Since 2020 and the COVID-19 era, Mathieu Quiquerez has become a frequent guest at leading esports tournaments. His face and voice are easily recognisable, and before the start of almost every BLAST Premier broadcast, you expect to see him on the screen.
Today, CS.MONEY Blog has a former pro player and now a leading CS:GO analyst, Maniac. He talks about the recent TEA nomination, his work (and how difficult it is), chemistry with colleagues, Swiss players and their future, competitive map pool and gameplay changes, names the top five players of 2022, and, of course, discusses skins!
Award, Analyst’s Duties & Colleagues
Congratulations on your first-ever The Esports Awards nomination. Please, share your feelings.
It was a bit complicated situation because I was nominated as a Wild Card, so I was not on the first list. And when the first list came out, and my name wasn’t in it, I was obviously a little disappointed. I felt that I had earned such a nomination for my year, which is always a dangerous feeling to have, you know, starting feeling entitled. You have to be careful. But I was a little bit disappointed at first, but then obviously, you move on. After all, it is just an award and cannot be life-defining. So I moved on quite quickly.
And then I heard the happy news that I was added as a wild card, which obviously came as a great surprise. I was happy to share that with my friends and family, the people who support me. And I felt very happy about getting that recognition.
Considering your path as an analyst, can you recall your whole story briefly and tell me what future analysts need to do to achieve heights?
Long story short, I retired in the middle of 2018. In June. At the time, ESL asked me if I wanted to work the ESL One: Belo Horizonte 2018. And I had a really, really good time, so this was my way in. After that, I had, let’s say, about a year where I was very unclear about what I wanted to do with my life and if this was going to work even as an analyst. So I’d say the first year and a half was quite stressful with a lot of uncertainties and doubts, not knowing where you’re going. But once I felt like I found my comfort zone and started having a good time, and I had my anxiety under control, I started to appreciate and deep-dive into it.
Being an ex-professional player gave me a very easy way at the beginning, and not everybody can benefit from that free card as an ex-pro, of course. But people need to realise that it’s a job, right? It’s a unique job with unique challenges and competencies you need to have and skills you need to develop. And it’s not just talking about CS:GO, which might be what is at first sight, but actually, there is a lot to it, which makes it also very passionate. One of my key tricks is to simplify my thoughts: try to make things easily digested, easily understandable, and interesting to people. And even if I love the game deeply on a theoretical level, I try to be careful not to go too deep because, at the end of the day, I want people to understand what is important. And simplifying is always a very, very good tool to use for these moments.
You have a great combo with Pimp and Freya. How did you get this chemistry?
<Laugh> Mainly, spending a long time together. When the unfortunate Covid circumstances happened, James was at the desk with Pimp and me, and we were already working most of the desks together for BLAST. We spent a long time in Copenhagen. Long hours, long days. There were also no rotations, so we would cover every game together. And you start to bond not only as a colleague but also as a person. You get to know who you’re working with, and you get to develop friendships. And then, over time, when the camera is live, you know each other, and you know how people like to work, and you know how you can annoy them a little, what you can do or not. And it becomes a really interesting little game where we know what we can do, what everybody is comfortable with, and how to make others shine. This is about giving space to everybody on the desk to provide the best quality work. And that’s how we got here.
Tell me, please, honestly: did you like Pimp’s watch?
<Laugh> Yeah. I thought it looked cool. I was also a little bit jealous, like, man, he’s got a watch. I have to do way better than that in my marketing department. He’s an absolute machine. It’s actually great. But also, he’s a grinder, and he gets after it. So good for him.
Football & Swiss Players
Weren’t you distracted with the World Cup happening right next to you?
[During the BLAST Premier World Finals] it was all right because there were only two semi-finals and the grand final. At the very beginning, I kept an eye on most of the games happening, even when we were in Copenhagen. During Fall Finals, I had my iPad on the side, and I was just keeping an eye on the scores and how Switzerland was playing. But not during the World Finals. Time-wise, the games weren’t happening when we were working, so it was fine.
Who is the wildest football fan you know from the CS:GO scene?
Ooh, that’s complicated. There might be a competition between Michal “Carmac” Blicharz [VP of ESL – ed.] and Pimp. These are two very invested individuals with very, very clear opinions about football. And of course, very different clubs that they’re supporting: they don’t back the same horse in the English championship. And Apex as well, he is an extreme football fan for sure.
Coming back to Switzerland, I wanted to ask about a CS:GO thing. Where are all the Swiss players?
I’m very happy that we get to see RigoN right now, making a name for himself with Bad News Eagles and going to two Major tournaments. That is quite impressive. And it’s been a while since it happened for any player in Switzerland. We have a local scene, a national scene that is developing. But due to socio-economical factors, it’s hard for a Swiss player to give up everything and go full-time in CS because the cost of living in Switzerland is quite high, and you will very rarely make enough money to live off of it. And why would someone give you that much money if you haven’t established yourself if you haven’t done anything? It’s a catch-22 where not many people have the chance to invest everything.
This is probably why we are lacking pros at the top and I’m hoping it’s gonna change over time. And I’m hoping more people get their way into it. But I think it’s gonna be more on an individual trajectory like RigoN did, rather than an actual team of five Swiss players that would rise through the ranks together.
What could make it better? What should they do?
I don’t have an actual global solution for it. Individuals must use all the tools available now when it comes to CS. Streaming is definitely an idea to put your names out there and have people see you. We know the FPL and the FPL challengers, all of these platforms that give you exposition and help people get to know you. It’s the way forward for anybody trying to be professional.
Making CS:GO Better & Mappool Issues
What would you want Valve to release in the new operation?
