Just over two weeks ago, an era ended when Robin ”Fifflaren” Johansson left the team he had poured his heart and soul into for the last two and a half years.
In his first interview since the fact, he now talks about the tough decision, his replacement in Ninjas in Pyjamas – and his role as caster in the upcoming DreamHack Winter major.
– I hope to see a new playing style from NiP, in the end it was a bit too obvious what we were doing during games, he says.
Only days after their elimination from ESWC in Paris, the Ninjas in Pyjamas organisation released the bombshell: Robin ”Fifflaren” Johansson had decided to retire from professional CS:GO, thus ending an era where NiP had won everything there is to win on the scene and had done so while being the only pro team without a lineup change for over 2,5 years. Mikail ”Maikelele” Bill was soon announced as the replacement and Fifflaren was seen off by the community as a true legend. But after the decision, he’s remained quiet.
When Aftonbladet Esport got a hold of the pro player recently turned caster, he’s had a busy night playing the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft, enjoying some well deserved time off and just trying to adjust to life outside the pro circuit.
So, tell me about what led up to your decision to leave NiP before what would’ve been your fourth major together?
– Well, we felt as a team that we’d run out of ideas, and we didn’t really know what we could do to fix our game. We couldn’t qualify for FaceIT or Starladder, ESWC was bad, we didn’t make it to Fragbite Masters and were eliminated from DreamHack Stockholm. Everything had just built up, basically. And I felt that, since I’m friends with everyone in NiP, it wasn’t fair against them. They have to make a living out of it too and since I was thinking of quitting in the near future anyway, I figured I might as well do it so they can arrive at DreamHack Winter with a new player and some fresh ideas.
How hard has it been for you to keep motivated despite the setbacks?
– It’s hard when nothing is working. It becomes difficult to get psyched and think ”what are we doing that’s not working here”. And we had been working on that for quite a while, even before ESL One in Cologne.
Was it always you that was the obvious player to replace in your mind?
– Yeah, it was without a doubt really. I hadn’t planned on playing for much longer anyway so if I quit now or a bit later it wouldn’t make much difference to me. The others are younger and have a couple more years left to play, so I felt that it was pretty obvious.
According to the team it was your own decision. So there was no pressure from them for your to quit?
– No, definitely not. During the years we’ve played it’s always been about the team. They’ve never said anything like ”Fiff, you have to leave”. When we’ve lost, we’ve lost as a team and that’s been that. There was definitely no pressure, just my own decision.
When and how did you bring up the fact that you wanted to retire?
– I first approached HeatoN since he was my boss, and then they started looking for replacements. Pita helped in the search too but it was kinda obvious who it was gonna be since there aren’t a lot of players matching the type they were looking for. Mikail was the obvious choice to try out and see how it works. And he’s a great choice since he’s an extremely talented player.
So, how do you feel now when some time has passed since your decision?
– I feel extremely good and in a way I’m glad I don’t have to play. I have time to do other stuff for once. We’ve played together for 2,5 years and there hasn’t been many days off so it’s really nice to just lean back.
– The first two or three days were great. I woke up and just kinda did my thing but then I always thought: ”Right, it’s four in the evening, time to start practicing”, but then it didn’t happen. After about a week I felt a bit like… damn, it would be fun to play some CS:GO. But when Warlords of Draenor was released that feeling disappeared pretty quickly, haha!
What are your feelings after seeing all of the tributes made for you?
– It’s great to see. When you look at all the hate I’ve had to endure, it’s been pretty extreme, then maybe the people who thought I was good for the team and did a good job became a bit overshadowed. So in that regard it’s definitely fun to see stuff like that and to end my career by watching some nice videos.
How much CS:GO have you played since you retired?
– Not a single game. I casted a game with Semmler and then… now I almost said that I was forced to start up CS:GO. But that was the first time and I think I’ll keep it that way until DreamHack Winter. I haven’t had the urge since I’ve played so much the last couple of years. Now, whenever I get some spare time… even if I feel like connecting to a server and fire off some shots I think that it can wait.
Is there something you miss about the game already?
– Well, even if I hadn’t quit, I still would’ve just been home since there hasn’t been another tournament. Sometimes the evenings get a bit boring and when you had to practice that was like: ”I’m bored but I’m playing in 20 minutes, so…”. That’s one thing I can miss. And I of course miss the boys. We were a great team so it’s still fun to talk with them daily. I mostly talk to Friberg since I knew him way before we started playing together. And I talk to the others from time to time, when I have some time to spare and I’m not tied up by something else…
…like Warlords of Draenor?
– Yes, haha!
What are some aspects you haven’t missed yet then?
– As a player I had no spare time whatsoever. I think we had maybe seven days off last year and other than that it was just play, play, play. So I definitely don’t miss that. And you’re away from home quite a lot, so it’s nice to actually be able to stay there for a while.
And what does your girlfriend say now that you’re home all of a sudden?
– I think she got pretty used to me not being around that much and that was probably pretty nice for her to get some time of her own and do her thing. Now, I’m just sitting around bugging her!
According to the organisation, NiP offered you a job when you left the lineup. What was it and is it still on the table?
– I’m still thinking about it, but we won’t discuss what I would be doing unless I accept the job.
How many games have you watched since quitting?
