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Photos of Evil Geniuses Dota 2 in Shanghai China for the Dota Asia Championships 2018

Coach Bulba

Apr 272018

I couldn’t afford to stop and think about where I was in my life. To be honest, I don’t think any Dota 2 player can.

My sole focus was on the competition, going from one match to the next trying to figure out how to win. During these last seven years I became so involved in this game that I kind of lost track of who I was, but I’ve never regretted that. Everything that has happened to me has shaped who I am, my successes and my failures. There are things I probably wouldn’t have realized about myself if I hadn’t made the same choices.

To be honest, becoming the coach of EG was a very difficult decision for me to make. They approached me at The Summit and asked me to come and help the team rebuild as the coach because they were going to be changing some players. It was shortly after DC had just broken up, and the process of building another team on my own seemed so daunting. At first, I wasn’t sure if coaching was really what I wanted, but I accepted. 


It might sound strange, but I had already put off playing in my mind by that time; coaching sounded like a well-needed break and I thought EG would be a really great fit. I was friends with the players on EG and I wanted to settle down a bit since I’d been playing almost non-stop since TI2 and participated in every TI except TI5. Coincidentally, I was the coach of EG during that very special TI. I wanted to take a break from playing but I didn’t want to leave the scene behind, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.


The fact that I had already coached EG during TI5 and had additional experience coaching Liquid during the Shanghai Major made my decision to coach much simpler. Between my last time coaching and now, I think I understand the game a lot more than I did back then. My time as a player helped me grasp certain things about the game that I had not fully understood before.


This is an underestimated facet of coaching; you really have to keep up with this game and that gets harder every year. If you don’t work hard and if you don’t constantly think about the game and play it, you can fall behind quite quickly. My only worry about becoming a permanent coach is that I won’t be able to come up with new ideas because I won’t be playing competitively anymore. That could really hurt my ability to do my job as a coach. A lot of the concepts we try on EG are things that I learned through playing myself so if I do decide to go full time with coaching it does make me worried about being able to continue to help them play-wise.


I work hard to avoid that by playing a lot, whenever I have spare time. Whenever I’m at the Alameda house, EG’s team house, we’ll play and I watch them play a lot. We’ll talk with each other about different heroes and their approach to the game. I talk a lot with Misery about pretty much everything, anything that has to do with Dota. Because of how involved I am with them my ideas are generally more in-line with the team and that helps form good ideas.


One of the big changes to the coaching role was the drafting change. Honestly I might not have wanted to coach full time if I wasn’t allowed in the booth during the draft. It adds an extra element for me. Coaches get to really be a part of something, a part of the game, and that’s really enjoyable. Before this change I was only able to help with things outside of the game but when they’re playing you don’t feel as connected — everything is left in their hands and it’s definitely not as fulfilling. When EG won TI5 I felt really good, I was really happy for them, but for me that feeling wasn’t even close to when I had qualified for TI. That was a unique feeling that I didn’t get just from watching us win from backstage, but now that I’m involved in the draft there is an overall feeling of inclusion with the team.


Another big part of that is how much more I’m able to help by being in the booth. We still prepare for a lot of drafts and before the change they were still able to take the papers into the booth with them. It was way more stressful though, because there’s so much information you need your players to know. You used to have to limit on what you could tell them because you can’t give them too much to take in before a game. It was really easy to overload people with information and then they might miss something critical during the draft. Now, I can give them my opinions and I can bring what I remember about the other teams into the draft as well. 

Misery still has final say in all the drafts, though. That’s very important. Out of everyone I’ve worked with before I think he has been the easiest to get along with even though we have a lot of ideas about the way Dota can be played. He has a lot of ideas as the captain and I try to find a way to incorporate those ideas into the overall approach of the team. One of the best things about talking to him is that he’s very open to different perspectives, so even if he doesn’t agree with me he’ll still listen to me and consider what it is that I have to say and we often end up with a much better understanding after debating.


