Alright so honestly I wasn't sure if this would get released. (this interview was done before The Summit 6) We played around with the idea of putting it out in audio format for awhile but with some help we managed to get this interview transcribed. It's a pretty casual interview and offers some insight into the life of Black^, what he does outside of DotA, how Faceless happened, his injuries and some other stuff.
A Casual Chat With Faceless.Black^
Omni: Alright you’re ready? Let’s get started
Black^: Not anymore though!
Omni: You’re not ready now that we started? Well too bad. I am here with Black^, with Dominik, how are you doing?
Black^: I am doing… quite ok.
Omni: It’s like 5 in the morning there isn’t it?
Black^: Yeah... 5 in the morning. Can’t really go to my room because of... unexpected complications. Those happen in life sometimes and you have to deal with them appropriately.
Omni: Something about the water… in your room?
Black^: Yeah like, ok. This never happened before and I’m here for almost two months. Suddenly the water just … almost stopped flowing and then it like BURSTED out like *booooooom* and “holy shit ok I’m done” and then it just... went back down.
Omni: In your room or is it just the pipes in the wall?
Black^: In my room. Cause I have my own room right?
Black^: Yeah so... scary.
Omni: Well alright, you just recently finished playing the Boston major qualifiers. You guys came first place, undefeated.
Omni: How are you feeling after that man?
Black^: It feels good to compete again. Uhhhhh, you know I have been away for quite a while.
Omni: Well Tinker, I mean Tinker was the last team right? It was just Tinker and then now Faceless.
Black^: Yeah, pretty much.
Omni: In terms of real competitive play. Why… oh so I am just gonna say now, the interview we did at TI never came out. *laughs* So everything we talked about, it’s like-
Black^: Wait! why did it not? I feel kind of offended.
Omni: Well it was too long and it was kinda pointless.
Black^: Fair enough… I uh… I agree with that.
Omni: So, so all of the… well you kind of talked about it then but… Why weren’t you playing competitively after Tinker?
Black^: Well first of all, I.. I like tried for around a month first, to get back into it after Tinker. Well, do you mean after Tinker or after Fnatic?
Omni: Er sorry, yes. Sorry I mean.. Well, hold on when did you hurt your hand?
Black^: That was after Fnatic, like when I got back to Germany.
Omni: Right yeah. Sorry, sorry. You’re right, after Fnatic.
Black^: Right, so after Fnatic I went back to Germany and I was.. not happy with myself at all. Cause I felt like I wasn't performing to… you know, up to standards? It’s rare to perform at one hundred percent, but I felt like I wasn’t even doing… eighty or seventy. I was like, I felt really bad about my own performance. So I tried really hard every day; I played sixteen, seventeen hours daily and then obviously I kind of neglected my health. I didn't really.. stretch or take proper breaks for my hand, so I actually got a ganglion, a really big one. It was previously cut out but you know, they never really disappear. They always come back if you put too much stress on your hand, it's like a little liquid ball in your wrist. It basically impairs your wrist movement, and it hurts. And that bothered me for about… six months so I only played really casually, I could only play two or three games a day. What I tried to do was just watch as many tournaments as I could, to just stay up-to-date on drafts and playstyle and everything. And then when my hand was ok again I started playing a lot more pubs again, but this time I did not neglect my health. I did the proper stretches and took breaks between games.
Omni: Now you say you aren't neglecting your health, but you’re running again right?
Black^: I’m running again, yes.
Omni: Now that sounds like you’re being healthy but uh… you also have a problem with your leg right?
Black^: Well… right yeah. There’s some nerve damage. It’s still there a little bit, sometimes I can feel it go numb a bit, but it's mostly healed up again.
Omni: You actually almost couldn't walk for a period of time, right?
Black^: Right, I would just fall, ‘cause my leg would just give out you know, just *bam*.
Omni: So what did you do to treat that?
Black^: I’m not sure what to call it in English but it's basically... you go to the doctor and he connects you to some weird electricity machine and you get the little shock impulses to your nerves?
Omni: Ok so like shock therapy, kind of.
Black^: Right shock therapy, exactly. That's actually literally the translation as well, I just thought it wouldn't be that easy. *chuckles*
Omni: *laughs* We do know that you have your language difficulties don’t we?
Black^: Yeah. Yeah yeah, don’t make fun of it!
