sam’s place

musings about life, universe, and everything

Владислав «Machinae» Животнёв | translated by @canihearawahoo

Midlaner for OG Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen took a vacation in the first half of the season, came back for ESL One Los Angeles 2020 qualifications, and then got left behind again because of the coronavirus pandemic. talked to the player to learn about his form approaching the new Dota 2 tournaments after quarantine, and what keeps him competing after two The International wins.

“Hi, Topias! I’m glad you’re finally back to Finland and we got a chance to talk. Tell us, is your self-isolation at home a lot different from what you’ve seen in Malaysia?”

Hello! It’s different, and a lot. How it all happened: we qualified for ESL One Los Angeles 2020, and we came already to the tournament, but a couple of days before it started we got news it got canceled due to coronavirus. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, everybody immediately went home in case borders get closed indeed — but I’ve decided to stop by Malaysia to see my girlfriend… And two days after my arrival the country cancelled all the international flights (laughs).

It all lasted two weeks, and in the most severe form: we really have been sitting at home and haven’t gone anywhere. There was a small restaurant in front of our house where we could go or order food from — that’s all the entertainment. After living this way for some time, we started to look for any way to get back to Finland together. It turned out not to be so simple: we had to consider a lot of things to make such a flight safe for us and for for everyone around us, but in the end we managed, and we’re very happy now!

“Are you glad you had to live through the quarantine in Malaysia?”

Honestly, no — I would have been much more comfortable in Finland. Oulu, my hometown, had only 120 cases of COVID-19 so far. So life went on as usual here even during the worst days of the pandemic: there was simply no virus here.

I like the local atmosphere, and I’d prefer this place to any other city on the planet. This is my homeland — can it really be better somewhere else?

“Were two months in isolation hard for you? Or it didn’t affect your rhythm of life that much?”

Yeah, it was hard, of course. I love to get out of the house, actually: not to the clubs, but somewhere outside, to the nature, where you can breathe fresh air, walk around the forest. It has always helped me to relax and freshen up my head. But it was impossible to do in Malaysia: we lived near lively Kuala Lumpur, a very loud place. I’m not used to living in a big city, and I felt out of place.

However, I can’t say anything bad about the city itself — it is beautiful and all that. But I prefer more secluded places.

“Did Dota 2 help to cope with boredom?”

Well… I played SEA pubs, and it was very… (laughs) Can’t say it was a positive experience, so I didn’t spend much time in game. I have tried to kill time playing Dota at first, but at some point I stopped trying and didn’t open Steam at all for like three weeks. Because of that I felt like I lost touch with the game right after I came back to Finland.

“Lost touch or just took a break?”

Both, I guess. But I got used already, and the game seems incredibly interesting to me — I didn’t follow it lately, so I’m studying the current meta with great pleasure. The current patch is quite good, I think, but a small update wouldn’t hurt: some strats are way too strong.

“Did you follow the online leagues while you were in quarantine?”

No, I almost didn’t turn on the streams. To be honest, I can hardly make myself watch tournaments I don’t take part in — I think that’s quite useless.

Maybe that’s why the game seems so fresh to me: I’ve only managed to play two tournaments after coming back, and I like studying heroes and items. But some are playing this Dota 2 for quite a long time already, so I can understand the discontent.

“It’s interesting, that all these leagues are basically a mini-preview of the next season, because Valve was going to do just that, regional leagues. Are you fine with this format in the context of DPC season?”

Specifically for me this format is optimal, because it means I will be able to spend more time at home and not travel the world every month. If I understood Valve’s idea correctly, we will be able to play all the games online, gathering for LAN only during play-offs.

I’m happy about it, because this way I can not be focused 100% on Dota. Here, in Finland, I’ve got other things that also require my attention. So I’ll be happy, if there will be less LAN tournaments.

“Are you saying you’re already thinking about quitting Dota 2?”

No, not really. I would have finished my career indeed the very next season if I kept going to all the tournaments and living with only Dota. That’s how it was before, and it was a hard time for me. Now I have other things in my life that don’t let me get stuck in esports routine, and this, in turn, allows me to still be passionate about the game.

