The International 2018 in my view

Chinese version here on Weibo

Sun Aug 12 (arrival day)

Having been in Shanghai prior to TI8, this was the furthest I’d traveled to actually get to a TI. Twelve hours and a dream about becoming a TI champion later, I’m in Vancouver airport where it is a cacophony of arrivals in a nice, modern airport that is probably a little bit too small for the traffic going through it now. I’ve been to Vancouver quite a few times before and have always enjoyed it, and it is a bit surreal that it is being combined with the spectacle of The International this year.



After we get through customs, everyone is waiting for Ferrari_430 to get through customs and get on the bus to the hotel, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Someone says 430 went smoking before coming to the bus, someone else runs to go look for him. Where could he be? A few minutes later, he strolls up casually, without his luggage. He doesn’t know where it is and doesn’t seem to care a whole lot either. It turns out that Chinese caster AMS has helped him bring it to the bus. I ask 430 what he’d have done if no one looked for him, or if no one helped him with his luggage, and he’s like… “I got this, this is easy!!” Elaborating, he pulls out his phone, “There’s this thing called online translation, once I have that I can figure everything out!”

So I ask him if he’s got internet on his phone yet, and he says nah.

On the bus ride to the hotel, we talk about random stuff. I ask him what other games he’s playing — on WoW he says it’s the best of its type that has ever existed and probably ever will, but he’s maxed everything out so he’s been playing a new Chinese mmorpg, 逆水寒. With most online games, he says, they’re only fun while you’re putting money in. Then once you’re done putting money in, you feel like a dumbass.

I mention I’d been at Chinajoy previously while in Shanghai, and we talk a bit about that. The games, the gaming culture on display there, and oh boy can he go on about the cosplayers and booth girls (in both positive and negative ways — we’ll just leave it at that). The conversation goes to board and card games, and we both agree that they are boring. “Why play those when you can play video games? With board and card games you have to wait for all the other fucks to finish, and the worst part is, you have to talk to people” is Ferrari_430’s opinion on the matter and I couldn’t agree more.


Ch-ch-checkin time

We get to the hotel, and check-in takes forever because there are so many people arriving at the same time (like an hour), but everyone is in good spirits and it’s fun.

That night, I first get the feeling of it being TI again as I come across various teams and people. Amongst the first I run into are some of Liquid and I exchange greetings, but as always before any major tournament ends, I try not to strike much conversation. Late in the evening, I meet with iG manager Zhili for a dinner at a Japanese izakaya, and we cross paths with all of Team Secret who are doing the same thing as we are.

Mon Aug 13 (media day 1)

It’s straight into the TI action as media day begins today. The flow is, by this point, a natural set of habits to me — and along with Vincent and Helen we help with all the Chinese teams to get their photos shot, their interviews done, and the players back on their merry way.


standard green screen pic

With VG’s shoot, Fenrir missed a sponsor logo on his team shirt, he originally had the wrong shirt or something, so they had to redo him, but it was fine because media day was going ahead of schedule anyway. Doing the VG team interview and they rely on Fenrir and LaNm to speak a lot, but that’s the team dynamic — two guys who don’t shy away from leadership.


Full team interviews with Kaci

In a bit of downtime in between, I ask LaNm about his kids and he says they’re doing well and his two year old in particular is at that stage where they’re really cute. Talking to Fenrir and he says my haircut looks good, which is different from at Supermajor where he told me I should dye it some other color. But he always talks about my hair, lol. Talking with him about mobile games again (which also seems to be a common topic with him) and he says paying money feels good in that moment, but afterwards you feel like a real idiot, which is almost word-for-word what Ferrari_430 said. But in the end with those kinds of games sometimes you just want to feel good for a while, and what better way than to spend a bunch of money to become overpowered? After all, that sense of power is what we’re chasing after in each successive game of Dota too, at least partially.

The welcome dinner this year is in Stanley Park and a lot of people show up, but lots of people skip it as well. Obviously the EG guys went to RTZ’s house, and that was a bit of a fun topic amongst my group at the dinner as well as we looked at the pics on social media. Cute, endearing in a way. I mostly chill with Evany (OG) and Zhili (iG) and we talk all kinds of stuff, from teams and operations and behind the scenes stuff to just the food and whatnot. People are throwing axes at an attraction setup by the welcome dinner and we’re like, what if someone gets too drunk and throws the axe the wrong way? So we avoid that general area but obviously nothing bad happens, I’m just paranoid and imagine strange scenarios sometimes.

Like at past TIs, champions rings for last year’s winners are there and brightly on


Liquid ring

display. Unlike past TIs, there are rings from each of the other winners there too, so on a table in a corner of the party, in a place that many people don’t even notice, is one of the highlights of this welcome party.

Lots of PGL people are present and we try to talk and make plans to find time to play a game of football (soccer), but I don’t know what will come of it. By now this is probably the third tournament where we’ve talked about it but haven’t been able to make it happen… but someday. Someday. It’s one of the only things I really miss when I’m travelling for tournaments — being able to just go to the field and kick a ball around whenever.

There’s ice cream at the party, and I’m trying to extol the virtues of rum raisin ice cream, but people are skeptical. I get skrff to try a scoop and he’s just like, it’s okay. I don’t know how these people live with themselves. Rum raisin is really quite good, okay. I didn’t used to like it either but now I do.

Tues Aug 14 (media day 2)

Walking to the Sheraton hotel where players stay, so I can help with the second day of media day and I come across most of Mineski going out for a stroll. They’re going to get bubble tea.


Spot Sccc, Jack, rOtK, and xiao8

Some more interviews with Kaci and teams. I forget if VGJ.Thunder was today, but during their group interview one answer was funny (they’re a funny team): “ROtK is our coach, our leader, our captain, and the guy that takes all the blame when things go wrong. For everything, ask rOtK.” That was the gist anyway, I’m paraphrasing somewhat.

This was my first serious interaction with Serenity (I’d known of and followed zhizhizhi for two years prior, but that was it), and they are down to earth and relatively boisterous even. Quite at ease in this TI environment, at least outwardly. Perhaps it’s for themselves as much as it is anyone — don’t act like there is pressure and maybe there will be less of it. Not as quiet and understated as the Wings players were at TI6, but full of that ‘newness’ that you only feel from kids at their first ever TI. First ever real large-scale LAN, even. Regarding Wings, who people continue to compare them to (perhaps not entirely on point, but that’s another matter), they refer to them as their teachers (老师、前辈)and also shrug off direct comparisons, noting that they still have a far way to go before becoming deserving of any such comparisons.

Later in the afternoon, I call Ferrari_430 over to help him complete his Workshop submissing for his signature treasure, and then there’s a quick meeting regarding the redzone cast for the Chinese stream, with Mrrr, xiao8, Ferrari_430, and shadow. The idea was to have a couch that they kind of host while giving a more casual cast of games, and rotate guests in and out here and there. I think the idea was really cool and has a lot of potential in the future.


Doing subtitles on Serenity’s interview, with Serenity in the picture eating lunch

I see Winstrike at their media day, and in the in-between downtime, they have gotten their hands on the scooters that staff use to get around more quickly and are going up and down the hallway like madmen, clearly enjoying themselves. As with Serenity, there’s always a contrast between teams new at TI and those who have been here a few times. The newcomers feel like they want to grasp everything with both hands, give everything a shot.

It’s a once in a lifetime experience until it’s not, but before then you have to treat it like it is.

Wed Aug 15 (group stage day 1)

It’s the first day of groups and the action begins. I’m still doing subtitles. Outside of that I run into various team managers and coaches. Wearing an Inter Milan shirt I’d bought recently, people ask me about it but the only reason I bought it is because I like the way it looks. I’ve never been a real fan of any Italian teams, but the Inter Milan jersey with the black and blue stripes is one that I’ve always liked. As we saw at DAC and Supermajor, basketball is popular amongst Dota people, but football is even more so.

In the lounge at the Sheraton, where all group stage games are also played upstairs in their training rooms, the only time I see teams is for lunch. Teams all eat together, the Chinese teams all ordering Chinese takeout as is the norm. They like Vancouver a lot for many reasons, not least of which due to the fact that there are more food options. Many of the Chinese teams bootcamped in nearby Richmond, which is very convenient if you’re, well, Chinese. In fact, there is a branch of the famed Chinese internet cafe chain Wangyu here in Richmond, and some of the Chinese teams bootcamped there this year.

Thurs Aug 16 (group stage day 2)

There’s a lot more subtitling as we get into working on the Champions Roundtable where past TI finals players come together to just chat. Some truly hilarious and interesting moments in the raw footage, but it’s a lot of time needed and by the time I’m done with my part, I have over 440 lines entered.

The film crew needs to get some follow up footage with Serenity for the opening


Serenity filming

ceremony, so they enlist my help on that and in doing so, I took to talking to their manager for a bit. They’re a very down to earth organization and seem very approachable, from top to bottom and the players included. I mean, they’re actually just a Dota-only org and their boss is here with them — a guy whose dream was always to make it to a TI in some way, a true Dota fan.


Later on I walk to the venue to go check it out having not been able to go there yet. It’s a quick 15 minute walk on the Vancouver streets, and being summer it’s a pleasant one too.

Fri Aug 17 (group stage day 3)

Today I work on more subtitling and so don’t really come across much in terms of interaction with other people. The hotel staff did knock on my door to, in their words, make sure I was still alive because I’d had the do not disturb sign on the door for most of the week. Lol.IMG_20180816_173438

Being locked in my subtitling dungeon and with group stage games progressing normally, I don’t interact with a lot of people today. This year, teams, staff, production, and talents are spread across downtown Vancouver in various hotels, so casual interactions between everyone are decreased as well, a fact that is kind of sad but probably better for my sleep…

We actually have a little bit of free time after the subtitling is finished for the day, so in between watching games on Twitch and Douyu (watching both English and Chinese streams) I get to walk around a bit in the city. Vancouver is nice — I’ve always liked it, and having lived in Seattle for a while I’ve come up to Vancouver to visit for fun in the past. Vancouver’s always felt like Seattle’s cooler brother and this time is no different. Players I talk to all seem to agree. While Seattle is nice and pleasant, Vancouver just has so much more to offer in terms of food, city life, and that unmistakable sense of activity and bustling that only some cities have.



Walking down Robson St, there’s always life happening. At one of the bubble tea stores I see iG getting drinks and pause briefly to say hi — Q of iG exclaims to his manager Zhili, it’s your friend! Anyway, I say hi, then bye and leave them to their adventure.

I also managed to get some real poutine for the first time ever, and I have to give it to Canada — this uniquely Canadian food is definitely worth its reputation.

Sat Aug 18 (group stage day 4)

This is the last day of group stage and it’s the most action-packed. Tiebreakers seem likely at the beginning of the day, and by halfway through the day they are pretty much inevitable. IG are eliminated and a group of players (and team management) that I’ve come to know pretty closely through the years are out of the tournament. It’s sad, and late that night their manager Zhili sends me a simple ‘gg’, I respond ‘gggg’ back and all that needs to be said has been said.

Late that night, Black^ who has arrived a day prior joins up with me to head to the Sheraton hotel (where players stay) for the midnight snack. Outside the hotel we come across Jack, VJG.S coach Clairvoyance, and Mineski manager Orrin. We chatter about a variety of things, least of which is an at-length flame session of Jack, led by Clairvoyance, on his lifestyle habits and lack of general put-together-ness for lack of a better word. Caveman, savage, and disgusting are words rotating in the conversation as Jack is flamed for falling asleep, not shaving his beard, being messy (Clairvoyance and Jack have to share a room), and so on.

Later Jack laments on the general lack of such opportunities to socialize at this TI due to the hotels all being separate, and the midnight snack room’s empty echos seem to ring in agreement as we are the only few people there all night.

Sun Aug 20 (press day)



Today’s press day, and as always it’s a hustling bustling frenzy of activity as each team comes down to the room fully decked out in their newest team uniforms, ready to accept the questioning of awaiting media. I run around all day from 10am to 5pm helping with interviews, sometimes in front of the camera but more often behind it (as it is often the more efficient means).

With LGD, I help with some fun interviews with Rivalry Esports. First we get Maybe, who


an interview with Jerax

is always a good sport with these. It’s a fun piece in which players guess what hero it is based on… questionable Steam Workshop item sets for those heroes. After Maybe, we ask him if he’d recommend another teammate — perhaps Chalice? Maybe enthusiastically recommends his teammate, knowing that he’s just roped him into another interview, and Chalice is duly recruited to partake in the same interview. Chalice proves to be a good recommendation indeed as he has a lot of fun with it, including one quip where he compares a bald-looking Storm Spirit illustration to their coach 357, and and another in which he points out the hero in question is wearing a green hat.

VG come, and despite a less than ideal group stage they seem to be in decent spirits. Fenrir looks over to me and we start talking about haircuts and hairstyles (practically seeming like we’re just resuming our earlier conversation from days ago). He’s saying my new haircut looks good, and I’m asking him — it looks better than the long hair? And he’s like ooh yeah. For sure. And I’m like your haircut looks good too. He looks a bit proud and goes, “yeah and previously I died it this awesome amazing color and it was fucking amazing. But now I’m too lazy to keep repeating that so this is what I have now.” And I’m like, no it looks good now too. No joke, the two of us talked hair styles and fashion for like ten minutes.

The silly casual conversation with some players that I see here and there always stop abruptly, but almost inevitably at this point continue on the next time I see them, no matter when or where it is.

At some point Mineski is here, and iceiceice offers me his long-sleeve Mski jersey, saying that he prefers the short-sleeve one anyway. So that was nice, and after all these years that’s actually the first player jersey I’ve ever gotten.

Newbee shows up to their time slot on time, and they stick around for the entirety of it too — relatively rare as most teams leave a bit early (which is also fine, because most of the time the interview requests have died down by then). At the Supermajor I notice kaka has a patch of white hair in his black, and back then I joked with him 那块白头发是被队友气得吧 “that patch of white hair is because of your teammates”. It’s still there, so I wonder what that means. 😛

Sccc and kpii get pulled for probably over a dozen interviews, but they’re good sports and take pretty much every interview. Sccc in particular with the — expected by this point — fervor and sincerity that has become his signature. At one point he’s asked for an interview, and having just done five in a row, asks if he can give the interview to someone else. The answer is sure, recommend someone! He tries to point at Faith, then Moogy, but none of them are particularly moved, so Sccc grabs kpii who has just finished an interview of his own and the two of them do an interview together with kpii interpreting for him.


Sccc and kpii in action

VGJ.T are next, and I get to help with an interview with ddc. I mean, the number of interviews I did today probably set a record for me for press days (I even skipped a previously planned lunch because it was so busy at press day), but ddc is another one of those guys where we can kind of just start and stop and start again random conversations, then drift off. Always humble, he says in his interview, perhaps the reason that he’s been to all the TIs but hasn’t put his name on the Aegis yet is simply he’s not good enough. It’s humility, but I also hear a bit of sadness. Keep fighting, my friend! Dreams are worth fighting for.

Then it’s Serenity. I’ve gotten to know them a bit better over the past few days, and this bunch of kids (I say kids because, well at this point I’m older than them for sure) have potential and bright futures as long as they keep their heads on straight. Zyd is an interesting one, and after having watched Zhizhizhi for nearly two years and Serenity since early 2018, Zyd is someone who I think has a lot of potential. That’s not to say the rest of them don’t, because they do. But Zyd, despite his somewhat mischievous-looking persona comes off to me as a dedicated, thinking kind of player. His interview answers, though not as slick as other players’ come across as thoughtful and serious. And one of the most interesting things to me is that when he’s got nothing to do and is just sitting — for example sitting at the interview timeslot waiting for media — he doesn’t spend all his time on his phone. I’m not sure what that means but it’s a bit different.


Chalice, Miracle-

XinQ seems to get along with everyone and walks around talking to people — Sccc, Chinese team managers, even just walks up and jokes around with me when he’s got no one else to talk to. I’ve done a few interviews with him now and if you ask him the right questions, he answers with this glint in his eye that suggests he could say a whole lot more.

Lastly it’s iG, and though they’ve just been eliminated, they are about as spirited as can be expected in those circumstances. Boboka’s got his earphones in, but otherwise seems to be his usual quirky self. Their manager and coach lpc are hanging out, the rest of the players chill for a bit, and as it’s near the end of the day the media activity is dying down, so they don’t have to face too much of an onslaught of questioning on their recent TI exit, which is probably for the better.

In between interviews with the Chinese players, I’ve also helped with quite a few with Western players — Sumail, Yawar, and Jerax for example. Sumail has grown a lot since the first time I met him at DAC 2015 in Shanghai. Both literally (he started out probably a foot shorter than me and is now probably taller than I am) and metaphorically. My first ever personal interaction with him was in 2015 in DAC in the elevator when I was with some Chinese players who were going to a party, and I somewhat jokingly asked then-15 year old Sumail if he wanted to come. He meekly declined and looked away back then, but nowadays Sumail is brimming with confidence, a confidence that he’s earned.


His interview answers do not lack in this signature confidence, but he’s added an extra element of thoughtfulness and in the recent year or so it’s become quite a pleasure to hear him talk about things. Via an interview, it’s my first time really meeting his brother Yawar, and they are alike in a lot of ways, but you can also sense that they’re not the exact same person. Nonetheless, top tier mid players must run in the family and confidence is the common ingredient.

Towards the end of the day I catch some of the OG guys that I’m more familiar with — ana and Jerax, and chat a bit. With ana I just fill in some of the blanks on what he’s been up to prior to rejoining OG. He brings up the idea of needing to finish high school, and I’m like yeah, it’s not a bad idea to at least finish school some time. Just as a thing that you can say you’ve done, like a checklist, and ana agrees too. I suggest he perhaps look at zai’s example where he took a year off to finish all his schooling.

After press day, a quick visit to the venue is in order to check out the early access for the Secret Shop, and to pick up the swag bag. The Secret Shop isn’t as large-scale as in previous years so I barely buy anything, but it’s okay as I’ve become more minimalist in the material things I choose to own. So it’s fine for me anyway.


Outside the venue

A walk around the venue later and we’re back to the hotel, from where I head to a dinner appointment with Evany and Fly at Guu again for more Japanese food. True to her organized and prepared nature, Evany has a table reserved for us which is key as the entire area is swarming with tourists and TI visitors alike.

As we’re ordering food, Fly notices some familiar faces walk in the door behind us: Phil of Valve (whom we’ve worked with for years now), his son, and none other than Dendi himself. While they’re being told that the restaurant has no tables for another hour, we’re exchanging greetings and Dendi is, as always, his bright cheery self. As they leave to find another place, I’m remarking, like if only the restaurant knew who they just turned away! It’s Dendi!! I mean, yeah, reality is the truth and it’s not a huge deal as Vancouver has so many good food options, but still. 🙂

Afterwards, we get ice cream.

Mon Aug 20 (main event day 1)

The opening ceremony sees all the teams gathered together in one place. And then the delay in the morning sees them all go outside, with probably half of them smoking (smoking is bad okay, seriously lol it’s the one thing I dislike the most about esports, is all these young people smoking). It’s a light mood, and I get to talk to a few players in the relative downtime. XinQ of Serenity, iceiceice, Fenrir — the patterns repeat sometimes and it’s not always me seeking them out. As the players enter the stage for the opening, Team Secret are last and have had a chance to watch the other teams enter. Puppey, ever the strategist, sees some teams entering looking a bit disorganized, and tells his team “Okay I’ll go in a bit ahead, and you guys follow” so that it looks better. His team agrees and they enter and look somewhat more smooth than some of their rivals, another tactical success by master Puppey.


That’s a lot of MMR

This is an all new venue to me (and everyone else), so the mental cruise-control of knowing exactly where to go and the fastest way that was my existence at Key Arena is no longer relevant. I spend some time in the morning walking around getting my bearings, and also because it’s a decent way of ‘settling in’ to the TI spirit.

The first series with Liquid and Optic goes by pretty quickly, and Liquid look dominant, imperious. Could it be the year that all the curses — the patterns — are dismissed?

In between, I run to the video editors to try and help with some of the discrepancies in player ages/nationalities/etc, and also try to figure out some issue with a really big subtitle file that we’d been working on on days prior.

The next series is VP vs LGD and this is the first one where I’m potentially on deck for interviews. LGD ends up winning. Our first choice for the interview was Fy, but he declines, instead suggesting Maybe. Eventually it is xNova, as LGD says it is a bit of a team habit to send him for the first interview of a tournament, for some good luck. I suggest that he can take the interview in English, as I’ve talked with


on the big screen with xNova

him before way back at the Boston Major in English and remember him being fluent. He instead says he’d like to do it in Chinese, for the fans back in China. A very considerate move I think, and one that should definitely be lauded — despite esports having come a long way, a lot of players could still improve on their awareness of these types of issues. It is the fans, after all, that pay for everything here, ultimately.

