NAF: "I think a lot of us are tired of dealing with the bullshit"
Reporting live from Antwerp, Dust2.us' Ryan Friend stole Liquid's Keith "NAF" Markovic straight after the American's surprising upset victory over Astralis. NAF spoke about the team's mindgames before the Astralis match, thoughts on the development of the team, and how he is just really, really, too old to deal with "bullshit" in the team.
So, you're just coming off a major upset win, tell me a little bit about the map picks here, because when we did the interview yesterday with the EliGE, he said "we expect everyone else to pick Inferno". Was that actually the plan or was he throwing some mind-games in there?
When we first started out the event, we were little bit rusty in my opinion. Playing on Inferno, ultimately, some people agreed with the Inferno pick, whereas others, including myself, weren't a big fan of it. I think we just aren't as confident on it right now, it's a map that we practice probably one of the least at our boot camps and practices. So, playing in the BO1s was a little questionable at times, but we as a team have game plans and things we have to go into and all that. And then going into the Astralis game, we realized that like Vertigo is one of their weaker maps, and it's a map that we're pretty confident on as well. So, we knew if we pick Vertigo we'd be pretty confident in it and we knew that they play Ancient a lot, it's a map they pick a lot, it's like their highest win record map as well. So, we knew that it's potentially going to be Ancient as well unless they try to pull like a mind-game pick or something like that. We were pretty confident knowing what the maps were going to be. Vertigo, Ancient, alright — this could be easily a 2-0 for us in my opinion in and I guess that's kind of what would happen.
How would you feel if you had to go to that third map?
I don't think it be like the end of the world for us if we were to go to Overpass. I know Overpass is a map we've talked about a lot and we played it versus 9z, I think overall we were pretty confident if it were to go to a third map. But I think a lot of us in the back of our minds know that we should be winning Ancient and Vertigo — They're two of our most played maps, and the ones I feel we're the most competent on.
Obviously there were a lot of scary intense moments in this victory, especially one the 16-14 on Vertigo; you were at 14-10 and then a few rounds started to slip away. What was going on with the team at that point? What were you guys trying to figure out how you were getting one back?
I think we were confident, I think we had good reads, and I remember that there is one round where we were up 5v3 but they caught us off guard with executing B and then instead of running up the stairs they decided to go for the boost play. I was AWPing it and they caught me off guard and then they jumped up and then they killed shox, so we just like fell apart whereas it was a round we should have won. But overall, just playing on Vertigo, blameF has 40 kills — this guy's trying to be a superhero right now. But that's also the one thing I kind of realize; it's only blameF really doing all the heavy lifting, whereas we just shut this one guy down, the rest of them aren't going to be keeping up with him to get the trades, get the kills, and all that. I think we were always in control, we just let a few things slip out of our hands and that's why I got a little more tighter. Whereas I feel we probably could have won the first map without them winning a few more rounds. But going into Ancient, we started off a little slow. We know that they're a team that obviously plays it lot, so they have a lot of prep and stuff on that so they know how to work the map — they're smart on it. When we started off a little slow I don't think any of us were getting a little too ahead of ourselves or doubting ourselves. We know that they're a strong team, we just needed to get a certain amount of rounds. If we could at least get like 8 rounds, 9 rounds, we're still going to find a way to get back into this and that's what we were able to do — we're able to get 8 rounds. Then switching over to the T-side, they won pistol — they started out strong and it seemed like they were going to take the game away. But then this guy over here (referencing nitr0) really had a few key clutch rounds that really just changed the game. I could probably feel that Astralis were definitely a little demoralized, losing those rounds where they 100% should be winning them. So losing rounds like that, just shifted the momentum, that's when the tides just started turning after nitr0 one those clutch rounds. Once that happened, I was very confident, I think the calling was good, oSee had some good rounds where he was able to get some entry kills for us. I could tell that Astralis was starting to tremble a little bit, towards the end. So, a lot of us were very confident in closing it out in the very end.
It definitely seemed that, at certain points it was almost a 'streaky' kind of game. When you're having those streaks, how do you try and really battle back mentally or within the team? Is there anything that you guys look to do?
Obviously when something's happened like that, maybe if there's a specific, depending on the economy or something like that, play where like "guys this round, even though like we have weapons, we probably aren't confident enough to be playing standard. We need to make a play as a team and strike first before they strike first on us." I don't know, playing against them it just, I don't know, it was just flowing, things were working I guess. Obviously there's a lot of back and forth, but overall, I think as a team and especially myself, I always felt we had the upper hand. I feel they were relying a lot on blameF, especially, and k0nfig to bail them out of a lot of situations. blameF was really trying his best there, props to him for playing an amazing game but overall, I think as a team we were there. Them as a team, they weren't there as much, they're more relying on individuals whereas we were relying on everyone. In the end the team is going to win, not the individuals.