– I’ve tried to watch all of the official games that have been played since I’m casting at DreamHack Winter, including NiP:s games. During CaseKing I watched everything and they’ve been looking pretty good even though they only had like a week to prepare for that so you can’t really judge how they’re gonna be at DreamHack based on it. They’re still trying stuff, but based on what I saw when they reached their potential it looked good. Against Virtus.Pro you could tell they still have stuff to work on, but I definitely think they’re aware so I hope we’ll get to see a NiP that’s in shape for DHW.
That brings us in to the casting announcement. How do you feel about the job?
– I’m terribly nervous and I’m never nervous when I play but this is something new to me. I think I casted one game with ESL this spring but that’s basically everything I’ve done. People starting approaching me offering casting jobs the same day I quit NiP so I didn’t have much time to think about it. Personally I think it’s a fun thing to do, and even if I may not do it again after DreamHack it will be great to try it out and see how I do.
– I think I can provide some great insights about the other teams since I’ve played against them all and have done so for a really long time, so I basically know them inside and out. That’s an advantage I have compared to the other casters.
So you’re not thinking of going full-time caster?
– When I got the question I started thinking about it because I actually think it’s really fun. But then I thought that we’ll see after DreamHack, how I feel about my performance. If I get some good feedback from the community maybe I’ll just keep going. I’m not gonna turn down the idea straight away atleast.
Is the fact that you still get to hang around with all of the friends still playing something that gives casting more of an appeal?
– Yes, of course. As I said I’m gonna miss the boys and they’re not gonna get rid of me yet. Never a quiet moment without me! No, but seriously, it’s gonna be great seeing the other teams as well. I feel like I’m talking about this like I’ve been gone a year already. If you think about the fans watching NiP play, the only tournament they haven’t seen me in so far is CaseKing of Kings.
How do you see yourself as a caster? Will you be tough or on the lighter side?
– Actually, that’s one of the first things Duncan ”Thorin” Shields told me when we met at Fragbite Masters. Something like: ”If you’re gonna cast a tournament, you have to be a bit tougher. You’re not playing with these guys anymore so don’t be nice just to not hurt their feelings. If you see something bad, you have to call it out”. And I can see what he means. If you’re a spectator and you’re going: ”What are they doing? Why did they do that?!” of course an expert should mention it. If a player does something wrong it should be mentioned. The first task is to analyze the game but also to educate the people who are watching. Why was this wrong and what could’ve been done better? In that way, maybe they can learn something too. In that regard I agree with Thorin and of course I’ll point out errors, but I’ll also mention all the good things. I’m not gonna switch between being the nicest guy in the world to the world’s grumpiest guy. I have to find a middle ground.
And how will it feel if you have to take a shot at NiP?
– The way I see it is: I don’t play there anymore and they’re just like any other team I will be casting. It’s important for me to go into a game and show that I’m not favoring them. If they do something bad, of course I’ll say it. And I have a pretty good guess that I’m gonna get to cast their games. ”Whoops, you got a couple of NiP games, what a shame”. I know from experience what we usually did and then I can spot things they’ve changed and things that they’ve improved that we didn’t have. I’m probably the one who knows best how NiP work.
So what are you hoping to see from them at DHW?
– I hope to see a new playing style from NiP, in the end it was a bit too obvious what we were doing in the games. To get in such a strong AWP:er as Maikelele opens everything up when he can basically control his own game. If he feels like taking a pick as CT they should allow him to and then the others have to adapt to that, so they get an AWP:er that’s a bit more aggressive. If you look at Fnatic and their IGL Pronax, he’s very adaptive. If he calls something and then JW says ”I wanna go long and take a shot” a couple of seconds later he just tells Krimz or someone to go B instead. That’s what makes Fnatic so good.
You guys started out with a 87-0 LAN run and ever since then it seems people seem to demand much more from NiP than from any other teams, do you think this will continue even now?
– Yeah, since we were so dominant I think that NiP will still be judged harder than other teams even though they have a new player in the lineup.
A couple of days ago, Friberg tweeted in frustration about the CZ. What’s your current opinion on that gun?
– You shouldn’t read too much into a tweet. He sent it right after they had lost a game and he was probably angry and looking to vent. That gun is maybe the easiest thing to blame. The way I see it is that everyone can use it, and if it’s that good you should just take the chance and use it yourself. And there are people who are better at it than others, but that comes down to training. If you think it’s too good, then use it until Valve does something about it. Don’t just say ”I’m not gonna use it out of principle and it’s probably gonna get nerfed”. It’s not gonna get changed before DHW. Valve would never change something one and a half week before a tournament. Just practice with it before the tournament and get equally good with it.
Lastly, if you could predict the top three teams at DHW, which would they be?
– The two first are Fnatic and LDLC. Fnatic have been playing insanely good lately and no other teams really have a response to counter them. LDLC are almost similar and their only weakness is Fnatic, that they can’t grasp them. Other than that, they look strong against everyone else.
– For third place I have three teams: Titan, Virtus.Pro and NiP, depending on how prepared they are. I don’t think NiP will beat LDLC and if they end up second they have to face the #1 team from another group. As long as it isn’t Fnatic I think they can beat all of the other teams. Virtus have been looking solid lately, except for the game I casted but you shouldn’t take that too seriously. Titan are a really strong team and if they’ve done their homework I think they’ll do great.
And your own expectations on the tournament, what do you want to see?
– I want to see extremely good games, and that NiP performs well. They might not have had the time they’ve wanted to train for such a big event, but they’ll do their best to come prepared. Also, I’m hoping for an all Swedish finals again. The feeling in that arena during an all Swedish finals is amazing!