f0rest: "I think we've only scratched the surface of what we can do as a team"
The Swedish veteran discusses Dignitas' sudden rise to form and his expectations for the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown.
One year later, Dignitas find themselves back in a BLAST Premier Showdown tournament, hoping to capitalise on the momentum that they have built since signing Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson as a replacement for Haris "H4RR3" Hadzic. The Swedish team have gone up 13 places in the world rankings, picking up victories over the likes of HAVU, forZe and AGO, and reaching the final of two tournaments - Nordic Masters Spring and the Funspark ULTI Regional Series.
Dignitas face a tall order in a do-or-die match against world No.6 Liquid later on Tuesday, but Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg is more concerned about the process than the results. He says that the team are still taking baby steps to get to where they want to be, but he does not write off his side's chances against the North Americans. "I do believe we can win on a good day," he says.
Lekr0's impressive form has rubbed off on his teammates, including f0rest, who has averaged a 1.12 rating since the recent roster changes. Dismissing retirement talk — "I'm just going to keep playing until I feel that I don't want to play anymore" —, he admits that he has high hopes for the team. "I think eventually it's going to be something beautiful."
What does it feel like to once again play a tournament like this, with some of the best teams in the world?
I'm definitely excited to be competing again against these teams. The first match we get is against Liquid, who are ranked fifth at the moment, I think. It's what I've been striving to do, reaching this tier-one of tournaments again. We finally did it and we get a shot at taking a team down. We get few chances to do so, so we really need to make these count. I'm super excited.
Lekr0's addition was a turning point for the team. What has he brought to the team that you were missing before?
I think Lekr0 added another dimension of experience in terms of coming kind of fresh out of tier one as well and having experienced what it's like to be at the top. And I think he can help me develop these younger players as well and help me with the way we think about Counter-Strike and approach games. He kind of relieved me in that sense, we can help each other. Overall, I think he's been just a really good addition to the team. Everyone is so satisfied with what he has brought in. Now it's just a matter of developing more as a team and seeing what we can do together.
Did you expect the team to be playing so much better immediately after Lekr0’s addition?
I definitely expected a big upgrade in terms of what we can do as a team. As I said, I think he brings so much to the team. He has been an in-game leader in the past, and he really helps friberg with a few calls and they can talk to each other. I definitely expected us to start getting better results the moment he joined. I think the first games we played with him were on the same day that he joined so we hadn't practised anything. But after those initial few games, we got a week or two before our official game season kind of began and we started having a game every other day. I think the results have been very good and on an upward trajectory. We are qualified for the BLAST Showdown, we reached the final against HAVU yesterday [Sunday]. I think we've only scratched the surface of what we can do as a team. It's just a matter of getting more practice in and working harder to get every detail to be where it should be when we are playing against Liquid, for example.
I was going through a recent interview with friberg, who said that Lekr0 was going to help him out as a secondary caller. What is the dynamic between the two like? What sort of input does Lekr0 have at the moment?
I think he's still getting used to playing with us. I don't think he's 100% comfortable in terms of saying like, 'We're going to do this and this'. He's definitely helping by giving small input. The more we play, the more he will feel that we value his input, when we are talking through stuff before games and everything. He and friberg are kind of starting to work very nicely together. As I said, these things take time. I think eventually it's going to be something beautiful.
When the team was created, you had four veterans and a young AWPer in hallzerk, and your approach was fairly similar to the one Vitality had at the time. The team has since gone in a different direction. Do you think that hallzerk has benefited from this because he has less pressure on his shoulders?
I think yes and no. The feeling I get from him is that he just enjoys playing Counter-Strike. And we as a team are always striving to become the best version that we can be. I can say that he feels a bit more comfortable now, with HEAP on the team, because HEAP is also a new addition, a new player in the scene. So they are kind of going through the same journey. In that sense, it's a bit better than before, when we had four older and experienced players who had been playing together for years and years and who kind of had inside jokes. Because that can be hard to fit into. I think he still had a good time with us, but I do think that having HEAP by his side is very good for his development.
What are your expectations against Liquid?
