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Karriär-intervju med EternaLEnVy: "PieLieDie var världens bästa spelare"

Den ständigt omtalande carryn för Cloud9, Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao tog ett längre snack med oss på Fragbite om sin minst sagt händelserika karriär som har tagit honom till toppen av Dota 2.
Betraktad som en av de mest profilerade spelarna från västvärlden. Efter att ha startat No Tidhunter, laget som både Jonathan "Loda" Berg och Joakim "Akke" Akterhall senare förvandlade till The International 3-vinnarna Alliance gick Mao igenom en svår väg som till slut har sett honom, och hans lag, ännu en gång bli sedda som ett av de absoluta topplagen i Dota 2.

Intervjun tog plats den 27:e November

If we start from the very beginning, I've gathered that you were initially a Brood War player and you followed the Korean Brood War scene.

Yes, professional Brood War was the biggest inspiration for me to go full-time into professional Dota. Watching a player like Jaedong and seeing how he always goes in to every match wanting to win, just being able to achieve that focus and not being happy unless he won the tournament was really inspirational.

Since you yourself have repeated many times that you aren't satisfied to win, did you lend this school of thought from Jaedong?

I wouldn't say that. No matter how much you're inspired by someone I don't think it can go so far that it changes who you fundamentally are, you know? I'm just me, and even though people like Jaedong light a spark for me sometimes, it's still me being me in the end.

Your first semi-professional involvement in esports came in Heroes of Newerth where you played in the clan Deal With it. Did you ever feel that you maybe could've broken out big in that game's competitive scene?

During my peak I held first place on the ladder for, like, a month or two and later stayed in second place for half a year, and NA was considered to be a really good region in HoN then too so people back then saw me as the best midlaner in the region too. But that didn't really count for much, I was still completely inexperienced and since there were few tournaments around since I was around right in the beginning of the game, so I only ever got to compete in two tournaments and I won one and lost the other.

I also only played competitively for two months or so, so there was no real break out or splash for me to make.

When you actually broke in to the competitive Dota-scene together with nTh, did you actually feel that the roster previous to Loda and Akke joining was capable of winning a tournament such as DH?

Definitely, I’ve grown a lot as a person but as a player.. I’m not sure, if we’re talking personality I feel like I was much stronger back then. Back then there was no tournament I entered where I ever doubted we wouldn’t place first, it was a ridiculous mentality but it was something that I had. Comparing to today, I, or actually I think it’s the entire team to be honest that thinks this way, but none of us believe after all of our second place finishes that we’ll actually win the tournament.

We look at it as if it’s a possibility, but we’re never actually convinced that we will, and if you compare that to No Tidehunter, everyone was just incredibly hungry and sure that we’d win every tournament.. Just thinking back, the way I talked back then was really silly, just two weeks before Dreamhack I talked in certainties with the the team. I’d say ”when I win Dreamhack”, you know? No ”ifs” at all and that just gave everyone in the team so much confidence because we knew how good we were.

To give an example, if we’d get the chance to play Na`Vi in a day of Starladder matches, we’d always pick to play them first. There was no other option, and when we beat them it was just so fun. By the way, I’d never describe our attitude as cocky, we were always extremely serious about what we said because it just reflected how we were as people back then.

Was that hunger such a driving force due to the fact that there were so few, relative to now, LANs to actually compete against international competition?

I’m not sure, maybe. There are so many tournaments around today that you more often than not just don’t give a shit if you lose one since you know there’s another one in about an hour. This is a rant, I’ll admit I’m a whiner. But I really feel like tournament organizers and admins need to step up their game, an admin should never cave in to what players want or create their own resolutions.

Neither of them seem to be good at their jobs to be honest, and of course I appreciate the opportunity they give us but people always say they’re doing a good job and you can’t flame them for mishandling certain situations. But if we look at me, as a player, I can never do anything wrong or else there’ll be hell to pay, I’ll get flamed to shit for any mistake I make and I often time feel like the amount of time I put in to actually performing isn’t met with the same amount of time or dedication from the tournament organizers or the admins.

Picking up from where the original question ended, did the thought of playing internationally drive you to become better?