Afterwards is, well, the rest of the day and it’s both a haze of action as well as a what feels like a neverending crusade against sleep deprivation. As is common amongst a lot of fellow on-screen people I’ve talked with through the years, the last night before the big event begins is one that often loses sleep and I’m on just a few hours of sleep and as the day goes on, it shows.

Serenity win — against many people’s predictions, but not mine. I’d predicted them to win not because of who they were facing, but because I think they have it in them to go pretty far here. According to many pros I’d talked to, in the scrims leading up to TI group stage, Serenity were amongst the strongest in terms of results.


Serenity 2018

The interview was with XinQ, who’s a big fluffy guy that seems to always have a laugh in his eyes (Chinese chat flames him for never opening his eyes).


Newbee crash out against Winstrike, but I barely catch any of the actual action as I’m not busy, but falling asleep on my feet, and then later in my chair in the interview room. I guess I’m getting old.

It’s sad, as Sccc is — as it is with almost every Chinese Dota fan — one of my favored players. It’s hard not to support the guy, and indeed all five players of Newbee, but there are winners and losers in every match. Earlier in the day when Newbee had arrived, Sccc had in his customary way strode through the hallways, and upon seeing me gave me that assertive yet friendly head nod that only he can really manage, with his hair bobbing up and down with the force of the nod itself.

The last action of the day, or night, by now, is VG vs VGJ.Thunder. In the hallway



backstage, VGJ.Thunder’s coach rOtK walks by but not before punching me in the gut. As a joke of course and it’s not a real punch, but every year he pulls something on me. I think last year he did the classic tap on the shoulder and walk the other way thing. The guy knows how to have fun, anyway, and doesn’t hesitate to try and keep things light-hearted even before an elimination match.

Seeing a manager of VG a few minutes before their match, he’s saying “No matter which of us wins, we’re going to dinner together later tonight. We’re brothers after all.” and that little bit drives home the reality of how cruel this matchup is in particular, especially coming this early in the tournament. After VGJ.Thunder lose, Fade sees me as they come to (or from, I forget) the elevator and says “Josh, we lost…”

I was unsure how to respond in that split second, and even now it feels uncertain to me, as it’s never easy. But there’s humanity in it all and it’s always these moments that remind me of that fact the most.

The night ends with that, and with LaNm’s desires to carry his VGJ brothers’ hopes along with him on in the rest of the tournament.

Tues Aug 21 (main event day 2)

Group stage day two only sees one Chinese team at the venue, Serenity. The venue this year is somewhat larger than KeyArena, and it’s definitely more modern. There are TVs in most of the elevators that all have the matches on, and even the elevators with no TVs IMG_20180812_163644.jpgwill have audio of the matches piped in. There are also more elevators, and they’re faster. Yeah, I’d say the main difference between Rogers Arena and KeyArena would be the elevators.

I share the shuttle with Kyle on the way to or back from the venue, and we chat about how people in Dota feel like family at this point. Like all these other games are great and all, but when you get back to Dota, it feels like coming home. It does feel a bit like that by now, yeah, and that’s something interesting for me as I’ve never felt a real sense of belonging anywhere.

This is also the second year after TI4 that I have an autographed chest, and even though there’s no way I’ll sell many at all, it’s just mind blowing that my name is in this game that I’ve played for over ten years now. Twice, even! This is also the first year I get my name on my TI badge, so that’s cool too.

Wed Aug 22 (main event day 3)

I’m helping today with a shadow autograph session. He’s got this thing where he looks over at the fan to see what pose they are striking, and then emulates it so they are both doing the same pose in the picture. It’s quite cute actually. After the photos, he signs for


Giants of TI history

everyone and on one guy who asks him to sign a shirt, he carefully fixes parts of the autograph on a tshirt where it got wrinkled by going over it a few more times with the marker.

I ask him if all this signing is more difficult than playing a grand finals, and he smiles a bit. Then I’m like this has gotta be harder, you play those and you win. And he’s laughing, “and sometimes you’re playing and then you’ve lost” kind of like you don’t even know what’s happening. After he’s done meeting all his fans, on the way back upstairs as we leave the elevator, we cross paths with Team Secret. Just as they’re about to get into the elevator themselves, shadow quietly goes “Oh, my idols.” And his girlfriend and I suggest to him to go and get a picture with them, but he’s hesitant, perhaps not wanting to bother them. In the end he does, and I have this picture of 2 meter-tall Puppey alongside shadow who is much more diminutive, to say the least.

BurNIng is in the venue to cast, and asks someone take a picture of him while backstage, ostensibly for his own social media. When asked if he wants to see it, he’s like no, no, no. “Just make sure it’s from an angle that makes me look skinnier,” he jokes. It’s okay BurNIng, I will be your fan no matter what.

Thurs Aug 23 (main event day 4)

There’s a VG meet and greet session today, and LaNm says if he won, he’d sign things for the whole arena. 我要是赢了,我把整个场馆都签了!eLeVen agrees enthusiastically. But they lost this year so it’s just the one hour session.


With VG

Serenity have a signing session too, and on the elevator Zyd looks at what I’m doing on my phone and asks what it is (Facebook), then asks what Facebook is. It being their first time at TI they need to do their autographs for the first time, and they’re worried about making sure it looks nice. They practice for a bit while laughing at each other until finally each settling on an autograph that they’re satisfied with, and we pass the papers on to PGL staff. The practice autographs they scribbled they don’t want anymore, so I hand those to some waiting fans — I’m sure to some people somewhere, those have some value. Imagine if someone on Serenity wins a TI in the future!


Serenity doing their homework

The OpenAI match between the CN legends and the bots sees 430, BurNIng, rOtK, Sansheng, and xiao8 going up. BurNIng is asking the guys “Shouldn’t we discuss a bit how to win?” and rOtK’s like “No need, just watch me perform,” while xiao8 is exclaiming how they’re super fucking noob. I remind them that Secret lost a game in a BO3 against them, and they seem to sober up a bit: rOtK remarks “If we lose to these bots then that’s enough flame fodder for the community for the next year.” His statement seems to hold no fear of such flames, and in fact if you looked at his face while he said it, you’d think he welcomes them. 🙂

They win though, but not before 430 dies over ten times against the bots, a fact that he admits with a small smile after the game.


The CN anti-bot squad

At night it’s the TI8 All-star match. Waiting in the tunnel, the all stars exchange settings wisdom. Autoattack, right click deny, etc. Do you use autoattack on Earth Spirit? Quick cast? And so on. The Chinese speakers teach the others some Chinese, and Pajkatt shows he knows some Chinese (still? From his LGD days or perhaps he’s still learning).

After the All-star match, Miracle is taking off his yellow Team BurNIng shirt, and he’s like “Where do I give this back to?” and I’m telling him “it’s yours, you can keep it!”

We’re trying to get Sccc to join the Chinese panel, but understandably he feels a bit uncomfortable taking such a role at TI8. Sharon makes sad faces and says he’s hurting her feelings, and Sccc is like, “I wouldn’t want to hurt a girl! Never!” but he still steadfastly refuses for his own reasons and really, it’s understandable. At the end of the night I get a picture with him as he’s mentioned he might be flying out earlier than the last day, and despite not really knowing him that well, he’s one of those guys that I feel like I could get along well with if there was ever more time.

Some of the Chinese teams are looking to change their flights back to China, citing the upcoming season being in just three weeks and needing to rest and figure out future teams. I help some of them, including Fenrir who just buys his own flight but needs me to help him do so. “What would I do without you?!” he exclaims.

On the shuttle back to the hotel, after it offloads people who are staying at the Sheraton, just those of us for the Fairmont Hotel remain. After the shuttle starts moving again, Dendi peers back at me, raises a fist, and goes “For the boys!!”. I respond “For the Horde!” and he goes “For the Alliance!!” A moment of chatter about how we’re enjoying TI8 and we’ve arrived at the Fairmont, where he says good night in the elevator.


All-stars in shiny yellow All-star shirts

Fri Aug 24 (main event day 5)

Burning everything I know, desperate for a change

A lot of people, before this TI, during the group stages and onward, have been saying that the pattern won’t repeat again. We might see a repeat champion for the first time. We won’t see a Chinese victor. We’ll see someone come out completely unpredicted. Anyone could win.

Liquid eliminate Secret and then are eliminated by EG. OG and LGD play out what many people (correctly) predict as a preview of the Grand Finals. On a different day things might’ve gone differently, but today’s result means LGD will have to fight — and carry the hopes of millions of dedicated Chinese Dota fans — from the lower bracket tomorrow.

In some ways, it felt destined for OG to just keep winning as they pulled off comeback after comeback.


Under a diamond sky, everyone wants to shine

Sat Aug 25 (main event day 6)

Crashing down the ancient roads, past our yesterday

The day begins for LGD kind of where it ended, the mountain of the TI8 Grand Finals the ultimate goal regardless of what the journey will be. It feels EG are powerless to stop them as LGD brush them aside on their way to a rematch with yesterday’s nemesis, the heretofore unheralded and unexpected OG.

In some ways, their final day of TI8 also begins where every previous TI of theirs has ended: it’s LGD’s first ever appearance in a TI Grand Finals, after having crashed out in various TIs in the top 6. They’d never been this far before. Always close. They’ve already conquered themselves and their past in coming here today, but standing with them backstage, helping them get microphoned up for the filming of True Sight, you can sense they desire more. At this stage, who wouldn’t? Dare to dream, and we’ll chase that future alongside you.

Maybe there’s hunger in my blood, screaming out loud for what I want

Grand finals. LGD players seem calm, confident. But clearly it’s difficult, and they understand that. In the end they lose after a gruelling 5 game series, and despite the narratives and the storylines for the Western point of view, this is a painful loss for the Chinese scene in more than one way.


Just because you need something to happen, doesn’t mean it will happen. As a long-time DK and EHOME fan, it’s never really been a question of whether I am an LGD fan or not. Those rivalries back in the day were like Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Manchester United vs Liverpool, etc. I respect the organization and their players, but from a pure fandom point of view, I’ve never really cheered for LGD. I don’t cheer against them, but anyway — this TI was the first time I’ve actually supported them.

China needed this win. They didn’t get it, but they tried.

See me running full speed at it, shattering, collide


That moment

Let’s talk a bit about TI8 Grand Finals game 4. This is the game with the moment that a majority of the Chinese fanbase pinpointed as where LGD could’ve won, but ultimately lost everything. Game 5 was just a formality in some minds. Anyway, LGD are up 10k, then 12k, then 17k as they force multiple buybacks and take two lanes of rax. The Aegis awaits on stage, just as the Aegis timer ticks to a minute on Roshan in game 4.

One of China’s most authoritative stats platforms chimes in, 93% win prediction at this point. I’m on deck with Machine, ready for the winners’ interview, which looks like LGD and has looked like it would be LGD for a while. They just need to force the buybacks, retreat, regroup, take Roshan, and make a final push. Then, in the blink of an eye, Ame’s Morphling goes in, dies, Somnus gets caught too, and what looked for moments like a surefire 3-1 victory for LGD reverts back to an almost even game where Merlini says it doesn’t feel like LGD is up two lanes at all (and by all means it does not matter that they are), and then it’s all over.

A lot of fans blame Ame almost exclusively for the game 4 loss, and ultimately LGD’s loss in the Grand Finals. But having watched that moment over and over today in between writing this, I interpret it differently. He wasn’t throwing, he wasn’t overconfident, he wasn’t arrogant in that split second.

Call me post-traumatic, now it’s do or die

This is a team who has been the sole realistic hope for China for the greater part of a year. Even so, many Chinese fans I’d talked to didn’t hold that great a hope for LGD either. They were just the strongest in a packed field that other Chinese teams could hardly compete in.

The Chinese Dota scene is one of the most dedicated and hardcore gaming scenes I’ve ever encountered, so while I’m not the world’s biggest proponent of fans leaving the momentIMG_20180825_135536

LGD backstage

their team loses, not cheering for the victors, perhaps there is some common ground to be found by looking at it from a different perspective.

Students who spend all their savings travelling 20 hours by train across China for the chance to see their idol, to perhaps see the team they’ve watched hundreds of hours on tiny laptop screens in their 8-person dorm rooms raise the trophy, to meet with that guy that plays support in their stacks… Guys who played Dota 1 coming back to events for Dota 2, having not played in five years but still following that one player, that one team, young child and wife in tow. Using their one annual vacation to make it to Shanghai, hopeful of getting tickets for finals day as they’d only managed to buy tickets for one day. The couple from all the way across China that stood outside the gates, snacks in hand, at DAC 2018 finals day all day, hoping someone would have extra tickets (near the end even the scalpers had mostly sold out).

Yeah, I know, as Dota fans we all have these types of experiences but in China a lot of fans literally define themselves by it. It’s what they’ve chosen as their life and lifestyle. When Chinese pros and personalities say “Dota is my youth,” they mean it. And the fans follow suit. It’s not a question of whether they’ll stay up until 10am watching TI every year. It’s whose apartment they’ll watch at, and what they’ll eat at 5am when they get hungry.

Multiply that by millions and that’s the pressure that consciously or unconsciously gets transferred to Chinese players, magnified by the fact that a lot of Chinese pros share the same exact experiences.

(Maybe, there’s hunger in my blood)

The Aegis is there, if I just run a little harder… a little faster, it’ll be here. And then it wasn’t anymore. I think he just wanted to win. Too much. Is there even such a thing as wanting to win too much? If there is, then why do we compete? What are our dreams made of?


Waiting for an interview that never came

So, Ame. After the incident with BurNIng at TI7, a lot of people disliked him. Add to that his demeanor, one which expresses nearly no emotion, and people have tagged him as arrogant, egotistic, toxic, whatever.

I took it upon myself to talk to Nicholas, a long-time manager at LGD to learn a bit more before making any conclusions. Ame originally had graduated high school with pretty good grades and had successfully made it into a decent university. Right around that time, he was scouted by inflame, and the LGD organization invited him to join CDEC.Y. His parents were very worried about this turn, and it took quite some convincing for them to allow their son to choose the esports option over university. So he put school on hold, choosing the high risk high reward path, and the day he was to report to LGD, his parents drove him over to the teamhouse themselves. His mom still calls every week to check on him and make sure he eats properly. The only thing he does is play Dota, he hardly plays any other games, and even on dates with his girlfriend he’ll bring his mouse and keyboard in a backpack so they can go to the internet cafe… to play Dota. To me, this isn’t the picture of an immature little flamer that lets things get to his head. It isn’t the picture of someone who feels superior to the world because they’re the carry player for LGD. It’s the picture of me, or any number of us, at his age (minus the general success and prowess at this game). Introverted, just wants to play Dota, not great at expression, parents that worried about him as he grew up, wondering if he’ll ever get past ‘that gaming phase’. And ultimately coming out of childhood still needing to learn a bit how to interact with the world.

Post-TI8 (Afterparty)

Afterparty. There are free hot dogs provided out front. Ramzes666 is having a good time and yelling fuck at coach 71, who seems to be on good terms with the VP carry. They’re all looking to get hot dogs and joke jovially as their turn in line comes. The Winstrike boys are right there in the mix. I see other afterparty regulars, EE-sama, Aui_2000, some of Liquid, a few EG guys in and out. Almost no one from the Chinese teams. I don’t drink or smoke, but I still don’t remember much of the details, because it was loud, and I was tired.

The night breezes along in the cool Vancouver night as conversations float into the billows of cigarette smoke clouding the sidewalk along the front of the afterparty venue. Players and representatives from different teams flit between each other, looking to glean intel and gain an edge in blossoming discussions regarding the next season — the infamous ‘post-TI roster shuffle’ in action, as it were. In between these more serious activities, casual conversation abounds as most of the talent from EN and RU are seen, along with a few from CN even, xiao8 for example who shows up towards the latter half of the night.


The afterparty scene

Late in the night I see Evany from OG, with Fly (who is obviously not from OG now, yet had been for such a long time). Not entirely sure what to say in that situation, so I just tell her I hope you are good. A few casual ‘feelsbadmans’ are exchanged with Fly regarding his 3rd place exit, but perhaps it’s because of both our personalities that the day’s situations pass by without much more serious discussion of anything. I think we’re both ready to keep looking forward.

They’re headed to Taiwan next and a bit of envious chatter from me about all the good food in store for them, and they’re off back to the hotel as well.

Hanging out with iceiceice at the afterparty seems a tradition now. He always goes to these, and I usually show up to find food, and then we just chat. We talk random stuff, from new teams being formed to whether he wants to go to PAX, which is in Seattle the next week. He’s always wanted to go to PAX, first mentioning it back in 2014, but now that this is the closest TI to PAX time, he can’t because he has a baby at home.

Near the end of the night, we come across OG.ana as we make our way out of the afterparty. He hugs Zhili, who was manager at iG when ana was there. Then he grabs me and gives me a hug too as I congratulate him. Thanks, he says. “You don’t need to worry about finishing school anymore,” I remark, referring to our conversation earlier during TI8 press day. And he’s like yeah, in that Aussie accent, with that Aussie smirk.


The wishes of a million Dota fans

By this time it’s close to 3am, and instead of heading back to my own hotel, I hang out in front of the Sheraton where it is still buzzing with that energy that follows TI.

Zai’s chilling outside, and we just chat a bit. The front of the hotel is the smoking spot, so we talk about smoking as a bad habit in esports. Snus, betel nuts. Different addictions across the world of esports. Then we talk esports scene and growth or prospects and future stuff. How it felt like, after TI7 with all the new teams emerging and Liquid being these globally accepted winners, there was so much optimism in the Dota scene. And how somehow it feels different, almost opposite now for some reason after TI8. Disbands, shuffles, declining player base, uncertainty for organizers and organizations alike. How mobile games in China have all the girlz and stuff, while Dota is the biggest sausagefest ever. Nightclubs in Shanghai. Missing home.

He asks when this very writeup is estimated to come, and I’m like soon, within a few days hopefully! If I don’t commit a timeline then I procrastinate it, and that’s something I hate about myself. So, thanks to zai for helping keep me accountable on this.

Morad and Charlie are around for a bit too. They talk about how Sumail and Miracle are a bit similar. Morad says he literally has to force Miracle to eat his vegetables at times, and Charlie doesn’t believe it, or maybe he does because the phrase that the manager is also a babysitter is one that I’ve heard repeated through the Western and Chinese Dota scenes.

At the end of my adventure in front of the Sheraton tonight, I finally find kuroky outside the hotel at around 4am. I don’t even recall what the opportunity was for me to meet him originally, but this guy has always felt like he could be a brother in a different timeline. We think and approach things similarly. I like to think I share his quiet determination.


Vancouver, 5am

We talk a bit — what’s next? What was in the past. TI8. He’s like “I hope you still supported us this year!” I tell him I put Liquid as my favorite team again this year. Because if they were my favorite last year, and they’re still the same five guys playing the same game, then there’s no reason to change it. He says their performance should’ve disappointed but I say nah, as long as you give your best it doesn’t disappoint.

I ask him what he’s still doing up this late, and he tells me he likes to be able to slowly take in the last night of TI. There’s no need to sleep right now. Me too, me too. We talk a bit about Tokyo, as the topic of where we’d like to live or visit comes up. I suggest he visit, and promise recommendations of good (chicken-based) ramen places next. On Serenity, he says they learned really quickly in pre-TI scrims in Vancouver, and were playing well towards the start of TI in those scrims, but then in TI, they kind of went away from what they were doing in scrims. The TI stage gets to you, I guess.

The night ends around 6am for me as I get some food with Reisen (the Korean player) who was here to watch TI. The Vancouver early morning is a bit chilly as the slightest tinge of fall begins to bleed into late summer.

Sun Aug 26 (post TI8 day)

I’ve stayed up until 7am, and there’s an 11am breakfast/post event gathering with a few of the main people I work with at Valve, Ronald and Sharon. Three hours of sleep, whatever — you live once, you’re young once, so it’s a fun brunch kind of engagement but it’s too soon before there are flights to catch and goodbyes to be said again.

In the afternoon, I message iceiceice to see if he wants waffles, at a place I’d recommended to him on Twitter two weeks ago. It feels like an eternity ago, really. We order and eat our waffles and he’s like ooooh these are gooood. They are quite good indeed.


at Nero Belgian Waffles

Then I show him another place I’d recommended, a pork tonkatsu place that’s recently opened in Vancouver, and he’s like let’s walk back to the hotel, chill a bit, then go eat tonkatsu. So it’s a leisurely stroll back, and a few hours spent in the hotel lobby chatting about the kinds of idle things that you chat about on lazy late summer afternoons.

Interspersed within are occasional fans catching iceiceice for a photo, or someone from a team or sponsor stopping to say hi, and then the rare sighting of LGD who are coming back from some shopping. Iceiceice plays annoying paparazzi on Somnus as he walks in and takes photos of the LGD mid player on his phone, delighted in having done so. It turns out he’s taken video as well, so he’s now got a video clip of Somnus walking through the hotel lobby with his girlfriend, seemingly unawares of being filmed.

