Blaze 'Draulon' Lengyel, March 13, 2017

In the Crossfire: IEM Katowice with Xizt

The Ninjas in Pyjamas have one of the most curious stories of CS:GO. In 2015 the Ninjas spiralled into a slump which left their fans hopeless. Redemption came for the Swedes a year later, when they added Björn "THREAT" Pers as their coach. Revitalized, the Ninjas won three tournaments in 2016, however they have since fallen into another slump after they failed to qualify for the ELEAGUE Major. I caught up with their ingame leader Richard "Xizt" Landström to discuss what is going on with the team.

Draulon: Let’s talk about IEM Katowice. How do you feel about the tournament and more specifically, what are your thoughts on the format used?

Xizt: I think the format is really tough, you play BO1 all the time and sometimes you lose 14:16 or in overtime like we did a lot. It happened to SK Gaming and as well. I think that the better teams should qualify anyway for the playoffs. Props to the teams that made it, especially Heroic. The played really good. It is just a tough tournament. If you are not on your toes, you are going to lose. Something I think they should have done maybe is put three games on one day then two games on the second day, so you don’t have to play five games in a row, since that makes it more tough and if you have a bad day you will have a bad tournament.

Draulon: The games you have lost were mostly really close. Did you have problems closing them out?

Xizt: It seems that we have a problem closing out our games lately, I don’t really know why. We play bad in situational play sometimes, like clutch rounds. We lose rounds we should win, and of course you can’t win games if you keep on doing that, so that is something we have to work on, improving our team play and communication.

Draulon: You guys had a pretty successful 2016, but towards the end of the year, you started to dip in performance. Could you talk about what you think is happening from your perspective?

Xizt: In 2016 we had good tournaments and bad tournaments like always, win some lose some. What was bad is that we attended so many tournaments during summer and at the end of the year, which kinda made us not able to practice that much. Not qualifying for the major was a tough blow for us, we really expected to qualify, after that point something happened with our team maybe. We are working on it and we are playing a lot actually, so it is work in progress.

Draulon: Let’s talk about the ingame leading situation on NiP. For a while THREAT was your IGL, but after the coaching changes that was no longer possible. What is it like right now?

Xizt: In 2016 we brought in THREAT, he was the IGL/Coach, but then Valve changed the rules so coaches can’t lead anymore so I took over again. It has been working good I think, for most of the time. I mean I am fine with leading the team, I have been doing it for a long time before THREAT came along, so I think all of us are comfortable with me leading. We just have to find some sort of consistency.

Draulon: While ingame leading, do you use THREAT’s strats or the ones you worked out back when you were the ingame leader?

Xizt: THREAT is still helping us a lot, being the coach, coming up with new strats and helping me. For every game, I talk with THREAT and we make a game plan, like what to do and what to expect. It’s a partnership I guess, he helps me with preparing and stuff like that.

Draulon: Let’s talk a bit about GeT_RiGhT as he seems to be undergoing bit of a slump. It is quite clear that he is a great player, so would you say it is something like a confidence issue?

Xizt: Like every other player, he is also in a slump. As teammates, we have to be behind him and I still think he is one of the best players out there and it is just a matter of time before he bounces back I think.

Draulon: You have talked previously about working on the team’s problems. What are your plans?

Xizt: After every tournament, we talk with each other about what went wrong. It has always been like that, you keep these things inside of the team. We will review the demos, talk about what went wrong, maybe change some positions and make everyone comfortable in their role. I think that is something very important. We still get along really good, it’s just ingame it’s not been working in these tight situations and communication has been down sometimes. We just have to continue playing and improving.

Draulon: Astralis brought aboard a sport psychologist. Do you think that is something you might look into?

Xizt: It has been something we have been looking into for a long time I think. We actually had a sport psychologist a few years ago. It wasn’t like a fulltime job for him but it was someone we could talk to, and I think it can be important, especially in tough times like these, so yeah, it is something we are looking into.

Xizt and Draulon can be followed on their Twitter accounts at @OfficialXizt and @Draulon.

Image credits: ELEAGUE
Interview edited for clarity

Blaze 'Draulon' Lengyel

Blaze is a student who currently lives in Europe and has a great interest in Counter Strike and competitive games. He spends his time hitting the gym or working on various game dev projects where he has a role in management or 3D graphics. You can follow him on twitter @draulon