Maybe. I think it was also just due to how much of a meta-advantage we actually had back then, just the way I and everyone on the team created this way to just farm the entire map with all heroes. If we’re talking about efficiency, we and players like Aui_2000 just brought so much to that entire philosophy and really changed the game through and through, and the push really came around the time we won Dreamhack.

I think mTw and syndereN were really the guys that pioneered our style and really just utilized the gold graph to an absurd extent. In all honesty the gold graph completely changed the way you looked at farming, the way to utilize the map and how you pressure your enemy. We didn't have that in WC3 Dota so to be able to literally see how the gold was distributed is one of the biggest things that's ever happened in Dota.

So I saw mTw utilize this style that just distributed the farm amongst all members, but they did it really badly and I just thought of how you could improve it and when we played at Dreamhack, with all the stacks and just efficient farming, we’d look at the gold graph and we literally saw how it just continued to climb. Even though we fell behind we just picked it back up after a while due to using the entire map to farm, and Alliance were so good at abusing it even after I left. No-one even at TI knew how to counter it. I think that was what gave me all the confidence, rather than being a little kid with fire in his eyes.

No Tidehunter på Dreamhack Winter 2012

Looking back now, what made Alliance so good at utilizing this farming start and did they take it further than you thought they could after you were removed?

S4 really developed it throughout 2013. He saw what the chinese were doing and understood the incredible importance of towers back then, I also think they took a ton of inspiration from the Fnatic team back then too. Because when we played that entire style of farming the map, our essential hero was furion since he can easily split-push and kill the ancients.

Fnatic found the perfect set of heroes to play that efficient style with, they were the first to really use Phantom Lancer to his ultimate potential back then and perfect the split-push style. Despite this they never won any events, they were solid performers and pushed the way the game was played in a certain way, but S4 saw how much weight eastern teams put around high ground defenses and towers.

Usually in a split-push game back then, the general assumption was that towers would always go down, and you’d trade, but S4 took that eastern philosophy around towers and made it so that the Alliance strategy would instead be revolving around taking towers, and defending their own at all costs and could in that way keep on taking the enemies resources and map control without losing their own.

In contrast, before you took in Loda you played with Black^ who’s currently considered the best carry in the west. was it different taking in loda compared to playing with Black^?

I actually think that Loda and Akke weren't good players when they joined. I know that sounds really stupid to say, because both of them are legends, and Loda got top 8 with Zenith at TI2 back then. But in my mind these guys were supposed to be the best, and when I played with them initially they didn’t know a lot of the stuff I thought everyone playing competitively knew. They didn’t even know that the wagon spawned at three minutes and that if you pulled that wave you’d create an opportunity to push with a double wave and take the tier 1 tower easily, so i’d tell them ”pull the wagon spawn” and they’d just ask me what I was talking about.

Even stuff like last-hitting under tower was something they were not used to doing effectively. It might sound like I’m flaming, but they picked things up incredibly fast, and you know, I can’t say I was a better player than them but I feel like I was able to take them to the next level, and their level of improvement was insane and I saw that leading up to Dreamhack despite us losing every single scrim before the tournament.

The infamous booting comes around not a long while afterwards, despite finishing top 2 at two major finals you developed your feelings around the topic in a blog but looking back now how did you actually cope with it?

That blog was.. I still mean everything I wrote in that entry, but I feel like I missed out on elaborating that was actually dramatically important and that was that I suffered from a Vitamin D deficiency. I honestly think the main reason as to why I started sucking was Vitamin D, obviously just walking around outside, just seeing the sun will give you your daily vitamin intake but I just completely neglected that need. I wasn’t used to the life of a pro gamer back then, and I just sat in my room, I started getting overweight and I stopped drinking milk, all these things that are essential when it comes to staying healthy and I got really depressed at times as well for no explainable reason. So just getting back to being healthy changed everything in all honesty.

As you’ve explained surrounding Alliance’s play style that you had helped create, did you ever feel jealous or robbed when they eventually won TI3?

No, never. If you play like shit you’ll get kicked. That’s how competitive Dota works.

