It’s the third and final week of the BLAST Premier Spring Series in London and the content doesn’t stop here at GGRecon.

19:00, 14 Feb 2020

It’s the third and final week of the BLAST Premier Spring Series in London and the content doesn’t stop here at GGRecon, before their opening match vs EG, the legend NBK spoke with us.

We’ve got ourselves a legend of the French scene, now departed from the French scene. Nathan, you are standing here in London again, and I actually had the pleasure of interviewing you back in ECS last year as well, where you guys managed to go all the way. It’s got to have a special place in your heart.

For some reason, tournaments in England, in London, in the i-Series back in the source days were always very good for us. I’m looking forward to playing again here.

Well, hopefully BLAST can be particularly good for you guys as well. Because this is one of the tournaments where there are pretty much good teams across the board. There’s best of 3’s across the board. There is double elimination for you as well. So, there is no easy win but there is also no win that doesn’t bring you guys some recognition as a team, and that’s something you guys definitely need. Going into it, you have been invited to Katowice, you’ve been invited to a lot of events here and there, and there has been some controversy around it. Do you think as a team, you guys are good enough to warrant that right now?

So I think there’s two ways to it, I think in terms of competitive stance some tournaments we’ve been invited to, it’s really arguable whether or not we should be there. We’ve mostly been going through open qualifiers, and then been invited to very specific tournaments. Now, when it comes down to leagues and things that are going to happen in the future there is a real question on does everybody have to qualify or do you want to have teams in your league that bring viewership and stuff like that. Like you said, the debate has been like forever pretty much. In Counter Strike it makes a lot of sense since it’s sort of an open format. I think, to judge that and ultimately organizers invite whoever they want because it’s their tournament, their product, and all of that. So, they do whatever they want, but I completely understand on a competitive standpoint it is not always easy to justify and as us players we’re obviously very thankful to participate in any tournament we can have really at this point. 

Interviewer: Well, that was the only hard question I had for you right now. We can go over to the easier ones right now. And one of the easier ones is something I’m excited about. Mantuu is on your team right now, and I actually managed to catch a lot of his games when he was playing in Meisterschaft and I was very impressed with what a structured AWPer he is, you know being at a slightly lower competitive level back then. Has it been surprising for you seeing him come into his zone and you know seeing how he interacts with the team overall?

When we started trialling him, Mateusz was very very sure. I knew he had something special compared to other players. He had something extra in several ways. So first, his attitude towards other players and the game itself I think is very good, like his background as well. The studies that he’s made and all that, and also playing in Attax I think is a good thing, where he already experienced structure that you always need at a higher level. You cannot just play and do whatever you want. So, to me those are a lot of good things for him, and then it’s important for us to be able to enable him to do whatever he wants because he obviously has very good high-skill ceiling, and for him to go wild once in a while in some rounds makes it easy for us. It’s really something we’re searching for him to control fully. I mean, he is following the structure very very well, and it’s all the matter of a lot of experience, you know. Like the more situations he’s going to play the better he’s going to be for sure. 

So Nathan, the other thing I had to ask you about was communication wise. You came out of not having played in French rosters for a very long time, and Aleksib, obviously a very young in game leader but came out of playing for a Finnish roster for over a year. Both of you are the primary voices in the team. Is it difficult adjusting to a fully international roster where everyone is from a different place?

There is certainly some difficulty to it. It’s hard to quantify it because it’s an abstract concept, but there are definitely some things that we are working on very actively to make better because communication to me comes in two parts. There is communication within the roster, like people speaking to one another, understanding each other better, obviously because we don’t know each other before, except for like saying ‘hey’ in the lobby. Then we have to learn each other on a day to day basis so this has been going extremely well in the sense that we’re very open to each other. We talk a lot, so this is very very good. In terms of communication in game we still have quite some issues. They are not massive ones. They are small ones that will cost you some rounds at a higher level but those are things that we can definitely fix. It’s nothing too bad for sure. It’s taking a bit of time. It’s along the lines of what we expect as well. Like we don't wanna be good after two months of creating the team. We really want to work on the good basis and get better and better over time. After several months and then show our full potential. It’s a process. Communication overall has been good but there’s obviously in-game specifically things to improve in.

