At the ZOWIE eXTREMESLAND 2019 – Middle East Regional Qualifier in Dubai, we sat down with members of the only invited team, NASR Esports. HavoK & breAker shared insights on the latest roster moves, what they’ve been up to since last years eXTREMESLAND event and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for the team.
CSGO2ASIA: It’s been a while since we spoke, guys. What has the team been up to since the last time we met in Abu Dhabi?
breAker: So we’ve recently changed two players. We got Ejram and Pogba from “Shotcallers”. We made the change after the Conquerors Insignia 2019 Middle East Qualifier. We wanted to make a change after the MENA Asia Minor qualifier, but we decided to hold off a bit. It was after the Conquerors Insignia qualifier where, even though we won against Shotcallers, we weren’t satisfied with the way we won. Things in the team didn’t feel right, it was not really the way we wanted to win.
HavoK: Yeah, it was lackluster. So after the Minor we kind of took a small break, we wanted to forget the loss. That final game in the Minor qualifiers was, I would say, traumatizing. We flew all the way to Jordan, you know, and then losing to a mixed team in the final was heartbreaking. So we decided to take some time off. But when we returned, without much practice, and playing in the CI qualifier it just felt like the moral on the team was really low. No one was motivated and it made things really hard. I’m not going to point out names, but the atmosphere just wasn’t great.
BreAker: Yeah, I mean, we are still brothers and there are no hard feelings between us, but we needed to make a change. As you saw, they were here with us today and they watched our games!
CSGO2ASIA: So with the recent line-up changes do you feel like its having the impact you wanted?
breAker: Yeah, there are a lot of positive things. For now, you know I have someone like Ejram who can help me call. On the CT side especially it helps to have someone else to call, I can’t call on both sites. We feel really good, there are fewer mistakes but still, I can’t judge. Today was our first official LAN with the new team so we will see.
HavoK: Yeah, this was definitely the first new test. Recently I took some time off for my family but definitely adding the new players has added a new energy. You know, it’s like the honeymoon phase. So while I was away the team took the time to play individually and just keep in shape. The preparation for this event kicked off just about two weeks ago, adding some of the old things and new elements from the new players. Although we practiced a lot this past week, it’s a lot of information in such a short span so you know it’s been quite tough, but hey, we feel like it’s slowly getting there.
breAker: Yeah, I wouldn’t say we’re anywhere close to ready on all the maps but, we feel good.
CSGO2ASIA: You also lack a coach now. So who has the responsibility of coming up with a strategy and looking at past games? Is that a shared responsibility or is that falling on one person?
HavoK: To be honest it’s always been breAker like 80% of the time. Now we have Erjam so he can pick up that 20%, and he does contribute a lot. He was the caller for Shotcallers, haha, so it helps to have his input. breAker is the guy who pretty much watches demos all the time, watches a lot of top tier CS and on-going tournaments so we have to give him the props for putting in all the effort for the team. The stuff you see on our T-side is all breAker. It’s not easy, I know that, and hands down he’s been like this since day one.
CSGO2ASIA: You guys had a good run at last years eXTREMESLAND and have qualified for every eXTREMESLAND since the beginning. Is there any pressure here to perform and take the number one spot, even though there are two spots this year instead of one?
breAker: I don’t think there is a lot of pressure, it’s good now that there are two spots. I like how they added a spot for the Turkish teams too, it’s good for us because we have the chance to play them on a LAN as well. The thing is, in the group stages, there should be a BO3 decider or something. It doesn’t seem fair to find the best teams with just a BO1 format. I would have liked to see a lower bracket at least. Last year we went with a stand-in, but we managed to make it to the final.
HavoK: It was great to reach the final last here. I don’t want to take credit really, but I believe we made a good impact by reaching the final and maybe made help influence the decision for eXTREMESLAND to add a spot to our region, so that’s good. We’re proud that way, but at the same time, I don’t think there is pressure necessarily, but our organization has high expectations of us, so we have to maintain those standards. I don’t think to place first or second matters as much, but we just want to quality and get to Shanghai.
