When Swedish CS:GO legend Richard “Xizt” Landstrom joined Danish Heroic as their coach, not many would have expected the degree of success they would find from the relationship.
Untested at the time, Xizt has overseen the team through the inclusion of young star Jakob “Nygaard” Nygaard and their ascension to the number one ranked team in the world coming into the 2023 season.
At IEM Katowice 2023, Heroic has continued their strong form, qualifying straight to the Semi-Finals. We sat down with him to discuss his transition to coaching and his thoughts on the remainder of the tournament.
Sam “AN1MO” McKenzie, BLIX.GG: What was your approach when you first started coaching?
Richard “Xizt” Landstrom: When I decided to quit playing I took a break and didn't really know what I wanted to do, but then I started thinking about maybe I should give coaching advice for a team in some capacity. I really liked how Heroic played, I really like their playstyle and I think they play really smart CS so I approached cadiaN and asked if they needed any help and we took it from there.
BLIX: How would you say your relationship was with cadiaN at the start, compared to what it has developed into now?
Xizt: I think it has developed into a really good relationship now, we understand each other well, especially during the games in the heat of the moment. It's really hard to call a full strat in 30 seconds if you want to do something new on the fly when things are not working well, so most of the time I just give cadiaN some ideas about what I would like us to do, and he builds on it and finalizes the strats so to speak. So far our relationship has just been really good.
BLIX: What would you say you learned from your coaches as a player?
Xizt: I had THREAT as a coach in NiP for a long time and I think he was very good tactically, at anti-stratting teams, and also coming up with new starts. For sure I learned a lot from him. But as an ex-player, I kind of know what I wanted from a coach and know what buttons to push and what buttons not to push in the heat of the moment, I think that's a good advantage I have.
BLIX: You face the winner of NaVi or Outsiders, is there a team you would like to face more than the other?
Xizt: No, not really. I think we have a bone to pick with each team, obviously, Outsiders beat us in the Major Final and we for sure want revenge for that. We've also struggled against NAVI for a long time, I think we've only beaten them once if I remember correctly. NAVI is gonna be tough, and Outsiders is gonna be tough, we don't really care who we play so we'll just have to see.
BLIX: Does the prospect of playing Outsiders help you, or is it going to create a mental hurdle if that's who you have to play?
Xizt: I don't think it's a mental hurdle, we have beaten them a few times in the past, and even if they beat us last time I think it's a good match-up for us. That doesn't mean it won't be tough. They're in the playoffs for a reason and they won the [IEM Rio] Major for a reason, they're a really good team and it's quite hard to read what they want to do, partly because they play a lot of default rounds. NAVI is also playing a lot of default rounds, they don't have that many set rounds it seems, so it's quite hard to get a read on them too. Obviously, NAVI has s1mple and that's always an X-factor of course, and electroNic has been playing really well in this event so it seems like he's back on track where he was 12 months ago.
BLIX: What do you think about their two new players, KaiR0N- and npl, do you think they fit into the systems well?
Xizt: I mean you can see that NAVI has some issues with the map pool, I know B1ad3 has also been speaking about it and how they're most comfortable on Inferno right now. So yeah, NAVI has some issues. They just need more time right now with npl being a young player. When it comes to KaiR0N-, I was really surprised they wanted to make a change after they just won the Major, but I can also respect it. They want to become even better, and if you want to make a change there is no time to waste so I respect their decision. I don't know much about KaiR0N-, I know he seems really good individually, but obviously, when you're young you can also be making mistakes. We have to find out if there are some problems we can find from that.
BLIX: It's looking like if everything goes to plan according to ranking, you and G2 could meet in the final, is that a prospect you're excited about considering it is the definitive number one matchup at the moment?
Xizt: I don't really want to speak about a potential final yet, there needs to be 100% focus on what's in front of us, which is either NAVI or Outsiders. Obviously, G2 is playing really well right now, they have a 17-map streak or something and they're winning most games 2-0. They have a lot of pressure on them right now, everyone is speaking like this is G2's tournament to lose but we'll have to wait and see how they do, and how we do.
BLIX: Are you guys confident of winning this event?
Xizt: I think every tournament we go to we know that we can win, and you kind of have to possess that mentality if you want to be able to win. We came here as the number one seed and I think we are the number one seed for a reason, so we just have to believe in ourselves.