We talk a bit more about stuff — his next team, what they should pay, and just general life things. With his wife, we remark on how he used to be more popular back in his DK.iceiceice days. Well, yeah, that was DK. Then we go to get tonkatsu, which he says is really really good, and I was like told ya so! “Should’ve come here earlier, huh?” But he disagrees on the latter statement and says that it’s good to come now, because only now can you really enjoy it.


With Sir Iceiceice

Food, I guess, loses some flavor when pressure is the only thing you can taste while still competing in a TI.

Back at the hotel again, he has to go pack for a flight in four hours, but no one really wants to say bye just yet, so we go and harass people who are clearly trying to poach each others’ players (no comment on who was involved). He’s already got his own team settled for the most part, so he’s happily saying “I just want to gossip! Gossip!” At one point, iceiceice sees Fy out for some fresh air and waves over at him, pretending like he wants to recruit Fy to his team. Fy knows what’s up though and dismisses iceiceice with a shake of the hand and a smile.

Before we know it, the night is over and so is our TI8.

Post (other)

Feeding frenzies in my brain

I can only imagine how it feels for days, weeks, forever, perhaps to lose a TI grand finals in five games the way LGD did. I can’t really imagine, but in a lot of ways second place is — at least immediately afterwards — worse than nearly any other result. You lose 3-0, it’s probably not so bad, but a close 2-3 loss and you’ll likely be left wondering what if for a long time.

Somnus’s Weibo post brings lament. “It’s as if I’ve just been through a really, really long dream. My journey through the dream was a lot of fun, but the ending painful. How I wish I could wake up and it’s the day we first arrived in Vancouver, we’ll be going to eat and I’d tell my teammates about this dream over food.”IMG_20180825_203753

Incidentally, iceiceice and I were just saying how it’d be amazing to be able to replay life over and over from save points, but with the knowledge gained from each past play. I guess the desire to manipulate time is a nearly universal one.

I’m hopeful every day, gotta get it while we’re still young enough to break

But BurNIng’s response says it all: “You’re still young. This isn’t the closest you’ll come to winning it all, next time grab it with your own two hands!”

And Fy’s Weibo post strikes an optimistic tone. “Actually it’s okay. If you get knocked down, just stand back up. You guys don’t need to send me messages of condolence anymore. The allure of esports is in loss and victory. Getting ready to go home now. The me of the future, will become even stronger.”

We’re finally not afraid

Next (future)

It’s been a really long and tiring season for everyone involved. I’ve helped plan and execute multiple enormous tournaments in China, learned and seen more in one year than I have in any year previous, and been to another TI. For all this I am so appreciative and hopefully there is more to come for me, and from me.

For now, we look forward to TI9. In Shanghai! I never thought I’d see it, but here we are.

Thank you to everyone — for reading this, for supporting the game, the teams, the scene. Thank you to Valve, PGL, fans, teams, players, staff, and everyone that has given something to this world.

Thank you, Dota

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Maybe next time

The International 2017 in my view

The International 2017 took place in Seattle, USA in August of 2017 with a prize pool of over 24 million dollars. By popular demand (well, mostly just a few people who told me they really enjoy these for some reason) this is my experience of TI7. Or at least bits and pieces of it because it is really simultaneously a flash and a long series of events all in one.

Sun July 30

It’s check-in day at the hotel. Well, for most people. Some arrive the day after. I live in the area so I just bus down to the hotel, and every year the first moment in that year’s hotel is like taking a step into a portal leading to another world. It’s not foreign, but it’s so vastly different from everything else — at least the experience of TI for me is.


View from the hotel

Lots of people in the hotel lobby. I immediately see Vilat and the Russian language people hanging out in the couches, waving hello I find the front desk where I’m told that I’ll have to wait an hour for my room to come ready. Many others are in the same situation, but no one really minds. It’s loud and boisterous in the relatively small lobby of the hotel, and it’s a great opportunity to say hi to people. So that’s what I do. Liquid people, OG people, some LFY and LGD people who’ve already checked in and are casually strolling down to smoke. Synderen comes to sit next to me while we both wait for our hotel rooms, and I think the last time I’ve seen him would’ve been at last year’s TI. Lots of familiar faces, and yet I think this TI has been the one with the most brand new participants.

Mind_control wants to continue playing basketball. We’d played basketball in the light rain in Shanghai, after DAC 2017, for something like three hours along with Black, Nutz, and xy of Faceless at the time.

Kuroky and Miracle quietly nod hello on their way outdoors to smoke. Yao says my new shorter hair looks good. I see Andrey a bit later and he agrees too. I’m not sure — but I’ve kept a counter of what people have said about my hair through the event.

I see Zai in the elevator, briefly, and he remarks on the shorter hair too. I say he was first in cutting the long hair, the original haircut boy. He smiles quietly as he leaves the elevator.

Mon July 31

Players’ dinner is tonight. While waiting for ride to player dinner, we talk with Evany and Fly. We talk about their new logo (sad there’s no more green), I’m wearing my old DK shirt and Evany says she’ll get me an OG shirt to wear so I’m not still living in the past, I guess. We’re all pieces of our past, okay? And DK was Wings before Wings wingsed TI6.


Wings’ rings

At the player dinner, Wings’ rings are on bright display, but there are no Wings. There will be no Wings at TI7 either. I think that moment, when I saw their rings sitting centerpiece at the dinner, was when it really became apparent how iridescent their TI6 run was — brilliant, varied, and ultimately not to be seen again.


iG, LFY, and LGD of the Chinese teams show up. Looking for food, they’re enthusiastically grabbing beef skewers. We order fruit punches (non alcoholic), and order an extra one and give it to BurNIng. His teammates wonder where theirs are as BurNIng sips his drink. Some kind of joke is made about BurNIng being the elder statesman of the team — and the table at which iG sits really has that kind of feel. One older guy with four kids, running around his feet. Figuratively, anyway.


Dinner with OG in the Seattle sunset

Back at the OG table, we’re eating. Jerax is like “the corn is the best” or something. And it is quite good. I eat two plates of it. Somewhere during the evening, ana wants to meet Gaben, and enlists Notail to make the introduction, to which Notail happily obliges like a big brother and off they go, ana saying something about being nervous. But they come back emptyhanded – it seems Gaben hasn’t come to the welcome dinner this year (or he couldn’t be found at that time). WIth Evany we talk more, about Taiwan, about traveling, about how at DAC I had chatted randomly with ana about upcoming tournaments and he’d wondered about eventual TI7 invites, and how I’d told him that I thought if they win Kiev Major then they’d be invited for sure… Back then there was doubt on his face. But now here they are.

Many hellos and random chats are exchanged at the welcome dinner, a welcome tradition at this point in TI history. With the various language casters and analysts, various players, etc and so on. The food’s nice too, and the location means brilliant sunsets at around 9pm, after which it’s about time to head back to the hotel. I walk back in the still-warm night.

There’s a puppy at the hotel at night and it is amazing how it gets everyone out of their shell. It’s Sharon’s puppy, and it’s magnetic. Eleven, inflame, casters, various players alike — everyone is enamoured with the puppy and the puppy with them. Eleven comes over on a few separate occasions just to pet the puppy, and it’s really cute how this little puppy can make it seem, at least for some moments, that there isn’t a mega event going on with everyone’s hopes and dreams riding on it.

Tues Aug 1

There’s a players’ meeting today, and it’s possibly the most impactful one of these at TI so far. At least, of the ones I’ve been present at. The outline has been seen online in various places so far — Majors/minors system, points for players, etc. Very interesting stuff and everyone is discussing it afterwards, wondering about the details.


The players’ meeting 2017

Later on today is media day for the Chinese teams. I’m on to help with a bit over half of them – 3 out of 5: LFY, Newbee, and iG.

According to the interview, Newbee Sccc has Centuries by Fall Out Boy as his favorite music at the moment. After the interview with Kaci, walking with him back to the elevator, he asks me if, if they make it to the final, can they have that song played in the stadium for them? Like as entrance music. I say I don’t know, but I can ask. It’d be pretty cool if it was possible, I remark. He nods with a big grin on his face.

Inflame, after his interview and heading up to the elevator asks if I’ve eaten yet. No I haven’t, not yet today I say. Since it’s something like 3pm at that time, he looks a bit concerned then the elevator is here, and he’s going upstairs (or was it down?) and I’m going the other direction and we say bye. I’m fine though — I never eat much in the day during a tournament, and via conversations through the years with others who work at tournaments this seems to be a fairly common thing. Not that it’s exactly healthy, but well, sometimes that’s just how it is.

We also film a bunch of fun pieces with Kaci, and with Slacks. The ones where Kaci has a player draw/paint his chosen hero, and ones with Slacks where players are playing games.’Never have I ever’ with iG is a brutal affair, because the iG players pull no punches when it comes to targeting each other, but hilarious. Come to think of it, I have no idea which of these pieces ever aired and which didn’t, so if anyone knows, let me know.


iG doing a fun piece with Chinese production

Thinking back to TI3 and TI4 times, this has all been a pretty drastic change. People have all loosened up, and perhaps one unheralded thing that new players to the scene has brought is more of a feeling of fun and carefreeness. For example, Xxs is always enthusiastically participating in things, curiosity being a trademark of his, Sccc is his own brand of bright (or perhaps, a piece of shining steel), and the older players around these guys seem to have a different side of themselves that would’ve been hard to see on stream a few years ago.

Thurs Aug 3


rOtK + puppy

Echo the puppy is around and frolicking in the hotel again today. Maybe (Somnus) comes to play with the dog. After a moment, he goes and steals rOtK’s glasses and first tries to feed them to the dog (jokingly) then when rOtK comes over, tries to look like he’s making the dog wear the glasses. ROtK swears at him and takes the glasses back while laughing.

LaNm is wearing a traditional Chinese kind of shirt. I ask him what’s up with it, and he puffs up a bit, saying don’t you think it’s cool? Offers to get me one too, and says “let’s go do some taiji.” And then he looks at my hair and goes, “your long hair was fine man, what did you do to it?”

With all the comments on my hair now being shorter than it’s ever been, I kept an incomplete tally of what people thought about it throughout the event:

Shorter hair good/bad

Good: Yao, Andrey, Yaya, Nick (Valve dude), Faith, Op, others
Bad: lanm (criticized it twice), BBC (calls me Arthas – and now I can’t be Arthas anymore)

Maybe people are just being nice, mostly.

We had dinner with a few people from LFY that night, at their invitation. Of course it’s at


LFY at Boiling Point

Boiling Point, a Chinese/Taiwanese-style individual hot pot place that Chinese players go to literally every night at TI, spanning back many years. Luckily for them there is a location both in Bellevue, and in Seattle. During dinner, the topic at one point shifts to various TI finals. Banana of Newbee during TI4 is currently with the LGD organization as a coach, and LGD manager Nicholas says to banana and LFY player Super, “the worst final in TI history was the fault of you two fucks!” Banana laughs heartily and responds, “Well, I had a great time anyway!”

Fri Aug 4

It’s the middle of group stage and the hotel is quiet as group stage games are all played in the training room floor this year. I split time between Key Arena and the hotel throughout the group stage, working on subtitles for almost all of the content that features Chinese players.

At the midnight snack in the hotel, we run across Matumbaman, and their performance in group stage so far very briefly comes up. He says, “the tournament only starts at the main event…” Also at midnight snack, Mind_control is there and again the topic is basketball: “Basketball!!” he exclaims. But I note that we probably shouldn’t play, because what if you break your hand? “Then I play with my foot” is the reply.

Sun Aug 6

Today is press day, teams come down in timeslots and various media outlets can pick and choose who they want to interview during those timeslots. This year there seems to be fewer media outlets present, and the ones that are present seem to invariably have their own favorites — so coverage doesn’t seem to be very thorough. Most teams leave far earlier than their schedule has them for, and there are no complaints because there’s practically no one asking to interview anyone.


Boboka and BurNIng

In preparation for upcoming digital autographs, Boboka is practicng for his own signature. He spends some 40-odd minutes practicing it. BurNIng offers to impart some wisdom on the matter to the younger B-god, but pretty soon gives up: “your dumbass id sucks, how about you just change it.”

Interviews are held with some players, but not surprisingly little interest in BurNIng His teammates call him an over the hill player, his popularity is gone. 过气选手!they keep repeating delightedly, which means he’s past it.

Because there aren’t as many actual interviews happening at this year’s press day, I have more time to just chat a bit with players since they all have nothing to do while they wait anyway. Inflame wants to play right away. He’d skip all the break days if possible, of which there’s only one this year already (down from two in previous years) “We want to keep our momentum. but our team has a good mindset right now.”

Dotabuff have brought in a shipment of custom-made whiteboards with the Dota minimap printed on, and handed them out to people. OG are drawing each other on the map. S4 is off the map somewhere. Ana draws an Evany.

Meanwhile, Maybe draws Nicholas, LGD manager, and it’s actually decent — some of the better drawing I’ve seen from a Dota player at this TI.


Eleven and Maybe

LGD.Yao offers me a t-shirt of theirs, one that says “LGD IS INVINCIBLE”. It is pretty cool. But LFY and LGD share a design, and asked to choose between one of the two, I can’t really. Well, I’m pretty neutral. Their manager nicholas reveals that I’d picked Liquid as TI winners anyway. We laugh about it and the topic shifts as they do on these kinds of days.

Mon Aug 7

Newbee are patient, and ultimately dominant on the main stage today. Sccc shines on the


Backstage prior to opening the main event

big stage, a big stage player — a rarity. Faith comes off the stage shouting, then he goes for the post-match interview. Afterwards, he’s talking about the games so far. iG did super well. They really did their draft homework, he says. He points out Xxs as the key on Earthshaker especially, perhaps telling in their approach against iG in their next match as it’s obvious Faith as the drafter for Newbee really does his homework.

iG.V are eliminated. It’s a sad performance because it’s not at all a fair represention of their ability, but they fail again to get over the block that is perfoming on LAN.

Tues Aug 8

LFY wins 2-0. Backstage, I have a bag of chips and that is my lunch as I’m there waiting for them to come off the stage after their match. Seeing me, ddc walks up a takes a chip and eats it.

LGD have a stuffed rabbit that’s their good luck charm, but this year the rules are nothing extra in the booths, at all. Fair’s fair for everyone if that’s the rule. And they lose. Superstition strikes again?! Well, not really, but through the years there have been mentions of lucky shorts, not touching the Aegis before winning it, the 1v1 tournament being cursed, lucky underwear, lucky stuffed animals, eating at the same restaurant that you ate at before your previous win, etc… Superstition is an interesting topic if only for the flavor that it can add to the intensity that is a TI.


Outside of Key Arena

There’s an iG autograph session. Op says my hairstyle looks cool, like someone from Slam Dunk. I dont know who it is though. I’m just chatting a bit with iG manager while his players do their session, and there’s a guy there that has asked for my signature for three years now for some reason. Like I’m not anyone really, but it’s always fun to meet people so it’s cool.

In the evening it’s back down to the media dungeon backstage of Key Arena to work on more subtitles.

Wed Aug 9

iG is backstage, awaiting their match. They’re all watching the BurNIng player profile that we’ve all been waiting for (well, I’ve been waiting for anyway).


iG watching BurNIng’s profile

When footage of TI4 DK comes up, rOtK, who’s coach of iG at TI7, looks over at BurNIng and laughs. “Feels bad man”. Another iG guy goes, “That year when you got pushed.” BurNIng just has that look on his face.

Thurs Aug 10

Newbee signature session. Sccc, kaka, and Moogy. Kpii is there too, but he had a session already so he’s just with his team, though his presence is far from unnoticed as fans try — to the ire of the line management staff — get photos with him as well after they’re done with the other Newbee players.

Sccc is massively popular. Like, probably top 3 in popularity amongst any Dota player right now, or at least amongst all Dota players present at TI7, and that’s true for fans from all lands. At the signature station at the end of their session, they want some extra autographs of their own to share with friends and Sccc takes his badge and goes “I’m gonna scan my badge here until the sun sets!” and scans a dozen or more times all with a giant smile on his face.


Newbee signing piles of stuff for fans

Meanwhile in Key Arena, the games are going on. Liquid continue their run through the lower bracket, while LGD’s win against OG means that all of a sudden I am now scheduled to do an on-stream interview where I was previously not on deck for any live stream work this year. The reasoning being that with two Chinese teams playing in the next round (iG vs LGD), there’d be both a winners’ and losers’ interview and both would need an interpreter.

Fri Aug 11

Newbee advance to finals. After his postgame interview, Sccc sees the stats on screen 52% MVP for him. “Wow is that my damage??” The energy from the stage clearly still coursing through him. I explain its the MVP.  Then he’s like cool. “SF is my signature hero!” And he’s off.

I go on to do the one interview that I end up needing to do — with LGD’s Victoria. I’m always a bit surprised by how bright the lights are and how quickly an interview goes by. Before the interview I’m running through potential questions and answers to feel more ready, but truth be told I’m not as prepared this year as in other years because originally it wasn’t planned for me to go on stream at all this year. Usually pre-TI, I sit for hours and watch streams in both Chinese and English and just practice translating everything that is said as quickly as possible, but this year I haven’t been able to do that as much. It’s always nostalgic to be sitting back in that interview room, backstage of Key Arena, awaiting that gg call though. The rest of the crew each year hasn’t changed a lot — I think there’s been one set of changes only between TI3 when I started and now, and it’s been a pleasure working with everyone so it was nice to get to do one interview if only for that.


Dendi and puppy

Echo the puppy is here at Key Arena, and now he’s famous — he’s been featured on stream. He goes to get an autograph with Dendi, then on the way back he shares an elevator with Liquid, who have just won against LGD. Liquid, even after the stress and in the midst of what were surely adrenaline fueled moments, pause to pet the puppy and are amused by his name, Echo. “Echo slam!” come the responses, and everyone is amused.

Sat Aug 12

It’s Finals day. Before the Finals, I had actually asked if it was possible to play Centuries by Fall Out Boy anywhere on stream as per Sccc’s request earlier — but due to copyright it wasn’t to be. Nonetheless, the lyrics from the song apply: You will remember me. Though he and Newbee did not win this TI, Sccc is a legend in the making.

LFY lose, and they are eliminated. But they’re ok. Ddc rather cheerfully accepts an exit interview, and ahfu, ddc, and inflame are all at the afterparty later. Well, I don’t want to speak for them. But they appeared to be alright. Not happy, but okay.


Liquid win

Newbee lose too. But Sccc though disappointed, continues to bound with energy. Later at the afterparty, he’s brimming with it. He’s a big game player, and someone that seems to feed off the energy around him, he can’t stop until the whole world knows his name.


with JerAx and Sccc. I just came in from the rain

At the afterparty, it’s raining outside. It’s rained on the last day of TI finals for what feels like 3-4 years in a row now. Seems like a tradition, no matter what the weather is before or after TI, on finals day it’s going to rain at least a little bit. Inflame at one point asks for a photo with Dendi, and happily states that Dendi has been his idol.

And of course there’s Liquid, who have won TI. I’ve been a fan of this team, so I congratulate all of them through the night… some at the hotel, some at the afterparty. Kuroky especially, as I’ve been following him for years. Not even his teams, but just Kuro, I’m a fan — the quiet demeanor, the seriousness, the determination. Anyway, I’m really happy for him. And the rest of Liquid too. The biggest of congratulations, and the honor is mine to have witnessed it.

Sun Aug 13


LaNm and entourage, circa 2017

The day after TI is always an interesting one. It’s really the one day that everyone feels free to do whatever and be themselves. Some people stay a day or two longer in Seattle but by and large, everyone is eager to get home quickly — so they just stay the one day after TI and so that’s the day where people go out and have fun, shop, or whatever. Some of the iG guys and LaNm wanted to go to Mount Rainier originally, but having rained in


idk what my hair is doing

the morning and with it still being cloudy, they decided against it and instead went shopping.

As it’s generally my rule to not bother anyone during the event, I try to use the last day to actually make my greetings and talk to people more, as well as grab a few photos with people to remember by. With BurNIng, it’s almost customary, but still a highlight of every event. I tell him “I’m your fanssss!!” and he responds, “I believe it!”

Mon Aug 14

On this day most everyone is flying out. OG’s Fly has one of the latest flights, leaving only after most everyone so we meet up to have a late lunch — taking him to a Taiwanese place up north of Seattle. That was a lot of fun, it’s always nice to be able to spread interactions a bit outside of within the tournament setting, and these tournaments have blessed me with being able to meet and get to know people from more places and backgrounds than I could’ve ever imagined.



In the end…

This year I really missed some of the people that I’ve come to, almost, expect at TIs.

In this world you shouldn’t have expectations like this, and I’ve mentioned it before in that any given tournament could always be the last time I see someone due to the temporal and international nature of all this, but well — this year feels like a transition period in some ways between the old guard and the new blood, and in some ways it felt like an older TI where I had to get to know more people and re-discover my place. At the same time I had a somewhat different role than at previous TIs (though I ended up doing a lot of the same things). So as a general observation, TI7 felt a bit different than other TIs.