Monkeys-Forever and Black^, both will be at the Boston Major
Omni: Alright, alright! So back to the major, cause I mean that's what this interview’s about right? You guys qualified, you went 12-0 through the whole thing, you didn't drop a single game. There were a couple games that were really close, but you managed to, you know, make some pretty impressive comebacks. What allows you guys to come back in games that seem to be lost?
Black^: Mmmmmm. It seems like, at least so far, that we kind of just outplay opponents in teamfights most of the time. Even though we have a lot less items and a lot less levels, we still manage to come out ahead because we know when to go in and when to go out, which target to focus, when to focus which target, blah blah blah blah. I feel like we are pretty good at that, and that's why we can make those comebacks happen.
Omni: Ok so it’s individual skill, entirely?
Black^: Well it's individual skill but also how the individual skill comes together I think, cause we actually are using each other pretty well and nicely in teamfights. Like we call out to whom we need, what spell we need on someone in order for us to kill them and stuff, and we coordinate with each other. So it's not just like, mindlessly playing, we actually coordinate and coordinate well, talk a lot about it.
Omni: Now is that difficult? Because I know for Jabz, his English wasn't that strong when he first joined the team. Who’s making those types of calls, is there anyone in particular?
Black^: For like, ingame calls not really. We kind of all make calls, and when we have multiple calls in the room, we think a bit what is the best. Basically the guy that is very confident will talk a lot louder than the rest, and then you kind of know what to do right? Because if you don't have a clear cut ingame leader, you just need to follow the guy that has the most confidence in that moment.
Omni: Okay. Now, you were quoted recently as saying “If you don't win you don't eat” so, did IceIceIce go out and treat you guys after you won the qualifiers for the major? Is he letting you eat? *laughs*
Black^: Well he planned to! He planned to but it never really happened. We did go to an escape room though.
Omni: Oh yeah, how was that?
Black^: If you can't eat just get scared!
Omni: Is that how it works?
Black^: We went to one first... actually we went twice, we went again today.
Omni: Hold on, hold on, for people who don’t know, what is an escape room?
Black^: Alright basically you get put into a room, you have a limited amount of time. You basically have to find clues, hints, and keys, and tools, and whatever, kind of like Sherlock Holmes. And you just need to get out of a room, or multiple rooms.
Omni: Sounds like a Saw movie.
Black^: Yeah it actually kind of feels that way when you go to those two rooms that we went to. It was really creepy, it was really creepy.
Omni: So is it a Halloween based thing that you did?
Black^: No I think they are like, there permanently, not really for Halloween. But they are REALLY scary, like really scary.
Omni: So tell me a little bit about that then, so your team goes into this escape room, and what do you guys do?
Black^: Alright, so… In the first room, it was… we entered this room with a theme, a morgue, right? In hospitals where all the dead bodies are. And there is no light, and we have a little flashlight and we need to activate the power generator again, by connecting some weird wires and stuff. So the power turns on, blah blah blah, flash forward to the next room because that room wasn't very interesting. And the first thing you see when you walk into the room is just… a disassembled body. Legs, hands, arms, everything just lying around. Then you have to do some things there, of course I don't want to spoil anything! You have to do some things there-
Omni: Yeah of course, for those people that go into the escape room in Singapore that will be reading this.
Black^: Right, we don’t want to spoil anything! The only thing I want to say… We were six people, and when the biggest guy on your team has to crawl up a vent alone, you know something is wrong. I went up that vent and it was TERRIBLE, it was terrible. First of all nobody wanted to go, so I was the only one who actually had the balls to do it, cause everyone else was just cussing. So you go into the vent, well rather, you look into the vent. First you have to climb a ladder, obviously. It wouldn't be dangerous enough if you didn't.
Omni: Clearly, because if there’s no fear of getting hurt then it's not fun right?
Black^: Right, it's like three meters above solid ground basically. You crawl into this tiny ass vent and you see nothing. Like you look into it and you see nothing, you can only see if you turn right. So I crawl in and I turn right… and suddenly there is this stupid HEAD looking at me man! I was just done, it was super scary. And actually today we went to another room, as I mentioned before. And you open a closet and there’s a ladder in there, and only one person can climb the ladder and has to open the room on the ceiling and look into it. It was so stupid and scary man, holy shit. But this time I had Jabz! Jabz and I, we are brave people. The rest were really scared, and you know, we didn't manage to escape. Again. We got to the last step once more, but…
Omni: Oh so you guys have never made it out of the escape room?
Black^: Right, not with this group. You know, I had a perfect record before this team!
