NIP started out their run at PGL Major Stockholm looking like the same team that had won IEM Fall just a few weeks before, but after the 2-0 start it all went wrong for the Swedes as they conceded series to Natus Vincere and Gambit, falling to a do-or-die game against Copenhagen Flames.
It took a massive effort for NIP to keep the surprise team of the tournament at bay, as device and company had to come back from a map deficit in the series and a 0-7 start on Inferno as the second, scraping by the Danish side after overtime on the deciding Ancient.
Shortly after the victory that put NIP through to the playoffs, which will see them play in front of a big Swedish crowd from Thursday, we had the chance to interview device about the home team’s run in Stockholm so far and the difficult qualifying series.
The superstar AWPer talked about NIP‘s struggles in the group stage against the two CIS teams and the draining best-of-three against his countrymen, as well as their chances in the playoffs, where they will first lock horns with G2 in the second quarter-final. device also shared his thoughts on Fredrik “REZ” Sterner‘s individual woes and how the team will be able to manage the pressure of the home crowd inside the arena.
I think we have to start with this qualifying series against Copenhagen Flames, not just the comeback on Inferno but also Ancient, not being able to close it out in regulation and having to do it in overtime. Tell me about how that all went on inside the server, it must have been pretty emotional.
People have probably figured out that CT side is our stronger side, and going into Ancient it was pretty rough in the beginning, I think it was 5-5 at one point and a lot of scrappy rounds back and forth all the time. That was really tough for us, everyone mentally knowing that usually we get 12-13 rounds on CT, I would say that was a pretty stressful factor. Overall, I would say that the team kept pretty calm and throughout the series we were pretty calm and believed in our game plan.
I think these series automatically just become very scrappy because it’s for elimination, it was not beautiful CS, a lot of scrappy rounds, a lot of rounds decided by individuals, and that’s how these games are. I think we managed to deal with the emotions pretty well, but Nuke and also Inferno was shaky, and there were moments – not where you doubt that we’ll win, but where it looks kind of desperate. And the whole series was kind of desperate from both teams, and standing here now I’m just incredibly happy that we pulled it off.
I talked a little bit with HooXi and I think they deserved it as much as we do. I said to him that you have to have these losses to become a really great CS player, I’ve tried it myself
Were you surprised to see Copenhagen Flames put up such a big fight? Obviously, you aren’t the first ones that they took to the limit, but to experience that yourself, what was that like?
I’m very impressed with their individual skill. I knew that they were a good team, I really think that they play good CS, but individually they shot really hard, especially jabbi. He was so good today. That was probably the biggest surprise in some way, but no, I have a lot of respect for them. We didn’t go into the game thinking that it was going to be easy at all. We also had two losses in a row and having that is pretty hard going into the third game. Honestly, it was just trying to deal with the emotions throughout the game because it is going to be a game of a lot of emotions and everyone just wanting to be in that arena.
I talked a little bit with HooXi and I think they deserved it as much as we do. These games are determined by small mistakes and small plays, and in the end we had the game with us, and I said to him that you have to have these losses to become a really great CS player, I’ve tried it myself. I hope they keep going, I think they’re really strong, and again, I’m super impressed.
You went 2-0, then you started to struggle against some of these big teams, not really having much of a chance in the series against NAVI, and it all fell apart after the good first half against Gambit. I imagine this is not the form you see yourself on going into the playoffs, so what is there that you guys have to catch up on and fix before you get there?
I think our biggest problem right now is playing CIS teams. We’re having a tough time doing that. We’re obviously looking at that, or the team in the background are doing that while we try to get the performance straight on the server. We had a 14 match winning streak going into the first game against NAVI, but NAVI is just a different breed. I’m super impressed by B1T, amazing as well. We had two chances to qualify for free and we didn’t manage to do that, and today the pressure was really, really on, and we managed to pull it off, but for us the hardest thing is the CIS playstyle and in general how they do things differently. I think that is something we’re looking into.
I think our biggest problem right now is playing CIS teams
We haven’t seen REZ in the same kind of form that he was in at IEM Fall, where he was such an instrumental player for you in your run. What has he been struggling with, and can he get back into shape for playoffs?
For me, now being in the team, I would say it’s a bit random. He’s the best aimer I’ve played with together with dupreeh, so it’s just small details, and I think it can change in a matter of seconds for him, as it did on the CT side on Inferno. It didn’t matter that he had two kills on the T side, when they went to his bombsite he killed three anyway.
It’s definitely something that we’re working on a little bit, but I’m pretty confident that he’ll just pop off at one point. That’s the player he is, and he at least has the same confidence and does the same things he’s always doing, so that’s one thing that is really important, that when you’re having these struggles and down periods, you don’t start becoming too eager or too passive. That’s something I myself sometimes struggle with when you’re having a hard game. He’s doing what he has to do, and as long as we keep doing that I think he’ll just pop off at any time.
You’re matching up against G2 in the quarter-finals, which has been an interesting matchup for you, very back and forth in the past couple of months. What do you expect from them this time? They’ve looked pretty much up to par with the form that they showed before the break, before they went on their slump.
I expect a good game. I think they’re a team we can match up with, I think it’s going to be determined a little bit by individuals, I would say, because they have crazy individuals. Right now, it’s a bit of a guessing game with that game, I know that they’re good team and I think they respect us as well, and playing in that arena, nobody is used to that. Even though I’ve done it a million times, it’s been two years or something like that since the last time, so whether you have experienced players or not, I don’t think anyone is ready for that and it’s about dealing with the emotions. That’s going to be interesting. For me, even today being in a studio environment, you get your fucking nerves up and it’s really about managing that and trying to stay calm under pressure. We’ll see how that will affect players when we get to the arena.
We believe that we can go all the way, but it’s going to require that we step up and play as we did in IEM Fall
When you joined this team six months ago, you had a clear mission and message that you want to bring the Major to Sweden. Is winning the only goal here?
I’m happy with our performance now. We spoke about it sometimes going into this tournament, that if we get to the top eight anything can happen. It’s three best-of-threes in a row, it’s not the hardest thing to do if you just get on a roll.
Of course it’s the goal, I would say that getting the honor to play in the arena and getting the experience together is good enough, and going into the game I just want everyone to enjoy it and play their hearts out. I think that’s the message that we said to each other. We believe that we can go all the way, but it’s going to require that we step up and play as we did in IEM Fall. I would say if we play like that, we can beat any team here.
You’re going to be the home team here and have the crowd at your backs. Do you see that as something that is going to help you or add that extra pressure on some of the young guys who haven’t really been in this position before?
I don’t know. For us in Astralis it was always hard to play in Denmark in the Royal Arena as well, so it does add a little bit of pressure, but if you lean into it instead of being scared of it, playing with the crowd and cheering with them, I think it can help a lot. But if you start getting scared of the mood in the arena and stuff like that, it can hurt, but honestly, man, as I said it’s just about enjoying it. It could be a quick game, it could be a long tournament, so take everything in while you play and focus on the game. I don’t really know what to expect, honestly, I just know that a lot of Swedes are going to back us and it’s going to be a crazy environment.
PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.