Troels “syndereN” Nielsen – once a professional player and, in the past two years, arguably the best analytical commentator in Dota 2 – has returned to competitive gaming. He talked to ProxyPL about his new team, Steak Gaming, how he will treat casting and his other responsibilities, and his offbeat taste in team names.
Troels “syndereN” Nielsen is a Dota veteran whose roots go back to the DotA 1 competitive scene.
In Dota 2, he attended all five International championships – the first three as a professional player and the last two as a commentator.
In his casting career, he covered The International 5 Grand Finals and has been widely regarded as one of the best analytical casters in the scene and probably the best all-rounded caster altogether.
Recently, syndereN has returned from his retirement and put together Steak Gaming, together with Adrian “Era” Kryeziu, Trent “sLiCKz” Tucker, Ioannis “Fogged” Loucas, and Elias “Sealkid” Merta.
The syndereN interview was conducted by ProxyPL for DotaBlast, on December 20.
DotaBlast: How does it feel to practice with a team once again?
syndereN: Feels great! I’ve wanted to compete again for quite a while.
DotaBlast: As you said, you have been talking for a while about the possibility of returning to competitive gaming. Why have you decided that now would be the right time?
syndereN: I’ve been practicing individually for quite some time to get back into the game, and the right opportunity presented itself to get back into it with a group of players I want to play with.
DotaBlast: Blitz was asked during TI5 whether he would trade his casting career for a place in one of the Wild Card teams, and he said: “in a heartbeat”. If Steak Gaming reached this level, would you be satisfied? How long do you think it will take you guys to become contenders for a spot at The International or one of the Majors?
syndereN: We’re a very new team, but working determined at making it to the Shanghai Major. It’s a big ask given how short time it has been since we created the team and were able to start practicing (our first scrim was on December 15th). Whether we make it there or not, I have very high expectations for making both TI and later Majors, after we’ve had some more time to develop.
We’re looking to perform well enough over the next months that we can be considered for a direct invite (to TI6).
DotaBlast: But would you be satisfied with a Wild Card spot at The International 6?
syndereN: No, we’re looking to perform well enough over the next months that we can be considered for a direct invite. It’s definitely enough time for us to grow and get results.
DotaBlast: Back in the day during the mTw era, you used to play mid, then – when you joined mouz as their new captain, you switched to support. Why offlane this time around?
syndereN: It’s the role I feel most comfortable in and that suits my play-style the best. I’m not a very farm-intensive player. I mainly enjoy playing engaging strength and/or teamfight heroes, which offlane is perfect for.
DotaBlast: If the offlaner role was to change to a more farm-oriented style, would you switch your position again or would you try to adapt to the situation?
syndereN: I would adapt and find a way of incorporating it into my style. It’s not that I don’t like playing heroes with farm, I just don’t look for it as much as other players, and some of my best heroes really don’t farm very well. Many of my heroes can still do it just fine.
DotaBlast: Let’s talk a bit about how your new team got together. Whose idea was it, initially? How did all the players get picked?
syndereN: I contacted Era first off, and he wanted to continue playing with Sealkid, which I was very open to. We talked about potential fits for the team in terms of roles and personality, and both Era and especially Blitz had lots of praise to say about sLiCKz in addition to his reputation from HoN. His decision to move to Germany to compete also shows the highest level of commitment. Fogged is a good friend of mine that I’ve known for quite a while, so I knew he’d mesh very well, and the other players of the team know him well, too.
DotaBlast: So who came up with the great name for the team?
syndereN: We were just brainstorming, and I like steak, so… It made us laugh, it’s easily memorable, and we found no really good alternative, so we kept it.
DotaBlast: You have quite a history of being part of teams with really creative names. Wild Honey Badgers, Re-defining Madness and Steak Gaming are the first that come to mind. Which one of your previous team names do you think is the best and why?
syndereN: “Wild Honey Badgers” was the shit… And so was “The SHIT!” (in DotA), actually. Those were different times… I guess it’s a tie between the two. Both were fun and had some charm to them.
DotaBlast: You mentioned picking up sLiCKz who is from SEA. We’ve heard he was one of the best players back in HoN days. However, he has been playing Dota 2 for a while and is yet to truly make a name for himself even in what is considered the easiest region. Why did you decide to go with him over other players? Do you think Steak Gaming can unleash his full potential, and if so, why?
syndereN: He was very impressive in the MSI tournament where they just got together as an Aussie bunch and played on LAN. He has always played at a regional disadvantage (ping). When that is eliminated, he can play at the highest level. We additionally decided to go with him because of his mentality. He’s committed (moving to Germany, as I mentioned earlier) and has a healthy, constructive attitude.
DotaBlast: You are widely regarded as the best analytical caster in the world. How will playing competitively once again impact your casting? Will you put it completely on hold or will we get to see you behind the mic from time to time?
syndereN: The team takes priority. If it works around our schedule, I’ll cast some games from time to time, but it won’t be nearly as much as it’s been over the last year.
DotaBlast: You are also part of DotaCinema and Moonduck Studio. Will you be involved in any of their projects in 2016? How do the guys behind Moonduck view your return to competitive gaming? After ODPixel left the company, you are without a doubt their most recognizable figure.
syndereN: To whatever extent it’s possible, I’ll be doing a little here and there, but it’s not my priority. I’ll mainly be there for Moonduck to be a sparring partner they can turn to for any advice they believe I can bring, but maybe also a cast or two from time to time.
The team takes priority. If it works around our schedule, I’ll cast some games from time to time, but it won’t be nearly as much as it’s been over the last year.
DotaBlast: You are one of the few people in esports who experienced both playing, and casting in front of a big crowd. How does it differ when it comes to “stage fright”?
syndereN: The spectacle is amazing on both sides, and whether you’re a caster or player you are an entertainer. The feeling of competing on stage is something special, though. You are in the zone and fully focused, and every mistake is very costly. I guess you can say casting is more “forgiving” and less stressful in that sense, but the feeling of reward is also quite different.
DotaBlast: We have to ask you about probably the hottest topic recently – the 6.86 patch. You had a chance to play it a little. Does it feel like Dota 3 right now or are the changes not that huge? In what way do you think the game has changed the most?
syndereN: We’re still trying to get our head around it. It’s very refreshing with all the new changes and definitely the biggest patch of the year. I think the concept of attack range and cast range being possible to itemize is probably the biggest fundamental change for the game.
My initial feeling is that more of the ‘older’ strategies can be applied much more successfully again.
DotaBlast: Do you think the patch suits the way you approach the game as a captain? You used to be one of those drafters who exploited split push even before Alliance came around. Do you think that this approach would still be viable?
syndereN: My initial feeling is that more of the “older” strategies can be applied much more successfully again. Every play-style is possible if you’re good enough at it, but a split push style, for example, is way more applicable against some teams than others.
DotaBlast: If people were to raise their MMR with one hero right now, which one would you suggest?
syndereN: The one you’re best at, as long as it fits the draft and isn’t weak in the current version.
DotaBlast: Alright, thanks a lot for your time syndereN! Any shoutouts?
syndereN: Everyone who does medium-rare. You’re doing it right!