Ioannis "Fogged" Loucas is a support for Team Archon, and has played for Team Dignitas, Evil Geniuses, and the original North American Rejects, who became Na'Vi North America. The second incarnation of NAR were the runners-up in this year's Americas Qualifier, and eventually were picked up by Team Archon.
Give us a little bit of a background in how you came to be involved with the North American Rejects again, and how the ride has been so far.
There’s been many different formations basically; so last year we ended on kind of a bad note and I think it was actually in February when it ended being like the end of it all, because we went to Taiwan, because we won a LAN for MSI Beat It, and me and Korok when we needed to get three stand-ins, because everything was kind of a disaster at that point.
So you know, we were just like “I don't think this is going to be a thing anymore, we’re just going to do our own thing, everybody split up." Korok was in school, we were still keeping in touch a little bit but, you know. I went and played with [Team] FIRE and then I also practiced with compLexity a bit. I wasn’t really satisfied with any of that.
Standing in for compLexity was ok, I liked the guys and everything, but it just didn’t feel like home. The qualifiers are approaching, me and Ush had always been talking because we were friends from before from FIRE, and we were like “What should we do?”, I was like “I’m not really happy where I am, I’m pretty sure we can make a better team and get through the qualifiers with it” and we want to beat mouz [laughs].
[laughs] Everyone wanted to beat mouz.
Yeah, exactly, so, we were talking to Steven, and Scott had been messaging me for a while and it ended up just being like “You know what, let’s just go for it.” I have been friends with Mojo for two years now, and we’re like “You know the five of us are pretty similar kind of in a way. We all talk, so lets go for it.” It was kind of on the spot right there, one day to the next.
It’s kind of an interesting thing that I’ve noticed that NA Dota — or at least Dota in general — is when new teams form they tend to be based around at least one or two players that have a prior previous relationship. How important is it to have that synergy that you bring to the table already?
I mean, I’m not sure if it really matters too much, but it’s nice to have that as well, because you know you get along with the person — if you did, of course — otherwise you wouldn't be chatting to play with them again. Like me and Korok, we got along, we had a little bit of a dispute sometimes and what not, but we were still friendly.
Ush, I had been talking to for a while, I really liked a new kind of player, so, "OK, this is perfect". Me and Mojo, we played on EG before last year and then Scott, Korok and Mojo have all been friends for a while, so it was just like “you know what? This is perfect, we just ping-pong together. Let’s do it.”
You were saying that there’s kind of new blood with Ush. How important is that new blood into things to keep them from getting stale?
It’s good because he has a lot of potential. The way he plays, he is very proactive about what he wants to do, he’s talkative and that’s exactly who you want — you want someone who is communicating and I mean he’s young, so he has a lot of potential and that’s perfect. We were just like “Let’s try it out” and it was like “OK this is actually kind of working”.
Going back to those qualifiers, you were saying you were just trying it out. Was there a specific point where you are like "okay, this is clicking". You know, like “OK, we can actually do something with this”.
Not really, actually. We’d thought we would do a lot better to be honest. At first we were playing and we were like “man we are not clicking like at all” and we played some more matches and were like “oh God, we’re still not clicking, uh-oh”.
But at that point we were just like “you know what, this is honestly the best five that we [have]— again we’re all friends with each other and all that — so we just need to improve on it, because it’s not like one person is bad or another person is bad, it’s just we didn’t click perfectly."
So as long as we just worked on it as a team, which comes with time, rather than just being like “Alright you know what, you suck” and kick someone off and get someone else like most of the NA teams kinda do, we were just like, "let's just try to keep building up on it." We’re not bad individually, like I was saying, it’s just bad overall team not clicking perfectly.
Going back to the qualifier, you guys really wanted to beat mouz. mouz did not do as well as a lot of people predicted, was that something you guys were a little bit surprised by?
Definitely, actually. We were watching and, it wasn’t so much really that mouz was doing so bad, it’s that the other teams were doing so well. Void Boys comes out of nowhere, almost wins it basically. compLexity as well, everybody was like “Nah, compLexity is not going to do anything, these guys just pick Viper every game blah blah blah, like they used to” and then it ends up being, “Holy crap compLexity just beat mouz".
It’s like, wow you watch the games and you're like “these games are much closer than you thought” and mouz has the experience and all the players and all that. It was really surprising to see.
You guys finished second, so at least you get to make the trip to Seattle. How was the air in the team after the qualifier?
