Topson Interview with CyberSport.ru
Source: https://www.cybersport.ru/dota-2/interviews/posle-ti9-ya-vserez-zadumalsya-o-zavershenii-karery-eksklyuziv-s-topson-o-vzglyadakh-na-dotu-i-motivacii-posle-dvukh-pobed-na-ti - (22.06.20) (by Cybersport.ru)
Topias Miikka "Topson" Taavitsainen took a break in the first half of the 2019-2020 season, coming back for the ESL One Los Angeles 2020 before hitting another break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cybersport.ru talked to OG’s midlaner to learn about his form after leaving his quarantine in Malaysia, his opinion on the online leagues format of the coming season, cons of living the esports life, what keeps him motivated to compete after winning both The International 2018 and 2019 and more.
— Greetings, Topias! I’m glad you finally came back to Finland and we got an opportunity to talk. Tell me, is your self-isolation at home much different from what you’ve seen back in Malaysia?
— Hello! It does differ quite a lot. This is how it happened: we qualified for ESL One Los Angeles 2020 and already traveled to the event, but a few days before its start we got the news that it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Realizing the gravity of the situation, everyone went straight back to their homes in case the borders will get closed, but I decided to visit my girlfriend in Malaysia… Two days after I arrived the country cancelled all international flights (laughs).
It lasted for two months and it was very serious: we literally sat at home and never went anywhere. Across our house there was a small restaurant where we could go or order food, that was it as entertainment went. Living like that for a while, we started to look for any possibility of leaving together to Finland. It wasn’t that easy: we had to consider a lot of nuances to make the flight safe for us and those around, but we made it in the end and we’re really happy!
— Are you glad that you had to survive the quarantine specifically in Malaysia?
— To be honest, no. I would've been a lot more comfortable in Finland. In my home city, Oulu, there are still only 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That’s why life here went it’s normal way even during the scaries days of pandemic, there was just no virus here.
I like the local atmosphere and I would’ve preferred this place to any other cities on the planet. This is my homeland, can it possibly be better than that anywhere else?
— Were those two months in isolation difficult?
— Yes, of course it was difficult. To be honest, I love getting out of the house: not going to clubs, but somewhere out of town, where you can breathe fresh air, take a walk in a forest. It always helped me relax and clear my head. But it was impossible to do in Malaysia: we lived next to Kuala-Lumpur, a very loud place. I’m not used to the life in a big city so I didn’t feel right.
Nonetheless, I can’t say anything bad about the city itself, it’s beautiful and all that. But I prefer more cozy places.
— Did Dota 2 help you alleviate the boredom?
— Well… I played the asian pubs and it was… (laughs) I can’t say that it was a positive experience, so I didn’t spend much time ingame. At first I did try to kill time with Dota, but at some point I stopped trying and haven’t opened Steam in three weeks. That’s why when I just returned to Finland I felt like I got rusty.
— Rusty or rested?
— Both, I guess. But now I reacclimated and the game is crazy interesting to me. I haven’t followed it recently so I’m researching the current meta with a ton of pleasure. I think the current patch is pretty good, but the game could use a small update: some strategies feel too strong.
—Have you followed the online leagues during your quarantine?
— No, I almost never opened any streams. To be honest, it’s hard to make myself watch tournaments that I’m not participating in. It feels pointless to me.
Maybe that’s why the game feels so fresh to me: I played only two tournaments since coming back and I love figuring out heroes and items. But some have been playing this Dota for a very long time, so I understand their complaints.
— It’s interesting how these leagues are basically a mini-preview of the coming season, since Valve is planning to create the three regional leagues. Do you like this kind of format in the context of a DPC season?
— Specifically for me, this format is optimal, because I can spend more time at home and not fly around the world every month. If I understand Valve’s idea correctly, we will be able to play all matches online, before gathering for a LAN only during the playoffs stage.
I like this, since I won’t have to be focused on Dota 100% of the time. Here in Finland I now have other things that require my attention. So I will be glad if there will be less LAN events going forward.
— So you’re saying that you’re already thinking about leaving Dota 2?
— No, that’s not it at all. I would’ve actually retired next season if I would’ve had to keep flying out to every tournament in a row and living only Dota. That’s how it used to go and it was a tough time for me. Right now there are new things in my life that won’t allow me to get stuck in the esports’ routine, which in turn helps me stay energized for the game.
