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THREAT: "[niko]'s extremely unique"

By Duncan 'Thorin' Shields
Mar 2, 2012 01:12

ImageTHREAT discusses cArn's leadership, the Swedish trio of f0rest, GeT_RiGhT and Gux and breaks down how he sees the members of the current Lions lineup.

SE Lions swe's SE Björn 'threat' Pers is best known as one of the best tacticians in Swedish CS, perhaps even the best. During his career he has led numerous teams which have vied for the top spots in Sweden, from SE Begrip and SE GIANTS right through to SE H2k and now SE Lions.

In late 2009 he got a chance to step out of his role as in-game leader as he spent around six months in SE fnatic, where he won WEM, placed 2nd at the IEM IV European Finals, finished runnerup at the IEM IV Global Finals and won Arbalet Cup Europe 2010. Most recently with Lions he managed to finish 2nd at Dreamhack Winter 2011.

In this interview THREAT discusses his current Lions lineup, compares himself to his ex-leader SE cArn and explains his approach to leading his team.

Around Dreamhack Summer you weren't in the Lions lineup and mentioned that you didn't know if you'd continue with CS or go to school instead. How did that situation play out?

It's quite simple actually: I didn't make it to the school since the required grades skyrocketed this year, which sucks for me but it gave me another year of gaming ;) I was inactive during that time so I didn't talk that much with the team, but I suppose they wanted Dreamhack Summer to be like a "tryout" event for that team.

Are you the leader of Lions in every sense? Do you just call the strategies?

Before I went inactive I guess I was the leader both in-game and outside the game. Though after my comeback our newest addition has taken some responsibility outside of the game. I wouldn't say we have a "clan leader" but I guess zneel is the one who books practices etc.

People often think of the stereotypical strat caller as a conductor who controls the actions of his players very precisely. Does that match up with your approach? How much do you micromanage your players?
That's a really tough question. There's a lot more in being an ingame-leader than just making good calls and tactics. You have to know your players's weaknesses and strengths, when you're supposed to put a leash on them and when to let them do whatever they want. It's hard to just name-drop players that I would let go free or "put on a leash", I think it's more about knowing which players are good at doing what.

An example in my team would be niko. I know he's strong playing passive in smokes and that's why he's usually out in the middle on d2 for example. He makes all the decisions there but on T-side of nuke I might want him to throw some particular flashes and therefore I change how I micromanage depending on map and player.

Being as you played under cArn's leadership for around six months you got a rare chance to see up close how one of the other Swedish strat callers operate. I've heard contrasting things about cArn from different people: some saying he let f0rest and GeT_RiGhT do whatever they wanted and others saying he told them where he wanted them to be. How would you compare your approach with cArn's?
Well, he did let f0rest and GeT_RiGhT do whatever they wanted on most maps, which makes sense since they have some of the highest skill levels in the world. As I said earlier I think it really depend on the maps as well. fnatic had this simple round on T-side of inferno which the used a lot during the 2009 era. cArn simply flashed up middle, which triggered f0rest, GeT_RiGhT and Gux pushing up middle. What they did after this was totally up to them, depending on the situation. So cArn usually decides where you go etc. but you can do it in whichever manner you want.

To be honest I don't think there is any in-game leader that would just let a player do anything they wanted, it just doesn't makes sense. I think one of cArn's stronger points is not how he read his opponents in the beginning of the round, but what he makes of an XonX situation. I think cArn adapts more than me perhaps. With that I mean he could simply make up a new round during a game to antistrat what the opponent is doing. I tend to keep more to the rounds we've got, which might be somehting I have to work on.

You played alongside f0rest and GeT_RiGhT and led Gux. cArn has had all three as a trio, the former two as a duo and now Gux on his own. Presumably the roles of those players have changed depending on which of the other two were also in the lineup. What is your perspective on the roles they've played in fnatic?

[Note: this part of the interview was conducted before MODDII joined fnatic]

When I joined fnatic I got to learn most of the rounds they used when they played with Gux. During my time in fnatic I would say we used their old rounds maybe 50% of the time we played. I guess some of the rounds had to be changed, since I obviously am not the same kind of player as Gux. I prefer to be a more a supportive player than just running up middle on inferno with one flash hoping to get some sick headshots.

I think they play a lot more on teamplay right now with only Gux in their lineup. They do have players like Xizt but I wouldn't say he is as aggresive as f0rest and Gux. It makes them a bit more passive than with their '09 lineup but it fits this lineup better.

RobbaN has also had Gux on his own in SK and now f0rest and GeT_RiGhT as a duo. How would you compare the way he and cArn have used those players?

