"Our young guns are hungry for that ESL trophy": an interview with Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas

As the defending champion of Katowice, Virtus.pro had a journey to the top that didn’t end with their home turf win. Last weekend, they took the first place at Gfinity 3, with the likes of Titan, Team Dignitas and Fnatic following in their wake. Now, only one week before ESL One Cologne and its massive US$250,000 prize pot, Virtus.pro look to be in the perfect shape to defend their title. We talked to Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas about the challenge that lie ahead and what he thinks Virtus.pro will be able to show the fans at gamescom.

ESL: Thanks for speaking with us, TaZ! As defending champion, what are your expectations going into this next ESL One event?
Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas: Hey, this will be the hardest group stage in my career. Two new maps and one random pick out of the three maps that are left will make the luckier teams advance. Still, with that said, we will do our absolutely best to give great games. We are aiming for first place, but it only gets harder with so many good teams as well as rules changing with each event.
ESL: You won the championship back on your home turf. Do you think the crowd was a part of that win?
TaZ: Our fantastic crowd was one of the reasons we won in Katowice. Our results in other events were in mostly due to bad luck or overconfidence, or lack of preparation, which I think came from us understanding the potential of the team. I just hope ESL One will bring our best again, as I love to play in Germany.
ESL: Overall, the ‘home field advantage’ seems to have a massive effect in CS:GO. Having experienced both the positive and negative sides of this, how would you describe the feeling of playing in front of your own fans?
TaZ: I love to play in front of our fans, but I think it also brings more pressure. People are there to support you, and you really don’t want to disappoint them. On one hand, you try your best, and on the other hand it backfires sometimes. Overall we are here to bring the best possible show and the fans get players going. Without them, there is no sport.

ESL: The last time we saw you on the big stage before Gfinity3 was at DreamHack Summer 2014 with a rather disappointing loss and elimination in the quarterfinals. What was the mindset of the team after that?
TaZ: That we need to switch to 120hz monitors and to focus on the tactics side a bit more. Also it was one day, which can always be your bad day - you just wish it won’t come on important game days. When you’re not playing 24/7, even if you’re legendary, you will have a bad day at some point.

The heroes of Katowice

ESL: Returning to gamescom means you’re returning to a site full of history for the individual players on your team. How does it feel to return to the event where you had many memorable moments with Team Poland and other squads?
TaZ: I absolutely love it. I hope that it will look at least as it did during Intel Extreme Masters 2012, with all the players lounge, etc. I know that, from an organizational point, ESL always rocks, so I’m looking forward to the event, and I know that our young guns are hungry for that ESL trophy.
ESL: You are veterans, having been to hundreds of events all across the world. Do you still get nervous about playing for such prestigious titles?
TaZ: When you reach the point when you don’t get nervous during these events, it’s time for you to go. Maybe it’s not ‘nerves’ in a bad way, but more excitement for a game, and I feel it now like never before. At some point, I felt like ‘okay, I got it all already’, but now I have other goals that I need to achieve before the end of my career. So let the games BEGIN!

ESL: This tournament will be the first where the new maps have been introduced on a grand stage. Cache, Cobblestone and Overpass are to be played, while Train is out for now - what are your thoughts about this change?
TaZ: Cobblestone and Overpass are not ready to be played in competitive tournaments. Cobblestone is huge and has too many spots where you can hide as CT - it will not be entertaining to watch these games. Overpass is a bit better, but A site is just bad with too many spots for you to hide in and more. Overall I like the idea of adding new maps that were already tested in other tournaments such as season or cache, but I think adding these two new maps might downgrade the event level not only from a gameplay side but also from an excitement side.

ESL: Will you be preparing special strategies for any of these maps? 
TaZ: We have no choice - we need to prepare at least one map. The best idea is to have two of them so no team can use this handicap on us. This event will be all about new maps and random draw in groups. But hey, I’m 100% sure that inferno will always be there!

Will the get to take the trophy again?

ESL: Not only the map pool has changed - part of the competition is also in flux. Next to established teams like NiP or Na’Vi, new squads such as London Conspiracy, dAt Team and Wolf are surging into the spotlight. What is your take on these teams?
TaZ: I think that LC is very close to being a solid top eight team. They are capable of winning against any team - all they need is a bit of luck. I don’t know much about dAT or Wolf, so I can’t say anything about their game, but the experience and motivation they will get from ESL One is huge.
ESL: Which team do you have the most respect for, and/or which team are you most afraid of playing?
TaZ: There is a large number of teams that I respect. I don’t think there is a team that scares us - it’s all about knowing your opponent. Still, I think that the top eight teams from Gfinity 3 will be very strong. I just want to take my revenge on iBUYPOWER for ESEA and show them that this team we have now is limitless when it comes to potential and possibilities.

ESL: Thank you very much for your time and enjoy your stay in Cologne!

Check out the official ESL One website for more CS:GO content and as well as your chance to get your hands on tickets for the already-sold-out gamescom to see TaZ, Virtus.pro and more teams in action!


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