Xizt: "We can already see it in other teams that they try to copy our game style"
Heroic kicked off their IEM Katowice run with an opening series versus Complexity, a matchup where many would have scoffed at the notion that all three maps would be played. Ultimately, Heroic pulled through in their opening game, but only after the series was dragged into the decider map of Overpass. Following that win, Heroic made quick work of OG, besting them in two maps to secure them a spot in the Spodek Arena.
Shortly after their win over OG, Dust2.us' Liam "Slevo" Slevin spoke with Heroic coach Richard "Xizt" Landström regarding the team's expectations for the event, how their approach to big stage matches has changed over time, and the team's relationship with the crowd.
Tell me a bit about getting into the playoffs; is that the expectation that you guys had set?
Yeah, for sure. We are number one in the world in HLTV rankings, so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and we expect a lot from ourselves. I think we are playing better and better every game so I'm happy with the result. (Editor's note: Shortly after this interview was conducted, the HLTV world ranking knocked Heroic down to #2)
It's looking like you guys will have either Vitality or fnatic next. From a coach's perspective, which of these two teams do you think you're stylistically better prepared for?
I don't think we have a favorite to play against. We beat Vitality every time, except last time in BLAST where they won, so obviously it would be nice to get revenge versus them. I don't really care if it's fnatic or Vitality and we'll just have to wait and see and do the normal preparations as always.
Are you confident that you can secure that semifinal spot now that you're in the upper bracket final?
Yeah for sure. That's the mindset that we've developed over the last six months, that of course we can beat anyone, but we also want to stay number one, and there's no time to relax. We just need to keep working as hard and if you want to win against top teams consistently you need a lot of confidence and to build on it.
Heroic has been on stage a few times since, but a year ago you guys were in the Spodek. Do you think that having that familiarity with the stage is going to help the team?
I hope so. Last time we played in the Spodek we got crushed by FaZe, 16-5 and 16-5 or something like that. It was really tough, but then again it was one of our first big-stage games ever as a team, and I think we have learned so much since that. We have played a whole Major playoff on stage in front of 10,000 Brazilian fans, so I think we have grown a lot as a team, and I expect more.
ESL released a documentary with you guys as part of the central focus, and there were some points where cadiaN talked about players like TeSeS maybe making mistakes or having that pressure get to them. As the coach, how have you worked with the players to get through those growing pains?
The only way you can learn is by doing and having experience. You can see that the first times we played on stage we were really shaky, but I think we have grown much more. It's just about making less and less mistakes every game that you play. Of course, at the Major there's gonna be a lot more nerves than normal. We have a whole performance staff and mental coach as well that helps players all the time. I think mistakes will happen, but you just have to accept it and move on.
For the first half of last year there was a bit of tension between Heroic and the community, like going to the Antwerp Major and getting booed quite a lot. Now that seems to have changed. Is it nice to have won the fans over?
Yeah, we were kinda booed even in Denmark in the Royal Arena when we played against Astralis. We were booed by the Danish fans, so that hurt a lot. In Antwerp I think we played NAVI, who is a huge fan favorite, so it's not nice being booed but we knew why. I think we have proven, especially on the server, that we are a really fun team to watch, and I think all the fans out there really appreciate our game style. It's very exciting to watch Heroic play, and I'm very happy that we have won over a lot of fans just by playing good CS. Of course, we have a lot of good characters in the team as well, like cadiaN, he shows a lot of emotion, and I think the fans appreciate that a lot. People finally get to see who cadiaN really is.
Speaking of cadiaN, we had some news earlier in the event that he was feeling a bit sick. Is there anything you can tell us about his personal circumstances at the moment?
No, not really. He's getting better and better, but one thing you can say is that it doesn't really affect him in-game that much. I think he's been playing lights-out considering how he's feeling, so I'm really proud of him.
Considering Heroic's success, do you expect teams to try and replicate your unique style of play?
Yeah, we can already see it in other teams that they try to copy our game style, but I think it's really hard to play how we play. You need really good communication, so I think if you're on an international team maybe it won't be easy. But yeah, we can already see that people are trying to do the same CT sides that we usually do.
Heroic take on Vitality today to determine who will be going to the Semi-Finals and who will have to settle for the quarters.