The Prince of Denmark, Ratslayer, The Red Panda, Mr. Toxic, Pornstar Zerg. Revered by South-Americans, admired by North-Americans - the man has many titles and associations. After his participation in BSL I thought it could be interesting to hear his thoughts about it all. However, this lead to an interview so long, touching several topics, that we've decided to divide it into two parts.
Part 1 is primarily focused around BSL and individual tournaments. Whereas Part 2 will be more focused on clan/team related topics.
The man himself.
1. You went through Ro24 with a clean slate, but didn't seem too happy about your group at first?
That is correct, I was displeased with the group draw due to two things. Firstly it's never fun to play against a clanmate/friend, and seeing that ReV only had two people entering the ro24, it was against all odds that we would not only end up in the same group, but that I also had to play him in the very first game.
Secondly, at the time at least, I considered my group to be the hardest or perhaps second hardest of them all. Spx and Madinho are both good players that have a unique playstyle, which can be deadly as a zerg -- finally we also had a South American protoss that only made it that far due to the inflated mmr of the region, playing against someone like that is a loss/loss situation; either you win, which everyone expects and takes no note of, or you lose and you've been embarrassed in front of the ~400(?) people that watched the ro24.
2. The concept of inflated mmr has often been discussed - many don't agree, and some even claims you're being racist. Could you explain the concept?
I was rather surprised at the 'backlash' I received for making such comments, basically every high level foreigner I know fully accept SA inflation as a definite thing, without a shred of doubt. Basically the entire continent is known for lagging, and playing each other, and it's painfully obvious to anyone such an environment is going to artificially increase their mmr; on average they don't meet Koreans as often as say someone on the west coast of the USA.
Furthermore, when they do, their opponents are more likely to leave/cheese because of the horrendous lag -- now it is important for me personally to point out that it is probably not their fault, I'm sure the placement of the internet backbone(submarine lines) coupled with other geographical challenges is to blame, I am absolutely not an expert on such a things, but to me fault and blame is irrelevant. I think it's fairly obvious that more often than not, SA players qualify for things like BSL when there are other more deserving (read: skilled) players that had a more difficult time on the ladder. The solution is to perhaps host qualifying tournaments instead of relying on a ladder, but that also has its downsides and requires additional effort from admins (presumably).
I did however find myself flabbergasted at the South Americans that decided to start some sort of racism crusade against me -- I think it is a sad reflection of humanity's ease of living when extreme words like "racist" are thrown around willy nilly because a person said their region has inflated mmr and lag on an online video game ladder. To me it diminishes the very real suffering that has gone on throughout history, and continues to go on in many places around the world.
3. Even if true, why do you keep pushing the matter? What's your motivation, when most solutions are out of our hands, and the discussion seems to lead to more strife than good?
In keeping with my rather long winded answers, it will take a bit of explanation to get my point across here, so bear with me. Being a rather old man, I would like to think of myself as having experienced and seen a lot when it comes to gaming in general, I've played a lot of games at a pretty competitive level and it has molded me into someone that enjoys a bit of trash talking and friendly banter. The tone has always been a bit rough, whether poking fun at an opponent or calling out a teammate on a mistake.
But at the end of the day, I consider any sort of competitive gaming as simple entertainment, and there are just certain formulas that work within that entire industry, whether it's e-sports, mma, football or reality tv.
When I make fun of NA, SA, or whoever it might be at any given time, my purpose is to create a rivalry and a sort of narrative. People enjoy storylines, and if I can make a nation, or even a continent tune in to cheer against me or point and laugh when I stumble, I will have succeeded. The truth is that everyone wants to be the good guy, they want to be loved and respected, but very few people succeed and most end up looking like boring robots with no discernible personality. The foreign brood war scene has not had a foreign villain since Idra in my opinion, only angsty nerds with hugely inflated egos that are simply bad losers (Julia is a great example).
I don't care if people cheer for me, or against me, as long as they tune in and hopefully support the scene.
4. So you're basically Batman?
I would consider myself as more of a cross between Charlie Kelly's 'Wildcard' and Karl Pilkington's 'Bullshit man'. That's the superhero we need.
5. Too high culture references for me to take! So I'll just hop on to Ro16! You're put into what most considered the group of death.
First you defeat spx, the player who crushed MadiNho's final hopes for advancement. Did you have any feeling of vengence when beating him? And what do you think about being put into the same group as him twice in a row?
It's probably for the better, albeit I do strongly recommend both "It's Always Sunny in Philadelpia" and "An Idiot Abroad". Top tier entertainment.