Maybe cArn played a faster paced game than RobbaN but other than that I think they use/used them quite similiarly.


The combination of GeT_RiGhT, f0rest and Gux as a trio seemed to have a magical quality to it back in 2009. Yet the duo of f0rest and GeT_RiGhT together and Gux on his own doesn't seem to allow all three players to reach the same amazing level they did back then. Comparing the SK lineup of 2011 with that fnatic lineup of 2009 it seemed like SK were much weaker on terrorist sides, having an overwhelming amount of passive players in comparison. What is your take on why those three players played so well together as a trio and the differences between those fnatic and SK lineups?

I think Gux, f0rest and GeT_RiGhT had a good symmetry in that Gux and f0rest were more aggresive and GeT_RiGhT was more passive, but the most important thing was probably that they all had maybe their "peak" at the same time. Gux is indeed aggressive as CT but I wouldn't say that it has such a big impact that it would generally make a team better/worse as CT.

Gux plays a lot more "no-fear-like" than f0rest and GeT_RiGhT. Doesn't necessarily means he frags more and gets better stats on but it's better for the team. So yeah there might be some truth in that. I do think that SK has a lot of passive players, it has worked fine for them but it might still be their only weakness. face, Delpan and GeT_RiGhT are all passive compared to RobbaN and f0rest, but I still want to add that as I said earlier: everthing has A LOT to do with maps and situations. On some maps face might be aggressive because he's good at that in that perticular position.

RobbaN and cArn have had all three of those players at different points in time, while you only had Gux playing under you for half a year. Thinking of those leaders' careers, with all of their high tournament placings, and your own do you wonder what you might have been able to accomplish if you'd had f0rest and GeT_RiGhT playing for you? Would you have used them in a different manner? Could you have reached that level of success?

It's impossible to know, but I do think fnatic's success during 2009 had a lot to do with the trio's amazing form. Maybe cArn was the ony who pushed them to their limits, I don't know. But if they would have played at the same level I do think I would have had some success with those players at that time. I do think I would have called with a similiar style as cArn did with those players, it's very hard to know if you haven't played with those exact players.

What makes their careers more successful than yours?

Experience and teamplay. I've had a tendancy to bring up a lot of good players, only to see them get taken by teams like SK and fnatic. Then I have to start from the beginning.


In line with what you mentioned about your talent leaving for fnatic and SK: kHRYSTAL and zneel have already had a shot in SK, niko turned down fnatic and FYRR73 has played with you for a long time, so does this lineup feel like the first one safe from having to worry about people leaving? If SK or fnatic called tomorrow how certain are you nobody would leave?

In the past it has usually been about the money, I mean if someone offers you a good salary, travel etc. it's hard to say no. So I think that's the only reason that someone would leave our team today. We just feel so strong with our team right now that I don't think anyone wants that to change.

When face and kHRYSTAL joined SK in 2009 kHRYSTAL got a lot of attention, due to his highlight round clips and his exciting style of play, but from my perspective face was the more valuable player, since it's very difficult to find clutch CT side players who can hold small sites on their own. In light of that perception it makes sense to me, bearing in mind allen, RobbaN and walle weren't going to cut themselves, that SK chose to cut kHRYSTAL when making room for Gux in 2010, since it was between face and kHRYSTAL. What do you think? Do you disagree?
I do disagree. During that period kHRYSTAL was one of the hottest players in the world and I was very shocked when I found out he got kicked from SK. face was a valuable player for SK during that time but I think kHRYSTAL was even more valuable. People might think I'm saying this because I'm currently playing with him but if you check what I said in interviews during that time you'll see I said the same.

kHRYSTAL was SK's best AWPer and he was super-strong with rifles (especially AK), which made him have a huge impact in all the games he played. I'm not saying that they should have kicked face instead either, I just think they made the wrong choice in kicking kHRYSTAL.

Respond to this theory: kHRYSTAL is an overrated individual player. That he has a similar problem to Xizt in that his aim and impact seems impressive in games where he is at his absolute peak so people then assume his average level is in that region. Then the consistency of being unable to maintain that kind of peak level it is difficult for his team to know what they'll get from him in any given game.

kHRYSTAL has a veeeery high peak in his skills, and the games he gets there he can almost win by himself. Still, he doesn't have to play that game to have a big impact on our game. He just such a good all-around player, even being able to bring up his AWP if he needs to. It's also very easy to make a good gameplan with him, since I can put him almost anywhere and he rarely complains. He is as you said, a lot like Xizt, just very good at almost everything, which makes things easier for the entire team. I think cArn feels the same way.

