Interview with Maurice 'KheZu' Gutmann of Blackfade

General Gosu “GosuGamers” Gamers sat down with Germany Maurice 'KheZu' Gutmann, the young captain of Blackfade.HoN, for an interview. Topics discussed include his team, his recent surge in popularity, the metagame and balance, as well as a number of other topics.

Hello KheZu, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. To kick this off, please introduce yourself.

Hello there everybody, my name is Maurice 'KheZu' Gutmann, I currently play for the team [BxF] I'm 16 years young and live in a small city called Aichach in Germany. Besides playing HoN, I don't do much other than going to school. I'm in my last year of school and I'm planning to go abroad for 6 months when I'm done, not too sure yet though.

You're the captain of the newly formed Blackfade team. Could you tell us a bit about your teammates, please?

Concerning my teammates, we currently have a 6-man roster: Insania, Smackdonald, Zapman, MMBZAI, LezzQQ, & me, KheZu.

First of all, lets start with Insania. Insania is 17 years old and I've been playing with him for about 2 years straight, I've been by his side ever since my 2nd team. He's the main support / jungler in our team.

Smackdonald, 18 years old, he's our Carry player.

Zapman, 20 years old, plays either our 2nd Support or Solo.

MMBZAI our 14 year old small son in the team, will either play 2nd support or Solo (deepending on Zapman).

LezzQQ, 20 years old, will most likely play in our dual lane together with one of our supports, seeing as the metagame involves pretty much 2-2-1 strategies or 1-1-2 + jungler.

Last but not least we have me, I'm currently 16 years old and I call & draft for my team. I often play everything from Ganker - Tank - Semi/Hard carry. Depending on what I still need in my lineup.

As you said, you're 16 years young. Is it ever a challenge to command your team and get them to keep playing together considering your age? Do you see it as an advantage over the older players when it comes to reflexes, hand-eye coordination and such?

They don't treat me like I'm 16. They treat me like a leader and I don't feel like 16 when I play with them. Being 16 and being a leader of a team at the same time isn't too much of a problem, at least not for me. I have quite good hold of my team and we're working quite good together. I don't think the age has a lot to do with that, it's rather the maturity, but that's just me.

Hmmm, I think I might have an advantage over the older players in terms of reflexes, probably also in the hand-eye coordination, but I wouldn't build on that. Of course good reflexes are needed and very useful, but HoN comes down to skill and teamplay mostly.

Fnatic, Frenetic Array and Honportal are, at the moment, arguably considered to be the top 3 teams based on tournament results in 2012. Where do you think you rank in comparison at the moment and where do you see yourself in a couple months?

I'd say we're top 10, I can't really tell which rank exactly, but I know that we have a chance against all of them, if we have a good game. Those three teams are in my opinion the top 3 at the moment. However, every team is beatable and we have a fair chance in beating those. We have played vs Fnatic and Honportal before, so I think I know what I'm talking about. The past 2 weeks it's working pretty good, we're managing to build up teamplay and communication. Obviously there's still a lot of stuff we have to do to improve. Though, I think in a few months we could have a chance to be at the top and compete in the top 3.

Before forming/joining the Blackfade team you've been trying out for Fnatic. How was that experience for you? Is there anything in particular that was the deciding factor when they decided to take Adrian 'Era' Kryeziu and Kai 'H4nn1' Hanbueckers instead of you?

I've been friends with 'NoVa' before they lost 'Freshpro', I've used to play matchmaking a lot with him and when they were looking for a 5th player he suggested me. I was really happy to be given the chance to become their 5th player. I enjoyed it a lot, and I thank them for giving me a chance to do so. I learned quite a lot in those tryout games, I'd say I had approximately 10-15 games. It was quite cool to play with them, they're all quite chill and you can joke with them easily.

When I did tryout for them, 'H4nn1' was already part of the team, as far as I know. In terms of 'Era' and me, I was told it came down to experience, but I guess he's also a step ahead of me when it comes to gameplay and such. He was the easier choice they said, seeing as he has lots of competitive and LAN experience at the top. I still thank them for trying me out, 'Era' for joining their team officially, and the Jew (A/N: 'Fly') and Jascha in particular for being awesome.

You've been gaining in popularity a lot recently and have built somewhat of a fan base. Do you notice this yourself while in-game, do you get a lot of whispers and such? How do you handle this new situation, do you like communicating with your fans? Do you think this new surge of popularity is due to some of the old fan favorites leaving the game, so you are one of the new faces that people like instead, or do you think your time would have come even if they all stayed in HoN?

Yes, I get whispered a lot more than I used to. I get quite a lot of whispers or requests about stuff like streaming, playing together, practice etc. In 99% of all cases I talk to each and every single one since I really enjoy talking to my 'fans' or just people who need some help concerning the game. I like helping. I also give out tips and sometimes even watch replays when someone asks me to when I have spare time to do so.