When TI had passed, your new team Kaipi started turning heads after you added the former dignitas carry Aui_2000 into the team. Did you ever considering having him continue play the carry role and see you continuing playing support since that was still the role you’d had the most success with?

We actually tried out Aui, Fata and qojqva back then before Kurtis joined. I personally wanted qojqva and Fata the most before TI due to our similar play style which Aui really didn’t fit in to at the time. But after having met him at TI3 and after talking to him a lot, I really liked his personality and felt that he gelled well with us as a team in that sense. We noticed though after he joined when we still had him playing carry and I was still a support we just saw immediately that the styles differed too much, and since I really wanted to play carry we simply decided that that was the way it was going to be.

Aui also had a ton of interesting ideas in terms of playing the support role, such as farming quickly as a support. Actually, this is why we were so inconsistent back then. Some games he’d just be completely useless as a support because he’d be farming too much and not really do anything with the farm and create zero space for Sing and the rest of the team.

When starting KP, and the quest for finding a new player at the time was on due to Ar1se and CWM leaving people at first were surprised to see you pick up Sing initially. Did you clash as personalities?

I don’t get where that sentiment ever came from. I’ve always respected Sing as an individual player, even before we played together. Yeah, I might’ve said he was clowny on stream or something to that effect but I always respected his abilities and I knew he tried way harder than most people assumed. We also matched really well in-game, but it's true we also clashed in many ways as players, so I had to change some aspects to the way I play.

I consider my speciality as a player to be able to create pressure around the map with farming heroes, make the most out of split-pushing and stuff like that, just create space. With Sing I had to give up a lot of that style of play as he was a very farm-intensive mid, which is a solid strategy no doubt, but it limited many of the other ways we enjoyed to play in general, especially considering that farm-oriented midlaners weren’t in vouge at the time.

EternalEnvy tillsammans med Speed Gaming

So obviously, you guys then become Speed Gaming and are set to play at MLG Columbus at the end of the year but unfortunately can't bring bOne7 to the tournament and play with Arteezy instead. How did it impact your style of play?

bOne7 not being with us forced us into changing the entire way we played at that LAN. We had to put Sing on way less farm-intensive heroes in the off lane and we just noticed how unfamiliar he was to the position. Pittner’s job then was to just try and coach Sing to play the off lane but we just noticed after a while when we put him on those type of heroes like Clockwerk. That clockwork… I don’t know what the fuck he was doing, but whatever it was it wasn’t good. So bOne’s input just didn’t work at all, so we just decided to pick him PotM or Kunkka every game we could because those were the only offlaners he was comfortable on.

As the first day at MLG Columbus concluded you were bottom of the table with no won maps, but then you produce the infamous turnaround. Do you think you would’ve won it with bOne?

You never really know looking back. I’m not too sure, probably not as we invented a meta in the middle of the tournament together with Arteezy. Like, all of a sudden we picked up Outworld Devourer and nobody knew how to play against it… It was stupid. Our picks were stupid, like we first picked OD. How do you win? You don’t first pick that hero and win, it’s silly. There were so many counters but the other teams didn’t pick them instantly, we also brought about the force staff meta so that we could disengage super fast.. So I don’t think we’d’ve done it with bOne. Not because of skill, but because how the meta went so strongly in our favor. It was so bad though, we got so lucky. Bullshit blink Clinkz as well..

You’re making it sound like winning Columbus was a fluke

No, it wasn’t. A lot of things needed to work out for us and everything aligned, you know? We were just super calm and everyone played up to their max potential and didn’t get phased by any of the surrounding drama with Marco or us losing every game on the first day as well as creating and shaping a meta at the same time. It was a lot to cope with, but we pulled through. It took a lot.

Was KP with Arteezy better than KP with bOne?

Definitely not. Or, maybe, if we had Arteezy and bOne together I think it could’ve worked. The thing with Arteezy is that right now he’s playing extremely farm-oriented heroes, but he doesn’t have to play like that, he’s always been a really good space maker. Even when he just farms mid he creates a ton of space, he takes it to the limit when he farms but sometimes he just… I don’t know, just dies 10 times like an idiot. He’s pretty easy to play around, but I’m skeptical as to whether or not it would’ve worked out having him on the team.

