FaZe: "It's all about enjoying the moment of being back on LAN"
Finn "karrigan" Andersen, Håvard "rain" Nygaard, and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken gave their thoughts on FaZe's recent struggles and the return to in-person events ahead of the team's IEM Cologne campaign.
FaZe are heading into the IEM Cologne Play-in stage following a year full of issues. The team around karrigan now find themselves in 35th place in the rankings just before they kick off their campaign in the prestigious event following a handful of lacklustre results and a few roster changes.
With Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer brought back from the bench in place of Marcelo "coldzera" David, FaZe have shown some promise with close results against the likes of Natus Vincere, BIG, and FURIA in their most recent outings with the Swede, but they have yet to cross the finish line against a tier-one team.
The European mixture is now about to enter IEM Cologne with hopes of turning its luck around. With the tournament set to bring the action back to LAN for the first time in over 16 months, FaZe are eager to unlock the undeniable potential their lineup possesses at the right time and return the brand to the top positions after their woeful start to 2021.
Just before the Play-in stage kicks off on Tuesday, July 6, karrigan, rain, and Twistzz appeared at a press conference to discuss FaZe's sorrows, the much-anticipated return to LAN, and a variety of other topics surrounding the team's recent moves and disappointing results.
Milan Švejda, HLTV.org: Something that keeps popping up when it comes to FaZe recently are obviously the disappointing results. You have the lineup to do better, but something is not clicking at the moment. What has been preventing you from reaching a higher level and what are the issues that you keep coming up against?
karrigan: Obviously, results haven't been what we want to have, that's obvious. We had some goals, we had different ways of seeing the game, and I think that we actually fixed pretty early in the lineup. Sometimes it comes down to synergy in the game, which now, with cold gone as well, means olof adds something different to the team, so that's maybe something we lacked, synergy in tight games.
But I think everybody who watched our games will know it's not like we're getting wrecked. We're losing close to top teams, a mistake here and there and at a high level, these teams we're playing, if you make those mistakes, rookie mistakes, then you lose as a team. We keep working on them, and now also with a new map in the pool in Ancient, that also gives us a chance to try to fix those. Overall, the individual level hasn't been there, and I think the synergy hasn't been there, and obviously losing these close matches also takes a lot of confidence from all players. Every player who has been on in boat knows that you just need one win or two wins in a row and all these faults and confidence problems in close games probably go away. I think there are three key things: synergy, confidence, and individual performance.
Milan Švejda, HLTV.org: To follow up, you mentioned the close losses like to NAVI, BIG, FURIA in the last couple of tournaments. Do you take those as any sort of positive sign or are they more a source of frustration that you can't get over the line?
karrigan: I have played competitively for a long time, and I know these slumps, which I think is for all the players in the team, we're not consistent and that obviously is a big issue. It's frustrating in a way, but also seeing that we're not giving up, we're playing close games, and if we don't make those small silly mistakes we make sometimes then we win 16-14 and everybody is saying we're playing well. But when you lose 16-14 and you do it all the time, close games, then people say we're not playing well, so for me it's just about continuing to believe. I've seen see everybody working hard from day one, and I think as long as I see that I believe we can be a top team. So that's the main factor for me, that even though we make the mistakes over and over again, as long as we work hard on them and work on our individual form, it doesn't really matter for me. But there is obviously some point where it really gets frustrating. We're coming into Cologne, this is a chance to turn the boat around and hopefully get some 16-14 wins instead of losses.
Wu Li Zonda, 5eplay: What does olof bring to this lineup?
karrigan: Obviously, losing cold is tough for us because he is one set role in the team, and looking at the lineup back then, cold was set to be the passive lurk and it all made sense from the outside from individual roles. But after being in the team, some role clashes were there with that lineup, so when cold went out of the team, olof was obviously a player I talked to because I know what he brings to the team, I know what way he thinks and what he does for teammates.
One thing about olofmeister people probably don't know so much about is that he makes everybody else great. Everything he does on the server is one-to-one with how you want to play classic CS. He's calm, he communicates really well, and bringing him also makes me see how we can try to fix some of the role clashes we had on the team. I think that helps from what I've seen in practice, but obviously we need to show it in results. Also, having a motivated olof is a really good thing. He's really motivated and hungry to come back, and I'm just looking forward to playing this tournament with him because he's a really, really good player. You label him as a glue player, not a support player, I hate that word, but a glue player that keeps the pieces together in the tight games, and I think that's what we need.
