N0tail: One winner, one survivor in Europe. And thank God we were the one.
Johan "N0tail" Sundstein at Red Bull AdrenaLAN. Photo courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool.
“We’re here to be here for the community and [to] do things like this, do interviews, and do the show match tomorrow. We’re taking it slow. Once we get to Vancouver, that’s when we lock the door.” OG’s Johan “N0tail” Sundstein spoke with us at Red Bull AdrenaLAN about The International 8, the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, and his new role as captain.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Gosugamers: I want to start by congratulating you on qualifying for TI8.
N0tail: Thank you.
I know that kind of came together in unexpected ways this year.
This is going to be your sixth TI. How do you look at TI now compared to your first and second TI? Does it still have that same excitement or is it just another tournament on the schedule?
TI has always had that TI kind of vibe. It is the World Championship in Dota and it’s always felt like it. You put this prestigious trophy together with all the money together with being such a big and crazy event. It’s always had that feeling for me. That hasn’t really changed at all, no.
It doesn’t wear off with repetition?
No, and there’s nobody yet to win two Tis so you always have that thing in the back of your head. It’s not an easy one to win.
And this year the curse, the East-West thing? Does it feel exciting that maybe you guys could break the curse this year? China may not get their chance?
I definitely think [this] would be the toughest year for [China]. Looks like the toughest year for them to claim this victory. But, it’s never been broken. It’s there....
You don’t have it in the back of your head?
No, I’m not really superstitious. To me, this is a bit of a superstition kind of thing.
This is going to be Topson’s first TI. Are you guys cognizant of that as you’re preparing? Is there a way to prepare him for the spectacle that is TI or is it stay focused on the game, the team, heads down focused?
I’m trying to remember back to my first TI. It was a bit overwhelming in terms of the size of it. You had Gabe Newell on the stage welcoming everyone. And you felt a kind of pressure that might have been easier for me to cope with going into more TIs. I’m going to do for him like I would do for any player. Let them know that this just another Dota tournament. Because that, in reality, is what TI is. It is just another Dota tournament. Help him and the rest and myself to try and just focus on the game. You’re in front of your monitor, everything that goes on around the monitor doesn’t matter. Express yourself in the game like you always have. Everybody that’s played Dota for that many years, that long time, they go into another mode/zone about the game. That’s what I’m going to try to do for him and everybody.
When I was looking at the True Sight: The Kiev Major Grand Finals footage, you were really communicative in draft and game, but you also had this key role in bringing your team together: resetting after a loss, and then getting them hyped up to play again. Is that something you’ve incorporated as you take on a captain role with this team? Are you finding that it’s a natural progression for you to move into the captain role?
I definitely think that a team should have different roles in game and out of game. You’re going to be fulfilling different roles. Each team is different: where each person individually wants to be at when it comes to an energy level, how intense you want things to be, how much pressure you want to feel. Somebody doesn’t want to hear that this is the biggest tournament of their life. Some people would love to hear that and they feed off that energy. And that’s also important to know.
Definitely moving into captain role where you’re supposed to be the pillar of the team, you’re supposed to be there for people to look at and it doesn’t look different when they look this way, that’s something that’s changed. But also having Sebastian around and also Jesse, we’ve been together for a long time, and I think that we’re filling out these other roles that we might need. I definitely do enjoy bringing the energy level up because I do believe that playing Dota with a higher level of energy can make you, as a lesser team, play way better and if you’re a stronger team, you can play to your maximum. It never works the other way around where you’re so mellow that everyone plays perfect. Need a very special group of people for that to be the case.
Get those sloth reactions?
Yeah. TI3 Alliance was the probably the closest any team has been where mellowness really shined. Being chill was their way of approaching things. You definitely need to have energy going around. You just can’t have too much either. There is such a thing as having too much intensity.
Something else that’s come up a lot lately has been this issue of the DPC schedule being so packed with events. You’ve talked about jet lag and the go-go-go pace of the season. How do you find or do you even find time for yourself apart from the team? Do you have that opportunity to find that work-life balance that everyone talks about or are you really focused on Dota right now and life can wait?
It’s an interesting question, and I do think to each his own. It does depend on where you are in your own life to how you maybe cope or deal or look at this. For me, it’s been two seasons now where it kind of picked up a lot, and this time-consuming intensity level went way up. There’s not really much time to be at home. All my plants kept dying on my balcony. It was a desert out there!
These are things that have been affecting me more and more, not having time. Now we got to spend some time at home, which was SUPER nice for me. Definitely my health went way up again. Whereas if you are doing this Dota life, and you are travelling this much, and you are dealing with all this stress and all the stress that comes from travelling, like flying. I do believe that flying is pretty bad for your body, and it’s something that you’ve been doing that much in one year. I don’t think that’s sustainable. I don’t think that that’s something players could or even should do for more than one year at a time. At least to what this season has been. I basically haven’t had a personal life this season. It’s pretty much been just about the game.
You guys have had to play through a bunch of qualifiers this season, those weeks of qualifiers have been so packed. They have changed them for next season, but they start like three weeks after TI. How do you guys feel about that? Normally you get that big break, right?
Yeah. I don’t really know how things are going to be approached.
I’m pretty sure that if there are a lot of top teams that are presumed to do well at TI and they might do well, as an example Liquid and VP, they might get into top 5, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to see them at this first Major. I don’t really know what Valve’s thought process is about this, but this season I’m pretty sure that it has pushed a lot of players to the limit. I think that they are going to look at the next season and look at it twice.
Take a break?
Probably look at breaks. And how’s it going to look for them in the future. Maybe look at this personal life that people might be missing.
Photo Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool.
Is there anything else that you’d like to say, a shout out to fans?
Definitely. Being here now at AdrenaLAN, it’s a very Dreamhack-esque vibe where everybody walks around on the same plane. Everybody’s here playing video games, looking at video games. It’s really nice that people come out here. There’s a whole Dota section set up. Big shout out to everybody who makes it out and those that don’t and get to watch online or even just the ones that support.
Huge shout out to Red Bull, of course, they’re the ones organizing all of this, and also the ones supporting us making all of this possible. Giving us good conditions. Definitely the TI bloodbath, we only survived because of their help.
Yeah, bloodbath is the word.
It’s always a bloodbath, the qualifiers.
I think people were a little shocked that EU had only one slot this year. That was rough for you guys.
Yeah, the slots were allocated a bit weird. I think that made the hype not where it should have been. But, it was one winner, one survivor in Europe. And thank god we were the one.
Very good! Thank you so much.
No, of course, my pleasure.
Thank you to N0tail for his time and insights! You can next see him and the rest of OG at The International 8. The group stage starts August 15th!