Martin "STYKO" Styk is about to tackle his second career Major and first with mousesports. Last year, as a member of HellRaisers, the rifler was given a quick 0-3 exit at the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta. This year he's looking to improve on that, and he said the key is to play without pressure.
The 21-year-old Slovakian has high hopes for Boston, and recently spoke with theScore esports about what he and mousesports need to do to succeed.
How were you holidays? What were you up to?
STYKO: We as a team did a break during the holidays to have a little time off and focus on family and friends. So that's what we were doing. The only event we have had is a CS Summit qualifier which we played with a bunch of stand-ins because oskar couldn't play. That was basically the only thing. We didn't even prepare for it, we just kind of through together the team who can play before the games.
You guys ended up winning that. Are you guys excited to go to the CS Summit?
STYKO: We're still in discussion whether we are going or not, for reasons that are confidential right now. It's just staying within the team, it will be public soon.
2017 was a pretty big year for you. You attended your first Major with HellRaisers then you were transferred over to mousesports and you guys won Mykonos shortly after. How would you sum up the year?
STYKO: Well at the start of the year it was my resolution actually to get to the Major and it happened. I happened to get to the second one as well ... happening right now, actually tomorrow.
So my new resolution is probably to get to the Top 8 and secure the Legend spot, it's like baby steps you know, climbing the ladder.
But the year was rough, especially the first half of the year where we had roster changes happening with HellRaisers. It wasn't working that well and I wasn't really happy within the team. Both role-wise and also some personal problems occurred so I was quite happy that I could offer for mousesports. I first declined that offer because HellRaisers got a new investor and they decided to give us better accommodations. But, shortly after that mousesports attended the Major and we didn't, and then mousesports decided to change two players and this is where me and sunNy got in.
After that it was just quite a ride and we are exponentially growing. It started pretty rough at the beginning, we had a few group stage exits, but the Mykonos win showed us that we are capable of beating the teams. The raw skill and lineup is really good.
About those performances actually, you guys took second place at DreamHack Winter against NaVi, second place at ECS, second place against Faze which was an incredible series. Those are all ultimately disappointments because you didn't win but they were still great performances from you guys. What can you say about the process of getting to those high-level performances?
STYKO: The DreamHack one was a bit bittersweet because obviously we went there for a win. We didn't take anything else, we expected to be in the final against NaVi and we expected to win. We like to play against them, we never lose, but the final game was different, they came prepared and we didn't. We didn't have our shots I would say. The final itself was a bit rough for us, we didn't show our A-game.
But the fact that we didn't show our A-game was good because we didn't put too much pressure on ourselves before ECS finals because we knew we weren't playing good. We didn't have that much expectations coming into it, our aim was to make it to the playoffs. So that went well. In the semifinals we got matched up with Astralis who didn't play their full lineup, so some would say we didn't deserve to go that deep into the tournament.
But, we beat who we had to beat so it went well. In the final we showed against Faze, the players that they have are [ahead] experience-wise and skill-wise, and we still managed to get a good fight against them so that showed us ... that we are capable of doing great. It was a good confidence boost before the Major.
You touched on your Astralis matchup and how they didn't have their full lineup. That's not happening here, at the Major, but I know two teams have stand-ins. Does that affect the Major for you?
STYKO: Well, not for us, it doesn't affect us. We will play like they are in full lineup, we won't underestimate Liquid with zews playing or SK with felps.
They obviously won tournaments in 2017 so there is nothing to underestimate. But at the same time for teams like Faze and Astralis it might affect them because even if they win the Major it doesn't really feel deserved for them because they didn't beat their rivals in their full potential. It might affect favorites of the tournament, we are not favorites of the whole Major.
On that note, you guys not being the favorites, do you think that's an advantage?
STYKO: Yeah, when we've played as the favorites we didn't really show our A-game, you said about DreamHack where we lost against NaVi. We could have been the favorites for that tournament but in the final we crumbled. And in every tournament we didn't expect anything we actually managed to go very deep so it's kind of good for us I guess.
Going back to some of those performances that didn't show the best results, what do you think could be the breakthrough for you team? Or what do you think could be holding you back?
STYKO: Well, when we joined with sunNy there was transition for chrisj to the in-game leading role so he's adapting well, it's going smooth but it's obviously not going to change overnight. It's a long process and Chris and our coach are trying their best to bring the best ideas into our game. Also the players are helping with those ideas during practice.
I think that if we can translate our play in practice into the game into the real games and tournaments we can be a lot of good things. That's the break point, that we have to play like it's practice without any pressure.
Given that desire to play without that pressure, are you guys looking to do mental strengthening or looking to get a mental coach or something like that?
STYKO: No, we aren't, we haven't discussed that yet.
How would you feel about adding something like that personally?
STYKO: For me personally I don't think that it would be a good idea. For some of my teammates I don't think it'd be a good idea as well. It's just something that you have to work on individually, not as a player, as a person. It's a mission that nobody else can change, not even a mental coach.
Given that, how's your bootcamp? What were you guys focusing on?
STYKO: We had this bootcamp basically just to regain our form back after the Christmas break. So we just grinded CS playing, we didn't work that much on the tactical discussion, we just decided to play as much CS as possible to get into the shape and into the form. That was the main purpose, I'm not giving anything away because we just practiced how we've practiced before. We just practiced twice as much as we usually do.
This is going to be your second Major overall, what were your takeaways from your first one going into this second one?
STYKO: I remember one year ago when I was here in Atlanta we did have a group stage exit with HellRaisers, we didn't win a single game. But when we were 0-2 in the swiss we had our last game against North, they were 0-2 as well. It was a pretty hard matchup for us, we had never won against them and they eventually made it to the playoffs from 0-2 so they did a good comeback. We lost against them in overtime and the fact that we made it that close was because we were playing free Counter-Strike. We didn't have any pressure on ourselves and that's the key takeaway that I mentioned earlier, that's the break point for our team in this lineup as well. To play without pressure, without any hesitation.
With good communication, we are capable of going to Top 8 easily.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.