Nivera: Quest to completion
Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom did every Valorant writer a favor and wrote his introduction for us. In his first round of professional Valorant, he opens with an ace against One Breathe Gaming.
My favorite part about the ace is how true it is to Nivera - both the player and the person. He calmly stands and delivers on the site, almost perfectly emptying the clip of his ghost into three OBG members. And then, as his team freaks the fuck out, as the mic is buzzing and everything dwindles into a literal 5v1, Nivera doesn’t w-key into the last enemy or scream for the ace; instead, he retreats behind cover, reloads, and tells everyone to calm the hell down.
This is the 20-year-old Belgian FPS prodigy who acts at least a few years older than his age. As a person, he’s self-admittedly shy and quiet. As a player, he’s a meticulous perfectionist who plays so prudent that he’ll wait until his teammate sets him up with utility to swing on the last man and get the ace.
There are a lot of words you could use to get at Nivera’s style - safe, supportive, cerebral, versatile. For as reserved and green as Nivera is, he has his own style of confidence. Ask him directly to describe his style and he’ll use a different word: complete.
Quest to completion
One of the things that strikes me a lot watching you play is that you have a lot of intelligence in quick moments. It feels like you always know when to retreat after a kill and you often pick the right targets. I’m curious how you approach these smaller fights and skirmishes and what you are thinking about.
I said in a lot of interviews that I really don’t mind if I’m [not] the star player or shine or having a lot of frags. I know the most safe thing is to get kills and having man advantage is like basics of CS - team game. Having advantage, playing with your mate, crossfire.
I don’t mind [not] having highlights, 3 kills, 4 kills because there is a risk you don’t get 3 kills, you do only 1 for 1 and the round is possibly lost. I’m still young but I want to be really mature for my age. That’s for the team I’m doing this. Like, if I fight only for me, I will have way more highlights than today but who knows if we will have won. We won the game and that’s all that matters.
Do you consider yourself a heavy-thinking or cerebral player?
I still have a lot of things to learn so I don't consider myself a really smart player - not yet. I still make mistakes, and I know what mistake[s] I do so I try to fix them. I know in the future, possibly, I could be a really smart player.
I would rather having good decision and helping the team than only trying [to improve] my aim or stuff like this. Aim is - if you don’t have aim you will not win any duels so it’s useless but I try to have aim and good decision making at the same time. That’s why it’s a bit hard…
What do you think - in the game - is your biggest strength?
Hmm… I don’t know if it’s a strength but I would say being a bit complete. I can do a bit of everything I can clutch, I can revenge [trade], I can entry. Even Jamppi I think is like this a bit. He can play a lot of agents and a lot of stuff. All my mates can do that but Jamppi especially he has a lot of impact while doing this.
[To Sliggy] I also hear a ton about Nivera’s versatility in CS. [...] Do you see him as a versatile player?
Sliggy: Yeah. So when we first started like our first week of practice I just watched only his POV to kind of see what level he was at. He’d already been playing for about 4 months by that point so he was a pretty good level so I kinda just wanted to see his rifling and Op-ing and everything like that.
Dude he’s just a talent. He’s at the top level of both of those things. I would feel confident enough to put him as a star rifler or a star Op-er so it’s just like he’s crazy versatile. The amount of things and options that he provides it’s like perfect for me - it’s like my dream. He’s super versatile, one of the most versatile players I’ve seen.
In no one’s shadow
Here’s the part where we talk about ScreaM. Inevitably, we must because Nivera is the younger brother of a CS legend in Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom. Though they’re often talked about together and despite ScreaM’s heights in the FPS world, Nivera hasn’t spent much his brother’s shadow.
Pretty much since he debuted as the 6th man on Vitality it was clear that Nivera was his own kind of talent. We know ScreaM for his one taps but we know Nivera for his versatility on the rifle, the sniper, or the utility. Though their styles are miles apart, they each reach their style from a similar perfectionist streak that seems to run in the family. For ScreaM, perfection radiated through the headshot, crisp aim, perfect execution, high impact. For Nivera, it comes from spotless play as smart as it is clean.
This meld of opposites and parallels makes the two brothers into ideal teammates. That, and a sort fraternal care for and understanding of one another - cheesy as it might sound.
Nivera tells me that ScreaM gave him his tag and helped him through the French scene by recommending the best players, coaches, and teams to play with. Sliggy tells me it’s clear that ScreaM just wants Nivera to succeed. And to a degree, you can just see the sibling relationship there.
The interview above is pretty standard post-game fare - except for the fact that ScreaM can’t stop hovering. He awkwardly roams around the background in his pajama pants, smiling, while Nivera fields questions. ScreaM has a quintessential “older sibling waiting to congratulate you after your soccer/football game” energy to him the entire time.
