In Western Wolves with players like MSL and Pimp, you were ranked third in the world in early 2013, right behind NiP and VeryGames. How would you compare that team to now? What ultimately led to its demise?
gla1ve: “I believe this team is overall better than the one we had back then in Western Wolves. More players in Astralis are capable of turning rounds around on their own, back then we only had Pimp and Nico as star players, though they were consistently good so that’s why we had a great run. The team slowly fell apart because we were four such young players and CS was not at all where it is now. We had a low salary and people were sometimes more interested in other stuff than CS.”
To my knowledge you were the full-time in-game leader in Western Wolves, while MSL was playing more of a role player-type role. Interestingly enough, today Denmark’s top two teams are captained by former members of Western Wolves (and later 3DMAX), a team that was deemed very tactical in 2013. How much do you and MSL have in common? Do you look at the game in a similar way, and are you similar as leaders? What separates you two?
gla1ve: “Yeah I was the in-game leader back in Western Wolves and MSL was helping me out, we both have pretty much the same understanding of the game so it came naturally to us. I think me and MSL have a lot in common as in-game leaders. I feel like his strength is more about making the team feel really comfortable in the way they are playing, and I think we differ from the mid-round calls (XonX situations) where I believe I am better. MSL has in the past always been more professional than me and he really deserves the success he has been getting lately.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we are the in-game leaders for the two best teams in Denmark – we both learned a lot from each other, and also from HUNDEN.”
In late 2013 you also got to play with pronax in n!faculty, prior to him joining fnatic. Did you learn anything specific from him in that time, given he is championed as one of the best tacticians in the game today?
gla1ve: “Yeah I played with pronax and karrigan in n!faculty at some point – interestingly pronax was the best individual player we had in that lineup. I was his in-game leader back then and it was a pleasure to have such a nice guy as a teammate. He later became the in-game leader in fnatic and they won a major – I wrote congrats to him on Steam and he actually told me that he had learned a lot from me. That, of course, made me really happy. I believe karrigan and I were the ones who made the decisions in-game, so I don’t remember learning any specific tactical things from pronax.”
From late 2013 through to when you joined Heroic, it seemed you were sort of floating around number of teams, unable to make any your own. Were you not considered to play with device earlier? Why do you think you were unable to build a steady team in the three-year period?
gla1ve: “I had a hard time making CS my number one focus; I had so many things I also wanted to do besides playing CS. At some point, I just realized that if I want to get anywhere with CS, I had to start taking it seriously and making it my number one priority. Ever since I made that decision, I became much better individually and a much more professional player. Back then, there weren’t any contracts in CS, which made it hard to make a steady team, especially in Denmark with players jumping from team to team all the time.”
Many thought maybe your ship had sailed for Counter-Strike before you joined Heroic. Was there ever a time when you started to think that maybe the six-month run with Western Wolves in early 2013 was the peak of your career?
gla1ve: “Yes, at some point, there was. I took a three-month break from CS where I started working full time. In the beginning, it was alright, but the longer it went, I felt like I had to go back and follow my dream. But this time going all-in. After the three-month break is when I made my decision, that I would not stop playing CS before I have given it everything I had. When I got my contract with Copenhagen Wolves just before 2016, I finally could focus 100% on CS and I have been playing full time ever since. HUNDEN once again helped me getting to where I am today.
“I have some regrets when I look back, but usually I try not to think too much about it and just try to keep my head high and look forward.”
You played fairly few top-level games in 2015, but were you actually at all times playing on the side, or actually taking breaks? Are you the type of player who is always playing with friends even outside of practice, or how do you approach the game?
gla1ve: “2015 was probably my worst year in terms of my career; that’s the year where it all started to fall apart. I stopped believing that I had what it took to play on one of the best teams in the world. But even though I stopped believing I feel like there was something inside me that always knew that if I really tried to, I could make it. I had to figure out how to turn around my life and how to get back to the top scene in Denmark.
“Even though I lost hope I never really stopped playing CS besides my three-months long break. Actually I felt more and more confident in my individual game and I think it taught me a lot to not play on a team for some time. When you play on a team as an in-game leader you never really have time to figure out how to become a better player yourself because you are always thinking about how to make the team better instead.”
