NaToSaphiX: "I desperately miss playing top-tier teams every day of the week; it's up to only me to make that happen"
The Danish AWPer looks to reignite his career with Lyngby Vikings as he battles back to the top of the competitive ladder.
Niels Christian "NaToSaphiX" Sillassen has struggled to find the stability he desires to showcase his abilities and climb his way back to the upper echelons of professional Counter-Strike. The 24-year-old's stint at the top with Heroic in 2019 has left a hunger that can only be satisfied by taking on the best of the best. "My five-month tenure with Heroic makes me miss the feeling of playing the big tournaments," he said. "My dream is definitely to play in the LANXESS Arena in Cologne."
After leaving the Danish side, he went on to join a hopeful Nordavind rebuild in order to take the first steps in getting back to the position he yearns for. The lineup immediately hit roster issues and NaToSaphiX subsequently took up IGL responsibilities, but the instability soon took its toll. Deciding to look elsewhere, he set his sights on Lyngby Vikings after some deliberation. Now, with a stable roster and role familiarity, the Dane believes he can perform to the best of his ability - something he said he had lacked since his time with Sprout.
Speaking to HLTV.org, the 24-year-old explained his experiences with his past teams and why they did not work out, how he has raised his performances, the value of his stand-in appearances with the likes of Complexity and mousesports, and what he feels he brings to teams, among other topics.
You left Heroic, your last big team, in July 2019 after a five-month tenure. Why do you feel you haven’t been able to find a stable team since then?
I think Nordavind was somewhat stable, that is at least the main reason I chose to play with them. Unfortunately, shortly before I was going to sign a contract with them, the lineup I had been expecting changed. But seeing as I was eager to play CS:GO again, I decided to still commit to the team. My playstyle and that of the rest of the team were too different, and I always felt like we had a different vision. I think not having a very stable team in Nordavind was sort of unlucky, as RUBINO left the starting roster only one-and-a-half months or so after we had got together. I immediately offered to take up the IGL role, which I did for two or three months after Ruben left. The IGL role, as any role, was juggled around so much in this lineup that we never found our identity as a team. I wanted to be the IGL, but due to differences in playstyle, I gave the role up on multiple occasions. And without a dedicated IGL, it was impossible to find stability. After Nordavind, I had a few great teams that my agent was chasing and I definitely could have ended up on a top20-15 team with a bit of luck.
I am currently in a stable project, even though the majority of us don’t have contracts, and I am enjoying it so much! I have needed this stability as I did not have it in Heroic or Nordavind, constantly changing roles. People don’t know it but I was not under contract for a single game during my time on Heroic. That was also the main reason I gave the AWP away after just one month on the team, as I was afraid for my future if I said no. Every day I was worried that they’d tell me to stop playing and they’d find someone else. It was hard for me to perform with no sense of security. I ended up being put into roles I was not comfortable in, which I did not dare say no to, and was later removed from the roster anyway. I signed my contract shortly before I was removed, which was in the player break and after my last match with the team. I signed with Prodigy Agency shortly after this incident and have had no such problems since, which I can’t thank them enough for.
When was the last time you felt truly comfortable in a team, with each player knowing their roles and having a full strat book?
That would have to be Sprout. We had the best coach I have ever worked with in tow b, a guy I had a close friendship with and who simultaneously felt more like a dad and a mentor than a friend. It was great, he always pushed me to succeed, questioned my plays without being aggressive or demeaning and was the most hard-working coach I’ve ever met. I think that’s why I always put up the numbers as well. It was a very tactical team, thanks to sycrone and tow b, exactly how I like it. We tried to win on strategy more than aim, and, in my opinion, that’s the best way to get consistent results.
I really miss those days.
Since joining up with Lyngby Vikings at the start of the year, you have averaged a 1.17 rating across 59 maps. What would you attribute your rise in form to? How will you ensure you stay on that level?
I attribute it to having teammates who believe in me, clear roles and working very hard. In the period between leaving Nordavind and joining Lyngby, I was streaming 4-5 days a week to ensure that my individual level would be higher than ever before. I ended up sacrificing myself a lot in Heroic and also with roles on Nordavind. I think the biggest reason for the rise in form is just that I get to play a role I’m comfortable in and I am getting the time to better my role.
