Congratulations on making it to the final of not just the WePlay AniMajor, but also the ONE Esports Singapore Major. How does the team feel going into The International on the back of those two performances?
We feel good heading into TI10. The first DPC Major we played [Singapore Major] was amazing for us, we were the best team there. In a way, we lost the grand final to ourselves. The team had a bit of a meltdown, and our mentality wasn’t the best.
The last Major [Kyiv Major] was different because we had to learn through the group stages. It was a positive experience, and probably more helpful than the first DPC Major. Going into The International, we’ve learned a lot about how we want to play. The team has a good system in place, and we know which areas need improvement when the bootcamp for TI10 begins.
EG got off to a bit of a slow start in the Kyiv Major group stages and had to start in the lower bracket in the playoffs. But you seemed like a completely different team when you were in the elimination games! What changed from the group stage to the playoffs?
After the group stages ended, we sat down, put our heads together and figured out what needed to be done to move ahead in the tournament, and committed to that idea. Before that, there was a lot of back and forth on the playstyle, and heading into the elimination games, we were all on the same page.
Everyone also realized that we needed to take one game at a time, because we weren’t in the best place heading into the playoffs. There was a loss of faith in a lot of the things that we had practiced, so there wasn’t too much to go on. But I believe taking it one game at a time helped us gain the momentum we needed.
It was an amazing lower bracket run, no doubt! Coming to the final – PSG.LGD were the better team, as you mentioned in your tweet later, congratulating them. Do you think there was anything you could have done differently, or were they just a lot better on the day (and maybe even in the tournament)?
When I said PSG.LGD were the better team, I meant that on the day. I honestly don’t think that PSG.LGD are the second coming of Wings Gaming, as a lot of people in the Dota 2 community are saying. They played clean Dota 2, had a good system, good drafts and we weren’t in our best shape. So while they did oust us on the day, going ahead, I’m not too worried about playing against them. I believe we understand the team quite well and know what it will take to defeat them.
Your team has been very consistent at Majors. You’ve been runner-up in the last three Majors. What do you think is the key factor that’s missing which will push you over the finish line? Do previous losses in finals have an impact on the team’s mentality and the pressure gets to you?
It's a bit difficult to analyze it in that sense. In the grand finals of the Singapore Major, the problem was mentality, the expectation to win. I don’t think that was the issue in the first final we played in Germany [Leipzig Major]; that was a close series [against Team Secret] which could have gone either way.
In the most recent final, we were just worse than our opponents. I don’t think it had anything to do with mentality. But in Singapore, we were not mentally prepared to push ourselves over the edge. We lost our focus, gave them too much space to make a comeback and that is something the team worked on. But that surely wasn’t the issue last time out when we lost 3-0.
You have played a majority of your professional games with Tal “Fly” Aizik as the other support. How has that partnership flourished? Do the two of you have an unspoken understanding of what to do in games?
Definitely. Tal and I know each other well as people by now. He knows when I’m in a bad mood, knows what heroes I want him to play in combination with my heroes. These are just small things we don’t talk about, but he understands my way of thinking and because of that, I can help him in terms of leading without overruling him, which I think is important for support players.
Most of the time, my role is initiating, and it is easier for me to make calls as compared to someone who isn’t playing an initiator. It’s all about complimenting each other from warding to playmaking, and it gets better with experience and having played together for a long time.
TI10 will be a record breaking esports event with a prize pool of over $40 million. What is your personal mindset like going into this big an event as one of the favorites?
I’ve played a few TIs till now and I’ve come to realize that you cannot expect too much going into one. You have to be able to enjoy yourself while playing there, because those are the highest stakes games a Dota 2 player will ever play. I don’t want to have any regrets about things I could have done better in the games. I just try to be the best player and teammate I can be, which makes the losses a lot less rough, which alleviates the pressure.
Do you think China is going to be the major region to compete against in the road to the Aegis, or do you consider any of the other regions to provide stiffer competition?
I don’t think you can argue for any region other than China right now. The major reason they have been looking so good throughout the year is that Europe completely disappeared from both DPC Majors. That made the Majors seem a lot more Chinese dominated than what you would have expected.
Overall, the quality of Dota 2 played at the Majors this year was quite low. From a strategic standpoint, it wasn’t too advanced and was mostly straight forward stuff. Now the thing about China is, if everyone plays normal, straight forward Dota 2 without any pocket strats or weird drafts which EU is very good at creating, the Chinese teams will come out on top.
They know how to play the map and when everyone plays the same, stable Dota, they will come out as the strongest teams. That is the reason nearly all of the teams from China placed high in the DPC Majors this year. You always know what you are going to get when playing against those teams, but their execution is perfect. If you do the same thing against them, it’s almost impossible to beat them.
Typically, the way they can be countered is by coming up with something completely unexpected, which puts a wrench in their works. As for Evil Geniuses, we play more like the Chinese Teams than the European teams. We like being a stable team and have a system in place. The structure of the Chinese teams is quite strong, and that is something EG draws inspiration from.
You have been to four TIs now, from TI6 to TI9. What is your fondest memory from The International Championships?
I would have to say TI8 – the whole tournament was quite good for Evil Geniuses. That was the TI I played with the least pressure, and I think it was my best individual performance. In terms of being useful, TI7 was better, because it taught me a lot. But in terms of fond memories from the results and the gameplay, TI8 takes the top spot.