to the top 20, top 10, then I would prove to myself that I was where I belonged. Also, I would show myself to teams on the higher tier. The organization behind TIGER had the funds that if it became successful, it could be built into a top contender with future signings. I looked through their demos and spotted a lot of talent in terms of firepower, but their playstyle was very bad, so I saw a lot of potential.
In regard to Astralis, I was pretty deep in the negotiations with c0ntact, so I had a short period in which I could play and help them out. It was an experience where I just tried to learn what I could from them, but at the same time it was the end of the season, and you could feel that the blows of first losing gla1ve and then Xyp9x had taken a toll on their motivation. They treated me amazingly, though, and I only have great words to say about device, Magisk, dupreeh, and zonic, they made me feel comfortable even in a tough situation for them. I wasn't the best version of myself, having not played too much in the period between the Heroic and the Astralis stints, so I felt like I would have played better under different circumstances. The best thing about the period was still to see how they approach official games and think CS. Even if a lot was pretty much as I expected, I for sure learned some things from them that I could bring to my next team.
The core of the Heroic lineup you played with has made huge strides recently and climbed to the No.1 spot in the rankings after winning ESL One Cologne. How do you look at their rise and explain their post-player break success?
I think it's a combination of multiple factors. The additions of niko, TeSeS, and HUNDEN were all great. I always praised niko. He and stavn are both in my personal top 5 of players I have played with if you consider the full package (skill, comms, personality, etc.). TeSeS also looks amazing for them. Back in OpTic I had my eyes on him, and he was also an obvious choice for them now. Then HUNDEN is of course a valuable piece to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and improving minor flaws in the tactics/defaults on a day-to-day basis.
They have a hard-hitting trio of riflers, then b0rup plays more of a supportive/sacrificial role and cadiaN controls the troops with HUNDEN very well. Obviously, with everything being online they might have had a minor advantage for such a young team, but they are hungry and it's the same for everyone, so all you can do is respect their accomplishments regardless. They seem to gel very well as a unit and overall just play great Counter-Strike.
Talking about your current team, you joined the c0ntact roster in June, which at the time featured emi and SHiPZ. Was that considered a temporary lineup from the start, seeing that after failing the cs_summit 6 qualifier, the team didn't play an official match for two months?
Before the player break we actually didn't do that badly. We beat Complexity 2-1 and had a 1-2 loss to fnatic in that qualifier. With two weeks of practice, I don't consider that a complete failure, Complexity had just come from the BLAST win the week before. However, the team was drained, they had been through six-plus months where things hadn't gone as planned, and the player break they needed was very long. When everyone came back it just felt off. It was supposed to be a fresh start with everyone motivated, but I think the long break made the first weeks of practice very rough, and people seemed even more drained than before the player break. I think some members just didn't believe in the project, so some bigger changes needed to happen to get this project back on track.
All I can say is that I have huge respect for emi and all the effort he put in. I'm certain whoever gets this guy will be happy. He is an insane hard worker, with a good CS brain. For SHiPZ there is no doubt that the talent is there, and whoever gets this guy at 100% has a huge asset.
In August, smooya was introduced into the c0ntact lineup as a secondary AWP, trialing for the team alongside Spinx. What were the expectations for that team and what held you back from achieving more than sporadic victories?
Spinx was on trial, but everyone in the team already knew he would be here long term. For smooya it was more of a trial period, to see if we could make it work. It was a weird time. smooya couldn't really decide what roles he wanted now that he wasn't going to be primary AWPing. I think we just never got stability in practice because it was almost a day-to-day thing about who was lurking, who was taking map control, etc., because we tried to make everyone comfortable. In the end, we asked smooya if he could see himself as a secondary AWPer long term because we had to settle on the roles for good. He could do it for six months, but long term he only saw himself as an AWPer, and because of that we decided to go in a different direction. This is a long-term project, so we were just going to have an issue in the future if we kept going with Owen.
When announcing that rigoN and Spinx would be playing Flashpoint 2 for c0ntact, NeiL_M wrote that the changes were made because "the atmosphere and firepower in this online era were simply not good enough". Have the two new players helped in those areas? What have they brought to the team?
I think the atmosphere part was a major thing. We wanted hungry players ready to grind, especially in the online era. Obviously, Spinx has a major disadvantage playing with ping 70-80 online, also EspiranTo pretty much always plays better on LAN, so it's not like it suits us playing online, but this is the world situation at the moment, and everyone has to deal with it. Spinx and rigoN bring in a lot of firepower, and both of them are eager to improve their game in aspects that don't just involve their mechanics. Obviously, there is a lot they need to learn, but with their mentality, I'm sure they will improve quickly, and it's mine, Neil's (NeiL_M) and Daniel's (djL) job to make sure we get the best out of them. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they both evolve over the next 6-12 month period.
With the latest changes, your team has managed to qualify for DreamHack Masters Winter and also has Flashpoint 2 coming up. Talking about Flashpoint specifically, c0ntact is one of the partnered teams, but far from a favorite at the event. How do you think you will fare against the competition at the event? Does being a Flashpoint partner add more pressure?
I think that right now we are at a disadvantage because our changes came so close to the tournament. Our first goal is to progress to the playoffs. If we achieve that, then I can see us winning it. We will have more time to practice before the playoffs, so our main objective is getting through the groups. From there, anything can happen. Of course, there is the added pressure of being a partnered team, but I think the main goal is to make sure this team is a top contender long term. However, Flashpoint is and will continue to be one of our main goals of the year, and the improvement the league has seen in terms of teams has been massive. If it keeps going in this direction, then who knows what the league will look like in seasons 3 and 4.
How do you assess the team at the moment? How much more do you need to be at a level you are satisfied with?
I think all we need now is time and stability around the lineup. We need to work with every player, myself included, and make sure we all improve on our weaknesses individually. We all have some strong points, but we also all have some weak points. If we all focus on our personal growth, then the teams' growth will come as a result. We are only getting started with this new core, so we still need to learn how people react the best to criticism and other stuff. That process is made a bit harder by not meeting face to face, but we just have to deal with it. We are not happy with where we are right now, but we are happy with the potential that this lineup has.
With c0ntact, you have played just 12 maps against top30 teams. If you were to upset some of the big dogs at the two upcoming events, how would that happen? What are your win conditions at the moment?
First off, our win condition is to be on point individually. We don't have any maps where we feel 100% drilled in on both sides. So getting a good atmosphere, good communication, and initiative from everyone is a key factor. If we can get that going, then we have enough firepower to beat anyone. We should have enough time to get good practice for DreamHack, also for the Flashpoint playoffs if we get there. By then, I think it will be more of a matter of how many big teams we can beat.