Listen, if there was something that I would change in CS, I’ve had the same opinion for quite a while now. If you stay in smoke, you have an advantage when it is fading. If there were something that I would change in CS, it would be this. I don’t like this whole concept of smoke battles where people are just waiting in the smoke to get a fade fight. I would like it to be 50/50 in terms of who sees who, so it’s an actual reflex or a battle of how quickly people can react.
What about the map pool changes?
Probably, we’re going in the right direction now. We had Anubis being brought in, and I would not mind if we had more frequent rotations compared to the case in the last year or two. I’m open to maps retaining a little bit more just to keep teams on their toes and force people to develop the skill to adapt quickly to a new map and rethink their map pool. I don’t think we want teams to be stale and play only the same five or six maps for a year or two.
And my first impressions [of Anubis] were relatively positive. I’m going to ignore some of the very obvious issues with some places on the map where grenades can bounce off the wall and that is annoying for sure, but I hope it’s getting fixed as soon as possible.
The map is really interesting. It’s quite unique in its conception with this double-decker middle area with a bridge and then an underground water system with a window to go from one to the other. At first sight, it’s quite interesting and intriguing to play and cool to learn how to go about it. I’m looking forward to seeing what a team full of intelligent players, coaches and analysts are actually gonna come up with. That, to me, is the greatest unknown.
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There’s research on Reddit based on a million rounds that Anubis is a T-sided map. Is that good or not?
If it is the case and if this actually comes to be the case in the professional scene, it would be interesting to have a map that is a little bit against the usual routine of CT-sided meta and whatever. It might get more balanced with the games happening and teams figuring out the process. When a new map comes out that it might be one-sided a bit at the very beginning when everybody is on level one or two. But then, as teams play it more and more and more and people learn about the map and the good positions, I think we’re gonna see it balancing out. It’s a good flavour to add to the mix for CS.
Were you surprised by the fact that Valve removed Dust 2 instead of Mirage?
It was one of the two for me: Dust 2 or Mirage. And if I had to bet, I would say Mirage. So I was surprised, but it made sense that it was Dust 2 over Mirage to fly out the window. They were the longest-lasting maps in the pool. And I didn’t know that Valve would actually go and remove Dust 2. I think it’s such a casual-heavy map that I wondered if people would accept that on a global level, but I’m not against it, honestly. It’s time to visit some new horizons when it comes to Counter-Strike. We’ve had some maps for years and years and years. So if the next one to fly is Mirage and we have another one new coming in, I won’t complain; I’ll be happy about it.
But on the other side, people thought that they would add Tuscan.
Maybe that’s the next one to come; who knows? I think a big supportive wave for Tuscan is made of people who used to play that map in different versions of CS. People who have good memories and an idea of how the map was played out at the time. It’d be great to see fresh faces on it, people who’ve never played cpl_mill or whichever Tuscan was based on at the time in CS: Source, for example. So it’d be great to see the fresh generation, the new generation, go on Tuscan and figure it out to see if it plays differently than what we used to do.
Maniac’s Top-5 of 2022
The year is ending, so it’s time to wrap things up and name the best. Can you please name your best five? Not listed.
Okay. Without putting them in the list. S1mple, zywOo, sh1ro for sure. And then there are some questions. I have the sensation that that s1mple has done enough for the #1, even though he slowed down arguably towards the end of the year, and there’s nothing to say against that. I don’t know how who could actually take him down for that.
But four and five… I still think Niko had an incredible year individually and could still be in the top five. Ax1le also had an excellent year. We have some individuals who have extremely high numbers, but the lack of success is problematic. Like blameF for example, he is gonna be in the top 10, but I would struggle to put him in the top five.
Wait, no FaZe Clan players?
No, but see, that’s the thing. The FaZe Clan situation is a little bit like Astralis had years ago: they had dev1ce who was consistently in the top five, but the rest of them were all in the top 20, not 5-6-7, because they were so good. It might be what’s gonna happen to FaZe: they might have four players in the top 20 and the highest being probably Brooky. And if he makes it into the top 10, that would be quite impressive individually. But I’d be surprised if anybody from FaZe is in the top five.
I recently saw a dude on Twitter post something called Maniac Mirage Collection. Do you know anything about it?
Yeah, that was amazing. Well, you should probably have to ask this person because they would be more knowledgeable about it. But someone was collecting the souvenirs that you could have of the games I played at Majors at the time. And they’ve built a collection of potential souvenirs you could get from different maps. That is really, really cool. I was very surprised when I saw that tweet, and it made me feel very happy <laugh> It is a sick list, and I felt very honoured.
So, you are into skins, right?
I’ll dabble with skins. When the skins came out, the first generation, I was way more involved. And now I think there are so many different collections that went out. I lost track of it. So I see a new one here and there. I’ll be like, “oh my God, that’s amazing”. And people will tell me, “ah, it’s been out for six months”. But I didn’t know! Had no idea. So yeah, I feel like I’m a little bit by the wayside. There were so many great collections coming out. But I’m more like an old-school type, probably with skins.
You have a lot of souvenir skins but only one knife. It’s not a casual situation for a CS player.
I know, I know. With this knife, I was very fortunate. When I streamed, probably seven or eight years ago, one of my viewers offered me a knife and I just stuck with it. I’ve been using that knife for all these years, and never really felt the need to change. And yeah, the souvenirs. They are quite special because for me there is an emotional side to it. Like, I’m playing with the Silencer. I have an M4A1-S Masterpiece with my tag from the game against NAVI at the Major. That is something special where emotions meet skin and where it takes all its value.
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