Interview with Ruben "Rubino" Villarroel
Wed 3rd Oct 2018 - 12:58pm
I recently spoke to Ruben 'Rubino' Villarroel, a Norwegian Counter Strike player who's most recently played for Heroic, but in the past has represented the likes of Dignitas, LGB, and North, among other teams and organisations. He's a venerated legend in the game and had some super interesting things to say. Enjoy!
Hey guys, my name is Noah “Dimwit” Russell and I’m here with Ruben “Rubino” Villarroel, a professional Counter Strike player from Norway who’s played on pretty much every Danish or Norwegian team you can imagine. How are you doing Ruben?
Rubino: I’m doing pretty good actually. Having a bit of a “vacation”, you could say. No team, so I’m just watching the major and trying to relax to be honest. But I really want to start playing and hopefully after the major it will happen!
You started out in Counter Strike playing with all Norwegian rosters in various organisations, why did you transition to playing with mixed Nordic rosters?
Rubino: Well from the start, we played in purely Norwegian teams because we thought that was the only way to go. I think my first team was H2K if I remember correctly, and with that team we won Assembly 2013 or 2014, I can’t remember correctly right now. It was kind of like we didn’t know what to expect of ourselves, we knew that we were capable of like shooting heads, but everyone was, so winning that tournament gave us a lot of confidence.
That was the first time someone winning something from Norway in many years, so of course it was a confidence booster and also really nice to be part of a team that have won something in Norway. I think we went to Copenhagen Games after and it went okay, but I think we wanted more because we felt that some people were slacking a bit more, having real life things to do, others like me just went to school and played all night and grinded out two years to become really good. I think we just had different mentalities than some of our other players.
So we ended up switching one of our players for Rain, not all the players wanted him. They were sceptical because no one knew of him from 1.6, no one was from Source, so we were kind of like ‘okay, we just want to have 1.6 players’ because that was the mentality of both Source and 1.6 players. But we got Rain and I think that’s where everything began to be really good to be honest and I think we did fine, qualifying for majors and everything. We had some kind of salary, I can’t say how much but it was not enough to live on because Norway is a really expensive country to live in first of all, so it’s really hard to live by playing Counter Strike and in this it was so long ago and it was not possible to get that salary we wanted.
When Rain got an offer from Kinguin, who had better salaries which they could actually live off playing, he took that one for sure. I think everyone understood that, but it was more boring in the way that we were actually doing well, we were close to getting top 8 at the Katowice Major in 2015 I think it was so I think we were pretty good, but I think if you see it in the long run it was the best decision for him to do because then Jkaem got to G2 and I got to Dignitas, where everything happened. So in a way I think it’s pretty good that everything happened. I think it happened for a reason.
Was the transition difficult for you?
Rubino: I really don’t think so because after LGB and Rain was sold, we tried some players in Norway but Rain was just unreplaceable, it was not possible to change him out for any player in Norway, he was just too talented and the way he played in our team was too important. When we left we tried some players out in LGB, but me, Zevves and Jkaem ended up making a team with Twist and Zende in Copenhagen Wolves right before Dignitas. We played two tournaments together, I think it was DreamHack in London where we managed to beat G2 before they got Jkaem, but Rain was there so it was nice to beat him. But right after that we went to the Cluj Napoka Major qualifier and lost our last game to FlipSid3.
For some reason we always had troubles playing FlipSid3, we never had issues with teams who we thought were more individually skilled than FlipSid3, but the tactical way in which they played was just purely really good against us because we played really unstructured, we just took the tools we had and played a PUG style of CS. It worked against a lot of teams but against FlipSid3, we just got wrecked every time.
So after that event I remember Jkaem got an offer from G2 and of course he took it. I think everyone there would have taken it, and of course Rain was there so of course he took it. To be honest I was really close there to just giving up and I thought ‘This will be the end of my career’ because now the two best players in Norway had gone to G2 and making an original line-up now would be really difficult while having the same expectations as I had. I was always an ambitious player that wanted to become really good, I had qualified to two majors already so for me to just play Norwegian leagues and everything was not going to happen, I was looking for more.