I found some sort of balance in life, and I enjoy it. I plunged head-first in Dota 2 in the previous seasons, and that’s why I burnt out quickly. I felt like something’s lacking in life.

“Thousands of players that are dreaming about getting into cybersports are playing pubs right now. It’s not even about huge prize money, they just believe that playing professionally is cool. And you got tired in two super successful years. Why? Let’s lay out cons of a pro-gamer’s life for everyone.”

You mean, besides the fact that you can get here only by giving up everything else? (laughs) To become a professional esports player you’ll have to forget about walks with friends, studies, any other pursuits in life. But the problem is that once you get into esports, you can’t just praise yourself and relax: you will have to work even harder to stay competitive.

Most often, in-game success is related to how much time you spend practicing. People are different, of course, but most need to spend at least 8 hours a day in Dota 2 to stay in shape. I loved the game very much, but it somewhat lost its charm when it became a job that I kinda have to do.

You’ll say, you can just take a break in this case, and that’s true. But when I’m resting, I’m slowly going crazy thinking that somebody’s practising while I’m chilling away from the computer. I get choked on guilt, stress level goes up… So I come back to the game, start spending more time in it, and the cycle begins again…

Oof, I kinda got carried away (laughs). The biggest downside in the life of a professional player is the need to spend that much time in game. You will have to spend 8-10 hours a day every day in Dota 2, and that’s not that easy.

“How do you think n0tail manages to keep up this tempo for almost ten years?”

Oh, I have no idea! (laughs) I have no idea how he manages it. He just has some inside fire that never goes out. Because of that Johan is still ready to fight hard for the right to call himself the best. He’s very competitive, he adores taking part in tournaments and fighting the strongest opponents. And he just loves Dota 2 so much that he’s ready to put everything on it.

“I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, and he said then, that even after retirement as a player he will try to find himself a new role in esports — become a coach, maybe. What about you? Will you stay with us after you get tired of practicing?”

Maybe. I’d be interested to try myself as a coach, but after I build a life in other areas. On the other side, I’ve just realised that coaches also need to travel the world all the time… And I hate travelling! So it’s possible I’ll disappear right after retiring as a player.

“And what keeps you in game now? You’ve finished Dota twice already, winning TI’s. What’s your motivation now?”

I asked myself the very same question right after The International 2019, and, honestly, spent a couple of months thinking. I took a break from Dota right after the tournament and seriously considered retirement; I tried to analyse, what my life is going to be if I quit everything here and now.

But time went, and little by little I realised I still love Dota 2 — the game itself. I like analysing it, finding new builds, testing out heroes… And I like competing too, and Dota allows me to do it on the highest level. So I decided to keep going — yeah, just because I love playing Dota.

I will quit when the game stops bringing me pleasure or if we’ll get problems in the team: if some discord happens, we won’t be able to find common ground with the teammates, or if I lose passion for the competition. But right now I feel I am ready to keep fighting.

“Your new roster — what’s the difference with the previous one?”

It’s a completely different team. All the newbies are very different from those whom they have replaced. For example, ana was a much, much quieter player than SumaiL. The new roster gathered people with completely different characters. SumaiL speaks more during the game, constantly suggesting new ideas. And Saksa, on the contrary, behaves much quieter than JerAx — Jesse always had something to say to us.

Because of this, the overall dynamics of the team has changed. Now I have to speak more often during the games, it’s interesting. But it’s a strong roster, and I see its potential — we just need to work together, and we’ll become the strongest team on the scene.

“You said that when you first came to OG you were asked how would you like to change the team’s play. What did newbies bring to your playstyle?”

First of all, they helped us to look at the game in a new light. We have been playing with the same roster for a couple of years, so we’ve been perceiving Dota somewhat one-sided. iLTW has been playing for us too, but he was a young, unexperienced player back then, so he couldn’t bring anything new — vice versa, we have been teaching him everything… Well, not “we”, but Johan and Séb (laughs).

But MidOne, SumaiL, and Saksa — they are all very experienced players, who have seen a lot on the esports scene. With them we got an opportunity to see how other teams view Dota 2 and this is, of course, a very useful experience. Roughly speaking, now we have more in-game tools — what remains is to incorporate them in our playstyle.