EG is a little unique in this regard as everybody has fairly strong opinions on how things should go. It was a little stressful at first but as we’ve continued to discuss ideas together we’ve learned a lot together and I think we’re improving pretty quickly because of how well everyone communicates with each other. This team is still fairly new and basically has four different people playing different roles than what they had previously played so it’s been a lot to adapt to for both them and me. I don’t think anybody expected us to go into tournaments and win everything but I’m still pretty happy with how the team has been progressing.


Balancing the different voices on the team is something I’ve been actively improving. I try to listen to everyone, especially because on this team everyone has achieved so much. You have TI winners, Major winners, and you have Artour [laughing]. Everyone is extremely good at what they do and are very intelligent when it comes to the way they see Dota. So I try to listen to everyone. I am closer to some players on this team but I try not to let that influence me. In general, I enjoy having fun with them, and I try to be an uplifting person for them and be be a little clowny. It’s definitely part of my personality and part of what I bring to the team. Of course, when we lose that can be difficult too. I get sad when they lose and it’s difficult to find the right words to say sometimes but it has made me realize how much this team means to me.


The fact that I am sticking with this team for the whole season means that I feel more attached to the team’s performance, and it’s more emotionally involving too. I used to accept coaching positions for single events, and I never did it with the intention of doing it full time because I always wanted to go back into playing. This time, I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’m going to give it my all for now and it’s been a very unique and satisfying experience. This time, it feels like I’m really a part of the team, and they treat me that way too, which just makes me feel even more involved.


I’m not really sure what I’m going to do after TI8 though. I’ve made a lot of rushed decisions in my career but I want to take my time with this one. I genuinely enjoy coaching for EG so whatever happens after TI, I want it to happen naturally. That’s kind of how I ended up coaching for EG in the first place — DC’s disbandment happened pretty naturally. 


For me though, the entire journey last year was a highlight. After 2016 there was a lot going on, a lot of personal stuff, and then I joined Liquid and that didn’t work out either. I had some family issues happening at the same time as well and I found myself in a pretty dark place. It was the first time I really felt depressed. I’m normally a pretty happy person so it was a really heavy feeling for me. Because of that I felt like I needed to build something myself. 


I didn’t want to join a pre-existing team and I didn’t want to go through the same thing again. I wanted to play with people who really believed in me so I made that team last year with Dubu, Mason, Abed, and Jimmy. I tried my hardest on that team, and I spent a lot of time trying to improve everything about myself. I tried to help them in Dota and I also had to try to focus on my own play which is why I really switched to support: so that I could lead better and not play as poorly while trying to lead. That entire process and finally qualifying for TI that year was truly special for me and different from anything else I’ve ever experienced. I felt really happy when that team won, and I feel similarly watching EG and Artour win now.


In my heart I really do feel happy when Artour wins. That’s kind of a weird feeling because I’ve always cared about winning myself and that’s what you have to focus on when you are a player. Now with Artour we’ve been friends for so long that I do everything I can to help him succeed as his coach. It’s one of my motivations for taking on the role in the first place. I think Artour gets a lot of shit and I know how he takes it. More than anything on this team, I see stuff they have to deal with in terms of the community and I tell them they can’t really think about it and it’s kind of ironic because I’ve had trouble dealing with it myself.


That’s something I had to learn personally over the years. You can’t let other people influence the way you feel about yourself. I think one of the coolest things about coaching is that I feel that it’s making me a better person. When you’re a player you get so addicted to winning or doing well, or just the stress of competing that you forget to become a better person. During the last two months I’ve learned a lot about myself and about dealing with people. It’s startling and I think that the things I’ve learned while coaching EG, I can use for the rest of my life. That’s the coolest part about all of this. With all the things I’ve learned, the places I’ve been, and the people I’ve met, I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am today, not just as a professional player, but as a person as well. 


A lot of things have changed over the past year, and I’m certain that I now have a better sense of where I am in life. One thing that has stayed the same? The belief that I can’t stop now.