ztr on being unbanned: "I was really happy because I had no hopes of it ever changing"
Young Ninjas are among the favorites to win WePlay Academy League, so we sat down with the team's captain, ztr, for an interview.
We sat down with the captain of Young Ninjas, Erik "ztr" Gustafsson, ahead of the team's run in the LAN finals of WePlay Academy League. The youngster describes his time in Ninjas in Pyjamas, what he has carried over to the academy team, and his goals for the future.
Whenever it comes to Young Ninjas, you tend to be the main point of discussion, having played for the main NiP squad alongside huge names like Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz and Fredrik "REZ" Sterner. What do you feel you've learnt from that experience?
For the most part, I think that it has affected my game sense, my mind for the game. It has helped me look at things in different ways. I've also learnt a lot from listening to hampus calling, I took some things from him and implemented them into my own calling.
In a prior interview, you mentioned that you were meant to help hampus with in-game leading, especially on Nuke. Is that indeed what happened? How difficult is it to co-lead a team, when two captains might have completely different calling styles?
I don't know how it was for the team or for hampus, but I felt like it was fine for me because it was only on Nuke. We eventually tried it on Overpass for a bit, but that was not as long lasting. Overall, it felt natural for me because it was only on one map. It's not like we were doing double calling on the same map, so that made it easier. It's not like we had two leaders on the same map, we would just switch to me on Nuke. But in the end, we decided to switch back, because we felt like hampus could do just as good a job of leading and fragging.
In regards to your whole career, when did you first start in-game leading? What sort of input and feedback did you get from your more seasoned teammates on the main squad?
I started calling around 2017-18. I've always enjoyed doing it in PUGs or in mixed teams, but it really started when I was playing in Prima eSport, which was my first serious team. After the first month, we decided that I should start calling, and I just took it from there.
What have you carried over from the main team to Young Ninjas?
I made a lot of mistakes while on the main team, but I learned a lot. I try to give as many tips as possible in every situation so that my teammates can avoid making the same mistakes. I try to bring everything I learnt from the main team to the Young Ninjas.
What was it like rejoining the Young Ninjas after standing-in for NiP for so long? Especially considering you moved to the main squad very quickly.
It was a weird feeling at first, I've never really come back to a team after leaving, but they welcomed me back really well. They understood what had happened and greeted me really well. They were excited to play with me again, and so was I.
As the leader of Young Ninjas, you have a deeper understanding of the game than your average rifler. What sort of calling style are you the most comfortable with?
So I think it's a bit of a mix of being loose and also playing structured. It depends on the situation, really. It's good to mix it up, because playing loose will be better against some teams, and playing strict will be better against others.
In your WePlay Academy League profile, you mentioned that your goal was to make playoffs. Well congratulations, mission accomplished! So what comes next? What goals have you and the team set yourselves for the next six months?
Right now, we're focusing on the WePlay Academy League, we really want to win that. As for the goals in the future, we really want to get into the top 30. Because then you feel like you really grinded hard as a team. If you reached the top 30, it's a sign that you are a really good team.
It's safe to say that Young Ninjas has a very different style compared to other academy teams. From an outside perspective, it feels like a more disciplined team that focuses on teamplay rather than having individuals popping off. What's it like from an inside perspective? What do you feel the team's biggest strengths are?
It's the way we play with each other. It's always been the goal in the teams I play in. You don't want to win because you have more individuals shining that day, because it's a really inconsistent way of winning. You need them to play well every single game. So that's why we try to play as a unit as much as we can, and I think it's working out really well for us.
You said that your first important tournament was the DreamHack Summer 2019 BYOC when you were 14 years old. What was so special about that event? What do you remember about it?
I remember it so well mostly because it was my first LAN, and there also ended up being a bit of a weird situation. We reached the Grand Final of the BYOC event, but it ended up needing to be played on another day, when we had plans. One of our teammates had to leave and we ended up playing the Final with a stand-in, so that's primarily why I remember it.
Back in April, when Valve released their new RMR Eligibility Guidelines and you learnt that you had been unbanned, how did you feel? Were you hopeful that the day would eventually come?
I was really happy because I had no hopes of it ever changing, considering Valve is Valve. I felt like I was being given a really good chance to continue playing. I've always loved playing CS, and if they hadn't changed the rule, I don't know what I would have done with my career.
Be sure to catch ztr and Young Ninjas at 18:00 CEST today as they face Fnatic Rising at the WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv. You can catch the match on our Twitch channel, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay in the loop with all things WePlay Academy League.