“People often criticise the DPC format because it ‘killed’ the majors — compared to TI, they look like qualifiers. You have won two Aegides already — can you say you’re not that interested in playing majors anymore?”

Yeah, perhaps. The DPC system is presented in such a way that all tournaments fall flat compared to The International. Even majors are needed first and foremost to get DPC points. However, I can’t complain (laughs), for me the system worked perfectly.

Of course, it’s not that simple — there are upsides, too. In the end, right now we have a clear structure: there’s a long season with a culmination in a form of a grand tournament that the whole world watches, and in this regard a hard road through majors makes TI an even more brilliant spectacle.

“But I’m interested specifically in OG’s opinion: in two tournaments you have become the richest players in history. Do you still have motivation to do your best on the majors, or are we now seeing a team saving energy for TI?”

I suspect this is true not only for OG: any team, playing other tournaments, won’t be treating them as seriously as The International. The final tournament is incomparably bigger — can’t do anything about that.

This doesn’t mean we don’t prepare for the majors. At least, I still play Dota 2 to learn. I come to the tournaments not to play half-heartedly and go home, and it’s not even about the money: I just keep striving to get valuable experience with the strongest opponents. And I just love competing!

But you’re right, the mentality of OG indeed is that TI is the only tournament that matters. All the rest tournaments are a chance to practice and to learn something new before we reach the end of the season. Without such preparation it’s unlikely to perform well at TI.

“But during 2018/2019 season you didn’t really learn anything and still won The International. Isn’t that contradicting your words?”

Yeah, we’ve skipped one or two majors because we felt like we needed a break after TI8. We came back to the game closer to the second half of the season, but we couldn’t immediately reach the level we’re used to. We couldn’t qualify for the majors at first, had to play minors and smaller tournaments…

“So before TI9 you did’t really ‘get experience playing with the strongest opponents’, did you?”

(laughs) Well, we tried! But it didn’t really work out, yeah. Then ana came back, it became easier — we qualified for MDL Paris Major and started to get back in shape, but then EPICENTER happened, where n0tail fell sick, and we had to play with a stand-in… Yeah, it was a weird season, very hard.

“The statement about ana going inactive said that he will be back the next season, but a lot happened since then — TI10 was postponed, majors canceled… So basically you’ve only now started playing with SumaiL. What happens to the team when ana decides to come back?”

I don’t know anything, really. I don’t know whom will ana replace and whether he will want to come back at all. I don’t even know what will happen to OG in a year. We haven’t heard about ana for a long time, so we don’t know yet what we’ll do after his comeback: everything might change, or might stay as it is now — it will depend on the results of the team. Right now I’m not even sure ana plans to come back to the game at some point.

“Soon it will be a year since you’ve surprised everyone by getting Diffusal Blade on Gyrocopter and Radiance on Monkey King in TI9 finals. I’ve always wanted to know, are you getting nervous in the moments you decide to build something unusual?”

I believe that the correct build is the best way to tip the scales in your favour. In the Monkey King game I’ve been playing against Templar Assassin and Enigma: after I bought Radiance, my ulti started to prevent Enigma from breaking into the fight with Blink Dagger, and the same item effect let me quickly knock down Refraction charges. Besides, we were leading a lot then — I felt like Radiance would be the best item to secure the advantage.

In every game I try to analyse the rest of the heroes and the way the game goes. I try to understand, is the risk worth it in this particular moment, or is it better to play more carefully? Will a safe play style allow us to get ahead or will it just keep the balance on the map?

Decisions are hard when I answer these questions. In the game with Gyrocopter I bought Diffusal Blade because I realised a simple thing: the enemy can’t win a fight when Bristleback and Omniknight don’t have mana. And we had Io that guaranteed that I will be able to live longer and keep shooting. Besides, enemy heroes were too thick to try to kill them quickly. So, that’s the logic.

“In the OG documentary you said that during every game you’re trying to get into competitor’s head — to prevent them from playing their game. Did you come to these methods of psychological warfare consciously or did you just realise one day that this is your play style, and now you’re trying to explain it?”

