Before winning ESL One Birmingham, Alexei "Solo" Berezin had gone unusually long without winning a tournament. Unusually long for Virtus.pro is different than for other teams. So we took the opportunity to talk about their hectic spring season as well as if you can win too much.
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Let’s start off talking about the period leading up to Birmingham. You didn’t look as great as you had previously. Why’s that?
We had a long stretch of three tournaments — Katowice, Bucharest, WESG — and after that we went straight to DAC. So we had no break at all. We had no time to rest, no time to adapt to the new patch. We were just tired coming into EPICENTER. We went home for five days, then we went to a boot camp for two days, and then we had to play EPICENTER. So we were simply not ready. Nothing special.
Is not being able to get ready for patches a big problem?
It’s not a big problem if you have time to play scrims, discuss, and practice. We simply had no time. We had to play official games. Now we had a bootcamp for about 15 days or something like that, so we are well prepared.
I think we made the decision to change Lil because we were 100 percent sure that Rodjer’s playstyle would be more useful for our team.
You’ve been to a lot of tournament and you’ve had a lot of success at those. Do you see that there’s a risk in winning too much?
I don’t think so. In the history of Dota there has been a lot of teams winning the whole season — Alliance at TI3, Evil Geniuses at TI5, Team Liquid for the second half of the TI6 season — so I don’t think it matters how much you win or lose. It’s about your shape, your Dota understanding, and your spirit before TI. I don’t think it has had an effect on us.
How big of an influence has ArtStyle been for you?
He’s very useful for the team. We respect him. He won the first TI, you know? He’s had a very long Dota career. He’s a good Dota player, a good person, and a good friend. He’s a part of our team, like a sixth player.
How does he prepare you for tournaments?
Nothing special. It’s like a coach for any other team. He gives us advice and he tells us his opinions. He helps us communicate to solve our problems.
Usually, when a team replaces a player it takes a while for you to click. But RodjER seemed to fit in right away. How did you make that happen?
First of all, RodjER is a great position 4 player. We were watching him for a long time before we asked him to join us. We were watching him at TI last year and the period after that. I think we made the decision to change Lil because we were 100 percent sure that RodjER’s playstyle would be more useful for our team. We didn’t gamble. We were sure it would work better.
You’ve built up this facade of being a really cocky team. Is that a conscious decision?
I wouldn’t say we’re a cocky team. We are just having fun. If you’re talking about chat wheel or tipping players, that’s just us having fun. There’s nothing cocky about it. We’re not trying to make someone nervous. We’re just having fun! Valve gave us the opportunity to use the chat wheel. So why not use it? It’s funny stuff.
Do you follow the other CIS teams closely?
I don’t watch CIS games a lot. I know there are good players and teams in the region but we’ll wait for the CIS TI qualifiers. Once we know who wins those qualifiers, we will prepare for them. We’re not watching a lot of CIS games.
I think the biggest problem with CIS is that there are no captains. No leaders. [...] It’s a lack of discipline I think.
The CIS region doesn’t have a lot of big teams at the moment. What problems do you think need to be fixed to fix that?
I think the biggest problem with CIS is that there are no captains. No leaders. We have a lot of good players but no leaders. It’s a lack of discipline I think.
So why did you decide to become a captain?
I had no choice! [laughs] I’ve been playing Dota for more than half my life. I’ve been playing since 2003 and I hadn’t won anything big. So Virtus.pro gave me the opportunity to become a captain and build my team like I wanted it. I did it and that’s how I became a captain.
Say you had someone exactly like you on your team. A carbon copy. Would you prefer being the captain or not?
I’m not sure. Sometimes I think it’s a very hard job. It takes a toll on the nerves. But after that, I can feel like it’s really great because you have a possibility to build the game — and your team — as you wish. You feel the respect of your teammates. You feel that you’re proud of your team. So I’d say I’d choose to be a captain.
Disclosure: Both Cybersport.com and Virtus.pro are part of the same financial holding.
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."
— EternaLEnVy: "Even if you’re top 8 in the world, it doesn’t mean shit to a lot of people."
— Kips: "Cema is still learning how to properly be a captain."
— 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."
— kpii: "When a team is together for a long time it’s natural that problems start to appear."
— VP of Product: "[Selling media rights] is an important source of income and it’s not something that will go away."