Eventually, he floats off and lets Nivera do his thing.
Where did Nivera [the tag] come from?
Even my brother don’t remember but I remember very well. I was playing CS:S and I was like only 11 or 12. The basic username is YouNameIt. I played a lot with YouNameIt cause I don’t have a name. He [ScreaM] went to my PC and said, “Why do you have YouNameIt?”
I said, “I don’t have name!”
He told me - the way he said it, it was like a movie. He said, “You’re gonna be Nivera. He said it this way, and it sounded so beautiful just the way he said it. [...] Like he was sure, it was the best name he could find. And I kept it.
I asked him recently, “How did you find it?”
He was like, “No, you found it!”
In talking with [ScreaM] he was very clear about how he focused too much on aim and he kind of suffered for not being as complete a player. Did you want to be a complete player out of seeing your brother’s CS career at all?
It has no impact with my brother. I wanted to be a complete player, but by my own. I have always been like this, like in life. Every game, everything I want to have at least the basics of what I play. In every game I’m like a perfectionest. I always want perfection. [...] I know its impossible but always be closer. Be closer, be closer.
ScreaM [for comparison]: When I was younger I definitely was more into headshots. It was like an obsession for me. It’s also a little bit my personality, you know? I like when things are perfect.
[To Sliggy] Despite being brothers they are almost opposing styles. Does it strike you that that’s what makes them work well in a team together?
Sliggy: Yeah, I think so as well. I think they can both learn a lot from each other. Definitely the thing they both have in common is confidence. They’re both super confident, super, super confident - which is fantastic. But yeah what you said is completely right, they are so different which works really well - especially for this team. It wouldn’t work well if Nivera wanted to play all the duelist roles.
[To Nivera] Did your style come at all from playing alongside [ScreaM] and setting up him - or did you guys not really play too much?
Nivera: We only played one time as a team and it was a mix in CS [called PRINCEADIL] and we qualified to HLTV (that’s really good) but at this time I was AWPer and I had star player role. So that was completely different than today.
But I knew how my brother played and how he thinks and I think that’s the same for him. He knows what I’m thinking about, how I think and that’s why I think we have a lot of chemistry. Cause we know each other [laughs]. It’s obvious to say but we know each other.
[To Sliggy] How does Nivera operate with ScreaM? Do they make a good duo and do you have to take a different approach at all coaching two brothers?
Sliggy: Dude, it’s nice actually. They speak French when they’re in like 2 on something situations and it’s just nice cause you know that something’s down when they start speaking French to each other. Their comms are so clear, it’s really nice to see. And like, Adil just really wants the best start for his brother.
Influences old and new
The better question to ask of Nivera isn’t about his relationship with his brother but with the teammates and coaches he’s had in CS. Young as he is, he’s one of the few competitors who’s to play with ZywOo - the 2nd best player in the esport. He’s also come up through a pretty strong French CS scene.
Nivera found a number of guiding voices within the French scene that pushed him towards the versatility, completion, and intelligence that he has now. However, the main two were the aforementioned ZywOo and an older legend named flex0r.
Now, flex0r is one of the French scene’s leading development coaches, also having worked with players like Misutaaa. It’s a mix of flex0r’s coaching and ZywOo’s play that’s shaped Nivera’s vision of the game and given him the objectives he has currently.
When you joined Team Liquid, did you feel like, “This works well for me, I can handle the things Kryptix was doing?”
It’s a bit from CS. In my past, I had flex0r as a coach. The fun fact is that flex0r was the first teammate of my brother in CS. He teached me trying to play every role in the game. Trying to play entry, AWP, lurk.
I pretty much did the same in Valorant. When I was playing alone I tried to play everything - like duelist, sentinel, so I'm a bit prepared for anything. Anything they can ask me I have the basics.
Was that the start of you being such a versatile player?
Yeah, yeah, since CS I could play rifle and AWP really well. I try to do the same in Valorant to join any team. At the beginning I didn’t switch to join my brother, I will say. I just switched because VALORANT looked interesting. [...] I’m lucky Liquid has a place for me.
Was flex0r your coach on Heretics?
It’s funny when I left Heretics, then he joined Heretics as a coach. [...] I will say flex0r was my best coach, the guy who teach me the most. As a human, in life and in-game. [...] 90% of what he said was true but because we were still really young - like 17, 16 - you need the maturity, the mindset to listen to him, to understand.
And it’s today that I understood what he said. [...] I questioned myself, in Valorant if I play only Op I won’t have a lot of teams to join. So I just remember what my old coach told me, I have to play everything so I can join any team.
