Nivera: "I wanted to play so badly when I was sitting behind the team that I didn't think about failing"
The Belgian player opens up about his adaptation to Vitality and his place in the team ahead of the French squad's BLAST Premier Fall Finals run.
We sat down with Nabil "Nivera" Benrlitom to chat about his journey since joining Vitality in October, including the decision to be a substitute specializing in just two maps, the team's morale after winning IEM Beijing-Haidian and their spirits heading into the last stretch of the year.
Vitality, having recently claimed their first title of 2020 after four second place finishes, are now set on trying to retain their No. 1 spot in the world rankings heading into their last two events of the year, starting with the BLAST Premier Fall Finals.
(photo courtesy of Louvard Game)
Nivera, who is happy with his current role in the team as a substitute on Dust2 and Inferno, talks about how this gradual approach to integrating into the team has been a positive experience, allowing him to not be overwhelmed and giving him the opportunity to have an impact on the maps he plays.
The 19-year-old also notes that while other players could be bothered by such an arrangement, he always puts his team above personal ambitions—including his hunger to get time on the server—, and states that "as long as we win, that's all that matters to me."
You’ve been in Vitality for two months now. How has the adjustment to the team gone?
When I joined the team they didn't want me to have too much to learn, so XTQZZZ proposed that I just play a couple of maps to feel more at ease. This really was a proposal that I could have refused, but I thought it through and I came to the conclusion that only playing a couple of maps would be a smaller workload and therefore I would be able to devote more time to making sure I was really good on them.
This really helped me because if I had to learn all of the maps there would probably be a couple that I would not play very well, or that I would make a lot of mistakes on.
How did it come down to Inferno and Dust2?
We decided that I'd play Dust2 because it's one of my best maps and they figured that things would go well for the team with me playing it. On Inferno they had a big problem on the CT side, especially regarding the AWP, despite having ZywOo. There were some problems with the B site that complicated things, so they decided that I would play it in my favorite role, as the main AWPer, and so I'm now part of the trio on A.
How does practice work? Are you there every day or just when the team practices your maps?
When I joined the team and we decided to follow this plan I watched all of their practices. After some time we saw that it wasn't very necessary because I wasn't playing the other maps, so if we practice Dust2 or Inferno I'll be there, but if not I won't be on the server. I do, however, try to be on TeamSpeak with the team as much as possible in order to connect with the group.
This segues well into a question I have regarding your place in the team. Do you feel like you're fully integrated or do you still see yourself more as a kind of sixth-man, a little bit on the outside?
We all talk a lot when we're bootcamping together, be it in or out of the game, so thanks to that I feel integrated. There's also the fact that misutaaa is on the team, whom I played with in Wonderkids, which also helps because I spend a lot of time with him and I don't feel left out.
Regarding misutaaa, how do you see the progress he has made since the Wonderkids days?
You can immediately see that he's much better now. When I joined Vitality he was making fewer mistakes and he was more rigorous, although of course he needs to keep working—he's still 17, even younger than me. It's a lot about mentality, too, when you're so young and you're in the best team in the world, it can be overwhelming.
I look at Gambit as an example, they're all 18 to 20-years-old, except Hobbit, yet they play a rigorous style, they don't take unnecessary risks, and they're serious about the game. Young guys like us, we need to take them as an example.
Did misutaaa give you any tips when you joined the team or was that your time in Heretics enough preparation to step up to the next level?
Everyone on the team is very open and they let me ask all of the questions I have so anytime I have any little doubt I can ask and they answer sincerely. It has all been very natural and misutaaa hasn’t really needed to offer any help since everyone is so open.
I think that playing in a tier 2-3 team like Heretics really helped me understand some key concepts about teamplay and Counter-Strike in general, which is something misutaaa didn't have when he arrived in Vitality. He had to learn so much, which has taken him a long time, but he got there.
Do you think about playing more maps in the future? Have you talked about that with the team at all?
They know I'm hungry and that I want to play. As of now it's just the two maps, but maybe in the future we can add some more. Why not? It will also be dependent on team performances and stuff like that.
I know some people would hate being a sixth player, like I am in my current situation, just playing a couple of maps. But for me, personally, I have always thought about the team first—in all of my teams. As long as we win, that's all that matters to me. I don't care about being a star or whatever, I just want to win with the team and the rest will come on its own.
Do you think it's a sustainable system? Have you thought about what's going to happen when LAN play returns?
Yeah, I've definitely thought about that. I'm not very sure how it's going to happen, changing a whole set-up to replace a player. I know that mentally we're prepared and we'll do our best—the team, the sixth player, it'll be the same as we do it online. The only question is really regarding changing set-ups, I don't know how that will happen.
You just won IEM Beijing-Haidian, which was your first tournament win of that caliber, and you're also the top team in the ranking right now. Do you feel like the squad to beat?
We play a rigorous style of Counter-Strike despite our individual prowess and we try to play off of each other as a team as much as possible, which has paid off for us. We're still hungry and we have the goal of remaining the top team, so we're not going to let go. The real challenge starts now.
Vitality played several finals this year before the big win and has consistently been one of the top teams in the world. Did you feel like you had to be at a really high level when you joined to not fail the team?
I just had this mindset that I really wanted to play. I wanted to play so bad, especially when I was sitting behind the team, that I didn't think about failing or anything else, I just wanted to hit headshots. That hunger is really what pushed me.
It has now been a couple of weeks since your IEM Beijing-Haidian victory. What have you done during this time? Did you take some days off? How's your preparation coming into these last events of the year?
We took a couple of days off to rest after IEM Beijing-Haidian, which is when some of the players traveled back to their homes. Then we returned to our regular practice routine, which has been working well for us. We haven't changed anything, we've been doing well mentally and we're even more focused now because it's the final sprint of the year.
So you're all back home now. Are you going to bootcamp for the last few events or will you play from home?
We're going to play the BLAST Premier Fall Finals from home, then we're going to get back together to bootcamp for the IEM Global Challenge since that will be the last tournament of the year and we really want to go all out.
You're already qualified for the Blast Premier Global Finals. Do you feel less pressure to perform at the Fall Finals?
Speaking for myself, personally, when I feel pressure in CS, it's good pressure. Pressure pushes you to be better, to perform. We were already qualified for the Global Finals when I played my first tournament with Vitality, the BLAST Premier Fall Series, and there was also that little something that pushed me then, so even if we're already qualified, we're going to take the tournament seriously.
You're kicking the Fall Finals off against mousesports, the DreamHack Winter Masters finalists. What an opening match! Any special preparations for it?
We know their game more or less, the guys have played mouz plenty of times, so it's nothing new. We're going to do the usual to make sure that we're all in the right mindset to show up and go all out. Every player has to work on their own conditioning, making sure they're on point individually to come in hot and pop some heads [laughs]. We all just need to put in that little bit extra. Even for the leader, having a bunch of guys that are on point right off the bat makes everything easier.
It's going to be Astralis or NAVI after mousesports, no matter if it's in the upper or lower bracket. Any preference?
Both teams are amazing, but I'd love to play Astralis. Last time I played them I was still in Heretics and we lost 0-2, but it was very close, so personally I'd love to take revenge on them. It's a match that I would really take to heart and try my hardest to win.
Regardless of your rivals, how are your spirits going into the event?
It's an end-of-the-year tournament, so teams that have had a bad or mediocre year are going to try really hard at these last events. The level could be higher than during the rest of the year, so we're preparing to play against teams that are going to give it their all on the server and we're expecting some great battles.
As for us, we're looking to keep that top spot in the ranking and we're expecting to have a lot of close games, which is why we're preparing thoroughly and we're ready to go all out.