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NBK: "I think that players are not professional enough in the way they address Valve"

After Team Vitality had passed the barrier of the group stage at StarSeries i-League S7, we sat down with Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt to discuss the team’s run at this tournament.

Vitality NBK

NBK's Vitality qualified to the Playoffs
as they had defeated BIG, ENCE, and Spirit

Nathan shared his thoughts on Vitality’s current form, ZywOo’s role in the roster, the small adjustments they have made coming into this event, and the way Valve communicates with players.  

In the groups, you beating ENCE was something that impressed the most. You crushed them on Dust II, winning 16 rounds in a row, and won Inferno while everybody was able to step up. Did you feel like it was the best Counter-Strike you have shown since the creation of this lineup? 

Yes. It is for sure the best game on Dust II we have ever played with this roster. Everything was in our control, everybody was rolling, so yeah, 100%. About Inferno… It is a bit hard to say because we are in a short-time situation in which we are trying to be good on Inferno. We don’t plan things for the future. If people figure us out now and find any patterns, we would be fu**ed. We have to counter that way. 

Overall, I think we can be much better, but yeah, we played some of the best Counter-Strike in terms of the maps that we play, and ENCE is the best team that we have beaten with this lineup so far. 

Tell me about the AWP situation in your team. In the aforementioned match against ENCE, you were picking up the AWP in place of Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut all the time on the CT side, but it was not the case on the T side. How does it work, and how do you decide who plays with the sniper rifle? 

It is something that actually came up 10 days before the tournament. On these two specific maps, Mirage and Inferno, playing the AWP is a much more supportive role. ZywOo is just a monster. You just unleash him, you make room for him, and as soon as he doesn’t get surrounded by smokes, "mollies", and flashes, and people are not 100% expecting him, he is just killing everyone. 

The idea is for me to focus more on that role, so I can make more room for him, be a bit scarier for the openings, and force them to use more utility. After that, ZywOo would just collect all the frags at the end of a round. That’s a general idea, so it’s very recent for this team. We are trying our best to make it work. It doesn’t always work, but that’s a better approach than the one we’ve had before.

Alex "ALEX" McMeekin has not had a single LAN event with a positive KDR since he joined Vitality, but it still looks like he gets his job done. What are his responsibilities in this team?

We also changed that 10 days before the event (laughs). We’ve made a lot of changes coming into the tournament. Now ALEX is calling almost every T-side for the team and I’m focusing on the CT-sides. That’s my approach that we can do something better in Counter-Strike right now. We can split tasks in a team that trusts each other, so we would be more efficient at them.

Vitality ALEX

ALEX is calling Vitality's T-sides, NBK reveals

He is focusing more on the T-sides, I’m focusing more on the CTs. That’s why he is a bit in a weird spot right now because we don’t have much practice [with this setup]. He kind of does everything he wants. It the end, the plan is to keep it that way, and in some way, ALEX is still figuring out what he has to do and what he has to call. That’s the main thing. It’s just a matter of time for him to be much more comfortable and much more efficient. 

ZywOo is one of the best hybrid players in the game, but in Vitality, he gets to play the AWP role most of the times. In your opinion, would it be better for him if you had a primary AWPer in the lineup? 

I thought about this… But I think he is so efficient with the AWP that you can work around him because he is very reliable. That’s the thing that’s the most important to me. If you put him in any place with the AWP, he will get a kill almost 100% of the time. That’s why I want him as my AWPer. I would have a hard time playing with a super flashy AWPer, it’s not the way I want to work.

He is very comfortable with it. I think he is very comfortable with the system we have and how we use him. I think it’s all that matters. He is happy with the team in that sense, and because he is so versatile, we can swap the positions, roles, stuff like that, and he will still be extremely efficient. It’s a blessing to have him on a team because you can do whatever you want with him. 

It’s good that he is flashy and wins a lot of clutches, as he is a very smart player, but what matters to me is to create the best teamplay possible. As a part of that, he is very good because you can rely on him no matter what. When you put him in any position, you know this spot will be held, or if you want him to get a peek, he will get a peek. That’s why playing with ZywOo makes it easier, in a sense.  

You almost have a complete map pool as your team plays 6 out of 7 maps that are used on the tournaments. The only map missing is Train. This is also the map you didn’t play a lot back in the G2 days. Why did you give up on Train? Do you even practice it?

First of all, I think teams that are good on Train right now... They are overall very good on it. It’s pretty much the same idea I have about Nuke. Teams that play Nuke are very good on it, so it’s hard to come out of nowhere and be like: "I’m going to be good on Train!". It’s hard but we have all seven maps prepared. We play all of them. 

It’s just a matter of who we play against. For example, when we play Spirit we will not take the risk of playing against an underdog on a map in which we are not 100% sure. Here is another example. I think all the top teams play Train. If a top team doesn’t play Train, we can leave it open because we are underdogs in such a situation. We would dare them to pick it against us, and then, we would just have no pressure while they would have some. Yes, we play all the maps, but we are very careful about which map we choose to play. 

There is obviously a rivalry between your team and G2 Esports. Do you feel additional motivation to do better than them as they kicked you and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire to go with Richard "shox" Papillon’s project?

