We are days away from The International 5 and many of the participating teams are already in the US, bootcamping, tweaking and optimizing their strategies and putting the final touches on their plans to secure a slice of the almost $17 million prize pool.
Perhaps unbeknownst to the majority of the fans, the key role in strategy design falls on the coaches. Just to mention a couple: former Tinker/Mousesports members Dominik “Black^” Reitmeier and Sam “BuLba” Sosale are coaching the MVP teams and, respectively, Evil Geniuses.
What exactly a coach does – whether it’s an honorary role or they’re looked up at like they’re Alex Ferguson – it largely depends on every team’s choice and mentality.
However, as far as top-five contender Cloud 9 is concerned, their choice of a coach is surprisingly not a superstar pro who just didn’t make it to The International, but a very down to earth, dedicated and analytical Dota expert, long time friend of bOne7, Cristian “ppasarel” Bănăseanu.
As a former colleague, partner in various Dota 2 ventures, and close personal friend, I had ppasarel on Skype for a quick interview, a few hours before his flight to Seattle, where Cloud 9 are bootcamping prior to The International. I particularly wanted to know his role in creating and improving strategies for Cloud 9, and have him introduce himself to the team’s large fanbase.
DotaBlast: I know you’re a former DotA pro player. You have a big fanbase in Romania, but other than that, you’ve maintained a rather discrete presence in the scene. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about yourself?
ppasarel: Being 30 years old, I can safely say that my passion for esports started longer than a decade ago, when I went to San Francisco, as Romania’s representative for World Cyber Games’ Unreal Tournament competition. When Dota became a thing, I started training hard, and by 2007 we had formed a really strong Romanian community. A couple of my most important achievements are placing second and third in MYM Prime Nations and Farm 4 Fame, with TeG and IGG, alongside players like Hyperion, Ly0n, Coco, and RMP.
As I grew up, though, I had to get a job so, wanting to continue to be close to esports, I joined ComputerGames Romania, at the time to run their Professional Gamers League competition. We later expanded to year-long tournaments like Romanian Esports Championship and, in recent years, Dreamhack Bucharest – by far the largest esports competition in the region. At the same time, I have been casting constantly and even did some part-time coaching for Romanian teams.
DotaBlast: You’re very good friends with bOne7. How long have you known each other?
ppasarel: It’s actually a rather funny story. It was around 2007 or 2008 and the way you played Dota back then was joining “rooms” on the now defunct Garena.com. It was fairly common knowledge that the room called “Romania 1” was full of people who today would be trenching at 2K MMR, but with 6K aspirations. bOne7 – known back then as “Uganda Player” – was one of the kids set in the mid-or-feed mind-frame that we all know so well. We ended up in a pub together and I couldn’t convince him not to go mid, so we dual-laned until he realized he was getting outfarmed. I suppose you could say we started off rough, but we ended up friends and started playing together not too long after, as I realized he was actually a lot smarter and more talented than he appeared.
DotaBlast: How did you get to coach Cloud 9 for TI5?
ppasarel: bOne7 asked me to coach the team for last year’s International, as well, but he reached out to me on really short notice and I had to cast the entire TI for the PGL studios at the time, so I had to decline. This year, he asked me again, and since I didn’t have any other commitments, I took a leave of absence from my day job and joined the team on bootcamp, in Bucharest.
DotaBlast: How did the other players grow used to having you around?
ppasarel: Aside from bOne7, I had only briefly met MiSeRy before, when I played against him in Farm 4 Fame. At first, I was a complete stranger to the staff, I didn’t know the other guys, and the team’s manager was even a bit freaked out. They had to adjust their schedule and actually bootcamp at the PGL studios, in Bucharest, instead of Switzerland, where they were initially supposed to bootcamp. So, to answer your question, it did take a little bit of adjusting, but after a few days of hard work, we got used to each other’s methods and started to function as a unit.
DotaBlast: Cloud 9 have recently lost the Dota Pit finals against Evil Geniuses, 0:3. What went wrong?
ppasarel: I don’t think the loss in the Dota Pit finals is relevant to Cloud 9’s current form. In fact, there were a number of factors that contributed to the loss. First of all, they were forced to play on the US server. Secondly, they were already out of bootcamp at that time, and they tend to slightly under-perform when they’re not physically in the same room. I think that applies to other teams, as well.
DotaBlast: While on bootcamp, did you develop any strategies that you chose to hold back on during the Dota Pit finals?
ppasarel: We have indeed created a number of strategies that I’m not going to talk about, of course, but we didn’t really plan to hide any of them during the Dota Pit finals. The players went into the finals in a rather relaxed mind-set and the only thought on everybody’s mind was The International.
Click on one of the pictures to open the gallery.
DotaBlast: Let’s talk about your responsibilities and tasks as a coach and how your expertise affects the team.
ppasarel: First of all, the coach is essentially a sixth impartial player, freed from the pressure of making his own decisions in-game, and able to observe everybody’s mistakes objectively. A common problem in many teams is the lack of impartial communication between players. During any post-game talk, the players would justify their decisions and actions from their own perspective, while input from a third, uninvolved party, can go a long way to correcting mistakes in the future. I’m pleasantly surprised by the team’s response to my post-game analysis and I’m very happy that more often than not, we end up on the same page. I think over time, that adds more value to the team’s decision making process.
The second line of responsibility for a coach is analyzing opponents and creating counter strategies that actually work. As I said, this is not the time to reveal any of these strategies. All I can say is that we are confident.
Thirdly, another thing I like to do as their coach and friend, is advise them about nutrition and healthy living. Unfortunately, that is the part of the training they are the least receptive to, bOne7 being the only exception.
Click on one of the pictures to open the gallery.
DotaBlast: In the end, I’m sure people would like to know – what’s your current MMR?
ppasarel: Around 6200.