1. So the year started off with the 2017 ELEAGUE Major, in which you made Top 8. Soon after, RUBIN0 left the team. Many people have pointed to his departure as the pivotal moment, claiming that he was the glue of the team, the supportive force. What do you think RUBIN0 brought to the team, and do you think his departure hurt North afterward?
Rubino was a core team player that always put his teammates' performance ahead of his own. This type of player is rare in the state of the stats-heavy CS:GO community. From analysts to beginners everything is about praising the highest fragging players. Having a player taking a backseat from the spotlight helps enable another type of players and personalities. His sacrifice in roles and frags helped a player like Magisk very much and he saw a form dip after Rubino chose to take a break. The departure of Rubino also meant a new structured North where we tried to move away from having roles set in stone to give all our strong individuals the possibility of going off through a more loose T-style based on team play (rather than a system) and initiatives. Unfortunately, it was very hard to transfer from practice to tournaments. As I wrote in other interviews, the playstyle helped increase the skill-gap to teams outside the top5 but also took os farther from breaking into top3.
2. By the end of 2016 Magisk looked like one of the top players in the world, and that form continued into the ELEAGUE Major, where he had that famous CT half on Cobblestone against Virtus.pro. Obviously, by the number North ended up removing him in favor of valde. What do you think changed with Magisk in North? Accordingly, would you care to explain the decision to swap him for another player?
Post-ELEAGUE Major Magisk lost a fair bit of confidence since the loss took harder on him than some of our more experienced players. He played lights out in his first major and it still wasn’t enough to break into top4. The following months we had decent results but Magisk felt a little uncomfortable on some of his CT-positions which made us rotate things around to help him back into shape. There were glimpses of his 2016-peak but as the team had struggled with performing continuously so did he. The breakup wasn’t pointing out Magisk as the problem but rather trying to adopt a more sustainable playstyle based more on communication and team play than raw skill power. I had no doubt Magisk would fit this style eventually with more experience on an elite level, but at the given time we felt it was the right decision. Now, it’s clear Astralis and Magisk seems like a better fit than the months post-North. I hope he develops into a world-class player he has shown glimpses of it and has the skill.
3. Now that the year is done, we can look retrospectively on North’s year as a whole. There were a lot of playoff placings, but not many deep runs. What do you think made those two North rosters so consistent throughout the year, and what prevented them from winning more series against the very best teams?
In hindsight it’s quite clear what gave the form dips after good performances - instead of progression - the individual motivation to put in the extra work to stay ahead of competition dropped off after success but comparison in results was from the same standpoints (of earlier maximized commitment), making it hard to reflect and progress as individuals and team.
This leads me to the reason why we always peaked after player changes due to everyone having the same motivation and drive to work extremely hard towards a common goal. From the outside, it’s easy to point fingers and ask questions regarding motivation, but it’s something else being on the inside in a performance culture as in an elite team.
it’s easy to point fingers and ask questions regarding motivation, but it’s something else being on the inside in a performance culture as in an elite team
The consistency came from the system set up by MSL and me. We share most of each others CS-philosophies making it easier to create a framework to implement and help players achieve the mid-round and end-round goals in certain situations. Obviously, it takes more reflection and preparation than more loose playstyles as e.g. FaZe/mouz since you rely more on philosophy, dry-runs, and micro-management than on individuals taking charge and creating openings. It also harder to remain unread since the structure is easier to adapt to (over time) than having an unpredictable individual style. The North framework was sat up for us to compete against the best teams in the world but what you can’t control is the peak of world-class opponents which especially KennyS showed in both finals (EPL and DH Malmö). If your players don’t trade accordingly or win x percentage of opening favored duels then the structure and system obviously will be hard to succeed within.
Looking back on our tournaments there have been opportunities for players to go off and claim titles but unfortunately, it was more or less only k0nfig that was consistent enough throughout the year. His drop in form in the latter of 2017 also became a new low of results in my time with the team exiting group stages 3 tournaments in a row.
5. Alright, finally I’d like to hear your assessment of the year as a whole, both for you personally and for the North team as a whole. Ever since the Dignitas team won EPICENTER, our expectations for North have been set sky-high, which is what lead folks to be disappointed when North didn’t win a Tier 1 event in 2017. But all in all, you guys had a pretty sick year! Multiple finals, tons of semi-finals. What’s your assessment of North’s 2017?
I knew the EPICENTER win would be hard to replicate since it took 3-4 players peaking at the same time and being dominant on our CT-sides. Ever since EPICENTER we had massive struggles in dominating opponents making it very difficult to close out maps and matches. With the absence of domination comes other teams’ positive mentality going into matches against us. It’s a natural development that you fear/respect (on some level) the teams that look unbeatable but see opportunities against teams that struggles. I basically had the feeling of a need to outplay our opponent to get wins since we had too many individual ups and downs never having something reliable in terms of skill.
Despite not winning a t1 event I would say we matched expectation in terms of consistency. Ever since the arrival of Magisk we’ve been a solid force within top8 for around 15 months which is far from easy despite getting a lot of criticism all across the community. Obviously, we would’ve liked to win more tournaments but I’m not disappointed with anything but the end of 2017/start 2018.
I’m proud that the players who previously weren’t considered elite players have developed to continuously make playoff runs and match the best teams in the world. I’m however sad that only MSL remains from the original North team, but happy that every player since has found a home with the potential of breaking into the top5.
Did you enjoy our interview with Ruggah? Check out this piece on SK Gaming!