Magiskb0Y: ”People don't call me an onliner anymore”

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Magiskboy with the trophy at Epicenter, flanked by his teammate k0nfig who became MVP of the tournament. Photo: Epicenter.gg
E-SPORT

In only 18 months time he has gone from his first CS:GO team to winning one of the largest tournaments of 2016.
Aftonbladet Esport sat down to have a chat with the rising Team Dignitas star Emil ”Magiskb0Y” Reif about his breakthrough, proving himself on LAN:s - and being called one of the top players in the World.
”When people call me a top five player it's kind of overkilling it a bit”, Reif says.

When Team Dignitas flattened Virtus.Pro at the Moscow tournament Epicenter late October 2016 they started a new era for the team, where they had transformed from being an "almost top ten team" to a definite contender for best team in the World. Leading the charge was an 18-year old rookie who had joined the squad three months prior, and only started playing CS:GO competitively early 2015.
As Team Dignitas bootcamp in Stockholm in preparation for DreamHack Winter, Emil ”Magiskb0Y” Reif recalls his quick rise to the upper echelons of Counterstrike.
”I was playing with a mix team of friends, a casual fun team which I started playing with a year and a half ago. We were playing some danish tournaments and were actually doing pretty good. We played a tournament called League of Sharks and won against teams like Reason Gaming and people called us out as cheaters. We actually got disqualified. A week later they came back and said that we won anyways, that was kind of a weird situation.”

”It's been pretty fast since then. I got picked up by SK when k0nfig left the team. They needed a player for ESL Pro League, and I actually ended up playing really good with them. I think they had like 0-10 at the time, and after I joined we ended up staying in the league winning seven or eight games in a row. I was playing pretty good individually and that's kind of where it started because people realized I was good, atleast online.”

”Most of the time I was really nervous”

His performance with SK, and complete lack of LAN experience, earned him a reputation as an ”onliner” in the community. Something that stayed with him as he travelled to his first offline event: Fragbite Masters Season 5 in Stockholm.
”I had never proven myself on LAN:s which is why people had a lot of expectations when I came there. I think that's the reason I started pretty badly. Most of the time I wasn't playing good because I was really nervous, I wasn't used to the environment and playing in these situations. We ended up beating the team that became Astralis, which was kind of huge for us, and individually it was ok. But coming from online where I had been dominating a lot of the top teams, of course people start calling you out if you're not performing in the same way.”

So the transition from online to offline was a big deal for you?
”Yes it was. I'm still pretty young but I was 17 at that time. I was always playing from home and it's a lot different because the sound is not the same and the monitors might not be the same. But I don't think that was the biggest issue. I was really nervous and afraid to make mistakes.”

”My breakthrough was probably Starladder”

But Magiskb0Y kept growing at offline events, upping his performance at CEVO where SK ended up in second place after losing to Tempo Storm, who later became Immortals. Shortly after that performance, SK disbanded their lineup and Reif was teamless again. Having proved himself as an up and coming player, he got picked up by Team Dignitas as a replacement for Jesper ”tenzki” Mikalski, and that's when the magic really started to happen.
”My breakthrough tournament was probably Starladder, where we consistently played good as a team and I was playing good as well. But talking about when people realized I can actually compete individually with some of the best in the World, I think you have to mention Epicenter. Because that's where we proved to everyone that danish teams can actually win big tournaments. That's probably what most people will see as my breakthrough tournament.”

”Calling me a top five player is overkill”
 

Indeed, Magiskb0Y and Team Dignitas swept through the tournament, crushing Virtus.Pro in the finals with two decisive 16-5 map wins. Reif himself ended up with a 1.23 HLTV rating, only shadowed by Na'Vi star Aleksandr ”s1mple” Kostyliev. Suddenly, people started name dropping Magiskb0Y when mentioning the very top players in the World.
”You start from nothing and then you end up playing in what people would probably call a top five team, and it's a big transition because you're not used to that. People saying you're a really good player, people being nice to you, sending texts saying they're huge fans and stuff like that. It's really nice to hear, but when people call me a top five player it's kind of overkilling it a bit. We had one good tournament but there are a lot of players who have been proving themselves for a longer period, winning tournaments consistently. It's nice that people notice that you're playing good, but yeah...”

What was the biggest difference for you when it comes to how people react to you and the team after the win?
”I think the biggest difference is that people suddenly don't call me an onliner anymore.”
After struggling to win a premier tournament for so long, what do you think finally clicked with this Dignitas lineup?
”When a team changes one or two players you get a lot of motivation to play. It makes you more eager to get good as a team. For us it was just like that. We were playing a lot and focusing on practising. We knew we were good individually but you always have to make sure you're getting good as a team. And I think MSL is the reason we've had so much success lately, because he's been stepping up both individually and with his calling.”

How much does it mean for you as a relatively new player to have these veterans in the team?
”For me it's always nice to have guys like CajunB and MSL, who've been on the scene forever, and have a lot of experience from tournaments. They know exactly what to do and how to stay calm and make sure that everyone is relaxed before the games. Having people with a lot of experience is something that's almost needed if you wanna be in a top team, because it's making a big difference for me atleast.”

And if you look at your own performances, what do you have to work on to become even better right now?
”It's probably the fact that if you have a bad game you have to focus on communicating with the team more. When everything's going good it's easy to have good communication, but it's tougher when you have a bad day. But I think it will come to me with more experience.”

”That's kind of the biggest problem”

The CS:GO scene is closer and more uncertain than ever before. When Ninjas in Pyjamas claimed the win at IEM Oakland the past weekend it marked the first time in several months that the same team had won a premier tournament. Magiskb0Y thinks part of the reason is the hectic schedule, where teams spend most of their time travelling between events.
”The top teams like SK, Na'Vi and Virtus.Pro, they don't have a lot of time to do new stuff, which makes them kinda plain with the same plays every tournament. This is because they don't have time to go home and prepare new stuff. We had the same problem in ESL Pro League where we ended up going out. Everyone knew what we were doing and we didn't have time to prepare new things. Teams that are up and coming don't play three or four tournaments a month, they play one tournament and then they have three weeks at home where they can practice, so they're harder to read. When they watch our demos they know that it's gonna be the same, maybe with a twist or two but most of the time we're gonna play the same way as in the last tournament because we had no time in between.”
That sounds like a huge issue, trying to stay ”fresh”?
”Yeah, that's kind of the biggest problem. You have stuff that works for a month or two but then people figure out how to play against it. Then you have to change a lot and that's probably the hardest thing to do as a top team. When you had something that worked and it suddenly doesn't you're like ”should we change it or should we try to make a twist or two in this play style?”

”DreamHack was where everyone wanted to play”

Dignitas are now in the middle of a busy tour, where they will play DreamHack Winter this coming weekend, then face SK Gaming in the quarters of ELEAGUE season 2. After that, they're focusing on the ELEAGUE major qualifier.
”The qualifier is of course very important. I think everyone wants to be there, especially me because I've never played a major. That would be really huge for me. Of course we wanna win DreamHack and ELEAGUE, but the most important for us is the major. That's still the biggest tournament we have in Counterstrike.  We're gonna try to prepare for it best we can.”

And what are your expectations for your first ever DreamHack Winter tournament?
”It's pretty exciting. When I was watching tournaments a year and a half ago this was kind of where everyone wanted to go to play, and now I'm suddenly here. I just hope we can deliver some good games.”

Lastly, being a young professional in the scene, do you have any other players that you look up to and try to emulate?
”I've followed CS since I was eight or ten so it's always been a part of me, but there's not really one guy. I think the old school guys, like NEO, GeT_RiGhT and f0rest have always been people I've looked up to. And it's cool to suddenly play against them. You're like: ”Ok, I used to look up to these guys and now I'm winning against them”. That's pretty nice.”