Omni: *laughing* Not with this group?
Black^: Yeah! As soon as I went with this group, seriously. This was like my fifteenth escape room, I was thirteen and zero before, I had literally gotten out of every room.
Omni: You are turning this into a competition too?
Black^: Yeah! I mean, I hate losing! It's bad… but it was fun.
Omni: Oh also, you mentioned that your team doesn't let IceIceIce go into rooms by himself right?
Black^: Right… or rather... Well ok. Let's say, you have to do something where there is a door or something that you can close. We are gonna make him do it, because if he is not gonna be the one doing he is gonna lock you in there and you are screwed. That’s the kind of person he is.
Omni: He’ll just leave you behind huh?
Black^: He won’t leave us behind! He will lock us up in there and let us die!
Black^: Just saying the truth!
Omni: Speaking of man, I heard from good sources, that you and IceIceIce would never play together again. So what's the deal with Faceless, how did that come to happen?
Black^: Well obviously those sources are very reliable…
Omni: Clearly *chuckles*
Black^: But even the most reliable sources sometimes have this little… thing they don't know. Which I actually don't know what happened, it was just at TI we spoke, he was like “I wanna make a new team, do you wanna play with me?” You know I thought about it a bit, because with VG there was a couple of things that happened but in the end we decided to play together again. Because I think… he is like, pretty much one of the only people in the scene that actually thinks I’m good?
Omni: Well hold on, what do you mean, that you can actually play the game?
Black^: Yeah! It’s like... I don’t know why, but suddenly after VG, even though firstly they mentioned it was only communication problems it has never been a skill problem, everyone has just said I am the worst player ever! That I’ve been the weakest link on all the teams I join and all that stuff. I found that it was really absurd but it kind of creeped into everybody’s head and was like a stereotype, and still kind of is.
Omni: Well it’s kind of to the point where people still only think of you as the Antimage player, right?
Black^: Yeah, it's actually really weird. I feel like I’ve been really active. Ever since VG I actually feel like I have played really active carries and everything, and just like, whenever I win with a team it's because of my team. Despite having me to still win, you know? And if we lose it’s because of me, basically. So whatever I do is wrong. What can you do, right?
Omni: Yeah I mean, you know... To be fair, it is kind of despite the fact that you are there right? *laughs* No, I’m kidding, I’m kidding. But you have been playing a lot of Drow recently, speaking of heroes that lend to your stereotype. You’ve been picked that hero a lot though and you don’t really enjoy playing that hero, is that right?
Black^: Well basically you play Drow and everybody wants to kill you. You can’t be too scared because your DPS is actually really important, but if you are too aggressive you are gonna lose the aura, and your team doesn't have damage anymore. Because your whole draft is drafted around the aura, so it’s a really freaky hero. It’s… sometimes fun? But if you play against, a PA or something, they just jump you. And they are just gonna wait for you too, you know? As soon as you go into a fight they go on you and there is not really that much you can do about it.
He doesn't understand them either
Omni: So what’s the plan... What was Faceless’ plan going through the qualifiers for how you were drafting and how you were playing?
Black^: Well… I think we actually just drafted.
Omni: What do you mean? You guys favored the Warlock a lot right? That was almost always a first two pick if you could get it.
Black^: Right… that was one of the supports that suited us the most so we just kept picking it and it worked out really nicely. And then we just picked heroes to complement each other. Like whenever there was a Tiny last pick or a Pugna last pick, we were picking stuff we didn't practice before and won. That was interesting. Cause, our communication was like “What do we pick, what do we pick?” and then we’re like “Uh… I don't know” and someone is like… *deep voice* “What about Tiny?” and then “OK.” With like three seconds left you know? “What about Tiny?”
Omni: What are these voices? Who are you mimicking right now?
Black^: Well… it could have been IceIceIce. Possibly…
Omni: You’re not saying that it was, but it could have been?
Black^: It could have been. It might have been someone else!
Omni: Now you guys also love running dual lanes, with emphasis on Iceiceice having a pretty good start. And normally that is XY and he normally goes mid and helps mid. And they kinda sacrifice you in the safe lane a bit, why is that?
Black^: Uhhh... because…Ok why do they sacrifice me? It might be because they don’t like me.
Omni: Is that what it is? *laughs*
Black^: Well if there is a player you really like, you just are gonna tri-lane every game, just gonna make sure he free farms. So they might have some like… personal grudges.
Omni: The people on your team or the people on the other team?