NBK OG

This is also a very different team from what you’re used to in another way as well which is typically teams that you have been in have always had one or two clear star players. Be it Shox, KennyS and ZywOo in Vitality. It’s been a clear star-player. And then everyone’s kinda setting up around them. Now in this team you’ve got yourself mantuu, who is the AWPer, who can have very high skill ceiling. You’ve got yourself valde, there’s no questions asked about how good he is. You’ve got yourself ISSAA as well who’s also fantastic. And obviously you’re the old rock. Aleksib also got his moments as well. Is it difficult having a structured team around so many players when your communication is already having some slight issues like you said?

There are obviously some issues of things that we run into, but I think probably not in the sense that people realise. Like getting everyone together because as blameF was talking about this in one of his best interviews. And choices have been different where all the players are gonna shine, where everybody understands fully the system that we are playing into. That Aleksib is establishing. That is the main point for us to be able to perform to the best of our abilities. This is the main thing we have to work on. Because once that happens, at least what we saw in practice, people are comfortable. Everybody pops off and then the whole team is on the same page and on the same level. It’s just good to see and to play. When it doesn’t happen there’s confusion. There’s still not yet that full mentality of being soldiers for some of the players and wanting to have a sort of a voice as well. The whole concept of the team, what we wanna create - Aleksib and me - is taking care of mostly part of the communication, rotation, all of that. And for the players to have full trust and headshot people. That’s the kind of global structure we want to do. Right now, because valde was in game leading. ISSAA has a voice as well, probably stronger than what people imagine. Then we have to adapt to all of that. Once we are gonna be able to find that great balance is when we are gonna perform at our best. That takes a bit of time and experience. You know, to negate all of that in our brains, and just to suppress that more and more, and to have that forced energy and trust from one another. 

Well, you guys will definitely have some time to establish yourselves up right there. But you mentioned just now that the philosophy in the game for you guys was planned to be that it was going to be you and Aleksib who’s really kind of figuring rotations and everything. And everyone else has to focus on their aim, but how much of a say do you have in calling in that case? Because I was under the impression that it’s just Aleksib allows you doing it?

Yeah, it is. We tried two different versions, ultimately we stuck with Aleksib for the calling and so what I’m doing now is helping him and Casper, our coach, with preparations especially for the CT side because I have a very good understanding and I also want to bring a lot more simplicity to the whole roster and the way we portray everything. So, those are the main things that I do, and then in game I control my part of the map so there is trust between Aleksib and me and we work that way, because I know what’s good on my bomb site and he can not see everything you know. So, we work that way for the most part. I help with mid run calls as well, and that’s pretty much it. The structure is very simple. 

Well, I’m sure this weekend will be a big proving point for you guys as well, but finally a slightly easier question for you guys. Going into it we don’t really know 100% where OG will be, as fans. So to you, as a team, from the three teams that are here, 100 Thieves, EG and G2 who do you think is the hardest matchup and who do you think is the easiest matchup?

Shit! That’s supposed to be an easy question? I mean, I think of those three teams, it’s tough because all the teams are very good in their own respect. I think the G2 is good for us to play against because they are pretty much in the same pace with us, where they have structure and it’s often hard to find that balance between structure and liberty. So, if you manage to break this then you can have an easier time I guess for them adapting and all of that. So, I guess they would be the easiest matchup. And the hardest matchup, I’d say EG probably. They're a very solid team all across. Stanislaw is a very smart leader. Especially now, the small break they had. They probably came up with a lot of new things knowing them. And so it’s going to be quite a surprise coming against them in the first game.

Images via Beyond the Summit

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