So over the course of these past two weeks Valve treated the team like they were professional sports stars, and obviously with good reason, being the premier Dota 2 event. During the International, what were the thoughts and feelings going through your guys’ heads?
Michael “ixmike88” Ghannam: It felt exactly like that, like professional sports stars. Starting from the very beginning with being chauffeured from the airport to Chappy’s house, and Valve was very hospitable each step of the way, for every team. No other gaming organization treats their players as well as Valve treated the TI2 attendants.
Brian “FLUFFNSTUFF” Lee: I was anxious to play and really focused on the task. I spent a lot of my time doing research and staring at the hero pool looking for answers. Outside of that, I was really surprised by the amount of care Valve invested in each team. It was really well organized and great to see how responsible and smoothly the whole process was running. I think people underrate how hard it is to be a professional DotA 2 player. It requires so much work and dedication. A lot of the times tournaments will put very small prize pools for the teams to work for. I’m glad TI2 rewarded players for their hard work in such a tremendous way. It is inspiring to see people meet their potentials and work extremely hard because they know that it’s more than worth the trouble.
During the prelims, the coL.DotA squad managed to finish with a record of 9-5 and 2nd place in their group. However, the team was knocked down to the lower-bracket by Zenith and finally eliminated by EHOME. How are the Asian teams’ playstyles noticeably different than the Europeans or North Americans?
ixmike88: Chinese teams are much more passive and safe, and prefer to obtain as much farm as possible; while European teams choose to push towers quickly and become aggressive much earlier into the game.
FLUFFNSTUFF: Zenith is a team that can be very intimidating because of their versatility. It’s very hard to predict how they’ll proceed more times than not. EHOME is one of the more aggressive Chinese teams. They are also very versatile (constantly swapping roles). I attribute our Zenith game to unfamilarity as well as an unclear head going into the games. I think that EHOME had the upper hand on us after we slipped up a bit. I felt like the games was ours to win early on, but we crippled ourselves by not thinking ahead. The metagame was pretty set-in-stone going into the main event, but these teams took their own spin on it. I think, compared to EU teams, these teams were more in-tune with adjusting to the high tier picks of the tournament.
To be a great support player, you have to have good position and map awareness lest you be killed. As a player of this role, Mike, what were some major adjustments you had to make for yourself in order to combat some teams that may have been unknown to you?
ixmike88: I tried to familiarize myself with every team going into the tournament, the Chinese are much better at executing team fights than Europeans, so each skirmish must be coordinated perfectly. In general, the most varying things from team to team is the initial ward locations and how much support they’re willing to give their carry.
Are there any supports out there that you feel are very underused? Are there any heroes you feel that could be used differently and effectively that aren’t normally used in that role?
ixmike88: There’s not too much flexibility with the hard support role unfortunately, I think Disruptor and Bane are really good though. There’s a bit more options if you’re willing to give your supports the farm and levels in the early game instead of immediately pushing.
With a huge event like the International, there is a very likely chance that new tactics presented itself. Are there any that you picked up on?
ixmike88: Morphling solo mid caught on really quickly, something that wasn’t ever used before the start of the tournament. It’s really hard to deal with because his high base damage with Morph will beat any other hero solo and he’s very hard to gank with Waveform. This allowed for teams who had Morphling the option of choosing another hard carry for their safe lane, or a strong mid game hero such as Panda or NS without having to worry about the farm on their main carry hero.
Brian, one of the most interesting things coming out of the International for me was the friendship and camaraderie that most teams showed to each other. Are there any teams that you may have personally befriended or hung out with during your stay in Seattle?
FLUFFNSTUFF: Well, I’m really shy and introverted. I appreciate more intimate friendships and conversations. I definitely found some there. I did bypass my inhibitions a little bit and introduce myself to other players. Most of the interactions I had were with the fans and I made sure to go outside to meet and greet. Overall it was just a great experience to hear the audience cheer and to see the players get excited for each other.
The level of the drafting that went on at the International reached a new high. What were some key highs and lows for you that helped you in the drafting stage during the International?
FLUFFNSTUFF: I don’t think that I even scratched the surface. I felt like there were a lot of options that we didn’t go to because of confidence issues (mostly my own). I really don’t even think we played our own game, at least the one that we’ve been practicing in bootcamp. Honestly, I went in with a mentality that was all too complacent and didn’t open myself up to variation. Against the Western teams in specific we understood what to do and how to do it. However, against Asian teams, whom we weren’t too familiar with, it called for adjustments that just weren’t there. There’s nothing else to be said about this.
During the International, many teams gave up the Chen to you. How do you feel you did as the jungling support? Do you feel there is a reason they always gave you Chen?
FLUFFNSTUFF: It’s been banned many times, but on 2nd pick there isn’t really a good reason to ban a hero like this over the top-tier heroes. It got through a couple of times and honestly I don’t go to it that often. I think Chen is still one of the best supports in the game and that there are a lot of creative ways to play the hero. It’s been one of my favorite heroes for many years, but I still like to think that I can go to many other heroes in his place.
What is your opinion on the Luna picks from iG? Do you feel that Luna and similar ganking heroes can be utilized in the same way?
FLUFFNSTUFF: Luna’s a hero with incredible late game, with the correct items. She also is very good at figthing at most points in the game compared to other hard carries. I think it was a natural hero for teams to go to when morphling was banned out. The carries don’t matter so much as the teamplay and the support that they are given. Teams like iG and LGD might fool you with their flashy carries, but ultimately they are able to shine because of the other members creating space.
Lastly, thanks for the interview, any shoutouts you want to give?
FLUFF: Yes, shoutout to my friends, family, and fans. Shoutout to our sponsors: Gamma Gamers, PNY, Creative, Sound Blaster, Origin, and QPAD. Shoutout to GameClucks at Lynnwood and Chris for being so supportive and accommodating our team.