In an exclusive interview with Dexerto ahead of PGL Major Antwerp, Heroic captain Casper ‘cadiaN’ Møller discussed his goals for the event and opened up about the team’s consistency struggles.
cadiaN knows that Heroic are not ranked among the favorites to win PGL Major Antwerp, and he’s okay with that. For his teammates, this will be only their second Major, so the added pressure of this being a must-win tournament is something he can do without.
But that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big. Heroic’s Stockholm Major run ended in heartbreak, not because they fell short of expectations — quite the contrary — but because at one point they had one foot in the grand final. G2 Esports then came back from 14-15 down on the decider map to win the game in overtime and complete the reverse sweep in the series.
Much has been said about the mental fortitude of Heroic, who have remained a top-five team in the post-online era but are yet to win a big LAN trophy. Oftentimes, when the conditions seem perfect for them to break that barrier, they collapse unexpectedly and with no explanation.
At the BLAST Premier Fall Final, they lost to an Astralis side playing their first tournament with Benjamin ‘blameF’ Bremer and Kristian ‘k0nfig’ Wienecke that had the crowd on their side. At IEM Katowice, they were eliminated by eventual winners FaZe, who were fielding Justin ‘jks’ Savage as a stand-in. And just last month, they crashed out of ESL Pro League Season 15 in the first round of the playoffs after losing to a struggling Liquid side.
cadiaN points out how “difficult” it is to win tournaments in the current landscape, with NAVI, FaZe, G2 and Cloud9 all formidable foes. And while he shies away from the term ‘mental barrier’, he acknowledges that the team loses a bit of focus in high-pressure situations.
“It’s not like people are aiming differently or missing grenades,” he told Dexerto before traveling to Antwerp. “It’s a lot about communication. People talk a lot about Heroic having this dynamic style, about making moves and reacting to information about what the opponent is doing.
“And if your communication gets stressed, you have fewer opportunities to act upon what your opponent is doing. And you lose a bit of your style. I’d say that’s the 5 percent we normally have as an extra edge.”
cadiaN adds that when communication is not on point, his own game tends to take a hit. As the main AWPer, he is expected to unlock rounds and be a difference-maker, but he has come under fire for some lackluster performances that have cost his team (his 0.97 HLTV rating on LAN in the last six months is a team-low).
“I definitely want to elevate my own game on LAN,” he said. “There have been a few above-average games but also some series where I haven’t done what I wanted to do.”
Heroic were one of the teams that rose to unprecedented exalted heights when tournaments pivoted to an online format due to the global health crisis. In the fall of 2020, the team spent three weeks at No.1 in the world rankings after winning ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Open Fall. But that online success has yet to translate to LAN.
cadiaN insists that no one wants to see Heroic win more than the players themselves. And while he is happy that some people have high expectations for the team on LAN, he knows that there’s no substitute for experience, which comes from attending events and facing the strongest opponents. Then it’s all about working hard to cut down on their mistakes.
“We are trying our best, but I see in practice that there are still many areas where we can become way better,” he said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near our peak or that we’re playing perfectly.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I also see a lot of situations where I’m just super proud of my young players, who are handling the pressure very well and are constantly learning new things. A lot of things that are working in practice are happening in official games. That’s what matters.”
Antwerp Major ambitions
Unlike in Stockholm, Heroic begin their Antwerp campaign from the Legends Stage, which gave them an extra few days to prepare for the tournament. It’s sort of a double-edged sword: they have had the chance to examine the teams coming from the Challengers Stage and “steal small gimmicks” from them; but at the same time, they will be coming in cold, their most recent official dating back to April 29, and still have to adapt to the tournament setup.
“If you could guarantee that I would move on to the Legends Stage, I would have preferred to play the Challengers Stage,” cadiaN says. “You get used to the setup and you get into the groove. Starting cold against these teams that have played three, four, five matches is going to be difficult. The first day is also so important with the two best-of-ones.
“I think the Challengers Stage teams have a small advantage at the beginning of the Legends Stage, but at the same time, if you’re a Challenger team and you reach the playoffs, you will have been on the road for longer and it’s hard to have the same amount of energy going into the last stage of the Major.”
When it comes to Heroic’s goals for the Major, cadiaN expects his team to reach the playoffs; what they can do after will depend on the bracket. “Personally, I would like to reach the final,” he says. “That would mean that we improved from last time.”
He harbors the dream of lifting the trophy, but he knows that a crowded pack of quality opponents stands in his team’s way. In his opinion, FaZe, the winners of IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League 15, are the team everyone will be looking at in Antwerp.
“We’ve scrimmed against them, and I messaged karrigan in-game saying, ‘Congratulations for the Major win, bro.’ They’ve been playing really well,” cadiaN said, laughing.
When cadiaN spoke to Dexerto, it had been less than 24 hours since the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) provisionally suspended three CS:GO coaches attending the Antwerp Major for the use of the coach bug.
For cadiaN, the news brought back memories of the time his own team was at the heart of the scandal in the lead-up to the Stockholm Major because of former coach Nicolai ‘HUNDEN’ Petersen’s actions. In the end, it was determined that Heroic’s players had not been complicit (only former team member Nikolaj ‘niko’ Kristensen, and he received a light punishment), but the buzz and the rumors took a while to die down.
Looking back, cadiaN is proud of how his players fought together through adversity and forged a stronger bond because of it. With no outside distractions this time around, his only concern is finding a way to realize the team’s full potential, even though this Major might come too soon for that.
“We’ve learned how to fight in the storm, but now we’re also learning how to perform when the surroundings are a bit more quiet,” he said. “We still have a lot to learn and I’m just trying to make sure that we do it in time for the Major. But if not, we’ll try to do it later this year.”
Heroic will face Team Liquid in the opening match of the Legends stage at PGL Major Antwerp – the NA team overcame their own hurdles, and an 0-2 start, to qualify from Challengers.