A Boy Conquers China: EG Sumail

Ken "Hotbid" Chen
Thumbnail image courtesy of Jakob Wells / EG/Jakob Wells (Transformative)

During Game 1 of the Dota 2  finals, the crowd was 100% behind Vici. Nobody was cheering for Evil Geniuses other than a handful of English-speaking international press sitting next to me. 

We were five voices against thousands. But I had a plan. Every time Universe successfully casted Phoenix ultimate, we would stand up, flap our arms, and yell “CA-CAW!!” as the egg dropped. Charlie, the EG manager, refused to do it. He turned and looked at us and said, “You all are actually so stupid.”

U-S-A chants and western TI bias has nothing on the blatant homerism of the Chinese DAC crowd. It’s an amazing atmosphere and a smart audience. They know their Dota. They cheer for every smoke, every de-ward, and even a stray Clockwerk rocket that stole a medium creep camp. Even the commentators get into it, losing all pretense of impartiality and starting a Vici chant themselves. It didn’t matter if it was Big God or HGT, China cheers for China.

When EG or Secret or Rave make a play, it’s just deathly quiet, like a Silencer ultimate in real life. There’s no groan of disappointment that you hear ten times a quarter during New York Knicks home games. It’s like everyone in the crowd collectively decided that they’re going to pretend a play that just happened didn’t exist.

So why did the most partisan crowd in Dota 2 history fall in love with a 15-year-old kid from Pakistan who Chinese authorities said is currently wanted for the murder of several Chinese Dota teams?

We’re a fan culture obsessed with the successful young prodigy. The idea of potential is even more tantalizing than reality. Potential is superhuman. Potential never disappoints. And Syed Sumail Hassan is the epitome of potential.

This is especially true in China. It’s probably the case that no matter how good you are at something, there’s a preteen in China who is better. It’s a matter of sheer numbers and culture, where kids train at sports schools at the age of five and become Olympic champions before they can drive.

Success while young deserves special respect in China, and that’s why the casters kept bringing up “he played Dota at age nine!” as Sumail’s Storm Spirit was first blooding some hapless Big God support during the Winner’s semis. The crowd generally doesn't see the observer wards or the Beastmaster hawks that make the gank happen, they see zip-zip-zip and an impossibly good 15-year-old.

The only thing better than being great is being great when you’re not supposed to be. Sumail is a sophomore in high school, and this week he’s going to walk into homeroom (he said he planned to wear his EG jacket) and his classmates are going to ask what he did last weekend and he’s going to say “I won enough money to buy my mom a house.” At some point his teachers are going to ask why he missed an exam and he’s going tell them to call his manager.

Shock and Awe

The truth is, Sumail put the fear of god into that Chinese crowd. Potential is scary, because potential has no limit, no ceiling. The crowd had no idea how to react to that final EG-Vici game. Sumail was effectively the boogeyman to them. When he rolled past Black, forced a Black King Bar, killed Fy, dodged iceiceice, and still got out, the crowd broke its silence and made this pained groan, something that we’d would later identify as the “bad things are happening to Chinese Dota” noise, the same sound they’d make for the rest of the game every time we heard the Storm Spirit’s ultimate go off.

I was watching the Chinese DAC camera operator next to me — the guy was a superfan. Less than 24 hours earlier he was chanting a chain of expletives in Chinese and holding his breath every time Rave smoked up against Big God. He was next to me during that same finals game when Fy ganked Sumail four times in the first five minutes. The crowd was going absolutely insane, and he joyfully screaming obscenities along with them.

Nine kills later, Sumail’s Storm Spirit completes a Bloodstone and the clock read 14 minutes, 15 seconds. The DAC camera guy stares straight ahead, lets out this resigned sigh, and mutters “motherf***er” in disbelief. Charlie, sitting in earshot and able to understand Chinese curse words, started laughing uncontrollably. We made eye contact. Charlie flaps his arms a little, and says, “Ca-caw.”

That’s what Sumail can do: inspire his own manager to act like an idiot.

I Mid, Therefore I Am (the Best)

In EG Latin, this would translate to “Cogito Ego Sumail.”

I have no idea how a 15-year-old who moved to the US eight months ago somehow manages to be far more self-assured than anyone I’ve ever interviewed. I feel like I need to add an unexpected thug life track to every single quote.

On high school: “Welcome to North America, it’s so easy. I don’t do anything. I don’t even study at home.”

On confidence: “After a year [of playing], I knew that I would make it to TI someday.”

On mentality: “Take the game seriously. Don’t play for fun. Deep down if you think you are good then continue, if not then just leave the game, it’s not for noobs.”

On aggressiveness: “I just want to get kills. I never focused on buildings or winning games, I just want to demolish the enemy team.”