You mentioned in a Twitter post your impact on teams and their best rankings. What do you think you brought to all these teams that helped them to reach new heights?
I think I brought them very different things. In Sprout, I brought firepower. In my opinion, that was the main thing that team needed. Things turned out in a way where I got two Danish friends (sycrone and PERCY) on board as well and they helped us massively. I think when we got those two it really kicked off and we went to the Minor. So I was helping shape the roster as well, while I was on it
In Heroic, I was sacrificing myself a lot. I gave away my role, I never argued, I agreed with what everyone else said. I think that made people comfortable in a way. We had the firepower, the experience and the talent. All I needed to be was the glue between the players, the guy that unites the team and creates good vibes. In that team I was yelling after every round, spreading good vibes, taking all the shit and never complaining. It was completely different to how it was in Sprout, but I feel that even though I gave up my individual performance, my personality was boosting everyone else’s and with that, we beat a lot of great teams. I’m not sure I would have changed it today if I could. I’m sad that I gave up so much of myself but at the same time I'm proud of our accomplishments.
In Nordavind, I’m honestly not sure if our ranking had much to do with me. I was in many cases the polar opposite of the team. Perhaps that was part of it, me seeing things in a completely different light. I think I did okay in Nordavind but I only ever really felt comfortable in that team when I was the IGL. I think No.38 was not that great of a ranking considering the amount of skill that was on that team, especially in TENZKI and HS. I still feel good knowing we reached Nordavind's best-ever ranking, considering our difficulties.
Now with Lyngby Vikings, I am in the same sort of role as I was in Sprout. I am the star player of the team and I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform every single day, match and map. I am trying to do everything a player can, simultaneously. I am trying to perform, put up good numbers, bring ideas both inside and outside of matches, take mid-round control, question things, find new nades, spread positivity, trash-talk opponents to create confidence for the whole team, show my teammates I believe in them and help them reach their potential. For me, that’s what a star player is about. A guy whose job is to never underperform and who has the ability to do everything at once. For a star player, there will always be poor performances. Even for your s1mples and your ZywOos. But if I underperform even for a single map, I see it as me having failed my job that day. And it’s a job I take very seriously.
You have stood in for teams such as mousesports and Complexity in the past, do these appearances keep you motivated and hungry to compete at the top again? How valuable are these experiences to you?
I think they gave me different things. I think the mousesports episode was like a dream come true. I still can’t really believe we won that tournament [cs_summit 5]. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to practice before the event, as mousesports had a very busy schedule, which led to me not learning as much as I feel I could have. I think the main thing I learned from my experience in L.A. was what separates a good IGL from a great IGL. karrigan is really a guy I will never stop looking up to. I could probably write a whole book about how it was to play in the same team as that man, even for just five days or so. All things considered, I probably only really got some experience, exposure and money. There was not enough time for me to evolve at a single event. I asked karrigan for feedback after the event but he didn’t have much to give, seeing as we had played for only such a short while. An opportunity missed.
In Complexity, we actually had time to practice, which was refreshing. They have both an analyst and coach, which gave me a look into how the top teams actually operate. I learnt a lot in my time in Complexity, mainly about how top teams operate. Seeing as I was playing roles I had never played before in my career (just about the only ones I had left before having crossed off everything else), I now understand a lot better how to play anchor positions and how to support my teammates who play in such positions. Both experiences were extremely professional, and it’s very clear why the top players have climbed to where they are. They are all very gifted players. The opportunities I’ve had as a stand-in have definitely made me hungrier, and especially my five-month tenure with Heroic makes me miss the feeling of playing the big tournaments. My dream is definitely to play in the LANXESS Arena in Cologne. I can’t explain the feeling after we lost the last match before the arena back in 2019.
What is your opinion about the current state of the Danish scene? Do you think that the disbandment of a team like North could open up some possibilities for you?
Hmm... Never say never, of course, but I somewhat doubt that I’m going to play with any of the players from North. I don’t really have a super close relationship with any of them, and I doubt I’d leave where I am right now - and I'm feeling happy and satisfied - for something that is unsure. If the right opportunity presents itself with a lineup I believe in, a big organisation that can support the team, a good coach and a place where I feel certain there will be stability, then I might reconsider. I desperately miss playing top tier teams every day of the week and I really want to compete at the highest level possible again. It's up to only me to make that happen.