"I think coaching is essential and it’s a very difficult job. You can’t just improvise and I think a lot of teams are being held down by their coaches, probably more than they think."
Copyright: ESL | Helena Kristiansson
Thanks for doing this interview with us. First of all, Ana’s pretty much been with OG since Miracle- left and joined Team Liquid. What is it about Ana that OG always seems to go off the charts and just wins a lot more when he comes back to OG?
I think we all just have a special connection on a human level. Obviously, when you’re missing the last piece of the puzzle, you just can’t tell what the puzzle looks like and that’s Ana for OG. I think it’s the same for him because when he tried playing with other players before TI last year, I don’t think he felt the same and it’s the same for us, not playing with Ana feels like something is missing. It always did so it’s just some great connection both inside and outside of the game.
When you talk about inside the game, is there something to do specifically with Ana’s own ideas about the game and his preference for how to play the game? Does the team change its playstyle around Ana?
When Ana joined OG, which was a really long time ago, we had the mindset that he was a very new player and he wasn’t mature as a teammate. Those were his first steps in a really high level team so he could change back then. The team’s approach was to really try to embrace how he is as a player and a person, and to give him the best environment to strive. In that sense, we’ve adapted to him a lot so we know what his needs are, what his strengths and weaknesses are, and we try to make up for the weaknesses and empower the strengths. I think that right now, probably his identity as a player today as well, is very related to what has happened in the past in OG. Now he just clicks, like, that’s what the team needed, that’s how he was, that’s how the team adapted to him so now it just goes really well together.
When Ana took his break last year, you guys brought in Pajkatt and things didn’t work out then later you had iLTW virtually as a permanent stand-in. What went into that decision? Why iLTW out of such a massive pool of players and what were the differences between him and Ana?
For iLTW, we just felt that he was a really nice guy, first of all. That’s really important to us because we wouldn’t be able to work with anyone. We need to feel like we’re gonna connect on a human level. I know some teams have the approach of “whatever it takes, whoever it takes” but for us it’s the opposite. There are some players where no matter how good they are, we never wanna play with them even if that increases our chances to win, it doesn’t matter and it’s not what we’re looking at. So we thought iLTW was a great guy and we got along with him pretty well and we obviously also thought he was really good at the game, which he was.
The main difference for us was that I think for iLTW, he had this mindset where “Oh, I’m playing with the TI winning team” and we tried to make that thing go away, to relieve pressure but it was hard. I think we really tried our hardest to help him forget about this, it was like, “Man, you just joined another team, it’s just like any other team. Stop thinking about how we won TI. You’re as good as us so let’s just do this together.” but it’s up for him to say if he really felt like the pressure had disappeared even though we had tried as hard as we could. I think at the end of the day, it was up to him to really remove it from his shoulders and hopefully next time he joins a team, he will not pressure himself that much because he doesn’t need to. He’s a great player and that was the main thing.
Ana doesn’t have that because he won TI with us, so he doesn’t have this extra pressure. That was the first thing but the second thing was the language barrier. iLTW’s English is okay but it’s not that good so sometimes we’re like, “Oh, I’d like to share that with him.” or he probably wants to tell us something that he can’t, and in the long run, it’s something that definitely affects teamplay and all that so I would say that these were the two main obstacles.
You’ve brought Sockshka in as a coach for OG. What does he do for the team in that capacity?
He helps us a lot when it comes to the communication dynamics of the team. He helps us keep track of what our identity as a team is. So last year, things happened really quickly with TI and everything. A lot of things were clicking without us being aware of them and a lot of things were not clicking as well. This year we’ve had to face the challenge of putting some distance and getting to know ourselves better. We started thinking about things like why did we win, what is it about us that other teams cannot compete with us, what is it about us that we need to improve on, these kinda things.
The really cool thing about bringing Sockshka on is that he wasn’t there so he has a very fresh, non-biased overview on things. He’s not influenced by the win or anything really. He just looks at it from objective standpoints and lets us know what he thinks. I think that’s the main thing but obviously he helps a lot on the Dota part as well. That isn’t the most needed in OG though because I think that we have a lot of people that are really into strategy and theory. Some teams really need that, but OG doesn’t, and what we’re missing is really the dynamics so I think that’s where he really helps us a lot and we would have issues if it wasn’t for him. It’s important to have an outside perspective on things.
Taking all that into account, how does that compare with how Cristian (ppasarel) coaches?
Cristian was much more different because he wasn’t really coaching us, per se. He was mainly helping us with building a very positive and good atmosphere, he was really good at that. He’s a very cheerful person and he’s very good at defusing any sort of conflict that may happen. In any team, there are conflicts and they’re not necessarily a bad thing and it’s not like bad blood but it’s more like a disagreement. Cristian was just really good at dealing with that and I honestly think that’s what he did the best.
Sockshka doesn’t look into these things so much and it’s also different timings. We got to know each other better, learn how to deal with these mutual disagreements better so today it’s not needed as much as last year. A team evolves and you have different needs at different given times. They had different ways of doing things but each of their ways were really useful at the time.
N0tail’s the captain in OG and you were the coach with a lot of influence before. Right now, would you say that you take a serious leadership role within the team in-game and often act as the voice of reason to get the team to focus and keep at it together?
I mean, it’s mostly been Johan and I, keeping people in check and being the tempo-controller of the team. It was the case from the beginning and it’s still the case today. When it comes to that, the dynamic hasn’t changed so everything’s been the same.
From your perspective as a former coach, which aspect of coaching do you think is the most important?
