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NaToSaphiX: Professional career is my number one priority

We interviewed Sprout’s AWPer, Niels Christian "NaToSaphiX" Sillassen, who worked as a talent for Masters.

NaToSaphiX CS:GO

The Danish player talked about his first steps on the way of creating a successful YouTube channel, how he got into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, when he decided to become a professional player, and in which ways Sprout is different from any other teams that he’s played with. 

Beside the questions which were personally connected to him, he discussed the current state of the AWP in CS:GO, why this game is the best esports title as of now, and shared his thoughts on a seven day-cooldown for traded items which was introduced in the recent update

First of all, tell me the story about the creation of your nickname. It’s really unusual if you’d ask me.

What actually happened, when I was like 11-12 years old, I had a really good friend who he used to watch MTV, music TV-channel or whatever it’s called, and there was TV-series with five girls playing Counter-Strike. And one of them was called Nato. So I just stole it, because we both thought that it sounds so fu**ing cool. 

The second part is from a strategy game that I bought for like eight euros in some stupid store, and it was used. There was a strategy game with heroes, and it had randomly generated names. And one of them was Vengosaphix, so I just stole the SaphiX part. I took NaTo, put it together with SaphiX, and that’s it. I mean, we were so young that a cool nickname had to have an X or Z.

How did you get into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and this whole YouTube thing?

I think I was like around 10-11 years old when I had a mate, with who I went to school, and he was playing Counter-Strike. He introduced me this game. At that time, I was just playing World of Warcraft, but then I started playing Counter-Strike 1.6. And then, when I got a better PC, I switched to Counter-Strike: Source. 

Later, at the beginning of CS:GO, I actually didn’t like it at all. I liked Source much better. But then I quit CS for a half of a year, maybe a year. And then, when CS:GO started to get some updates, becoming a good game, that’s when I started playing it. 

Before I did CS:GO, I was doing Counter-Strike: Source videos. I even tried to do some 1.6 videos. In every game that I played, I basically always tried to make some kind of video, because it’s always been interesting to me. I think that’s why I ended up doing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive videos.

What was the main reason of you becoming popular on YouTube. Who helped you, maybe, in doing it, and how much money did you spend on it?

I don’t think that anybody helped me at the beginning. I think that I just made case openings and, all of a sudden, it went really well. Something that helped me a lot at the beginning was the Reddit community because I started posting my videos on Reddit at some point, and the people of Reddit seemed to really like me. At least they used to, and I think that they still do, though. They upvoted my videos and seemed to quite like it. I got a lot of support from Reddit, especially. Then, there were also some people who came from YouTube, seeing my videos in the recommendation section.

[About the money part], at the start, the only thing I did was buying a case and a key, so it was like 3 euros. And that was enough for a video. So, at the start, it was nothing. As I made more and more money, and I was studying at the same time and living at home with my parents, I didn’t really spend any money on anything really. Whichever money that I earned, I just invested it in the YouTube channel. Let’s say I earn 200 euros in a month, I would just invest those 200 euros in opening more cases, so I could make more videos. For a long time, it was working really-really well, but then I took a break from YouTube. I only really ever invested the money that I earned. I didn’t really invest money from some other job, because I’ve never actually had a real job. 

How many knives have you actually received from after those case openings?

I have a video with all of them but I think it’s something like 16 different knives. It’s at least over 12.

Have you ever thought about switching from CS:GO to some other games?

I don’t think that I’ve done it after CS:GO came out. I mean, there was a bit of rough time in my career, when I wasn’t on any team. That’s when Overwatch came out. And I really liked the idea of Overwatch. I actually played it quite a bit at the beginning. I mean, I got a grand-master. And I also made it to top-500 in Europe, so I was pretty good. But then, ever since that, I played it only for a month or something like that. 

I actually considered switching, but, at that time, I had a pretty popular and successful YouTube. I could really play Overwatch for a few hours, and it became kind of boring. For me, Counter-Strike just never gets boring. I think that I kind of thought about switching to Overwatch, but I don’t think that it would ever happen. 

