Magisk: "Playing Astralis at the Major is special"
Vitality have completed their passage through the PGL Major's Challengers stage unscathed, finishing as one of the top two seeded teams with clean 3-0 records after defeating Complexity, Astralis and forZe, earning themselves a few days of rest before they are scheduled to play in the Legends stage which kicks off on May 14.
We sat down with one of Vitality's Danish players, Magisk, to hear about the squad's evolution since the beginning of the year and where they currently stand after their 3-0 run in the Challengers stage, beating Astralis, and how far the French-Danish squad can go when the next stage of the Major comes around.
You got a clean run here, 3-0. Did you expect it would go this way?
It's tough going into a Major expecting to go 3-0 in the group stage because there's a lot of uncertainty and you don't really know what teams you're going to play. There can be upsets, there are a lot of possibilities of who you can play against. So I think that in this round we played good teams, but we could have had worst draws, in a sense. I didn't necessarily expect us to 3-0 it, but the draws were in our favor.
We played some good teams, but also teams that we can beat and today was just one of those days in which we didn't play our best Counter-Strike but we still managed to pull through, fighting as a team. That's what made me proud today.
Let's go ahead and talk about today. You played, forZe, a team that has been turning some heads. What do you think of them?
I think this team is very powerful, they have good individual players and as a team they play good tactical Counter-Strike. It's chaotic, but it's in a smart way, so it's not just FPL style. It's well thought out with people playing on timings and rotations. You could definitely feel that on the T side of Nuke today, that they were prepared and they knew how we rotate and stuff like that.
They abused misutaaa rotating under and then one guy going out ramp and out of heaven, stuff like that. It's chaotic, but well thought out in a smart way, they're a talented team with a lot of potential and they've been clicking heads. They have strong individuals, so it's a team to look out for in the future, that's for sure.
The end of the game was pretty spectacular with apEX getting two big Desert Eagle taps to hit match point. How did you live that on the inside?
I mean, when I saw he one-deaged the first two guys I was like 'yesss,' such an old man getting those headshots is insane! [laughs] But yeah, it's Counter-Strike, so these rounds do happen and I'm glad we managed to win that round because we had a bad economy and it helped us. It was important and a key round, so I'm glad the old man still has it. [laughs]
The big moment for you was the Astralis match, getting one over your former team, that must have been a good feeling.
It is definitely special, you know, we have so much history with gla1ve and xyp and the whole organization itself, as well. We know all of the people working behind the scenes in Astralis and you build a relationship with them for many years, so of course it's special to play Astralis, and to play them at the Major. It's our first Major in a different team, me, dupreeh and zonic, so playing Astralis at the Major is special and it's the first time I've been really nervous going into it and I could feel that it was impacting my game because of course you want to win against them.
Just as they want to beat us, we want to beat them to prove that when you make a change in your career like that, moving away from Astralis and trying something new, you want to come out on top. So the win means a lot to me, but I also wish the guys in Astralis all the best because we know all of the players and the people, so it's a tough one but of course I'm happy we won.
You've been pretty up and down, after such a strong start here how do you feel things are going now? Where do you think you guys are at going into the Legends stage?
We struggled a bit at the beginning, it's a natural process as a team when you're changing two players and a coach, we had to find the DNA we want to have as a team. We tried going with the Vitality play style at first and I think we realized that we can't just copy it completely, we need to make everyone comfortable, Peter and I have to be comfortable as well. We tried switching it around a bit, the way we play, and I think we're finally on the right path to find the way we want to play as a team. We're going in the right direction, I won't say we're going to win the Major because we're still a team that can lose to the top teams, but we can also beat the top teams.
In the RMR we could have beaten both FaZe and NAVI, the two best teams in the world on paper, so I think we have the possibility if we're on a good day to beat any of the top teams. But we can also lose it, so I would call us a dark horse in some sense that if we have the miracle run with everyone performing, we can go a long way, but I'm not going to stand here and say that we'll win the Major. There's a long road, there are a lot of possibilities, and a lot of the teams below the top teams are also improving a lot.
