Although we had met before on several occasions, I first interviewed Armand “bOne7” Pittner a couple of months ago, at StarLadder 12. He struck me as amiable, but rather opaque. His most unusual feature is his manner of speaking. His voice has a metallic tinge to it. He can get caught onto an idea and fall silent abruptly, or splutter for minutes on end – usually an indication that he doesn’t feel comfortable discussing a certain topic.
There’s a solid good sense about him – an integrity and a feel of purpose, both hard to come across nowadays. Although he is very competitive, he has a pronounced aversion to conflict. I have never heard him express ill will towards anyone, just like I’ve never heard him crack a joke in a larger group of people, or seen him acknowledging that one has been made.
When we met for this interview, a couple of days ago, he walked towards me slightly bent forward, almost as if he found it awkward to have a body. He took his large headphones off his ears, placed them around his neck and said, trying to sound casual:
“I don’t really like to talk about myself that much, you know.”
“I’ll ask you about other people, then,” I tried to lighten up the atmosphere.
“I don’t like to talk about other people either,” he said, furrowing his brows.
I thought we had started out on the wrong foot.
He proved me wrong. We spent almost four hours talking over dinner at a quiet Italian restaurant, not too far from Bucharest’s city center. We discussed his new team, chronicled Cloud 9’s fall and strayed towards more casual topics such as travelling, Sepp Blatter’s corruption allegations, and the Austrian origins of his last name, Pittner. He seemed a lot more relaxed and humorous than when I first interviewed him – as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. We would have probably kept talking if it hadn’t been for a family waiting for a table, like kenneled puppies, behind a rail.
With Cloud 9, I had 0.0% chances of winning The International. With my new team, my chances are better than 0.0%. Even if they were only 0.1%, they’d still be better odds.
DotaBlast: People are starting to get worried that you’ll be left without a team this season.
bOne7: I’ve noticed. I have put together a mix with Asuna, Bufni, Beesa, and kikoni. We’ll go by the name of Kaipi. It’s not set in stone, but we’ll play together and see how it goes. They might not be well known players, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a great potential. I chose them because I’ve known them for a long time, they are highly intelligent players and, most importantly, I enjoy playing with them. It’s been a while since I last enjoyed being a part of a team.
DotaBlast: You didn’t really enjoy Cloud 9, did you?
bOne7: There were good times and bad times. Whenever we reached lategame, the mood among us started to deteriorate and we ended up losing. That became very frustrating for me and Envy, after playing in a team that used to fare very well in lategame.
DotaBlast: And the fact that you didn’t manage to win any major tournaments only made things worse.
bOne7: It aggravated the general mood, of course. It was somewhat of a vicious cycle, actually. How could we have ever won anything, if we kept playing in a more and more toxic atmosphere? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there was anyone to blame for the situation. We just weren’t a good fit. With the new team, my goal is not to start winning tournaments right away. That wouldn’t be realistic. I want a good team. For me, that means a team in which I can play a lot, improve as much as I can and enjoy myself while doing so. Let’s put it this way: with Cloud 9, I had 0.0% chances of winning The International. With my new team, my chances are better than 0.0%. Even if they were only 0.1%, they’d still be better odds.
DotaBlast: When did you start feeling that Cloud 9 doesn’t stand a chance at The International?
bOne7: I can’t speak on behalf of my former teammates, but I was aware of the incongruities between us long before The International. I kept trying to convince myself that everything was going to be fine.
DotaBlast: How long before TI? Would you still have had time to make roster changes, if you had decided to act on it?
bOne7: We had a fairly good performance at StarLadder 12, we were satisfied with it. Things started to fall apart after we received our direct invite. We started to become more and more stressed out and toxic. Everyone of us has the potential to be a great player, in the right environment. But not on the same team. Never on the same team. You can’t have MiSeRy and FATA on the same team, for instance. N0tail gets beaten down very easily, so in order to perform at his best, he needs to be on a winning team. EternaLEnVy was a perfect teammate for me, but not a very good fit for FATA, MiSeRy and N0tail. Most of us are “morale players” – we got discouraged and we didn’t have what it took to pick ourselves up. And, although we have all been playing competitively for a long time, we caved under the pressure.
DotaBlast: Did you have more faith in the 2015 roster, than in the one you played with last year?
bOne7: No, no way.
DotaBlast: EternaLEnVy seemed to have more confidence in this year’s lineup.
bOne7: (laughs) He said that when he got interviewed, because he had no choice. Would you have expected him to say that we sucked?
DotaBlast: Well, yes. He can be incredibly blunt when he wants to. He wrote on ask.fm that he would be really sad if he didn’t play with you this season.
bOne7: Did he really? I didn’t know that. He was a great teammate and he is a great player.
DotaBlast: Is he the best carry in the West?
bOne7: No, not anymore. I think he was the best carry at the end of 2014. Then Fear became the best and now I think Arteezy is by far the best.
