Support, captain, and previously coach, Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng is the brain behind Vici Gaming's Dota 2 squad. At ESL Birmingham, we sat down with the player to discuss why Vici Gaming have been struggling this tournament despite recent success, and whether's he's on the Io-is-OP train.
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You had great results at MDL and in DPL but you struggled in Birmingham. Why do you think that happened?
I think that at MDL and DPL we found something that worked but at ESL some of our players started doubting themselves so we started using new strategies we weren’t comfortable with. We need to look back and make some changes.
When you get into that mindset. How do you as a teamwork that out?
We have been flying around so much that we haven’t had time to rest. The most important thing is to take one or two days off after we get home from this event. Then we will have a big team meeting where every single player will have a chance to voice what he wants to improve on and what the problems are. I think that big meeting will be very helpful to us.
You mentioned traveling. China hasn’t had that many tournaments this year. Is this a big problem for the Chinese teams as you travel more?
I think one of the benefits of traveling so much is that you get to train on LAN. Us veteran players value LAN experience more than practicing at home. I think that the new generation of players, when they lose at a competition, they start doubting themselves and I think that’s not fit for practicing on LAN. I think that’s the key difference.
What do you think of the first DPC season?
I think the format is pretty good. I like playing for points to qualify for TI. But the teams that have won previous tournaments often qualify for the next event. This results in some teams playing almost all the events. This causes a lot of stress. Let’s say we’re flying from continent to continent in a matter of days. Previously, when there weren’t that many Majors, they could afford to let us fly business class and that helps: you can sleep on the plane and your performance will be better if you’re well rested. But nowadays, tournament organizers don’t really work that well with each other and we always get economy class. And when we arrive, we have no time to fix our jetlag as we basically always have to play the next day. I think they should improve on that.
Would you rather see the tournament organizers change or have Valve enforce these changes?
I think it’s good that tournament organizers get a chance to host their event but I think that Valve can implement some structure. Say a team is flying from a different continent — you could say that they have to have business class. I wouldn’t mind if that extra cost was taken away from the prize pool because it’s all about the points. I want the integrity of the game performance to be the most important thing. And I think Valve want that too.
You coached Vici Gaming for a while but decided to make a comeback as a player. What prompted that move?
When I coached the team I was more of an “out of the game” coach. I was giving them direction outside of the game and I thought we were doing fine. But the VG board of directors thought that team needed an in-game leader. There was no one in the Chinese scene that was really suitable so they asked me to try it out, so I did. At first, I didn’t think I was doing so well but with time I think I’ve improved and I feel pretty good right now.
You’ve played some Io recently. Do you think he’s too strong right now?
He’s definitely overpowered! If you look at his talents I think they are borderline imbalanced. How can one hero change the entire flow of a team? One hero can do so much. And it’s good in laning, it’s good at everything. It changes the entire team's strategy. It’s definitely strong right now.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have a hero you’ve become well known for: Earthshaker. What do you think of him right now?
I think he’s still a viable hero. He’s not strong but not weak either. He’s definitely useful though. Since his Echo Slam damage was nerfed, his solo-kill potential was nerfed. Previously, a 4th position ES was very strong thanks to his ability to pick off someone on the enemy team but now he’s even weak as an initiator. He’s only strong as a counter-initiator. And there are other heroes that can do that much better: Tusk for example. He can initiate but also counter-initiate. So ES is not super viable due to that.
VG will enjoy a more peaceful summer, having already locked in their spot for TI8. They still might bank some cash before they set out for bootcamping, though. The team is already in the top 8 of the Supermajor, and the road to the top 4 and the six-digit prize pools isn't looking that long.
More Birmingham Major interviews
— SumaiL: "I think this has been the worst year of my career."
— BuLba: "A lot of the complaining and whining [about DPC] is people not being grateful."
— Fly: "I think I've always had it in me but I wasn’t much of a leader at the beginning"
— s4: "I’d say static roles are very important now even though lanes matter so much."
— GH: "After level 6, he can do whatever he wants."
— Fng: "I tried so many things in pubs to beat this Io dual lane and nothing is working."
— KINGRD: "If you are only winning, you are not learning anything."