CSGO2ASIA: Your opening match against Darkside was clear domination. How do you feel about the other teams attending here? Is there any team you feel may have the edge against you?
HavoK: Other teams, probably Demise. I mean, they have a lot of experience and as you know two of them were from ex-Space Soldiers, as well as their coach. I would say they have that edge over us. Skill-wise, I think that’s one thing our team does have, so I’m not worried on that side. I think it’s all going to come down to how we play on the day and execution of strats, how the teams read each other etc.
CSGO2ASIA: How often do you guys get to play with the other teams in the region on a LAN like this one?
HavoK: We pretty much never get this chance to play the other Middle-Eastern teams on LAN. I think years eXTREMESLAND qualifier was the last time!
breAker: Yeah, it was. It’s mostly online for our region you know.
HavoK: Yeah even for the Asia minor qualifier, although we flew to Jordan it was all online. Even when you talk about the local teams here in the U.A.E, we pretty much never play them. We feel like our skill level is a tad-bit higher so it doesn’t really suit us to play them on LAN here.
breAker: Yeah, I agree. After making our Middle East Stars League, which is like our version of FPL, I do see a lot of really skilled players out there. But when I see them on tournaments and stuff, I don’t see the same level of play. When they play online in the league, they play so good, but then you never see the same level after that. I try my best to play in that league too and I like to help giving suggestions to these players because I really feel passionate about making our scene move forward. Overall, I would say for now our scene is better than before.
CSGO2ASIA: Throughout 2019, there have been more cases of players from your region making it on EU rosters and an increase of players from this region in the FPL circuit. Tell us a little bit more about how the scene is progressing and what you see happening in the near future?
HavoK: Talking about the growth of the scene and players joining FPL, in our sub-region (GCC) I would say it’s pretty much impossible because our pings are too high to Europe. Reaching FPL is, I think, out of the question. Imagine, against all the odds I qualify for FPL, I’d probably get kicked, no one wants to play against a high ping player. But that being said, I’m very happy to see players like ISSA and BlackEagle qualifying for FPL, that has a huge impact on our region.
CSGO2ASIA: So would you say that these one or two examples are more than enough to inspire others to put in the work and effort?
breAker: Yeah I think, for MENA (Middle East North Africa) they have decent pings to European servers and so they should aim to qualify for the FPL-C. ISSA is a close friend of mine and I talk a lot with him, knowing what he has gone through I feel if I was in the MENA region I would make that my goal too.
HavoK: I almost feel though that if we were based closer to Europe, in MENA, I believe we’d have so much better practice partners and chances to qualify for things that I would make the goal of getting into FPL a secondary one. Just being there would be so great, and I’m confident we would be able to make an impact as a team, to be honest.
CSGO2ASIA: Overall though, despite these obstacles, do you feel like the success of these few individuals makes a good case for the FPL type format in finding and discovering new talent?
HavoK: It’s the same case in Asia, it’s the same case in Africa, the same case in Brasil. But look at Brasil, they’ve made it. So many of those players have had probably even worse obstacles than us, so it’s a matter of time. Infrastructure will always matter, CS as you know is a latency based game. I would say our region is an exception because we’re sort of in-between, but trust me, there are some hidden talents in our region and I really think if they find the chance they can surely compete with some of the top players out there.
CSGO2ASIA: Cool. So aside from being invited to this event, your team also recently qualified for the OMEN Challenger series. What other events can your fans look forward to in the coming months?
HavoK: This time last year, we only had one tournament to look forward to, which was this one – ZOWIE eXTREMESLAND. This year though, we already have three tournaments to look forward to – eXTREMESLAND, the Conquerors Insignia and the one we just qualified for, OMEN Challenger. And of course, the Minor qualifiers are going to pop up before the end of the year. So it’s quite exciting.