Yeah, I came to this even before coming to OG. I realised at some point that this is the most effective way to play Dota 2: to knock opponents out of their comfort zones and force them to make mistakes. It’s a very logical idea, if you think about it: if the opponent can’t do what they want to do, it will be easier to beat them.

It was much easier to win this way. Once upon a time I’ve tried to play differently: focus on my own game and leave the opponents alone. But then the games were equal, and all the fights were… fair. But why play fair? You can lose like that! Try to play dirty, interfere with your opponents’ plans, and all the games will become a breeze for you.

Владислав «Machinae» Животнёв | translated by @canihearawahoo

The captain of OG Johan “n0tail” Sundstein is one of the most recognisable players in esports. The Dane has won almost $7 million during his career and took the first line in the world winnings rating, but is still as open and outgoing as during his first career days. Two times TI champion talked to about inexhaustible love to Dota 2, life plans after retirement, and the challenges he and his team are facing now.

“Hi, Johan! Glad to see you again. How’s life during the pandemic?”

Hi! Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. I’m looking at the nice weather outside, eating well — what else do you need? At some point I felt like I’m starting to slowly go crazy in isolation, but then I started to devote more time to different good habits, started to chat more actively with people online. That helped me a lot.

“Have you thought about what you’re gonna do the first thing after the pandemic’s over?”

Most probably, travel. I’ll probably go to Netherlands or Sweden after the borders will be opened, maybe even go to Paris. I’ve realised how much I miss seeing new places while sitting at home.

“Haven’t you been to Sweden enough?”

Actually, it’s a very nice place. A lot of my friends live there, and I feel at home there. I think, it’s gonna be a great reboot after the isolation.

“And a great opportunity to check out the place where TI10 was supposed to happen, right?”

(laughs) Yeah, sure! What a fail, eh? The first European The International since 2011 — and this. Heck, it’s a shame!

“How much of Dota 2 is there in your daily routine?”

It depends. Usually I play a couple of pubs, then 4-5 official matches or scrims. Sometimes more, sometimes less. We began to spend more time in Dota 2 recently.

“How serious is OG about the training process right now?”

We’re doing all we can to adapt to the prevailed conditions. Bootcamps and LANs suit us more, for sure. We’re feeling the most comfortable when we can chat face to face and be together. In this sense, there were certain difficulties with going fully online, ones that I’ve never faced before. I really don’t like it, and I would’ve gladly exchanged it for a possibility to sit at a bootcamp. But we’re slowly getting into it, I’m sure we’ll succeed.

“Aren’t you tired from online leagues — maybe, not even as a player, but as a viewer?”

I’m happy we have Dota at all. I’m glad I can still play tournaments, and every day, at that. But of course this format has pros and cons. One of the pros is that we can play regularly against Team Liquid, Team Secret. This leads to more rivalries that are interesting to follow. So this amount of matches — it’s not bad.

But I agree, there’s risk of over-saturating the scene with identical matches, and that’s bad. But I haven’t seen serious complaints so far. Streams still attract a lot of people, and with the new Battle Pass… Oof! In sum, what can I say for now — the more Dota, the better!

“Since you’ve mentioned it, what did you like the most about the new Battle Pass?”

Perhaps, the Moo voicechat line. Any of those lines — everyone has really missed them. At this moment I love this one the most, but I might find a new fave as time goes on — I’m glad there are a lot of new lines this year. And, of course, I’m happy to be able to tip people again.

“Do you think it’s possible to break the previous TI prize pool size record?”

Well, we’re going at a good pace now, right? The graph is growing at a steeper angle than a year ago, so there’s reason to believe in the best. But the world situation is different today — a lot of people have lost their jobs, there’s a financial crisis coming… So the further growth of the pool will primarily depend on the millionaires from all over the world, and not those who can barely make ends meet because of Corona.

But enough about the sad things! I think, a big impact on the end result will have the duration of the Battle Pass. If Valve extends it until the very tournament, which doesn’t even have a date for now, everything’s gonna be okay — there’ll be a lot of time, and then we’ll set the esports prize pool record once again.

“Are you happy about the steps Valve has taken during the pandemic? Or you’d prefer the company to hurry up and kick off some sort of a league with DPC points?”