Different is not bad, though — and once again huge thanks and appreciation to everyone who has made this event possible. Valve, media and production staff, PGL, fans, teams and players, everyone.


One thing I’ve noticed, or perhaps my selection bias has noticed, is that runes select the victors. That double damage in the grand finals. Invis runes in earlier games that help a team who is in the lead escape from a risky situation that could have turned it around for the other team. Regens that come at just the right time to keep a snowballing mid snowballing. Runes are the illuminati.

With that, thanks for reading and until next time~!

71 talks history, winning, team building


In a recent piece with ImbaTV, current EHOME coach and manager 71 looks back on defining moments and memories in his esports journey thus far.

71: Previously I’d always been a coach, there wasn’t any role where I needed to manage the club. Now that I’m a manager of the club as well I’ve taken on this role. I’ve just begun with this work, so right now I can’t speak much about any experience, and additionally I don’t really feel that we’re doing any particular thing very well yet, it’s just that I’ve got some things that I can share with everyone

Recently I just held a meeting with our team leads for our various squads, noting that we need to establish a team captain within each team, whose purpose is to be a connection between team leads, coaches, and the team itself and thus make it easier and smoother for management to do their work. Because I’ve been coach and team lead before, I feel that I was really lucky to have in the past DC and 820. These were two amazing captains – within the hundreds of players I’ve had, there are nearly none that come close to those two. 820 went from player to captain, it was kind of like he was DC’s successor at the time. So our management format is to establish a captain, and to have him play a role in connecting team leads and coaches within the management ladder.

Right now comparing international and Chinese clubs, there is still a massive gap. In terms of management, on one side it’s managing, and on the other side it’s organizing. So in our big team meetings I always say, if you need to organize something then you really need to organize it clearly. Including things like the situation for individual players, like what shirt size they wear, their height, weight, birthday, health, personal problems, any issues at home, etc, you’ve got to be clear on everything. Even their goals for playing professionally, their personal goals, so I always say you have to be really clear on the details and have depth to it all.

From our beginnings, with just one or two squads, we’ve now got eight or nine. We can no longer manage based on individual situations, we have to have a system. First you establish a team captain, and then the captain and team lead work together in accordance with the system to manage things. Once the system’s in place what you need is to establish the instinct behind it – down to details like penalties if the lights and computers are left on after a day’s training. The point is to raise their awareness, to establish the feeling that this is their home and they should care about it.

A few days ago the team lead for our Dota main squad went to get the players up from bed. We had scrims at 2pm, so by 12pm people should really be getting out of bed already. Our team lead and the players aren’t in the same house, so the team lead came over from the other house to wake them up. Old Eleven wouldn’t get out of bed, and our team lead couldn’t get him out so he just left and came back ten minutes later to try again. Eleven, in bed, then said “What do I need to get out of bed for”, the team lead stayed for another few minutes to try and get him out and then gave up. I was in the neighboring room during this and heard it all, originally I thought I might just go over there and drag him out of bed myself, but then I thought that this wouldn’t really have any long term effect. So I went downstairs and sent LaNm an email, telling him to gently but officially speak to this issue in the training room later. Because otherwise, stuff like this makes the team lead’s job too hard to do. In the afternooon I went down to watch them scrim. After they finished the scrim, I asked Eleven to go out for a smoke with me, and he immediately said “I know what the problem is,” and the other players were just sat there laughing at him. In actuality I was only asking him so I’d have a smoke buddy.

Speaking of captains, on the one hand they need to have the prestige and respect to focus the team around him, this is required. But only this is not nearly enough. On the other hand they need to have the ability to develop, and play things to their players’ strengths. For LaNm, in this latter aspect he cannot be considered to be excellent, though he does hold absolute respect.

Over all these years in China, from my point of view, from what I’ve understood there are only two people that meet these requirements in terms of captaining: xiao8 and rOtK. No matter how much people flame them, their results can be seen. Compared to the international scene though, perhaps it’s because Chinese players tend to be more reserved so there are fewer great captains. Internationally there are the likes of Misery, Fly, Puppey, Kuroky, etc. A good team basically will always have a decent captain. As for LaNm, when it comes major tournament time, he’s thinking a bit more about how to allow himself to play to 100% of his ability in order to have 120% of an effect on the team’s play. He can’t really do things like help the team and teammates adjust from a 50% status to a 70-80% status, so compared to some other more established captains he’s still lacking in various ways, though I’ve seriously seen him thinking and improving on these things.

I recall talking with LaNm prior to TI once. I said to him, “LaNm, we’ve been working together for a while up to now, and honestly there’ve been a lot of things that were kind of rough,” I listed them all out one by one. Previously during Manila I’d also spoken with him before, compared to working with you it was a lot easier for me to work with rOtK. ROtK communicates a lot, he uses a lot of affirmative language, and he has a clear sense of direction. This is actually a really important thing, because a lot of details really need you to go and figure them out. No matter how good the things in a person’s mind are, it’s all useless to a team because they’re only in his mind. But even if someone has bullshit on their mind but they manage to convey it to five people and get them to act uniformly on it, that is invaluable. ROtK does really well in this regard.

Talking on the point of good coaches, it depends on what your thoughts and requirements are. Some people just do their job, while others go above and beyond, there’s a difference between the two. Of course, there are also coaches that are just along for the ride. I’ve got my origins as a coach, I’ve led quite a few different teams in my day. I’ve got my own style and understandings, but I also change and adjust based on what I have available to me. For example, when I was coaching DK, no matter the results, I would always ask them to play and strategize extremely aggressively. Yet when I tried to apply this same school of thought to the team with Mushi and Inflame, the results were really poor. When that happened I needed to rethink things. The reason the original style no longer worked might not be because of the patch version, it was because my personnel and what their strengths and weaknesses were had changed, for example in terms of their on-the-fly decision making. And they were yet to fully understand the big picture: when you’re speaking with them about one set of things, and they think they’ve already fully understood and achieved it, yet from my observer’s point of view they’ve obviously done very poorly… so I can’t just complain, I have to find change starting from myself. I think about what changes I can make based on the personnel available, or from some other angle.

The things that a coach can learn are plentiful. Any competitive sport is one that I am interested in. Every good coach is one that I can learn something from, like Phil Jackson with the Bulls, and then achieving the same things with the Lakers later on. How he would manage those superstars. He’d be pretty lackadaisical during the regular season, but once it was postseason he’d have all kinds of defensive schemes, fully utilizing and displaying the effect of every single timeout. On key plays he’d have the team approaching things nearly perfectly. This is what a top tier coach can achieve, he can grasp the team’s current level of performance, he knows when it’s time to save effort and when it’s time to explode, he can control the timing of when the team gets hot. Another example is Mourinho in football, those who love him really love him, and those who hate him despise him to their core. Yet both sides see him as arrogant and loud, but what not everyone sees is that he attracts all the attention after matches because he is redirecting the pressure and criticism away from his players. There’s also Lippi who previously managed Guangzhou Evergrande, his autobiography I’ve read parts of as wll. And then there was the Beijing team in CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), who won the title a few years back. During the finals, no matter whether a game was won or lost, their star player Stephon Marbury’s interviews I watched all of them — he was really honest, the things he said were of value, showed his goals, showed that he took responsibility. They were things that every captain and coach can learn from.

In all my years as coach my deepest memories come from the time I was leading a Counterstrike team. Back in those days the conditions were exceedingly tough. To go to offline events we had to pay our own way, and forget about going overseas to compete. For players in that era, to go overseas to compete was an incomparable honor, it’s not like nowadays with so many international tournaments. My team back then had no sponsor, the team name was one I’d come up with: teAmart. In 2005 we were based in an abandoned elementary school on the outskirts on Nanjing. Within a radius of 500 acres there were just the six of us people. Every day we’d walk 30 minutes in the hills before getting a 40 minute ride on an illegal taxi (read: random guy with a car). Then at the internet cafe we’d play for some ten hours and head back in the same manner. There’d often be no running water, so we would go in pairs to the nearby well to get water so we could bathe. It would be in the open air in the village, bathing in front of other villagers and their cows. That cold, and the scenes, but there was friendship and there was fun. If you had me do that again today, I would still do it. But today’s players wouldn’t. Nowadays if there isn’t fruit in the training room they already want to murder the team lead, forget about having them wash next to a well… just think about how much time could have gone to streaming instead!

For Dota, my most memorable times come with EHOME in 2010, but those memories aren’t of the 10 championship titles. That year we were playing in the WCG Beijing regionals, Zhou and DGC with their team came to compete for a spot too, saying “We’re here to fuck that strongest team (implying us)”. So anyway, their team and ours got dragged into a rivalry, and we even put our money on the line by wagering 5000 RMB, with my players putting in half and me putting in the other half. In the winners bracket when we met, I remember that we got stomped. In those days tournaments were played with the two teams facing each other in a row, their team’s mid player would be flaming us while playing. A youngster, didn’t really understand things nor decorum, and he trash talked me a bunch too. I wasn’t really too fussed about it, but my players were really burning with shame, they looked really out of it while eating later. I said to them, just let me pay the money owed in the wager. KingJ and them wouldn’t accept that, saying that they needed to get their honor back. Things were spoken in that way, but honestly in our hearts we weren’t sure about it. The story afterwards is a comeback story. We ended up winning the regional there, and honestly this title was really important — it established trust and friendship, and it also established a neverending belief of not giving up, it was great. The team thus gained an underlying culture and purpose, so improvement was quick, and communication was easy. I would just say the things I see, and what I want to say in terms of strategy, and the players would go based on that to try and achieve those things. If someone performed poorly individually, I wouldn’t even need to say anything before 820 was already on their case. Players nowadays, you have to baby them, you have to leave them room to save face, it’s tiring.

And then there’s EHOME in 2015, a time when we had peaks and valleys alike. The peak would have been the end of the year. At that time the other teams were all not strong, while simultaneously LaNm had found some understandings of the patch. I remember we won, consecutively, Radiant and Dire Cup, SDO, and MDL. In terms of both form and mentality we were pretty much in the right place. But in reality I knew, these results were temporary, because previously I’d already mentioned that CTY’s style is one that likes to farm, the tempo in that version really suited him. Kaka’s Earth Spirit, Eleven’s Void and Lone Druid, these were all signature heroes for us. You couldn’t really ban us out so it was expected to be able to achieve some results on that. In the ensuing Chinese New Year break, with a new patch version in place it would be expected for our results to get worse.

The most difficult thing was probably TI6 this year. With Old Eleven’s grandfather in bad health, he went home to take care of things, and we moved FaN up to our main team to replace him. But the chemistry wasn’t good. Prior to the open qualifiers we scrimmed with fellow qualifiers teams, and there were at least six different teams where we couldn’t even hit a 60% win rate in training. So I calculated a bit, and at the time I thought our changes of making it through were less than 3%. This meant that we wouldn’t even make it to the main qualifiers, we would only get to watch TI at home, which would be a pretty big problem. The team atmosphere at the time was really bad, emotions were really low. Then in the end we made the decision to make another change, we asked Eleven to have someone else take care of his grandfather, we got him to come back and we had iceiceice go play carry. After this change honestly, it wasn’t really solving our problems either. We trained a few days in this way and then off we went to the qualifiers, and even during the qualifiers we were in a lot of danger. Really, our team has always been kind of interesting that way: oftentimes when the team is not very favored, it can find life in the most difficult of situations and bounce back from the bottom all the way up to a very good spot. But once they’re in that spot, they suddenly can’t do it anymore. TI was like that too, so many people were saying that EHOME were headed for the title, to the point that even I got a little bit embarrassed. Forget about our bans, just looking at our pick stats, our drafts didn’t look at all like a team that could win the title. Against EG we indeed should not have lost. People were saying how in game one we lost after having megacreeps, how that was an epic, legendary game. If you ask me, it was dogshit. At that time EG was noob, we were even more noob, I can’t see what part of that is epic or legendary at all. Mentally overall we couldn’t really get in a good spot either, the team stopped improving in-game, we just put our tactics out there for others to counter. It’s like you play cards with your hand open while the others are playing with their hands hidden, can you possibly not lose? Wings winning the whole thing was really commendable, their tactics and style have a lot of layers to it all. It was varied to the point that you couldn’t counter it at all, and they had such great mentally — playing TI like it was a giant pub, so they truly deserved the title.

This year’s post TI player transfers, I think domestically everyone has just done okay. In comparison I think the big Western teams, like EG, have done excellently in this regard. They’ll definitely be a strong team when the time comes. In China I somewhat favor VG, adding a new player on the original VG.R foundation. The other teams, well, it is what it is. In the very beginning we wanted to go get Maybe to play position one for us. We discussed it with Maybe, but at that time he kind of wanted to go to VGP. Sylar approached LaNm himself, and we felt it was pretty good so we just decided on him. In terms of four position we considered ChuaN. ChuaN plus LaNm we felt would be a pretty good combination, but it didn’t work out. And then Wings were rumored to be disbanding due to players wanting to continue their schooling, with iceice even dropping his team registration for a while, so we went to try and recruit him and have Fenrir and iceice be our support duo with LaNm transitioning to coach, but then Wings decided to not be making any changes anymore. Fenrir spoke to us himself about wanting to leave the team, we really really wanted to keep him, and we communicated many times afterwards to that effect. But in the end Fenrir felt that he couldn’t take back the words that he’d already spoken, so he went to VG.J. As for iceiceice, after TI he’d already told us that he wanted to go back to Singapore to play, and we respected his wish. I feel that the outside world is quite unfair to him, he is originally an offlaner, but in an emergency time of need he took up the responsibility of playing carry. This was a huge challenge for him, and it was a result of our team having no other options. Iceiceice practiced the most out of the team, he is actually really hard working, so no matter how poorly he might play I don’t think the blame can go to him! From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate iceiceice, I respect him.

Why would Wings’ TI6 win affect our methodology for team building? And if you say they are a brand new team I really can’t agree with that. I’ve been in the business of youth training and development for esports for so long, I’m fully aware of just how difficult it is for newcomers to get results. In the very beginning for Wings, they were SPG. That picture that you’ve all seen only of them being subs for DK, that was because I called them there. At the time DK had three people on break, yet there was still WPC that needed to be played. I felt that these three kids from SPG were pretty decent, so I grabbed them over to standin for us. I remember after winning, I specifically sent a note up to Zhou in the analyst room, asking him to choose the MVP for the match out of these three kids, and not from BurNIng or MMY. Afterwards, iceice went to this team and since then has played with them for over a year, so they can’t really be considered to be a new team. Prior to TI they’d won against top international teams, they’d won titles before, and they’d also been eliminated in the first round before. Teams have these kinds of fluctuations. They’ve experienced the things that they needed to experience along the way, their strategy and drafts are really unique yet calculated. Honestly, their style is really similar to that DK team, so perhaps you could say they are an improved and stronger version of DK.

In the end, I hope that EHOME can continue to improve, and continue to learn from the top clubs domestically and internationally in order to become a leading force in the next generation of this industry.

The International 2016 in my view

The International 2016 was from late July to mid August of 2016 in Seattle, and was to date the largest esports tournament in history. My intent here is to try and reflect the sentiment and emotions and moments that stand out throughout the event as viewed and experienced through my own perspective, and write it all down in text, so here goes.


Gogo TI6

Saturday July 30   

Today is the first official day of ‘actual’ TI stuff in that this is the first day that teams and talents are arriving. It’s a big day, and though this would be the fourth TI at which I’ve worked, it is the first time I go to the airport to help pick people up. Before heading to the airport to swap out fellow translators Jack and Helen who have been there for the morning, I get some lunch at the hotel where Valve has set up the usual lounge room with catered meals and screens to watch for when the games get going later on in the week.

All of Wings sit at my table to eat lunch. Well, it’s not my table at all really, I just got there first. The room’s kind of just filling up around me. Anyway, it’s my first actual time meeting them in person, and they’re an interesting bunch for sure. My first impression is that they’re so small. Like, they’re physically kinda small, or diminutive at the least. And then there’s the age thing: a bunch of teenagers plus bLink (who’s the ripe old age of 24), they act far more mature than their age would suggest, yet at the same time exude some kind of casualness that the many of the more mature players don’t have either. They dislike the buffalo chicken wings, citing a weird taste. On the other hand, most of them like the pulled pork sliders. Normally I like buffalo chicken wings, but this time I tend to agree with their evaluations.

The entire day is a constant flow of arrivals, and every year it’s nice to see old and new faces alike, united in the same spot, by a common passion. I’m at the airport for the good part of the afternoon and early evening, then I’m back to the hotel where there’s plenty more for me to do as checkins at the front desk are in full flow.

The unluckiest of the day are the majority of LGD, the earliest of whom only arrive in the late afternoon/early evening after most everyone else has arrived already, with half of them not landing until much later towards midnight. According to their manager, they’d spent nearly 40 hours travelling at that point due to being delayed on connecting flights, etc.


First night welcome dinner thingy

It’s a hectic first day, but everything goes smoothly. There’s a bit of an occasion in the lounge at the hotel this night, as there’s an open bar and food for the ‘welcome dinner’ (whereas usually it’s just food) — and pretty much everyone that has arrived in Seattle already shows up to eat and hang out. The room is lit up in some kind of atmospheric pink and for a moment it feels more like a casual party gathering rather than the first day of the leadup to the largest tournament in esports history.

Sunday July 31

With the first day out of the way and everyone mostly situated, it’s time to get into the work of the tournament. This year they have the group stages at the Meydenbauer Center


Meydenbauer group stage

in Bellevue, which was a short five minute walk away from our hotel. It’s actually kind of nice to have a real reason to walk outside during these days, as from past experience the group stage days can be some of most grindy days, so getting any kind of exercise or fresh air is well appreciated. This year is already not as bad as a few of us have been recruited to start subtitling video content weeks prior, but still — the subtitling and player profile production at the Meydenbauer takes up a large portion of my attention for the next few days.

It’s rewarding nonetheless: if I can’t watch any other TI content, I still try to watch the player profiles because, hey, I help work on some of them, but more importantly they’re always a really cool look into the players as people and not just IDs on a screen… That’s one thing that I think this year has been really good about (amongst many other improvements), the efforts put into humanizing the players and making the entire scene as a whole more ‘approachable’ to the average fan or viewer.

After a full day at the Meydenbauer, walking back to the hotel I come across MMY outside, smoking. He sees me, and somewhat unexpectedly he waves and loudly says HI!! It’s unexpected because that’s not really his personality, usually he’s really quiet and reserved, shy even — and even though through the years of events we’ve both been at I’ve probably come to know him decently, it still came somewhat as a surprise for me. But perhaps with the years that Dota grows, the players — and all the rest of us as well — are growing, or at least changing too.

Monday August 1

It’s mostly more subtitling and background stuff at the Meydenbauer today. There’s also media day where Valve gets the players and teams and shoots the content that they use for the player intros with the hype intro music (everyone loves the fact that they used the


Media day for VGR

intro music again from last year, plus added a new track too).

Later at night, there’s the official welcoming dinner/party that Valve traditionally holds at a fancy restaurant near to wherever the hotel is that year — this year since we’re in Bellevue again, the dinner is at El Gaucho, which is the same spot as the one they used for TI4. Year on year, I notice more and more Chinese players being at least somewhat interested in coming to check it out. Given that the food is typically quite Western in general style and taste, I think it’s nice. This year I walk over with some of VGR — ddc, END, Nono. They stick around a bit and check out the spot, but pretty soon END is like, “Go go go! As he rushes to the exit, physically dragging ddc along with him, apparently having been convinced by others to go for dinner at a Chinese restaurant nearby.


El Gaucho dinner

Grabbing food at the dinner with Black^, we note that the food available is nearly exactly the same as in 2014, which isn’t a bad thing at all — more just a thing that popped into the conversation, kinda like a peripheral way of being nostalgic or something, I’m not sure. It’s the same spot where the 1v1 mid tournament took place prior to TI4, and when that is mentioned it’s definitely a bit nostalgic. Midway through all that, we see none other than


There was an Aegis cake

Gabe Newell coming up the stairs. I’m still a bit intimidated (because it’s Gabe Newell!!), but I say “hi” rather cheerfully, and he responds “hey” back. It’s not really a significant moment maybe, or maybe it is, but it kind of sticks in my mind even now as I write this.