Interesting question, it might have fastened my process in getting more fans etc., but then again, I'm sure I would've been at where I'm now sooner or later.

Who's the best player you ever played against and with? If you could make a dream team, which 5 players would you choose? Is there any of the competitive players that you don't like? Do you know of any player that is not currently in a team but has the potential to become a competitive player?

Uhh, this question is tough. The best player I played with, I'd say Jascha aka NoVa. A very good friend of mine. He's without a doubt the best support player, and has by far the best personality. The best player I played against, hmmmm. I'd go with N0tail when he's on top of his game.

KheZu - cause I love them all.

I like all the competitive players and know most of them. I don't have a problem with someone unless they have to make me have a problem with them.

I know several players who could potentially become a competitive player. But I can't throw any names out there. The key to become a competitive player isn't only your skill level, personality and character come into play as well. I can't name any cause the most I know who could potentially become a competitive player have a sick amount of ego.

Both teams and spectators are getting quite bored of the tank/heal meta. Luckily, teams have started exploring other possibilities lately and heroes like Hag, Slither and Deadwood have been seen recently. Which route do you think will the meta go, which heroes will stop being picked and which will gain in popularity?

I hope and guess the meta will go into more of a burst/push metagame. I can say that at least 80% of all competitive players agree with me that these tank/heal lineups are utterly retarded and just boring. I've always loved heroes like Hag, Deadwood, Pyro, Witch Slayer, Pebbles etc. All of them have quite the amount of burst. And all of those heroes I just mentioned work. Or push lineups, I'm a huge fan of those. For example: Polly, Slither, Ophelia, FA, Rhapsody.

I don't think people will stop 100% to pick particular heroes, while DS is very good in tank/push lineups he fits in a lot of lineups, for example. Though I think there are lots of heroes which could possibly gain popularity. I'm waiting for people to finally play Soul Reaper again, the hero tears through tanks and is quite hard to push against. Also he is just perfect in those teamfights, when you're opponents pick a tanky team with heals. You just pick it yourself with Soul Reaper. Seeing as the fights go on forever, your passive aura and heals will just rip through them. Then we have heroes like Balphagore, I think he could be picked up way more often. Thunderbringer aswell. Soulstealer, Witch Slayer, Maliken, Moraxus, Gauntlet, even Sandwraith. We've played Sand Wraith a lot recently. All those heroes are in my opinion underrated and underused heroes. And I think in the near future teams will start picking those again.

S2 has received a lot of criticism from competitive players regarding the balance lately. So if you were given the chance to make one balance change to one hero and one item, which changes would you make?

I'd balance Sacrificial Stone, I think this is the least used item in the whole game. I haven't seen it in 1.5 years of competitive play. Either rework the item, or have it start off with 5 charges and giving Agility / Intelligence / Strength heroes different gains from the item.

I love Aluna. She's my favorite hero by far with Pebbles. I'd give her another function on her Dejavu spell, right now she's able to 'slow' people if your shadow of Dejavu runs through them. Meaning that, if you chase someone, you have to use Dejavu - then run through them - then press E - and then they're slowed. Which seems pretty odd to me. I'd give her some other effect on the spell or give her a +0.3 Str gain per level.

The HoNTour is on the horizon and is due to be fully announced soon™ according to S2, but not many details are known yet. What do you personally expect from it and what would you like to see in it?

I expect some nice tournaments with some good administration and good amount of cash. As you said, no one really knows when it's about to start, though I hope it will be soon. I want the game to be balanced when it starts, I want that it's balanced when teams play versus each other. Also, I want to see that S2 cares about what they're doing. What I would suggest is leave the EA heroes of the last 2 months out. So for example if it started tomorrow, newer heroes like Berzerker, Gravekeeper, Artesia, Shadowblade and Kinesis wouldn't be allowed since only very few teams have experience with them.

Many of the North American players decided to switch over to Dota 2, however the vast majority of Europeans stayed, with Trixi of Fnatic being the only notable exception. Why did you decide not to switch over and why do you think former North American pros decided to make the switch?

I decided not to switch cause I simply dislike the graphics, game engine and the gameplay in Dota 2. Of course I've tried the game, but only for 3 games or so maximum. I won't switch to Dota 2, that's for sure. I like HoN a lot. The graphics are awesome, the game flows better and is just awesome.

About North American pros switching, I do not know the reason myself, I could just guess. And my guess is that they either like the game more than HoN, or that they want to try and make cash out of gaming, and they thought Dota2 is the better option for that one.

Thank you once again for the interview, Maurice. Is there anything else you'd like to add or any shoutouts?

Shoutout to my sponsor, Jascha for helping me through all of this. My teammates and my girlfriend Marri, I love you.

And I'd like to thank you for having me to do this interview with you!