Not anymore. The first thing is to get France back on the scene because French teams have been pretty dreadful for the past two years. That’s the main goal. What’s the point of being the best French team if you are not among the best in the world? It doesn’t make any sense. We think of G2 as just one team, just like any other that we have to beat. I think they are going to be pretty damn strong in the next two-three months with François "AMANEK" Delaunay joining them.


Nathan confirms that there are no hard feelings 
between him and his former team, G2 Esports

There is no hatred, which is probably what some people want between these two rosters (laughs). There is no hate, everyone is cool with one another. Both teams are very happy with their rosters. We are just playing Counter-Strike and trying our best. That’s the main thing. Again, we need to be the best in the world for giving importance to that.

Now that Cache is out, teams will have to start playing Vertigo, which is the map that has never been played competitively. What are you going to do in this situation?

We are obviously going to play, there is no real choice. It sucks because Cache has become one of our best maps lately. It’s really unlucky for us because we are really confident on that map. Now we have to follow the rules and be the best possible. That’s our job, we are professional players. Vertigo is new, I have no idea as I’ve never played that map. Our analyst loves the map, though, so maybe we will have an edge on it. He knows the stuff, he might be ready for it. 

The plan is to play it, there is no other choice. Again, we are professional players, and we’ve got to play all the maps. No matter how long it takes, no matter how much effort we have to put, we have to be good on seven maps if we want to be a proper team. That’s where you can see having a hard work on a team, and that gives you an edge over others.

We will see what happens. I can’t really say anything about Vertigo because I have no fu**ing idea about the map. I’ve never seen it, never played it. We are going to approach it as efficiently as possible, and then, we will see what happens.

Are you going to put more hours into Train instead of Vertigo, or it is going to be the new map you want to go along with?

I’m not sure. Again, we have to check Vertigo: what the map provides, whether you can be reliable very quick on it, and how fast we are going to progress. It’s too early for me to answer that. 

Lately, Valve has been more active towards CS:GO, but their decisions attract a lot of criticism. Some players say that they always ask for feedback when they are at events, but it doesn’t change much - Vertigo is the perfect example. What has to change in terms of communication between Valve and the players? 

I think it goes both ways. I think that players are not professional enough in the way they address Valve. Valve wants to have serious conversations, much more formal conversations, in which you could explain things point by point. They also don’t like to be told what to do. They would do things and you can give them some feedback. That’s what usually happens, whether they take it or not.

I think that Valve should be more understanding of pro-players, like being able to listen to them more on specific subjects in some situations: economy, balance, weapons, etc. There would be more feedback given and listened, but I think pro-players are not giving it properly. Going on Twitter, Instagram, whatever it is, doesn’t make any difference because Valve doesn’t read that. They don’t care. We need to change that approach, so we would be able to create a better ecosystem with them.

Vitality NBK

NBK is a board member of The Counter-Strike Professional Players' Association,
which was established in 2018

It’s alright to criticize, but I don’t like it when people criticize without thinking. Nobody tried Vertigo or the new economy, but everybody was like: "F**k it! It’s done!", etc. Nobody really tried it! And in the end, well, it worked out! I think it’s really good. They change all the weapons, so there is a wide range of weapons that you can use. I think that the game looks better than ever. I think Valve is on the right path, we just need better communication. 

What do you think has to happen to improve that communication aspect? Maybe providing feedback in other ways?

The players’ association we have right now, the CSPPA, it’s going to be a really good way to contact them. Valve expressed some interest because the scene is getting more professional. They are interested in that, they don’t want to talk to kids on Twitter, using memes and stuff like that. F**k that. 

That’s not what they want because they are a company, they are matured people. They want a formal conversation and I think that’s the way we have to go: face-to-face meetings, selected subjects and people. The players’ association is a very good way to make it happen. There are always ways to make it work. 

The last question is about your expectations going into the Playoffs. It feels like the longer you play here, the shakier you look. How are you going to brush it off before the quarterfinals? Is there any pressure on your team?

I don’t think we have that much pressure because we didn’t come to the tournament with a lot of expectations. We were just like: "Let’s play and see what happens!". So far, so good! We have been doing good. I’m not mad about going 3-1 instead of 3-0, that doesn’t really matter, but I have to say that those four days were very exhausting.

We can’t sleep! Jetlag is horrible for us, we cannot sleep more than 4 hours at night. After that game, I was so exhausted. At the end, I just had no energy. Doesn’t matter if you eat properly, go to the pool to wake up, do some exercise… If you don’t get to sleep, your body just gets fu**ed at the end, and then, you just feel exhausted. Those three days off are going to be pivotal for us to make a deep run here because we need to adjust our bodies to the timezone, coming in with 100% focus and 100% energy. That’s what would make the difference for us to actually do good at the tournament, so we would be ready to take on any team that would qualify. 

That’s our focus, we cannot do much more than that, and those are the only things we are going to be in control of. We just need to fix small mistakes in the game, we can’t do any revolution in our playstyle. Just fix all mistakes, be on point individually, and get our bodies ready. And in the end, f**k it, maybe we can win.