Tuesday August 2

At breakfast this morning, I’m kind of sluggishly digging through a little bit of whatever it is I’ve put on my plate (I forget) when Wings again comes to sit at the same table as me. Or was it the other way around? They’ve come as five again, as expected of them at this point. BLink, I think it was, has put ketchup on his scrambled eggs, and the rest of them are marvelling at how he’s ‘so Western’, because I guess it’s not really a thing to put ketchup on eggs in China…

After a little while, END and ChuaN show up and plop themselves down at the same table. END loves to talk — he’s the kind of  guy that can probably make friends anywhere, anytime. Kind of just a chatterbox, but a friendly one whose first and primary expression is to have a giant smile on his face. Anyway, after a while of him chattering on and on, ChuaN cuts in on the conversation as well, and happily jokes at END, “You guys who are here for a one-round vacation should just stfu!!” It’s a bit savage, and meant as a joke and END takes it as one too, but I guess it also kind of reflects a general lowered expectation for VGR already before the event has begun…

The rest of the day goes by mostly at Meydenbauer as we’re actually managing to get close to finishing subtitling most content, a bit ahead of schedule.

Wednesday August 3

This year Valve has provided teams with a total of 32 passes each to share with friends and family who want to come watch at Key Arena. Upon learning about this, old eLeVeN of


at Meydenbauer group stage

EHOME is saying, “I’m gonna take all of them and sell them! I’m gonna go to the main event just to be a ticket scalper!!” I ask him how much he’s gonna be selling them for, and he replies “I can get $500 each!!” Then I ask him if he’s gonna be doing that instead of, you know, actually competing, and he laughs. Of course not, and we soon see that EHOME is here at TI6 to play as they’ve not only made it through the Wild Card yesterday, but end today with a solid 3-1 record in group stage day 1.

Talking to iceiceice later, he’s just like “I’m just happy I made it to TI… wooo” But I think he wants more than that… that was just a minimum to achieve.

In some newly found free-ish time, I can actually watch some of the streams as the group stage goes on. I’m tabbing between two official streams, in-game, and when I can, I sneak over to the BurNIng/rOtK stream as it’s actually hilarious.

Later in the night, probably close to midnight, I’m getting some late night food at the hotel restaurant with EHOME, who are discussing — what else could it be — the day’s matches. eLeVeN is remembering the scenes against Liquid, where old chicken ate


Dinner with EHOME

repeated arrows to the face. “Chicken bro is not one to mind these kinds of seemingly minor details,” old eLeVeN states matter of factly, “I, however, am,” he continues.

Afterwards, Fenrir asks me about anime, and he, old chicken, their team leader, and I chat a bit about anime. Fenrir’s asking me for recommendations, and it’s not like I’m an anime expert or anything. So I’m showing him my MAL, telling him about stuff like K-on, Monogatari, stuff that’s kind of slice-of-lifey (or really slice-of-lifey). He’s recently finished watching Your lie in April and he’s telling me how it’s a series that makes you think about life, and that’s what he wants from his series so I tell him to go watch Garden of Words or 5cm per second or something…

Old chicken’s not really talking, but he’s kind of listening in, and it’s obvious he’s an anime fan too as his Steam profile pic is One punch man. What he is actively doing, however, is stealing everyone’s french fries that came with their burgers — when everyone’s getting up to leave, he happily announces that he is ‘the french fry reaper’ and there is nary a leftover french fry to be seen.

Thursday August 4

It’s group stage day two, and the teams that are in form and the ones that aren’t in form have begun to become apparent.



VGR has been doing kind of poorly, and I run across them before they’re set to head into their day’s games. They’re loosely hanging out with some of Newbee, casually socializing and watching the games before theirs. Fy comes over to me and kind of just pokes me a couple times. I poke him back, then as he’s going with his team towards the elevator, I say “win a game, yeah?” kind of just whatever came to my mind at the moment, like a good luck or whatever. And he’s like “Yeah. Win a game, win a game,” kind of to me, but also I think kind of to himself.

Later that night, heading back to the hotel, I run into Fy again at the hotel. This time I go and poke him, “You won a game! Three even!” He smirks a bit at me and goes, “Four, actually”.

Then at the lounge, ddc is there and he immediately asks me where Tiffany is. END, not missing a beat, loudly voices his suspicions of why ddc would be so directly asking about a girl, but all ddc wants to know is how to say “I miss you” in Minnan (a Chinese dialect), and Tiffany might know since her family is from Taiwan, where they speak a version of this dialect — ddc wants to send a message back home to his girlfriend, that’s all.

Friday August 5

It’s the last day of group stage. By this point I’ve spent probably 30+ hours at Meydenbauer either doing subtitles or helping with subtitled content that goes into player profile videos, so it’s hard to remember much else visually apart from a bunch of computer screens. Nonetheless, it’s fine as I actually like subtitling.


Group stage period lounge for watching games at Meydenbauer

At the Meydenbauer, I find Fenrir again, talking about mobile games this time. There are group stage games on the screens, but he’s playing something on his phone, and I ask what it is. Is it the kind that needs money? “Yes it is. The more you pay, the stronger you are,” he explains. “I’m invincible already.”

Mikasa and Fy come by. They yell at Fenrir, who they’re going to play against later in the day’s group stage games, “Go easy on us later okay!!??” Mikasa threatens him further, adding “I was the one that brought you into the scene!! Remember that!!” Of course, it’s all in a joking manner, and EHOME fairly comfortably 2-0s VGR.

Having finished the group stage top of their group, EHOME is pretty laid-back. Iceiceice is bored, so I show him the game that is agario. He sits there playing with his balls for an hour or so before he decides to go get apple pie at the hotel restaurant, but unfortunately their kitchen is closed by the time he decides he actually wants the pie and tells Nutz to go order it for him. So we go downstairs to the common area where midnight food is laid out to see what’s up. Zai appears and we chatter a bit about stuff here and there — Zai has grown a lot taller and both iceiceice and I make note of that fact, though ice proudly proclaims that “I will always be taller!” Chat a bit more about other stuff, like how Zai did IB (international baccalaureate), two years of it in one year of time, and took a bunch of hard stuff too. Physics and stuff. I say I took IB as well, but I took all the easy shit and didn’t even go for the certificate in the end.

Then we find a bunch of the Chinese casters playing mafia, except they’re way super serious and two of them are streaming it with their phones too. It’s cool but also kind of scary. They spend probably 2-3 hours on average per game, they’re debating everything and everyone. Fy is there, though it seems from what one of the casters is loudly declaring, Fy doesn’t know how to play. Nono is there too but he’s just hanging out, and he comes over to chat for a bit. He asks to learn some English phrases, so we teach him how to say certain things, like how to say hero names.

He was 10 years old when I was graduating from high school, and by the time he was 12 he was playing Dota. We shared some experiences — skipping school to play, thinking of excuses for coming home late after a day at the internet cafe… He said he actually had good grades in elementary school, but then the Dota started… I can relate. I’m sure a lot of people can relate.

Saturday August 6


Press day TI6

This is Press day. Interviews with lots of people, such as Demon, Swindlezz, Arteezy, Faith_bian, y`innocence. The Wings captain is one I haven’t met before, but he impresses me with his openness to taking interviews, and after each interview he says thank you to the interviewer and shakes their hand.

Iceiceice wants pancakes — he’s apparently been asking to go for pancakes for a while — but I’m busy with interviews so cannot go with him. I point him to a nice place and


Sharing a look

he goes with Black and Tiffany.

Before he went to get pancakes, though, we gave him a camera so he could entertain himself… or maybe entertain everyone else. I don’t know, I wasn’t the one that gave him the camera. But he takes a bunch of pictures, so here’s intermission: iceiceice’s professional photography debut.





Sunday August 7

Rehearsal day, check in at Key Arena. Look at stuff, etc.

It’s ‘rehearsal day’ for casters and on-air people at the Key Arena, where you figure out process flows and where things are. I like to memorize paths and locations as early on as


Rehearsal day

possible so I have all the information at hand throughout the event so it’s a useful day for me even though the rehearsal is more specifically geared towards the analysts, casters, hosts, etc, who have much heavier burdens to prepare for and shoulder.

Back at the hotel, I’m casually browsing my compendium and lamenting forgetting to set fantasy cards on a previous day when Fenrir invites me to group for pubs — international ranked. He hasn’t finished the necessary games to get calibrated, he explains, and I haven’t even played any. Fenrir, LaNm, and old chicken are in the group and they easily carry me to victory. The only time anyone talks is when LaNm goes on voice chat to laugh at my slow reactions, to which I reply I’m terribad and he laughs some more. In my slightest of defenses, by this point I’m probably averaging 5 hours of sleep a night over a week and a half now.

If TI is a rollercoaster ride, the time in between the end of group stage and the beginning of the main event is like that lull right before you hit the loops and twisty turns and stuff: it’s a calmer moment, but you know what’s coming, and you’re going towards it all at a pace that you sometimes wish would slow down a little bit, if only for more chances at the small moments where you find someone and can have a chat, or a laugh, or anything.

Monday August 8


It begins

It’s the first day of the main event and the crowds are insane. It’s more packed than last year at the same time; it’s definitely more people than I recall anyway. Valve’s arranged team buses for each team, and the red carpet entrance on day one is, I guess, a tradition now. And it’s a cool one, I think.

The opening and all that ensued was a blur — is a blur — Lindsey Stirling plays an electrifying opener and then, boom, the main event has begun. OG loses to MVP, which not many expected, while Wings beats DC despite losing pretty badly with a Pudge Techies draft in game. Perhaps indicative of how the rest of the tournament might be: upsets of big names, along with infinitely inventive and solid play from the likes of Wings…


Center stage

In the BO1 elimination matches in the Lower bracket this night, VGR are first up. Backstage, END sees me and grins his wide grin, braces and all, and cheerfully demands, “Don’t forget to cheer for me, oh!” But VGR loses, and coming through backstage again afterwards, he looks at me and he’s still grinning — as if he doesn’t know how to show any other emotion — but he sighs a bit and his shoulders are drooping, so in his smile there’s something else, but I’m not sure what that something else is.

And then LGD’s up and I go over to their waiting room to be on standby in case something is needed. LGD are watching their team’s interview — with MMY this year, who is notoriously difficult to get for interviews — and they’re laughing. Kind of laughing at MMY, who’s standing behind them all, poking fun at him, and MMY’s like “fuck you laughing at”. They win, and it’s a very brief reprieve as they can at least go back to the hotel this night knowing they can fight on.

Afterwards, I’m backstage talking with Conrad of Twitch, and Dendi walks past with his team, about to go on stage for their BO1… Dendi’s still all smiles and puts his fist out for a fist bump, which we gladly oblige.

Tuesday August 9


EHOME vs Alliance

It’s a day of 2-0 victories for teams as EHOME beats Alliance, EG defeats Newbee, TNC continues their fairy tale over OG, and DC gains momentum in eliminating LGD.

I tell LaNm that I’ve watched all the games they’ve won at TI6 (and when they lost I hadn’t been watching any of those), and he looks at me with a serious look on his face and says, “This is very important. You need to keep watching us then.” Superstition is an interesting topic in sports in general, and I think esports is the same. In the past, I’ve heard of players wearing lucky underwear, there’s obviously LaNm’s red VICTORY sweater, and many Chinese teams only somewhat jokingly refer to certain restaurants in Seattle or Bellevue as lucky or unlucky, depending on who ate there before a major win or an upset. As in, one team hears another team ate at a place before winning today, then that night the first team will actually weigh that into their discussions when deciding where to eat. Of course, I think there are varying degrees of superstition and it probably isn’t that definitive a factor for even the more superstitious, but it’s interesting. Later on, I hear that iceiceice has worn the same EHOME shirt for the entirety of the event for similar reasons.

This year at TI, Valve has implemented an in-game drop system where those who have linked their Steam account to their badge and have been scanned into the venue are eligible for drops whenever first blood occurs. On the first day at Key Arena, I’ve somehow broken all expectations for my luck (I’m not lucky when it comes to anything random) and gotten four drops. Today, after EHOME defeats Alliance, Fenrir is again just chatting with me and mentions he wants a crimson version of the Drow Ranger item and he’ll trade me a golden one for it. I haven’t gotten one from my drops yet, and of course I proceed to get zero more drops for the rest of the day and the entire next day as well.

Another thing available at TI6 is an autograph location with various personalities and



players. Today there’s an Fy signing, and despite losing the day before, he seems to be in alright spirits and pretty happy to meet fans. The autograph booth was really well done this year, I think — people got tokens to be eligible for the time slot first, then just came at the time slot and waited to meet the person. There were digital autographs too that you got by scanning your badge, overall a pretty smooth experience I think.

In the late evening, LGD lose to DC. As I’m walking by their suite on the suite level, they’re shutting the door with everyone inside — seemingly to hold team meeting. What was said in there, who knows, but I think it’s fair to say there were expectations for them to place higher than they did this year. I think they really missed September’s play on that team.

Wednesday August 10

It’s day three of the main event, and things are really starting to speed up, heat up, and just generally get more intense. Fnatic, after a disastrous group stage, have managed to steady the ship and they continue their TI6 by eliminating Alliance. Liquid, in a similar situation as Fnatic, do the same by eliminating Newbee. Meanwhile, Wings makes it look almost easy against MVP, while EG stops EHOME and knocks them down the lower


EHOME contemplate


In all of these matchups, I think, the importance of momentum — and being able to maintain it, and ride it, and harness it — is shown as exceedingly important in modern day Dota. Fnatic and Liquid both were on upwards trajectories by winning their BO1s, while their opponents, having fallen from upper bracket would have been stuttering a bit. Wings, on the other hand, simply maintained what worked for them (which was everything, in an all-around kind of way, I guess). As for EHOME, they lost game 1 in a ‘no one has ever come back from mega creeps at TI’ kind of way, taking all of their momentum out and never looked like winning game 2.

So the importance of maintaining momentum, or being able to manipulate it and stopping someone else’s momentum, seems to be an overarching and important undertone this TI…

The actual atmosphere in Key Arena for TI6 these few days has been intense. Angry? The atmosphere is electric, a silly — or perhaps overused description — but it’s apt? Maybe. There’s an energy, but it’s more of an aggressive one. There’s an edge to this tournament. Not simply electric, but more like… fiery.

After Wings beat MVP, they come down from the stage, and backstage they’re just yelling



at — and with — each other. Memorably, there’s an outright joy and brightness about their energy. It’s as if the weight of the tournament, and the expectations and hopes — both their own and fans’ — aren’t there. I’m sure it’s all there, but the way they carry themselves… They’re laughing about the things that happened in the games they’ve just played, they’re making jokes about each other, and for them it’s actually like they’re just playing a game, like they can’t see the cameras all around them, that they can’t hear the fans screaming, the tournament admins’ serious faces, that they can’t feel the ever-mounting pressure from back home in China as more and more people are labelling them “The Wings that protect Chinese Dota”…

End of day, and this is the halfway mark for the main event. Including the group stage, this is more than two thirds of the entire thing, and I realize I have barely really been able to catch up with some old faces. I come across Yao at Boiling Point in Bellevue, a hot pot place, with Nic — the LGD manager. We talk a bit, about streams and whatnot. I ask Yao why he’s not finishing his food, and he’s saying “just look at me!” And he points at his belly. He’s like, it’s time for me to work out. Then we reminisce a bit about when I first saw him… that would be at TI2, when I was only there as a fan. “Didn’t you think I was really good-looking, and really good, back then?” Yeah! Yeah…We share some laughs and it’s a nice way to unravel from the extreme energies swirling in the air at Key Arena.

Later back at the hotel, Sylar is coming downstairs. He’s there to meet someone, who told him he would be there. That person is Yao, who is still walking back from the restaurant — so Sylar stands around a bit and we talk about who’s gotten more Crimson Witness item drops at the venue so far. It’s easily Sylar who’s gotten more (6 in three days). A few minutes later Yao is still nowhere to be seen, so Sylar goes outside to wait for him, and upon not seeing him anywhere he loudly exclaims to the night sky, “This guy is always doing this to me!!!”

Thursday August 11

Fnatic win, eliminating Liquid. I can’t really feel too happy about any result anymore, as I’ve gotten to know a lot of the players on a lot of teams and in the end when one team wins, another loses — so one side continues their dream and the other one has to postpone their dreams to next year, or for some, to another place altogether as TI is never a given for anyone. Still, I see Mushi later and he high fives me, and I’m still happy for him…

Ultimately LaNm’s request that I watch all their games comes to naught as they lose to DC in successive games and end their TI: I do watch their games as I’m on deck to do the post-match interview if they win, but they don’t win.


Mix of players

Then the All-star match happens, and I have no idea what’s going on and I think a lot of players don’t know either. It’s not bad though — everyone just kind of hangs out and converses, mingles. For some moments, it’s another of those windows where it feels like an ‘eye of the storm’, so many players are gathered together in one spot and ever so briefly they don’t quite need to worry about matches, or reflect on defeat.

All of Wings are at the venue today even though they aren’t playing at all — except for shadow, who is supposed to be in the All-star match. In the end he wasn’t really needed there either, so they all leave together once he’s done.


Wings unity

I also see lots of LGD at the venue due to the all-star match, and towards the end of the day, Jeremy Lin is hanging out with them in front of their room. They’re chatting in Chinese and it seems pretty lighthearted. Jeremy says to them, if you’re ever in New York let me know and they’re like yeah. It seems like xiao8 is at this point pretty familiar with Jeremy Lin; it’s just a cool scene in general, when stars from different sports come together. Kinda like the Olympics, which are on-going concurrently with TI6.

At night, a bunch of LGD are eating at a nearby Chinese restaurant. We come across them as we’re also searching for a late night dinner. It seems fans are everywhere this night, everywhere we go we see Dota fans — all across Bellevue. It’s iceiceice and us, and we go to eat some ramen/curry instead of waiting what looks like an hour at the Chinese restaurant. It’s okay — better than waiting that long, anyway.

We talk about the games and stuff… I mention that for their second game against DC, they could’ve picked Invoker instead of Lifestealer. Safelane Invoker… iceiceice thinks it would’ve worked too. He suggests Spectre could’ve been better as well. Well, anything better than Lifestealer really. But in that kind of pressure, people lose the boldness to try different things, or something. iceiceice remarks, “Oh yeahhh I’m TI 6th place. I’m better than a lot of people!!”

It’s one of the more eventful overall days, not the least because the main event is more than halfway over, and the majority of participants are actually eliminated. So while some people will be in their rooms thinking about where it went wrong, others will be out ready to forget. The hotel is abuzz with activity as players, talents, and more are milling about, going in and out.


Friday August 12

On the way to Key Arena this morning, I sat next to 71. Talked a little bit about the EHOME loss, and this TI. “Sigh, forget about it. The thoughts are all tears” They could’ve gone further, it wasn’t really meant to be, I guess.

Wings win again, giving the best possible response to a tweet that was, to put it lightly, poorly received in the Chinese community.

Without such a tweet, though, the narrative would’ve been a little less intense. So I don’t think of it as a negative. Sometimes you say something and it works out, other times it doesn’t, but it’s all part of the sport — or esport — as a whole.


Chinese panel during TI6

Either way, Wings wins again and I’m hearing people around me, myself included, mentioning this team as one of the best, and most dynamic teams since Team DK. They’re like what DK would have been if they could’ve conquered themselves. What other team has plain and simply styled on opponents in such dominant fashion, playing their own game and forcing others to not only come along for the ride, but to watch helplessly as the passengers on a one-way trip to their own defeat? DK at its peak, perhaps that month surrounding that Starladder run… and then it’s Wings. But Wings is going further than DK at this point; they deserve their own conversation now, when maybe just six months prior hardly anyone had heard of them.

Saturday August 13

Wings win. They’re the mercurial yet utterly invincible underdog-turned-destroyer that in many minds is the most deserving TI champion ever. In a meta where teams are closer than ever, they manage to look like they’re a level above everyone else.

Wings win. They’re laughing, boisterous. The crowd is insane. In this timeline, the entire world is in this arena, and this arena is the world at that moment. Or at least, all the energy is there, concentrated. If there’s an alien race somewhere out there silently monitoring our little civilization, their equipment is suddenly lighting up with extreme levels of human emotion, energy. And then it releases — with the pyrotechnics and smoke, and confetti and applause, and echoing screams of “Wings, Wings, Wings!” it gradually permeates into the warm Seattle night… into the skies.


Wings take flight

The Wings players are all smiles, but practically speaking, they don’t seem much different than after any other match they’ve played. Most of them are too young to even drink, so they don’t even bother coming to the afterparty.

DSC09978The afterparty is a blur. It’s a loud bunch of haze and noise, punctuated by meaningful encounters with people I’d been meaning to catch up with. If only for a fleeting moment — Kuroky, Jerax, FATA… I come across Jerax, and we’re chatting about travelling and Finland and Finnish (perkele) when FATA comes over, kicks a cup on the ground so it rolls through Jerax’s legs, and then celebrates. It’s a nutmeg and FATA is now 1-0 up, but Jerax just smiles like ‘look at this kid’. Some of EHOME have shown up, they’re playing on some random Wii Us that are for some reason set up. Fly and Evany are there, as are most (I think all?) of OG. We catch up a bit, but the night is too short and moments are fleeting.DSC09986

Kotlguy talks about the matches and meta of the tournament, seemingly still shining with the aura of the analyst panel that he so expertly anchored. Sylar is there, wandering around, a bit bored but still there, because as I reflect to him, “It just kind of feels right to end the event with something, something like this afterparty. It’s nice to have a start and an end to things.”