Does casting and doing the YouTube stuff distract you from playing professionally?

I would say, yes. I think that streaming does it more because YouTube is something like - if I have one or two hours I can just sit down and make a video. Casting, of course, is something that I can’t really do at all if I’m in a team. The only reason I’m doing Masters is because it’s really good time period for me to take a few days off. And we all agreed about it inside of the team.

But streaming is hard because on the days I stream, I always stream for at least 4 hours. And if I have games at night, I played so much already [on stream], get super tired, and it’s really hard for me to actually perform [after that]. On the days when I have official matches, I try to not stream because I feel like I always play bad on those days. Yes, it does distract me, and that’s why I try to avoid it. So it’s only if I have an off-day, I would do that.

You said by yourself that you’re doing Masters only because you don’t have any official matches and tournaments going on. So, do you plan to step down from being a talent in order to concentrate on your professional career?

Yes, 100%. It’s always been the case. I had this thought on my YouTube and casting. No matter what, my professional career is my number one priority. If I got told before I signed for Sprout that I could play in a professional team, but I have to delete my YouTube, I would do it. I would do it and be happy because I want to play. YouTube, streaming and stuff, it’s super funny. It’s something that I really enjoy but it will always be a hobby. While I’m playing, I see it as a hobby because it’s fun, but I also see my professional career as a job and something that I should take seriously.

Sprout CS:GO

How did the Sprout transfer happen? How did they reach you out and did you have any other options at that moment?

I was playing on the team called LPSP, a team that I made with some Danish guys. There were really good players, but they were also some of my best friends at that time, and they still are. Super nice guys. I guess you could say that I had that offer because I was playing on that team, but, in Sprout, I was really a good friend to their manager. I don’t know how but somehow he managed to convince them to try me out for a few days. And ever since we tried out me playing for one day, they’ve never tried playing with anybody else. 

I played for them for one or two weeks, and, after that, I had a game versus a team called Royal Bandits in the Katowice qualifier, where I dropped my highest rating ever. Pretty sure it’s 2.2 rating, so it was really a good match. And, after that, when I celebrated a bit with my family, I came back to TeamSpeak and was informed that the manager asked everyone in the team if they want to keep playing with me, being ready to give a contract, and they said yes. I just had a really sick match and came back with everyone wanting to keep me on the team. That was crazy. And then we played another match against Epsilon and got 6-16’ed right after. Then I was super sad. 

So you’ve already signed a contract with Sprout?

Yes, I signed it in the later parts of February, and it was announced on March 1. But I was informed that I would be getting a contract on February 1, so I was actually keeping it in secret for a whole month. That was really-really hard.

Tell me about the current structure of Sprout. How roles are distributed, on which maps you feel confident playing on and so on.

Obviously, I’m the AWP player. We have kRYSTAL, who is a really good in-game leader. He also plays the entry-fragging part. Then we have innocent and denis. Innocent is just kind of rifling player, and denis is a rifler but he also plays as the secondary AWPer on some maps. And then we have Spiidi, who is pretty much a lurk-player. He also has some special roles as he holds the dropper on Cobblestone, B-side on Train and stuff like that. So that’s basically how the roles are distributed.

I think that I’m confident on every map as it is right now. The only one where I’m the least confident is Cache, but luckily it’s the map where my teammates are super good at playing. When we do play Cache, I know that all I have to do is just to not f**k up. If I can manage that, I’m sure that my mates can win the game for me. I just try to see if I can support them and not mess up. And if I manage that, we usually win. 

I’m not uncomfortable on any map but Cache is my worst map by far because I never really played it on my teams before. But I’m learning a lot, we got some really experienced players who have a good understanding of the map. Every time we play I feel like I’m improving so much. If I had to pick one, I would say Cache where I’m uncomfortable on, but for the rest, I’m very much prepared.

