7ckngMad at TI7: "I’ve never believed in the metagame, the word to me is bullshit"
Photo by: Epicenter

7ckngMad at TI7: "I’ve never believed in the metagame, the word to me is bullshit"

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The International coverage hub

More interviews from TI7: 

Bulba: "I want to find [what went wrong for us in the group stage]"
Mason: "I didn't know if I wanted to play Dota for a living"

When the letters OG are dropped in a conversation, Dota fans will immediately think of Johan "n0tail" SundsteinTal "Fly" Aizik or , the carry player and the captain who have been with the org since the beginning, or Gustav "s4" Magnusson, the TI championed who transferred over from Alliance to OG last year. But the truth is, one name is just as tied to OG's successes as its legendary players: Sébastien "Ceb" Debs.

Coming into TI7, OG carried four Major titles, more than any other team in Dota 2 and three of those four were won under the coaching of Mad. The former support player is highly praised for his analytical mind -- and with good reason -- and even though he'll likely never exit the booth as an Aegis-winning player, he very much intends to do so as coach.

Before OG play their Lower Bracket match against Infamous, we spoke to Mad about facing challenges OG never expected and the mythical creature that is the Dota 2 metagame.

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After the group stage, you found yourself in the lower bracket, which most people would see as a disappointment. How do you deal with those expectations, because the mental mind game in Dota is very important. You’re facing Infamous, a team who has nothing to lose and everything to gain, and that makes them dangerous.

How do you prepare for that kind of team, the kind of team that will best-of-1 cheese you? Is there a certain mindset you need to get your players into compared to preparing for any other team?
That’s a very good question you’re asking, and I need to get the team to understand that we’re playing a team that has nothing to lose. And if we go into that match believing we have something to lose, they’re going to tear us apart, it happened to us last year vs TNC.

I believe there’s no coincidences in life, stuff happens because it’s meant to happen, and there’s a reason we got knocked out last year by TNC. They had nothing to lose, and we were terrified because any thought of us getting knocked out that early at TI as OG scared us. And they just slaughtered us, we never got a chance to win a game. Even when we were 15k ahead, it never felt like we were going to win the game. And I realized why they were playing, and I know why it happened. It’s something we’ve talked a lot about since last year, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our back is against the wall again, facing the same situation. It’s a test to see if we’ve learned from our mistakes, do we understand what happened last year, and if we do, we have to prove it. 

I think this match [vs. Infamous] is a blessing.

I think this match is a blessing because if we prove ourselves, and we prove we’ve learned from last year, we’re going to build momentum and that’s what we want. We all know we’re good enough to win TI, no doubt about it. We also know we’re bad enough to be the worst team at this tournament. What matters is for us to approach Infamous and the other teams with the correct mindset, every team we have to face, they deserve all the respect in the world. We don’t think that we’re favorites to win this match, but we’re not scared of them.

Infamous is the kind of team that’s not afraid to just pick Huskar and run at you.
Exactly, we’re ready for anything at this point. And there’s a lot that we have to learn about ourselves, seeing how the group stage went. We have to humble ourselves to the point to where we’re willing to give up on whatever we think is right, even though we practiced it. It’s hard to give up on your practice, it’s a very natural thing to want to use the stuff you’ve practiced a lot before the tournament.

Your style at Kiev was very illusion based, heroes that created their own space and pushed towers, and then Icefrog took a nerf hammer to all the illusion heroes. As a result you’ve picked up heroes like Visage: still pushes lanes, a bit related to the illusion heroes in that your main hero can be doing whatever while creating space and forcing people to show. However it’s not the same finely tuned machine that was running in Kiev. Do you think there’s one small piece that needs to fall into place for everything to work?
How I look at it is that we’ve lost a lot after we understood the game really well, and we’re definitely missing something. I can’t get into details because I would be giving away too much, but what I can say is that we’re looking at things that we haven’t looked at before, or haven’t respected before.

And some teams have opened our eyes, I can tell you the biggest adjustment was before Game 2 against LFY, where we completely changed our approach to drafting and playing. And coincidence or not, that was probably the best game we’ve played here. We were able to defeat them pretty convincingly Game 2. So hopefully we learn from that. We’re playing some scrims later today [Sunday], and we have a lot of ideas we want to try out. When you’re missing something, and you see this TI meta that’s impossible to understand, and you’re thinking ‘why is this team doing this’ and then suddenly you see one thing and everything falls into place and makes sense.

I think I’ve figured it out, and I’m trying to get my team to the same page to see the same things I’ve seen. I can’t say what’s going to happen [on Monday], but how good a tournament we’ll have depends on what happens then.

