Interview with Shopify Rebellion's Fly: "We know the team has what it takes to win"
GosuGamers caught up with Shopify Rebllion's postion 5 support and captain Fly to talk about his new podcast and a lot of other Dota 2 stuff.
Tal “Fly” Aizak is a veteran of the North American Dota 2 scene, and one the most experienced position 5 players in professional Dota 2. We caught up with him a few weeks before the start of the first DPC tour of 2022-2023 to talk about his new podcast ‘Fly and the Other Guy’, Evil Geniuses’ performance at TI11, the rosters shift to Shopify Rebellion, the current state of NA Dota 2 and the current meta amongst other things.
Hey Fly! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and congratulations on getting engaged! How are doing? I’m guessing you’re on cloud nine!
Yes¸I am extremely happy! It has been a long time coming between my fiancé [Evany] and I.
Congratulations on the new organization. How was that facilitated? Did Shopify Rebellion reach out to you?
After The International 2022 (TI11), once it was clear that we would be parting ways with Evil Geniuses, our agent reached out to a few organizations, which is what got us in touch with Shopify Rebellion.
Good to see a new organization show up in North American Dota 2. But there is still a bit of time before you begin playing under the banner of Shopify Rebellion in the NA DPC. And in the meantime, you have started your own podcast – ‘Fly and the Other Guy’! What inspired you to start your own podcast?
I’ve been getting into podcasting for a year or so. I remember hanging out with my friend Justin [the Other Guy] who has been podcasting for fun for a while, and we thought starting a podcast together could be a fun experiment, with a unique perspective of someone not embroiled in esports. He watches the games, but isn’t an active part of the Dota 2 scene like the hosts of other podcasts like ‘We Say Things’ and ‘Monkey Business’.
Having listened to a few episodes, I can definitely say that it is an enjoyable podcast. Tell me a bit more about the Other Guy. Was he into Dota 2 before becoming friends with you?
Justin is an eye doctor! He is a family man and a pretty busy guy. He started watching Dota 2 during TI5 or TI6, when they first put the game on ESPN. He doesn’t really play the game, just mostly enjoys watching it.
Currently, you guys are doing a new episode every week. Do you plan to keep that up when the DPC season begins?
the goal is to have it once a week even during the DPC, but it may depend on how much time I have or if I am competing at a LAN event. But we want to keep it as consistent as possible.
While we’re on the subject of podcasts, what non-Dota 2 podcasts do you like to listen to?
One podcast that I specifically like is ‘Stuff You Should Know’, which is a podcast that gives you random titbits about a lot of stuff. It could be something like what it means to be an introvert or extrovert, or diets people had in the past. It’s information that is easy to digest [just like the diets of the past].
I guess I’ll have to check that one out! Let’s go back a few months. Evil Geniuses didn’t go in as favorites to TI11, but you guys were amazing in the group stages. What changed from the group stages to the main stage? One thing you did mention in the first episode of your podcast was the caster and crowd noises negatively affecting EG. Were there any other reasons for the lackluster performance on stage?
On the first day of the playoffs, we played against Thunder Awaken on the first mainstage series of TI11. The audio issues did play a part in the series, but to be fair, both teams had to deal with it, so I can’t say that was the main issue. To put it bluntly, we choked. We didn’t play nearly as well as we did in the group stages. It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint why a team chokes in big tournaments; whether it is the entire team or player specific. Before that, we hadn’t played in front of a crowd for a long time.
After TI11, what was the conversation that happened? Both, with Evil Geniuses, and amongst yourselves.
Let’s break that down. For the roster, the group stage gave us hope, so bombing out the way we did was quite painful. Everyone knew deep down that the team had what it takes to win, but when it mattered the most, we failed. It is a difficult conversation to have. We were in Singapore for a week after getting eliminated. Everyone took some time to think about the future, and then started having conversations amongst each other about what players feel they want to do moving ahead. When more teams get knocked out of TI, offers start coming in for players, because that’s when the shuffle actually begins. But it seemed quite clear that Nightfalll wanted to pursue a new challenge, while the others wanted to stick together because we believe in each other, and know the team has what it takes to win.
Now let’s come to Evil Geniuses, the organization. The Evil Geniuses Dota 2 roster had a bad 2021-2022 season overall. I was only part of the team for the last DPC season. Before that, EG got knocked out of the Stockholm Major in the group stages. We didn’t get too far in the Arlington Major either. Based on the results, I’m not too surprised the organization wanted to head in a different direction. However, I must add that both sides reached the same conclusions [the organization and the roster]. The players, we never got off on the right foot with the new leadership after the PEAK6 takeover, and it never got mended to a point where the relation was mutually beneficial for both parties. So it was a good thing to go our separate ways after TI11. All this, of course, happened after we got eliminated from TI11. If it had happened before, it would have been a lot of unnecessary pressure on the players during the tournament.
Earlier in the season, when you were on SUNSfan and Synderen’s ‘We Say Things’ podcast, you mentioned that your removal from the team wasn’t done in the best way. Which is why lot of people in the Dota 2 community, including me, were surprised that the five of you (four players and coach) decided to stick together for the 2022-2023 season. After you went back to EG, was that misunderstanding resolved?
Before I rejoined the team, I had multiple conversations with Kanishka “Bulba” Sosale and Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, to understand what exactly happened leading up to that decision from their side. Something I like to do is constantly grow as a person and evaluate the mistakes that I have made in the past. I want to learn from my mistakes, and I don’t believe in holding any grudges.