I know that anyone is asking about Dust II since the moment it was reintroduced, but still, would you like to bring it back to the competitive map-pool. Maybe instead of Cache, which you don’t like much. 

If Cache gets removed, which is, I think, very likely, either that or probably Cobblestone, I guess it would be a better situation for me. I feel like Dust II was one of the good maps for me, as well. In terms if I wanted it to be reintroduced, Dust II is a good map but it’s kind of the same. When you saw Nuke, it was totally different, and I really liked that. When you saw Train, it was totally different. But with Dust II, it seems like they only updated the visuals. And how the map plays, how the angles are, it’s pretty much the exact same. If you have a strat-book from three years ago, it will be the exact same strategies that you would be running on the new Dust II. Simply because they haven’t opened any sky-boxes. They haven’t really done anything to change the feel of the map. Except adding a car over at A-long. 

I’m hoping it to be reintroduced again, of course, it will be, but I’m just sad that it’s just the same map for me. It just looks a bit different, but it’s going to be played in the same way. 

From all other teams you’ve played with before, how Sprout is different from them?

The Sprout organization is very different and much more professional. For example, at Copenhagen Games, they brought six PCs, six monitors and gaming chairs for everyone. That’s definitely something that no other team had. We were sitting on really good chairs, we had PCs, really good FPS with 240hz monitors, and we didn’t have to bring any of it by ourselves because Sprout just set it up for us. Thanks to our sponsors, Caseking and Noblechairs. 

It was super nice. There is a lot of areas where I can really feel that it’s much more professional organization than I had before. Also the players, with I’m playing now, are so much more experienced than me. All of them have been on at least one Major, some of them on even more, which is something crazy. It’s the situation when I’m just improving so much because they are really good at giving feedback. As long as I listen, and I actually understand what they are telling me, I feel like they are helping me to become a much better player at a really fast rate.

In that way, Sprout are also different, because in the biggest part of my previous teams I was one of the most experienced players. I haven’t really been able to learn that much. Of course, you can always learn from your teammates, but it’s minor mistakes or some plays that they would like you to do, while in Sprout it’s different. 

Sometimes, instead of using my grenades, I just hold up to my gun. Because sometimes I tried to outsmart my opponents by using a flash or HE. If it’s 2v2, I would try to flash for my teammate. But sometimes it’s better if I just have my AWP out, just holding the angle. And if the enemy comes out, I kill him instead of trying to flash him away. These are the things that I’ve never known were issues, but now, because I have such experienced teammates which are better than me, they are able to tell me that, so I’m aware on what problems I need to work on.

Do you like the current state of AWP in CS:GO or you would like to change something in this gun?

I think that it’s actually in a really good place right now. The AWP is really balanced with the rifles, while some other pistols are not that great. But right now we’re in the place where the rifle players, like XANTARES who is a perfect example of a guy only playing with rifles, have a super high impact. And you also have teams like HellRaisers, which have woxic who is a super great and consistent player with good stats and insane aim. 

Seems like there was a time period when kennyS was insane. There were kennyS, JW, GuardiaN. Those guys, in my opinion, were the hard-carries of CS:GO. And there were no rifle players who could get close to them. There were players who were really-really sick, but never as sick as Kenny.

Right now, in the current CS:GO, I feel like rifle players can be just as good as AWPers at fragging. After the change, when they lowered the movement speed of the AWP, I think, in that time, there were almost only rifle players that were super good. But now, because it’s been so long and people have adjusted to it, I feel like it’s super even of how strong rifle-players are comparing to AWPers. I think it’s in a really good place right now.

NaToSaphiX CS:GO

Valve introduced a seven-day cooldown for traded items in the recent update. What is your opinion about it? Do you believe that they will refuse to keep it in the future?

