Fluff: 'The entire pool is open for position 4 supports'
Shortly after the rebirth of Team Fire, GosuGamers was able to talk to support player Brian 'Fluffnstuff' Lee to talk about his past year, his experience with Team Liquid but even more so about Team Fire, their TI5 aspirations and the new roster. Fluffnstuff also shares his opinion on the new patch and old innovations of his.
Brian 'Fluffnstuff' Lee made his first venture with Team Fire, a North-American team that consisted of him, ixmike88, HANNAH_MONTANA, Jeyo and TC. The squad did well and was soon picked up by compLexity Gaming, but following The International 2 fell slightly apart.
The trio of Fluff, TC and ixmike stayed together and teamed up with Bulba and Korok to form the first Team Liquid Dota 2 team, which went on to become one of the strongest, if not the strongest NA team for quite a while. Their most notable performance was during TI3 in which they eliminated LGD-Gaming from the tournament.
The team once more underwent roster changes post-Ti and picked up qojqva and wayto, but Fluff was eventually removed from the team. He went on to play with WildWitchDoctors, which turned Sneaky Nyx Assassins shortly after. The squad had a few different players here and there but the most recent one consisted of Fluff, ixmike, Brax, Whitebeard and TC. Once more only the trio of Fluff, ixmike and TC remains and now they are back as Team Fire together with Ush and Fogged.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted by Sovann 'Skim' Kim on December 30th.
Hey Fluff, thanks for joining us in the interview today - New Year’s approaching, do you have any special plans?
Hi, I'm not really doing anything special for New Years. I spent the majority of last week celebrating the end of the year, now it's just time to relax.
Is your team scrimming at all during these weeks off - with only a few if any officials around?
We just started scrimming today for the first time in two weeks. Starting January 1st is when we're all going to be ready to commit to practice.
Sounds reasonable. How is Team Fire doing anyway? Are you content with how things are going right now?
We're doing pretty well considering that we've only played for 4 days total, qualifying for Starladder in the same week. I can't say I'm content with how things are going right now because it's a new team and all new teams need time to grow, even if we've known or played with each other for a while. There are a lot of new dynamics that come with any changes.
True, although your team is not entirely new as Ush returns after a few months. What led to your team trying it out with him again?
I gave it a lot of thought and decided it was the best for us moving forward to play with Ush. I just have a lot of faith in him and I believe that he can do extremely well in the right environment. He's been a breath of fresh air that brings a lot to the team because of his fresh perspective and I like the relationship we have, veteran and newcomer. As a veteran you often forget the fundamentals and overcomplicate situations and as a rookie you need someone to help you meet your potential through tough love.
How did you guys decide to go with Fogged then - did Ush and him playing together in Na’Vi.US have anything to do with it?
Whitebeard was honestly the best support partner I've ever had in my career, but there were a couple of inherent issues with him continuing with us. I don't really want to mention anything except that I think he is an incredible player and I'll miss him a lot. In regards to Fogged, Ush vouched heavily for him. From what I know, Ush and Fogged built a very close relationship on Na`Vi.US and see very much eye-to-eye. Fogged is a very good player, but he was always on the wrong role (5) and we knew he'd be a good fit on the second support position.
"Whitebeard was honestly the best support partner I've ever had"
Despite it being too early to tell, but do you think you are ready to steer directly towards TI5 or would you not mind waiting yet another year if it meant fielding a consistently strong team, that does not disband after TI?
Although this team was created just now, my intentions were always directed at TI5. I predicted that this year would be segmented into two parts and that most Western teams by January would end up disbanding or reforming. It's the nature of the scene, which relies completely on TI. With that said, I knew that this would more or less happen and then the next move would be to prepare for TI. I do not want to miss the opportunity this year to attend. I think teams and players will come and go and playing the system is the only way to come out ahead. There aren't going to be any teams that stay together for a year anymore if TI only occurs annually.
Makes sense. And you did already skip one TI this year, which leads us to the very beginning of 2014 and a rather rough experience with Team Liquid I would say. To reiterate, what was the big issue with the squad, and was it the same issue that led to its eventual demise?
The environment was not positive in any way. People felt mistreated by extraneous factors outside of the team and motivation was pretty low. I also have to say that some personalities didn't mesh very well and that problems were often buried instead of being worked out. We severely lacked the ability to work together and felt stagnant for weeks at a time. When I brought the issues up in my blog is when we finally started to work together to solve issues, but it was too late because the damage was done. Management decided to remove me from the team and we never got to flesh out our ideas. I should've done it more internally, but after a year of pent up frustration it was bound to be explosive.
If I recall correctly, you introduced Mario, Team Liquid’s coach back then and now Team Tinker’s, to the team to bring in some outside perspective. How much did it help you at the time and do you have such a person now as well or is the communication in your team right now and before in SNA much healthier from the getgo?
Mario was a major reason why I stayed with the team. He built up a forum for us to discuss with each other and be objective about situations. I felt that we improved a lot from his help and that we were going in the right direction. We had Mario coaching us before ESL NY but that was a one-time thing. We don't really have anyone like him because it was a unique and unpaid position that I don't see a lot of people being interested in it, let alone being trusted. It's a pretty unique niche area that he was great for, I'd really want to have that again in the future.
So looking back on this time, the blog, the reactions it sparked, and the experience with Team Liquid overall: How did this shape you as a person, what lessons and values did you take from it?
I learned the most from the experience I had post-Liquid. Being on a team that had a positive environment and hunger to succeed was a joy. Among the obvious things, I realized the error in my youth was following my heart no matter what regardless of practicability. I learned a lot about balance, when I tended to go to quite the extremes. The most important thing I learned was belief in each other and in one's self.
This might sound a bit cheesy, but if you had the chance to revert things, would you do it all over again, starting from writing the blog?
If I had a chance to revert things I would've definitely taken it back, but at the same time I don't regret the experiences I had as a result of making the mistake. The thing I look back to the most is the inability for me to leave my comfort zone and make a decision that my heart was aligned with. I would've probably tried to take the opportunities that passed me by. I think our bodies have a pretty strong sense of what is right and I rationalized too many situations that can only be explained as gut feelings.
Let’s move on to your personal life. Is playing Dota 2 right now a full-time job for you or do you have other commitments?
I play Dota 2 full time.
I assume you have been doing so for quite a while then? How do family members and friends react/support you in that regard, do they follow your matches even?
I don't think they follow my matches, but I know my parents often times look out for me if I have an upcoming lan. I'd say for the most part they are supportive, but more than anything they are afraid for my future. They realize by this point that it's what I want to do and that I'd continue with or without their support.
Have you thought much about your future yourself, as in what comes after pro-gaming? Would you consider staying in eSports, maybe taking on a coaching position like described above yourself?
As I get older I think more and more about my future. My ambitons are in line with eSports, and not even specifically in Dota 2. I want to do something entrepreneurial, but I decided very recently that I want to focus on my passion and I feel that if I take the opportunities presented to me as a result I will find something I truly would love to do as a career.
Sounds like a healthy mindset! What things do you enjoy outside of eSports, if you want to take a break and just relax for a couple of hours, do you have certain other hobbies, do you enjoy particular tv shows?
I really enjoy eating out and finding awesome restaurants. I spend a lot of my spare time with my girlfriend and some of our favorite shows right now are Gotham and Game of Thrones.
"My ambitons are in line with eSports, and not even specifically in Dota 2"
Is there a cuisine you enjoy in particular, maybe even Cambodian food?
I like most types of food, but I really like boiling crab and shabu shabu right now.
Okay before I get too hungry lets move on. I saw on your twitter that you also play Hearthstone. What do you like about the game and do you also follow the competitive scene?
Oh yea I play Hearthstone quite a bit. The thing I like about the game is that it's just very casual but competitive at the same time. It also has a lot of charm because Blizzard puts so much character into everything with the animations, the sounds, and all of that. I've always been a fan of Blizzard's character design and their Warcraft brand in particular. I follow the competitive scene somewhat, watching some random tournaments here and there. I really liked the Seatstory Cup by TakeTV, where I got to see some of the personalities.