On not listening to EG’s captain, PPD: “Sometimes he says ‘don’t dive, don’t dive’ but I do dive.”

It wasn’t just in my interview with him. On stage, on stream, and in front of a sizable live audience, the Chinese host asks, “How would you feel if we named Storm Spirit after you?” Sumail answers, “I think I deserve it.”

The crowd laughs – it’s cute that he’s cocky.

The next question: “Do you have advice to give kids who want to be like you?” Sumail says something to the effect of, “It’s hard to be like me.”

It might be a bit much. The crowd reacts with a different “is he serious” nervous kind of laugh. Cue a thousand Reddit comments about whether the kid is trolling or for real, whether PPD can rein him in, whether he found too much success too fast, whether his ego is larger than Arteezy’s.

Like an NFL wide receiver or cornerback, a mid laner is on an island most of the time. An aggressive mid has a few times each game where he’s just forced to clutch it out. His entire existence is justified by a few moments of simply outplaying other players. He has to think he’s the best. The bombast, the ego, walking the line between confidence and arrogance, it’s all necessary. Because in those moments that define him and his position, he, of all people, has to believe he can do it.

Sumail is just saying out loud what all great mids need to think: “I’m better than that guy across the river.”

This attitude, combined with his play, pretty much ensures that Sumail will get the Dota equivalent of LeBron-level media attention from now until TI5. Everything he says and does will be scrutinized and every play he makes will be analyzed.

After DAC, he tweeted, “TI5 next goal.”

Maybe he’ll win TI5. Maybe he’ll flame out and EG will replace him.

But right now, it doesn’t matter if he’s Dota’s LeBron James. All that matters is he could be.

Ken “Hot_Bid” Chen is an eSports interviewer and satirist; he runs eSports Express. You can follow him on Twitter.

Image Credit: IMG_7533 by Jakob Wells via Flickr. Modified for cropping/opacity. CC BY 2.0

Green Bay Packers LB Blake Martinez reveals the 4 NFL players he would form a Dota 2 team with, how Dota has helped him with football

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

On any given Sunday, Blake Martinez can be found tackling ball carriers at the frozen tundra known as Lambeau Field. But in his spare time, the Stanford alumnus turned Green Bay Packers linebacker likes to kick back and relax by streaming Dota 2 matches for charity.

Related: Packers LB Blake Martinez: 'I want to speak to our president about sponsoring [an esports] team in the near future'

But Martinez's Dota fandom far exceeds loading into a couple of solo queue games a night. In fact, the young linebacker actively follows the competitive scene and, considering that he named the original No Diggity squad as his favorite professional team coupled with the fact that he participated in and helped cast MoonDuckTV's Kiev Major Qualifier Hub, he's far from a casual.

So naturally, when asked which four NFL players he would draft to his Dota 2 team, it came as no surprise that he picked the reigning Superbowl MVP, one of NFL's most fearsome defensive linemen and two of his Green Bay teammates to play alongside him.

"I would pick Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Mason Crosby, and Ndamukong Suh," he told theScore esports.

"Aaron would be our mid laner and shot caller of the game because of his smarts and skill! Also, he would pick up on Dota quickly. Tom would be the support (Position 4) because his vision is so good we would never get caught out and could make plays as Earth Spirit. Mason would be our position 5 support because he would be able to have a ton of time to strategize since all he does is kick at practice. And Suh would be our beefy offlaner/frontliner like Centaur and Axe that no one could get passed. EZ TI win."

Sure, Dota 2 and football are two very different games, but Martinez does think there are some similarities and even goes as far as to credit Dota with some of his growth as a leader.

"I think the ability to communicate and process a lot of information quickly is the two traits/skills that are extremely similar in both Dota and Football! I think Dota has helped me tremendously in just being a better leader for our defense," he said.

Touching on his rookie season, Martinez said he was encouraged by the way his year turned out — he notched 69 combined tackles to go along with one sack, one interception and four pass deflections — and looks to build on last season as he heads into his sophomore year.

"I think it went really well! It sucked to get injured near the end of the season but excited to grow from my rookie year! The way I want to grow is just seeing formations and plays quicker, stay healthy, get stronger and faster, and improve on the mistakes I made as a rookie and just grow from my experiences."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Sean Tepper is the Senior Supervising Editor at theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Conrad Janzen on Dota 2's top-heavy scene: 'I would just love to see more tier 2 support'

by 2d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Conrad Janzen, former Cloud9 player manager and current Twitch partnerships team member, has a few ideas.

Appearing on theScore esports Podcast Monday, Janzen spoke on everything from why he thinks The International’s prize pool will break its own record (again) this year, to how Valve can improve the Major system.