How would you describe the style you like to play with your teams? Are you a tactician who prefers heavy preparation work ahead of games, or one who focuses on making the right calls mid-round? Stylistically, how similar in your opinion have the different teams you’ve led been?
gla1ve: “I would say that I am an in-game leader that likes to keep things pretty structured, and people sometimes misunderstand this. If one of my teammates wants to do something special in a round, something we haven’t practiced before, I always try to think of a plan of what the rest of us can do at the same time. It is important for me that the players have trust in themselves and don’t play like robots, you got to admire the individual skill your teammates got.
“For me a structured game plan is to make sure that everybody knows what to do, even if they never did it before. So I like to tell every player each round what to do, no matter if we have done it 100 times or never before. Of course I don’t always have energy to do that, especially in practice – but in official games, that’s what I am aiming for.
“Preparation before games is an individual thing, some players like to be really prepared and other players like to just go with the flow and just play like in practice. I feel like I am still in the learning phase about this – I can tell you a story why. At IEM Oakland I felt really prepared for our first group stage game against G2 on nuke. I was happy it was nuke because we beat them in practice on it and I felt like I had the perfect game plan from the demos I watched.
“When we started the game, I began to put myself and my teammates in uncomfortable positions because of the game plan I had figured out, it was possibly the correct one, but people weren’t confident with the things I wanted them to do – and I also wasn’t confident in myself. We lost the game and I didn’t look at one single demo the rest of the group stage – and we won the last four games in the group.”
Similarly, do you prefer to run complex tactics with set smokes and flashes, or play a more free-wheeling style, if given the chance to choose? Do you prefer taking tactics you see other teams run and adjusting them, or running around an empty server coming up with new ones?
gla1ve: “I like to have setup standards and tactics with the use of grenades – especially to take map control. Map control is the most important thing in the game and it puts a lot of pressure on the CTs. But I also like to fake the map control and do something explosive which the opponent isn’t ready for – you have to keep your opponent on their toes all game long.
I don’t run around on my own server to find smoke grenades and flashbangs that much. I watch a lot of streams and every time I see a sick setup or a sick tactic from a team I write it down, then I go on a server and try to find the grenades and make the tactic fit our team and then I show it to the team. Then my teammates have some input as well, and suddenly we have a new tactic. Of course sometimes you suddenly get an idea yourself but it’s way easier to copy other teams when you are travelling as much as we are.”
Former mTw player zonic brings in tons of experience, but how much does he help when it comes to in-game play, e.g. tactics and demo watching?
gla1ve: “He brings in tons of experience like you said and is a really calm guy who puts us all in a good and relaxed mood before games. zonic is the main guy who does the preparation for me right now. He watches demos and tell me about it afterwards, it takes a lot of stress away from me as I have more time to focus on me as an individual. I just overall think me and him have found the right way to anti-strat together. Before I joined the team, they tried with zonic being the one to look for a lot of mistakes in practice, but it didn’t work out as they hoped. So right now zonic is helping me preparing tactics and mainly preparation before games.”
Newer fans may not be aware, but zonic’s mTw had a famous rivalry with Na`Vi in 2010 where they never beat markeloff’s team, often going out in the quarter or semifinals despite being the second-best team at the event. Is this something you joke about within the team, given Astralis’s woes in the semifinals?
gla1ve: “I don’t know if they joked about that in the past when semifinals were a problem, but I haven’t experienced anything like that. zonic just has amazing and funny stories to tell from his own career and I think it makes people reflect about their own career which is a good thing.”
As an in-game leader, what is your stance on the coaching rule? Individual preference aside, do you think it is good for the game, and what do you see happening in the future in relation to it? What about the rule on being able to take four timeouts per game?
gla1ve: “I like to stick with things I know and I don’t like changes that much. I have been playing CS for almost 10 years and there has not been coaches before it became a thing in CS:GO – I wasn’t fully into the coaching thing so I don’t really know. I like it as it is now and that is everything that matters for me. I guess there could be a possible change in the future, but then I would have to adapt to that, I don’t see it as a problem either way.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the four timeouts per team rule when watching the ELEAGUE Major qualifier and I actually like it. It’s easier for the casters to keep the viewers entertained for four 30 second breaks than a single two-minute break, I believe. The other thing is that a 30 second timeout doesn’t change the momentum as much as a two-minute timeout does – and there is no better thing than to keep going on that momentum.”
What led to you not being the in-game leader of Heroic? I realize Snappi has more experience as a player, but to my knowledge he never called over BERRY in the CS 1.6 days with Anexis, and does not have the same kind of credentials you boast in CS:GO.
gla1ve: “I’m not 100% sure actually. First of all, I am not sure if I was ready to go back to being the in-game leader for that team, I am not sure I would have been able to give it my all, as I would have thought too much about my individual game because we didn’t have as good individual players in Heroic as we have in Astralis.
