tabseN: "We are running out of energy, it has been a tough year"
The BIG leader spoke about the team's post-break dip in form and their win conditions in the BLAST Premier Fall Finals in an interview with HLTV.org.
The German side haven't been the same since returning from the player break, having gone six events without a top-four finish, and Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz opened up about what is holding them back, the early elimination from Flashpoint 2, and the upcoming rematch against OG.
One of the eight teams to have climbed to the No.1 spot in the world rankings this year, BIG reached their peak during the summer when they hoisted three trophies from international tournaments. tabseN admitted his side is running out of energy, but also that other teams are catching up, especially those going for "either a sixth player, maybe a new assistant coach, someone to get help from". He noted that BIG aren't thinking about going down that route yet as they "want to just get through this year".
In order to do well at BLAST, tabseN noted that the players will have to be on point individually and communicate clearly with one another: "We need to be on the level where we can easily win one of the most important rounds in the clutches."
BIG had a great run of form in the summer, but then Cologne happened and you finished last. Since then, you've had just decent results, 5-8th placings mostly. People say that you are running out of steam and that others are catching up with you. What do you think has been going on with BIG in the last couple of events?
I would definitely say that we are running out of energy, it has been a tough year, every day is the same basically, you prepare for a new tournament, prepare for a new game, and therefore I think it is a bit of both. Running out of energy and teams catching up, they are definitely getting better, you can see it from every team, they are getting either a sixth player, maybe a new assistant coach, someone to get help from.
For us, it has been tough lately to play at the level we used to before the player break, also to maintain the mentality, because as I said, it's the same every time and it's getting really tough to play the same opponents all the time. I'd say those are the main points where we are lacking at the moment, and it's only the little things. We are making the same mistakes all the time and before the player break we were really focused on not making them, and now they are costing us games. We are trying to fix this, at least for the last tournaments.
Is there a way that BIG is going to handle this situation, aside from taking time off in the player break that is coming up. Those things you mentioned: another coach, another player. Is that something you are thinking about?
This is definitely something we will think about and discuss in the future. At the moment, we aren't really thinking about it because we want to just get through this year. We will see what happens, but I would say that is just an addition. If everyone is on the same page it can only help.
You were just eliminated from Flashpoint with two losses in the playoffs, to Virtus.pro and OG, the two finalists. Do you look at it as a disappointing result, especially considering the prize pool of the event?
For us it was really disappointing. We weren't really expecting to reach the final but we expected to at least have better results. In the end, we knew Virtus.pro were on the rise, they had won so many tournaments and games as well, they were in very good shape. The same goes for OG, they are in really good shape at the moment, they have been improving a lot. For us, most of the time we lose to either Vitality or Heroic, or of course the winners of an event.
I've noticed through the player cams that sometimes you have more people at the BIG house for matches and sometimes it is just the three of you [tiziaN, XANTARES and tabseN]. Is that a personal preference or does it indicate how you approach certain events, that you take some of them in a more relaxed way and others more seriously?
At the moment, it is just a matter of preference in terms of where everyone wants to play, also because of the situation with the coronavirus. It's down to where everyone wants to stay and where everyone feels the safest. But in the future, when we'll have an office, we might make plans for some tournaments so that everyone gets to the office and plays from there.
You've been in-game leading for quite some time, people still consider you a new in-game leader, but it's been a while since gob b stepped down from that role. How do you feel as an in-game leader at the moment, especially in this weird era of playing only online?
I would still consider myself a new in-game leader because while gob b was still in the team and we decided to test me as the in-game leader, it wasn't really a good test. When you are playing with your old in-game leader, he still has a lot of influence on the game. Therefore, since we built this new lineup I would say I have definitely surprised myself — maybe not surprised, I knew I could do it because of my character as well, I have a strong voice definitely. I'm confident in myself. Overall I'm satisfied. But it can definitely be better.
Going into BLAST, it is a very stacked tournament, only eight teams but all of them capable of lifting the trophy. Talking about your team, what are the win conditions for BIG at BLAST? What needs to go right for you to have another great run as you had in the summer?
One of the most important things is definitely individual skill, we need to be on a level where we can easily win the most important rounds in clutches. A few months ago we were managing to win clutches really often. I also think what we need to have on point is our communication. In some games where we get pressured, a lot the communication gets more hyped, we get more excited, we get more frustrated at some point and we need to try to have it on a constant level. If we manage to do that, I'm pretty sure that we can at least show a bit of a better [version of] BIG, but it also depends on how we go into games. I try to really make sure that we are much better prepared on many more maps and also on the opponents.
The player who has been criticized the most recently is k1to, just looking at the numbers — that is what most people are going to judge players on these days —, his form has been a bit poorer, but he does seem to be kind of an X-factor for BIG in that when he is playing well, the team are performing at their best. What is the deal with getting k1to in form, and why is he in a slump right now — if you agree with the comments?
I do agree to a certain point because people always like to look at the numbers as you say, but for me, I don't really look at them, I always see what I'm getting from him. And what I'm getting is someone playing the hard positions as Terrorist, for example. He doesn't have the easiest task, he needs to gain control, get reads on opponents, which depending on the pressure [he's getting] isn't the easiest thing.
You also need to think that this guy has been playing, if I'm not mistaken, for two, maybe three years, at a professional level. There are people who have been playing professionally for 10 or 12 years. k1to is still a very young gun and I know that, maybe in a few months or maybe a year, he will definitely be much much better. But I'm very confident that he is still one of the best players in Germany, for sure, and that he is always improving. That is the most important thing for us, at least for me.
Going back to your question, I think if I'm playing well, the team is also is playing much better. If you look at our games [during the summer run], no one was carrying the team, I would say we were carrying as a unit, everyone was performing really well, everyone was on the same page, we didn't really make mistakes, everyone played well, and if someone was struggling, we tried to build him up and we just played as a unit really well. I think that's the key factor why we aren't on that level right now.
Something I find interesting is that BIG actually takes part in German competitions. You played the Merkur Masters and will be playing the ESL Meisterschaft in January as well, which is curious. It is weird to see any of the really good teams still playing in the local scene — what's the reason behind that?
The reason behind it is that we enjoy it sometimes, and also it is important to have our sponsors [happy], they like to see that, and of course, we want to be the No.1 team in Germany. We are one of the best teams in the world right now and we probably don't need to play these local things, but it is also because of the German scene, it is a little bit lacking in some ways, and I would say that without us the German scene would not be anywhere near the level it is at right now.
Returning to BLAST, your first game is against OG, who eliminated you from Flashpoint. How do you see that game transpiring? When you are playing all of these teams over and over again, how do you even go into matches? Do you need to reinvent the wheel or is it going to be the small things that you need to focus on?
We definitely don't need to invent a new wheel. It has been the same maps every single time in the matchup, and we'll have the same maps again. So we just need to really understand the situation. For example, when we played OG in Flashpoint we had a really nice lead, but we managed to not get any rounds after that, we were leading 7-1 on Dust2 and managed to have an 8-7 half as Terrorists, that is actually a really bad half on my book. But we are just focusing on the little things and I think this time we will be much better prepared, also on their pick, and I think this time we will make sure that we are getting there.