With the conclusion of The International 11, Team Liquid concluded their run in the Top 3, and Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen retiring from professional play. In the lead up to the event, we had a media session with them, which, looking back now, can feel just a little bittersweet. Alongside Michael “miCKe” Vu, Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg, Samuel “Boxi” Svahn and Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi, let’s see what they had to say prior to Finals Weekend.
Interview has been edited for clarity. You can see more of the artwork for the feature image here by Alice X. Zhang.
ROAD TO TI 11
Do you feel that you have had the best personal performance in a particular tournament of your career? How about a highlight from your road to The International 11?
Boxi: Can’t remember any other tournament I played, to be honest, like, if it was good or bad, I just remember I played them. The good memory would be the Last Chance Qualifier win, but other than that, there have been memories, but not highlights.
How much do you think going through the Last Chance Qualifiers has prepared you for getting this far at TI 11 both in-game and out?
iNSaNiA: I think the LCQ was probably a big blessing for our team. I think it really allowed us to test out our ideas, have some pretty hype performances, and you get to see what does or doesn’t work when you get to test your ideas against other high level teams. I think we probably wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for the LCQ.
Which team would you like to meet in the finals?
zai: I think it would be cool to meet Team Secret. It would make for, I think, a good storyline for both me individually, and for this TI with both of us being LCQ teams and, for lack of a better word, mediocre, then making it all the way.
No one expected us to qualify for The International, yet alone making it this far into the tournament.
This isn't the underdog story we wanted but we're thankful for all the support throughout this journey 🖤 #SecretDota #TI11 pic.twitter.com/v0cP8J1AyB
— Team Secret (@teamsecret) October 30, 2022
You seem to be in good and stable form in this tournament. What’s different this time? How did you prepare for it individually?
miCKe: I mean, I guess it’s because we’re playing as a team; when you play well as a team it’s easier to shine.
You got knocked down 2-0 to the lower bracket by Team Aster, and you’ll be playing them again. What can we expect from the match, emotionally speaking?
zai: I can only speak for myself, but I’m not driven by some rage or coming for revenge. They’re a good team and we learnt from them, and we’ve beaten 3 teams since. We’re not the same team as we were when we played them before, so that’s our angle: we’ve gotten better.
After you beat OG, you guys went and hugged Taiga. What did you say to him?
iNSaNiA: I know he said something like, “you have to go all in the whole thing now”, and I probably just said something like I’ll try my best, or we’re gonna do it, you know? It feels like so long ago.
For the Thunder Predator game, what was the most difficult thing of the series?
iNSaNiA: I think it’s about Thunder always surviving the early game, because they will run at you and try to kill you, and they’re very, very good at it. Getting past the first 20 minutes or so is probably the most difficult thing, but for the specific series, it was about trying to keep your head cool, don’t get too stressed out and do what you need to do.
PREP WORK, AND THE SCENE
What does the coach do for the team? How does JerAx and Blitz collaborate with each other and affect the team?
iNSaNiA: So for us, we have JerAx, Blitz and Jabbz as coaches. How it usually works is that Blitz is focused on the draft, JerAx on the gameplay, and Jabbz does the groundwork that allows them to present the information in an understandable way.
For example, Blitz looks at the hero picks, while JerAx is more on wards, smoke conditions, or map movement.
"I know it's cringe, but I really do love you guys" pic.twitter.com/pgvr3uSpr0
— Team Liquid (@TeamLiquid) October 30, 2022
As a legendary player retiring after this TI, can you give us your opinion on any young players you think we should be keeping an eye on this season?
MATUMBAMAN: I don’t really follow anything, like I don’t even use social media. About good players, not necessarily “young”, I think Topson is definitely back. While he got eliminated from LCQ, it felt like he was the one pushing his team forward. There’s always some people out there, but they’re often hidden and you really need to search for them.
Who’s the SEA Dota player who impresses you the most, and why?
iNSaNiA: I’m not gonna be choosing among the pros, but in public there was this guy who played Leshrac, and he played Leshrac against me and he won both games. When I opened up the Dota 2 pro tracker, I saw he had played like 47 games of Leshrac in the past eight days and that impressed me a lot. I believe his nickname was fermium2.0? I don’t know who it is, but I was very impressed by his ability to play the same hero so many times in such a short time.
Do you believe that age is directly related to performance?
zai: I think for Dota, age is more for reflexes. I think your performance is more related to your motivation and your ability to play this game day in, day out, with reactions and such being more secondary.
MATUMBAMAN: For sure. There’s examples of ex-professionals like race car drivers who are like 50 but their reflexes are still top tier, you know? It’s more like at some point you just stop caring and play like you don’t want to play anymore.
As you draft, do you particularly emphasize more on opportunities, counters or your personal strengths?
MATUMBAMAN: It’s a little bit of everything where you look at what you can do, and what they can do. You can’t just see their best strengths and strategies, you have to start thinking what heroes of yours work well against theirs, and you build off that. It’s like a 50/50.