Soulcas mentioned learning from ScreaM’s aim by watching him play and how he’d move his crosshair. I’m curious if you had that with ScreaM growing up, but also if you had that with ZywOo and watching him AWP for Vitality.
Not really, I don’t focus [on] my aim a lot. I train it, of course, but I’m not focusing on it. I think ZywOo is pretty much the same, he don’t train his aim especially but he’s a big talent. He has a really good game sense and I think people don’t see it in official matches.
He has a really good game sense, always good positions, and of course he’s not missing. Some players with insane aim miss sometimes but he just doesn’t miss and he has good patience. So he’s more an example for me [than] my brother. Because it fits me, having aim, just don’t miss, make sure to kill someone, and having good decision making. [...]
I was surprised because he [ZywOo] had so much discipline honestly. When you’re watching him playing, you’re like this guy doesn’t make mistakes. That’s pretty much how I want to be and always wanted to be - a player that doesn't make mistakes. I prefer this to have really, really crisp aim. It’s my brother’s decision and he’s really, really good on it but I know for me I couldn’t do that.
For as much as Nivera avoids mistakes, he’s not necessarily a cautious player either. Nivera’s perfectionism could easily make him into a selfish, overly-safe, ACS-based player, but he has a keen sense of when to step forward and make a play. It’s something that he sees as vital to getting round wins - and something that was vital in opening up G2 at Home Ground #2.
On Fracture, Nivera’s Cypher primarily anchored B Site, especially around Towers. There was one moment that really intrigued me because it felt more aggressive than his role normally plays and it also broke G2’s push. In the play, Nivera hears Avova throw and use Cypher’s cage and moves up to take advantage. Because Avova missed the cage, he gets two easy kills where he was expecting to get one.
The way Nivera explains it, the play isn’t only about aggression and risk but about predictability. In CS or Valorant, he puts a premium on being hard to read - which in turn disorients his opponents and makes his hold on an area of the map even stronger than if he were simply aggressive or defensive.
This is a very specific question but on the match against G2, there’s the moment where Avova fails the cage at B Tube [Tower] and you get 2. Did you know from the sound cue that the cage had missed? Or were you expecting to approach through the smoke?
When I heard the cage, I instantly peaked. I was trying to get 1 kill before he caged up. I don’t really remember, so I think I killed 1 before the cage [went] up. Then I saw the cage missing - I just tried to pick instantly when I saw the cage cause I knew there is one guy who doesn’t have his weapon. It’s only 1v1 for me if I kill the other guy. [...]
But the initial goal was to slip into a gap from where the utility would come in.
Yeah, instantly, I think this kind of game - even CS - you have to think but if you think too much it’s really not good because you will not do anything. If you think too much if you think of every risk, you will just hide, just sit. It’s not interesting.
There is of course a risk - if I peek I can die - but it’s the kind of risk, you have to feel it, you have to take them. It’s a bit confusing because I’m a safe player but those kinds of timings, you cannot miss them. You have to sometimes make the difference.
That’s what I thought was striking about the plays you’d make [...] not always just passively waiting for someone to enter the area but it’s a lot of very mixed timings.
That’s why I really want to keep my style and train it more because, in high-level, pros, people, other teams just watch your demos and anti-strat. It’s really common in CS, in Valorant, everyone do that and they can see how you play. If you play differently, some rounds you are aggressive, some rounds you are passive, the enemies are just lost. They just don’t know how to counter you.
I believe you said in one of your interviews that Viper is your favorite agent or one of your favorite agents. How do you view nAts Viper?
All the time I’ve been watching nAts, he always had different stuff in the same maps. This guy is a hard worker, I will say. He always finds new stuff. So do I, I try to learn new stuff and I try to show them to my team and ask, “Is it good, is it bad?”
I think that’s why he’s, for me, one of the best players in the world. Because he’s working a lot, not always the same gameplay, not always the same stuff.
You’ve also talked a lot about enjoying Cypher, which I love to hear because I’m a Cypher main myself. [...] How do you see Cypher’s state right now in high-level play, how strong or weak do you think he is?
I played Cypher only one time, it was on Fracture in Home Ground. I think it’s maybe my 3rd favorite agent because it’s similar to Viper, not the abilities but the way it works. Innovate things, having new traps, camera, That kind of stuff. you’re really unpredictable because you can do so much stuff.
People, right now, are not really aware. They’re just playing simple and so if you try new stuff it’s gonna work 100%. The kind of Cypher and Viper, you can do that a lot. That’s why I like them a lot.
But I will say my 2nd favorite agent is Jett - Jett, operator. For me, it’s the most broken thing in the game, the strongest thing in the game, Jett operator. No one can say no.