Towards the end of the party — which is too long and too short at the same time — I catch up a bit with various people, guys from BTS, random players, production crew people… all appreciated. I grab Kuroky for what I feel like is a tradition post-event now: a picture with him. I don’t really know why or how but it’s just something, and we share the sincerest of well-wishes and ‘see you next times’ and then the afterparty is kicking everyone out.

A few of us, iceiceice, Black, Nutz… we go and get some late late food. The chatter is idle sometimes and at other times irreverent. We’re all tired, probably, but there’s some energy in the way that only happens when you know you’re finally done with a really gruelling task and you can relax again. Everyone agrees that Wings are really strong. More comparisons are drawn to 2014 DK.

Back at the hotel, a small crowd is still outside in the smoking area, hanging out. It’s well past 3AM by now but the energy of the tournament still lingers as I head upstairs. Not to sleep immediately, but to reflect, and to write some of this down.

Sunday August 14

Sharon of Valve, our translators’ main liaison this year, along with Ronald (also of House Valve) takes us out to lunch. We go to Kizuki ramen, which is nice because hot noodles and soup is always nice during or after these events. And it’s also nice just because it’s nice.

Then it’s back to the hotel, where there’s still work to be done despite the actual event being over. I help Wings do tax info, as it’s their entire team’s first time in the US (they stayed after TS5).


Rings for Wings

Wings get measured for rings. People are chatting about random stuff in their training room, earlier this year Wings were trying to get some media attention for their players. Media outlets in China were saying that Wings would have to pay them to get featured in any interview… 10k RMB at that. Now the same outlet is messaging their manager nonstop, asking for interviews, and he’s like “I’m not even gonna respond”.

The weather outside is a blazing sun, but Fenrir’s out there again just hanging out. It’s his third TI and I think he’s become much more one with the whole tournament life, going with the flow of things sometimes. He asks me to go to a bench and we sit there, just talking about stuff. Nothing really of import. He talks about 3DS games, how he’s been playing Pokemon.

We’re bored so we think to go over to Seattle and do something, so Fenrir, Black, Tiffany, and I go and first we go to karaoke at Fenrir’s suggestion. I’ve heard that he’s a good



singer, but he’s actually quite good, and he’s like “See, this can be my second job” and I think it’s not implausible.

Then we go to an internet cafe because Fenrir wants to play battle cup, but we miss the deadline so we just play unranked pubs. We lose our first game, then Fenrir says “I gotta get fighting heroes.” he picks Earth Spirit, Black picks Pudge, and the two of them roam the entire map killing people and every time they kill someone or win a fight, they go “wa caoooooo (哇操~)” which is kinda like going “fuck yeaaaaaaa” but in a really silly voice. It’s funny, and we win despite me not doing much of import in any of the games, but it’s cool because Fenrir teleported to save me in lane and gank my lane, and Black left me to die once but he was like “sorrrrrrryyyyy”

Monday August 15

This is the day that most everyone leaves, and I’m down at the hotel lobby in the morning to say bye to people and also make sure people don’t need anything, etc. I think it’s here that I find Matumbaman too, and I briefly chat with him about pesapallo, that Finnish version of baseball, before he’s leaving to the airport too.

I talk with Mind_Control, who’s just sitting around. We talk a bit about TI, how he’s made it here this year and that was his dream, but now he wants to win more. We talk about football (his fav is FC Barcelona), how he used to play, and how Dota came and now he doesn’t play anymore. The old days of Dota, how we got into it and things from the past. It


This is from the afterparty but whatever

was a really fun chat on that morning in the hotel lobby. As he’s finally leaving on one of the later shuttles to the airport, he goes, “Let’s make a soccer team next time!” Kuro’s getting on the same shuttle and he gives me a hug and then they’re on their way.

A lot of the Chinese teams have left already in previous days — some home, some to a short vacation somewhere.

People are trickling away, each half hour taking another group to the airport on their way to somewhere else. To Finland, Bulgaria, Canada, SoCal, Sweden, Germany, and of course, China. It’s really amazing that a game has brought so many people and so many forces together, and it’s even more amazing what TI manages to achieve and show every year.

Thanks to all at Valve, everyone at the venue, all the teams, players, fans, and really just everyone. This year and always, it’s been a pleasure. If you made it this far, thanks for reading my rambling thoughts.

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The Summit 4 in my view

Another tournament, another writeup! TS4 took place in December 2015, and was a lot of fun and went by entirely too quickly as as result. Here’s a glimpse into the behind the scenes from my point of view…

Tues Dec 8

After an early morning flight, we’re in Ontario airport in Southern California once again.

Right away we’re shuttled off to BTS house – it’s a new house and significantly roomier, though it is further away from Ontario airport (with the tradeoff that it is closer to LAX, which means everyone flying in


Southern Californiaaaaa

internationally gets a shorter trip from airport to house, which is nice). Once I get to the house, I’m informed that I’m needed for an interview, done with theScore esports (where I am behind the camera and their guys later transcribe/subtitle things based on what I say) first with LaNm and then with old chicken. LaNm seems to grow, or evolve, with each event I see him at, and he just seems to be more and more comfortable with the camera, media, and whatever gets thrown at him. Kinda the veteran aura, I guess. When he first sees me, he stares me down a bit then grins his big grin when he’s laughing, and then he actually laughs and we greet each other before we go to his interview where I’m translating for him…

Next up is old chicken, whom I’ve never met before, and who hasn’t been to that many events before either. Despite his relative newness, he doesn’t seem nervous, but nonetheless his answers in his interview are kind of short, though it’s more because it seems like he just doesn’t think he needs to say much more. Yet he’s always giving his answers with a kind of smirk on his face like he thinks something is really funny. This was the guy that, after all, made a joke about Chinese Dota being dead on stage at the Frankfurt Major.

After that, media day requirements for EHOME are done and they split off to their own thing. Some of them go shopping, the EHOME coach 71 wants to go get a tattoo of the EHOME logo on his shoulder: “This is something I’ve thought about for a long time now, and it is something I want to do”. EHOME has been his project and, well, home in esports for the greater part of a decade now and his words seem reasonable as I help him figure

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New kids on the block

out the logistics of it all over the phone later that afternoon…


What follows is some relatively carefree catching up with various people through the day – KotLguy says hi and we chat about his recent travels and work in Dota: “I do like hosting, but I also like casting because that’s what really rewards me for doing my research on the game and knowing about things.” Winter wants to go bowling again (callback to the time we went bowling with some of DK during TI4…), LD says hey buddy! in his usual friendly way, Slacks already wants me to help him with a completely goofy but somehow interesting interview with kaka and 71 of EHOME, I congratulate Kuro on his Defence win and Fly on his Frankfurt win…

The completely unserious interview that Slacks had me help him with was one where I would marginally ‘teach’ him how to ask certain questions directly in Chinese, and the interviewees would answer to the best of their ability based on what they thought they would be hearing out of Slacks’ mouth. In the end I don’t think this piece aired because it probably doesn’t transition very well at all onto a stream, but it was kind of funny seeing 71 and kaka from EHOME trying to figure out what Slacks would ask. One question was “Do you wanna go to the zoo?” and after some deliberating they thought it meant something to do with food, or something…


The crown prince and the emperor

Then VG arrives for their media day stuff. While filling out forms, VG’s players do absolutely nothing and leave it all to their poor manager JaL, who to his great credit, has all of their relevant bank and personal information on hand to fill in for them. When he asks them to double check it, even when he warns them that he might have certain things incorrect, they all tell him “no need! we trust you!” Instead, they spend all their free time playing, as usual, free to play mobile games that are more pay2win than they are free to play. Asking some of them how much they’ve spent on some of these games, and the figures are relatively obscene.

Then it’s nighttime and the sun has set, and we head back to the hotel.


A bright ending

EHOME guys want to eat, and of course they want to find some Chinese food. The only place within walking distance is a Mongolian Grill place, and they have fun putting together their dishes and having the cooks there cook it up, marvelling at the cooks’ skill in sweeping the ready food in one swoop off the grill onto their bowls. At the table, chatter is boisterous and loud as is often is, with LaNm and 71 going at each other with casual banter and insults: “shabi!” rings out frequently and it’s just as well that we’ve gone to the restaurant near closing hour, as their shenanigans threaten to disturb no one else as we are the only customers still there. The topics vary widely but with some guys it seems topics often run backwards in time, and LaNm and 71 spend a good part of the night reminiscing about old players they’ve interacted with: Ksss, xiaot, and so on…

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EHOME eating

Weds Dec 9

VG 2-1 VP, then VG 2-1 OG. Games are close and relatively interesting, where BurNIng in particular plays well. For post game interviews, it’s relatively hard to get them to come out for interviews – VG often plays a game of ‘let’s push the interview onto someone else’ until someone inevitably shouts that everyone will have to do an interview at some point so putting it off today just means you have to do it tomorrow, and then Super gets to do an interview. This kind of thing has been happening to Super since his time with DK at TI3, at the least. (Back during TI3 they even tried to send their manager before finally Super was the one forced into an interview)

After their matches, iceiceice notices the shirt I have on and goes, “whoa. Nice shirt.” It’s a DK iceiceice shirt and it is indeed a nice shirt!


This pic is from later but that’s the shirt and that’s the iceiceice

Thurs Dec 10


EHOME go first against Liquid, and before the match they’re just chilling. Half of them are watching random Chinese streams and the chat. There’s some girl streamer that some of them are currently particularly infatuated with. Kaka is practicing his Wisp and 71 points at him and says “professional wisp”. Hah. They see old chicken’s pose on the BTS stream and all laugh at him for a minute while LaNm and CTY run down to imitate the pose on the camera downstairs by borrowing Tiffany’s glasses for the task.

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Teaching moments

EHOME lose and afterwards LaNm is immediately loading up the replay and gathering his players around him to debrief, pointing out everything he sees as the other players listen… “Come here and watch the replay!” is the command and the rest of them obediently gather around their captain.


VG went shopping in the day because iceiceice made his team promise to go shopping with him if they won on the previous day. Fenrir has a Gengar t-shirt on and I say that’s my favorite Pokemon, and he says hey, me too! The rest of them lounge around, except for BurNIng who is apparently shopping some more on his own (shopping addict). Fy and I play some Pro Evo Soccer, but evidently according to Fy, Benzema is imba and after two games Fy calls it quits in the face of laughter from their manager JaL, who finds it funny seeing Fy lose.

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Another Summit, more Pro Evo..

Later there is an iceiceice cast in which he pretends to be muted for the first minutes, but isn’t actually muted.

2015-12-10 18.59.28


Fri Dec 11

On the way to the house this morning, we’re riding with VG. They are discussing their respective ages, with BurNIng wondering if he should be considered 27 or 28. “My mom calls me and always tells me I’m 28 now,” he says somewhat resignedly. That’s kind of old, especially in esports, but I’m thinking that these guys are all mostly younger than I am anyway so what are they complaining about? I think, honestly, age doesn’t and shouldn’t really matter as much in Dota. As an entire generation of players are growing older, and perhaps finally realizing that they needn’t force themselves to retire (we ended TI5 without nearly any premature retirement announcements, after all), we may see a lot of these players going on into their 30s.


Captain LaNm

After their match against DC, EHOME present LaNm for the post-match interview on the couch. After that, there’s another interview with theScore esports, and it’s once again LaNm. I comment that he sure does get interviewed a lot, especially on this team. Compared to when he was on DK, it’s a lot more interviewing, but his role in both teams has always been pivotal – it’s just that with EHOME he is much more visible because he’s surrounded by newer players that are still learning to come into their own in the scene…

Late afternoon and some of the VG guys want a snack, so Grace makes them some chicken nuggets in the oven. Fenrir eats, by his own admittance, probably 50% of the entire tray of chicken nuggets and announces that he is the “chicken killer” because

2015-12-10 19.19.32


he loves eating chicken.


At night, it’s the Gang Beasts tournament, which was pretty hilarious even though it had little to do with any of the other happenings at TS4. Tiffany wins it all in the end, and a few of us do in fact go to In-N-Out afterwards.

Sat Dec 12

Kaka wonders how much a house around LA costs, and 71 says, “after you move here I’ll come visit you, and I’ll tell you to come pick me up at the airport but you have to come in a helicopter, cuz I don’t wanna be seeing any plain old car picking me up.” I wonder aloud if kaka has a rich family or something, but it remains unclear whether or not he does, as at first he strongly denies it, but then later thinks that spending 50 euros on a single cigar isn’t necessarily expensive at all. I’m no expert in modern cigar pricing but I think that’s kind of a premium level price for one. Or maybe it’s ‘esports inflation’: everyone in the scene is making a lot nowadays?

The EHOME guys are pretty casually getting themselves into the atmosphere of their big match against OG, or rather, it would seem the match isn’t that much more important to them than an average match. After all, LaNm has said that they still need to grow a lot as a team and their newer guys are still undergoing that process. According to their coach, he already briefed them on what they needed to know last night and so today he isn’t going to be doing anything additional – a pretty large contrast with the high pressure world of an International, for example.


The King of Fighters

They’re playing classic King of Fighters, LaNm vs eLeVeN, but LaNm loses pretty much every single game yet they continue playing for an hour. Seeing a Lycan in the Liquid vs VP matchup, CTY pipes up that his Lycan would be most excellent in this situation, claiming that he’d build Blink Dagger and Vladmirs – to which the rest of his team laughs at him heartily.

RTZ and 71 chat upstairs on the balcony – RTZ says “why’s CTY so crazy? control your players!!”, specifically mentioning CTY’s TA in an earlier game and 71 laughs and says, “it’s okay, he just wants to play aggressive… mostly”

Later in the evening, after EHOME has lost to OG, iceiceice and Fenrir show up, and seeing some EHOME guys in the kitchen, iceiceice quickly points and laughs at 71. 71 feigns outrage but iceiceice points out that EHOME had done the same to VG when they had lost in Frankfurt, and soon the next match is underway.

2015-12-12 17.45.35-2

Yes hello

Everyone chatters animatedly while watching the VP-OG matchup. At one point Fenrir is talking about iceiceice’s Night Stalker from the day before: “One minute after the game starts, we hear from his part of the room – oi! I can’t play anymore! Help!!” and 71 points out that every time they put iceiceice solo against Universe, he gets owned, and furthermore laughs at VG’s decision to put a Night Stalker solo against a Brood at all.

Upstairs, the rest of EHOME are on practice PCs just hanging out again, with LaNm feverishly practicing King of Fighters alone while eLeveN has been downstairs watching the games with us. Observing the two of them playing King of Fighters again later, LaNm still loses far more than he wins but his enthusiasm remains throughout.

At night back at the hotel, we’re going again to get In-N-Out and EHOME’s 71 and LaNm decide to come along too after hearing that

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More In-N-Out

In-N-Out is a California classic and staple of the local scene. While waiting for 71 to get ready, LaNm is playing some Hearthstone on his phone – he plays it very casually, he says, and he’s running what he calls an unorthodox deck so if he loses, it doesn’t matter, and if he wins then it’s funny.


True to his attitude towards the game, when 71 is ready we leave the hotel right away and thus LaNm loses connection to the hotel wifi and disconnects from his current Hearthstone match without a worry about ranking or record. On the way to, during the meal, and then on the way back the two of them are chattering about Dota and their team. These two are the masters and veterans of the team by far and there’s a steady strategic strand to their conversations as they flutter from one topic to another, never straying far from how everything relates back to their team’s performances and status.

Sun Dec 13

It’s the last day of the tournament, and by the time I’ve found a spot in the house to comfortably watch the first series, VG are already one game down. Before long, they’re two games down – and thus out, and so they head out to the back yard behind the house where they spend an hour and a half wanderingly discussing, and debating what went wrong while Fy kicks a soccer ball around next to them.



I join him for a bit here and there, but mostly it’s to enjoy the California sunshine and get some fresh air. Then VG want to leave the house – some want to go back to the hotel, others I hear are going to the stores, or the casino, or something or other. Iceiceice is, almost as always, the only one of them to stay behind… so we hang out for a while in kitchen, bullshitting about this and that, here and there. When VP finally loses a game, ice remarks “VP’s on cooldown now..” and unfortunately for them, their CD ended up being really long and the night ended, again, with EG taking the title.

Iceiceice casts one of the games, but not before he tries to say that he’ll only cast if I cast (???), which came after he said that he would solo cast in both Chinese and English (a much better idea).

The night at the house winds down gradually but happily. Iceiceice and I play some Gangbeasts at some point, where we team up against the two other players and basically wreck them, which was fun because for once I wasn’t going against everyone else in the game. 😛 And then someone turned off the fun stream… so, sorry stream. I hope you guys had some fun when the stream was actually active, which I think it got more active as the week went on.


Enjoying the end

In the late evening it pours down rain rather uncharacteristically aggressively for Southern California, and after the rain stops we’re ready to head back to the hotel. I make a round around the house to say my thanks and goodbyes – Kuroky wonders if I’ll be at the Shanghai Major, to which I reply “maybe.” He goes, “come on man, don’t give me maybe” I ask him if he’ll be there, and he’s like…. “maybe.” So I point out that “maybe” is a good word and he seems to agree, and he and I and a few others chat for a few minutes before I run off elsewhere in the house…

Back at the hotel, LaNm is enlisting my help to make a late evening trip to the store to help him find things he needs to buy for his new baby. And, well, apart from my ability to read English labels I’m (far) less well-versed than he is in baby-related things so we spend a while looking for stuff at the store but mostly get everything that he needs. On the walk back, he looks up and seems surprised: “are those stars?! I haven’t seen those for years in China.” Thus the conversation lands for a while on the topic of air quality in China, or the complete lack of any sort of quality thereof.

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LaNm buying stuff for his kid

Afterwards the topic changes: “Wow, I think a Chinese team hasn’t won a LAN since D2L Season 5…” I believe he’s right, or close to it. LaNm goes on, “But time eventually changes things, so after a long enough time even the best can become the worst.” Back at the hotel, we bid our good nights and thus another Summit comes to an end.

Mon Dec 14

EHOME and VG are scheduled to leave the hotel at 8:30 in the morning to head to LAX for their flights, so we go down to the lobby around that time to send them off and make sure everything goes smoothly for them.

Goodbyes are exchanged, everyone says “See you in Shanghai!” even though I don’t know if I’m going to Shanghai or not, and it’s a long ways away anyway.

Summit 4 was undeniably a success, amazingly well-run, and overall just a smooth experience. As BurNIng says, it’s an iconic tournament at this point, the fun-filled foil to TI and the Majors in some ways, but in production value and competition it doesn’t lose out at all. All in all, I have to once again send my thanks and appreciation to everyone at the event that made it happen. Every Summit is the best yet but somehow you guys manage to keep upping the standard. So thank you to everyone at BTS for putting on another great show, and thanks for having me at these events.

Thanks for reading.

2015-12-12 17.11.18

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EHOME coach 71’s thoughts on the Majors, and coaches in Dota

The original Chinese version of his thoughts were sent to me via email. A Chinese version has also been published here:

TI is a a hallowed stage, and it is always the greatest event in each year. The players are treated like gods, spectators enjoy a live experience bordering on NBA-quality.

As a coach it is very difficult to be able to say anything that influences the game’s balance changes, or to have input in just exactly how transfer regulations and substitute player rules are set. Indeed, it’s only now – the 4th time I’ve been at a TI that I’ve finally gotten an International jacket that has my ID on it, and gotten a chance for a collective media interview (and unfortunately, because of the first question I ended up spending 3 minutes, or more, sobbing like a criminal being interrogated). So even though the coach position isn’t seen as that important with Valve and some clubs, I still want to say some things, and hopefully connect with those that agree with us as coaches.

First of all, you should know that coaches can have a very large amount of work both in and out of the game – a coach in many cases also acts as a team’s team lead and statistician. He needs every player to show up to practice on time, show up to matches on time, and hopes that the players can understand the style you’ve set for them. Creative drafts, offensive tactics, defensive must-knows, etc, etc, etc.

Our work can allow matches to become smoother, more pleasing to watch. In some ways, a game can be a fight between two coaches. But you must understand, in reality during a game, we as coaches have no idea how the players are communicating inside the booth, where problems may arise – whether it’s a mistake of the team in reading a situation, or lack of detail from an individual? I can only go off experiences collected from practices and make guesses, constructing the scenarios in my head. For every one of EHOME’s matches at TI, our team lead and I would sit backstage next to the players’ entrance to the stage and watch on a screen there: one printout map to record warding positions, another piece of paper to write down the opposition’s weaknesses and the types of adjustments they make, one more to record our own mistakes, and one last one with my thoughts on how I want us to adjust our style and draft.

