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Following Vitality’s elimination in the semifinals of IEM Chicago, VPEspots spoke with Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt.

The veteran French player discussed the teams results, zywOo’s impact and how the rest of the team is being incorporated, being second in the world, dream teams, and more.


VPEsports: The initial result for you guys was a bit of a shock here, but then you seemed to have bounced back. This was a bit of a rollercoaster – can you walk me through how it went from your point of view?

NBK: It started off slow as per usual I want to say with our team so far. We’ve been losing all of our opening games, that’s very frustrating because we can do much better than that. 

So we started off slow, but we picked it up especially against Renegades. Although they’re not playing super good right now, it’s a match up that we don’t like. So winning against them was pretty meaningful especially in such a convincing way. And then Heroic we just wanted to take revenge because we do believe and we are better than them. Especially the way they’re acting in the game, they’re always screaming and taunting, things like that. So it felt really great to shut them down in that next best-of-three. 

Then Liquid are just unplayable at the moment. Although I do believe we could have put up a much better match. Especially with out CT half on dust2 – if we don’t lose that second round and if we don’t lose that 1 on 3 or that 1 on 2… (laughs). I do believe we could have been much more competitive, even winning dust2. Overpass they were superior. I’m not too scared about Liquid, we’re not that far off I think.

It’s alright though, it was the last tournament of the season. We’re pretty exhausted now and gonna take some rest and then get in some practice and come back stronger for the Major.

VPEsports: There’s plenty of memes around the idea of “zywOo go kill” but we know that it’s not the simple. Even when he’s going off, some of you guys still have to show up in order to get the win. What kind of changes have you guys made to ensure that the rest of you have more impact in the game?

NBK:We’re creating systems no matter what so that every player is comfortable with what they’re doing. It’s very important for us as a team and for performance in general that everybody has to be comfortable with what they’re doing in order to perform great together.

I think it’s a bit of our problem and our strength at the same time is that sometimes we don’t really have an answer as to why we’re good, why someone is performing well, why somebody is not. That’s a problem because then you can’t really fix it if it goes wrong – but it’s great if it happens because you win rounds (laughs).

zywOo is the most consistent by far, for sure, it’s pretty obvious. He’s also put into the best situations possible, he always goes last and all that stuff because he’s going to clutch the round, he’s going to kill everyone. It all makes sense, but as you said we have dozens and dozens of strats and defenses and we need that in order to put everyone in the same situations.

Sometimes you don’t need maps or tournaments. It doesn’t really made as long as you trade efficiently, that you lock down good positions, you don’t need more than that really.

VPEsports: With the scene in general, people are saying that while the AUG has given, it has also taken away. Some teams were propped up by it and are now starting to struggle since it was adjusted. Do you think that even after the AUG nerf you guys are truly second in the world?

NBK:I think the rankings are pretty accurate, I would just rank Na’Vi higher probably. Maybe ENCE. It’s hard to judge their tournament run because they beat Heroic, Renegades, and MIBR playing with their coach so it’s a bit hard to rank them.

My main thing is Liquid is obvious number one. Second I would go with us – I think we’ve shown consistently that we’re there. I think Astralis is the closest to Liquid and us – and Na’Vi although they haven’t gotten to show it in many tournaments yet. I really like their addition and how they’re playing.

In the middle of the pack, anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Just matters who had more practice coming into one tournament, who is doing better individually, etc.

VPEsports: You guys seemingly came out of nowhere – it went from people questioning the team as a whole to “why aren’t Vitality at this big tournament.” What’s that been like?

NBK: I think it’s a lot about having steps in your progression and knowing what you want. The goal has always been to win tournaments when you create a team. That was the ultimate goal, so then it was step-by-step.

Qualify for DreamHack Open Atlanta, won it – qualify for the Minor, went there qualified for the Major. Each time we were playing one tournament and it was a step in our progression. So that’s how I see it.

The other thing is I don’t believe dream teams are put together, but dream teams get together. When a dream team is put together, it’s hard to say they’re a dream team and they’re going to win. History doesn’t really prove it to be that way. When Astralis made the change for Magisk, nobody was saying there it is, they’re the dream team. They went on and dominated for a year and then they were the dream team.

Dream teams create themselves, they prove themselves, they’re not being put together. I don’t think we’re a dream team, but we try our best and if we do good we’ll dominate. Then we could call ourselves a dream team. Being a dream team or not doesn’t matter, bringing trophies matters. Then you see whatever people want to call you. I still don’t see people calling Liquid a dream team 24/7 – they’re an excellent team, they’re dominating the era but I don’t see many people calling them a dream team although they are insanely talented and skilled.

VPEsports: Astralis dominated in a very specific way – it was the team play. If you tried to play perfect well they knew how to counter perfect. Liquid is more of sure we have the team play, but we’re firing on all cylinders when it comes to individual performance. Which would you rather go against?

NBK: It’s not easy to say. But have strengths and witnesses. I would say the most efficient way is probably Astralis’ way, but their period seems a bit less dominant than the Liquid one right now. I think it’s one that can last longer though compared to Liquid’s which relies a lot on individual skills and can dip pretty quickly.

What I like about Liquid is their game plan as well. It’s very simple what they’re doing but they’re not afraid at all. They’re not second guessing, they’re all moving together in whatever they need to do and I think that’s very hard to do as a team because you have to have everyone exactly on the same page. It’s hard to say, I think Liquid is a bit underrated strategically because what they’re doing is simple but it’s not easy to do.

Astralis was very clear that they were defaulting a lot and then playing off of that with some small tricks or one or two good strats per map. Liquid is much more simple than that in the way they approach the game and they play a lot based on map control by using individuals to gain map control and then play around the map together.

Bottom line is, I quite prefer the Astralis way but which needs a bit of craziness from the Liquid playstyle. So a mix of them both, which is how I wanted to create a team. If you want to be the best, you need a mix of all the game styles possible so you can counter anyone. Especially with the way Counter-Strike is at the moment where a top 20 team could beat a top 5 team if they’re on a good period vs. a bad period so you have to be able to counter everything.

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