TI 7 Interview with OG’s N0taiL: "We are aiming for a lower bracket run to the Aegis"
While in Seattle for The International 2017 Media day, I caught up with Johan 'N0tail' Sundstein who is one of the most beloved players in the Dota 2 community, for good reason. Talking to Johan is like talking to an old friend and made the interview a happy experience. We discussed his thoughts on OG's this year’s TI, their lower bracket match against Infamous, the new season and TI8 invites format announced by Valve. This is what he had to say:
Hello N0tail! This will be your fifth TI this year. How is Seattle treating you?
It’s been great so far. Every year the weather is nice. It’s our summer time!
It’s gotta be awesome to be here. Let’s go to the group stages of TI 7. Not everything went according to plan for OG. There’s a lot of competition this year but most of the Dota 2 community expected OG to make it to the upper bracket. What went wrong?
If you’re in the lower bracket you deserve to be there
Well, we were one point away from making the upper bracket, so we did a couple of things right. At the same time, we also did not make it so you can say we did a couple of things wrong. The teams that have come to TI 7 came very ready and we did the best we could. If you’re in the lower bracket you deserve to be there. We lost a few too many games; that’s basically what went wrong.
Can we expect a repeat of the Frankfurt Major from OG where you won it all from lower bracket games?
That is what we’re aiming for! The Boston Major and the Kiev Major were single elimination formats and we won there so this is very much a possibility.
It seems OG thrives on the brink of elimination! Obviously, even though you are in the lower bracket, you are still one of the favorites to take the plaudits at TI 7. Which other team do you think are in the best shape to go all the way?
There are really good teams this year and I could just start naming all the teams and it’ll sound good! To me though, Evil Geniuses and Virtus Pro are the special ones. Liquid have their own style; they’re a unique and strong team. Of the Chinese, LGD and LFY are the top contenders.
No one expected LFY to be the strong force they are proving to be.
If that’s what others think it is a huge mistake. We saw what they could do at Epicenter. They look like a team that has played a lot of Dota together. LFY made it to Seattle with grit, surviving through the regional qualifiers and that is exactly what they are doing here.
OG will face Infamous. You guys are the clear favorites but they have nothing to lose and will be throwing the kitchen sink at you. What do you expect from the game?
We still have a lot of thinking to do about Infamous. The thing about a best of one is you make a mistake and you have a chance of losing the game and going out of the tournament. We don’t think about that though. They’re gonna play for their lives and so are we. We’re stronger than them and we are going to show them that!
The English panel said on the last day that N0tail and Fly haven’t won a single best of three at any TI. Thoughts on that?
I’m not sure but yeah, that might be true. Hopefully, we’ll change it this year!
Is there added pressure on you or any team when they are considered as one of the favorites?
It’s not the pressure or expectations. But every team tries to understand and beat you and plans a bit more for you than the other teams.
I’ve seen OG play their best Dota on the main stage. Do you love that? Do the main stage and the live audience bring out the best in you?
Stage games are of a much higher quality than the ones played behind closed doors. We love it and yeah, it brings out the best in us.
You are a scene veteran who has been here since TI 3. How has the competitive scene seen a change in these years?
Back at TI 3, teams had a ton of unhealthy habits
The Dota is getting refined. It is a lot more difficult now to be a team that no one can beat. Back at TI 3, teams had a ton of unhealthy habits, an important one being an unwillingness to learn. I think what Dota brings out in an individual reflects on the team as well; whether they’re winning or losing. It can bring out the worst or best in a player. Usually, it brings out both from time to time.
You mentioned teams not being unbeatable. At TI 3, Na’Vi and Alliance were sort of the unbeatable ones. But now you don’t have any particular teams like that. Any team could lose to any other.
Yes. The average level of Dota teams is going up and it’s going up quite fast. When a player is kicked or a team disbands and he joins a new roster, he will teach the others what he knows and what he has learnt. This process of teaching and learning goes on and all teams keep getting better with it.
Valve recently announced the new tournament system of Minors and Majors. What do you think of it?
I’m a big fan of a healthier system of tier two and tier three teams. I’ve been quite successful in the past two seasons and even before that, I managed to be above average. But it might be really difficult for teams playing in the tier three leagues and the new system will definitely benefit them.
So it’s better for the overall development of the scene?
Yeah! The less competitive or less advanced Dota is still a huge scene and if that grows, the entire Dota scene as a whole grows.
That is an interesting outlook! I thought many of the tier one teams might not have the most positive reception for the system. Considering how competitive Dota is getting, do you think it is necessary for a team to have a coach?
I think that a top Dota team will only survive with six or seven people. In my book, it is seven. You need a manager and a coach. I know what it is like to be without the extra members and it’s not where I want to be!
Definitely it helps when the players can concentrate on the game and don’t have to bother with anything else. What are your thoughts on the current meta? Do you like it? What change would you like to see after TI 7?
I love Dota. Half my life is Dota. I’ve loved every TI, I’ve loved every tournament I’ve played
It’s easy for me to say that I don’t like it because we are trying to get a hold of it. The heroes that we loved earlier have been nerfed so I could just say that I don’t like it. But, I love the game. I love Dota. It’s like, half my life is Dota and I cannot not love the meta. I’ve loved every TI, I’ve loved every tournament I’ve played. The current meta is what it is. It’s fast. It’s bloody. Why not? I’m ready. I like it.
Hailing from India, I have to ask you this. I read your tweet about loving Indian food and planning to have a lot more of it this year. Where was the first time you had it? What do you like?
I love the butter chicken and the naan bread! The first time I had come for TI there was this place in Seattle that was serving authentic Indian with the naan bread baked in a tandoor (which is a type of oven which uses coals). They make the naan with garlic and the chicken has the spicy curry. For me, that’s just the best meal ever! I’m gonna go to bed two hours later feeling so good.
I have to check this place out while I’m in Seattle! Any shoutouts?
Big shoutout to Redbull for taking care of us. Shoutout to my team and thanks to all the fans cheering for us. Also, thank you for having me.
It was a pleasure!
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