I found some sort of balance in my life and I enjoy it. In previous seasons I dived headfirst into Dota and quickly burned out. I felt like I was missing something in line.
— Matchmaking is teeming with thousands of kids dreaming to make it in esports, not even for the big prize money but because they believe being a professional is cool. You on the other hand got burned out after two super successful years. Why? Can you describe the cons of living the esports life?
— You mean beside the fact that to get here you must abandon everything else? (laughs) To become an esports player, you will have to forget about hanging out with friends, about studying, about any other aspirations in life. But the problem is that when you get into esports, you can’t just pat yourself on the back and relax: you have to work even harder to stay competitive.
Ingame success is often tied with how much time you spend practicing. There are different kinds of people of course, but most will have to spend at least eight hours a day in Dota 2. I loved this game so much, but when it turned into my job that I kinda had to do at that point, it lost its charm a bit.
You’ll say that in that case you could just take a vacation, and that’s true. But when I take a break I slowly go insane from thinking about someone practicing and getting better while I’m leisuring away from my computer. I start getting choked by the feeling of guilt, stress levels start rising… That’s why I return to the game, start spending more time in it and the cycle starts over again...
I got a bit carried away (laughs). The biggest drawback in the life of a professional player is the necessity to spend so much time ingame. You will have to spend eight to ten hours every day and it’s not that easy to endure.
— How do you think Johan "N0tail" Sundstein manages to maintain this tempo for almost ten years?
— Oh I have no idea! (laughs) I have no idea how he manages to do this. He has some kind of inner fire that never wanes. Thanks to it, Johan is still ready to fight tooth and nail for his right to be called the best. He has a very competitive nature, he loves to participate in tournaments and fight the strongest opponents. And he simply just loves Dota 2 so much, that he’s ready to bet everything on it.
— I talked to him a few weeks ago and he said then that even after retiring as a player, he would try to find a new role in esports, possibly a coach. What about you? Will you stay with us when you get tired from all the practicing?
— Maybe. It would be interesting to try myself as a coach, but only after I will settle my life in other avenues. On the other hand, I suddenly realize that coaches also have to constantly fly around the world… But I hate travelling! That’s why I may disappear right after retiring as a player.
— What keeps you in right now? You already beat Dota twice, winning two TIs. What is your motivation now?
— I asked myself the same question after The International 2019, and to be frank, I spent a few months figuring that out. Right after the event I took a break from Dota and seriously considered retiring. I was trying to analyze how my life would go if I drop something right here and now.
But as time went on, I slowly realized that I still love Dota 2, the game itself. I love analyzing it, finding new builds, testing heroes… Yeah and the competitive side too and it allows me to do this at the highest level. So I decided to continue, simply because I like playing Dota.
I will leave when the game will stop bringing me pleasure or if we’ll have some problems in the team: some kind of a discord, if we won’t be able to find common ground or I will lose my passion for competition. But right now I feel like I’m ready to keep fighting.
— What sets your new roster apart from the previous one?
— It’s a completely different team now. All new guys don’t look anything like the ones they replaced. For example, Anathan "ana" Pham was a whole lot less talkative than Syed Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan. The new roster gathered people with completely different characters. Sumail is a lot more talkative during the game, constantly offering new ideas. On the other hand Martin "Saksa" Sazdov is a lot quieter than Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka, Jesse always had something to say to us.
This changed the overall dynamic of our team. Now I have to take the lead more often during the match, it’s interesting. But this is a strong roster, I can see its potential, we just need to get ourselves together and we will become the strongest team in the scene.
— You said that when you first joined OG, they asked you how you would’ve liked to change the team’s game. What do the new players bring for your playstyle now?
— First of all, they helped us get a fresh look at the game. After all we’ve been playing with the same roster for two years and had a rigid look at Dota. Igor "iLTW" Filatov played for us as well, but he was young, inexperienced, so he couldn’t bring anything new, on the contrary, we were teaching him everything… Well, not we, but N0tail and Sébastien "Ceb" Debs (laughs).
But Yeik "MidOne" Nai Zheng, Sumail and Saksa are very experienced players who saw a lot in the esports arena. We got a new opportunity to look at the way other teams see Dota 2, and it’s absolutely a very valuable experience. To be blunt, we have a lot more internal tools right now, we just need to integrate them into our playstyle.