Innovations and legends
In another moment against G2 - this time at the LCQ - Nivera lands what seems to be an impossible wallbang. I’ve watched the clip back several times and I still don’t fully comprehend it. It seems that Nivera lands the walbang while in an Astra smoke in A Main on Ascent, using a ghost.
It’s arguably not even the most ridiculous wallbang Nivera will land in the series. He gets another operator wallbang from the back of B Site on keloqz while the G2 star is running into market. If you watch the map, you can see how Nivera reacts to the info L1NK gets, then steps into position, forming a diagonal firing line to Keloqz, then fires through Shed/Boathouse to get the wallbang.
It almost feels unnecessary - and to simply win, it might be. But to become one of the game’s early legends, Nivera feels that he needs to find innovations and edges like these.
Fortunately, Nivera has found the right team for his innovative style. Liquid has long been one of the most strategically creative teams in Valorant (sometimes even to their detriment). Already within his short tenure, Nivera’s added to the positive side of that legacy - not only with wallbangs but with the double Operator strategies he’s an often vital part of.
Nivera has incredibly high hopes for these innovations too. In his quest to completion, he hopes to innovating his way into the history books. Pulling on the confidence and perfectionism of the Benrlitoms, he wants to become one of the legends of this game and excel beyond even the theoretical heights that he could’ve reached with a 6-man Vitality roster. A win at Champions wouldn’t just write the introduction - it would write the entire first chapter.
Sliggy: I think [Nivera’s] just given such a big belief to the team - and an extra bit of firepower. And honestly, he comes in with some ideas a lot of the time. He’s not scared of either calling what he wants to do - I’d actually probably, out of all the players, he’s the guy who wants to try the most crazy stuff in practice. Which I’m super down for.
He’ll literally, before practices, sometimes he’ll be like, “I’m going to go aggressive every single round. If I go 0-12, I’m sorry, I’m just trying stuff out.” Dude, I love that, I think that’s what practice is for.
[To Nivera] Do you guys practice wallbangs in particular, with map pings and things like this? Or was it kind of just like, ping the map, take the shot, see what happens?
Nivera: When I started the game - playing with Liquid - I died like 2 or 3 times through a wall. In CS when you shoot through walls, it’s like almost no damage, like it’s not as strong as Valorant. When I saw this, I asked our analyst [Bacon9], “Can you go with me in every maps and show me every wallbang in every maps?”
And it’s really cool because he said yes and then we went on every maps and I learned every wall, every wallbang, and I should know every wallbang now today.
How much time did that take you to do?
I think I did 1 map per day, maybe 1 week then. It’s extra work, we did practice and then after practice I asked him to come with me.
Aside from winning, what gives you the greatest feeling playing Valorant?
I really like the fact that you can find new stuff and in general I really love FPS games. I like the way of aiming, you know? Having abilities with it and how the game works in general, you can find new stuff, the game is still a bit new.
Right now, if I work really, really hard I can do a lot of good things. I can, you know, innovate. I like this term. I can find new things - that will be, not a dream, but a big accomplishment if I show new stuff and all the teams are doing it. It means your stuff is the best. [...]
Even in CS I had a little bit of this but it was harder because everyone knows everything.
Do you have any examples of something you innovated or found in CS?
I just create my own peeks with mates and friends. I just try to create things and I try them in practice and if it works, I make them in official. When it works in official, you just have the best feeling - ever. Cause it just saves you the round and maybe the game.
Do you remember any of those moments happening with Vitality - or Team Heretics really - in an official?
Hmm, with Heretics yeah [but] I don’t want to say it because I don’t want to show the secret. In Vitality at the beginning, yeah I had some good stuff. But Vitality was a bit different because I played only 2 maps and with the rule, I lost a lot of motivation so I just stopped working on new stuff.
If Valve didn’t put this rule [on 6-man rosters], we will be really the best team. Like, we were the best, but we [would have been] so far ahead of everyone because we had really good chemistry, to be honest. And I was working really hard.
So it really feels like a lost opportunity [in Vitality]...
Hmm, yeah but that’s good because in Valorant I can pretty much do the same and I have my brother with me. So I am super happy right now.
And it’s a new game so everything is so new right now. You can really, you know being legends in Valorant? Like Shox is in CS, dev1ce, you know, all these big names. We can have big names in Valorant. It push you to work really hard for it. [...]
I felt like Valorant will fit me more than CS, I will say. I think in the future I will be better than I would ever be in CS. So yeah, I’m really confident in Valorant.
Writer // Austin "Plyff" Ryan
Graphics // Yasen Trendafilov