The distance between top teams and tier two teams is a lot closer than it used to be. Any tier two team can beat a tier one team these days, especially in a best-of-one. If you get into the best-of-threes it's a bit more difficult, but the level in Counter-Strike in general is getting a lot closer. People are getting a lot smarter, tier two teams now also have analysts and coaches, people helping from the outside like every top team, so I think that the level of CS is a lot closer among the top teams.
We've also seen a lot of top teams make changes at the beginning of the year, we changed players, G2 changed players, FaZe had a replacement, NAVI have been struggling for good reason with everything that is going on. So I think that all of the top teams are closer than they used to be and I feel like there's maybe like six teams that can win the Major if they have a miracle run, even FURIA is performing at a high level.
You mentioned getting on the right path, can you tell me what things you're finding that are allowing the team to make progress?
A lot of it comes down to understanding each other in chaotic situations. We get a lot more experience as a team, like when we need to change up things or when we can punish other teams. Obviously, when you're a new team you make a lot of mistakes on an individual level by failing smokes or flashbangs and stuff like that. We had a lot of that stuff at the beginning because we were focusing a lot on the game.
At the beginning everyone was feeling a bit uncomfortable, trying to take a step back and trying focus on the crosshairs because we were struggling a bit as individuals. But that makes perfect sense when you're not performing on a good level as a team, everyone is going to feel uncomfortable and it's tough to perform on a high level individually when you feel uncomfortable.
That's why we were trying to focus a lot on the individual, on getting headshots, but when you're missing flashbangs and stuff like that it's hard to win at Counter-Strike, especially at this level. I think that the communication and making less mistakes, but also understanding each other in the chaotic situations is what has been improving in the last month and a half.
So getting the whole group to work together is helping the individual shine more and not be so worried.
Yeah, I definitely think it's about making sure we don't make as many mistakes, and that people are comfortable because when they're comfortable they will also perform better individually. That was the issue at the beginning, people were uncomfortable with the way we were playing, making mistakes and it's frustrating, so people are like 'oh, we failed the smoke' so the mood goes down.
But focusing on a good mood, not making mistakes, not failing nades, having everyone be comfortable and hitting headshots, it's all a balance and a wheel that if a part is broken then everything is going to fall.
You have a few days to kind of get yourselves sorted ahead of the Legends stage. What's waiting for you these days?
It's going to be even tougher now, we're obviously happy to make it to the Legends stage but the opponents are only going to get better. With the way we played today, I think we're a bit out of sync, a bit nervous maybe, as well, but it's also the first time we play a Major together so it's a natural thing.
We're still getting experience as a team and I think that we have a good chance if we play up to a level, play good as a team and keep up the individual side of it. We can go far and I can believe we can make the top eight, but it's not going to be easy, it's going to be a fight. Every team we play is going to be the best of the best, so we have to step up a little bit and keep improving from match to match.
How big of a confidence boost is a 3-0, does this change anything from going through, say 3-2?
It's kind of the same, yeah you get a little more confidence, obviously going 3-0 is better than 3-2, so yeah you have more confidence, but on the other hand playing more matches and getting more experience as a team is also a valuable thing and something we still need as a team — getting experience on LAN together, being in these chaotic situations.
Both scenarios are good, you get confidence going 3-0 but fighting, struggling and coming back as a team, getting these moments together is also important. Both things would have been good in some sense, but in the end it's all about qualifying and that's what we did and we're happy about it. We'll celebrate, get some good food, enjoy it a bit, and come back to Counter-Strike.
Just to finish on a fun note, ZywOo didn't die in the first game. Was there any point in which you guys talked about that?
I think it was after 10 rounds, someone said 'Mathieu, you haven't died!' And he was like, [imitates French accent] 'Yeah, I don't see any people' [laughs]. He ended the half with no deaths so we were like, 'Mathieu, you need to not die now.' In the last round we were in a 3vs3 saying 'don't die bro, don't die!' So yeah, we talked a bit about it, we were leading
So just joking a bit.
Yeah, we were like, 'protect the VIP!'