Do you think that having 3 European teams helps more since you know them very well or is it actually more difficult because of the same reason?
zai: It’s a bit of both for me, but I think everyone’s kinda showing their cards already. Even if you weren’t familiar with these teams, I think by this time, you will be familiar with them. For now, it’s nice to see Europe deliver on the big stage as a testament to show how strong the region is and gives context do your results throughout the year.
For teams with off-meta strategies, would they have a chance to succeed, or can nothing beat the meta?
iNSaNiA: Obviously there are always answers to the meta stuff. The reason people play the meta is because it’s the easiest to execute or to get things together. I think the effort needed to play off-meta is a lot higher, because you have to figure out how to beat these things. Due to the planning phase and how drafting works, all that effort might be messed up just by removing one or two key pieces.
What do you guys think is happening in the NA region at the moment?
iNSaNiA: I think the North America scene has kinda shrunk to a point where you don’t really see many new and upcoming players out of it, and I think it really hurts them. Even if you’re a strong team, if your practice partners aren’t, then you’re never going to be stronger or you end up being very one-dimensional.
How does it feels to play in front of the SEA crowds?
iNSaNiA: It’s always very fun. Crowds go very crazy, and it feels like I heard more about giving Liquid a chance this event than any of the others, probably mostly due to the fact we made the playoffs.
For zai, having successfully played Position 3 (Offlane) and Position 4 (Support) before, which role do you like better?
zai: I think it would be position 4. Well, I haven’t played pos. 4 since TI 8, but I think it’s nowhere to what it is like nowadays. It’s got its ups and downs, so I guess it’s offlane these days. It takes a little bit more, and you need to be up to speed for a lot of things. It might sound like a “grass is greener on the other side” kind of thing, but I’m happy alright.
What removed neutral item do you want to brought back to the game? Why?
Boxi: I think they should have Ironwood Tree back. I feel the most fun about it was people trying to use it and set up for something like a Windranger’s Shackleshot, or try to block someone but because the hitbox is smaller than a normal tree, it doesn’t work.
Most influential teammate for you?
miCKe: iNSaNiA and Boxi, probably. We played together for so long and been through a lot together.
What mid matchup do you feel is challenging to play?
miCKe: Player wise, I think Nisha (Team Secret). For heroes, I don’t really know, but Nisha is too good right now.
Do each of you have a specific moment in the moment where you decided you go pro with Dota? Or did it just happen without you realizing?
iNSaNiA: For me at least, it was an active decision to switch from Heroes of Newerth. It was deciding on switching, studying or do something else, and I decided I wanted to play Dota.
zai: I think when I was about 16, I went to my first tournament. I was still at school, but we played some and it was fun. After winning some tournaments, there was this moment I felt, yeah, I’m on a roll, and that was that.
How amazing is it to sit back as a player at TI 11 after previously being an analyst? Can you share your experience?
iNSaNiA: It’s awesome to be here as a player. Casting was fun and all, but there’s always a part of you where you get to see everyone and you don’t get a chance to stop them, all you do is talk about how good they are. I mean, I had a fun time at TI 10 which was well received which probably made the experience much better for me. Also, working with a lot of people like ODPixel, it’s pretty hard not to do a good job when you’re standing next to someone so passionate, jumping around and yelling.
They couldn’t hear a word I said but I’m so proud of them both! Two very kind people who deserve all the love! Gonna absolutely slay this cast 🔥🔥🔥 @iNsan1a @ODPixel #ti10 pic.twitter.com/OZPq6Wy3iz
— Moxxi (@MoxxiCasts) October 17, 2021
What are your plans after TI, regardless of the result?
zai: I want to go back home and chill for maybe up to three weeks. We’ve been on the road for a long time this year, and it’s been pretty exhausting time. Just wind down.
MATUMBAMAN: I’m going to be grinding, back to 14 hour days.
If you could pick anywhere in the world to host TI, where would you want it to be?
miCKe: Sweden. It’s easy, no need to travel then.
iNSaNiA: I really want to go to Australia at some point, maybe Japan?
Boxi: Japan would be sweet.
This is going to be Matu’s last TI. Does that add to the pressure, considering the emotional aspect from fans?
MATUMBAMAN: Not really. There are different ways to approach things. Some people will be scared of losing, I suppose, but would that really define the whole career I’ve had? I just go there, do what I always have done, prepare the same way and show up.
"You should never pursue something blindly if you don't enjoy the process of getting there."
Thank you for letting us take this journey with you @MATUMBAMAN 💙 pic.twitter.com/03qbJRLvHy
— Team Liquid (@TeamLiquid) October 30, 2022
What is the thing that you will miss the most about Pro DOTA once you retire?
MATUMBAMAN: I think it would be meeting the people, catching up with the old friends at events, maybe the adrenaline you get from playing on the stage. I’m not sure if I’ll miss of much else, but you can never really tell what you miss until you do.
The shuffles have only just begun, surely. When Team Liquid rises again, be sure to meet them there. We wish MATUMBAMAN the best of luck in his future endeavours, and that the team will be able to continue the pursuit of victory in his stead.
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