What specifically about Astralis were you guys, beforehand and then during the game, looking to exploit?
I feel like I'm the worst person asked question because usually I kind of lay low and let them figure out what they want to play, because I feel just me as a player I'll just plug into any situation and then I'll just do whatever I'm told. Like "they do this, watch out for that, trying to do that"; I'm like "alright, sure I'll try it and see what happens". But going into the game, they had a good game plan, like I told you with the maps, it was very easy to read what might happen, so nothing surprised us or caught off guard. Then playing in the game, I think we're really comfortable, because we on Vertigo we started off very strong, I think I think we're up like 6-1 or something. As a team like Liquid where at times we can start very, very slow, it's nice for us to start very strong at the very beginning. Playing, I think, we were very comfortable — it was never at any moment during the games were like, "oh, we don't know what to do, we're very, very lost". It could have gone that way potentially on Ancient, but I think we had some key rounds. And, like I said, the clutches from nitr0 helped out a lot. Playing the game I never felt that we were lost or had any struggles; I just felt like we needed to believe in what our fundamentals are and our foundation and what we create is the right way to go. We believed in ourselves, and in the very end I think that's what helped us overcome Astralis. As a team they weren't striving that much as a team; their individual stars were striving in some sense, especially blameF, but as a team we felt better and stronger than their team.
It's interesting that you say that because a lot of talk has been about individuals on this team. Obviously a big shift away and even before that we know that you were almost very close to joining EG. You kind of came back at the last second here, with the additions of shox we've heard that he's a big caller, he's someone that can really bring a presence to the team. He struggled early on in this, and he's definitely bounced back, so how do you look at that and attribute anything to it or how much has that been helpful in this three match run?
I think when [shox] initially joined our team, he really wanted to be more involved in a leadership aspect, where like he was kind of co-leading almost with nitr0 at a point. He always wanted to make sure he was coming up with a lot of things for the team and coming with a lot of the ideas and trusting in his ideas, as well as meshing it with nitr0 at times. I know he's been struggling a little bit at the start when he was initially playing with us at the first few events and all that. Coming to this event, he talked to us and said, "I'm going to help in these areas but I want to go back to being someone that could focus on his crosshair." That's obviously something I love, I want to see shox one-tapping people, and I can notice that, even in this playstyle and everything, I think now he's not thinking so much of the big picture, he's obviously doing everything he can to help [nitr0], but he's also focusing on the plays that he can make, and that is something I felt like we were missing at times. I think [shox] so far has been playing a lot better, he's been improving day by day; especially with English I can understand it's very hard being a French speaker and all that. Overall, he's improving and I could see that he's doing a lot better.
Looking long-term, when you're thinking about even maybe the next Major, are you seeing that this team is just going to continue to get better and better and better?
Yeah, I just feel especially when it comes to North American players in this team, and obviously being in a team the entire time, Liquid's always been an NA team and I think the biggest enemy to NA players is themselves, it's their mentality, it's the way they play, and the way they react to things when they don't go right their way or something happens. I think if we can all just be the best that we can be and just not let anything affect us, as long as we're not beating ourselves, I'm very confident in what everybody can prove to everyone else. I trust in my leader nitr0, I trust in EliGE — I think he's very strong, he's the best NA player in my opinion. And then [oSee] is battling that as well — becoming a very up and coming AWPer — and I think he's an amazing guy, he's got a great mentality, so he's someone I could trust when things are going wrong, I know he can still be there to pick the team up and still be able to do his job. And [shox] is just here to look after all the NA boys, pretty much.
One of the final things that I want to talk about here is that you guys obviously had a major shift away from that old roster. There were a lot of individuals and a lot of things, and you even touched on it earlier, you said "we're a team". When you're focusing much more on that team aspect, how has that been to the culture of the squad?
I've been playing on this team for so long, and I've seen how things go down at times. As a team, when it comes to NA players, and I can say including myself at times, the biggest enemies are ourselves. If we can find a way to get out of those bad mental habits or whatever, if anything goes wrong. We always need to stay in it, and as I've gotten older and stuff like that and becoming a little more wise. In terms of an esports age, I feel when people are 18, 19, 20, they can still be very immature at times. I think a lot of us are tired of dealing with the bullshit that we've dealt with in the past — especially I'm the type of person where I can only control what I can control, how I feel and how I speak for myself, and I'm going to do my best to be a professional and play the best game that I can every day and do my best, no matter what happens. I think that's a lot of what everyone else is trying to do, as you know. We're just always trying our best, doing our best, and making sure the team is doing great because we want to make our fans proud, we want to make our organization proud. And at the very end, when one day when our careers are done, we can say "hey, we tried our best and we give it all and we didn't let any childish bullshit get in front of it." That's all I want to do at the very end.
Liquid will begin the next stage of the Major starting on Saturday where they will fight against Heroic.