Following MLG Columbus the image of you being an underdog obviously changed significantly and you were seen as one of the better teams in the world. Despite this, you’ve only claimed two tournaments and finished second in most. How can you play on such a consistent level yet not manage to win when it counts?

I blame myself for not understanding that I was suffering from vitamin deficiency again during the winter season between 2013-2014. I was playing horribly back then again, and I still didn’t get why. I’ve also got to say that a lot of the blame is on PieLieDie. At Columbus, he was the best player in the world and it wasn’t only us saying that, Puppey and KuroKy were seriously considering leaving Na`Vi to form a team with him but I convinced him not to leave. He was on that kind of level. He was our drafter as well back then, and since everyone respected his abilities so much he would take liberties with how he talked to us, the things he said in-game or during a draft were really disgusting, extremely flame-oriented because in his eyes he treated it like he was playing a pub, that’s how good he was.

pieliedie på MLG Columbus

Accompanied by this was also the fact that he was extremely lazy so when we got really far in tournaments he wouldn’t have any real preparation planned for whoever we faced in finals and it’d result in us just getting smashed. On top of that, the confidence of everyone on the team beside Pie was really low due to this and how we viewed ourselves in comparison to him skill-wise.

So what we then did was just convince ourselves that we had to invent stuff in order to win, so I went and started playing things like Naga, though Meracle and Arteezy were first and brought her in the midlane I took the concept a bit further and in a different direction, and I’d practice it but I would never have confidence playing her in a game due to the state of the team. Same with Tinker, just coming up with so many of the farming patterns, creep skipping, I’d have all of this down to a science but I just never had the confidence to play it in officials and Pie didn’t have faith in me to do it either.

An example of this would be our first game vs. Alliance when we came back from China and we played in the D2CL finals and they first-picked Naga and completely shat on us, but every time we had first pick/ban we’d ban her instead of playing it ourselves because Pie had so little confidence in my play back then.

We never had this essential preparation our opponents had, and I remember the part where it just went too far at the second D2CL finals where we drafted suport Tinker and Gyrocopter for Sing, like what the fuck kind of draft is that? It was awful, and after that I became the team's drafter. I don’t know if I’m the better drafter when it’s all said and done, but all of the members are confident in my ability to draft which involves them more. Pie's not like that any more though, he’s a lot better attitude-wise and I feel we’re all at the point where we caught up to him in terms of skill so he’s learning from us now as well.

When you then look at EG who ”stole” your crown as kings of North America when you headed in to 2014 , can you break down what it is that made that leap for them possible?

I’ll go on the record and just say that they are the most cancerous team in the world, I have no idea how they still haven’t disbanded yet, but like when it matters they put all their bullshit aside and just do whatever’s necessary to win and trust each other fully. But they’re just this incredibly good team that still manages to have such incredibly solid individual players, Arteezy managed to build this entire meta around him when he started to play carries mid. It’s actually genius, because it’s very difficult to do anything against a carry mid; he can jungle, so if he picks a carry with good wave clear like Shadow Fiend they can just stack for him and he’s still fine, people can always TP in and save you since you’re always close to the tower too. PPD does that a ton with heroes like Abaddon and Dazzle. Playing carry mid also got you out of these situations where you’d go up against an aggressive trilane, like if you’re in that situation you can’t actually do anything.

Also, PPD and Arteezy are actually extremely good drafters so together you have PPD who trusts fully in Arteezy, and Arteezy who constantly thinks about the game and how he can push his role further and therefore thinks about ways the current meta can suit and adapt to him better.

If we then look at PPD more as a captain, he’s always been painted up as the ultimate leader within the team. His decisions are law and the team respects that. Was that what you missed when playing with Pie?

It’s different. PPD is a special case in Dota, though I’m not sure what Puppey’s like to play with. I’ve got this random assumption of Puppey, and that assumption’s true for PPD and that is that whenever things go bad he never lets it get to him. He always keeps a conversation going, you know? He asks his members why certain things are happening, how they can do better in the next fight and just focuses on the objective no matter what happens and retains the focus. We didn’t have that and just faltered when things got hard.

