karrigan: "Our main problem this season is that we need 5% more of everything"
FaZe have been struggling slightly since the tournament break came to an end, still remaining a fearsome team in their own right but not quite exhibiting the same indomitable level of form as they had during their run of tournament wins in the first seven months of the year.
They failed to top their ESL Pro League Season 16 group following a loss to G2, but still made it through to the playoffs with a 4-1 record after scoring wins over the other four teams in their group. However, a subsequent loss to Cloud9 in the bracket stage left the international team unable to defend their Pro League title and ensured they would not secure an early Intel Grand Slam victory, and their start to the IEM Road to Rio Europe RMR hasn't been completely convincing, GamerLegion and fnatic both pushing the PGL Major Antwerp champions to overtimes on Mirage (28-25) and Nuke (19-17), respectively.
To hear first-hand how the team feel about their results since the second portion of the season got underway and what they might be struggling with, we caught up with karrigan following FaZe's second match win over fnatic. The Danish in-game leader was candid and transparent in discussing what he feels FaZe's struggles are, stating that he feels the team have dropped 5% in a handful of different aspects, which are all compounding together to create a larger problem. karrigan also talked about missing the chance to lock in the Grand Slam early on and how it might add pressure to a potential Major campaign, which he thinks wouldn't affect him during the course of the event but would be something that "might change the night before a grand final."
The game you just played ended up very close despite your 10-5 first half lead, can you tell me how that played out on your end with the comeback from them in the second half and the map reaching overtime?
We had a rough start, but rain at 1-5 bought a rifle and said, 'this is going to be a 10-5 half,' and we all laughed. In the end he managed to get an entry and secure the round for us, so obviously a good comeback from there on the CT side. Going into the T side, losing the force buy is obviously rough, especially the way we lost it, I felt like we had the trades and we played the 3-on-3s not so good.
Then obviously they get a good start and we do some calls, they read it with good setups, and in the end we managed to play some ideas where, with their setup, we can adapt really fast inside the round, and that's why we managed to get back to 15-15. From there on I felt like we were in control and we had some good rounds again, but couldn't finish the job.
A pretty strong game from broky as well. He's been a little more up-and-down compared to some of the peaks he had at the start of the year, is that something that you're hoping to work on in terms of individual performances in the team or are you focusing on communication issues, which I know is a topic that you and other players have brought up before?
Communication is always something you work on as any sort of team, I've been part of it for many years and it's always a situation where you need to work on it, you can always improve. I think our main problem so far this season, the last one and a half months, is that we basically need 5% more of everything. 5% team play is lacking, 5% individual level, and also how we react and maybe also some confidence.
We were watching the GamerLegion game and there was no big takeaway of what the issue was, and when you're in that situation you just have to go with instincts in the round instead of overthinking situations. That's how we became the best team and are the best team, it's because we play off instinct and the way we move as a team and understand each other.
Some of that has been the main issue, that we haven't really recovered those 5% of everything we are lacking right now, but mentality-wise we are at 100%. It doesn't matter how the round plays out, how the rounds look, we always manage to reset and I'm so impressed that even though we did play not so good CS and not so good individual level, that we managed to actually win the games and I think that showcases how strong this team actually is.
I was up there [by the player booths] yesterday during that GamerLegion game, and I saw some frustration from Twistzz coming out even after the match ended. Was that just due to how the match was going, or has that just been building up with the results that have been happening recently?
I think it's a mix of everything, right? Players are alright to be frustrated after a game, I think it's good, you have to talk it out. As we went through the game, there was not really frustration in that sense because we couldn't really put a finger on some key moments we could play better. But the number of three-on-threes we have lost in the last two months is insane compared to how we normally play the 50/50 rounds, and in my opinion if you have 50/50 rounds, you win them 50% of the time, and at this moment I feel like we win 20% of the time.
That is why there is maybe some frustrations, and we have to be really aware and work that internally in the team, how to manage and get those frustrations out because that is key to getting back at our highest level, it's that we can talk with each other about frustrations, we can talk about mistakes. I think we're working towards that but we don't have so many vocal players in our team, so when we are trying to figure it out, everyone has an opinion and I think we are working in the right direction.
Right now it's just clinching on and using the positive things, which is our mentality. That we never give up, it doesn't matter how it looks, I don't care how we win, as long as we win, that's what counts in the end. Right now we're doing that, but it is not pretty, and there is some mistakes happening, but it's not crucial mistakes where I'm like, 'what are we doing?', it's more like, 'we could have played this better,' and why we are not playing it better is very hard to answer sometimes.
Did you have the same takeaway from the Cloud9 game during Pro League as well?
In the Cloud9 game, I think we didn't play the CT sides good enough, and that can be down to many things. It can be that individually they make us uncomfortable in situations, I think we were not adapting good enough, but also when I look at it hindsight we lost a lot of three-on-threes again in key moments where we know about the players, but we don't react and understand the round. That's what I'm saying, if you have 5% more crisp in the aim, we win that round by having a bad positioning, but if we have 5% in better positioning we don't need the aim to finish the round.
