Header image by: ESL/Helena Kristiansson
After embarrassingly failing at the IEM Rio RMR event with elimination at the hands of a youthful GamerLegion side, G2 has since gone from strength to strength. With one big event, the organization’s first since 2017, already under their belt, the team has a chance to not only win IEM Katowice 2023 but to also set a modern CS:GO map-winning streak record, with their streak currently sitting at 17.
With their authority no longer being questioned by the depths of Counter-Strike’s Reddit faithful, we sat down with IGL Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen and coach Jan “Swani” Muller to discuss their relationship and their views on their impressive winning run.
Sam “AN1MO” McKenzie, BLIX.GG : You’re still quite new to being the main coach, how did you approach it when you first started?
Jan “Swani” Muller: Pretty much the same as I did as an assistant coach. I didn't change anything. I didn't want to act bigger than I am. Or, like, pose more authority than I had to because what we had was really good. So, I just came in and did the same as I did while I was an assistant but with more responsibility on my shoulders, and like planning and scheduling everything on my own, but no real big change.
BLIX: Did it change compared with previous coaches when he [Swani] came in?
Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen: It's always new things with a new coach, and I've had a bunch now in my career. I like the fact that he gives us space to develop our playstyle and build on my philosophy instead of trying to force a different philosophy on top of me and the team. I think we have enough leading figures already on the team so he doesn’t have to be that authority figure that he talked about. Of course, he needs to keep us in check, but it's not like he has to be a dad for the team in a way.
BLIX: How would you describe your process before games? What do you do for preparation and practice?
Swani: I guess we have found a really good way of preparation. We have a good system in place. Now we try to focus on ourselves and the opponent and make the players comfortable and try not to have them too robotic, so we still have a lot of freedom. But obviously, there are a few plays that we know will work against the opponent but the most important thing is that everyone has the responsibility and freedom to say what they want to do.
BLIX: Would you say that sometimes, being slightly more inexperienced as that main coach is something you think about when you're in those big games?
Swani: No, never, because if you feel insecure, your players will feel insecure. So even if you are not sure about a call or what you have, you should say it with confidence and you should never be insecure about what you have. I know that every one of them trusts me and they trusted me for four years as an assistant coach and as an analyst. So it doesn't matter what title I have, right? I'm still the same person with the same qualities, just a different title, but it doesn't matter to me.
BLIX: I was talking to Xizt earlier about how they go into it and he was saying he has ideas and cadiaN adapts it to his game plan. Is that similar for you two?
HooXi: Yeah, I think we just have mutual respect and a very similar way of thinking about the game. If I have a good idea, he’ll listen and try to make it even better, and the same goes for me if he has a good idea. It's not the responsibility of one guy or two guys; we all have it. I expect my players, especially on the CT side, to come up with their own things.
BLIX: So besides you two, and I think everyone would expect the answer to be NiKo, but who has the loudest voice in terms of, like, these ideas besides you two?
HooXi: Well, yeah, NiKo, of course; he's calling a lot on the CT side and has a lot of experience and good ideas on the T side as well. And if I didn’t say NiKo, it would have to be huNter.
BLIX: Is that something m0NESY is getting more confident in doing, coming up with these ideas himself?
HooXi: Yeah, we’re trying to push him. Obviously, he's not there yet, he's only seventeen. When we have team discussions on theory or anything, I'll ask him if he has anything and try to basically just get it out of him. So, yeah, he's getting there, but he's definitely not as loud of a voice as I hope he would be in the future.
BLIX: Moving away from your relationship, back in the Rio RMR, you guys had a pretty big low. How hard was that to get over and get to where you guys are now?
Swani: It was pretty hard for everyone, it was the lowest of their career, even for me. I've been with six different teams in six years and never failed it and obviously, it's hard, but I feel like in the end, it's also a blessing. Obviously, we missed the Major, it sucks, but we just found out that we have to be in the same boat and on the same page all the time or we will always fail. If we don't believe in the same vision, then it can't help us. I feel like this feeling that everyone knows now has in their heart of failing, you never want to have this happen again. Everyone is pushing so hard now to never let this happen again, to just be on the same page and to trust each other so I think it was a blessing in the end.
BLIX: So you'd say that without that experience, you wouldn't be where you guys are now?
HooXi: Definitely yeah and it's so weird in that it's one of the best and worst things that could happen. At the same time, it was very hard to realize that it was a good thing when it happened. I was in my hotel room without any lights on for two days, just laying in my bed, and was really depressed. It’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever gone through in my career.
BLIX: So, from then, you're obviously now on a seventeen-map streak. How are you feeling about, like, how long that can go on for? You know, you're probably never going to reach the NIP one, but have you guys spoken about it?
HooXi: It's only you guys talking about that; we don't really care, we don’t really think about it. We're only thinking about winning a semi-final, not about getting a streak.
BLIX: Would you say though that your streak, with how Counter-Strike is now, is potentially more impressive than the NIP streak because of how it was back then?
HooXi: No, it's not more impressive than the NIP one. I just think it's two things you can’t compare because it's a different time. It's an unreal record that they have. I have a lot of respect for those guys and what they did at that time. They kind of brought CS:GO to where it is today. So, yeah, I don't think you could compare it.
BLIX: Have you got a team that you'd rather face in your semi-final tomorrow?
BLIX: What are your thoughts on both teams then?
HooXi: They're both pretty inconsistent, in a way. I feel Vitality will benefit more to have three days of prep because I think they rely on it more than Liquid. But we have some good reasons for why we want to beat both.
BLIX: I think probably everyone wants to see a final between you guys and Heroic. Is that something that you're thinking about? Or are you just thinking about the game tomorrow?
HooXi: I'm only thinking about it when you guys ask me. Right now, I'm only focusing on the semi-final.
BLIX: You've got a chance to really cement yourselves as the number one team. Do you guys already think you are or do you think it's still up for debate?
Swani: I think it's up for debate because we only won one event so far and only beat like three or four teams. So we are not really first yet. Obviously, we’re favorites because of the streak, but I wouldn't say we are number one. If we win against Heroic in the final, then we are number one.