I also think that Snappi liked being the in-game leader and the other players were fine with it. If Snappi had come to me and asked me to be the in-game leader because he didn’t want to do it anymore or he believed I could do it better, I would have said yes, but that never happened. With that said I don’t think Snappi’s in-game leading was the problem for us when I played in Heroic.”
From my experience, changing one player for two weeks of practice can set a team back months. When Astralis had to adjust to playing with you in Kjaerbye’s stead for ESL One Cologne in July, they surely made plenty of changes. Do you think their results would have been different, had they been able to play with Kjaerbye the whole time?
gla1ve: “I have been thinking about this and I never came to any conclusion. Kjaerbye is definitely a better individual player than me but it felt like something was wrong in that team, the combination of players didn’t work out as they wanted. Maybe it gave the other players some extra team spirit to get a new guy in with a new voice and a new face – we played really great at the bootcamp at least and I wasn’t even performing that well.
At the bootcamp I did not understand how they were able to lose games against weaker opponents because they were all such good players, and I could really feel it when I played with them. It was a sick journey at the major, but to be honest I believe they would have done exactly the same with Kjaerbye.”
How would you describe your own individual playing style? Which player from another top team would you compare yourself to?
gla1ve: “Haha that’s a good question, I think I see myself as a mix of a lot of in-game leaders. At least the in-game leaders I look the most at are Zeus, MSL and HUNDEN. MSL is because he plays the way I like to play, HUNDEN is because he is a god at making tactics. Zeus is just because I see him as one of the best in-game leaders in the world and the things he has accomplished is what I am dreaming of. I wanted to say FalleN also, but I don’t look to much at SK’s approach to the game as I feel like FalleN is unique because of the way he uses himself with the AWP, and I would never be able to copy him.”
It seems that inferno is on its way back to the active map pool, which I expect Astralis to be happy about. But which map would you like to see go, and why? In your opinion, what is a good reason, in the first place, to make a change to the map pool?
gla1ve: “Inferno was one of my best maps individually and also as an in-game leader. I have a pretty good understanding about how to play that map so yeah, I really hope it comes back. I have no idea what map it would have to replace – I guess cache or dust2, but I feel like everybody still loves to watch and play dust2, but I'm not sure what Valve are thinking about all this. Maybe we are going to have 8 maps o.O?”
Despite playing in a fashion similar to Magiskb0Y and k0nfig now in ex-dignitas earlier this year, Kjaerbye has not been able to play like a star in Astralis. Why do you think that is? Do you believe there are tactical or role adjustments that can be made to better accommodate him, to allow him to shine? You played with him already in 2014, what do you think of his progress since his breakout at ASUS ROG Summer 2014?
gla1ve: "Kjaerbye has been a rising star ever since I heard about him. When I first saw him play I wasn't really thinking he could possibly be the new Danish superstar, not even when I played with him back in Copenhagen Wolves. I think he had an amazing time in dignitas, and that is where I realized that he can accomplish great things.
"When I joined up with Astralis, we had a talk about roles and together we decided to try to let me and Kjaerbye do map control instead of me and dupreeh. I think that, and the more structure and calmness on Teamspeak is what will bring him back to that superstar level he had back in dignitas. He has already shown me incredible things and I have only been here for 2 months. He has this unique playstyle where he uses his sick spray control and his pure intuition to make plays, but he doesn't always think about what position he sometimes sets his teammates in, and that is where I hope I can help him at some point, when he is ready.
"He is like a diamond in the rough, but I won't force him to learn it because, a diamond in the rough must never be polished. It can hurt more than it helps."
Which in-game leaders do you find it hardest to play against? Is there someone who seems to always have a good read on you, or whose team is hard to figure out?
gla1ve: "I think when Virtus.pro is Virtus.plow they are the toughest team to play against. Not really because of their superstars' individual level, but more because they can be so good as a team at pushing everything on the map at the same time, without over-peeking. They force the CTs to make rotations all the time which will at some point cause the CTs trouble. I have no idea who makes the calls when they are in that mood, but if it's only one person it really is incredible.
"Also I'm not sure about OpTic, I think they have a unique playstyle and they have surprise potential in their play - gonna be an exciting major."
