When mousesports sold Nikola “NiKo” Kovac to FaZe Clan after the ELEAGUE Major, many were concerned about the team’s potential to stay near the top. Over the past few years, NiKo was the player who almost single-handedly managed to win more than a few key matches, but even with arguably the best player in the world, Mouz could never quite break into the top five teams in the world.
But once NiKo left, the organisation started the search for a new star, and it somehow found one who has the potential to rival NiKo. Robin “ropz” Kool, a young Estonian player, was brought in after proving his skills in FPL, and his impact on the team was immediate. Mouz went from struggling to make the big LAN events to easily qualifying for almost all of them. Although they haven’t quite managed to win an event just yet, they have had some solid performances on LAN and easily made it through the Major qualifier.
To see just how this crazy ride has impacted both Mouz and ropz, Slingshot’s Mike Stubbs caught up with ropz at ESL One Cologne, where the team just missed out on a top eight finish after a heartbreaking overtime loss against Cloud9.
Mike Stubbs: You just joined the team, and since you’ve come in results have improved quite a lot. So do you think that you coming in totally changed the team, or was you just the little boost that the team needed?
Robin “ropz” Kool: I mean, it was really unexpected that the team would have better results with me because the star player obviously left the team. I’d say we play a lot more tactically now, we have a lot more team play, and I guess that just gives us more results.
MS: You kind of mentioned that you’re filling some pretty big shoes in place of NiKo. Has that has that resulted in extra pressure on you, or are you just calm as you like?
RK: I think the pressure isn’t that big on me anymore, but it’s just like the really important matches where the pressure gets on me. Like the one versus Cloud9 yesterday, that wasn’t really good.
MS: Let’s talk about that match a little bit more. What were you thinking in the last few rounds? What was going through the team’s minds?
RK: I mean, when Oskar clutched the 1-v-4, I was pretty sure we had it at that point, but we made some really bad mistakes that cost us in the end. I mean, we had a really good chance to win the game, but it was just some crucial mistakes that we did.
MS: So I don’t know if you saw it, but ESL put out a tweet of Stewie turning to the camera and shouting, “What kind of strat was that?” that was aimed at you guys. What is your response to that? Do you have anything to say back to Stewie? What was that strat?
RK: I think it was in overtime when we had some pretty bad calls, so I guess it’s justified by him. But I think it’s good that people are having this kind of approach at the games. I really like when people just have some banter between each other. That’s good.
MS: At the Major qualifier some teams were sort of told off for getting quite loud and shouting. So I’m guessing you’re a fan of that kind of thing and that you think a team should be able to say whatever they want when they’re on stage?
RK: I mean, yeah. They should be able to do that because I think there’s a lot of hype, and the team gets a lot more energy from that. I think you can’t stop it in my opinion.
MS: So the Major is next week. What are your hopes for that? Do you realistically think you can go in and win it?
RK: I mean, regarding our recent results, I think we can make it to the Legends spots. I mean, I already got what I wanted. I wanted my own stickers, so I guess that’s really good. But I think the rest of the team really wants that Legends spots because they’ve been fighting for it for a long time now, so that’s the main goal.
MS: If you were to make it to the final of the Major, in a dream scenario, what one team would you want to face in that final?
RK: I’m not really sure. I mean, probably SK or FaZe. FaZe because they’re the best international team and probably SK because we really want to beat them. They beat us a lot in these important matches, and that’s just why we really want to get a win over them.
MS: So to talk about you before you joined Mouz, obviously you are quite well-known within the scene for being this amazing player that everyone knew was an up and coming star. Before you got the offer from Mouz, what were you thinking? Were you thinking, “Yes, I can definitely make a career out of this?” Or was you going, “Maybe if I’m lucky…”
RK: I mean, I was certain I could make a career, but it was just like, I want to complete school on the other side of the gaming, and that’s the biggest thing for me because I also get really good results in school. I could get a really good job for myself, but I also put a lot of time into this gaming stuff. So I mean, both of the things I really want to do.
MS: When you got that offer from Mouz, was your instant reaction just to say yes straight away, or were you thinking about it for a while?
RK: I was fine to say yes right away because that’s the best offer I could have got in any scenario, because there’s no other team that would have offered me which is better.
MS: So what are your plans for say in five years’ time? Do you still think that you’ll be playing Counter-Strike professionally? Do you think you’ll still be with Mouz?
RK: I don’t know as of now because as of recent, there’s also maybe some Estonian team coming up. Maybe in a few years there could be a top Estonian team. Maybe I could be with them. So just time will tell.
MS: Is that something you’d like to do? Just play on an all-Estonian team if possible?
RK: I mean, yeah, because teams that usually talk in their own language have better results. That just shows that it’s better for the team.
Cover photo by Jussi Jaaskelainen/DreamHack