"[Madara] quickly adapts to whatever we ask him to do and I think he’s an amazing player that’s kind of flying under the radar a little bit..."
Copyright: ESL | Helena Kristiansson
Thanks for doing this interview with us. Let’s start with the driving force behind Alliance. This roster seems to have stuck together for a really long time in a similar fashion to the original TI-winning Alliance. Would you say that’s a core principle at the heart of the Alliance organisation?
When we started making this roster, Loda said this was gonna be a long-term project for him personally. It was the same for me because I knew from the start that these were five players that I wanted to play with and I liked them all. I thought they were all really good. From day one, it was always the goal to keep playing with the same roster and win tournaments and TI together. Stuff definitely happens in the team when you start seeing each other differently and you might not develop at the same speed, but when you have that same initial level of trust in each other, it doesn’t really go away just because you’re doing poorly at some events or something like that. I think that’s what a team truly is. You need to have trust which is the fundamental part of it, and it doesn’t just come. If you switch teams or rosters, you’ll never build that so I’m a strong believer in sticking together.
In relation to that, I imagine you need a really strong captain to keep things together sometimes. How would you describe your captaining style? Has it maybe changed over time and gotten a bit stricter?
I think that every team captain has to be treated differently because it really depends on the individuals. In this team, my captaining style has been quite democratic and a lot of the stuff we do, we try to discuss it and reach a conclusion with everyone and everyone understands what their job in the team is and what they need to do. Based on that understanding, we go into games with less pressure on me as a captain because everyone already knows what they have to do. However, people definitely get more nervous against better and tougher teams and they can get over-excited if they’re doing well, and then you might have to be a little stricter but it’s all part of the job. I don’t think it’s anything special and to be honest, I think my team is very easy to captain.
Speaking of the long-term project, the DPC season for you guys has been going a lot better this year compared to last year. That said, with Europe being the bloodbath that it is, Alliance have struggled to get too high up on the DPC rankings and you’re just shy of qualification to TI now. Do you think the fact that the top teams also have to play qualifiers has been rather damaging?
In general, the DPC system is fairly good, I think. I also do think that they could make some changes to it, like adding direct invites for the absolute top teams. For instance, if you place Top 3 at the Major then you’re directly invited, and I think that if Europe performs, then they deserve the slot, otherwise they don’t. Even in this event right now, Europe isn’t performing that well even though we have a lot of our top teams here. I don’t think just because it’s OG, Liquid, and Secret, we deserve more slots or anything. Sometimes you do look at the roster of the teams going to the event though and you’re like “Damn, we could beat at least half of these teams”, but at the end of the day you’ve gotta prove yourself in your own region. The system is fine and it isn’t so flawed that you need to change a lot but improvements could definitely be made. More than anything, you might wanna make the Minor and Major qualifiers into one tournament and the Top 3 goes to the Major and the next two go to the Minor or something like that. This would simply allow for longer breaks and more time between patches. If you do this, you can basically push the qualifiers back like a week or two and it would allow a lot of the fatigue and stuff for teams coming out of Majors to be dealt with.
What about when you have to take breaks? Like how miCKe took a break before and you got points deductions and qojqva taking a break now?
I do think that one of the reasons that we’re underperforming or underrated as a team, at least compared to what I expect, is because we’ve had a lot of like, personal issues and stuff like that throughout the year, like miCKe’s arm problems, qojqva’s current situation, and there’s been some other stuff too but it’s just led to us being unable to fully focus on the game and play the best Dota that we can play. I think that’s been reflected in our inconsistency where like, once we’ve practised for a few weeks and things start looking very good, something happens and it kind of throws everything off again.
Speaking of the breaks, you’ve brought Madara in to stand-in more or less every time so far, is there a particular reason for choosing Madara every time?
Well, when miCKe first said that he was going to have to take a break, we were looking at options for carry players. We tried a few players, but Madara was so easy to work with, and it’s not a common quality in a player of his calibre. He’s an extremely individually skilled player but he’s just so easy to work with and that makes it so nice for me. Especially when we have such a short time to prepare for tournaments, like this one was a last minute need for Madara to play. He quickly adapts to whatever we ask him to do and I think he’s an amazing player that’s kind of flying under the radar a little bit, and people haven’t really discovered how good he really is because he hasn’t had the opportunity to show it since Ad Finem/Mousesports. I’m actually a little worried about playing against him in upcoming tournaments because I think he’s very scary to play against, especially in regional qualifiers and stuff like that.
Going a little more on that, every team has a specific playstyle. Would you say that your team’s playstyle is a bit more flexible based on the experiences with Madara?
We play a bit differently with Madara, for sure. The flow of the game is kind of different compared to when we play with qojqva or miCKe but I don’t think it’s too problematic. It did take us a bit longer to figure it out this tournament though because we only had one day to practise after the Minor qualifiers. Then we headed straight to Birmingham and only had one day to scrim here. Unfortunately for us, the patch hit overnight and two of the heroes we’d been planning on picking a lot got nerfed. It was kind of rough for us but I think we figured out pretty quickly how we needed to play with this specific lineup. In terms of flexible strategy, I think we may not be as flexible as the absolute top tier teams, but I think we’re good at what we do.
You described this as a personal project for Loda earlier. What exactly does he do for Alliance as a coach? Is it stuff like mentality or the game or both?
Loda does both but I think the biggest selling point is his ability to handle people and it’s very unique in my opinion. He’s very good at talking to us and making us understand what is important in a good way and I think he has a very easy time engaging people and understanding when he should be more stern or when he needs to be softer; or when he has to push and be like, “Guys, you really need to do this” or when to take a step back and let us figure it out ourselves. I think his people skills and his ability to help us with the mental game is really just the biggest strength in my opinion. I also think that’s the hardest thing for a coach to do so yeah that’s probably one of his qualities that I respect the most.