That is what I'm talking about with these 5%'s, Cloud9 had them over us and I think as an international team you cannot play the perfect structured CS, you have to manage to thrive in these three-on-threes, and that has been our main issue. Like I said, the individual level of the players is fine, it's not bad. That's my main problem, that we are playing CS, we are playing alright individually, we're not playing bad. I just think right now it's a rough period, but we managed to go to top eight at Pro League and lost to a well-playing Ax1Le once again, he really played a great game against us and that was the key difference, that he shined and none of our players really shined.
On that note, when I talked to Magisk after you were eliminated in Pro League — I'm not sure if you saw the interview or not [karrigan nods] — he said that you aren't quite at the same top level you were at.
He was explaining why he thought that could be, he said maybe it was because you had a lot of momentum and ran on confidence for so long, that once your results start to fall off then it's hard to hit that same level without resolving other issues. I'm wondering how you feel about that, whether you feel like that is accurate or not?
I kind of disagree in that sense. If we would have not won Cologne, I could agree on like, okay, we had a lot of confidence boost coming into the Major, we won Katowice, won Pro League within that confidence boost right? But you have to imagine us all as a team, we go from being number one, winning three tournaments in a row, crashing out of Dallas — which we had another reasoning, it was very close to the Major —, come very focused into BLAST, get full annihilated by G2 and NAVI, not getting more than seven rounds each on four maps.
Then coming into Cologne, we hit our peak again, and that has been one key thing for me, it's like okay, we can play bad sometimes, that happens, but we also lose to a well-playing team. It's not like we're losing to a team we shouldn't, I think Cloud9 is a great team and a top five team in the world.
So I can agree in the sense that we are maybe on less confidence, but I still feel like we are a dangerous team, like once we get into the playoffs I think everybody is probably not so happy about meeting us because they know what FaZe can turn up. I disagree in the sense that we are only running on confidence because of what we did in Cologne, without losing a single map until we reached the final against NAVI who was the second best team in the world, and managed to win three big trophies that season.
Is it also a case that some of these teams that made changes at the start of the year and now made changes again are finally clicking, and we're seeing more of a competitive top five where everybody can contend for titles?
Yeah I think so. Obviously when you change players like Vitality, G2, there's a honeymoon period where everything flies. Either you come hot out the gate like we did in the beginning of the year, or you don't come and you have to grind in. So yeah, Vitality and G2 are really coming out of a strong start from the honeymoon, and that is always a good time to peak. We all know that the honeymoon, the first few months and the first few weeks is always good, so obviously that also made the field a little stronger in that sense.
But I also think us and NAVI, we both had a slow start, we also come off a very, very long season, both of us, meeting each other in the final, going deep in every single tournament. In a sense this season had only started at Pro League and BLAST, it's not there's been a big tournament and the Major is upcoming, and I expect both us and NAVI to hit a high level at the Major if both teams manage to qualify in this RMR nightmare.
Talking about the Major, your first chance to clinch the Intel Grand Slam was at Pro League, and that didn't play out as expected. If you go to the Major here, which is looking increasingly likely now, will the added pressure of having the Intel Grand Slam title on the line on top of winning another Major add extra stress in that effort?
I think we're in a situation where we're privileged to even win the Grand Slam with a lot of chances left. We had one chance in Malta Pro League, we didn't manage to do that, and that's alright. Obviously we would have loved to win it before the Major, to come in and just try to win the Major, but now it's more like... I think the pressure of the Grand Slam will not reach the team until we actually play the final, because you're still playing the Major, it's still a huge environment, a huge pressure. For now, I don't think about the Grand Slam when I think about the Major right now, but that might change the night before a grand final where you are like, you want to win the Grand Slam and the Major compared to being in second and getting nothing, right?
So yeah, I think this is something we need to talk about as a team when we go deep at the Major, that it is a Major final and on top of that a Grand Slam, but really the pressure is so high in a Major final anyway that I think added pressure will only put fuel into this team, and in my opinion I think we have showcased this season that we have been the strongest team under high pressure when it's 15-14, 14-14 in grand finals. That doesn't make me worry at all for eventually playing at the grand final of a Major.
And it makes for a better story if you can win both at the same time.
Yeah, in front of a crowd is way more fun than winning here in Malta, so that is what we're trying to tell ourselves, but one step at a time, one tournament at a time. And yeah, the Grand Slam is our main focus this season, obviously we've only had one chance so far this season to do it, so yeah we would love to end the year with two-time Major champ and a Grand Slam, there could be history in that sense with what we would do. But let's take it as it is, day by day, and first of all we have to qualify even though we are 2-0 now.
One last question, the last time you tried to qualify for the Major and you played in the Major, you didn't have RobbaN behind you during matches because he was still banned by Valve. Has it been nice having him back standing behind you, how has he been helping in that sense?
For sure, I think RobbaN is a key component, especially in these rough moments we are now as a team where not everything is smooth sailing. He is really good at creating a good vibe and making people focus, forcing people to play retake servers with him so he can shoot them and make them warmed up.
It's so good to have him here, and I obviously felt really bad lifting a trophy without him on the stage. Hopefully we can lift one with him together and he can get the whole experience instead of being in the crowd, watching us lift the trophy and crying you know? [laughs]