Black^: I think both! Some teams just aggro dual-lane us, but other teams actually go and aggro tri-lane us, they really hate me.
Omni: I remember you got aggro quad-laned once before.
Black^: Yeah, that happened too, yes.
Omni: I believe that you are responsible for the only game where an aggro quad-lane has worked.
Black^: Yep. I still ended the game with a rampage though, when my throne died.
Omni: You did, you did, but um… I think… who was that? Was that Orenda?
Black^: Yeah… that was during my CIS time.
Omni: Man your team, CIS before you joined was known for the Sniper and Axe picks and then you got quad-laned during the… TI4 qualifiers I think?
Black^: No I think it was during the WCA group stage.
Omni: Was it? Ok. That was something else.
Black^: It was interesting, I did not expect it.
Note: game in question
Omni: So you have finally made your way back to a Valve event that Valve has not individually invited you too.
Black^: Yeah like not as a talent person.
Omni: I mean this time you’re just a…
Black^: Yeah i’m just a player.
Omni: Yeah, the other times they felt bad and so they invited you right?
Black^: Yeah basically. They were like, “what do we do with that poor guy?”
Omni: How was working with Redeye on the analyst desk and stuff?
Black^: Quite enjoyable, it's… fun to see the other side I guess, but it kind of feels bad when you still want to play and you see other people play, and win. It kind of ignites your own fire again. It might have been really good for me too because I feel like I am very hungry again.
Omni: Well that’s because IceIceIce won't feed you.
Black^: Well that’s true. We didn’t win enough yet!
Omni: Clearly! You guys also went through… You’ll be at BTS, when is that, like two weeks from now?
Black^: It's in the middle of November? Around two weeks?
Omni: So yeah, about two weeks from now. That will be your first time going up against the international scene. So how do you think, how is preparing for that going to be different from how you prepared for the major qualifier?
Black^: I actually think it is gonna be very different because until you actually play internationally you don't know where you stand. How good your draft is, how your draft matches up with their draft, what is in and what's out, all of that stuff will become very clear at BTS. And I think the preparations you can make until then are to just refine your own style, because most of the teams that will play there, they haven't competed for quite a while. So it's gonna be hard to actually prepare properly for them. I think we only can refine our own style and then after BTS we can use that information to properly prepare for the majors.
Omni: Now how do you think you’ll stack up against the different playstyles? For example, I know that Warlock up until I think this qualifier, basically, was only really a pick in Southeast Asia. And now Europe and North America have started to pick it up as well, probably due to SEA. Are there any things that you guys have looked at from Europe or NA or China that you want to try to incorporate?
Black^: Well we usually try to just play everything to understand how it works, and why people draft it. I think to me the most interesting thing right now is that the Europeans basically first two Lifestealer pretty much every game.
Omni: Do you understand the reasoning behind that?
Black^: I mean, the reasoning behind that is you can counter him, yes, but you can also burst his counters as well if you have a taxi, like a Storm or Puck or something. So basically he counters his counters as well, so he’s a very stable pick. It’s just, I feel that it's a very big difference in opinion, how strong is a hero actually and what do you want to run? If you run a Na’ix, then you basically have to run a taxi or it's not gonna work out properly. And some teams might not like to do that, and others really like to do that. You know, just a different preference I guess. That being said, we also try it ourselves to see the weaknesses and strengths of it. So we can properly play with it and against it when the time is there.
Omni: How easily can you guys switch between different types of play styles? Like going from a Na’ix for carry and Jabz on storm, and then back to him on an Alchemist and you on Morphling, much more heavy farming. Do you guys find that easy to do?
Black^: I actually think we are playing more the Wings style right now. Well actually, there is only two drafts right? Either you pick a strategy, or you just counterpick the opponent. And we just kind of counter pick our opponent because we confident that we can play proper dota and beat them, we don't have to cheese strat them or something. Cause right now, a lot of games we actually won on our strategy.
Omni: Yeah I’d say so. As I said you guys have been behind multiple times and then I think that either due to your own individual performances or based on your heroes, you’ve managed to secure wins.
Black^: Yeah, the problem with most strats is they have a specific timing, and if you can’t use that timing you just lose to the counterpicks.
Omni: Now that almost happened against mineski in the finals with your pugna jakiro draft. Can you walk me though that game actually, how did it feel? You guys took two lanes of racks and then started to slow down.
Black^: Basically what happened was after the four racks we took Roshan and our communication was “Don’t get caught now, if we get caught now it is going to be very hard to go high ground” and ten seconds later our Jakiro died top lane, which gave the Alchemist a BKB. And we basically lost the high ground fight because of the BKB. It’s like, if you pick a distinct push draft and you make mistakes, it's gonna be very bad for you because you have a very big gold lead so every kill is worth a lot of gold and their heroes generally scale better than yours. So after Alch had a BKB we had no damage at all to kill him and he could basically 1v5 us for most of the game. It was the turning point of the game I think, because jakiro dies, Alchemist gets a lot of gold, and on top of that he gets like one minute of extra time to farm up.
Omni: Now did you guys go back and look at that game and see the items the Alchemist was selling during that game?
Black^: Yeah like we mention it during the game too, we actually thought he made it a lot easier for us.
Omni: Selling the Radiance?
Black^: Selling the Radiance, and then the BKB as well… like he kind of just wants to die. We had an almost pure magic damage lineup, only Slark is physical damage… and he had almost a get-out-of-jail card basically, which is the BKB.
Omni: So you think that helped securing your ticket to the major?
Black^: Uh… I think so… Either way it’s really hard to play right? They’re four racks down, whatever they are gonna do it is gonna be hard for them to actually play because like, one mistake is gonna cost you the game. And that’s what happened, we picked him off bottom and he had to buy back, and then if you’re in that situation with two racks down you are already really uncomfortable. Mistakes are bound to happen after that. But his item choice was very… interesting. He went from this pushing Alchemist to a pure fighting Alchemist, which I think is fine, but he definitely needed to keep his BKB I think.
Omni: So what’s next for Faceless over the next, what is it now, month and a half until the major?
Black^: Well basically we’re doing BTS and then the major after that
Omni: And you guys have nothing else scheduled between now and then?
Black^: Well the problem is we are probably going to miss out on ESL because the qualifiers are scheduled on the same time that BTS is so we cannot play the ESL qualifiers. And that is a really big bummer, because all of us I think definitely wanted to try to qualify for that. Other than that there is not really much.
Omni: Isn’t um… Pro Dota Cup?
Black^: Yeah right, that resumes on November 3rd.
Omni: You guys finished the group stage in that 7-1, right?
Black^: Right yeah, and we won the first match 2-0.
Omni: What's your current win streak at then?
Black^: After that loss to Power Gaming in the Summit qualifiers, in the finals, I think we are currently 18-0.
Omni: Oh wow, so what was Newbee, 28?
Black^: 28, 27, 29 something like that.
Omni: Yeah somewhere in there, is that something you are aiming for?
Black^: Honestly, a winning streak is just a bonus. Like, you are bound to lose a game in a best of three or best of two, you know? You can't really be too hard on yourself, like losing a game is very normal in competition. So I feel like all these winning streaks, it's nice to have them but it's not like needed, you shouldn't really think too much about it or get too angry if it gets broken. And in the end if you lose you have a lot of material to improve, which is not a bad thing.
Omni: So what are you trying to work on then? After the major qualifier, where do you think you fell short?
Black^: As a player or as a team?
Omni: Uh… both. Start with as a player.
Black^: Well I think my biggest problem during the qualifier was that I sometimes had poor judgement of when to join a fight and when not to. Like I actually joined fights too much at some point and then not enough at other points. That's the biggest weakness I had during the qualifier. And I think as a team it's just like, our attitude that we have to fix.
Omni: Do you give up too early?
Black^: Well yeah, you fall into this trap of negativity you know? You play like, a really solid game all game but then you have a bad teamfight, and then basically... its very easy for negativity to creep in, and when that happens players lose confidence. And when players lose confidence they are afraid to lose, and when that happens it spirals out of control and you make a lot missed judgements and stuff. I think you can never let negativity influence your game cause it's gonna make your decisions really poor. I think everybody knows that, it's just really hard to control.
Omni: Well I think that about wraps it up, I think it's getting close to 5:30 your time.. In the morning I should add!
Black^: I’m not tired yet!
Omni: Yeah that's still not… you’re being healthy, sure.
Black^: I mean, I don't need a lot of sleep. You know me, I always sleep early!
Omni: Yeah, SURE. But yeah, thank you for agreeing to do this.
Black^: Thank you for having me, Mr. Patrick!
Omni: No problem. Good luck during BTS and I will talk to you at the major, man!
Black^: Yeah we will, and grab some good food!
Omni: *laughs* Thanks again.