Despite a rocky winter season, Team Archon clutched the Shanghai Major berth after the American underdogs defeated Americas Qualifier favorites Digital Chaos 2-1.
Ahead of their preparations for the Winter Major, Archon's support and captain Brian "FLUFF" Lee took the time to speak with theScore eSports about his team's performance, reuniting with a former teammate and his expectations for the Major.
What is your opinion on the team’s performance during the winter season?
FLUFF: Truthfully, overall, we’ve had a pretty shaky performance during the winter season. It’s been a long struggle for us to determine our preferred playstyle and we’ve basically peaked hard when we’ve found something for us or completely flopped. We’re starting to shape up a bit and definitely have an idea about where we want to be.
Void Boys seemed to be your kryptonite during several tournaments. They knocked you guys out of the MDL qualifiers, and ProDotA Cup Americas #1 and #2. Why does your team apparently struggle against them?
FLUFF: It will sound like trash talk, but I think that I gave them "too much" respect. I think they are a good team and have strong players, don’t get me wrong. I just thought they would play a bit more standard overall, but they seem to love to be all over the place and [play], frankly, greedy.
They’ve really taken greed to another level and I just didn’t put together lineups that could deal with that. It’s also probably a bit of karma since we let Eric "747" Dong go and he’s definitely motivated to beat us down hard. 747’s a great player and probably knows us more intimately than the rest of our competition.
What do you or the team do to cope with losses? How do you stay motivated?
FLUFF: I think losing is always tough, however I’ve actually suffered some of the most humiliating and horrific professional and personal defeats that I’ve simply been able to handle it. That is not to say that I don’t feel it every time, it’s just that my threshold for pain is relatively high.
As for the newer players, I do believe the rest of the team (besides Jeyo) do get pretty upset. I think we all deal with it in different ways but as veterans of the team, Jeyo and I, try our best to put things into perspective and take a grounded approach at helping the team cope.
As for motivation, I think we’re all motivated by the Majors in general. That feeling of adrenaline rushing through you during important matches is something that we all crave as competitors. My personal motivation is that I believe I work very hard and that I’ve got a potential in me that hasn’t been reached and I refuse to stop until I get there. I’m simply dissatisfied with what I’ve done thus far.
What was going through your head during the finals moments against Digital Chaos in the Shanghai Major Qualifiers?
FLUFF: If I recall correctly Sam "BuLba" Sosale was playing a Beastmaster that was split-pushing our base nonstop. It was actually scary seeing some of our [barracks] and Tier 3’s go down to their team's combined efforts to slow us down.
Despite this, our team had a lot of confidence to take the team fight and we all knew that our push would be unstoppable if we got to that point. My focus was entirely on ending this game, it was not about Shanghai or anything like that.
I think we all made the final call to go for the throne and that we discussed how we'd execute it. At the point where we noticed them teleporting to our base, our adrenaline went sky-high. It was incredibly tense and we somehow kept our cool about who should TP and who should stay; we normally struggle with this.
I was personally not even looking at the enemy throne, I was just trying my best to delay their siege and when the throne exploded our entire team went ballistic. We all jumped out of our chairs and yelled at the top of our lungs and hugged each other, including all the Archon members watching behind our chairs.
It was truly one of the most cathartic moments for all of us. I rank it up there with my run against LGD-Gaming with Team Liquid at The International 3. My body felt like it was shaking and tingling all over and I felt like crying a little bit just thinking about how much struggle and preparations went into those two weeks at the house boot camping.
What is it like playing for Team Archon? What have they provided for your team?
FLUFF: Team Archon has been very upfront with us and accommodating. Aside from stability, the team house is probably the best thing they’ve been able to provide. The gaming house provides some of the players a place to live and be free from distractions at home and allows us the opportunities to boot camp whenever we need to.
The boot camp was likely the biggest reason we did so well during the Shanghai qualifiers. It really brought us together as a team and helped us communicate with each other more effectively, both in and out of the game.
What’s it like playing with your former compLexity Gaming team mate, Jio "Jeyo" Madayag, again?
FLUFF: I think Jeyo is an absolute pleasure to play with. I am very pleased to be playing with him again. We pretty much knew after he was coming back to the US from Korea that we’d make a team together.
It's very cool to see how he's grown as a person and as a player. He considers himself an older guy now and I think back to when I first picked him up he was the most annoying kid of all time.
Imagine someone singing Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift at the top of his lungs everyday annoying the crap out of the entire team. He’s still like this now, but he definitely isn't wild or uncontrollable.
He's learned a lot over the years and I'd say play style wise he's more conservative but still a high-tempo player. Jeyo's always been someone who puts a lot of faith in me and that gives me confidence. I have nothing but good things to say about Jeyo.
What’s the team's comfort level playing in 6.86? How confident are you during the drafts in the patch?
FLUFF: I think the patch still has a lot of potential but it seems like it's reached a manageable state. When it first came out there were no stable bans or picks and [there were] a lot of surprise tactics that would throw us off. These days I think it's a bit more predictable, therefore I am able to prepare much more effectively and the team feels much more in-sync.
What’s up with your support Mirana picks? How have you guys found so much success on the hero?
FLUFF: Perhaps it’s trendy but it seems to be a strong pick these days. Without giving away too much, we simply just enjoy the hero. Sometimes fun can be effective and in this case, it is.
What is your opinion on the 6.86e patch? Should the changes have been more or less dramatic? Should there be a patch this close to the Major?
FLUFF: I think it’s just weird that mini-balance patches happen. I kind of hope for more whenever I see just 1-2 changes. It’s just awkward in my opinion, it really singles out some heroes and seems so arbitrary. I know the changes can be significant like the Earth Spirit Aghanim's Scepter change is a big deal, but I would have really loved to see more.
I want to see the game constantly being geared towards balance and I welcome more changes. I guess it’s like, why is Lone Druid only getting his Savage Roar nerfed slightly but Arc warden is in the game with double Divine Rapier, Black King Bar and Mask of Madness destroying pubs. Maybe for a competitive thing, why is only Lone Druid's Roar being targeted?
What are you guys doing to prepare for the Shanghai Major? What are your expectations?
FLUFF: We are mainly just playing our tournaments and trying to scrim effectively. Our other plans are to go to Shanghai slightly earlier to adjust to the time zone and perhaps schedule scrims with the teams there and hope to learn a thing or two.
In my experience when you play versus great teams you learn an insane amount compared to playing versus less-skilled teams who reinforce bad habits. Our team expects to do fairly well, but it will really just depend on our form and our ideas and our preparations.
The way I see it is that we're underdogs and the worst thing we can do is live up to people's expectations and the best thing we can do is surprise everyone.
Dennis Gonzales is a news editor for theScore eSports who enjoys whiskey, Dungeon & Dragons and first-picking
Timbersaw Windranger Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle. You can follow him on Twitter.