SYDNEY -- Since bringing in Ethan 'nahtE' Arnold, NRG has earned infamy for its online form. Alongside the 18-year-old's Counter-Terrorist play, NRG's Bulgarian import, Cvetelin 'CeRq' Dimitrov has drawn international eyes with his lightning fast, fluid AWPing. With IEM Sydney being NRG's first international LAN in a string of events leading into the summer, experienced gained in Australia will be crucial in the coming weeks.
ESPN Esports talked to NRG's leader, Damian 'daps' Steel about the first run on LAN against international competition, how to scout talent like CeRq, and his own individual performance in Sydney.
ESPN: One of the big narratives for NRG early on in the tournament was your very high rating in the games against Astralis and B.O.O.T. What do you think drove those performances?
Daps: So for the Astralis game, generally when you go positive, especially if you go +8 or +10, you're going to get some eco kills. It's pretty much impossible to go really positive without getting some eco kills. So I had some fortunate rounds, I got maybe like six or eight eco kills in the game.
I was feeling it I guess.
Every shot I took, I hit. I was playing fairly smart. And obviously when my teammates are struggling that means more kills come to me. It's the same thing vice versa. When I'm playing really bad, they're probably going to pick up the kills I miss, and if they're missing the kills, then in-theory I should pick-up the kills and hit the shots. So I guess, I felt confident. I didn't feel any pressure on myself, just kills came my way.
ESPN: How did the community pressure from the hype of your online results influence your expectations and mindset for the event? If at all?
Daps: In terms of being called online, we don't really feel any pressure from that. I mean, we have four big events this month, this being the first and the first with Ethan. Our expectations were to be at least competitive. Like, obviously we wanted to get out of groups at least or take a series off a top ten team which we were close to. But out goal was to like, not get destroyed.
I know Space Soldier got a lot of heat for getting owned at Dreamhack Marseille. So yeah, we were trying to just to avoid something like that were we just dominate everyone online and then we come to LAN and get 16-0'd by Astralis and lose to B.O.O.T or we play G2 and they dismantle us.
But I think we achieved our goal. People played confident. If we get rid of the nerves then we'll be a consistent top 15 team, top 10 team, at least.
ESPN: Talking more about the specifics of the team. What was your involvement in the scouting and acquisition of CeRq?
Daps: He was definitely on the list. It was more about logistics. Because when I originally got Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas Colocho with Optic, even Optic was sorta hesitant to do that. They wanted to keep Shahzeeb "ShahZaM" Khan and not get Mixwell. And I mean, it was understandable, Mixwell hadn't done anything, it was a big risk for Optic to get a visa and housing. For CeRq it was the same thing, it was like, I think our options were Matthew "WARDELL" Yu ... and that's it.
But CeRq, and I made the argument [to NRG] that if we comprise here then why even invest in the team if you're not even going to get a player who can be a top five AWPer in the world? And that was a part of it. He even reached out to us as well. He was going to sign Rogue but then the rumours of us removing Peter "ptr" Gurney was announced and that's when he messaged Allan "AnJ" Jensen on steam. And we thought he was already a done deal with Rogue and we kinda backed off but then he came to us.
ESPN: When it comes to actually evaluating players though, scouting things like their mechanics and their mindset, what criteria do you use? How do you find these diamonds in the rough?
Daps:I think the number one thing when I was watching AWPers to replace ptr, in terms of skill, is movement. I think movement is more important than anything. You see a lot of players, especially in North America, that have insane aim but their movement is bad. Especially for an AWPer, if an AWPer has good movement then they're going to do well. So like, when I compared Wardell's movement to CeRq's movement, CeRq's was a million times better and that's not saying Wardell is bad. You can just tell, CeRq can hit all those b-hops, he's fluid with how he goes around the map. Even if his aim might be the same as another AWPer, his movement topped everything.
The second thing is mindset. When I went for Mixwell, the team was even a little hesitant, it's like "who is this guy?" But when I talked to Mixwell, just like, his attitude towards winning. I mean, the first thing he said to me was "I've been playing on gBots for like a year and I play 10-12 hours a day." He was hardly getting paid. So that's like, wow, most NA players wouldn't do that. This guy really cares about winning.
With CeRq it was a bit more of a risk because I didn't get as much time to vet him. But I think one of the most important things is attitude. If you pick up a player and he is insanely skilled but he destroys a team internally then there's no point. We got really lucky with CeRq, this is the first team I've played with where all five players get along - in and out of the game. And I think that's more important than people realize.