Mihailo Markovic, Relog Media: Have you seen any improvements since olof came back?
rain: There are definitely clear improvements, especially in the communication and the atmosphere when you play games. In the past, the synergy when we played was not so good and people weren't on the same page that much. Bringing olof in, he always knows what to do whatever a teammate says and he always fills in the gaps very well compared to what cold maybe did sometimes. So, there have been some clear improvements, especially in practice. As Finn said earlier, it hasn't been showing that much in-game yet, but hopefully we can transfer it from practice to real games this tournament.
Taras Bortnik, GameInside.ua: karrigan, I remember my first time on a LAN event, it was in Ukraine in 2017 when you had a blast at StarLadder and won the grand final. What I remember the most is how you interacted with the audience in the venue and how it was so great. How hard is it for you to keep these emotions, this momentum, that you need to have to feel yourself in a game? Is it hard for you to maintain this online, is it something you lost online?
karrigan: My motivation never drops. The second I don't feel like I can be in the best team in the world, I'm not going to play. One thing that has hurt me the most individually is probably that since we moved online is that I could feel the eagerness. Like you say, I feed off the crowd, I love to play in front of a crowd, it just gets me into a special zone, the structure I have on LAN, all the kind of stuff I have developed over many years of playing professionally. Coming online, when you start losing you play too much. I think during this year I've been burnt out every single day, but I'm just trying to grind through because I know that once you get on LAN and you've done everything you could to grind so hard, then I also know the results are going to come.
I think coming on LAN just turns something inside me into something else. I feel the atmosphere, even though it's only a studio event, it doesn't really matter at this point I think, just seeing my teammates, having a reaction with them, seeing how they are next to me, how the mood is, all that kind of stuff... So yeah, it's been really tough for me at least to transform what I've been used to on LAN to online, and to be honest this reminds me so much of 2004 when I played online all the time. It's fun, you want to grind, but you realize after so many years that the only reason you actually play Counter-Strike is to play in front of a crowd. I never thought it was like that, but I really feel like all the time you invest 12 hours a day it's only for that one moment when you're on the stage, where you want to feed off the energy of the stadium and stuff like that. I've been working on that for a long time now, one and a half years, to kind of have the right mindset for online, but hopefully we get back to normal now and at the end of the year have some stadium events. That's at least what I hope because these are tough times.
Taras Bortnik, GameInside.ua: As a captain, do you feel that our transition into online hurt international teams the most compared to the single-national teams, or single-language teams like NAVI, etc.?
karrigan: In some way, yes, I'm not going to sit here and say all the national teams have an advantage, but let's have one thing clear: I played both for mouz and FaZe [during the online era], and bootcamps were not possible at any moment. It was a headache when we tried to do it, there were so many restrictions. I remember we had a bootcamp for last Cologne in mousesports, and a few days before the tournament woxic couldn't come. Motivation instantly drops there for a second when you're not together as a team. We had a bootcamp in Serbia, not like the best bootcamp, but we needed to see each other. It's so strange to play in a team and we haven't really interacted with the players in the team at all as teammates.
I think the disadvantage has been that we haven't been able to bootcamp as frequently as other teams like Gambit, who are living together, or Heroic, who have played from the office. So maybe there's a little bit there, but besides that, I think it's fair for everyone, it doesn't change much if it's online on LAN, but the bootcamp and having this synergy outside of the game has definitely hurt international teams over this past year.
Grady Hooker, Esports Kingdom: rain, you've been with FaZe since 2016 and before that under different banners, you've seen 20-odd teammates come and go. How does this lineup you have right now compare to those previous lineups?
rain: Yeah, I've had a lot of teammates and I've gotten a lot of experience from a lot of different players. I've been able to play with a lot of the best players in the world. This team for me is role-wise probably one of the most set teams I've had. In the past, we always tried to build this superteam of a lot of skilled individuals who were just going to run around, but the lineup we have now, I feel like everybody has a purpose in-game. I think it's one of the best iterations of FaZe even though we haven't shown it yet. I think this lineup has clear potential that we haven't really unleashed.
Milan Švejda, HLTV.org: Russel, I wanted to go back to the interview that announced the return of olofmeister, which was still a little vague when it comes to his status. Can we expect him to stay long-term or are you still trying to find a permanent solution?
Twistzz: I think, as far as the team knows, this is a long-term thing. We believe in olof and he fits the role that we need really well.
Anton Yushyn, Maincast: What amount of time have you given yourself to hit the top 10 in the HLTV rankings again?
Twistzz: With the current situation, all it takes is one really good event, you place like top four and you're inching really fast back into the top ten. Who knows, we end up in the playoffs here in Cologne, we make top four, maybe top two, and I think our goal of being back in the top ten is very realistic and happens fast. Also, there are a lot of small events, like Snow Sweet Snow and the spring events, those change the rankings quite a bit because of the teams who play it, so I think we'll start attending those events a bit more after the player break.