At TI, there are only five minutes between games during a match. This includes the time given to use the restroom, so I have to stand next to the entrance and await the players, and shout over the live venue noise in order to relay the information I have recorded on the four pieces of paper during the previous game. Additionally I must control my speech tempo and emotions, I cannot give them pressure when they’ve just lost, or allow them to loosen up if they’ve just won. During these five minutes, Valve’s staff will also remind me to not touch the players at all as a rule. I’m unclear on what other teams’ coaches do as their work, because the two teams use different entrances, but I truly feel that in all this the amount that I can help the team is much too little.

How much I’d hoped, that at that moment IceFrog would walk through that corridor and see the imagery of that scene. See the look on my face when Josh told me that it might be best to hide those four pieces of paper, to prevent them being inadvertently filmed…

From 2003 when I first began coaching in Counterstrike, to today, it’s been 12 years (TI3 I took a break for the ACE Alliance). Many people will only say that in 2010 when EHOME won ESWC we had six people, and six versus five is lame on our part. Then you really should have checked out ESWC’s Counterstrike competition every year – they would always give me a computer, a Steelseries noise-cancelling headset with six meter extension cable for me to watch and give commands to the team. To this day I remember that, and the level of respect that came with it. Any and every professionalized competitive discipline has coaches, so I don’t believe that this is a pure 5v5 game. Teams that lack a coach should work to fill this void, or groom someone for the role. This is something they should be doing.

After TI5, we’re about to see the beginning of the Majors system. Valve will be giving every team two substitutes on the roster, so I want to know will these two players be free for coaches to swap in and out of any given game? Can we make subs in between games during a given match against another team? I believe that this is an interesting experiment, because like this, two teams and the competition between them has another added layer of considerations and it becomes even more difficult to counter and plan for an opponent. Matches will have even more variables, leading to even more exciting competition. But if this is only to try and prevent poaching of players and team-hopping, I do not believe it will be truly effective, and could even lead to teams eating themselves from inside (waste of talent).

I can imagine how much IceFrog and Valve love their child (Dota 2), I can imagine the looks of disappointment on their faces when the TI4 finals manifested in the form of a half hour push and push-defense game. But I would like you to listen a bit to this one coach’s words. Dota is also our child, or at least – I have fought for it for six years now, I hope to truly participate in it, be a part of it, and receive that respect.

The International 2015 in my view

The International 2015 (TI5) took place from late July 2015 through August 8 2015. Like previous TIs before it, it broke existing records for being the largest tournament in esports history. Once again, I had the unparalleled privilege of being behind the scenes and involved in many ways. I’d like to share the experience, or at least slivers of the experience as I can remember and write down.

This is TI5 from my point of view…

July 22 (Weds)

The entirety of TI5 group stages and media days took place at the Westin Seattle this year. In previous years it had been a combination of either moving from Westin Bellevue to Seattle after group stage, or simply shuttling teams from Bellevue to Seattle each day (as was the case at TI3). The pros of this were that it was easier logistically, and it also seemed that more

Info booklet for 2015

space was available at Westin Seattle as we took over practically three entire floors during the group stage. The cons were that it seemed like most players I spoke to preferred Bellevue a little more – either due to closer proximity to what they deemed to be better shopping (Bellevue Square, etc), or somewhat quieter surroundings.

Walking into the hotel building that morning a wave of familiarity washed over me – hotels tend to have a distinct smell and ‘feel’ and having spent much time at the Westin Seattle last year for TI4, I was immediately brought back to some of those moments. Running into BurNIng in the lobby, talking to rOtK late at night… but this was 2015 and as much as things felt the same all of a sudden, things would be different.

July 23 (Thurs)

Equipment set up day. LaNm has spilled coffee on one of his keyboards, but Helen, I think, has manged to fix it with some canned air. EHOME’s carry YJ (zyf), in his rush to get his settings straight for recording onto the SSDs that Valve uses, speaks in Chinese to a

non-Chinese speaking Valve staff. Not just a bit either, but a couple full sentences, and then he pauses waiting for a response before his team makes fun of him “This guy is real talent” “I bet when he sleeptalks tonight, he’ll be wondering why the guy didn’t understand him”

The other part of the story being that YJ is a prolific sleeptalker, and his topics are quite specific as well: He’s playing Dota in his dreams and his sleeptalking is making shot calls in game. According to their coach 71, once he shouted, “I’ve ulted them! I’ve got 4 of them in my ult! 5 actually!!!! I have Mask of madness, I’m going in!!” 71 then told me that the next morning he asked YJ whether he was playing Void in his dreams, and YJ incredulously asked how?? How did you know?!

Very helpful schedules in the booklet

And that’s when it became apparent to him that he’s got a sleeptalking problem.

Anyway, the EHOME team policy since then has been to room the member of the team least likely to be affected by a loss of sleep with YJ – and at TI that meant their poor team manager.

The rest of the day went similarly, as teams got around their jetlag, became settled in their settings, and went for their scheduled equipment setup times. In between, people ran around asking each other for scrims – I helped Newbee and a few other teams coordinate a couple times, but at the same time teams declining scrims were nearly as common as teams working to set them up. I won’t pretend to understand the reasoning/logic behind all this though; I only tried to help as an intermediary on occasion.

Being someone who’s lived in Seattle for quite some years, I’ve become a ‘local expert’ as people are asking me where they can buy certain things, where they can find X type of food, how to get to places, etc. Through the event, two places in particular in Chinatown became heavy favorites with the Chinese players: Hong Kong Bistro, and a Sichuanese restaurant called Seven Star Pepper that was praised as being ‘very authentic’.

Having had their visas slightly delayed, iG only arrived this morning. Yet by the evening, two of them had still yet to get a room arranged at the hotel. BurNIng appears in the lobby alongside ChuaN, who quickly spots me and shouts out “Hi!” I figure out their purpose for being downstairs, and we finally get BurNIng his room and room cards, he’s obviously a bit tired and walks back off to the elevator with a thanks and a “I’ll be heading upstairs, then.” The Westin Seattle is beyond booked out for most of the duration of TI5 so I suppose the room that had been assigned to BurNIng hadn’t yet been cleared when they first arrived in the morning.

July 24 (Friday)

Newbee having some fun before the serious business begins

This is the first day of real TI5-related stuff happening for Chinese teams: media day. Interview material is filmed in bulk today, with Kaci doing the interviews with Western teams, while long-time Chinese commentator BBC handles the Chinese side of things. For each player profile video or interview that was aired during the main event, there was probably 5-10 times more in terms of raw footage shot and worked with, maybe more.

Anyway, it’s another relatively light-hearted day as the Chinese teams arrive down at the media room one by one for their scheduled time slots. Compared to previous years, it felt as if the Chinese teams had loosened up somewhat, especially players that had had reputations for being introverted or closed off. Everyone seemed to have a good time in general. Perhaps with so many TIs having gone past already, with many of these players having experienced them, this would be normal – because as for many Chinese players, familiarity breeds a kind of comfort where they feel more at ease loosening up.

In the end, things go so smoothly that I’m able to work with the media people to move the schedule forward by over an hour and a half for the Chinese teams.

Which is all the better, because with the footage shot and ready for processing, one of my biggest projects during group stages was yet to come: subtitling for the videos of the Chinese teams and players. We have a small team of Chinese-English speakers available – one that seems to grow by a little bit each year (but probably not at the same rate that the content increases).

The only hiccup in the day was that xiao8, who was originally scheduled for an in-depth interview with BBC, had run off to grab lunch. I manage to get in touch with their manager Nicholas to reschedule, and it all works out. When he comes back to do his interview, I’m at work on subtitling videos already, and xiao8 sits behind me for some time watching and commentating my work. He’s with some LGD and CDEC players and they take turns trying to pronounce the English words I’m typing out for their subtitles. It’s an interview with BurNIng that they’re watching me work on, and they’re all like “wooo Big BurNIng!!”

Newbee.Banana admires their rings from TI4

Xiao8 asks me if I’ve done the one with him in it, “They came to my house to film! But I want to see it, you have it?” He’s enthusiastically asking about it, but before I’ve shown him it, it’s time for his interview and he’s whisked off to another floor.

At 7pm this night, it’s the traditional player’s dinner Valve holds each year before everything kicks off in earnest. This year it’s at Aqua on the Seattle waterfront. Once again it’s a chill atmosphere, and year-on-year there are more Chinese players coming compared to last year (while last year had more than the year before that), though the larger part of them still do not come, either preferring dinner elsewhere or whatnot. Some of Newbee come, and see their champions’ rings from the previous year. Apparently no one from iG makes it to the dinner, where their player jackets with IDs printed were distributed, and as I learn later, someone has stolen the ones with BurNIng and Ferrari_430 on them…

At the dinner, iceiceice keeps eating ahi tuna crisps, which are admittedly very good. Between him and myself, we probably eat a third of the crisps brought out. I chat with people randomly – Fly, Pyrion, Kotlguy, LD, Winter, Cyborgmatt, Merlini… Kotlguy asks me if I’m

At the player’s dinner, TI5

doing a writeup again, and here it is! They have some really old arcade machines setup at the restaurant set to free play mode: San Francisco Rush, some Simpsons game, some pinball machines.

The sun sets in a glorious blaze of red and orange as sunsets commonly are at this time of year in Seattle, and by 10pm I’m back at the hotel doing more subtitles. This time for a piece shot with CDEC’s shiki, who is decently well-spoken and quite laid-back for a first-timer at TI.

July 25 (Sat)

This is the first of two scheduled media days in which Valve requires every team to show up and make themselves freely available to gathered media outlets for around 1 hour during their timeslot. This year, media access has been very much limited compared to previous years, with media passes not being granted access to any of the areas that players would typically gather. Perhaps this is a reaction to the drama last year, characterized by one infamous incident in which a Chinese media outlet recorded and then posted, without permission, a video of DK’s draft and discussion during the

iG hang around during their media day slot

draft. A worthwhile consideration, if this was indeed what Valve had in mind – and the group stages were cleaner and less crowded/messy with fewer people milling around, I think.

The media day is essentially all day, so I am essentially there all day as well coordinating with the Chinese teams and making myself available to help with interviews as needed. As it turns out, only about a third of the media that would be present at TI5 were there at this media day as it was so early in the event, so things were very quiet with some teams arriving and leaving all within half an hour as there were no interviews to be had. Nonetheless, I had a good time as it was my first real chance to catch up with people – the media day requirement practically brought them all to me one by one, and so I could say hi one by one. 🙂

EHOME interviewed by Chinese media

July 26 (Sun)

It’s Wild Card day, and CDEC prevail as most people thought they would. Chatting with others, though, I went one step further – my predictions for best Chinese teams at this TI were LGD, EHOME, and CDEC, with VG possibly figuring things out and making a good run later on. Not necessarily in that order, but even I was amazed at how the following days would turn

Ramen with Fnatic


It’s Johnny of Fnatic’s birthday and for dinner I show them a nearby Japanese place. In Asian culture it is really customary for everyone to share everything that is ordered, practically, and they each help themselves to each other’s food as it arrives one by one. Ohaiyo orders an udon and keeps calling it ramen. Since it’s Johnny’s birthday, I put an extra gyoza on his plate and wish him “Happy birthday!” and he eats the gyoza and everyone laughs. Mushi asks for a wireless hotspot, then gets on his phone to play Hearthstone, while the rest of us chatter about random things. Of course, Black^ has tagged along.

It’s the last of the casual atmospheres, as the next day Group Stage for TI5 would officially start and by the time we’re back at the hotel, everyone has more serious faces on as they prepare to pack in for the night and get ready for the most important morning of their year.

July 27 (Mon)

It’s day one of Group Stage. One particularly noteworthy matchup was seeing LGD and Cloud9 play. After long, back and forth games, LGD comes out 2-0. As the teams come out of their respective rooms, EternalEnvy approaches xiao8, and they


shake hands and then hug. Envy shouts “fucker!!” but he has a giant grin on his face, they laugh and then it’s off to the next set of games.

Fnatic drop game one against Secret, but win game two in a convincing fashion. Mushi and the rest of the team come out of their room and head downstairs buoyantly. As they disappear down the escalator to the first floor, Mushi suddenly turns around, smiles at me and flashes a ‘peace’ with his hand.

Newbee plays their games, surprising perhaps some people in that they didn’t actually lose everything and looked like they belonged – but the truth is that they’ve been very hard at work and in the days leading up to TI from what I could tell, were probably in the top third of teams in terms of time and effort spent training.

VP and Newbee awaiting their respective matches

Later at night, EHOME comes to play their match against Empire. They’re early – and LaNm is raring to go even as their match room hasn’t been cleared from the previous round. Pre-game, their coach 71 drills them on key points, and then a team which features two of Chinese Dota’s brighter newcomers is once again on the big stage, carrying one of the most storied names in esports.

Finally, in MVP.Hot6 vs VG, the two coaches of the teams fighting it out come together – or perhaps, back together, as Black^ and 357 sit on the floor watching, at times practically rolling with laughter joking about the game. Even as the VG on-screen was much different, things off-screen felt like they may have just half a year prior – if only for a brief time. Before the match ended, the coaches were back off to their teams.

Old times

July 28 (Tues)

It’s another day of Group Stage, and things get a little more tense each day as results come out and stakes rise with each additional game. Still, after each day’s matches there is that tiny bit of time for loosening up, recharging, and strategizing for the next day.

Tonight I go to dinner with EHOME. In typical fashion – one that is standard to these two who are, and have always been


leaders of their teams – LaNm and rOtK are shouting with each other about their latest matches. Note, they are shouting with each other – not against or at each other. The topics they agree on, their opinions largely match, and they are mostly supplementing each other as the other three players listen rather quietly while eating. They are essentially two trains heading in the same direction, but on different tracks, and the EHOME journey is picking up speed. Afterwards, EHOME decides to walk back to the hotel from Chinatown.

After I make absolutely certain they know the way and have people with them that can help if need be, I let them go and then head back to the hotel, as there is more work to be done with subtitling.

July 29 (Weds)

iG lose badly on this day. They leave together, but it is deadly, deadly quiet.

On the interviews and subtitling front, I’ve finished subtitles for all the pieces I’ve been working on and moved to reviewing other subs.

One of the few Chinese interviews with Hot_bid this year, we got Newbee’s Banana around lunchtime. It’s relatively more difficult to get Chinese players for these interviews due to various reasons, but I think a major goal of mine if I’m back next year is to try and work with them beforehand to set up more of these more fun interviews. They’re receptive to them nowadays – at least much more so than, say, in 2013 – but it’s all about actually having someone to work with them on it and make them comfortable, I think.

Banana is a big football (soccer) fan, and his favorite teams are Barca and Bayern. He’s supported Barca since he was little. Back in China in the late 90s and early 2000s, the only things on TV were Italian and Spanish leagues, with some German league games here and there. We chat football a while, as I also follow and play the sport a lot. His idol is Batistuta, has been since childhood, and his Steam profile picture has reflected as much since pretty much forever.


CDEC rising, and I’ve started a mini CDEC fan club as we watch their games. Agressif is impressive, I say, and various pros all agree. EHOME do well, remaining one of the few teams to not have had a Best of 2 defeat yet.

Dinner again with EHOME, as they’ve invited me to come along. Later on, VG appears at the same restaurant and sit at the table next to us. Worker at the restaurant wonders – what are these teams? Upon being told they are Chinese teams playing at an international tournament, he raises his thumb and happily says “Go China!”

I don’t stay long, though, as there’s still work to be done back at the hotel with subtitling stuff. On the way out, I catch coach Mikasa of LGD and say hi. He’s here with just a friend, as LGD and CDEC have opted to simply get burgers from across the street from Westin, as they have matches early in the next day.

July 30 (Thurs)

It’s the last day of Group Stage, and the crunch for finishing player profile videos and content for the main event is here. Having finished making raw subs, I’m on subtitle review duty and spend half the day going through various things.

EHOME confirms upper bracket after an impressive Group Stage showing with a rising trajectory, while VG continue their struggles and barely fail to avoid lower bracket.

iG play early in the day against NaVi, a meaningless match at this point in time, but iG seem more relaxed and to be having more fun. ChuaN does the coin toss, and cheerfully comes back after winning it, announcing that “We won! The coin toss, I mean! But that means we also won the match!”

BurNIng gathers himself before iG vs NaVi

BurNIng sits quietly until suddenly, he exclaims, let’s do a cheer! But the other players point out that it’s not yet time to start the match, so BurNIng instead moves himself in the lobby to the top slot when he’s usually not, declaring “It’s time for a change of scenery.” A brief fight for the other slots ensues before BurNIng quickly rules, “Alphabetical order! Get in line!” Then he carefully counts the letters down in the alphabet, pausing slightly to separate Faith and Ferrari properly, and off they go into the match against NaVi.

This night we have dinner with Fnatic again, all the way off at Din Tai Fung in University Village. It’s an hour-long wait for a table there, so Mushi and Ohaiyo take the opportunity to buy some jewelry for their girlfriends all the way back home in Malaysia. At dinner we realize that 4 out of 5 of their players are the youngest in their families, and the remaining one, Kyxy, is second youngest. An interesting coincidence, I suppose.

July 31 (Fri)

Not much is planned for the day, as Group Stage has ended and the Main Event is a few days away with Valve carefully having planned some days of rest time in between. Some players are raring to go at it, but others appreciate the rest time – and I think all the staff working the event so far do too. I’ve been exhausted thus far with the long days of helping teams before, during, and after matches and then doing subtitling stuff in between (often into the late night) so I appreciate the rest time too.

Newbee Bugattis

After the intense, and somewhat unpredictable, Group Stages, the days in between always feel like an eye of the storm. Still, it’s a reprieve and almost everyone shows up enthusiastically to go to the scheduled Secret Shop early access day today. I’m one of the last to get through the early access Secret Shop line. Heading out, I find rOtK who is mysteriously standing by himself by the streetside, double fisting some Starbucks coffees. He’s got the Dota 2 sunglasses on, with a whimsical look on his face. Seeing me, he shouts “Hey Josh!!” and rushes over and hands me one of the coffees. “For you!!”

I ask him where his team is, and he shrugs casually and takes a sip of the coffee. Then he sits down and declares, “This coffee sucks! It’s bitter!” Apparently he’s ordered some straight up coffee when he was trying to get frappuccinos, and in the process his team has deserted him. Not one to let unfortunate circumstances get the best of him, he stands back up and asks me to take a picture of him on his phone with the coffee and sunglasses against another shining Seattle sunset as backdrop.

“Okay, let’s go then!” he gestures towards the last shuttle bus back to the hotel and the last few of us climb in.

Aug 3 (Mon)

The red carpet at TI5

After some peaceful rest days in which I try my best – and fail – at recovering from a pretty bad cold that I’ve caught during the Group Stage, the Main Stage arrives like a storm and the first day is hectic as everyone is getting to know their roles. I’m floating around helping the Chinese teams, not being needed just yet to do interviews with players. It’s a similar story to previous TIs for me, but the sheer scale of this TI means that things are just that much bigger, and I’m binging on vitamin C and cough medicine just to keep from being overwhelmed. Nonetheless, the cold is something I fight for the entirety of TI5.

LGD watching, and making fun of xiao8

LGD beats Empire, and CDEC take down C9. We’ve taken to calling CDEC ‘mini-LGD’, not because of their styles, but because they’ve both been so reliable this TI in results, plus they’re sister clubs. In Chinese they call CDEC ‘xiao-Gan Die’ which is practically the same meaning, but more clever in terms of pronunciations.

VG beats NaVi in a do-or-die situation, one which VG having been early favorites were unexpectedly found in. I’m backstage before the game begins and Fenrir looks back at me, smiles, and says “Come give me some energy!” and hugs me, nods, and a little bit later they’re off to compete with their tournament lives and hopes on the line.

Jeremy Lin is at the venue most of the day, and apart from appearing on stream in various capacities, he’s also just been hanging around watching the games. Towards the end of the day I catch him on the VIP suite level (shared with all the teams) and catch a picture with him – basketball is the most popular sport in China and I played through my middle school and high school years, so it was pretty exciting to meet an actual NBA player like that.

Jeremy Lin

Aug 4 (Tues)

I’m with EHOME while waiting for their match. ROtK is playing some Chinese rock music and singing along, “Let’s rock together~!!” and CTY joins in for a bit. After a while, they get hungry…

EHOME waiting

The delays mean they get to go hang out at the Valve lounge. LaNm and rOtK sleep for a while, the others mess around and try out the yogurt down there. After a while, LaNm wakes up and tells me, “Who can tell IceFrog to hire some Chinese chefs for the main event!??!” in a somewhat joking manner. “The food is always Western!!” Even though the food variety has been vastly improved since TI3, I suppose he means that even the Asian-inspired food is kind of Westernized, and he’s not completely wrong. I tell him he can, and he thinks about this knowledge before going back to making fun of 71 for something or another. The food today is Mediterranean and I suppose not to their tastes. Soon it’s time to head back to the waiting room for them, and back in the room even though the players seem relaxed, the pressure builds as Complexity falls closer to losing game two. Eventually the room becomes more quiet and they’re all gathering their wits and focus, and then they’re ushered to the stage entrance where 71 shouts some last-minute advice and instructions.

rOtK and Kaci

EHOME beats Secret 2-0, convincingly. 71 has been asked to an interview after the win, and he’s clearly emotional – “they asked me, you must’ve heard the EHOME chants? What was it like? when was the last time you heard those chants?” He continues, “three years, I said to the them” and then he pauses and the topic drifts away.