At first I felt slightly perturbed having been drawn into the most difficult group of them all. Before the group drawing started, I actually felt quite confident due to the overall weak level of players in the ro16. I figured there would be a good chance that I would end up with at least two players worse than myself, but alas it was not meant to be. Prior to my game against spx I discussed and planned strategies with a friend of mine, and she ultimately told me to just do whatever I felt the most comfortable with, and that's what I did -- I felt no real pressure on me, and the advice really helped me out. I chose the course of action that I determined would most successfully lead me into a healthy lategame, which is where I thrive.
I had no animosity or desire to avenge Madinho going into it, I was sad to see him not make it, but he's more than skilled enough to get revenge on his own, perhaps next season . As far as being in the same group two times in a row, I think it's a bit..uneventful, and I did provide some feedback on the matter to the people running the BSL -- most tournaments have some sort of system in place to stop things like that happening.
6. You faced Dewalt next. You lose the first game. How do you switch it around? How did you experience the whole series?
Much like my ro24 group, I was a bit surprised at the outcome of the other match, and I had admittedly expected (and prepared) more for a potential series vs Eon than Dewalt. I mean absolutely no disrespect towards Dewalt by saying that, I think he is a great player, unlike the ro24 winners bracket opponent. I felt a bit ambivalent as on one hand, my chances of getting out of the group had just increased, but on the other hand I had prepared some really fun zvz builds involving hydras and hive tech. I tried to blindly counter 1g in the first game, but unfortunately the only critical damage I did was to my own economy.
After my less than stellar performance in g1, I decided to once again embrace the advice previously given to me, and just play a style that I felt comfortable with -- and it worked out, despite some embarrassing blunders -- I was worried that I would be remembered as the guy that forgot both adrenaline glands and the ultralisk speed upgrade. I suspect after my final game vs TT1, the chance of that happening has only increased..
Avi attacking with hydras, whilst lings run to attack the 6 o'clock expansion.
7. It happened against both Dewalt and TT1?
Indeed, quite unfortunate and as the legend would say; "not ideal". I don't have any excuses, it was just a mistake on my part and all around bad play. I was genuinely upset with how poorly I played against TT1.
8. How come you played so poorly? What should've been done differently?
Firstly I would like to point out that in my opinion TT1 is a great player and also a friend. Prior to the games, I told everyone that would listen that he's one of very few foreigners that I have an atrocious win rate against, whether in tournaments or on the ladder, and I even predicted him to finish in the top 2 of this BSL prior to the ladder stage even ending. I absolutely do not wish to take anything away from his victory, he definitely deserved it, and don't misunderstand anything I say to diminish his accomplishment. However, I still do feel that I am entitled to be very critical of my own play, as I feel like I performed well below even my own humble expectations.
I spent more time theorycrafting than I did actual practice, and I think my ideas and intentions were all good, but my execution was atrocious -- to go into a bit of detail, my plan was specifically to play a far third (in another natural) turtle zerg style of play, because I knew it would be my best chance of winning, and something he hates playing against. This decision did come at a cost, I was forced to veto a 2 player map (no other mains, duh), and even more importantly, I had to play a style that is not very familiar to me. The few people that have watched me stream or play should know that my 'normal' style of play is more of a greedy 6 hatch hydra with a close third type of play.
Furthermore, I also planned on punishing any greedy play, and I consider the build order win on Quintessence the only positive moment of the series for me, as I had planned that ahead of time with my theorycrafting partner, expecting a nexus first build. In essence, I guess my main point is that I don't mind losing if I performed well, but losing while making extremely poor decisions and outright forgetting crucial upgrades left me feeling rather morose -- and as previously stated, I'm by no means implying that the outcome would have been different or that his victory was undeserved.
9. Sounds like you made good plans then at least! One thing many commented on was why you didn't use mutas when he didn't seem to make any corsairs?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, good plans only get you so far -- you must practice, especially when adopting a completely new style of play. First and foremost I think it's important to point out that the vast majority of people commenting on BSL proleague vods are the same people commenting on say ASL or KSL ones as well; let's quickly establish that they are in absolutely no position to question strategies used by players, since they tend to be about 1000 mmr below them. With that in mind, I would say that I actually had prepared a very specific build order to abuse TT1's tendency to skip going stargate/corsairs, unfortunately I just didn't feel comfortable enough with it during the games, and ultimately decided to stick with something more familiar to me.
