Thanks to digmouse for facilitating this interview and providing translations!
*This interview was conducted in August, shortly after the WTL Summer Season ended. Firefly's move to Platinum Heroes was not publicly announced at the time of this interview.
Most TL.net users know you mostly through your WTL performances. Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you ended up getting into competitive SC2.
Toodming: I’m a professional StarCraft and StarCraft 2 player, my name is 黄慧明 Huang Huiming, also known as TooDming. I started my career in StarCraft in 2005, turned pro in 2008, transitioned to SC2 in 2011.
Silky: Hi, I’m Silky, playing as “vvvvv” starting from next season. I started playing SC1 when I was in mid school, and started to play in offline events in 2013.
Cyan: Hi, I’m Cyan. Playing games has been a passion for me since I was a kid, I happened to have the chance to go pro after making a name in SC2 so I went for it. Especially that TooDming helped me grow a lot when we were teammates at team ZoO.
You guys really surprised a lot of foreign fans with your performance. How do you rate the season? Did you outperform expectations?
Toodming: All in all I think we did what we expected. I think it’s not really that we did exceptionally well, more because everyone else underestimated us greatly. This is a long league, luck really isn’t a huge factor. Saying our victories were won on merit is a bit of a stretch, but can’t pin it on luck either. It’s the underestimation that won us the opportunity. If everyone played to their best abilities I think we would have a tough time making it to the playoffs. The final result feels OK to me, I didn't take it for granted, but I don’t consider it outside of our expectations either.
Silky: I didn’t capitalize on having weaker opponents in a few matches so there were things I could’ve done better. Finishing 7th was a team effort, I think it’s about what we should be finishing.
Cyan: I would only consider myself doing alright. Lost a lot of 2-0s, and a few matches where I should’ve won. But I gave all that I have, now that I need to put a lot more time into my family and child. At least I wasn’t dragging everyone down. We didn’t go a bit further so all of it was the bare minimum. I think we had the ability to go further.
You guys were the first all-Chinese team to reach the playoff of the WTL, do you think it will inspire more players in China to dedicate time to SC2?
Toodming: Not really. You can’t sustain playing as a pro based on these inspirations alone. Even if it helps, it would really only push them more into the negative side. For this game, if you are in, you are in. If you aren’t motivated, you’ll leave quickly. This is a game where winning and losing can have a huge effect on you; Not many people can take this kind of emotional rollercoaster, especially now that normal life is getting better. Practicing SC2 in China simply isn’t something that’s super worth it.
Silky: I think StarCraft is a game where you’d always see improvement by practicing. Maybe our success from keeping at it could encourage newer players.
Oliveira has been the king of the Chinese region for a while, who on SSLT has the best shot at dethroning him?
TooDming: Depends on who is more confident that day. It’s about that, I think.
Silky: No, he is the king.
Cyan: Has to be Firefly.
Why 'Starving Camels'? Is there a fun story behind the name?
TooDming: There is an old Chinese saying 瘦死的骆驼比马大 (“A starving camel is still larger than a horse”). Our players are all older, so we get underestimated a lot. A starving camel fits us, even if we aren’t at our prime any more, we still have the force of a camel.
Silky: We are all players that have been playing for a long time.
Which victory do you think was the most important for you and the team this season?
TooDming: Nothing of note for the most important. The league is always changing, so I never thought any match was particularly important. If I have to pick one it’s probably the last round, and it’s not even our match, that would be the direct competitors’ match that would decide whether we advance or not.
Silky: The one where my ten ultras stomped through ByuN.
Cyan: For me personally it’s the win against ABYDOS. For the team, forcing BASILISK to Ace.
How did the team strategize and prepare for WTL matches? Do you think you had an advantage compared to other teams?
Toodming: I just practice against the AI thinking about possible scenarios, or a few customs.
Silky: I would go to YouTube or Twitch looking for their matches and streams, but they won’t be able to find ours so that’s an advantage.
Cyan: We would discuss and practice in customs. We don’t have a language barrier and know each other well, so we can come up with a lot of ideas.
How is the Chinese Starcraft 2 scene at the moment? We've heard a lot about the closing of the Chinese servers, how do you guys practice since then?
Toodming: It’s hard to describe, as the situation is different for everyone. Chinese players generally all practice on Asian servers anyway so the shutdown doesn’t affect us, but for lower ranked and custom/arcade players it’s a huge blow. My only time playing on the Chinese server would be screwing around with lower ranked friends, it’s probably a convenience to me that way.
Silky: No idea really. There weren’t many domestic tournaments besides WTL even before the shutdown, for us players practicing has always been on Asian servers, so it’s not that different.
Cyan: It’s a lot less efficient practicing on Korean servers, so mostly it’s on EU fighting against high latency. I’d look for customs whenever I have the chance.
For Team Manager: Are you trying to use this season's success to get more support/sponsors and keep the team together? Or are you happy if players can use this opportunity to sign with other teams?
Firefly moved to Platinum Heroes already. Sponsorship is kind of random so we're not putting a lot of hope on it, just trying. We’d continue with or without one, it’s mostly depending on what the players are doing. If everyone finds a place to go, the team would be no more.
For Toodming: We've seen you play for many years, but despite being an older veteran you've gotten some strong victories this season. Do you think your experience was an asset against younger adversaries like Trigger or Spatz?
The advantage of experience definitely is a factor, but it really doesn’t matter if I’m weaker than them. If everything comes down to experience I would be winning every match, heh.
For Silky: You have shown some very sharp aggressive builds throughout many seasons of WTL. How do you prepare for matches when your opponents know about your reputation?
Under this meta, unless it’s certain maps that warrant it, playing early game aggression is really not the way to go, as a Zerg cheesing is pretty hard now. In fact I won my games off defensive play and macro, so I will continue improving my fundamentals. Of course if there is something that can work, I’d also try them.
For Cyan: Throughout the years you've played in many versions of the SCBOY Team League. How does it feel to find success with this specific team of all-Chinese players? How does it compare to past experiences?
It’s bittersweet, more on the bitter side. If we had this kind of environment five, six years ago we might see more and better Chinese players... But maybe it was those kinds of experiences that made us. Going through with everything being a smooth ride was cool, but that wasn’t our life. It’s also a nice feeling to make something work amid difficulties.
For Cyan: You've competed opposite to IG for almost a decade, how does it feel to finally overtake them as the undisputed best Chinese team?
Nothing really. I haven’t paid attention to them since iAsonu retired.
For Firefly: You had one of the best performances out of any protoss in the league, beating players like Lambo, Spirit, Reynor, and Maru. Do you think that there's something with WTL that make you play your best or would you say those results are on par with your level these days?
It’s exactly because of WTL that gave me the opportunity to play like this. I don’t think I could win against them otherwise!
For Firefly: You made a lot of foreign fans this season but we've yet to see you play at an offline event outside of China. If you can't get the ESL/DreamHack seed, will you try to compete in other international events anyway? (GSL, HomeStory Cup etc).
I would definitely play abroad if given the chance. I will try as hard as I can for ESL seeds.
For Firefly: You displayed some very impressive maturity and control on your nerves all season long against top opponents. Do you get nervous when you have to play a top player like Maru, or do you play better under pressure?
Of course, a lot of times I was playing under pressure and tried not to let them get to me.
World Team League Winter will begin on September 29th.