We were able to talk through the issues, in which they admitted the kick wasn’t handled in the best possible way. I mentioned that it would have been totally fine if they didn’t want to play with me and had given me ample time to find a new team, which wasn’t the case. Teams needing a change is quite common in Dota 2, but players need to be given enough time to figure out a new direction for themselves. But the important thing is, we were able to talk and get past the issues, which is why I went back to play with EG.
Glad to hear you were able to sort it out! Now you have a new offlaner to enter the fray with you in the form of Jonas “Saberlight” Volek. How was the decision to get him board reached? By the way, were able to figure out if his name is derived by inverting the words ‘Light Saber’?
Unfortunately, his name has nothing to do with Light Saber. I was hopeful it would be! He mentioned it is based on a streamer he used to watch who had a similar name.
We knew that Nightfall was going in a different direction, so we started thinking about offlaners who could fill the void. Personally, I wanted a player who is a natural offlaner, and not a player from a different position converted to an offlaner. I also has a preference for a player from a similar culture; a Western player. Saberlight was by far the best choice, and we got to discussions if he was a viable option or not. There were a few contractual things that needed to be dealt with, so we did have to wait a for while before announcing the roster. Thankfully, Shopify Rebellion were able to help out with that.
It sure looks like a formidable roster which can take North America by storm. But talking about NA, it seemed like the region was getting stronger, with at least two other teams (Quincy Crew and TSM) having stable rosters and giving EG a run for their money. But the region had the worst showing at TI11. Now, there is no more Quincy Crew either. Has the region suffered a massive setback? What do you think NA needs to do to get back to its glory days?
I don’t think the North American Dota 2 scene is going to see an influx of local young blood. If NA has to get back to the top, it will have to be through imports from other regions.
The best thing we can have in NA is organizations that can provide accommodating situations for teams. For example, it is great that TSM got into Dota 2, which shows they believe in the game and in the players. I genuinely think that is the main factor. And now we have Shopify Rebellion supporting us as well. Think about TSM – they had some inspiring showings last year after the Team Undying got taken over by the organization. Even though they didn’t too well at TI11, TSM did reach the grand finals of the Stockholm Major.
If NA can do consistently well throughout the year, or even the Majors, it will unveil the fact that the region does have potential. If organizations can help support the players psychologically and financially, it will help in the growth of the region, which will attract other organizations.
Don’t you think it is a bit of a chicken and egg problem, where organizations are hesitant to invest when they don’t see results, and results don’t show when there is no organizational backing?
That is exactly the issue, and a lot of what is happening is because of that. But there are organizations that are willing to give the region a try. Hopefully, other organizations can take some inspiration from that.
Why do you think Europe has becomes so dominant in the past few years? The region has always been the most dominant one along with China, but in the last few years, that dominance has increased.
I think the answer to that is quite straightforward. Not only does EU have the most players, but they also have the highest number of new players who keep pushing the boundaries of the game and inflate the skill level of all players in the region. That is a necessity for the continuous growth of a region, and Eastern and Wester EU are the only regions where that is happening. A mix of young and hungry players and veterans is usually a recipe for a good team, because they help each other grow.
Coming to the meta, how do you like patch 7.32d?
I am waiting for something new. We have been playing the same Dota 2 for a long time, where the puzzle has been solved. Of course, now that Wraith Pact has been massively nerfed, it will have a far reaching impact on the overall game. But the map and a lot of the heroes have been the same for a long time, and the game feels a bit stale.
It’s hard to deny that patch 7.32 is a very balanced patch, where a lot of heroes are viable. But I would like to see a new challenge; to have to think again on figuring out the game.
What kind of challenges would you like to see? If IceFrog was listening, what’s the craziest Fly idea for Dota 2?
The first one is just a change in the map; I want new ward spots. Possibly a change in Roshan’s Pit. It would also be nice to see something new in the way lanes work by changing tower locations.
If you were given the power, where would you relocate Roshan?
There are a few funny choices, but I would keep him in the river, because he has to stay contestable. I’d probably put him on the other side of the river, where he previously was. In that case, the Radiant Outpost would be closer to the Rosh pit instead of the Dire, which would shake up the game.
That would be fun to see. It has been a while since the Rosh pit was moved. How does the position 5 role feel right now? You’ve been playing position 5 for a long time, but you did play other roles previously, like position 3 in Team Secret. Do you ever feel like switching roles?
I enjoy the position 5 role, and don’t see myself switching from it and becoming a core player again. I do think the position 5 role is missing out on a few things right now, in terms of how many heroes you can play. The game is in state where you have to be a strong laner for your cores, which takes out a lot of heroes from the hard support role. At TI11, Tundra Esports successfully used Mirana as a position 5 hero, because she is a strong laner. She does have good spells like Moonlight Shadow and Sacred Arrow which are beneficial in any stage of the game, but the thing that makes her a good hard support is that she is a formidable opponent in the laning stage.
Because of where the position 5 role is right now, spell casting supports like Shadow Demon and Winter Wyvern are a little harder to pull off. I would like to see a change so that either the spell casting heroes have a better way to lane, or a change to the laning stage that will favor the spell casting supports.
Hopefully that is the case when the next big patch arrives, which doesn’t seem like it will happen at least until the end of the first DPC season. What do you like doing in your free time? You know, when you aren’t working out!
I don’t do anything too special. I like watching movies and TV shows and spending time with my fiancé and friends.
Shoutout to Shopify Rebellion for believing in the roster. I am looking forward to what we will be able to accomplish together. Shoutout to my fiancé, and also my team, who I am excited to see at the beginning of January 2023.