Furthermore, knowing TT1 and his playstyle better than practically everyone else in the foreign scene, you have to understand that if he scouts, or even suspects that I'm going for lair/spire/mutas, he will blindly build a dark archon while getting cannons in his natural/main -- the risk/reward of building 11 mutas and potentially losing them all to 1 single spell seems overwhelmingly poor; which is why my prepared tactic relied on only 5 mutas. TT1 also has really good macro, so blindly going muta and trying to stop speedzealot runbys and drone snipping at 3 different expansions simultaneously is a major hassle. Lastly, the other key role of the mutalisk in the matchup is more as a templar-sniping squad in the mid-game, which I honestly never saw an opening for. TT1 opted for very aggressive 2 base sort of all-in plays with a lot of ranged goons.
10. I think that explains it well. Speaking of armchair experts. A lot of people at, say 1600 (or even down to 1300) MMR claim to have a great understanding of the game and that mechanics is the only thing holding them back. True or false?
Absolutely false, I genuinely believe that the scene is full of delusional people, and I mean at all levels of play. People have an innate proclivity for wanting to protect their frail egos, so when they spend time and effort trying to be successful at Brood War, they start making excuses of all sorts -- including "I have the knowledge but lack the execution".
You also hear that kind of tomfoolery at pubs when watching sport events, everyone always knows better than the experts. If anyone reading this disagree or doubt the validity of my claims, I would strongly suggest watching some of the lower mmr (but still fairly popular) sc:r streamers on twitch.tv -- it's quite the hoot.
One such low level delusional noob.
11. I must honestly admit that I sometimes start thinking I know more than I can execute, but at least I realize I'm just fooling myself. But to get some expert opinion on the players in the BSL - are there any surprises in the brackets thus far, that you feel stand out? And how do you think the rest will go?
I don't know that I would refer to my opinion as being that of an expert, but since this is my interview I'll try my best I suppose! Outside of some of the weaker players making it further than they should have due to inflated mmr and/or easy groups, I think the top 8 was pretty well balanced, and outside of Hawk getting destroyed the games looked overall fairly competitive/close, and no offense to Hawk but he did have two freewins in his ro16 group. As for the ro8 matches, I correctly predicted 3 of the 4 winners, with the only exception being Dandy. That's not to say that I think the skill discrepancy between eon/dandy is significant, but I did consider Eon a 55% favourite or so.
Much like my own attempt at playing a style I'm perhaps not the most familiar with in the turtle-zerg previously mentioned, I feel like Dandy switched to a mech build in g3 because Eon is a lot worse against mech than he is against bio. Dandy is in my experience a very standard macro-oriented bio player, and I think his mech play looked a bit like he was freestyling, but it was enough to get a win. After that g3 I could feel the lifetilt all the way from Denmark.
As for the remaining games, I think it's fair to say that both Dandy and Bonyth are huge favourites for making it to the grandfinal, and while I overall agree with the sentiment I do think both of the semi finals will be a lot closer than expected. I will obviously be cheering for TT1, but it'll be hard since I think his best matchup is pvz by far, and if he manages to beat the best non-Korean player in a pvp, the most likely scenario is that he has to then beat Dandy in a pvt. The safe prediction would be to say Bonyth handily wins against Dandy in the grand final, since foreign terrans look helpless against him.
12. Guesswork is quite fun for many. Whether it's predictions/comments like yours here, the BSL Liquipedia Bracket Contest, or a more serious matter - gambling sites.
What's your take on gambling on starcraft matches in general? In particular when considering BW's dark history with match fixing.
I guess by now it's more or less an established fact that I have, from time to time, enjoyed betting on Starcraft myself -- quite successfully, too. So I guess most people would assume that I'm all for it, but honestly I am not. The Starcraft scene is incredibly small, and compared to professional sports and even bigger e-sports titles, there is almost no prize money to be had. I think having small bets on the big Korean tournaments is probably harmless, it doesn't bring any positives with it. At worst, I am quite fearful for what has been going on in the foreign scene.
To elaborate, you have been able to bet on a lot of smaller events both in and outside of Korea -- and I absolutely fear for the integrity of the scene. Let me present a theoretical scenario to highlight what I think is one (of many) dangers; take a tournament like the BSL, imagine that you're allowed to bet on say the ro24 or even ro16 matches. The prize money at that stage of the tournament is non-existent or at least very low. If a player with a questionable moral compass was to recognize that his chance of making top ~4 or so, there is obviously a real temptation in betting against himself and throwing the game(s).
Maybe I am being overly negative on this subject, but the only thing more predictable than human stupidity is human greed. I think another danger is that the whole concept of betting on e-sports is clearly bookmakers targeting a very specific and vulnerable demographic, namely young people that enjoy computer games. So in summary, at the absolute best of times, betting might be harmless, but at the worst of times it could be incredibly detrimental to not only the competitive integrity of tournaments, but also the lives and livelihood of young people watching.
This concludes Part 1 of the interview.