— DPC format is often criticized for “killing” majors, making them look like glorified qualifiers in comparison with The International. You’ve won two Aegis already, would you say that you’re not as interested in competing at the majors anymore?
— Yeah, I guess. The DPC system is presented in a way that all tournaments pale in comparison with The International. Even majors are primarily needed just to get the points. Still, I shouldn’t really complain (laughs), the system worked great for me.
It’s not as straightforward of course, there are advantages to it too. Ultimately we now have a clear structure: a long season culminating with a grandiose tournament with a worldwide audience. In that regard the thorny way through the majors makes TI even more exciting.
—But I want to know specifically the point of view of OG: you became the richest esports players in history after two tournaments. Do you still have the motivation to give your all at the majors, or are we looking at OG entering the economy mode before TI?
— I suspect that this isn’t the case just for OG: any team playing other tournaments would approach them with less responsibility than they would for The International. The final tournament is incomparably bigger, nothing you can do about that.
This doesn’t mean that we come to majors without preparation. At the very least I still play Dota to learn. I come to events not to play with half effort and go home and it’s not about money. I simply continue to strive for getting valuable experience with the strongest opponents. Well, and I simply love to compete as well!
But you are right, OG’s mentality is in fact about TI being the only tournament that matters. All other competitions are opportunities to practice and learn something before we reach the end of the season. Without that kind of preparation it’s unlikely to have a good showing at TI.
— But during the 2018/2019 season you didn’t really study anything and still won The International. Doesn’t that contradict what you’ve just said?
— Yeah, we skipped one or two majors because we felt like we needed a break after TI8. Closer to the second half of the season we came back, but couldn’t recover our usual form. At first we couldn't qualifier to majors, so we had to play minors and other smaller tournaments...
— So it’s like before TI9 you weren’t really “getting valuable experience with the strongest opponents”, right?
— (laughs) Well, we tried to! But it didn’t really work out. Then ana came back and it got easier, we qualified for MDL Paris Major and started to slowly recover our form, but then EPICENTER happened, when N0tail got sick and we had to play with a stand-in… Yeah, it turned out to be a weird season, a very tough one.
— In the announcement of ana going inactive it said that he will return next season, but much has happened since then: TI10 was moved, majors got cancelled… So you’ve practically just started playing with Sumail. What will happen with the team when ana decides to come back?
— I know nothing. Really. I don’t know who ana will replace and will he even want to return. I don’t even know what will happen with OG in a year. Noone heard a thing from ana in a while, so we don’t yet know what we will do after his return: everything could change or it could stay the same, it will depend on the team’s results. At this point I’m not even sure that ana even plans to ever return to the game.
—It’s almost a year since you surprised the world with the Gyrocopter’s build with Diffusal Blade and Monkey King with Radiance in TI9 finals. I always wanted to know if you get nervous when you decide to build something unorthodox.
— I believe that the right build is the best way to tip the scales to your favor. In the Monkey King game I played against Templar Assassin and Enigma: after I bought Radiance my ultimate started to stop Enigma from blinking in with its Blink Dagger and the same effect helped me knock out TA’s Refraction charges. Plus we were already quite ahead by that point and I felt that Radiance would be the best item to secure that advantage.
I try to analyze other heroes and the way the game progresses in every game. I try to understand if I should risk at a particular moment or play carefully. Will the careful playstyle help us get ahead or merely keep the balance on the map?
When I try to answer these questions, these decisions are very easy to make. In the Gyrocopter game I bought Diffusal Blade because I realized a simple thing: the enemy couldn’t win a fight when their Bristleback and Omniknight had no mana. We had Io who guaranteed I could stay alive long and keep shooting. Besides, enemy heroes were too tanky to just try to quickly kill them. That was the logic.
— In the OG documentary you mentioned that in every match you try to enter your opponent’s head to prevent them from playing their own game. Was that a conscious decision to apply this method as a psychological warfare?
— Yes, I realized that even before joining OG. At some point I realized that the most effective way to play Dota is to knock people out of their comfort zone and force them to make mistakes. This is a very logical thought. Think about it: if your enemy can’t do what they want, it will be easier for you to beat them.
Winning this way turned out to be a lot easier. I used to try to play differently sometime before: focusing on my own game and leaving the opponents alone. But those games turned out even, all fights were… fair. But why play fair? You could lose that way! Try to act dirty: interrupt your opponent’s plans and all your matches will be a cake walk.