Take each player in your team and compare him to another player, in terms of strengths or style of play.

I think FYRR73's playing style is a lot likes Gux's. They both are extremely offensive players and very often get the most deaths in a game.

zneel has some influences of f0rest, at least in his aim. Always being so calm and NEVER starts to spray in panic.

kHRYSTAL's aim/movement is similiar to MODDII's, very slow and stable.

To be honest I can't really compare niko with any player, he's extremely unique. He has probably the worst movement of all top players, but still he has been the MVP for us at most tournaments.

Much of FYRR73's fame comes from his popular CS movies. At Dreamhack Winter he had a big performance, earning the MVP in some people's eyes, but how would you respond to the statement that looking back on his previous tournaments with Lions and MYM he had a lot of average or unimpressive games?
I guess he played better at Dreamhack Winter than he usually plays but by that I don't mean that he plays bad otherwise. He's always been a very smart and tactical player (like most of us in Lions) and I think that at DHW he showed his A-game. He showed the same game he had way back in Giants, when he was one of the hottest players in Sweden. To be honest I can't really say anything about the MYM time since I didn't play with him or against him during that time. I only heard rumours that the chemistry in that team was bad and therefore they all played pretty badly individually.

When competing against the top two teams in Sweden it's not a case of whether a player is good but more if he can compete against players at his position/in his role. Comparing FYRR73 in that sense throughout his career how would you respond to the statement that he has been outplayed by pretty much all of the players in those lineups he was matched up with and thus his team was never going to get above those teams's level?

He really hasn't got a "determined" role in our team, I mean even if you say that f0rest or gux, for example, is aggresive it doesn't mean that they have the same role. We don't really have that many rounds that depend a lot on us doing something crazy, and therefore it's really hard to compare any of our players with SK for example. We play more methodically, like mouz for example.

ImageYou've been very complimentary about niko everytime I've seen you discuss him. He got some negative exposure at Dreamhack Winter thanks to that infamous round on tuscan vs. fnatic, in the final, where he missed some deagle bullets point blank into an enemy's back. Since you've described him as your team's MVP, which people usually associate with the best player in the team, what is your perspective on his strengths and that DHW situation?

He's just such a stable player that always delivers when it counts. He might not have had any like SUPER games, but he's always up there. About that deagle thing I just think it was a bit random, of course he could have maybe been a bit cooler but when shooting people from behind with pistols the hitbox usually sucks. niko's greatest strengths are that he's always calm and he's very good at "pressuring" positions alone, just throw a smoke for him and he's set ;)

You've said niko is so loyal he would never leave Lions but I've heard that the reason he didn't join fnatic was because Gux convinced him to play in Lions, since they were friends, so niko stayed in Lions. Then Gux left to join fnatic later in the year. How accurate is that?

It's maybe 50% true. I think he would have joined fnatic if Gux didn't join us, but mostly since there were no other players available at that time, but he stayed because he would rather play with us than fnatic since we have so much fun both in and outside the game

ImageSo would it be reasonable to suggest Gux might have screwed niko out of the chance of playing at the very top of the scene and winning big tournaments etc.?

I can't know that for sure, but I don't really think fnatic's lineup was that strong at the beginning of 2011 (yeah I know the won kiev :P). To be honest I think the problem was the chemistry with Gux for us. It just didn't work and as I said, it's really hard to know if that fnatic lineup would have worked. They changed a lot of players in mid 2011. I'm not stating that we were better or anything when I said fnatic wasnt that strong, I just think they are stronger now / end of 2010 than at the begining of 2011.

zneel has had a strange career in that he's rarely been in the spotlight despite playing for a number of the top Swedish teams, perhaps due to bad timing. When he beat SK with Begrip that's when SK was a mess, when he got into SK things were still not settled and he departed without much fanfare thanks to kHRYSTAL and face making such a big initial impact, he had a short spell with you in H2k and now you're reunited in Lions. Now he's gotten quite a bit of exposure thanks to your team's success at Dreamhack Winter and his use of the famas. Does his career so far matchup with his talent level and potential? Is the famas really a better weapon than the colt ever?

ImageThe famas can be stronger in a few situations, like peaking down mid on infenro or watching long on d2 from the A-site. Otherwise the colt is always better I'd say. zneel has had a lot of bad luck in his career and I believe it began in 2005 when some of his current team-mates went to play for GoN. The players of GoN were allen, Archi, deffe, hibb and hyrule. Thanks to zneel knowing hyrule in real life I know there was some talk about him playing in that lineup but he never got the chance. If he'd joined that lineup I think he would have been a "standard" SK/fnatic player all these years. It's as you said in your quesiton, bad luck that caused his career to be so up and down. Not that hes bad in anyway.

In terms of being able to AWP as CT effectively very round vs. the top teams in the world I'd estimate there are 4-5 players who are good enough to play that role. Where would you put that number at?

I'd say more like 10-15. Most top teams have 2 people that are skilled enough to use it, at least in certain positions. Your statement might be true for some positions though, like mid dust2. There's a lot of AWPers playing there who just don't know how to handle terrorists throwing any nades mid, it's just a waste.

So I say 4-5 and you say 10-15. With those numbers in mind how do you explain the fact three different players in Lions (kHRYSTAL, FYRR73 and niko) can be found AWPing on CT sides fairly regularly, and even sometimes all at the same time?

It has to do with what I talked about before: they are good at AWPing in different situations and positions. You can see other teams doing the same thing, like M5: xek, fox and ed1k use the AWP for them. I think they have the same mindset as us, it's just stupid to have one guy always playing with the AWP when another player is better at a specific position.

Does Lions ever use the AWP too much? Is it something you've noticed and discussed?

Haha we sometimes have some arguments about that and sometimes we might overbuy the AWP but I don't think it really has had a big influence on our results.

Since fnatic has Friis and SK has trace they'll either not be competing in the WCG qualifier for 2012 or they'll be forced to use a stand-in. Do you think this makes Lions favourites to win the Swedish qualifier?

Depends if fnatic/SK really tries to practise with their stand-in. If they just take in someone at the last second I do think we would be the favourites.

Sweden has always been considered the strongest nation in CS, so if you were to qualify for the finals would you be the favourites to take the gold?

No, I can't really say that when we haven't won a major.

ImageAt ASUS Summer you had a really close semi-final vs. FX, and the Poles even told me it was that series which made them switch some positions on inferno and helped them beat SK to win e-Stars a few weeks later. What did you think of that series?

Well we had a 5on3 when we had match point, a round we really should have won. If I remember correctly we had a easy time as T vs. them. I guess that's why they switchewd positions ^^ simple as that ;D We had this sick comeback on the first map as well. We turned a 3-12 half into aa overtime win on nuke, which felt really good for us since it's rare for us to make comebacks. Even if we lost that game it still felt good since we knew that we had a good lineup, considering we only had 2 weeks practice.

At ESWC you had a pretty uninspiring quarter-final vs. mouz, having bad first halves as CT on both maps so you didn't really ever get into the series. What is your take?

On dust2 they played a style we had never encountered before and it completely caught us off-guard. tuscan was a lot closer but we just didn't manage to play well enough individually that map, can't really say why.

From one strat caller to another what is your assessment of gob b's strengths?

He makes a lot of great tactics but he might not be the best at improvising in certain situations. That's what I would say, but it's really hard since I haven't played with him.

ImageWhen you're playing a famous strat caller to what degree can you feel the mental battle between yourselves during the game? Do you feel when he is adapting to what your team is doing or trying something to disrupt it? Do you find it easier to read the opponent when you're as CT or T?

I do like to call more as terrorist, since it's more about adapting to the opponent's defense than trying to gain information about what the Ts are doing. As you said in the questions a lot of time you notice teams adapting to your playstyle and you have to find a new counter ASAP, or try another round.

It really depends on which in-game leader you play as well. If I play SK, I know they won't adapt and take risks like "they usually go b2, let's stack there". If I, on the other hand, play ESC I know I have to change up the rounds all the time since they are always adapting.

Is there one strat caller who you've found the most tricky/difficult to play against over your career?

ave, I've always had a hard time playing vs. mTw. They just always played so solid.

With ave having retired, mTw disbanded and Na`Vi switching to starix as strat caller who would you pick as the best team in the world strategically?

[Note: this part of the interview was conducted after IEM VI Kiev]

I think Na`Vi has the most solid strats and Moscow 5 has a lot of smart "moves", also I would say that we are one of the teams right now with the strongest tactics.

The perception of M5 is that they don't even use proper tactics, just playing like a Russian all-star team, so can you expand upon that?

They have some smart pop-flash moves that we have copied, can't really say if they have pre-determined tactics but they do follow patterns.

The final words belong to you.

I'd like thank all our fans and of course our sponsors: QPAD, KASPERSKY and INWIN. Thanks for the interview!


(Photographs courtesy of fragbite and their respective owners)



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