At the end of the day the two strongest Chinese teams seem to be EHOME and LGD, reminiscent of days from half a decade ago.

After the win, rOtK is electric, buzzing with energy. He’s asked to do an interview with Kaci, and I tell him, we’re going to try without me on screen. Just off-screen, I’ll help, but it’s mostly you. And he shakes his head, hesitating, and then he’s like okay! So off he goes. When he’s pausing on camera he’s looking to me to help him out, and I do my best and the interview goes decently, but then at the end I’m told to step in and help out anyway, because it seems like he’s gotten stuck. So I do, and it all ends in fun and laughter. I hope the same came through for those of you watching on stream!

Afterwards, rOtK and I walk back to the EHOME suite, and he’s talking, talking about the games and how he feels. “I am so excited. I am so hyped. This is amazing.” There’s a clear edge to his voice and he is intent on continuing the winning. His team’s hard work has paid off as they’d told me they’d been up to 3am the previous night making preparations…

Back at the EHOME suite, LaNm walks over chewing on something. He’s chewing on a mouthful of ice cubes, very satisfied

Fy God

with himself. “They say old people like to chew ice cubes,” I tell him. He says he knows. I say I like to chew ice cubes too. We laugh.

VG takes C9 down. Fy comes out from the stage, to the backstage area, supremely confident with a grin on his face. It’s a huge burden off their shoulders and VG feels like they’ve found themselves again. Super is wanted for an interview, then he isn’t anymore as they cancel the interview due to the night being very late – then VG is mobbed all over for autographs and pictures, and the night ends in positivity for Chinese teams at a TI where not many of them were predicted to be very successful.

Aug 5 (Weds)

I meet Kunkka again, along with some other workshop artists – T_vidotto, Yi, ike_ike, Danidem, etc. I forget some names but everyone was, and always is, really nice and in a lull for my duties some of us catch one of the matches today together. It’s one of my few experiences as a ‘fan’ at TI where I can just sit back and watch, and it was the BurNIng Anti-mage game.

Prior to going on stage, BurNIng had been watching games backstage in the waiting room. Remarking on Anti-mage play at the event thus far, he said “The AMs here have brought shame for all AMs!” So, the biggest impression I have of this day was watching BurNIng’s Anti-mage against Secret. A nearly flawless game, it was classic 1v9 from BurNIng and I think half the venue hoped for another Anti-mage in game two. It was not meant to be, however, and iG ultimately lost and ended their TI run.

CDEC win again, continuing the greatest fairytale run in recent sports, electronic or not. The team has maintained a

Agressif and CDEC

composure and calm, almost aloofness that belies their age and experience. Others say that the lack of any expectations has boosted them, and I think it’s some of both for this team – they have a confidence that cannot come from a team with zero expectations for themselves, but also a lack of overwhelming pressure weighing on their shoulders. Agressif has a habit of swinging his player badge around his finger whenever he’s excited or happy about something, and coming out from backstage he’s again chattering loudly with his teammates while making a virtual windmill with his badge.

EHOME finally meet their match as they fall 1-2 against EG into the lower bracket. It’s a close series, and rOtK doesn’t accept the loss lightly. Walking with him while heading back to the hotel, he’s again brimming with energy, but this time anger as well. He wants to win, and he doesn’t want to lose – but more so he just wants another shot and can hardly wait until tomorrow. He jumps and swats at a tree overhead to release some of that energy, and that seems to calm his emotions somewhat. The moon is close to full and the night is a cool, breezy one – a refreshing change from the hot days of Seattle this summer.

Aug 6 (Thurs)

VG continue their run in the lower bracket today, getting the 2-0 result against MVP.Phoenix, who were on their own run of sorts. Iceiceice and Nutz are good friends, and we could all see this in their interactions on stage. On Facebook, the two of them had been talking shit to each other in the lead up to their clash and it was kinda funny.

Some of us watched Secret lose to VP and thus end their TI5 campaign, and the air surrounding the happenings were mostly of a faint sense of disbelief mixed with some inevitability: after seeing DK lose last year, everyone understood that being favored doesn’t mean being strongest come TI time, and there was nothing to be said against VP’s win; they earned it.

After losing against VG, EHOME were mostly calm. The 6th place result seemed acceptable to them, and I heard them talking: LaNm and 71 reflected “If we’d beaten EG then I think we could have made it to the finals. Don’t know what would happen in the finals, but we could have made it there this year. Once we had to face VG in the lower bracket it all became that much harder.” They agreed and it seemed they were at peace with the loss, though one of them remarked that they hadn’t seen rOtK since coming off the stage, suggesting that he was a bit more upset about it than the others.

Regarding the lower bracket, teams this year agreed that it was a treacherous place to be: “Indeed, the waters in the lower bracket are much deeper and murkier. It’s full of sharks waiting to eat whoever drops down!”

It’s the All-star game tonight, another ever so brief ‘eye of the storm’ moment within the blistering intensity that is an International. Backstage: Mushi and BurNIng chat around after the game. BurNIng tells Mushi they played on the same team in a pub game the other day. “Really?!” Mushi is surprised, but

Old friends reunite briefly

BurNIng shares the details and Mushi recalls. “Ah, yes!”

TI5 all-star night

“You were quite good on Alchemist that game,” BurNIng continues. Mushi wants to know which player BurNIng was, as he says he wasn’t paying attention. “I was the one who said I’m your fan!!” Mushi laughs, hearing this. BurNIng goes on, “But I also said that BurNIng is better.” Mushi laughs even louder as he remembers the scenario.

Ending the day earlier than usual, we go to dinner. I’m with a SEA contingent again, as most of Fnatic along with ChuaN have come along. It’s jokes and laughter all around. At one point the talk goes to the little stars next to players’ names. Chuan loudly declares that even though he has no star, he has an Aegis next to his, suggesting that he is the pride of SEA. The others point out that, what if iceiceice wins TI this year? Then he’ll have a star and an Aegis. The talk rotates around the table many times, and the SEA boys all seem to genuinely enjoy each others’ company as food is shared, plans are made to gather again back in Malaysia after the tournament. They talk about CDEC vs EG in the upper bracket briefly, and everyone thinks CDEC can win. “CDEC, CDEC, CDEC” the answer rings out repeatedly around the table. Later, on the topic of Agressif, Kyxy puts his thumb up, saying “He’s so fucking good.” The rest of the evening goes quickly with food and loud, boisterous jokes, Ohaiyo being the butt of many from ChuaN. I even catch the reserved iG.Xi, who has come along for dinner, grinning at some of the jokes, though most of the time he’s absorbed in his phone, mostly watching old-school Starcraft Brood War streams.

Aug 7 (Fri)

CDEC after making it to the finals

After CDEC beat EG to make it to the grand finals, LGD are readying up for their upcoming match against VG. xiao8 shouts to CDEC, “See you in the finals!!” and the hallway briefly erupts in cheers from the two teams. They’re under the same organization and management and the players share a pretty close connection as a result.

After LGD follows suit in victory and takes one more step to the stated goal of meeting CDEC in the grand finals, the two teams again come together at the end of the day, chattering and laughing loudly. First during the rehearsal for finals day, then in the afternoon sun as they waited for the bus back to the

Agressif on CCTV

hotel. Garder and Maybe are at one point talking some friendly trash at each other: Garder says to Maybe, “I hope you make it to the finals so I can beat you into a pulp!” Maybe responds with fake shock, eyes wide open.

Garder continues, “I can’t even count how many times I’ve been hammered by you. You’ve been beating me for years, since the fucking Dota 1 days damnit! It’s about time I hammer you back once!” and they laugh.

Fans are approaching them for pictures, Agressif for one seems to be enjoying his success and strikes various poses in pictures after openly agreeing to every single person who approaches him. Asked earlier by a Chinese reporter if he’d ever won an event before, he asks “Does a local internet cafe tournament count?” with a big laugh. Then he says, “Nope!” happily and walks off with the rest of his team, who are getting ready to leave after a series of interviews, including one from CCTV, the Chinese national media.

Last thing of the day at Key Arena was a rehearsal of the finals day for each of the three teams that were in the final or may make it to the final: LGD, EG, and CDEC. In the evening after a relatively early end to the day, I hang around at the Westin for a little while. There are many fans milling around hoping to catch their favorite players for autographs and photos. At one moment I see zai going into the elevator, and when he turns around as the doors are closing he sees me, waves, and I wave back too because zai is chill and I think I’m chill too and chill people just do that kind of thing, I guess.

LGD and CDEC on the day before last, TI5

Aug 8 (Sat)

In the end, the storyline of LGD and CDEC meeting back in the finals was not meant to be, but in its place was another storyline – one perhaps far more favored by the live crowd – of EG getting their rematch against CDEC in the match to end TI5. In defeat, some of LGD’s players looked crushed: Sylar was quiet as he often is; Yao just looked tired, but in an emotionally drained way; Maybe looked plain upset, and MMY looked like the saddest duck ever. Xiao8 took on the captain’s role and went about consoling each of them, telling Maybe, “Hey, look! Your first TI and you’ve got third place already. Not bad!” The thunderous roars of applause coming from the stage just on the other side of the curtains felt like a world away at that moment… Spirits weren’t high, but the team spirit was strong and after some reflective minutes backstage, they left together.

Then I watched the finals, and in the games we saw a CDEC that fought their absolute hardest but came up just short against an impressive, organized, resourceful, and prepared EG.

After losing, CDEC were remarkably unfazed, or at least not outwardly. After all, they’d just made it to second place in the finals of the greatest tournament in Dota 2 when originally, according to their mid player Shiki, their goal was to simply make it to the main event so they could experience Key Arena once. Or according to Agressif, to even get to play at a TI at all.

An empty Key Arena marks the end of another TI

This is a team whose attitudes throughout, from the Group Stage when I first came in contact with them, all the way through the finals, maintained a calmness that suggested they were simply playing another LAN game, another ladder game. Leaving the noise and cheering of the main stage, Agressif was again swinging his player badge around his finger, and some of the CDEC players joked around a bit on the way back to their team suite. Shiki was quiet and contemplative, while Garder was the only one that looked in a way one could describe as ‘sad’. Perhaps it’s because he’s the oldest on the team, and perhaps because of that he alone really felt the pure magnitude of it all in the kind of way that only age can bring – after all, it’s not every day you make it to the TI finals and losing means you may not get another chance, young as you may be with the world of Dota ahead of

At the afterparty


And then amidst the din of deadmau5 and the smoke of pyrotechnics on the stage, TI5 was over, and the wait for the majors, or TI6, or whatever comes next in life for everyone began.

Of course, there was still the afterparty. We went with iceiceice and EHOME coach 71, and we quickly found LaNm at the venue – somewhat unexpectedly as it is rare for Chinese players to make appearances at the afterparty at all. LaNm was having fun, however, and danced somewhat haphazardly to the loud music and at times mused on how the accompanying light

Me and Kuro

show was just so damn awesome.

Later in the night, I find Kuroky who is always someone I look to at least say hi to at events. He wonders if I’m writing another one of these for TI5. I say yes, and he responds “Good. I read all of them! I see myself mentioned and I’m like, awesome, he remembers me.” Of course I remember you, Kuro. And we got another picture taken together, and it seems it’s becoming a tradition to take pictures together after events, even though Kuro has a policy on not taking many pictures at events.


Then it’s all over, the group stage, the main event, the afterparty… and everyone is floating back off to the four corners of the world. In the last day or two before everyone has left – some have left early already having changed their flights – we have some final get togethers. Iceiceice, Nutz, Black, and Eric and Kecik from Fnatic go to have some ramen, another seemingly emerging TI tradition, before they leave the next morning. The next night, some of EHOME have dinner with us, hot pot, and during that time Black^ has taught LaNm some insults in German, which the two of them are chanting nonstop for the next two hours at anyone that will listen. Then we decide to emulate Earthshaker’s abilities, complete with sound effects and we establish the Earthshaker Fan Club in which we talk about Earthshaker’s qualities as one of the best heroes in Dota 2.

Hot pot for dinner was exceptionally filling, and the very last of the last things for my TI5 experience was a long midnight walk with 71 and Black^ down along the Seattle waterfront. LaNm originally was going to come, but then he needs to duck out at the last minute because he’s on a video call with his newborn daughter, and of course that’s important for any parent, much less one that has been halfway across the world for half a month.

Ramen team

“The waters in the darkness have a scary quality about them,” 71 says. We muse wanderingly just as we wander through the streets of Seattle, but before we know it it’s 2am and we’re back at the hotel and it’s time to bid our final farewells, until next time they all say, until next time. “It’s fucking rained in Seattle the last two years we’ve been eliminated from TI,” he says with a smirk, “See you next time.”

I attended TI2 as a spectator, then TI3, 4, and 5 as translator, or whatever it is that I do. I guess I don’t only simply translate, at least not anymore. In that time it’s been four years, and in that time I’ve gotten to meet people from all over the world, all walks of life, in various stages of their careers and lives and involvement in Dota 2. People have come and gone just as in anything else in this world – it’s all transient. One of these days there will be no more TI, or perhaps there will no longer be me at TI, or perhaps the people I’ve come to know and build relationships fade out of the picture… People are getting married, having kids, thinking about life after competition.

TI5 was probably the most exhausting one I’ve been a part of. Maybe I’m getting older, or maybe it’s something else, but at the same time it went by the fastest of any. I’d looked forward to it for months – and then, it’s past. I’ve made some great friends, met again old friends, been a part of some amazing – no, historical – happenings, yet it’s the great and the small things alike that make it all worthwhile. This is the kind of thing you tell younger generations about when you’re old, or at least it’s what you might imagine. “Ahhh yes, in the old days of Dota 2…”

Congrats to EG. Shoutouts to everyone who said hi, fans, teams, players. Thank you to all at Valve, the venue and other production staff, and everyone involved in making it happen. Thank you to every single person that cheers, laughs, cries, and watches alongside the rest of us.

The gears are in motion for teams and tournaments in the next months and years. Let’s see together what time will bring to us!

The Dota 2 logo on a cupcake represents the temporary nature of all that we have in this world… Nom nom nom.

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VG.fy interview at MDL 2015

From China Esports Magazine, fy talks about recent changes and games. Via UUU9 (couldn’t find the direct link on CEA):

Q: In group A’s matches your team went through with an undefeated record through four games, are you guys satisfied at the process and result?

fy: Advancing undefeated is certainly satisfying, because before the competition we hadn’t thought about taking top spot, we felt that we might lose a game. Yet we won them all, we played pretty well.

Q: In the matches your team brought out quite a few lesser seen strategies, such as your support Spirit Breaker, and Super’s Alchemist that we used to see so much of. Were you able to utilize the recent relative lull in tournaments to work out some newer strategies?

fy: Previously we’d been overseas quite a while playing in tournaments, and didn’t have time to get used to the new version. After returning we practiced about a week, and we all felt much more at ease in games after this.

Q: Following this week’s worth of practice your team has a much stronger understanding of the new version, so how do you rate this current version?

fy: I feel that countering the opposition is the most important thing, you have to look at what kind of lineup the opposition is playing. For example they play single-core, then you get dual-core, if they have dual-core then you go tri-core, if they’re tri-core then you play four protect one.

Q: In the new version we’ve seen your team frequently playing a position 1 Leshrac, with pretty good results, can you analyze this hero for us?

fy: Leshrac’s chances of getting picked in the first two picks are very high, because he can support, he can carry and he can mid. There’s a lot of flexibility with the hero, so picking him during the first two picks means the opponents cannot really guess what your plans are with him. As for his strengths as a position 1, mainly it’s his farming speed and strong teamfight, and in late game if he gets Octarine Core then he’s got very strong potential then as well.

Q: In recent times your team’s form has fluctuated a bit, with many tournaments seeing your team placing below your desired results, what were the reasons behind this?

fy: A lot of it should be down to bad luck, previously we’d been overseas for a long while competing with no time to go practice, and the practice we had been able to do before that all had nothing to do with the new version, leading to us losing for that whole period of time.

Q: In this MDL tournament so far, it seems your team has rediscovered your form. What adjustments did you make?

fy: We will all typically discuss, we all shared our views on the new version, agglomerating all of our opinions. This includes thoughts on the first two rounds in drafts, and we formulated some thoughts on picks in contrast to before where we had no real thoughts on this stuff. In actual matches we just look at what opponents pick, then we go into countering that.

Q: According to tournament rules, group stage first place teams get to choose their opponents in the next round, which team out of group B would you most like to choose?

fy: After we talked about it we felt that picking CDEC might be a bit better, because in a tournament you will feel like you should play against whichever team you have the most confidence against.

Q: In group B it looks like Secret is basically invincible, yet at the same time LGD looks very good, so are these two teams VG’s biggest opponents right now?

fy: Definitely, these two teams are both very strong. Apart from that, Empire is another wild card.

Q: Secret have gone back to their DAC form – seemingly invincible. What do you think makes them so strong?

fy: Their play style is very set, they utilize those strategies extremely well, and they have excellent individual skill and team understanding. And they handle early game details and teamfights very well.

LGD i-League S3 winners’ interview excerpts

Watching the on-stage team interview live after LGD wins i-League S3… some interesting questions and answers that I jotted down for fun (not comprehensive).

For Maybe – this is your first title, and it’s not a small title. Right now, you might be the top mid player in China. Compared to other young mids in the West, such as Sumail and RTZ, what do you think of yourself?

Maybe: They’ve got more experience at these big international events than I do. But I will work hard.

For Yao – how did you turn some poor situations in your games around to your advantage in your last few games here at i-League?

Yao: Our lineups tended more towards mid-late game stability, while the other teams favored early-mid game aggression lineups. We held out and won that way. Also, our coach would tell us, don’t give up even if you fall behind, don’t
get careless against any opponent. He put a lot of words in our minds.

For Maybe – What was your experience with CDEC like? It seems like your time there really helped you out.

Maybe: My time at CDEC felt like a springboard to the real professional scene. When I first started out, I actually knew nothing about how things worked as a pro. But after a year of that I figured a lot of things out. Then when I joined LGD, I still wasn’t immediately a part of everything, it still took some time. But I learned that it is very important to figure out how to work out with your teammates and learn how to be in a team.

For xiao8 – Who do you think will make it through the China qualifiers?

xiao8: My predictions might not be accurate, but personally I favor EHOME and HGT

For Maybe – What is your favorite mid hero at the moment? And which is your best?

Maybe: Shadow Fiend, Storm Spirit. Because these two heroes just feel strong.
And everyone likes them. And I like them too, so I practice hard with them,
and I play alright with them.

For Yao – Two games out of three you guys had Bristleback. I’d like to ask you to compare your Bristleback versus Maybe’s.

Yao: My BB is mainly about creating space in early game, and stacking stuff for Maybe. Maybe’s is more about later dps as a core.

Supplementary question – In one game your BB was relegated to stacking creeps for Maybe. What was that about?

Yao: Maybe told me he wouldn’t give me the Empower later on if I didn’t stack for him. So I did it. And he also let me get some experience and gold in his lane while he cleared the stacks. So it was a transaction!

For xiao8 – talk a bit about the coach for your team?

xiao8: Coach does a lot for us, especially in helping make emotional adjustments individually.

For xiao8 – Yesterday you were defeated 2-1 by VG, yet today won 3-0. How/why?

xiao8: Honestly yesterday we played poorly, otherwise we could have won then. Today we made the necessary changes and turned things around.

For MMY – I heard you got a girlfriend recently. How did you meet? Has she come here to support you?

MMY: I tricked her into being my girlfriend through the internet. But she’s not here. The girl here is the coach’s girlfriend (jokes – coach has trouble with women but is working hard on improving that)

Supplementary: Yao says the coach told them to play well at this i-League to impress the girl for him. The goal set was to at least make it to finals.

For Yao – Your thoughts on Team MY?

Yao: They are a very respectable, strong team. They’ve got some veterans. We’ve learned a lot from them and they’ve learned from us over the years. They’ve always had that signature SEA style, aggressive.

Question from chat – for xiao8 – what’s the word on xiaoxiao8?

xiao8: Uh… this is secret for now. But I’ve been away on competitions for a long time now, so with my wife I haven’t actually even talked much for half a month.

Question from chat for Sylar – you single?

Sylar: Uhm… Right now I’m single. [host adds: Sylar rejected a beauty at a
competition a few weeks ago]