I actually found a team that is pretty funny. People would think now that this team would be really good, but actually after Jkaem left I was living in Denmark and could speak Danish. So for me to be there and to make a Danish team was possible and Copenhagen Wolves were like ‘Okay you can make a Danish team if you want’. So we started with me, Gla1ve, Magisk, Jugi and K0nfig. So that was a team we made. But the thing was, Gla1ve hadn’t played for a long time because of something that happened a year before. Something that had happened with a team, I’m not sure exactly what, but there was a lot of drama. So after that Gla1ve quit CS for a year and we made this team. Everything was set to go, everyone signed contracts and I was already in one from the Norwegian/Swedish lineup.
So we had that team, but people would have rather played with Hunden instead of Magisk purely because Gla1ve wasn’t comfortable calling at that point, he wanted to have confidence and get very individual before he started to call again, which made sense, so we tried with Hunden and it worked pretty well actually.
Like we had Jugi, we had pretty good players for sure, so it worked for a while but it didn’t last long before I got an offer from Dignitas. I remember MSL writing to me and asking me if I wanted to play with them. First of all, I thought it was just for fun, but then it got serious and of course I took the offer and I guess that’s where everything started in a more professional way and Im really glad I got the opportunity to play with them.
You’ve been in a lot of top teams in your career, you’ve played for Copenhagen Wolves, Dignitas, London Conspiracy, LGB, you briefly played for North, you even stood in for Astralis at a couple of events and most recently you’ve played for Heroic, you’ve practically played for everyone at this point. What has your favourite team been to play in and why?
Rubino: Well that’s a hard question, I’ve been thinking about it myself. Of course, you’ve got to say the Norwegian team was something special because it’s your own country, like you made so much progress with a Norwegian team, but it’s hard for me not to say it was the Dignitas/North because that’s when I won a big tournament, got up the ladders. I think we were in the top two and that was the highest rank we ever got to. It’s hard for me to not say that was the best time of my career. The Norwegian team was also really close to it though just because it was Norwegian and it really was something special being in a Norwegian team and actually succeeding in qualifying to things. But I would say that Dignitas/North was my favourite.
So since your success with Norwegian teams, the big players in the region have kind of drifted apart and not really come back together. Is there any particular reason for this?
Rubino: I think the problem was, as I said when we were in LGB and Rain got sold, nobody could replace him. After I went to Dignitas and they went to G2, it was hard to make another top Norwegian roster. We had three Norwegian players in the last Dignitas roster I was in, in 2017. It worked in some ways but it was not so easy without Rain. I think a Norwegian team without Rain would take a long time practising and going to smaller events just to get the routine and experience needed.
I think Norway has the talent to make another team to be as good as that LGB roster, we have a lot of talented players in Norway, but the attitude, mentality and willingness to play without salary isn’t there. In H2K of course we didn’t have salary, and we had to sacrifice a lot about ourselves. That’s something I want to say, you have to sacrifice something before you get salary or whatever. If you are 20-23 years old or whatever, you need money. If you don’t have a job, you don’t have salary, it can be hard to be 100% in CS. We’ve got a new organisation in Norway called Nordavind, which is sponsored by one of the biggest football clubs in Norway.
zEVES is there and he’s got a lot of experience so he’s teaching the new talents. I think in some years Norwegian CS will be a lot better, but it’s just a question of how long it will take before, let’s say Rain, wants to go back. I don’t think he will any time soon, he’ll continue to play in Faze as long as he can. So we’ll see what happens to be honest, and I think a Norwegian team would be really cool, but if it happens in one year, two years, half a year, I’m not sure, that’s really hard to say right now.
You’ve done a lot in your career, most notably in the mostly Danish iteration of Dignitas, winning DreamHack Tours and famously upsetting at Epicenter 2016. What was it like playing under MSL and seeing him develop over the year or so you spent with that roster?
Rubino: I think actually MSL had a clear vision about how he wanted the teams to be from the start. I remember when he first approached me, asking me if I wanted to join the team, he already had, in his head, a plan of how every player would work together. He knew which players he wanted in the team and who would fit in which roles. I remember him asking me how I was as a player, he had heard a lot about me of course and what I was good at.
But from the start, I was surprised with MSL about how he thought and how his mentality was to the game. It was not about whether someone was the best in the world or whether they killed a lot of people, it was about having all the right pieces to succeed. I think he did good there, I think Kjaerbye was a really good player, he’s still a good player, but he was a really good player for us at that time. Him and K0nfig were the main two stars of the team, but I think we just worked together as a unit and everyone sacrificed themselves for each other. The only thing we talked about was MSL being stubborn, but not in a negative way. All IGLs should be stubborn but it’s something he worked on. It’s a process, everyone has something to work on. He got better and better over time in the calling, he got more confident.