We want to get some experience to see where we are as a team. I'm not going to say that we're going to go out there and beat them 2-0. We want to see what we can potentially do against a team like this, with the preparation that we have. Where do we stand as a team? What damage can we do? I do believe we can win on a good day. That's what I do believe in. I think we're looking to gain some experience in this tournament and kind of see where we stand and what we need to work on.
Was it hard for you to deal with criticism last year, after those sub-par results?
Not at all. I think that the circumstances were not optimal at all for our team. Our team is very good at playing on LAN. We played one stage game and that was it. We won that stage game, and that's where we are good. We are calm and collected on LAN, that's like our comfort zone. And then we went into the online season, and people are damn good at Counter-Strike, let me tell you that. It's a very rough and different environment, playing online. I think we did what we could, but I didn't take the criticism too hard. I never do. I know what we're going through. I know what we need to work on and what needs to be done. So I tried to focus on what I can do and what my team can do, and tried to move forward from there.
Do you think the team is better suited to online play now than it was last year?
I would say I'm more comfortable playing online now since that's what I've been doing for the past year. I think it is going to be fun to see how HEAP and hallzerk perform on LAN, it's going to be fun to see how coordinated we are and where we stand. It's hard to say how we would perform on LAN versus online, but I think everyone is comfortable at the moment to be playing online, that's for sure. That's pretty much what HEAP and hallzerk have been doing their whole careers so far.
You've said that the team has only scratched the surface of what it is capable of. You've made great strides since adding Lekr0. How far do you think you can go? Where do you see this team stabilising?
My goal would definitely be to land somewhere around the top 15. I think that is not unreasonable considering the teams around that rank. I think we can definitely be a threat to a lot of those teams, it's just a matter of working things out. I would still consider us fairly new with Lekr0. We've been playing so many official games that it hurts practice sometimes, but at the same time, we do get a lot of input from official games, which is very good. Once we stabilize a little bit on that front and start theory-crafting a little bit more on what we can do, top 15 is definitely not unreasonable. I want to be competing again in tier one. That is my goal and everyone's goal on this team. We're all aiming pretty high.
Lately, we've seen young players in Sweden get more and more recognition, like HEAP, jackinho, ztr and the players in NIP's academy squad. In the past, teams like fnatic and NIP were criticised for recycling the same players. What is your take on the current state of the Swedish scene?
I think it's awesome to see a younger generation of players getting a chance in teams. I think you're spot-on when you say that fnatic and NIP didn't take more gambles in terms of talents. But at the same time, I don't think there were any real prospects at the time that looked like better additions than the players who were already floating around as free agents. But now, it's been proven that we have quite a few talents being slept on in the Swedish scene. It's good to see that these players are being given the chance to prove themselves. That's also going to kind of ignite the Swedish scene a little bit. Players in the lower divisions will know that it is possible to play for a team like fnatic, NIP, Dignitas. So I think that will ignite the hearts of the young generation and make these players keep improving.
You're one of the oldest players in the circuit and you're still playing at a very solid level. Are you satisfied with your current level? How many years more do you see yourself playing? Have you thought about retirement, especially since your friend and former teammate GeT_RiGhT stopped playing professionally?
First of all, I'm going to be playing as long as I feel the motivation to do so and as long as I still feel that I can contribute to the team I'm playing for. I think I've been feeling more and more comfortable. I've felt a bit reignited since Lekr0 came in, that kind of boosted my confidence a little bit. I just need to figure some things out because I still have my ups and downs, and it feels like I've been having those for a long time. I just need to try to minimise those ups and downs and be a little bit more consistent in the way that I'm playing. I still say... (laughs) I know I'm not nearly the best player in the world, but in my mind, I'm going to tell myself that I'm the best player in the world. And I know what I'm capable of once I get into my groove, and I still think I can perform at a very high level. Once I sort things out, you know, being a father - soon of two kids -, having a marriage and everything surrounding it, that's something new in my career. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance everything. But once I get those small fixes done and find a way to make everything work, I can still definitely perform really well. I'm confident in myself and in my ability to perform. I'm not going to say how many more years I'll be playing. I'm just going to keep playing until I feel that I don't want to play anymore.