Yeah, I call it a lightbulb moment, where suddenly everything falls into place and everything just clicks.
That’s where I got to yesterday, and hopefully it’s not the wrong idea. 

Photo by: Epicenter
Photo by: Epicenter

You’re a very strong team of players, very experienced. Do you get nervous trying these new things the day before you play an elimination match? Or are you confident enough in yourself as players to know you can play anything.
I don’t think we’re nervous about trying something new. Obviously there’s something in your head that tells you you haven’t practiced this to your 100%, but we don’t mind trying anything risky, like we’re not going to not play something because we haven’t played it. It’s good to play stuff you know fits you, but at the same time we have to pick to win these games. We’ve talked about the comfort hero picks, and we think that is not how you win this tournament, you’ll have to go outside that comfort area.

And that’s why playing a lot of pubs is important, because you need to be able to play a lot of heroes on maybe short notice, and you may have been playing that hero in a pub and not a scrim.
Yeah, we got some practice games going, because we want to test if our understanding of the game is correct, otherwise we wouldn’t be practicing. 

We all know we’re good enough to win TI, no doubt about it. We also know we’re bad enough to be the worst team at this tournament.

Do you ever aspire to be part of a Wings-esque lineup, a team that can just play any hero despite if they’re “meta” or not? I think a lot of heroes are good but people just forget about them and why they’re good.

I don’t think we aspire to be this as a team, but I can tell you myself that if I were a captain I would want to be that kind of captain. I’d want to do the wings type of drafting, because I have a passion for all the heroes in the game, and there are a lot of heroes that I look at, and I have a lot of ideas about them.

I’ve never believed in the metagame, the word to me is bullshit, there’s never been a metagame. There’s just teams copying other teams, and other teams looking for counters. Of course you have patches where some heroes are really strong and you have to acknowledge that, and there are heroes you have to first phase ban. And Dota used to be imbalanced, like when Wisp came out that hero was so unbalanced and you just had to ban it. But where Dota is at now, the game is so balanced, many heroes are balanced, and I don’t think there’s a metagame. If a team just starts playing a hero tomorrow and they start succeeding with it, and other people start picking it, it doesn’t mean the hero got better.

It’s a cycle: if this hero is good, it means this heroes counters are good, and the heroes that are good with that hero becomes good, and those heroes counters become good. It keeps going in circles. I never have believed in the metagame, and I tell every team I go to that, and I’m very lonely in that method of thinking.

If you know Scant, he has the thought that pro players don’t know why something is good until after they’ve played it a bit -- when they start playing something, their only justification is that it “feels good”. They won’t be able to justify it until afterwards. But I think it’s important to be able to say “I think this hero is good because reasons x, y and z” is better than just being able to play the hero without justification.
Yeah I do, and I think you’re very right, it’s important to understand the nuances of a hero and what that hero does. It’s something we do a lot on OG. At the same time, you have to respect that there is a meta, that there is a hero teams are willing to pick, and if you’re sitting there thinking there is no metagame and you don’t respect it you will lose to it. It’s about finding a balance between the two.

Yeah, you can’t just walk into a match and say “I don’t expect anyone to pick Puck”, because they are going to pick Puck, everyone is going to pick Puck.
Yeah you have to respect that and take it into account, and it’s something we’re doing.

What I really respected about Wings is their understanding of the game, with strats and heroes. They understood Dota, they understood how the game fit together and what countered what. I go back to Wings replays sometimes when I’m thinking about a hero when I’m trying to anticipate. I’m seeing right now what people are doing, and I have to figure out a strategy against what they’re doing.

It’s going to get to that point where people are going to figure out what people are doing, and I want to be there already. I’ve always been like this as a captain: if you want to play that hero then play it. That’s the kind of mindset that I want to develop, and that’s how I think about the game personally, OG is a bit different.

Personally I was a big fan of Treant coming into this tournament, because I was watching the NA qualifiers, and I saw all these people dual lane cheesing. And my thought is “hey, I can pick this hero and just press E and save them” because all these ganks happen so slowly and Treant could save them so easily, and I’m disappointed I haven’t seen him yet.
Yeah you can still ruin someone’s lane with Treant Protector, but a lot of things have to come together. It’s really hard to know what a team is going to do something in advance, and at the end of the day what you do relies on what the enemy team does. And even if you think it’s not good, and you don’t understand why they did it, you still have to play around it and create a strategy or you’ll lose.

If people are picking Lich, and you had this strategy ready but it’s not good against Lich, you have to abandon that strategy until Lich stops being picked. And maybe Lich only started being picked because it’s good against that strategy, it’s very cyclical.

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