When asked about whether the prize pool for TI7 would exceed TI6’s massive $20.7 million purse, Janzen said the company behind Dota 2 would find a way to make it happen.

“If I had to bet on Valve, it’s always going to be more and they’re going to figure out some way to do it,” he said.

“Valve is going to figure out ways to steal money from my wallet every year in the best way possible,” he said. “They do a really good job of providing value and that’s the one thing I think Dota does a really good job compared to a lot of other free to play games as well as just games in general."

It's all about making the existing player base happy, he said.

“They provide a lot of value to their hardcore users, to their regular users and there’s always going to be somebody who’s willing to spend even more than I think I do.”

Janzen also commented on the Major system, saying that although it was overall beneficial to the Dota 2 scene, is isn’t not without its shortcomings.

“It is bad in some ways, I think it does hurt third parties,” he said.

“Obviously last year we saw Boston Major take precedence over DreamHack, and that was a very unfortunate case.” One solution, he said, would be to model things more closely on Counter-Strike’s tournament structure.

“Things I would like to see is maybe make the qualifiers more valuable, make them a LAN event very similar to CS:GO, right? Where you have all these teams coming in so it’s truly international,” he told theScore esports Podcast.

“What Valve is going to have to do in this case is take a step forward and be like, ‘This is an important part, we want to grow Dota as a whole.' So, very similar to the CS:GO system where they have a regional qualifier that mostly takes place online, and then they bring all those teams together to a major qualifying tournament,” he said.

Improving the Major structure would help showcase rising Dota talent that, at least right now, is getting lost in the shadows beyond the Majors' spotlight.

“I would just love to see more tier 2 support,” he said. “I think that’s the big thing we’re missing, is these up-and-coming stars are not getting as revealed as they used to be. In-house leagues, these sort of concepts, have disappeared," he said.

“To have a healthy, growing esport, you’re going to have to support those tier 2 players as well with smaller Cups, smaller tournaments.”

Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

EPICENTER's second Dota 2 tournament announced for June 4-11

by 3d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of EPICENTER

EPICENTER: Moscow returns with its second Dota 2 event, slated to take place June 4-11, the tournament organizer announced on Wednesday.

The event will see 10 teams compete for a $500,000 prize pool, with qualifiers being held in the European, CIS, North American and Chinese regions in a similar format to the first EPICENTER: Moscow event.

EPICENTER: Moscow's group stage will be held on June 4-7, while the playoffs will take place at the VTB Ice Palace on June 9-11.

The event will also host a cosplay tournament with approximately $3,500 on the line.

Further details are expected in the coming weeks, such as qualifier dates and invited teams.Team Liquid are an expected invite since they were the champions of the first EPICENTER event.

RELATED: Team Liquid defeat Newbee, win EPICENTER

While this is the third event dubbed EPICENTER: Moscow, this is only the second Dota 2 event, as the previous event was a CS:GO tournament. That was won by the former Team Diginitas roster now part of North.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

Packers LB Blake Martinez: 'During the next session out in Green Bay I want to speak to our president about sponsoring [an esports] team in the near future'

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez isn't just a big Dota 2 fan, he's also an advocate for the game and esports in general among his NFL teammates.

Martinez has been streaming Dota 2 for charity almost every day since mid-February, and he was recently invited to MoonduckTV's Kiev Major Qualifier hub and helped cast dozens of Dota games in the lead up to the Major. theScore esports caught up with Martinez to talk about how esports are perceived in the NFL, how he got into Dota 2 and his plans to pitch the Packers on esports.

How did you get into Dota?

The way I got into Dota was an interesting story because my friends were all playing in our living room my sophomore year of college at Stanford and kept egging me on to play with them but I was so focused on football that I didn’t take up the offer but after a week or so they finally got me to try and I fell in love with the game and was one of the things I do to get my mind off of football!

Do you keep up with Dota during the season? Either playing or keeping up with the esports scene?

I watch Dota 24/7 whenever I am stretching or in the ice tub or any down time that I get from film watching and all other football obligations. Also I only play on our off days because there isn't enough time on a daily basis during the season to get games in! It was tough my rookie year, I didn't play Dota for about 6-7 months.

What position do you play in Dota? Who are your favorite heroes to play?

I mainly play the carry role and the shot caller of my team when I am in solo ranked, but I know how to play all positions since a lot of Dota players like to instantly pick the core roles regardless of skill. My favorite heroes are Storm Spirit, Luna, AM, Earthshaker, and Juggernaut.

What was your worst solo queue experience?

Worst solo queue experience happened about a couple weeks ago, I had a offlane Underlord that went afk farming the whole game (key note was that we were still winning the game without him). Then at about 30 mins the Underlord came out of the jungle with a rapier and fed it to the enemy team and we lost the game. Then I asked him why he did that and he said "I hate Monkey King pickers so I didn't want to win...."