Zain Merchant, Upcomer: For rain, what's the biggest difference between playing with Twistzz versus Kjaerbye in terms of who's entrying, and for Twistzz, do you find you're playing a different role than in Liquid?
rain: The main difference between Russ and Kjaerbye is probably initiative making in mid-rounds. I don't know if it was something Kjaerbye wasn't used to when he came to the team or if it was something he didn't feel comfortable with in the team, but the decision-making and taking fast action during the rounds is definitely a big difference. Also, communication. Russ is a native English speaker and it helps a lot, and it brings more fluent communication for the entire team overall.
Twistzz: My roles from Liquid to now, I'd say everything is completely swapped. I was kind of like the anchor player, I was a passive player, I was supposed to be the last line of defence for Liquid. On this team it's very different, I feel like I'm in a lot more aggressive spots, and even when I'm lurking it's usually a pretty aggressive lurk. It's a lot less nade-throwing and more initiative-taking and trying to help decide where the should end, or helping Finn decide where the round should end.
Milan Švejda, HLTV.org: Touching on what Russel has just said with his switch to more of an aggressive role, it puts three people in a lot of the forward spots. Is that something you found difficult to balance at first or figure out where people fit in?
karrigan: Yeah, it's tough. When I joined the team, you look from the outside, you see some weaknesses, you see some strengths, you have an idea before you come into the lineup. At the start, I wanted to see how Russel would do in the pack with me and broky and then having cold as a passive lurker, and then we had rain trying to switch roles to a more fluent lurk, where he could control his own pace. There were some issues there, there was some learning for how we get back into that role, but I think it gave rain some breathing room from being an entry-fragger for five years. You kind of go dead in the same role over and over again.
So now with olof in the team, it made sense to give some of the more star lurk roles to Twistzz, like A on Mirage, where they can control their own pace and they can go for the lurks however they want to and help with the calling. And then we have rain back in the pack, and obviously rain and I have a lot of good synergy in the game, I always missed playing with him, also when I was in mouz, because I think he's a very unique player when he's feeling it. It just feels better in that sense with olof, that we have not a set passive lurk, so to say, but we have people who play off the information, and that's how I like to play. I don't like to have 100% set roles, we've just developed that passive role into a more aggressive lurk like you also see ropz doing lately in mousesports, he has matured over the years as a lurk and I think that's the way to play CS, and that's what I'm trying to bring out of the players now.
Mihailo Markovic, Relog Media: FaZe's first game is against EG, and if you win I guess you'll go against Complexity. What do you expect from these games?
karrigan: I think it's going to be fun to play, I think it's going to be tight against EG on a best-of-one. I think everyone playing is going to have nerves, little butterflies in the stomach, and I think that's where you just have to step up and enjoy the moment. It's all about enjoying the moment of being back on LAN, and if you go in with a smile on your face and you play without pressure... You've been looking forward to this for one and a half years, and I think that is going to be the key thing for who comes out on top, controlling the nerves and having the hype and the right mood in the team. That's going to be a really tough game, I think that's the most exciting matchup in the first round, EG versus us. Neither team has been good in the last eight months, I would say, so we both want to show a good result in the first game. Complexity is going to be a tough game if we go that route, if we win the first game. They're definitely a really, really good team who is also struggling a bit online, but we know they have done it on LAN, they've played well on LAN. No matter what, I think all the games here are in some way exciting, to see if the underdog is winning or what the favorites will do during those tough matches.
Wu Li Zonda, 5eplay: karrigan, as the in-game leader and one of the best shotcallers in CS:GO, I want to hear your analysis on the new map, Ancient.
karrigan: I think it's a great map. When Vertigo came out, it was very different to what we have been used to in the map pool with the two levels. Everybody that has played pro CS knows that in the beginning Nuke wasn't so fun to play when the sounds were bad, but Vertigo just makes it really tough. You have to walk a lot, you have to spam through smokes, you have to play retake, a lot of utility damage. It's not like there are easy fakes on the map, which I think eliminates one of the things I love about Counter-Strike, these mid-round fakes, set fakes where it makes sense what you're doing.
Coming into Ancient, it has just made sense from day one. The map layout, how you play the map, you can do heavy executes from the beginning, you can play late-round with mid control, the CTs have options to play aggressively, so overall I love the map in that sense. In a way, it reminds me of Mirage in how you want to approach the game. You can play the default, take mid control, or you can just do instant executes because you think CTs are gambling. Overall, a great map, and I love to see how it has evolved. One key thing is that they need to change the bombsites when it comes to planting the bomb. It's not always very easy to do that in my experience (laughs).
