Interview with TNC coach Kipspul: "Playing against LFY will be a worthy challenge"
Most of the time, it is the players who get all the credit for their achievements in the world of esports, while the sixth player in a team, the coach, usually stays out of the limelight and works tirelessly to ensure his/her team are prepared for the next challenge. Kipspul, the coach for the Filipino heavyweights TNC, is one of the better know coaches in the professional Dota 2 scene and it was a delight for me when I got a chance to talk to her in Seattle. The conversation that ensued included the experience of the team up until now at TI 7, how she started off with Dota 2 and the requirements of a good coach.
Hello coach! Congratulations on making it to the upper bracket. How was your group stage experience?
The groups stages were quite heavy, especially for me because I was pretty much working 24 x 7. I think we could have gotten a little more out of it. There were a couple of games which we lost where we shouldn’t have. But in the end, we got to the place where we do belong.
Which is the upper bracket?
Which is the upper bracket, yes.
Up next for TNC are LFY who have been really dominant until now, going 14-2 in the group stages. What do you think about them?
Well, it seems like a worthy challenge, right? *Laughs* I’m pretty excited to play them. I am always excited to play Chinese teams with this squad because I think our style is effective against them. We’re not afraid. I like to show that group stages are groups stages and playoffs are a totally different game.
I couldn’t agree more. What teams do you believe are the top contenders for TI 7?
Liquid is up there for me. Also Virtus Pro, I would never count them out. I’m actually happy we dodged them.
Let’s go back a bit in time. How did you start playing Dota?
I started playing Dota because I stumbled onto it on the internet when I was looking for challenging games to keep me occupied. I heard something about this very hard game called Dota and I thought that sounds like it’s for me!
I heard something about this very hard game called Dota and I thought that sounds like it’s for me!
So you like a challenge?
Yeah I always want a challenge. So I got the beta key from a friend in my university and started playing which was when I realized the game was too hard! I quit for a couple of months but then I got back to playing it.
Had you always envisioned being a coach?
No. Not at all.
How did you get there exactly? Was Fnatic the first team you coached?
It’s a long story! Yes, Fnatic was the first team I worked with but I didn’t really coach them. I was their analyst. We got sixth place at the Manila Major which was when we decided to continue our collaboration to the end of the season and the result was pretty good!
It was indeed. You made it to the top four in TI 6 which is by no means, an easy task.
I still think that it will be my best TI result, which came in three month after I started working with a team and I am making my peace with that.
You never know. This year could be even better. Fingers crossed!
Could be, yeah..
Since 1437 came onboard, TNC seem to have improved a lot. Without revealing a lot about the strats, could you tell me what he has brought onboard that has made the difference?
What he has brought to the team is someone who has a lot of experience and someone who can take the information he has and apply it in the game instead of getting caught up with what is happening in the game. I think that is a strong quality for a player to have, to be able to keep calm and use what you know for the team’s benefit.
When he was with Team NP, I believe Envy was the shot caller in the game and not 1437. Do you think they didn’t use Theeban to his full potential there?
I think in any team, no player is used to his full potential because it is always a question of what the team needs and not what the player needs or the player can do. The only team, in my opinion, who uses a player to his full potential are Fnatic who get the most out of QO. And you can see what happens when everyone keeps everything aside to boost one player like that. It is used by other teams mercilessly. Everyone needs to make sacrifices for the team. So to answer your question, I don’t think it is a valid way to look at things.
As a coach, what would you say is your most important role? Is it just analyzing or is it mentally boosting the players? And looking at how competitive modern Dota has become, do you think it is imperative that a team has a coach to get to the top?
Yes, I would say it is quite necessary for a top team to have a coach in today’s competitive Dota environment. It’s funny that you mention the divide between providing information and mental boosting, because I don’t think there is one. I think that the way that I give information, I can boost the teams morale while doing it or I can press down on their egos to get across the message that the enemy is someone to be taken seriously. The mental aspect is in there. I decide how to approach the talk about an enemy based on what I think my team needs at that moment.
But let’s say you are playing a best of three and you’ve lost the first game. Is it more important to analyze the drafts and the technical side of the game or provide confidence to the players as they face defeat?
I think analyzing the draft and the play is a way of boosting confidence because the players feel like they know what is to be done in the second game. TNC has a saying that the best team wins the second game because they have learned more about their opponents than the other team. That is the way, I think, to go by it.
TNC has a saying that the best team wins the second game because they have learned more about their opponents than the other team.
Europe and China are currently the dominant regions in Dota 2. Do you think in the upcoming years, SEA can match up with them?
Yes, for sure.
Being from India, that is something I would definitely love to see.
There is so much growth still coming from SEA. I am waiting for India who are going to be one of the upcoming countries in the next few years.
I really hope you are right! You’ve said before that you’re yearning to play against OG in a rematch of the TI 6 game. I’m rooting for TNC against LFY, but in the event you lose, there is a strong chance you will be matched up against OG. Is that something you’re looking forward to?
Of course. I mean, I’d rather make OG wait for us for a couple of rounds. We have LFY right now, and in a tournament, you can only play one game at a time. I think it’s funny that Valve put OG right there. There is no way that’s not intentional! We sort of giggled about it. Then we focused on LFY again. If we beat the opponent in front of us, we will avoid OG and winning against LFY is our priority right now.
I think it’s funny that Valve put OG right there. There is no way that’s not intentional!
In the case that it does happen, it’ll be a game the entire Dota 2 community will look forward to! Tell me about the TNC personas. Who’s the most vocal and who’s the most passive?
It really depends on what is going on. Raven is a shy guy, but if he feels like it, that guy knows how to dance! Kuku is loud in pubs. He will flame his team mates. But he is also the guy that will have really sweet phone conversations with his family. Sam is really quiet but if things get really tough, he’ll be the one to step up and say ‘No, we have got to do this guys’! It really depends on what the situation is.
You’ve said before that you yourself don’t play a lot. For someone to be a coach, is it necessary to be a high ranked player? Sports like football have coaches who haven’t played the game at all but are intelligent enough to lead a team. Can a Dota coach be like that?
Yes, that is very much possible. Most of what you need is intelligence and adaptability. Everything else can and will follow. A high ranked player will start with a lot of knowledge. But that doesn’t mean they will be able to effectively transfer the knowledge to other players. There are drawbacks and there are benefits, but ultimately I think it is independent of a high rank.
Let’s talk about the current meta. Do you like it?
I like it a lot. Anything is viable which means that every team can play their own style if they want to. You’ll see a lot of matches with fireworks as teams will choose the heroes they like instead of choosing a certain set of heroes that are good in the meta, which was previously the case.
106 heroes already used. It is indeed, a versatile meta. Do you like the new tournament system announced by Valve?
We’ll have to see how it works out. But I do think it is a good reason for teams to start bringing in staff; especially for the tier two teams who though they didn’t need to or couldn’t afford to. I think it will get to a point where team will not afford to not have a coach.
Finally, any shoutouts?
Shoutouts to the Filipino fans for being the most amazing fans!
They sure are. I hope TNC goes a long way in this TI. Thank you for takin the time to talk with me and all the best for your journey ahead!