I guess in a couple of years it won’t be the case anymore but right now, I think the biggest challenge when it comes to coaching is for coaches to understand the human part of it. I was a player before I started coaching and I think that helped me a lot because I knew how much pressure the players were under and what it is that they go through. You need to understand that coaching is not about you as a coach, but it’s about them and how you can help them. It’s the only thing you need to have on your mind. Sometimes, you can get frustrated as a coach and you can disagree with the players, you can see that something is obviously wrong and they don’t see it and they’re not gonna let you fix it just because. The bottomline is that, as a coach, you can either help them immensely, or you can break them.
When they do open up, they make themselves vulnerable to you as in, they listen to you and they let you give them confidence or break that confidence. I think a lot of coaches are not aware of that and they take it very lightly. The thing in Dota is that a lot of coaches end up coaches because they wanted to play and then they couldn’t so they’re coaching.
I think coaching is essential and it’s a very difficult job. You can’t just improvise and I think a lot of teams are being held down by their coaches, probably more than they think. I’m not blaming the coaches themselves, because maybe they’re not even aware of it themselves and I don’t wanna generalise in esports, but it’s the case in Dota where we don’t really have mental support so the coach has to take care of that job and it’s a really tough job. It’s not like we have psychologists or something that can help to keep us in check. It just doesn’t exist so at the end of the day, the coach does it.
For a very long time, it was the captains and they would do that also and it was really hard and exhausting to be a captain because you had to take care of the draft and making sure that everyone was feeling good and everything so that’s the hardest part of coaching. Of course, the Dota part is also very hard but I feel like a lot of very qualified people can take care of the Dota part. The hardest part is the part outside of the game.
Moving away from these external things and moving into more game-related stuff, OG’s kinda molded the meta here in this tournament in the sense that Warlock is back and Spectre is slowly making its way back as well. The buffs aside, what are the more subtle things in this patch that you guys see that allows for the return of these heroes?
I can’t give away too much, unfortunately, but we have a very clear understanding of this patch and we’ve tried a lot of things to try and push it to the limits and really see where we stand. I think that right now, we really understand the patch very well so I’m very confident for what’s to come, especially for like, EPICENTER. It’s a very cool patch and yeah Warlock is coming back and I wanna say why and explain the specifics and I wanna break it down to you but the problem is if I break it down to you, I’m gonna break it down to the other teams.
That’s the most frustrating thing for me in Dota and that’s why I love but also hate how big Dota became because back in the days, I could’ve just broken it down and it’s like whatever, there’s nothing at stake or worst case, you know. But it’s not the world we live in anymore and I have to keep these things to myself because other teams also keep it to themselves and they’re gonna learn from me, but I don’t get to learn from them, so it’s an unfair competition and I can’t. What I can say is that there are indeed more subtle things to this patch that people are gonna understand sooner than later but yeah, Warlock is a strong hero but I think that mostly the support meta will be very impacted by this patch. I think that playing supports is gonna be really fun for the months to come.
Speaking of supports, you’re one of the only teams that very comfortably first phase Batrider, and playing it as a 5. What does into that and what do you see in Position 5 Bat?
So it was very related to the heroes that were being banned. Oracle, Abaddon, they’re natural counters to Batrider for obvious reasons and they were first phase banned almost every game, which makes first pick Bat much stronger because they don’t get to counter Bat anymore or they get to counter Bat with very limited heroes and you know that they’re coming so it’s very easy to draft against it. That’s all it was at first so obviously the hero has been buffed and it’s a very strong hero. That was mainly the reason for starting to implement this first phase Bat that got picked up. It’s a hero we really like playing, I mean we like playing all the heroes in OG, there’s no hero we don’t like playing but we were like, it hasn’t been a Bat meta for a long time and all the counters are being banned, let’s just play some Batrider.
What about the Pos. 5 aspect? I imagine n0tail would have more to say on this but what makes it a good Pos. 5?
Well, it’s a lot of lane pressure and if it’s not addressed, it’s straight up gonna crush the lane. Certain heroes just cannot go to lane against Bat if they don’t have a way to deal with the Sticky Napalm, it’s just really hard to play against that spell, and you don’t get to mess with the carry because you’re dealing with Bat. You’re trying not to die to Bat, you’re zoning the Bat and whatnot so you don’t get to touch the carry. You wanna look at it as a really strong support that just enables its carry on the lane because you need to go through the Bat in order to get to the carry. Later on in the game, it shoves lanes and it’s not that easy to kill especially when it’s running around with Firefly and whatnot. It doesn’t scale very well unless you had a really good early game and eventually you get a Blink or Travels so it’s mostly a laning thing, to be honest.
You’ve talked about your confidence in this patch. What will you be doing after this event, like in preparation for EPICENTER?
Right now we have a week off and after that, we’re gonna bootcamp for about 10 days, more or less, before EPICENTER. This tournament, for us, was like a glorified bootcamp, that’s literally how we approached it. We really just pushed stuff out of our comfort zone, picking heroes we usually would not pick or first pick and we’re just forcing ourselves into problematic drafting situations and just see how we can solve that by either draft or play or anything.
It was a really fruitful tournament for us, really. We learned an immense amount which is exactly what we came here for so I’m really happy with what happened here. Now we’re gonna do a more efficient, structured, kinda work-to-win bootcamp for EPICENTER. We’re gonna be a lot more serious about it like building something that’s gonna be powerful for the last Major and that’s pretty much it. 10 days of bootcamp and then the Major then we’re looking at TI.
Alright, thanks a lot for the interview and I wish you all the best.
Of course man. Thank you very much.