Let’s move on to this game and the new patch. You’re a pretty respectable Chen player in your own right, but in this event, Gambit has picked Chen in the first game against you and since then you’ve banned it virtually every game. Why haven’t you guys picked it yourselves?
Well, there’s a bit of a funny story behind this because we scrimmed Gambit a few weeks back and we were picking Chen against them in scrims a lot. After the Major qualifiers, fng messaged me and told me “Thanks for Chen” because they managed to get through the qualifiers picking Chen pretty much all the way through. But no, we just didn’t feel like we were ready to play with that hero in our current state. Even if you as an individual know how to play Chen, like Taiga also plays Chen, there is the team aspect to it and if you can’t make it work with the team dynamic, it’s not gonna work out when you’re playing against the top tier teams. It feels like we’re gonna just trust our practice and not play it for now and then in the future we can practice it and get ready.
The patch appears to have introduced some changes focused on slowing the pace of the game. Do you think the pace of the game is actually slowing down as Valve seems to want it to?
I actually think that adding another Tome of Experience in this patch is huge for the Position 5. Generally, with wards being cheaper as well, my impression is that they’re trying to force the Pos. 5 to be more of a Pos. 4 so you basically end up playing with two Position 4s. I think in that sense, you’re making Dota play out faster because when supports are higher level, you get more rotations and you up the tempo of the games. I do believe that by buffing supports, the game is actually being sped up instead of being slowed down but it’s been awhile since we’ve had a real support patch so I think it’s pretty cool.
So regardless of the changes to like, Glyph, and Roshan’s stats, and Tower Armour Aura etc, you still think the game is moving quite quickly?
Yeah, I think so. It’s just the nature of buffing supports, you’re gonna increase the pace of the game a lot more than these things might slow it down.
Do you feel like, putting the issues with the roster aside, Alliance might’ve been slower to adapt to the new patch, hence the comparatively poor performance, or has it just been feeling things out anyway?
I do think that other teams figured the patch out faster than we did. It took us the tournament day to really get there but at the same time, we were figuring roster stuff out but putting that aside, it was really both things at once. It kind of slowed the process of figuring the patch out as well.
Let’s talk a bit about Ancient Apparition, you’ve picked it a couple of times and it got some nice buffs. The hero seems to be slowly making its way back into the meta, so what’s your opinion on it?
The hero feels really strong. The way that people are drafting in general, the hero has value in almost every single game. The problem with AA is that he doesn’t really provide any lockdown and he’s a support that aims to deal damage when you normally want your cores to do that. When you’re playing faster tempo games, though, your cores are gonna be fighting more and you want more damage coming out of your supports. I think that’s where AA is kind of huge for the team because the cores and focus less on farming and more on fighting around the map simply because you have that hero. Wisp is back in the meta as well and Morphling is still a pretty prominent pick so AA’s just really good against a lot of the meta picks right now.
You’re an avid Keeper of the Light player. Aghanim’s got somewhat buffed back to more or less what it was before, just without flying day vision and Recall but you don’t have to channel Illuminate. Since you play him 5, do you think he’ll be viable as a 4 or maybe both, and would he become a mostly 4 hero again?
I think you can probably get away with him as a 5 most of the time. However, in specific types of drafts where you really wanna utilize the KotL Aghs I could see it being played in the Gh style where you aim to get Aghs at day time around 20 mins. Well, it’s actually a bit harder now since they changed the timing of the day-night cycle but it’s still the same concept. In specific types of drafts, you could probably still do that and it’ll be really impactful.
So what about KotL as a 5? With the shift towards having two 4s because of more resources as you described, is it maybe stronger than before?
KotL as a support hero, is the kind that will be pushing out a lot of waves and defending a lot of towers so regardless of the pace of the game, he’s gonna get gold. Regardless of whether either team is passive or if there’s a lot of teamfights, he’s still gonna get gold. It’s a hero that’s just gonna get farm no matter what and I think that with everything being cheaper, it’s a better hero, and it’s a hero that will get items anyway. He also has a way to use some items like he has a +350 Cast Range talent which no other hero has and it allows him to just sit really far back. Like, typically the Pos. 5s are the easiest kills in teamfights but [for KotL] that just isn’t the case and you’re almost immune because you’re so far away from the fight with the cast range talent and people can’t really reach you, and you still manage to use your items and he has a lot of value that way. In terms of whether he’s better or not, it depends on matchups a lot.
In terms of game pace, the Gh style of KotL was arguably slow, so in your opinion, how do you think KotL would play out in the current pace of the game?
I think that the old KotL didn’t really rely on cooldowns and he’d have this 4-minute period where he was really powerful and pretty much the god of the map, similar to Night Stalker. With the new KotL, however, you’re fighting more around your ultimate timings and you’re a bit more of a teamfight hero earlier into the game and you have this amazing tool to get pickoffs in the start. Basically, with the ultimate, if you place it correctly, you’ll almost guarantee that you get two stuns out of it every time and it becomes this ridiculous ganking tool as a pos 5 where you can just go to a carry’s lane and if it’s not a Juggernaut or a N’aix, he’s most likely gonna die. That’s probably gonna be the timing that you’re playing around the most.
So one more question. Chakra Magic’s been changed up a bit to incorporate a weaker version of Mana Leak. How exploitable do you think this change is?
I think it’s probably quite exploitable. I haven’t had enough time to fool around with it but I think it’s actually a pretty big change. The only downside to it though, is that sometimes you might misclick on enemies when you’re trying to give your teammates mana. I do think that’s it’s a really strong spell though, and it needs to be explored more.
Alright, thanks again for doing this interview.