I don’t trade too much. And when I do, I trade only what you can call like high-tier items. I don’t really change my inventory too often. The only thing that I’ve traded in the last six month is my Dragon Lore because I wanted to change it to a knife. Seven days, I can easily wait with the skin that is valuable because I don’t trade too much. For me, it doesn’t have a big impact but I can see why people that bet on gambling sites and do all these things [got upset], that’s a huge problem for them. 

I don’t really think that it’s big of a problem. I think that people are kind of overreacting right now, so all of the skins are dropping in price and stuff like that happens. Just because you have to hang on for seven days before you can trade them. I think that’s a bit stupid. In the same time, I have to say that I don’t understand why Valve did it. Because of that, I don’t see why they should even change anything. 

I think it will be perfect if they change it back to zero days. In my opinion, it was just an unnecessary change. I don’t really have a big problem with it, but, in the same time, I can understand why other people have problems with that. I mean, don’t fix what ain’t not broken. And, in this case, I don’t think that this was ever an issue. 

Do you agree that CS:GO is the best esports title on the market? If you do, what, from your perspective, makes it so special?

Yeah, 100%, CS:GO is the best esports title. And I think that the reason why CS:GO is so special because the rules are quite easy and simple to understand, but the game itself is super complex. You can understand that if you win, you earn more money than if you lose. But there are also scenarios like if you lose five rounds in a row then you, all of a sudden, don’t get more money for winning. 

The rules are super simple, and it’s super easy to understand. HP mean that this guy has 100 lives, and if that runs out he dies. I think it’s nice, because, for example, my dad and my mom, especially now when I play professional Counter-Strike in Sprout, they watch almost all of my games. My mother was not really taking the biggest interest in CS:GO beforehand. I could explain to her how to watch Counter-Strike matches and enjoy it in a single day. It took like 1 hour and 30 minutes, and now I will never have to explain it to her again. 

I think that’s why Counter-Strike is superior against any other esports titles because games like League of Legends, where you have so many champions, they have different abilities and it’s super hard to just get into it. The same for Overwatch. You can almost not really see what is happening on the screen if you don’t play it by yourself, because it just doesn’t make any sense to you. But in Counter-Strike, you can obviously understand that AK is a rifle, AWP is a sniper, and that’s almost all you need to know in order to enjoy the game.

As you said about your family, did they support you from the beginning in becoming a pro-player in CS?

In the beginning, I was just doing YouTube. And I didn’t really say that I want to become a pro-player. But then I started making some money on YouTube, and they actually realized that this could be a job, more than just a hobby. It’s not like my parents are greedy or anything like that, but I think that everything changes when people understand that there is actually money involved, and you can live on this. 

People that make art, people that paint pictures, if they don’t make any money it just kind of seems like it’s stupid. But if they make a ton of money, and you are the next Picasso, then who are you to tell him to get a real job? I think that I said, maybe one year ago, that I actually want to become a pro-player. That’s when I said it and, at the beginning, I don’t think that they were really believing that I could do it. I said to them that I will give myself two years, I will wait until I’m 22, and if I’m not a pro-player I will quit CS:GO and start university again.

Now I’m 21 with a half of a year, and I just signed a pro-contract. I made it, barely. I don’t think that they supported me from the beginning, but as soon as they could see it might be actually possible for me to make it to pro CS:GO, ever since that they’ve been super supportive. They watch almost every one of my games. When I play from my parents’ house, they make sure that there is a lot of food, I have enough water and all these things: if it’s not too hot or it’s not too cold. It’s almost like I’m 5 years old again. Especially now, they really support me so much, but it was not that much at the beginning. 

You said that you would dye your hair if Sprout qualifies to the Major. But what would happen if you make it to the Legends or even win the whole thing?

Oh, okay, that’s a great question. I mean, I think it’s super unlikely and will never happen. But let’s imagine that we made it to the Legends or won the whole thing. I wouldn’t even know what to do. I would probably… If I win the Major, I will buy a FACEIT Fiat. That’s going to be painted green.

Interview was given to StarLadder's @EllanarkJesus