I guess it depends. Right after the mouz game we were screaming and yelling and breaking stuff and going crazy. And then we were playing versus compLexity, the first game there was a lot of internet issues and stuff, we were lagging and all that, and it was getting to our heads a bit. First game we played OK, and then it just was the next two games.
Scott ["chad" Jensen] was actually having extreme lag issues so he was like “I can't even focus,” so it kinda got in our own heads and we just couldn’t beat it. We were really down about it but what can you do, you know? We didn’t really have the best practice leading up to the qualifiers, so even getting second, we were pretty satisfied, you know?
Obviously in the interim between the qualifiers and TI, someone's picked up the North American Rejects — Team Archon. How has that experience been?
It’s awesome actually. It was really last-minute so we were kinda — not really desperate in a way — but really wanted to have a sponsor coming into the event.
We were trying to find one and it was getting kinda difficult, and they approached us and it was perfect, one day to the next. We all just left and flew down to Florida and boot camped.
You guys are playing MVP Phoenix in the first round. How have you been preparing for that matchup?
We have just been practicing overall versus any teams that we could play against and then going through their previous games and stuff, but there’s not too much to watch at the same time. They haven't been playing too much together as a whole, so they only have 18 to 25 games, and it’s not versus the Western teams, it’s not versus any of the teams, it’s versus only basically MVP Hot6ix and the other Southeast Asian teams.
I feel it’s kinda of hard for us to prepare for them, in a way but we’re just kind of, you know, do us and try our best that we can, but at the same time, we don’t really have too many games under [belts] as well, so that should be difficult for them.
Have you kind of been looking towards CDEC Gaming and Vega Squadron and almost looking past MVP Phoenix and thinking “we kind of have to plan for the later stages of that Wild Card”.
We have notes and everything that we’ve took down but we’re not really looking at that at all, we’re step by step. We have to beat Phoenix first and whatever happens happens.
Our coach and our analyst will be like “Oh this is what Vega was doing in this game, CDEC was doing this as they’re aggressive, blah blah blah”. It’s kind of like the previous years: TI changes a lot. Right away everything is going to start changing and evolving so we don’t want to jump the gun and be looking at what they have previously did, when it could be all changed in the next hour or two hours.
Something that has crept up in the last 24 hours is this whole controversy with someone releasing the TI caster stats book. Do you have any comment on that?
Yeah, we looked at it a bit. It can be useful but at the same time it can also probably be really detrimental to some teams because you’re going to look at this, and it’s not since a month or two months ago, it’s like three months ago, since [Dota 2 Asian Championships], so there is a lot of information there that as the patch progresses, teams started understanding more like what the changes were.
Bloodseeker wasn’t even touched back then and he’s exactly the same as he is now, and now you see Bloodseeker in all these pubs and all that. So it can be good in a way but it can also be really harmful, I feel like, over-looking at that stat page.
Is it weird looking at your own team’s stats and being like “oh this is how other people perceive us?”
No not really. We tend to go look at our games and have outside people tell us and it’s pretty similar, actually.
I’d imagine you’d have to be very self-aware in order to be critical of your own play.
Yeah, definitely. Having outside perspectives is amazing because Dota is such a big and involving game, everybody has their own perspective when they launch a game, and they're playing, etcetera.
Say you guys do make it out of the Wild Card. You do have a fairly good chance considering two teams are going to be making it out instead of just one this year. Is there any group you prefer to be in if you had to make the choice?
If we could make the choice I think it would probably be Group B. Everyone is looking at Group A and there like “Uh oh” but they are both — I mean every team here is very very good so I don’t think that there is preference. I guess I would say Group B, I’m not sure what my teammates would say but yeah.
I was talking with Mushi from Fnatic and he kind of threw me a little of a curve ball, where he said he would rather be in Group A, where he is right now, because he would rather face those hard teams now. If he does well against them they’ve got really good momentum going into "easier" games. This would be rather than getting easy positive momentum against teams you know you can beat in the group stages. I thought I would ask you the same question: which would you prefer?
That actually is very smart to be honest because group stages, it's important but at the same time it’s not the end of the world. You might go to the lower bracket, you might go to the upper bracket but you are gonna learn so much about all these teams, you are gonna see how everybody plays.
So I actually… that’s why Mushi is a really smart player and everything, so thats a really good point.
Matt Demers is a Supervising Editor at theScore eSports, and is doing interviews from The International in Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter