By Arseny Kuzminsky, CS.MONEY
At 24 years old, Nemanja nexa Isaković boasts a very serious, mature approach to his profession. Talking with him about CS:GO, you immediately understand that he has his own strategy, a clear vision of the future, and most importantly, an understanding of his role in this grandiose plan. Solid confidence and granite faith in his team: in OG, Nemanja got the opportunity to start everything from scratch and implement a potentially major-winning project. His team definitely has the potential and talent, as well as desire.
On the eve of BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2022, BLOG.CS.MONEY talked with Nexa about his transition from G2 to OG, his role in the squad, IGL’s responsibilities, relationships with the coach, and the stars of the current team. Also, Nexa told what to do when you have elite class players in your squad, named his three favorite skins, and came up with what would be cool to see in the HLTV rankings.
First, however, let’s take a quick look into the past to find out what Nexa was like at the very beginning. Spoiler alert: just like the rest of us.
In the beginning, when he was around ten years old, nexa was introduced to CS 1.6. It was his friends from elementary school who got him into the game. They would skip classes and go into an internet cafe and play CS 1.6 for like three, four hours, literally every day.
“The main guys who jump started my career were Aleksandar ‘kassad’ Trifunović, the ex-coach of 100Thieves, Renegades, EXTREMUM, and Mladen Juric, a CEO of Relog Media. The two of them took me under their wing and helped me develop. They brought me into iNation, which was then the best Serbian team. And they pushed me even forward, and Kassad invited me to play for Renegades back then, which was my first professional team. But even when that didn’t work out, they were always there for me, for everything I needed. And they always kept suggesting and putting my name out there and trying to push for my career”.
And now nexa‘s here, IGLing for OG, living the time of his life. But to do that, he had to leave G2.
“I was both happy and sad at the same time. I was really sad to say goodbye to some of the guys I was playing together with for a really long period: huNter-, as we were together for over four years, JACKZ, AMANEK… We were together, we went through a lot of things in the last two years, even with NiKo even though we were not for such a long period together on the team. It was still a difficult decision to part ways with him as well. But on the other side, I think I needed to do something. I think I was stuck where I was and I needed to make a decision and look out for myself a bit more. And I’m really glad, I joined OG because I think it’s a fresh start, and it’s a new project that I can really devote myself to and try building from the ground up.
I had a really difficult period throughout the last year or year and a half, and I was not looking out for myself so much and not doing what I wanted and how I wanted, but I was really conceding and letting people roll over me. I didn’t really have such a strong voice and opinions, which is something that I know I have to, if I want to keep playing the role that I am. And that’s definitely something that I will be doing in OG. And it’s a thing that I needed to change for myself in order to become better at my job”.
Right now, OG are settled down at the bootcamp. Nexa had finally met the guys just a couple of days ago, and he says the atmosphere is lovely there.
“They welcomed me with open arms and I already feel pretty comfortable in the team. They’re all following and listening to me and my ideas and they’re willing to put in the work. And I think they all also needed a fresh start for themselves as well. And yeah, I think this change was needed for both me and for their team as well”.
BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2022 is going to be their first tournament. They have been practicing together online just a little more than a week before they met at the bootcamp, and it’s hard for nexa to predict their results at the competition.
“We started from scratch, so there’s a lot of question marks. I think we’ll do our best and considering it’s a Best-of-One, we could narrow the maps to our favor a bit more than it’ll traditionally be in the Bo3s. So, you know, anything can happen. We are not so crazy prepared tactically and we haven’t spent so much time playing together, but I think the atmosphere is really good and maybe we have this honeymoon period with some momentum that we can actually take maps of things.
We are definitely going to do our best. The expectations are obviously not set too high as we didn’t really have so much preparation for the event itself. But of course, our expectations are to everyone at the end of the day and we want to go deep in this tournament. We want to show the potential that I already see in this team”.
Asked to elaborate a little about the potential and to tell more about his teammates, nexa highlights flameZ and Mantuu as his current main focus.
“Well, what I definitely see is that flameZ is really good. I think he was underused a bit in the previous teams. And I think the last couple of days of practice I gave him a bit more space to play the way he would normally play in pubs and whatever, when he’s, you know, not dropping 30 bombs and whatnot. And he’s been doing really well in practice and feeling really comfortable, but then we’ll see if he can actually transition and do the same in officials, or are we gonna have to change and adapt a bit more regarding that. Also, I gave a lot more space and freedom towards Mantuu because I’m trying to draw out his potential as an AWPer because I think he could’ve been doing way more in the previous years with OG than he has been doing. So those two guys are my main focus, I’m trying to develop them and shine some light into them and see if they can actually perform on the stage as they’ve been doing in the practice”.
CS:GO scene has seen a lot of reshuffles lately, and most of the teams at BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2022 are trying to establish their games. Asked which teams he sees the strongest and most interesting, nexa underlines four teams: his ex-roster, NAVI, and two more.
“Even without shuffles, NAVI are at the top anyway, but I think G2 is gonna be a real threat. Just the fact of NiKo, huNter- and a new AWPer [m0nesy] in that mix, is going to make them a really strong team with a really strong core. For sure, FaZe and Vitality are also going to be something really cool. I think FaZe with ropz is going to do some really good things. And for Vitality, I’m just really curious to see how things will shape up because I know that going from a full French roster to an international–I’ve been through that and I know that it’s not an easy thing to do and it takes some time to adapt. So I’m just curious to see how it goes”.
Nexa has been an IGL for a very long time and in various teams. He had his ups and downs, but in the end, Nemanja established the position and mastered his role. But he can’t really defy a person who can become a good IGL. It’s not an easy job to do and requires specific characteristics from a person.
“Some people have this natural leadership when you motivate people and they want to follow. They want to attract people and give this vibe and energy. And then there are others who do it through hard work and through years of experience, through failures and failures. And then they come to a level where they can be trusted or the players say that, yeah, we can trust this person, we can put our lives in his hands basically. So it’s a difficult question to answer and for me, it’s because there’s a lot of aspects to being an IGL. You can be a good IGL. You can look like a good IGL but in fact you’re not really doing much, you know, just getting carried by your teammates. But also you can be an amazing IGL, but people don’t really notice it because of how your team is performing. So I think from my perspective, it’s kind of hard to explain to someone how to be a good IGL.
It’s different for everyone, it should be different. It’s definitely something that you can learn and develop and master for sure. But it comes differently to a lot of people, especially people who are from gaming, typically more introverted and not really so talkative and open to listening to others and just being in their own enclosed space. So it’s a bit harder to develop these things, but also you have some people who have it naturally. Like they’ve always been in groups of friends, everyone was looking up to them. They know how to speak to people, how to lead people, how to tell people when they’re doing something wrong without being afraid if this person will start hating them or talk bad about them behind their back. Some people are born to do this role and some people find it along the way and develop it”.
To specify the qualities needed for an IGL, nexa highlights the following.
“The main quality is taking responsibility. If s**t goes bad, you have to be the one to take responsibility. There should be no shying away or running away from it. And the other one, you have to be firm and strong in your beliefs. Not to back down when people challenge you, because if you really have your vision and how you want to do things, of course, it’s okay to sometimes, let go a bit and see and listen to the ideas of others. But if you really have your own vision and your idea, how you see and how you want things to be done, and you’re in charge of the project, then you cannot back down”.
All this might sound just like something you think a coach in a team should be doing: having a plan, a style, a system, following it and making sure that your team sticks to the philosophy you have. Nexa says, there should be balance.
“Of course you work together with a coach. Both a coach and IGL are in charge of building… let’s call it the system. And in the system, every player has a set of what he has to do. So of course IGL and the coach are the ones who are in charge of it and they do it together. And it’s very important that they are both on the same page. And they see how the game should be approached or played in a specific way. And if they both agree on that, that’s this presentation that they show to the team, of course. And if the coach and IGL are not on the same page and their views on the game are very different, eventually one of them will have to go. You’ve seen it in multiple teams and organizations, it’s like a pretty common thing. If your views and the way you want to approach and play the game are not aligned, there’s always going to be that discomfort. And it’s always going to create a bad mood and a bad atmosphere in the team. So you really need your coach and IGL who are the two main guys of the entire system in charge of the project to be in line with one another”.
A good atmosphere is essential. Nexa says that in OG, the key moodsetters are flameZ and niko.
“You just have people who are naturally relaxed and good at, you know, calming situations or good at keeping the atmosphere really good. Previously in G2, it was JACKZ for us. And he was always keeping the mood, always light, always chill. Always a great atmosphere, you know? But there isn’t anyone in charge of it because it’s not the job. It’s just like how your personality is. From what I’ve seen, I definitely feel that flameZ and niko are both the same type of personality as JACKZ was. They’re really light mood, not taking things to heart or seriously, even if they’re having a bad game or we are having a bad game, they’re still keeping the mood light, joking around and they’re just trying to keep the positive atmosphere going”.
What’s the secret of handling star players?
“Well, the thing with players like NiKo is that you don’t have to IGL them. They are capable of doing everything by themselves, what they want to do, how they want to play, what areas they want to play, what help they want, what do they need. People like him are pretty much self-sufficient players, which is really great to have on your team. It makes the life of IGL way easier when you have a person who you can fully trust to just take care of a lot of things for you. Like you have that complete confidence in this guy and you know that if you give him what he needs, he’s always gonna perform. He’s always gonna put up numbers, he is always gonna get the kills, get the entry clutch. He doesn’t need to be controlled or IGLed or moved around on the map like a chess piece. He is just self sufficient. He’s just autonomous. And you can trust him to do his own thing and he’ll always deliver”.
Asked if he agrees with the metric system HLTV provides, Nemanja compliments their strive and says that they’re doing everything great. Except for one thing.
“The only guys who are actually doing it right now are HLTV with their rankings. And I think with the way they do the calculations and everything they take into account is pretty much spot on, at least from my perspective. I think they really do their homework properly. They have all the statistics throughout the entire year when they do these rankings and they can see everything in detail. So I think they are making the right decisions. But they’re just doing the top 20 players of the entire year, and I think it’s really difficult when you look at it like that. I think what we miss maybe is splitting the players into categories and having the top players for each category. The top AWPers are competing with the top AWPers, the top rifles with the other rifles and so one.
Maybe they should even do a team of the year. Kind of what BLAST Premier did at the end of last year”.
Nexa’s three favorite skins
“The M4A4 Emperor is my favorite because it was a gift from my girlfriend. So I really love that one. I was using it the entire time until they upped the silencer. So now, unfortunately, I’m not using it anymore [laughs]. This AK Wild Lotus is really special to me because it was the first high-tier skin I ever got. And since I got that AK, I was drawn to skins a bit more. And then I started trading more and investing more into skins, getting knives and everything, trying to get the perfect gloves to fit. So that’s why it’s special to me. And then the Butterfly GamaDoppler is really special because when this operation Riptide came out, I bought two cases and I opened the second case and I instantly got the Butterfly Gamma Doppler, that’s why it was one of my favorites.
I can say I’m lucky with cases [laughs]. I’m definitely a lucky person when case opening comes. Let’s say I’ve opened like seven or eight knives and three or four pairs of gloves, which is really lucky. And it’s really lucky that every time I open a knife, it’s never a Nova knife or a Flip knife or whatever, but it’s always a Butterfly, I mean, a higher tier knife. So Gaben has been treating me pretty good there. [laughs]“.