Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao plays for Cloud9 and is their hard carry. Sitting down with theScore eSports, he talks about the pressure of The International, group strategy, and his "need" to win.
Something I found very interesting is the players' dinner. You've been around the scene for a while; when they get you all in one room, is that kind of an interesting experience? Is it like a family reunion a bit?
Yeah, I’m not sure. I didn’t really go out much to it. I wasn't originally going to go but I went anyway. I didn’t really have much else to do and it was quite enjoyable. You just walk around, talk to everyone, get a few drinks and you learn a lot about other teams
Is it one of those things where you're looking and you don't have to think of them as competition in that moment? Is that comforting, because I imagine right now you're thinking a lot about TI in general?
Yeah definitely it is. Actually, no I’m not sure. For me, personally, I always see my enemies as the enemies, it’s just the people I talked with are all from the other group [at the tournament]. Though they’re my enemies technically, but I don’t really consider them my enemies until later on in the tournament.
Do you not want to give personality tics away? Is it literally just everyone is on that level of mind games right now?
Understanding someone’s personality is way too difficult. I don’t think anyone gets cocky about using that in the game based on like, a five minute conversation. It’s way too complicated, and people change when they play the game. When they speak out loud it’s not the same.
What pressure are you putting on yourself this TI? What do you want to see out of yourself?
I need first place. I actually need it.
Why do you need it?
For personal reasons. Well, I mean, I don’t exactly need it I guess, I need something really high up. That’s for sure. But I want first.
Does that make the preparation easier?
I’m not sure. Like two days ago I was streaming emo and I played really well in scrims, and yesterday I was pretty happy and I played pretty bad. So I’m not sure whether the pressure makes me play better or worse.
Maybe you just need to be depressed; maybe you just need to be sad?
No, I mean I felt pressure, that’s why I was depressed. But I’m not too sure. There’s definitely a lot of pressure on me to perform well at this TI.
Obviously as a pro gamer you deal with pressure all the time, is that something that you have to develop?
I’m not sure. It’s very random, some people develop to deal with it, some people get worse as time progresses, and they’re more "YOLO" than when they first start. In general it’s a bit of both.
I won both my first two LAN tournaments, it was my first time playing LANs and I felt very weird in both. I felt very antsy, I didn't know what was happening. I didn't go out much before, and so I didn’t know what was happening. Everything was very confusing to me, but when I sat down and played, I was fine. Now it’s like, I feel more comfortable, but when I sit down and play it’s the same thing. It’s very random. Depends on the day, depends on my team, depends on how they are as well.
Do you need that edge to perform at your highest level?
I think you need some sort of edge like that to perform, because when you wake up at home and you walk around town or something, walk around your house like you don’t really feel...you wake up, but not really. Whereas if I come here and I walk around, I’m so awake because everything is different. Just, more traffic, you might get hit by a car [laughs].
There’s more people around, it’s a different area and then your senses kinda get heightened up and then when you play it’s like...you feel more awake I guess. I’m not too sure...these things are very complicated, I think.
Is there anyone not in your group you’re looking forward to playing in the main event?
Secret. Second day. Actually I’m looking forward to every game honestly. In my head there’s always a headline for every team we play
You answered Secret really quickly there.
Definitely, they’re the best.
They’re the best and you just want to play the best?
Yup. I’m looking at the days, and LGD’s the best too, in China.
LGD have played an absurd amount of games. Because they play a lot of mid tier and top tier Chinese leagues, they've played like, 70 games this patch.
That’s because they’ve played every tournament. They played WCA, and they got to the finals. And they won every tournament so... if you win every tournament you play a lot.
I’d imagine that’s an advantage, having played so many games on the patch.
I mean it’s a disadvantage too, you get to see what they’re playing. Now there’s a stats page on it too so it’s like...easy.
How do you find that balance between playing too many and too few games?
In general I don’t really like playing. I would like to play every tournament, every LAN tournament I can. I would like to play every tournament where all the other top teams are participating, but I would never like to play any tournament where like, I know I’ll win that tournament for sure and the pressure’s on you to win that tournament because there’s no other good team in that tournament.
Those tournaments I don’t feel motivated, I don’t get motivated by money, by free money. I get more cancerous if I play those tournaments. It’s like, I don’t want to play and then you develop a habit of not wanting to play officials, which is like "oh god".
You're saying you don't get motivated by free money, I like that a lot actually. By nature of that statement, you're probably motivated by this prize pool.
My motivation is random. I don’t feel particularly insanely motivated for this tournament over like...MLG, I felt more motivated for that tournament but then when the day comes it will be different. I don’t feel like a heightened excitement for like a month straight before TI and go every day “oh TI!” like that doesn’t happen. That shouldn’t happen anyway, that’s way too much.
But then an hour before, does it kinda sink in?
I think when I wake up it sinks in.
Does Group A feel harder because Secret and LGD are in them?
It’s hard to say, it’s pretty close.
Where would you prefer to be?
I'd prefer being in group B than in group A, I’d prefer being in their group than our group. I think our group you’re pretty much pressured to win first place in your group or you don’t really get to pick anyone you want to play against on their side.
Because only first two gets to pick and if you’re first place you get to pick one random team like VP or MVP, like some team...CDEC, but if you’re second place you pick like Vici or EG or Empire and you’re like.."I don’t wanna pick those" (laughs). So like sure, the group is hard in a sense, but when you start the picking phase, I’d rather be on their side and pick iG or pick some teams over picking...you can’t pick Secret so…
You’d rather have the convenience pick than the easy group?
For winning the tournament sure, but I like the path of just playing every team in a row.
Matt Demers is a Supervising Editor at theScore eSports, and is doing interviews from The International in Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter.