degster: "It was funny to see snipers making jokes that I could replace them [when] I already got offers from their team"
Unlike most teams, OG decided to not wait for the official tournament break to undergo lineup changes. Having seen degster stand in for Mateusz "mantuu" Wilczewski at the BLAST Premier Spring Final and lead them to the semi-finals with an impressive performance, the European side jumped at the opportunity to sign the Russian just days before the off-season began.
After getting one of the most impactful players on the market in the former Spirit AWPer, Nemanja "nexa" Isaković and company are now heading into the new off-season set to play their first tournament after making the signing official at the BLAST Premier Fall Groups.
We had the chance to sit down with degster in Copenhagen the day before OG kick off their campaign in the event in Group A. In the interview, the 21-year-old shares why he said yes to the OG offer and why he didn't wait on other opportunities to crop up during the off-season when teams typically make their changes.
The freedom to do what he likes — being aggressive and actively looking for picks, which is becoming rarer nowadays in AWPers — and OG's willingness to adapt to that was a big selling point, degster says, adding that he saw the team had no reservations when it came to pursuing him, unlike others.
"I'm feeling okay with [my decision] because if someone really wants me, they should contact me before [the end of the season]," he says. "If you really understand that the season is finishing and you want degster in your team, you don't need to wait for that."
"You've already seen what I can do, I already said what I wanted from the team that I'd join. If you have something like a 'but,' then I will choose other guys who will not say this 'but.'"
You signed with OG about a month ago now. Tell me about that decision — why did you decide to join them long-term so fast after standing in for the team?
When I left Spirit, I understood that I wanted to try to be in Europe. I can tell you that when I joined Spirit in 2020, I said to the CEO that I would like to have something [in the contract] to have a chance to leave towards Europe after one year with them. I was young and I didn't know how the contracts worked in esports, I had only one before, and he explained to me that no one will sign you for one year, because after one year your prices can go up and you will leave them for free.
From that moment, I was 19 then, I understood that in the future I would like to test myself in Europe. When I left Spirit I really wanted to try, because for me playing CS is not only about winning tournaments and being in good shape. The most important thing is that it's a place to improve yourself. The most important thing in my life is to improve from year to year and always find some things that can improve you as a person. If I'm getting better as a person, I'm also starting to play better in the game. It's very good.
After we played with OG at BLAST, I saw which coaches they have — a coach is really important right now in a CS:GO team — and which caller they have. It was very interesting to play with nexa as an IGL. The most important thing I heard from them when I joined the team to stand in was, "you can do whatever you want and we will adapt for you." I never heard that before. Only one guy was trying to help me, S0tF1k in Espada, but overall the players were not on the same level as the players in OG. It's making a big difference. I understood that these guys can give me what I want and that they really want me. It's really important for me after playing with Spirit to join a team that really wants me. It was funny to see that some snipers were making jokes that I could replace them, and they didn't understand that I already got offers from their team (laughs).
Like mantuu, you mean?
No, no, I mean other teams (laughs).
You touched on the freedom — that seemed to be one of the factors in the departure from Spirit, as well, that they didn't want to give you that amount of freedom. It looks to me like you're just really enjoying time being on the other side now.
I think the time in OG is my time to improve myself. Right now we don't have a big system because we're playing with each other only nine days as a team. I can see that our potential is on a high level anyway, we just need to understand how we can work with each other and how we can support each other on the map. It's also really important for me as a sniper, because I need my players to understand how they can help me to do what I'm doing on the map. If people don't understand it and play by themselves, it's much harder to win against top teams. For me the biggest goal is to beat top teams and to win top tournaments. I've never won a tier-one tournament and I really want to, I'm really excited to win it with OG.
A lot of teams usually make changes during the off-season and you made the jump before that already. Why didn't you wait for a bit longer to see if there were other options? Did you talk to other organizations and knew what the options would be?
I was a bit faster, but overall I feel that I chose the right decision for myself. Yes, some teams were writing to me like "bro, what the fuck, we just finished the last tournament and we were thinking we were very fast right now" (laughs). As I see it, from my experience and my vision, experience is important, but the most important thing is players that want to play with you and will do what you want from them. It's really important for me, because if you look on HLTV how many snipers can make aggression it's only like one, two, three players. Other snipers are always passive. And if someone wants me and I see that they can adapt for me, I would like to play with them and work on myself between being passive and playing for the team to expect achievements where you work less than what you can do and what you want to do. I was really tired sometimes because of that and I just feel that I need to not overthink, I don't need to wait for top 10 teams.
I got invites after I joined OG, I had some invites when it was the day we announced it, and I didn't feel like, "oh, I made a bad decision for myself." I'm feeling okay with that because if someone really wants me, they should contact me before tournaments. If you really understand that the season is finishing and you want degster in your team, you don't need to wait for that. Also, some teams were writing to me like, "we are interested, but we need to talk with you." And I'm saying like, "okay, guys, what do you want to ask me? Where are your questions? You've already seen what I can do, I already said what I wanted from the team that I'd join. If you have something like a 'but,' then I will choose other guys who will not say this 'but.'"
Maybe I will make mistakes, but I'm already 21 years old and sometimes for me, psychologically, it's hard to see younger players winning Majors and you still not. It was a great result to be in the semi-final with Spirit, because it was my second Major, and from the first one to second I upgraded myself, and I should say like 'thanks to Abdul who was working on it.' But overall, I still didn't win a tier-one tournament and I'm really hungry for that.
And you think this team can do that?
Yeah, of course. I believe in these guys. These guys are really good players individually and really good people in the team. If you feel the atmosphere, it's very important for me in the team. I already had teams where we had a negative atmosphere, but here we are speaking with each other super comfortably, we're trying to help each other, give some tips for anyone who wants to hear it. I think if we work in the right way, we can be a top 10 team and we can win tier-one tournaments.
You've just qualified for the European RMR, so congratulations on that.
A pretty difficult run and a long couple of days, right?
Yeah. I agree with that (smirks).
How was that experience?
The experience was good, but we lost to Falcons. I think the most important thing about this qualifier was to play some official maps and to see what's not working for us. And as I said to OG before the qualifier started, when we lost to them at the previous Major qualification we got a lot experience. We lost to Falcons and we got this experience, and we'll take that for BLAST and other tournaments. I think it's great for us. And we still qualified, that's good.
You talked about having nine days with the team — how comfortable have you gotten with the team since you started playing again?
I would like to say that I'm feeling super comfortable with them. The most important thing here is the team of coaches, Kasper [ruggah] and Alex [kakafu], who are doing a very good job. They're making a very positive atmosphere, they never say anything toxic to players, which is a very important thing in my opinion, to work in a good atmosphere. If you don't feel it, for young players it's destroyable, so the good thing is that no one is negative to each other. Yeah, we can speak about mistakes, but overall you don't feel like someone is toxic towards you.
Everyone understands that we can be at the same level that we showed at BLAST, and we just need to work on it. We had a vacation, that's why we need time. Everyone was chilling and some of us didn't play until they came to bootcamp, and everyone needs time to be back in shape, to be back on the road of competitive gaming. Right now we have like one month of being together for the bootcamp, RMR, BLAST, and we're also going to Australia to Melbourne, and I think that will be enough for us to be ready for the RMR and the Major.
How much did you have to change from when you stood in at BLAST? Did you have to make up a lot of new stuff coming into the season, seeing as you're quite a different AWPer to mantuu?
Yes, I think we're trying to do that. I saw what they gave me at BLAST and it was important for me to know if I would have the same when I joined the team. Right now we have a system that's not working the same as it was in BLAST. Overall we changed a lot of things and we are still on the road to finding our game. We need to talk with each other, we need to play some more tournaments because right now it's only open qualifiers where you don't know who you will play against.
It will be very good for us to play in BLAST and see how it's working against top teams, because when you're playing open qualifiers, you can see teams who will not throw any flashes, they just try to hit a headshot with strafes, they're getting these headshots, and you understand that, "okay, no one else will do that, no one will peek you like that from the top 10." Why should you adapt to that? You don't need to.
How are you approaching this tournament, then?
I just wanna say that degster is a typical enjoyer. (laughs) I'm enjoying what I'm doing, right now I'm enjoying where I am, I'm enjoying improving my English and my game. I just feel that I can improve here, I have seen more potential here, and I have big expectations from the whole team.
For this tournament, I think we should enjoy and try to play the game as we can, and we'll see our results. I don't put any expectations on us here because, also, when I had expectations about this tournament I didn't even know we're playing three best-of-ones. I was thinking that we're playing until the tournament is over like it was in Lisbon, but the day before the tournament starts my teammates say to me, "no, bro, we're not going to have something like that."
You should get to play a lot of different teams, especially if you go further through the knockout stage — that's still good experience, right?
Of course, I love to have this experience, and I also love to play on LAN. It's one of the biggest motivations for me.
OG's campaign in the BLAST Premier Fall Groups kicks off on Friday. Playing in Group A of the opening stage of the event, the European team will play against Vitality, with Ninjas in Pyjamas and Astralis sitting on the other side of the double-elimination bracket.