But that’s true for every Dota team though, you saw Secret lose versus EG at Starladder and just play awful in the final games. At the same time this is giving too much credit to PPD alone, Arteezy talks a ton as well and he’ll always be the most farmed hero in any game he plays so he understands that he needs to talk.

If you’re a carry player and you don’t talk you’re disgusting, and I’m so surprised that a lot of carry players actually don’t talk that much in-game. Because when you get to the point where you are the most farmed hero in the game, it literally revolves around you, so I feel that it’s the carry’s responsibility to know exactly what kind of state the game is in when it reaches that point and not the supports who at that time aren’t even close to being as important as they don’t dictate that game. Arteezy makes the absolute most of that, if PPD says that they should back out in an engagement when Arteezy’s farmed, and Arteezy says that they should go he trusts that decision fully and I think its on both of them that’s made EG excel so much.

People seem to have the assumption that C9 takes exceedingly many risks in item builds, drafts or plays. How do you look at this reputation?

I’ve always been a player that tries to take things to the limit, and most of the time it can appear like risks just because you’re not certain of the possibilities of what you’re actually doing. Same thing goes for Aui who just farms so much on his supports and bOne. We’re just a team that tries to take everything to the limit, so I guess that’s why it just appears like we always take a ton of risks.

C9 på ESL One Frankfurt

So if you’d look at your own plays in the past with an objective mind, you wouldn’t say that you’ve taken many risks?

Not since TI, no. I barely ever feed now. I don’t really see me playing as risky though, I’d describe it more as cocky rather than anything. Like staying around for longer than I should fully knowing that they could kill me, I also adapt my play depending on what team I’m playing against. Like when we played against Vici I just went nuts whenever we played because I knew that they always five-manned, so I could take huge opportunities if we were in a 1v1 situation or just going for objectives.

Meanwhile, you can’t play like that vs a player like n0tail because you just feed. I play the game based on who I’m playing against, so it might look like I’m taking a ton of risks but in my mind I know that the player won’t go for certain things due to how I know how he plays. But before TI I was definitely taking a lot of risks because the amount of space that was being created was minimal, I played heroes like Spectre and felt that I was the one who needed to create space because no-one else did. It was actually fucking ridiculous, nothing was being done on the map and the only players that would have farm would be me and Sing, and Sing back then didn’t take enough risks despite being the most farmed hero on the map most of the time, so I would have to make space for him in order to keep him farming consistently.

Do you look at FATA being more a better compliment to C9 in terms of what needs to be done during a game in comparison to Sing?

Definitely. You can see it in our consistency now, obviously we finished second a ton back then as well but it wasn’t consistent. We’d get second at some tournaments and then just drop out randomly at others and just suck completely online. Back then we also tried to use the online results to give us confidence, so whenever we’d lose online it’d just suck all around. So we’re more consistent now for sure, but at the same time we can’t really be all too happy with our results. Obviously second place is a good placement, but who honestly remembers the team that got second all the time? But still, us placing second all across the world in international tournaments kind of proves that we are an elite team for sure.

What are the teams that you currently feel are above you and to look out for in the future?

I’m personally scared of NewBee whenever they get everything together and start trying, which they apparently never will. Those guys are monsters.
EG, obviously, VG and Secret also look incredibly strong and will probably contest to be considered the best in the near future. But we’ll see. It’s still a long way til’ TI and odds are some completely random team will pop up and become a major threat and one of the aforementioned will drop down in skill, it’s what happens every year.

With all this said, and the journey you and the memebrs of Cloud9 all have been on how do you look at the future together with the team?

I honestly don’t have that much confidence in placing first at TI5 or anything like that. It could happen I suppose but due to the mental state of the team it’s doubtful, like we’re still performing well and doing well. But when we reach a high pressure situation… Yeah, some people just have a super hard time to cope with it, and we fall apart. It’s frustrating especially since at all these recent LANs we always get off to a good start but then it’s almost like something completely goes wrong at the last minute.

The floor is yours one final time.

I want to thank my sponsors: Logitech, Alienware, HyperX, NeedforSeat, my team and anyone who’s read this far, if you’ve read it all you deserve a shoutout.

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