Twistzz: "Our whole thing was to have Vertigo ready for the Major"
The Canadian rifler gave some key insight into his team's early exit from IEM Rio, and what they have done to remedy their form.
FaZe's IEM Rio Major campaign began with disappointment, the squad squandering a massive lead against Cloud9, and ended in embarrassment with a 6-16 spanking by Vitality and then a 1-2 series loss against massive underdogs Bad News Eagles. The second half of the year has not been kind to FaZe in general, a far cry from their title-winning exploits earlier in the year.
If the team that won three of the big four events this year wants to end on a high, they need to start getting things right at BLAST Premier Fall Final. With many of the other teams in attendance also lacking form and low on confidence, the event seems like the perfect chance for FaZe to play their way into shape.
Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken took some time with HLTV ahead of FaZe's upcoming campaign in Copenhagen to give his thoughts on his team's woeful Major showing, how they have sought to remedy their fortunes for the remainder of the year, and what he thinks about the current lack of a clear No. 1 team.
It was a disappointing performance from FaZe at the Major. What happened?
The Major can probably be summed up in a way where maybe we had unlucky draws, we played two teams who were in the top five at the time, so kinda weird to enter the Major that way. Nonetheless we choked a 14-7 lead against Cloud9 which needless to say if we won that, it's a completely different result. We had a pretty lacklustre game against Vitality, as a team we couldn’t get anything going, and then completely dropped the ball against BNE. Props to them, they shot very hard on a day where we didn’t really feel we could get anything going. That pretty much summarises our experience at the Major.
Would you like to see a change to the approach to seeding then? I think NAVI had a similar experience, playing top teams in the Legends Stage.
I think it's weird because upsets usually happen at Majors and they happen because of the Bo1 system, there's lots of opportunities for them to happen. The problem is when one of them happens it really ruins the seeding for the team that lost, and the other teams that have to play that team now.
It has a knock-on effect.
Exactly, a completely domino spiral. I think the reason they can't change it is because it would make the Major run too long, because I think Bo1 should be removed entirely, maybe only the first match should be Bo1 and move everything else to Bo3. I think it would be different if the seeding was still that way but we had at least played Bo3 against the other good teams, because at least if you lose a Bo3, you made mistakes. Losing a Bo1 is rough because you could have had two more maps to play.
Something that has been a strength for you guys, but seemed to let you down particularly against Bad News Eagles, was that clutch factor. Why do you think that is missing from your game at the moment?
Like I said, I think the BNE game was mostly up to the duels in very key moments, and if you don't win the duels then you're not going to win the Counter-Strike game (smiles). That's pretty much how it goes. It's tough to say because individuals did step up in their own moments on each map, but it just wasn't enough as a team effort to really pull through. Obviously we've tried really hard to not overthink the situation, because I think BNE just played a very strong game against us and that doesn't really reflect on how our practice was going.
We had a very solid boot camp, teams were even saying so. We had extremely strong scrims against pretty much every team, I would say our win percentage in scrims was probably like 80% over nine days of five maps each day, so it was very good for us. All we can really do now is use that energy that we put into the bootcamp and use it not only for Rio but the other events we have left.
A lot was said about the veto against Bad News Eagles, there seemed to be a consensus that leaving Vertigo up was not the right idea. What was the thought process within the team?
Of course we played Vertigo a lot in practice at the bootcamp, it was kind of our whole thing, to have Vertigo ready for the Major. We hadn't been feeling good on Ancient, we couldn't really figure out the map in time before the Major and we thought that the way people like to play fit Vertigo better. It didn't really matter what team we played, I mean Ancient was Bad News Eagle's best map, and we didn't want to go into the Bo3 thinking Ancient was gonna be tough and there's a chance we start 0-1 anyway. We just thought Vertigo was more 50/50, they didn't have any information on us, and it's a map where you get lots of duels so we were relying on that a bit.
Obviously it's a team decision you know, Finn asked everyone and personally I'm a player that feels very good on Vertigo and it's a map I like, so of course I said yes. We decide, we prep, but unfortunately it wasn't enough that day.
If I could speak more generally, is it hard to get yourself up for tournaments considering the success you had at the start of the year, the incredible highs? Is it tough to get motivated for games where the stakes aren't so high?