As I’ve always said, MSL is underrated as he doesn’t shoot a lot of people or have the best aim, but he always goes first and sets up K0nfig and Kjaerbye to get the frags that he didn’t get. So I think he doesn’t get the praise he should have and I always thought he was a really good team player and always had something in our wins. He’s always been a guy that I really respect and I think is a good team player and always thinks about the team before himself. You don’t find a lot of those people so you got to value those guys, you can’t find a lot of people that would sacrifice themselves for the team rather than the other way around.
Most recently you were in the pretty tumultuous Heroic roster. You lost Jugi and Snappi shortly after you joined. What was it like losing not only a star player in Jugi, but also your in-game leader with Snappi? How did the team cope and adapt?
Rubino: Well, I mean that’s the story of my life, I lost Rain in LGB, I lost Jkaem, another star player in Copenhagen Wolves. Right before I joined Dignitas, Aizy got bought from G2, so that was kind of like the story of my life. Every time I joined a team something bad happened, you lose the best player in the team of whatever. Of course it was kind of frustrating to me, I sign for a team who I believe in, often when I have other options which I’m considering. In this case I believe in Heroic, they were an up and coming team. They had beaten a lot of top teams but still weren’t stable top ten, I thought it would be really good, but then we went to two tournaments: Katowice and SSLTV in Ukraine.
I joined the team 2 days before prior, I think it was 2 or 3 days. It was hard for me to come in the team from the start as they had a lot of tactics and they were structured. I had to learn a lot of the strats and it was a lot to remember. To be honest I think the best thing would have been to join them after the changes. It was not so nice as I forgot things and people got frustrated, you know. They had just got back from an event in the US and it wasn’t a good time to join the team. We did fine I guess, we won some games and lost some against teams we should have beat. After Katowice Jugi got sick and he couldn’t play for 2 months.
I think it was unfortunate timing with me joining and also other things happening. He came back and got bought by Optic with Snappi, it was just really weird. I didn’t play the best I can and I never found out why I didn’t do that. When I played for Astralis for two events I felt like I played really well and my confidence was kind of high, but it just didn’t work to be honest. I respect the players and I have nothing against them, but we just didn’t click. It was constant different roster changes and my issues with my eyes. That’s just the way it is sometimes.
You had some serious issues with your eye, forcing you to the bench and making you unable to play for the last couple of months. How did you cope with those issues?
Rubino: So, it was kind of weird because I remember we were playing the last game in ESL Pro League, if we had won both maps we would qualify for the finals in Dallas. We won the first map and then it started to hurt my eyes. I went to buy some pollen stuff to find out if it was an allergic reaction. We won the last map but because it went to overtime we didn’t qualify. It was really shit and unfortunate but I still had issues with my eyes. The next day, I thought that I needed to check it out and my doctor sent me to the hospital. They said that it was good that I came when I did or I could have become blind. So it was pretty dangerous in that way.
They told me that I couldn’t play for a while as I needed tests and needed to use medical equipment. But after a while it went better, they told me that I was free of this “Iritis” it’s called. So I got back to playing, we went to China, which went OK I guess, I did better than I’d done for a long time. I went for a check-up and they told me that it was back. So again I got benched as I needed to focus on it [Iritis], it’s been an exhausting time, having this issue and stressing about it.
You don’t know what’s going to happen and it's tough. I’ve been positive the whole way and now I’m ready to play again. I think that was a factor of me getting replaced in Heroic, I didn’t play as well as I can, but also they couldn’t play with me for a long time. They couldn’t wait on me, which I fully understand.
Rumour has it that you’re looking to return to an all Norwegian team alongside the likes of hallzerk and Cromen. Is there any truth to this?
Rubino: So I was actually pretty shocked when I saw the report. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if I said that I wanted to play with Cromen, he showed himself to be really good in FaZe, so it’s nothing special that I want to play with him but we don’t have any agreement that we will play together or anything. Hallzerk is contracted to Nordavind, so there's nothing special with that rumour, I don’t understand where it came from but it’s nothing special.
Thanks so much for your time Ruben, is there anything you want to say to all the fans and supporters out there?
Rubino: I’d thank you for the interview and thank Dignitas for supporting me for so long. Also a big thanks to all the fans for the support!
You can find Rubino on Twitter at @Rubinoeu
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