I’d like to see more active actions. Basically all Valve did was releasing Battle Pass. But I’m sure the game needs attention of developers even apart from pro-scene. In my opinion, Valve didn’t do enough so far. Also it really lacks a proper PR department, but that’s an old problem.

Let’s be honest: I’m glad I can sit here and talk about Dota 2 at all. I really appreciate it and I’m grateful to Valve for it. But I’m sure that developers could’ve done more in this situation.

“A lot of people noted that in current conditions of endless online leagues the overall Dota level has somewhat fallen. Somebody’s testing strats, somebody’s playing for fun — what’s OG’s goal for this period?”

Prepare for TI10. Easy. We don’t know when this tournament is gonna happen, but… TI10 and preparation for it — that’s all that matters.

“But there’s still a year until it?”

Yes, but it’s like that every season. TI ends, you catch a breath, and then set a goal for the next one. It’s a long way — you have to walk for a long time, but that’s the point. Yes, you have to play well on DPC tournaments along the way — and we’ll be trying to do that. But in the end we’re all playing for one thing — to get to TI.

I love this game, I love majors. I’m happy I can spend every day playing competitive matches. But nothing can compare to the joy you get when you get to the world cup.

“But you were the first ones who decided to skip a part of the season as to not to burn out by the start of The International. And now you have a whole year until the tournament. How are you going to fight the fatigue?”

I prefer just not to think about it now. I don’t know how soon the next The International will be, but I know we’ll have to wait for some time. That’s why I’m trying to use the same tricks as ever: we’re chatting with teammates, trying to maintain the motivation in each other, discuss all the problems. If somebody will have difficulties, then maybe others will be able to help him or advice to take a break and relax.

Actually, you’re right, it is a very serious topic. Just the other day two CS:GO players from Astralis went inactive, simply because they burnt out. And you have to understand, it’s not that he doesn’t want to win anymore — it’s exactly the opposite. He wants to win so much, that he’s ready to sacrifice even this for it. Everyone feels these problems differently: somebody’s ready to play day and night the whole year, somebody needs breaks. For now I feel fine, even though I’m kinda tormented because TI10 doesn’t have a specific date. But oh well, we’ll live to it — and until then I’ll be giving it all to the game.

“You’ve changed a lot of different rosters. Can we say that the current one is the strongest?”

Potentially — yes. I’m sure of it. We have very talented players that have even more experience than our previous roster. And, what’s important, they’ve played in other large orgs: EG were very strong last year, and Team Secret was no less strong. And we got a player from both of their rosters.

I like to look at the situation this way: every new step moves us forward. Every new roster is… an even more skilfully forged weapon. It’s more dangerous, it’s sharper.

We’re not in the best position right now, because we’re online. I feel weaker than before because of that. OG always was a LAN team, but we’re gonna figure this out. Adapt or die — that’s how it always was. And I’m sure that in the end we’ll reach the top anyway.

“Can we — should we — compare this roster to the one that was able to lift two Aegides?”

I don’t like comparing today’s Johan with the one before. Same goes for rosters. I know people like to do that: previous roster was better, this guy played different before… But players change, as do a lot of other things. I’m not the same I was during TI9 at all. At least, I like to think I got better. At least, I tried very hard.

And I project the same thing to the team. Of course, you’ll see similar things in our play to what the previous roster did. Because we’re still here: me, Ceb, Titouan, Topias. But we have a lot of new things on our menu — the restaurant has changed cuisine.

“What dished did Saksa, SumaiL, and MidOne bring over? And what dishes did you lose with the departure of Ceb and JerAx?”

This is a very hard question. Of course, now we lack the experience of playing together that the previous roster had: we’ve yet to get to know each other that close. But at the same time, things like that… They stay with you. Once upon a time we’ve built a home together, but now it’s time to move out. And we’re going to a new place — with fresh strength and decent building skills.

People, who wanted to keep playing after TI9, have stayed on the team. Those, who grew tired of Dota, have gone to rest. Now our home has become fresher — everyone on the team is hungry for wins. There was no such thirst in the team who won TI9. Now we’re ready to work, that’s why in the roster update I see sort of revival of OG.

“When Ceb and JerAx left, I thought, “Shit, now n0tail has something to think about”. Was I right? Did you think about leaving at that moment?”