What's your favorite Dota team? Why?

My favorite Dota team was the original No Diggity team that Synderen started, because I love the underdog role in any situation and they proved to everyone how good they are. It was awesome when they made it to the main stage at TI.

If you could play a game with any Dota pro, who would it be and why?

The one person I would want to play a game with would probably be Fata from Bears because I have just heard how amazing of a player he is, and I would just want to learn from his play!

What prompted you to start streaming? Do you find it hard to balance offseason training with your daily streaming?

The main reason I started streaming was because I play this game so much and it is one of my favorite hobbies, so I thought it would be a great way to use it in a beneficial way! That meaning I use it to donate money to the Saint Jude’s children's cancer research program! All the money I make from streaming goes to Saint Jude’s also every 100 followers I get I donate $50 to the foundation as well!

What do you think of the growing interest from traditional sports in esports? Do you think the NFL is going to get involved, given that it's been mostly from the NBA so far?

I think it is awesome how much sports and esports are meshing together! I knew it would happen sooner than later, because every professional sports player plays video games of some sort and the competitive aspect always catches the eyes of the real sports players! I think soon the NFL will get involved, and it is my mission to be the one that gets that to happen as soon as possible! During the next session out in Green Bay I want to speak to our president about sponsoring a team in the near future.

Are esports and gaming things that people talk about in the Packers locker room?

A lot of us talk about gaming because everyone plays console games and we have massive tournaments in Madden, FIFA, and UFC, but not too many conversations about esports competitions until I got there! I think every day I got asked "what are you watching on your phone" and I would always have to explain what Dota is, what Twitch is and the grand scheme of the tournaments, prizes pool, TI etc... and after I talk to anyone about it they think it is the coolest and greatest thing so hopefully that is a good start in easing its way into the NFL!

What is the most played game among the Packers' players?

The most played game is probably FIFA, I think there is a tournament in our game lounge almost everyday!

What's it like casting the Major qualifiers? Is casting something you've wanted to do before?

Casting was an amazing, crazy experience because I had no Idea what I was doing, but the people at Moonduck were extremely helpful in teaching me the ins and outs of casting. Also they just made it a fun and enjoyable time throughout the qualifiers. It was always something I wanted to try but never thought I would be able to do!

Jeremy Lin is noted in the community for being a pro athlete with an interest in Dota, he even has a team named after him. Could you beat Jeremy Lin in lane?

Yes I could easily beat Jeremy Lin in any lane or game!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

theScore esports Podcast ep. 6: Conrad Janzen on The International, Dota's Major system and Kiev

by 5d ago

1:55: Conrad Janzen on Kiev invites, the amount of Chinese teams
3:09: Janzen picks OG to win Kiev, Digital Chaos as the dark horse
4:50: "100 minute games are very easily possible" at Kiev
6:05: Why teams won't be holding back at DAC
7:15: TI prize pool "always going to be more," Valve will find a way
8:30: On the future of Dota 2: "Have we reached peak Dota? I don't think so"
10:03: Ded gaem? Why Dota 2 won't go the way of StarCraft
11:53: How to improve the Major system
17:37: Teams like OG, EG and DC will benefit from 7.03 changes
18:23: "Monkey King is going to be a huge presence" in 7.03
21:00: The time Janzen and Arteezy got drunk and debated swords vs. guns
25:28: Kyle on being on SXSW's esports panel with Dyrus
29:21: Ryan hijacks the podcast and talks about Thorin
31:26: Enter Dennis Gonzales, theScore esports' Valve guy
32:48: What Dota's Major system could learn from CS:GO
34:21: Team Liquid, OG among the teams to watch at Kiev
35:44: Has Valve given up on NA when it comes to Dota?
37:57: Esports audiences are getting burnt out
42:03: Jungling in Dota? "I'd say you're kind of screwed"

Click or tap here to listen in on SoundCloud.

Pick your lane, oil up your meat hooks… and don’t think too hard about that metaphor, because this week on theScore esports Podcast, we’re talking Dota.

Hosts Colin, Ryan and Kyle sit down over Skype with former Cloud9 player manager and current Twitch partnerships team member Conrad Janzen to talk about The International, The Kiev Major, and the state of Dota 2 today.

Janzen breaks down his picks for who will succeed at Kiev and DAC, why The International’s prize pool will forever increase year after year, and gives us some insight into how Valve’s Major system could be improved.

Next up it’s theScore esports’ own Dennis Gonzales, who has his own thoughts on who’s looking hot heading into Kiev, as well what the competitive Dota scene could learn CS:GO.

Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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