DotaBlast: Who was Cloud 9’s leader? The general impression was that all decisions were made between the two of you.
bOne7: We all chipped in during the games, but other than that, EternaLEnVy was the leader – he made all of the decisions. I remember when he told me we should replace Pieliedie and Aui_2000. I really thought he was going to kick me then, because I was playing poorly at that time.
DotaBlast: You thought EternaLEnVy was unilaterally going to kick you from the team?
DotaBlast: You were there way before EternaLEnVy joined the team. On which criteria did he come to have a bigger influence than you?
bOne7: I don’t think precedence has anything to do with it. I never had that alpha personality. I was never the guy to say: “I want to do this, we need to release X and bring in Y”. EternaLEnVy took initiative and created an aura of influence around himself.
We didn’t talk, we didn’t shake hands. It had to happen – we were all unhappy.
DotaBlast: Was he the one who decided that Cloud 9 should disband?
bOne7: No. That part was implied, we didn’t even talk about it at all. We didn’t talk, we didn’t shake hands. It had to happen – we were all unhappy. It’s a tradition among Dota teams: if you have a disappointing performance at The International, you disband.
DotaBlast: Not necessarily. You could have kept at least one player and then reconstruct the team around him.
bOne7: That might still happen. Cloud 9 could back up either my team, or N0tail’s, or FATA’s. Envy would have wanted to stay with the organization, but Puppey didn’t want to leave Team Secret.
DotaBlast: Did you get any offers after Cloud 9 disbanded?
bOne7: There would have been plenty of players with whom I could have put together a team, if I had wanted to talk to them. But I didn’t want to talk to anyone. In order to receive offers, you must make yourself available, which I didn’t. Instead, I chose to play with Asuna, Bufni, Beesa, and kikoni, because we’re like-minded and we enjoy playing together. Like I said, I think they have great potential. If they don’t have any major mental blockages, we’re definitely going to play together.
DotaBlast: How do you think you’re going to fare against the other Western teams?
bOne7: I’d rather not think about that for now. We’ll take everything step by step. I think it’s going to be tough for all the Western teams to put up a fight against Evil Geniuses. I’m excited to watch Aui’s team play. I think Biryu has a lot of potential.
The scene is still immature and chaotic, although we’d like to pretend otherwise. However, no player would like to see Valve embrace Riot’s heavy-handed approach.
DotaBlast: You’re a smart guy, but you’ve never been the opinionated type. What do you think the scene lacks in order to become truly professional?
bOne7: (laughs) That’s probably because I’m not smart in that way. I’m a simple man, I only have one goal: I want to play Dota and try my best to be good at it. If I widen my area of interests, my efficiency might suffer. I can’t afford that, so I’d rather have no other concern apart from the game.
I witnessed plenty of talks among Dota 2 players who were trying to get to the bottom of this topic. I never stepped in, because, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have faith in any federation or union at this point. The scene is still immature and chaotic, although we’d like to pretend otherwise. However, no player would like to see Valve embrace Riot’s heavy-handed approach. A players’ union – one that would protect the players’ interests against unscrupulous organizations or tournament organizers (especially lower-tier players who I believe are more vulnerable) – would be a great idea. But, I don’t see it becoming a reality any time soon.
I don’t know what the general perception is, but from the inside, it’s pretty much every man for himself – with very few exceptions. It’s easy to theorize about what should be done, but in reality, there are scarcely any players who are capable of understanding things at a macro level and who would care enough to invest time in developing and professionalizing the scene.
Out of all the MOBAs, I think Dota 2 has the highest life expectancy.
DotaBlast: Have you ever thought about what would come after Dota 2?
bOne7: To be honest, no, not really. Maybe Dota 2 won’t last forever, but I think esports – as a cultural phenomenon – has become everlasting. Look at Counter-Strike: I don’t think it is ever going to disappear. If CS:GO starts to regress, there will surely be a CS:GO 2, or some other version of the game, and the public will migrate – just like the Dota public migrated from DotA 1 to HoN and then to Dota 2. Out of all the MOBAs, I think Dota 2 has the highest life expectancy.
DotaBlast: Do you ever think about your future?
bOne7: I’d rather not give it much thought. I’d like to keep playing until I can’t play anymore.
DotaBlast: Why wouldn’t you be able to play at some point? No one has reached that age when they definitely cannot play anymore.
bOne7: Well, if you train a lot, your hands start to fail you. If I train intensely for eight or nine hours a day, my hands start to bother me, which has never happened to me before.
DotaBlast: There are medical solutions for that. Also, the hand-eye coordination is not essential in Dota.
bOne7: Yes, Dota is not StarCraft – we don’t need to have a load-handling capacity of 300-400 apm. I guess you’re right, Dota is a new sport and no player has reached that advanced age that could prevent him from playing.
DotaBlast: Did you ever think about retiring?
bOne7: No, not once. I might play competitively for as long as I can, I might retire after a couple of years and become a coach, I might put my Political Sciences degree to use – the last option is the least likely to happen and I really hope it doesn’t come to that. (laughs) Who knows what could happen?