Then? No-no-no. No way. I knew I wanted to play further! Jesse and Séb decided to call it quits — that’s their right, but I wasn’t ready to leave that easy. I’m still enjoying the game and wins, those are the things that make me happy — truly, deep down my heart. And I wouldn’t want to be doing something else in this life.

“And what will you be doing when the time comes? Would you like to stay in esports or to close this page and find something else?”

I think I’d stay here — at least, with one foot on the doorstep. Cybersport is fun. I’ve spend my whole life playing video games and I don’t think I’ll suddenly decide to live without them. We’ve got a lot of memes here that make me laugh sincerely. That’s also important, y’know?

I would like to achieve something else. And, actually, I’m doing some other projects right now. But Dota 2 is my priority, and, probably, will always be. That’s why after the retirement I’ll most probably be looking for some new opportunities in esports.

“Right now you’re sort of a second coach for OG Seed and CS:GO rosters, right?”

We’ve been working actively with those rosters when they’ve just appeared. Now I’m not that immersed into that process, because I have to think about my own shape. But yes, we tried to share our experience and what we have learned during our time in esports.

“There’s an opinion that the magic of OG is in team chemistry and psychology — do you agree?”

This is an important part of our success, for sure. But at the same time it’s important to understand that you can’t win a major without having very talented players. That’s why I wouldn’t write everything off to psychology and correct mindset.

But I believe that people play better in a good atmosphere. If they feel they’re among friends, that all the teammates are on the same page and at the same time good enough to win things, then the mechanism starts to work.

“In your opinion, have the newbies in OG already managed to tune in?”

When we’ve just started to play, everything was even too good. We had sort of a honeymoon — we’ve been winning all the scrims, had fun and productive bootcamps, shared experience and knowledge… Now the coronavirus overtook us, and slowed down all the processes. It made harder for me personally to stay happy and motivated on the right level, because I really miss things that filled me with energy: the crowd noise, tournament atmosphere.

But on the other hand, it’s another trial. And we face difficulties every year: something always happens that we’re not prepared for. But, coming back to your question, newbies indeed understood really quickly, what we’re trying to say. And I know that right now they share our views.

“I’m most surprised that SumaiL got comfortable in OG that easily. A year ago his profile said, “The best in history”. That doesn’t really fit the image of OG, does it?”

No, I don’t agree. People have a misconception about SumaiL. Yes, he could’ve seemed to be arrogant because of some statements or interviews — but the same can be said about others. Often they simply have online personas, and when you meet the person in real life, they turn out to be completely different. I’m like that, too: n0tail you see in the interviews or on social networks — that’s not all of me.

SumaiL is a very self-confident person. And yes, he praised himself a lot. But it’s only a part of what’s really inside of him. We all love to cling to individual traits when evaluating other people, and it was very easy to hang a label on SumaiL that he’s narcissistic or arrogant. But that’s not true. Honestly.

“It’s funny you say this about yourself. Less than I year ago I talked to Sockshka and asked him exactly the same question about you, and Titouan answered, “No, no! Johan is always the same as in interviews, he’s glowing and memeing 24/7”.

Well, then, those are my labels. They catch eye. And yes, that’s not a mask — that’s really me. But, again, not all of me. Sometimes to get to know the person you need to spend a lot of time with them. You can only see one side in five minutes.

“What qualities does the player have to have to fit OG? I couldn’t come up with anything, because ana and SumaiL are very different both in life and online. Same goes for MidOne and Ceb — so why did they all manage to fit into the mechanism of OG in the end?”

There’s one thing (even though there are more of them, of course) — it’s very important to get along with the teammates, and a lot of things can influence that. But as a Dota 2 player you have to be able to humble your pride and to be modest. If you can’t do that, you’ll have problems — not only in OG, but everywhere. I think that’s very important.

And after you learn to be humble, it’s time to learn to be self-confident — so confident, that it would border on blatant impudence at times when it is required. If will be hard to work with you if you don’t have humility. If you don’t have impudence, you won’t achieve success.

“Was is easy to work with MidOne? There were rumours during Secret times that he doesn’t talk to any of the teammates, has lunch alone, and doesn’t really make contact with anyone.”

