When it comes to legendary Dota captains, Clement "Puppey" Ivanov is one for the history books, perhaps only rivaled by the equally seasoned Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Tahasomi. At EPICENTER XL, we sat down with the head of Team Secret's roster to learn what he thinks makes for a good player and why does he put his trust into new talents instead of picking up proven specialists.
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You went from having a team of very well known players to bringing on lesser known ones. Is there an advantage to that?
I don’t know. A Dota player is a weird animal and a Dota player is full of emotions. A Dota player doesn’t know what he really wants to be a lot of the time. A Dota player perhaps wants to play midlane a lot but actually his truest potential is offlane but he doesn’t want to give it up. He wants to keep striving for it, but he screws up his own potential and therefore, in due time, he will perhaps actually take that advice and actually play offlane or transition from carry to support.
So a lot of times, when the new players actually do come out and I see their potential, it’s usually when I know that they are that type of player. Like, if I pick up Ace, I don’t pick up Ace because I think he’s a “Let's see what he does”. No, I know that this guy is a carry for sure, I know that for a fact. He ain't no offlane, he ain't no support, he ain’t no anything else, he’s a carry player. That’s why I like Fata for instance. I want to play with him and I want to play with him for one reason: I know that even though he played midlane for Cloud9, I want him to play offlane because I see his potential being that. He sees it also, that’s why he’s doing it. It’s a mutual idea/process.
A Dota player is a weird animal and a Dota player is full of emotions.
I’m sure Ace also thinks he wants to be a carry. You know, when we made the first Team Secret, we kind of just… I knew I was going to play support but the other four swapped all of their roles now and then. Besides KuroKy who plays support, but he plays 5 now. He’s not even touching 4th position. Not that he needs to. My point is all of those players were kind of all over the place, not knowing where they actually should be.
And truth be told, mine and Kuro’s theories were correct. All the players kind of ended up in the roles we predicted. Fly was playing offlane, even though we thought he would have to play support. We believed that n0tail was an amazing midlaner because from his HoN days he was a potential midlane player. And s4 really still wanted to play midlane and we wanted him to play offlane. All of that kind of turned into that direction of the day. I definitely don’t want to be in the same position of having people not really in their potential and just trying to sit there and try to grind the thing where they don’t have the biggest potential. It’s kind of sad in a way. But I don’t want to step into that situation where I get just a good player that wants to be all over the place.
How do you see that someone belongs in the offlane? Is it a mentality thing or is it more playstyle?
It’s basically playstyle. It’s the way he plays. His role in the game is to not take farm. There are a lot of times where you’re just a spacemaker. We all know that s4 is a spacemaker. We all know Fata is a great spacemaker. But a lot of the time, that role changes from the midlane into the offlane. Not saying that midlane was actually the potential lane for spacemakers in the first place but patches shift, the game changes, and the game evolves. And when it evolves, the role should be respectable to the lane it goes in. Basically, you need to understand what your role is. Even though he was the midlaner, theoretically he could’ve said, in his head, “I’m the 2nd position”. No, you’re actually the offlaner. Perhaps you’re playing in the midlane, but you’re position 3 regardless because someone like AdmiralBulldog is taking your farm. You’re not the midlaner. You’re not position 2. We all know that position 1 is Bulldog, position 2 is Loda; position 3 is you. It’s always going to be like that and it’s important to understand your potential and who you are.
Would you say Alliance started that trend?
Yes, they definitely started this trend where the offlaner is the heavy-farm hero. Heavy carry potential. They would have to shift gears when he wouldn’t get those type of heroes, but they were successful enough to shift it up. Not saying that was their preferred playstyle though.
Yeah, I really don’t get how that happens!
Well, it happens like this: Winning the group stage means beating everyone that was underneath you. If you beat the people that are on top, they’re still on top of you, you know? It doesn’t matter. You have to beat the people who are underneath you, and they lost to the ones who were underneath.
Do you view those wins as a good statement on their current form?
[laughs] No, since we weren’t up there. The minus point is that they got two wins. One of them came against VP. If VP would have lost more games then yes, but they didn’t. So they only really won against one team, and that was us, in that bracket. Then they lost to everyone else in there. Conceptually, it looks like they did really well, but it’s not actually true.
One of the community's favorite players, Dendi—
No, no, no, I don’t think so. Hated by everybody. Probably stole money from them. Probably a lot of money. 50 million. You better read up what the forums say, man.
[laughs] I’ll watch my wallet next time I’m around him. Do you think Dendi would be a better fit for the offlane?
No. He can create space, but he’s definitely a guy who... I think the best role for Dendi is the midlane. The thing is, he essentially started as a support. He was a position 5 player back in the day. He would play CM and all that stuff but his will to become the midlaner was really strong. Therefore, he became the best midlaner but it’s because he mechanically started improving himself and his understanding of Dota. He was pushing himself to understand it better. He made a video showing everybody what he thinks.
When the game gets tough, when the game gets hard, you need to show your true potential.
That was a bad idea! Everybody started knowing what he was thinking. He wanted to prove himself to the world. And he did. But when the game gets tough, when the game gets hard, you need to show your true potential. That’s the only way you can win at Dota. You gotta go with what you’re really good at. Even though I understand that midlane is something he has been fighting for for a long while, the thing is that if I were to give him advice I would tell him, “Try it. You don’t have to do it, try it. But try it with real fierce feelings. Actually do it. Don’t just try it. Actually, actually try it”.
A lot of these rosters I see NaVi end up with do not have a captain really, and they end up having these teams where they want to shift blame on something. Just take it into your own hands and do it. It's not an easy task, of course. Not many captains in this world.
You’re a special breed.
It’s not really a special breed. It’s more like somebody has to do it and the ones that are the most unlucky have to do it.
So what you’re saying is that you never wanted to be a captain?
Theoretically, I like being the captain because I want to win. I think that’s why captains become the captains. They feel like they have the most things to say that are actually true, like how to win. And they need to voice their opinion so people understand those things. So you get a reaction, “This guy knows a lot, let's put him as captain”. That’s how you end up being a captain.
To just sit there and play your role and chill, having to do very little — I would take that every day. Have a relaxed day, eat my pineapples or something. Some crepes and be like, “My supports are not supporting me” or “Where are my wards?”. You get to do that. I envy that. It’s the best. I’m so jealous.
More EPICENTER XL interviews
— KuroKy: "I'm trying, but you can't go 100 percent all year."
— MidOne: "We’re moving on as a team instead of as individuals."
— n0tail: "Having to change a player in this season has come with a big headache."
— xNova: "Most of the Chinese teams need time to improve."
— Lil: "We have just as many chances to beat absolutely everyone as to lose to everyone."
— LeBron: "[Beating VP] felt like it was going to be a defining moment for us."
— Kpii: "I don't like [the addition of Techies]. It just changes the way Dota is played too much."
— Ninjaboogie: "I couldn't care less about [TI]. I don't want to put it on a pedestal."
— Ghostik: "Replacing our carry was a necessity, there was no other option."
— Miposhka: "With time, [Naive] can become the new Miracle-"
— Iceberg: [We have] probably 60-70 chance [to make playoffs]"
— w33: "I can’t describe how awesome it is. I’ve never had so much fun in my life."
— Kingrd: "Don't stop, because if you stop you'll never achieve the dream to win the tournament."
— ODPixel: "I like turning up to an event not knowing what will happen."
— v1lat: "[NaVi] should change LeBron. [He] is not a great fit for this team."
— BreakyCPK: "Literally adding a new hero as a Major starts... there's just something wrong with that."