On Nov. 28, Team Spirit secured one of the biggest wins in the team's history: a qualification for the Galaxy Battles II Major. In the first weeks of the new year, the CIS side will spar with the elite of the Dota scene: teams like Newbee, Team Liquid, Team Secret and Virtus.pro G2A.
It's been a long time since Spirit played at a Major too, the last one being the Shanghai Major in March of 2016, almost two years ago but they might just to well this time around, given their new stand-in carry: Ilya "Illidan" Pivcaev
Following Spirit's win at the Galaxy Battles qualifier, Cybersport.ru caught up with the CIS veteran, and there was a lot to talk about.
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Your entire roster left SFTe-sports and started looking for a new org together. Why did you leave after that? What’s going to happen to the others now?
After leaving the org, we kept on playing together. But then Taiga [ ST_ST — Ed.] decided that support wasn’t the role for him. He wanted to try another, so he left the team. Since this happened in the middle of the season, we never recovered. We took another player for a while — Eskillz — but it didn’t work out for some reason. If Taiga hadn’t left, perhaps I wouldn’t have left either. But when I realized we were in a bad state, I made the decision too.
Did you start talking to different teams, or did Team Spirit contact you themselves?
They contacted me upon their own initiative. I wasn’t looking for anything specific for myself. It was one of the few offers I’ve accepted without hesitation.
Were you their only candidate, or did they try out anyone else?
No, as far as I know they didn’t play with anybody else. I came to their bootcamp two or three days later, we played CWs for about a week, without any official matches, and then got into the qualifiers.
You’ve played with Fng and DkPhobos before. Have they changed since?
Only for the better. It’s just that we were tired of losing, and initially that was taking a bit of a toll on our morale. Now everything should be fine, though. Those guys have matured and upped their game. We’ve all changed, both they and I.
I don’t want to be like one of those 7000 MMR pub idiots who think they are gods of the game.
Has Fng changed as a captain?
I can’t go into [specifics], as that would give our opponents good intel. He keeps doing what he did before, only better. Before getting down to playing, we structured what we were going to do, and that gave us a lot at a certain point.
You won the Galaxy Battles 2 CIS qualifier. Were you perhaps surprised yourselves?
Practice clan wars may not be much of an indicator, but it is telling when you’ve only lost two matches in four days. You could feel from the way the games went that we were doing everything well. Us specifically, as opposed to our enemies doing badly. We knew what we wanted from the game and from each other. Even though we lost 0-2 to Effect, we were still feeling strong.
We believed we were going to win the first phase of the qualifier. In the second phase, we were aware that Natus Vincere G2A was a very strong opponent, and so we weren’t preparing for a final against Team Empire. Our concern was to get through the first round, especially because NaVi had had a bootcamp before the Major, and playing against them had to be difficult. We were prepared to lose, but the objective was to show what we were capable of.
When recapping this qualifier, many noted your individual form. How would you rate yourself?
I had been playing a lot and stopped doing anything else. I felt strong, but I couldn’t in all confidence talk about it, as it’s not something I like to do without any facts to show for it. Meaning that I had to prove it somehow. I don’t want to be like one of those 7000 MMR pub idiots who think they are gods of the game and could replace almost any pro player and get on any team.
I’ve always been heavily dependent on what’s going on inside the team. How well I’m going to play is probably a function of how much my team trusts me.
You’ve been in the pro scene for a long time. You’ve played for good teams as well as a few not-so-good ones. How do you find the motivation to keep playing after a failure?
I suppose I just never lose it. Yes, there are situations that exhaust me, but Dota doesn’t. [And if it does,] it’s not related to defeats, but rather MMR structure.
It’s one thing to lose your motivation when you’re on a good team which you end up dragging down. It’s a different thing when you’re aware that you need to change certain things about the team first, and then judge. When you wander into a mixed stack that took a week to put together and stop just short of going straight to the event (as was the case with The International 2016) you can’t consider yourself a weak player.
In 2015, after TI, we were in the top 8 of the Major. Then, I lost my best team and spent six months just knocking about. But then at TI6, our team showed the best result in the CIS [NaVi got an invite, while other CIS teams did not make it out of their groups in the Europe qualifier — Ed.]. The year after that was completely unsuccessful; I was quite openly slacking off. I felt I needed a break from the game. This year, after TI, I’m prepared to work.
People must realize that all these conventions and templates — first position, nth position — are not a good thing.
In this qualifier, you rolled out your signature heroes that we remember from the old days: Chaos Knight and Drow Ranger. They’re less popular now compared to other carries. What makes them so good and why others underrate them?
I won’t say what makes Drow Ranger good, as it would give a lot of info to people who don’t play it. I’ve heard that no one wants to give us this hero now.
Regarding CK, I’m just more experienced with it than others. And even if other good players run it, they usually don’t know why they picked it and what they should do with it. The majority of players go for the wrong builds and levelling order, and draw the wrong conclusions about the hero. Which is why [in their hands] this hero doesn’t look as menacing as it does on our team.
I don’t think I deserve all the credit for this; it was a collective effort. With No Rats, I had about an 88 percent win rate on CK as well. The kill-death ratio was around 22-4. It was a hero everyone feared. We could pick it in the first phase, or have it banned against us right away.
VP, under Fng, went through a period of playing 4 plus 1, giving all the farm to the mid laner. How do you build your play now?
We’re prepared to play for any of our cores. Need space from mid? Here you go. Need space from the offlane? Here you go. Need space from the carry? Here you go. Our offlaner may be running a Weaver while I’m being stoical on Drow Ranger. Or that game we had with a Chaos Knight where we saw how many people were making anti-CK picks, so I was playing 3 or 4 positions. I got just enough gear to not die, and other heroes were getting all the farm on the map. And that was the right thing to do.
People must realize that all these conventions and templates — first position, nth position — are not a good thing. If you can see things where others see nothing, you’re stronger as a player and as a person. Therefore, you shouldn’t think, ‘I’m in the first position so I must go and hack away at my lane like a moron’ when your lineup doesn’t allow such things. All it does is limit you.
You’re a stand-in for now. What’s next?
I can’t talk about it yet. If there’s an announcement soon, that’s when everyone will find out.
You qualified for a Major that will be held after the New Year’s Day. Do you have an idea of how you’re going to prepare for it?
There will be a pre-Major bootcamp. We’ll also play in the ESL Minor qualifier. That will be on Dec. 17.
What do you expect from the Major?
To me, this is what more or less any tournament looks like: you go there to show the maximum of what you can do, and from there, it’s “come what may”. When you start thinking in terms of having to defeat someone, this is what you get: ‘A-ha, these players here are worse than us. We must defeat them.’ And then, if they start to outplay you, you really crumble. I’ve seen this happen a lot.
You already won against both NaVi and Empire. What about VP?
Being from the same region always makes it a bloodbath. The new patch has equalized the teams. VP vs. NaVi at DreamLeague went 2-1. Do we have what it takes? We’ll see. I won’t speculate. I’ll just play, and if I’m worthy of winning, I’ll win. If I’m not, that means I need to make and effort and discover something that’s new to me.