"We had our criteria for choosing players. Pikachu didn’t pass some of those, his English in particular. The team liked God the most after talking to him. Everyone realize it’s a sad situation, but everyone is ready to work and overcome the difficulties, even sacrifice something. It plays its role too.”
— Artsiom "Fng" Barshack, captain
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After TI7, you didn’t change the Vega Squadron roster, even though that’s standard practice for nearly every team except TI’s best. Why not?
We all decided to keep playing together. After all, our results weren’t all too bad throughout the year: we did qualify to two tournaments. We didn’t play particularly well there, but there was progress overall. We still had the desire to play together, despite not qualifying to The International. Obviously, we weren’t too happy, but we had a completely sober view of our abilities. It’s important to keep the team together and move on. Making the decision to not change our roster at the time was to our credit as a team.
Alexey Kondakov [Vega Squadron's CEO — Ed.] said some unflattering things about the Dota 2 roster’s performance after PW Masters, adding that he was personally taking over its management. What did that entail?
Frankly, I wouldn’t like to go into detail or [talk about] what happened at that moment. I suppose it could be described as disagreements between certain players and certain people among the org’s managers. It’s true that both Kondakov and the players wanted one thing — for the results to improve; for the team to move forward and qualify for tournaments; for the effort put into the team’s growth to pay off. But that wasn’t happening.
I probably would’ve left [Gambit] even without the option to join Team Spirit.
Certain players considered to be hindering the team’s growth, according to Kondakov, were removed. Then, the new ones were brought in: those who either had new views, new ideas, fresh perception, or who just agreed with the new direction chosen by Alexey.
Why did you eventually decide to leave, whose decision was it?
It was mutual. As a player, I was finding it hard to be under such pressure. Alexey was hardly upset by that either.
How useful is Kips as a coach?
The roster she initially joined wasn’t fitting her. We had our own unique atmosphere, she had no place there. So the players kept coming and going, until there was a roster in which she could function well.
She’s a very smart girl: she devotes a lot of time to analyzing opponents’ games, and talks to coaches from other Tier 1 teams. She has a good foundation, people help her, give her tips on where to look for info, and so on. But she really needs others to listen to her, to heeded her. She’s still learning to apply her knowledge. I think the roster Vega has now is a fitting one for her to grow and apply her knowledge.
That’s why I’ve formed a positive opinion of Kips. She’ll be able to contribute more in a well-functioning team than in the one we had when I was a part of it.
The Bucharest Major has just ended. Do you think this Vega Squadron roster has potential?
It’s difficult to evaluate the roster’s potential based on its performance on some particular tournament. It just that this month wasn’t the best for Vega Squadron: both the qualifiers and The Bucharest Major were too much for the guys. Every team goes through some kind of decline, making it hard to judge their true potential. If the guys will continue to stick together, work on their mistakes and believe in their own ability to do all this, then they will have potential.
You came to Gambit Esports after Vega Squadron, spending about a month there. Tell us a little about that period. Cooman said the organization wasn’t planning on investing heavily into developing its Dota 2 division.
I have nothing but positive emotions regarding Gambit. I didn’t have much conctanc with the management, except Kimi [the then-Dota 2 manager — Ed.]. But there’s nothing bad I can say. They really do provide good conditions for their roster. I don’t know what’s on their leadership’s minds, whether they want to develop the roster or not, but right now, they’re not giving any less than anybody else.
Tell us about your transfer to Team Spirit.
I decided I must leave Gambit. I probably would’ve left even without the option to join Team Spirit. Gambit is formed by nice guys and promising players, everything is going to work out for them if they won’t give up and will keep playing. I don’t want to go into the reasons for my departure, but I can say it just wasn’t my thing.
This is not to say someone was bad or I was good. I have a lot of problems of my own. The guys from Spirit are willing to help me. And I didn’t transfer to Spirit because it was “back to 2015 again” there. It just so happened that four players from that roster got back together.
Is it a nice turn of events that brought you all together together, like in good old times?The emotions are positive, even though there’s been a bit of bad blood, everyone was really cautious with each other. It’s nice to reunite, but I wouldn’t want us to live in the past, but rather to try and create something new. We’re different people now, different players, our thinking has changed.
You’ve already played three matches since you’ve joined, losing two: one to the Fly2Moon mix, and one to Effect. Why?
These days, it’s fashionable to say “we didn’t click”. We played about three days’ worth of scrims with an incomplete roster, as DkPhobos was absent during qualifiers. All-in-all, we should’ve played better in some situation.
Fly2Moon isn’t just some weak team to me. They played in the EPICENTER qualifiers Grand Final, going through Team Empire and Effect. They’re showing that it’s not just we are being so weak here.
Kips really needs others to listen to her, to heeded her. She’s still learning to apply her knowledge. I think the roster Vega has now is a fitting one for her to grow and apply her knowledge.
When is DkPhobos rejoining the roster?
We’re going to start practicing with him soon. We’ll be playing our next qualifier as a full roster.
Competition in CIS is now heavier than in other regions. However, excluding Virtus.pro, our teams are doing badly on the global scene. What is the reason behind this?
The circumstances just play out that way sometimes. Right now, CIS teams are either reshuffling, trying to adapt to each other post-reshuffle, or going through a decline like Vega and others who I won’t name. The level of play is about the same in every qualifier, anyone can beat anyone, but it’s not the kind of level that would allow to compete with the world’s best.
The ballance patches are coming out bi-weekly now. Is that a good or a bad thing?
I’ve never been a big fan of changes, but I’ve been getting used to them regardless. I can’t say that every patch changes the balance that much. For instance, the patch that came a month ago really changed the situation in mid by shrinking the high ground area. On the other hand, 7.10 didn’t change much, even the hero nerfs were inconsequential: like the Terrorblade nerf was more of a prank than an actual balancing.
Do like how mid is now mostly 1v1, rather than 2v2 or 3v3?
That’s a positive, but I’ve noted some negatives too. I find that the safe-lane heroes are much easier to level up than the midlaners, so it’s much easier to get a good safe-lane carry than to try and focus on mid heroes.