Could you see yourself becoming a competitive Hearthstone player even? Tidesoftime made the transition and is doing really well.
I don't think I'll ever be able to play competitive Hearthstone. I've tried to get legend a couple of seasons and the closest I got was rank 1 with 3 stars. I don't see myself being able to commit a ton of time into it to improve because I got pretty bored of it a couple of months back. Perhaps if I committed when I was initially passionate about it, then I might've been able to go for it.
Let's get back to Dota 2 then. The current patch - do you like it overall? Is there anything in particular that bothers you, you’d want immediate improvement on?
I like it overall in the sense that more things are viable, but the thing I dislike is that with every patch the role of support becomes more and more diminished. I feel this way because the game is so heavily late-game focused. I really hope that the role of support moves towards skill-shots because it would #1 get supports more recognition as well as make for a more dynamic game. Supports scaling through abilities would be a much better place for them, compared to falling off completely or pretending to be a core and rr'ing for the entire game.
In addition, there are heroes that do scale with abilities but it's completely unnatural. Heroes like Elder Titan or Zeus for example are the result of us trying to stay relevant and digging deep. They don't add any value to the laning stage or taking objectives, they just kind of mock core and because the game goes later and later it almost doesn't matter if you get away with it.
„Digging deep“ - what is the craziest support you have tried out, thinking it would work out in the late game anyway, if you can disclose anything?
The craziest support I've ever tried had to be Magnus, but it was legitimately viable back when the Skewer had max range at rank 1. Nowadays things like Beastmaster and Pugna seem pretty cool. I'm only a 5 role, but the 4 role is where it become ridiculous because literally the entire pool is open. Invoker support was also pretty fun back in the day.
I honestly wish I could just play CM and have a normal ass movement speed and some strength gain, but there are heroes like this flaming bird that can fly across the screen, spit attack speed slowing dots, heal like a Witch Doctor, and reincarnate with all spells refreshed in an aoe.
"The 4 role is where it become ridiculous because literally the entire pool is open."
The old days ! I remember the Magnus, though you played him on lane if I recall correctly - would you ever consider doing the cliff-jungling on Dire in a competitive match?
I liked the hero a lot because he had great stats for trilanes and offered an interesting and unique advantage to the lane. Cliff jungling is no fun! I do like abusing the jungle pulls with things like Pudge Hooks or Rubick Lift though.
Which reminds me of your Windrunner once in which you effectively farmed three camps in the jungle by pulling the creepwave through - it used to be a thing for a short while but nowadays its more about normal double pulls, why is that?
Oh it's definitely a thing for all heroes now on Radiant side, which is it's unique advantage over the Dire. I think back then I placed a lot of emphasis on farming the pulls compared to chaining them. In reality if you aren't using abilities to clear the camps, your wave isn't strong enough to go for 3 camps consistently. I think people are more focused on laning equilibrium so they aren't always farming out all the camps each wave.
Earlier you mentioned that you wished for supports to move towards skill-shots - much like Mirana I suppose? Did you ever feel proud for being one of the first to pick her up as a support, despite it not working out at the time (TI2)? What made you pick up a back then considered core hero on a support role?
I'm pretty sure the Mirana pick was highly successful at TI, it just didn't get picked in the playoff stage. I do feel proud about being the first to run her as a support competitively because it's one of the ideas that I believed so strongly in, that no status quo was going to change my opinion. There were strategic benefits of having a Mirana, like having an amazing aggressive trilaning support, but I mostly picked it because she's been my favorite hero for years and I felt a level of mastery playing her.
And I think it shows in your Mirana games that you know the hero in and out. Thank you Fluff for joining us in this interview. The last part is of course for you - do you have any shoutouts?
Shoutout to my team, our supporters, fans, Kat, Blitz, Purge, Kawa, and Pillo.
4th image provided by qelix