Taras Bortnik, GameInside.ua: What do you think about Gambit? What makes Gambit tick? What is their X-factor, is it just a comfortable environment online, or is it just something bigger from your perspective?
Twistzz: I think Hobbit has helped them a tremendous amount with his experience. All of them were pretty young players with not much experience, and at the beginning of the year they kind of jumped into the scene. They started to win the smaller events and I think their players started to build a lot of confidence. And with them constantly being together, I think they were in the same house together for two months, that's pretty wild, that's a lot of dedication, and when you're together that much you're definitely working hard. You've seen Gambit develop over the last year, they're constantly doing new things, and I think that's because of how much they're together and working.
karrigan: I feel like especially nafany has done a great job as a caller. It's impressing me how they play. I obviously watch some of their demos, and the way they move around the map just makes sense, they're on the same page. The only thing I want to see is if they can keep their coolness when they come to LAN. I think if I'm in their heads it's all about how much pressure they've put on themselves to prove it on LAN. They've been No.1 for the past few months, nobody can touch them, so I think the community adds pressure, but the way the players handle the pressure is the most important thing. They're young guys, and I think it's up to themselves how they come into matches. If they lose the first game, is it just going to crash or do they have so much confidence in their abilities under these pressure situations to perform on the level they normally perform on?
Milan Švejda, HLTV.org: We're going to have LAN back for the first time in over 16 months. With all the protocols in place and given that this a studio event where you're not even going to have contact with the other teams, how much of a difference are you feeling in terms of what the vibe is going to be like? Do you still expect there to to be a massive difference compared to what we've been used to online?
Twistzz: I think we'll have the same feeling as like a cs_summit would give. Just like a quarantined cs_summit (laughs), where the teams are in a room, they're not going to be able to see each other. There's obviously a lot of restrictions here, so I'm not sure how much the teams will even see each other outside of the game. Yeah, I'd say the pressure will be the exact same as cs_summit.
Mihailo Markovic, Relog Media: FaZe is now in 35th place in the rankings. What do you think is the cause for your current place?
karrigan: I think it comes down to us crashing out of tournaments in the group stage all the time. We play the big tournaments obviously, and we could have played smaller events, but then we had the change with olof and cold, so we tried to focus on the two big tournaments, BLAST and Cologne, to be fully prepared. But for me, if we play the smaller tournaments, what does it change if we are No. 20 or 35? It doesn't change anything at this point. It's so few points, it's one best-of-three against G2 and you get 50 points or something, this is how the rankings work because of the online results. When you're that low, it just takes two best-of-threes and you're in the top 15 or top 20. For me it's just been about how we get into the top ten, that's where we want to be so that we get invited to tournaments. If we are 20th or 35th, it's not good enough, we were even down to 40th, right? I don't know what happened, we got some points from something. It's bad (laughs), not going to lie about that, but one result here and there and then we should be back where you can actually see FaZe Clan in the ranking.
Twistzz: At the same, it's kind of unlucky, right? We have had such close losses, and our only really bad losses were like losing to Sprout, that was an embarassing one. And then we lost to OG at the beginning of the bootcamp. Everything else was mousesports and G2, and then we make a roster change and we're off the f**king grid. It's crazy how fast it happened (laughs).
Grady Hooker, Esports Kingdom: Just sort of piggybacking off of that, with HLTV rankings being a point of topic here, is that something that you guys are super worried about and looking at on a week-to-week or a month-to-month basis, or do you care more about your performance? You were talking about how your performance was super close fights and that might not be reflected in the rankings, so I guess do you care more about the team performance or that number that shows up on HLTV?
karrigan: To be sure, we were a little scared about the Cologne invite, I'm not going to lie about that. That's where you care about the ranking of ESL and HLTV, because we could see that the last invite to the Play-in was getting really, really tight depending on the results at Flashpoint. At that moment you care, obviously, missing out on the first LAN in 16 months, that would have been devastating to us as players, that's what we want. But on a daily basis, when you're that far down you don't really care, you just have to focus on the results. Are we losing 16-5, 16-3 to the best teams? Then yeah, we need to do something. But like I said, they are such close games that when you start thinking, 'Oh no, we're 35' it doesn't really change anything. But if you are No.2 or No.3, you want to be No.1, that's where you care a little more about that. At this moment, I'm not even thinking about the HLTV ranking, I'm just focusing on the game to make sure we are going in the right direction, and it's hard to see, they're very small baby steps, but maybe soon this baby step can become a titan at this LAN.