(laughs) Yeik is one of the best teammates I’ve had in life. It’s super fun with him. But jokes aside, he’s one of the smartest… no, genius, players I’ve ever met. I adore him.

“Russian analyst NS said recently that the magic of OG — it’s the magic of n0tail. It will be weird to ask you to praise yourself, so I’m going to phrase it like this: what were the main conclusions on how to build a team that you’ve made in the past couple of years?”

Sadly, a lot of those I simply can’t reveal. If I’ll try to explain, it’s gonna sound vague: you just have to take some moments very seriously. The ability to push buttons — that’s not all. You have to be able to listen to the teammates and compromise. But… No, I really can’t say more, I’m sorry.

“Do the newbies take part in team coordination? Ceb and JerAx used to call a lot — have those responsibilities fallen on you alone now?”

In Dota 2 it’s important for everyone to communicate. This game is very tied to team interaction. All players do in their own way. JerAx used to talk quite a lot, Ceb and I wouldn’t shut up at all, and Topson and ana would get involved in this process quite rarely. Especially ana! (laughs)

And that’s a bad quality. Especially if you just don’t like to talk. But ana sometimes said very important things, and that was enough. He was also able to convey his thoughts and key information non-verbally, that’s why everything worked. But sometimes this might not work, and that’s why a silent player, however good they might be, can drag the team down.

But everything’s changed now: as I said, we’re cooking new dishes now. But we’ll get comfortable soon.

“There’s an established opinion that a carry shouldn’t be calling — turns out, that’s wrong?”

I guess. Everybody should be talking in the game. And you can easily play a core position and stay a captain. It’s easier to do it on pos 5 — hard to argue with that. That’s why those duties fall on supports most of the time. But I’ve played enough on core positions, and still called all the time.

I think it’s very comfortable to play with those mids and carries who are able to evaluate the game and suggest something. If your core player doesn’t talk at all, that’s a huge problem. But sometimes carries get carried away with team coordination so much that they start to play worse — it’s a double-edged sword. It happens rarely, but I’ve played with people who ruined their game because they talked too much.

“A couple of months ago you said you want to “reach the peak“ in Dota 2. What’s that peak and how high is it?”

Yeah, I meant that I want to maximise all aspects of the game: how we play, talk, control the team atmosphere and understand the game. I want to achieve the peak form in all respects. I want us to learn to feel the meta perfectly; so that we’d be able to predict how it will develop. So that we’d always be able to control the game.

I think it’s only gonna be possible when we play enough time on a particular patch, because research and training take time. But I’ve always thought that you can achieve more in Dota 2, you can become even better. And I want to achieve that before I retire. I want to be able to honestly say to myself, “Holy shit, we’re the best team that ever was and even will be in this game”. So that all the past, present, and future teams could only be “as good, as OG”.

“And how do you achieve that?”

Work a lot. I understand how that sounds, but you just have to work a lot (laughs).

“I’ve discussed something similar with Ceb once, and he said that Wings were the best team in Dota. At least, until OG. Can we say that Wings got to the peak that we’re talking about?”

They’ve reached the moment in growth when they were able to play real, very pure Dota. They’ve been looking at the game without stupid filters that other teams put in front of them for some reason. So… Yeah, perhaps, Wings is the team you can look up to in that regard. They’ve played Dota 2 on the max possible level.

“Will your current roster be able to reach the peak?”

Of course. We’ll break through the ceiling!

Some people were interested in hearing what Resolution had to say on OG and ESL Online LA League, so I translated OG-related bits of one of V1lat’s latest podcasts to English. Better late than never, amirite :`)

Vilat: tell us, Roman, about this tournament in general, and how were you playing.

