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MSF Xani: “I think LEC in spring was actually stronger because there were more competitive teams”

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With playoffs on the horizon, Misfits Gaming secured a much needed 2-0 week during Week 6 over Excel Esports and Schalke 04 Esports. At 9-5, Misfits have not fully locked in a spot in playoffs just yet but they are extremely close, needing only one more win to be certain.

Misfits’ assistant coach Nikola “xani” Zrinjski, who is experiencing his first full season in the LEC, spoke to us on Misfits’ form, his transition from ERLs and their cultural nights within the team.


First and foremost, thank you for accepting this interview, xani. Let’s start with Misfits Gaming’s 2-0 week, congratulations on that! Compared to last week’s 0-2 results, what has the team been working on to obtain these two important wins?

xani: Compared to last week, after we got our first games on the LEC stage, we felt more comfortable and that’s one part, and what we’re working most on is making sure our plan going into the official games was even clearer. I think this week we knew exactly what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do both in draft and in-game. It was much better in that aspect for sure.

On the topic of playing on stage, were the players nervous playing on stage last week? How does it compare to playing back in the office this week?

xani: I don’t know if it was the nerves or it was a different setup and they’ve not played on it in a long time, they might have needed to get used to it again. I don’t think it was the nerves, just the change of environment really.

The game against Schalke 04 Esports, you guys won very convincingly. What was different about it compared to your match against Excel Esports, which was much closer?

xani: Honestly, I think Excel put up a very good fight. They were just playing better so it was harder for us. From what we’ve seen before, I think S04 are playing different champions from what they are usually used to playing, and so they might have felt a bit out of their comfort zone. That’s how it felt like to me. We were just on our standard champions/draft and everyone felt comfortable with it, and that’s why it seemed easier for us.

I’d like to get your thoughts on the strength of the LEC this season since some people I’ve spoken to say it’s been a bit weird so far. What do you make of the LEC this season, since I believe this is your first season in LEC?

xani: Yes, this is my first season in LEC and I joined after spring where I was working with Misfits Premier. From my perspective, I think LEC in spring was actually stronger because there were more competitive teams. For example, in the off-season S04 lost Felix “Abbedagge” Braun and SK Gaming replaced Kristian “TynX” Østergaard Hansen, and I think both teams got a bit worse from that. Team Vitality also made changes and so did Fnatic, but credit to Fnatic since they didn’t start well and obviously right now they’re doing very well.

I think overall the LEC is now more top heavy. We can see teams at the bottom are sort of struggling and there’s like five teams at the top where it’s a fight on who will place where. That’s how it looks to me from my perspective, we have five teams doing great and the rest are basically fighting for the sixth spot.

Do you think the top five teams are more or less equal in strength or there still exists a gap between say the top two teams?

xani: I think it’s hard to say since we’re still playing best-of-one games and it doesn’t always show the real strength of the teams. But at least from the results, I think we are all somewhat close. We had that tough game against Rogue where we lost to the famous Fiddlesticks ultimate, but it was a game we should have won. We also had that somewhat close game against G2 Esports recently where we won but from how it was going, we should have lost.

There are games like these between the top teams so that makes me think it’s close, and when it comes to best-of-five it will be down to preparation and how the teams play on the day.

As someone who is in their first LEC season, how was it for you to experience or watch the crazy G2 and Astralis games?

xani: On the G2 game, when we’re playing online, we as coaches watch with a delay. So the coaching staff was watching with a delay and the way we are at Misfits, if the players win they will usually come to our room after the match. If they lose, they stay in their room, discuss things a bit and we go to them instead. When we played G2, we were watching it and thinking it was probably over.

But then the players come to our room and are telling us “we won!” and we were telling them “no, you didn’t win”. It was a ridiculous situation! They were trying to convince us they were not trolling us, then we finished the game and saw they won and we were happy about it, it was just a ridiculous situation all around!

For Astralis, it was my first game on the LEC stage. Since it was a new environment, watching it live was super nerve-racking for me. Since I became a coach, I notice it’s way harder to watch games compared to when I was a player. That game especially… was so frustrating to watch. I don’t wish this upon even my worst enemies, it was a nightmare! But overall, we bounced back for this week and that is what’s most important.

I recall you’ve played or coached in France in recent times like your stints on Vitality.Bee and Misfits Premier. How was the transition like for you from ERLs to LEC?

xani: I think it was easy for me personally because here in Misfits, since I joined at the beginning of the year, the LEC and academy teams already work in the same office. We have the same structures, the same way we work and Adrian “Hatchý” Widera, our Sports Director, was working with both teams. I knew all the staff like Alexander “Candyfloss” Cartwright, who is now the head coach and we are getting along well.

The only transition that needed to happen was me needing to know the players a bit better and getting to know myself better. But everything from the organisational part, the staff etc. was very easy, seeing just how I can just integrate myself in the team and how I can help them from an assistant coach’s perspective.

Speaking of Misfits Premier, are you still working closely with them and coach Aleksi “Hiiva” Kaikkonen, since he is quite new to coaching?

xani: I’m not doing anything with them now, to be clear. When Hiiva joined the team I told him everything that could be helpful to him. I gave him all the details about the players, how they work, their personalities and what he should do and all that. I told him if he has any problems he can reach out to me, but they’ve been doing their own work and I haven’t been doing much with them.

They’re in the office so I still see the guys and we still talk during breaks or off-days. We also eat together during lunch or dinner. Some days we also play football together, so we still maintain personal relationships but in terms of the team, I’m not doing anything and we trust Hiiva fully. He is definitely up to the challenge.

Coming back to the LEC, you face Team Vitality and G2 Esports next. Any thoughts or expectations going into those matches?

xani: Our 2-0 week was very important since I believe we haven’t secured playoffs mathematically yet but I think we’re in good shape, which is very important. Vitality is a very important game and we want to win it, we need to win it. After we hopefully win it, I guess we can evaluate what we can do against G2 after that.

I think it will be a game that’s not too much pressure on us and I think from how we’re doing, we’ll be coming in from a position of an underdog, and I think this suits us well. I don’t think we are coming in with the expectation of winning, but we’ll definitely be giving it our best and hopefully get the win as well.

Before we end, I’d like to ask you about Misfits’ cultural night which I often see on Twitter! Have you and Candyfloss had the chance to do anything on the UK/Croatia yet?

xani: We haven’t done it yet, but we have Hiiva next up for the Finnish week! The next two weeks will be the UK’s turn, I think. Our chef Moe is from the UK as well so he wants to work with Candyfloss and maybe even Becca Henry, our VP of Communications, might even join them to do a big presentation on the UK!

I’m going to do my Croatian presentation in the next two or three weeks as well which honestly I’m really, really looking forward to! Our chef is asking me all the time what I want to do and he’s really hyped about it for some reason. He’s actually really interested in Croatia and was talking about travelling there in the off-season, so he’s really hyped about it as I am. I can’t wait to do it!

I look forward to it. We’ve come to the end of the interview, anything else you’d like to add? Any shoutouts you’d like to give?

xani: I’d like to personally shout out all of our players. I’m super thankful for the way they’ve been playing, how they’ve come together as a team and overcoming the tough moments. Every team has tough moments, we have them too and they’re overcoming it really well. We have different players stepping up at different times and I’m really thankful to them for giving me such a good first season in the LEC.

I’d like to shout out our staff too: Candyfloss, Owen, Moe, Hatchy, Michael, Martin “Deficio” Lynge… just everyone in Misfits has been great. I would also like to shout out every Misfits fan who is hopefully reborn from this season as we are making our way to the playoffs. We have new fans too, so welcome aboard and keep supporting us. We’re going to raise hell in the playoffs, that’s for sure!

Thank you, xani!

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Image Credit: Misfits Gaming