Prior to DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca's group draw, mousesports' Denis "denis" Howell spoke to theScore eSports about his background, the current state of the German scene and his path to the Major.
Could you describe your roots in Counter-Strike? When did you start playing and how did you become a pro player and reach where you are today?
I took Counter-Strike seriously when I started playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Before that, I played Counter-Strike: Source, but mostly with friends and ESL Ladders — nothing serious. I gave it my best to improve myself in CS:GO. With a bunch of friends, I managed to make it up to the ESL Pro Series at the end of 2012, and that’s the way it all started. Some better teams/players had an eye on me because of my performances, and in August 2014, I, or rather Spiidi, got in touch with fel1x and kRYSTAL. Our plan was to build the former PENTA Sports team together with the last addition being r0bs3n — which became the first German team to make the Top 8 in a Major, DreamHack Winter 2014. After that, some small changes happened in our lineup and we improved steadily. We gained more attention in the international scene because we managed to pass the group stage here and there (for example at ASUS ROG and ESL Katowice 2015). After that, we sat together and talked about our situation in the form of lacking a real in-game leader. We came to the conclusion that gob b was the man we needed and that's how negotiations between Spiidi, nex, me and mousesports started.
To sum up, I managed to play myself into the national pro scene of Germany and thus it all started. I had good performances and my first, real professional team has been PENTA Sports in the mid of 2014.
How would you describe yourself as a player and what do you bring to mousesports?
I am more of an aggressive player. Most of the time I try to get the entry frag myself or support my teammate so they can do it. We don't have set roles in mousesports. Everyone needs to adapt in certain situations. I am also the secondary AWPer when I feel like I want to do it.
Why do you think the Germany scene hasn’t had a team claim a Major title since their inception? What do you think of the current state of German teams and what has held them back?
I think the mentality of the German players (outside of mousesports and PENTA) isn't what it should be. Also, we lack former professional players who has won a Major tournament — they would know what it takes to win. They had no chance whatsoever to communicate their tips and suggestions with younger players. The only remaining active player to name here is gob b of course. Also, Tixo is playing for Planetkey Dynamics, but I don't think he is taking it as serious as he did in Counter-Strike 1.6.
We all lack experience compared to other international top teams and thus small, individual mistakes and a lack of perfect decision-making ability is what loses you a game.
mousesports is the most successful German team right now, and have been a dark horse in most events recently. Do you think your team is one to fear in Cluj-Napoca? Is there anything that sets you apart from the other teams coming out of the qualifier?
We can definitely upset any team out there. Also, right now, especially in the Top 4, every team can win against each other. Outside of the Top 4, I think many teams can also beat anyone in their range and can also upset a Top 4 team here and there. It will be very hard to pass the group stage because we will have two Top 8 contenders in our group and in addition to that a qualifier team — which are all very strong, but nevertheless we will be well prepared and will try our best to pass the group stage. We have a really good mixture of players, we just have to find out how to use every player properly and create a perfect environment in terms of teamwork and synergy. Our latest addition,Nikolinho “NiKo” Kovac, will be very important for the Major. We need him in his best form and I think he won't disappoint anyone. We all have to play our A-game and everything will be possible.
Your most recent performance at a Major was in Cologne where you finished bottom of the group even though you were seen as a potential Top 8 team. Why do you think you had such poor results in Cologne?
In my opinion we made the mistake of attending too many tournaments right before the Major. We traveled for around three weeks within Germany to attend a few tournaments — ESL Meisterschaft Finals, IEM Gamescom, Acer Predator Masters. We had too many tournaments and it was hard to adapt for the Major — thus we invested too much time in bootcamp. We spoke about tactics for many hours a day, and that was the wrong way. We were simply overplayed and overworked because we didn't have much time left. Of course there was also some pressure involved, because everyone expected us to make Top 8 — ourselves included. We really wanted to play in the LANXESS Arena in front of a German crowd. I don't know what happened, all I can say is that we played really poorly and deserved every loss we got there.
How will you be preparing for the Major over the next couple of weeks? Will you be doing anything differently than you did in Cologne to try to reclaim your spot in the Top 8?
We now have around one week of preparation left for the Major. As I said, we won't overwork ourselves and we are not putting too much pressure on ourselves. Our preparation will be concise and effective. We have to work on our teamwork and communication and everything will be good — I am 100% sure about that.
Is there anything you are trying to improve about yourself individually before the event?
In the last one to two months, I haven't played as well as I can. I will put much more effort into my own game again and train effectively in the form of watching demos and playing a lot of deathmatch. I am sure I will be in form for the Major again, and even better than before. I learned a lot from mousesports and I want to show that.
Are there any teams you would like to or not like to play in groups and why?
I would love to have G2 in our group, they always defeated us in the past and I finally want to win against them — preferably in a really important match. Honestly of the Top 5-8 teams, I don't want NiP in our group because lately they’ve been having a good run and in the past they have mostly crushed us. From the Top 1-4 teams, every team will be hard to play against.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Jacob Juillet writes about Counter-Strike for theScore eSports. Follow him on Twitter.