I don't think so. The RMR games for us were very intense, lots of OTs, the energy that was put into those games proved to me that everyone still has that winning mentality and they're still hungry to win, it doesn't matter the opposition we play or the stakes. We tried our heart out, I feel like people invested their energy into the matches we played at Rio.
We had an opportunity to reflect as a team, practice for the past week, change some things and approach the game in a better way for everyone, kinda see eye-to-eye again. Even if you did before, it's always good to retouch on it and see if people still think the same way. Once again our practice was pretty good going into this event, so it's just about applying that skill to the matches.
Do you think that is what was needed, a bit of a refresh of your game and approach?
Yeah of course, that's exactly what we did after Lisbon as well to be ready in time for Cologne, because it’s a very long event so we have to have a very thorough playbook going into it. Obviously it worked there, the problem is we didn't play so many games at Rio so not everything we did practice or wanted to use was used, we didn't really get to venture into our entire map pool. It's just unfortunate really how Rio went and we are looking to have a good result here now.
Do you think there's any element of a packed schedule punishing you? You play basically every top tournament, is there a need to focus on peaking at the right time?
I think that actually is a discussion, but it's a lot smaller than maybe people on the outside think. You don't have a big talk at the beginning of the year about events you want to be super prepared for, it’s only really the Major that you think of it that way. Also many teams boot camp at the beginning of the year because Katowice is usually at the beginning of the year, and you want to start off strong, it's a big event, you don't want to flop at it. Same goes for Cologne.
Usually the most stacked tournaments where you want to have a good result, not only because it brings confidence up but it also impacts the rankings heavily, especially when events are ESL and it affects both rankings. Everything's important, we won Pro League which qualified us for the BLAST Final, so everything kind of has impact.
That's why it's a lot less friendly to take a break for a tournament or skip an event because of how heavily it does impact the rankings. Especially I feel bad for the teams that can't attend one of the last two events, look at C9, they are top-three and they might end the year outside of the top five.
You mentioned that you have worked on a few things, changed a few things, can you give me any insight as to what you have done ahead of this event?
Like I said I think it was just about building confidence up in a teamplay style, just like you pointed out before the clutch factor, maybe that wasn't happening as much because people weren't taking the duels they would usually take. CS is that game where confidence is everything, and if you hesitate for even one second to take a duel then it's no longer in your favour.
Just trying to find that groove again, that confidence where you can make a mistake, you can take a high risk duel, and if you lose it you know that your teammates are going to have a chance in the round, you don't have to value your life so heavily where you are too scared to do anything. It's something we are trying to get back into ourselves.
I guess it's easy when you are winning everything, everyone is hella confident?
Exactly, you don't even think twice about doing something, you just go for it.
What are the goals for these final two tournaments? Have you sat down as a team and said you want to win these, are deep runs enough?
I think our main goal is to win one of these last two events of the year, even if we make this final and don't win but win Abu Dhabi, personally I think the result is fine. Nonetheless, if we don't win either one of these events it is disappointing. We had a very strong year, I know people might congratulate us on that for the first half, but honestly it doesn't feel so great when you end the year on such a low.
You'd almost rather do it the other way round, right? Start weak and finish strong.
I've been asking people what they think about the lack of a clear top team right now, and it seems very appropriate to ask you as you were the last team to occupy that throne. What are your thoughts?
First of all the scene is very competitive now, I even felt that way back in Antwerp where Spirit was an unknown entity and had a really big result. That game we played against them in the semi-final was the first game with a crowd to be honest and it was extremely tough. I think there have always been competitive teams, tier-two or tier-three teams that can push tier-one teams, and you don't really get to see them up until the RMR and the Major when there's way more spots and opportunities, that's where you get to see them shine.
In CS everyone knows how to aim, it's just about what players take the better initiative, who has the better ideas, what players can really read the game, and if you're playing purely on duels against some of these tier-two teams it's gonna to be a toss-up. Everyone can shoot hard, and CS is that game where if it's your day, it's your day, so you don't want to gamble that. You want to feel as prepared as possible for every team.
I hate seeing comments where people say CS is boring now that there is no clear favourite, but this is what makes the game great, it's super important for the scene to see new players coming in and doing something great. Obviously it's great for the future of the game, for the growth, a great opportunity for the orgs to see there are more players. At the end of the day it's a sport, but you also want the organisations to have something to look forward to.