Roman: as you have noticed, the games were swell. OG is a team that keeps surprising you, keeps coming up with unexpected lanes, some unexpected moves, they keep using early timings to their maximum, the moment they are marginally stronger than their opponent — they will run at you and force you to react. They surprised us in 3 or 4 games in terms of lanes, like, we thought through everything they can do, and in the end they put like Enigma mid and go triple hard, Beastmaster goes solo bot, they’re doing things that an ordinary team we’ve been playing with before, some Nigma or Gambit or all other teams, they don’t do this. That’s why the games were very colourful, very interesting, playing those games and feeling those emotions was amazing, especially now, with our current team, with these guys, the atmosphere is so pleasant. Like, there was a moment, remember, when I went mid on Pango, I jump on Silencer, Enigma casts Black Hole on me, and in that same second just as she casts the Black Hole, Vovan [NoOne] is flies over and cancels her Black Hole with a Vortex. And I just sit there completely fucking boggled at how well we push the buttons in this team. This is just incredibly pleasant, and even as a viewer it’s just nice to look at.

Vilat: …you’ve been talking about OG, right, what they are doing in drafts and lanes, and when we were casting the game yesterday with Bafik we were laughing at our analysts, because out of 25 heroes that OG picked in the finals they guessed maybe in 7 cases who’s gonna play whom and which lane. You just don’t understand a fucking thing (with them), right.

Roman: yeah, there’s sometimes like a random Void Spirit pos 4 (from them), yeah. But the fact that they took Neta (33) and they were playing with two pos threes, and Sumail was somewhere in between pos 1 and 2, this is very cool. Like, this allows them to use those early timings much better than if they were playing and drafting with Topson and MinOne. So it doesn’t mean those changes were negative for them, y’know, because Ceb, well, two-times TI winner, this guy knows what offlane is, knows what calls to make, how to move around the map, and how to play well.

Vilat: well on Ench he was feeding like a little bitch, really.

Bafik: yeah by the way it was a very interesting game, when he was just non-stop going forward on Enchantress.

Roman: ah, in fact, this was his only correct gameplay in that game, he stacked on time with Abaddon when we killed him bot, and the moment when I on a Batrider can kick him out of anywhere he’s just stacking with his second core, with Abaddon, and we can’t do anything to him already. But still, we were catching them when they were separating a bit, and with our great warding from Ljoha (Solo) we were catching them on these small mistakes.

Vilat: we’ve been discussing with Bafik yesterday, that there’re two players in CIS who have been playing for OG, and they are both in now, and VP is now playing against OG. laughs

Roman: I call this, “OG heritage”.

Vilat: ‘kay listen, yesterday Bafik was saying that he was talking to Igor (iLTW), quite some time ago, at one of the Starladders or whatever, that OG or more like time spent in OG, doesn’t matter successful or not, whether you won a Major or TI with them or not, this time still gives you a fuckton in understanding certain moments.

Roman: it is super impactful, I agree, yes.

Vilat: why?

Roman: aaah. Because you understand how thoughts of people regarding the game and the team, differ; and to what extent those moments are correct, like, you have to strive towards that, that’s something close to ideal. I don’t want of course to give them some super huge respect, but the guys are good in the sense that they were the first to realise that you are playing first and foremost not against the heroes, but against people, and you can use it. When you can, while outplaying the opponent, tip him in addition, spam some lines to all chat, tilt him a little bit, confuse him, undermine his confidence, and play with that. They were the first to realise that a team game is a team game because you have to pay attention first to interactions between people, that building positive companionate bonds between people is very important so that they could in their turn in game give it back, show that we’re bros here, I’ll always TP to def you, I’ll leave you farm, and if you’re having a bad game I gonna lift you and carry you through those hard moments. Somehow they come to all of this first.

Vilat: well it really sounds cool. There are different approaches to forming teams, in CS, for example, there are a lot of teams formed based purely on statistics and so on. So there are teams, where people never talk to each other, and yet they are showing (good) results. I can’t imagine this in Dota.

Bafik: listen, I’ve had a thought that OG during TI8-TI9, TI8 especially, have taught teams that you have to play ’til the end. You have to try, to look for exits, ’til the last second, with almost no chances. And I see that even our teams in CIS play more and more ’til the end now, don’t gg on 15th-20th minute, but really try to find a way out.

Roman: Dota is evolving, people have learned to delay the game a lot, and when you can delay the game in moments when your opponent can end the game, and you don’t let them end it, you get much more windows to go into late with all those crazy items and so on, and basically everything comes down to who pushed the buttons the best and who has more buybacks. If you can delay the game to that point, well… You can turn it over easily.