You obviously missed out on much of the year, but have gotten a taste of the busy travel schedule since the summer. What do you think would be the optimal schedule for tournaments? How many events and online leagues would you as a player like to see taking place?
gla1ve: "It's tough to say because I haven't tried what my teammates have been doing for the last year like you said. I didn't get burnt out yet, and I think the toughest thing for me is when you have to change region for the next event. Like if you have an event in the US and you have to go from the US to some country in Europe to play the next event, that is where I can easily feel the jetlag and I think that affects me the most. But it all depends on the player himself - I think travelling two weeks in one month is fine, but then you also gotta get home and relax and prepare yourself for the next event."
At IEM Oakland you won group A, but after two days off fell just short of SK in the semifinals. Do you think the break played any part in the result? In hindsight, with a chance to look back at the game now, what could and should you have done differently? Would you have changed the veto, or are there any specific calls that come to mind?
gla1ve: "I'm not really sure about that, I feel like I did put this loss behind me pretty fast and instead of going into details about what went wrong, I just wanted to focus on what we did good, what tactics worked, and how we are suited for next event.
"I tried to understand why these things worked out so good, so we can use it more and maybe make some fakes with specific tactics. I think we took a chance with picking mirage instead of overpass, which we had just beat them on at ELEAGUE's groupstage. But we learned from our mistakes, and we could really feel how close we were to beating them at IEM Oakland and that was a big confidence boost for us going into next event."
At ELEAGUE you faced NiP in the quarterfinals. You had yet to face the Ninjas offline this year, but Astralis has been eliminated by them three times in best-of-three series: in the group stage of DreamHack Masters Malmo, in the semifinals of DreamHack Open Summer, and in the quarterfinals of SL i-League StarSeries Season 2 Finals. From an outsider’s point of view, what had been the problem before you joined? Further, what is different now with you in charge?
gla1ve: "I did not believe there was a problem against NiP themselves, but more a problem inside Astralis. They looked like a team without structure, a not so good game plan and a team who lost faith in their leader. People can call it choke all they want, I never believed in that bullshit - especially not when they used to lose in semifinals. People forget that everytime you meet someone in the semifinal you are up against a team full of confidence that have won a lot of games before playing against you. I think that the lack of structure and the sometimes bad gameplan didn't weigh up for Astralis's sick individual skill - and that is why when they reached the semifinals they met teams who were better suited to win those games.
"With that said I believe they have been choking in some specific games, but who hasn't? I knew we had a good chance of beating NiP in the quarterfinal at ELEAGUE because I saw how we played at IEM Oakland, and I truly believed that our level would not change no matter who we played against. Then I had been looking at NiP, and when I compared the two of us we just looked better."
I suggested that karrigan seemingly lost his team, and by the end of his tenure Astralis was almost stuck in limbo. What do you believe was the old Astralis team’s issue? Why could they never make a deep tournament run following the infamous loss to Na`Vi at MLG Columbus in April?
gla1ve: "So if we take it a step further, I believe that with all these semifinal and quarterfinal losses this is where the team started to lose faith in everything. They knew what they were capable of but they did not believe in their team and their leader. Then they got a superstar instead of cajunb and when that didn't work out they fell into the same old patterns as they had with cajunb - still an unstructured team but also still with no faith, and it got even worse.
"I dont think karrigan realized that cajunb meant that much to him. They probably had their problems, because you can have that with cajunb, but he is a structured guy and it did benefit the Astralis team having him on-board next to karrigan. So they decided to try something entirely new, and that is where I got the offer and the team will make sure that this doesn't happen again."
Given your team has seemingly the perfect pieces on paper, with a superstar in device and two supporting stars in dupreeh and Kjaerbye, as well as a good role player in Xyp9x, do you feel any added pressure to make sure you perform? In a sense, do you feel that it is on you to get results now that you are leading a better group of players than ever before?
gla1ve: "I felt a lot of added pressure in the beginning when I joined up with these guys, because this was my dream for so long, to be the in-game leader for such good players and amazing people. But they all made me feel really comfortable, and the more I played with them the more i realized that I did not have to perform to win big games with them. When I found my role in the team everything got a lot easier for me and now I have a lot of confidence in myself, and also in my teammates.
"It's a wonderful feeling and we will do everything we can to never lose that feeling - even if we will have tough losses. It has also made it a lot easier with all the fans supporting us - it was a sick feeling to play in the States and sometimes hear that more than half of the crowd cheered for us, like that semifinal against SK at IEM Oakland - I hope that will happen again in 2017."
Photo credit: Marcin Wróbel, ESL