We got hold of Filipe "Astini" Astini -- coach of Furia Esports and CEO of Midas Gaming. He talks on the state of South American Dota, their chances at the upcoming WePlay! Bukovel Minor and more.
Interview conducted by Kary
Hey Filipe. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. How are you doing?
I am fine. I’m taking a short break to relax and enjoy time with friends and family, will be on a 10 day break which I believe is the longest time in the year we won’t scrim, but honestly I’ll still open Dota 2 every day to keep up to date with this new patch.
You’re one of the most known personalities within the South American scene. How and when did you get into gaming especially Dota?
I was always into games - started playing Counter-Strike in LAN Houses but as soon as I found Warcraft 3 I migrated to it, bought The Frozen Throne when it launched and even won a WCG event in my city. I guess I was 14 or 15 by then. Later I started to manage Garena Dota 2 rooms and ended up as representative for the Latin America Region, that's when I started being more of a personality than a player.
Besides being a well-known personality, you are also the CEO and founder of Midas Gaming. What was your aim in regards to opening an esports organization?
When I launched Midas Club I wasn't very focused on being an esports team. My idea was to provide a few videos and an in-house league to improve the quality of games in our region. I was doing this mostly to use the free time I had in between projects. I was also working as an IT Consultant in Germany, but in less than one week we had 6000 players registered in our league, so I realized this could become a business.
One of the most promising teams in the region was leaving their org because they were not getting salaries. Each player was supposed to get something like $50 USD, but the organization stopped paying; their manager approached me to see if I could help them and I ended up hiring the team. That's when Midas Club also became a team.
How difficult is it to run an esports organization in South America? What are the important hurdles that team owners, players and talent face?
We have a culture that does not understand long term. All the games that succeeded in the region was because the developer took a proactive approach towards the scene, investing money and making it profitable for teams since day 0 (League of Legends, Rainbow 6, Free Fire), otherwise the teams have no interest in the games. That's why we barely see organizations in the Dota 2 scene, while the biggest sport teams of the region are already in other esports, such as Corinthians (Free Fire) and Flamengo (LoL).
So we don't have a huge player base and we don't have anyone investing money into the scene because most teams do not want to take risks and aim for the long term. This creates a short-term mindset for everyone in the region: players don't want to sign long term contracts with the few teams that have interest, talents are in constant problems with each other and fighting for their next gig. From the 7 oldest members of Brazilian BTS, 6 of them already left to do something different - work at Riot, create a different studio, be freelancer, etc.
But summing it up, it is extremely difficult. You have Free Fire BR League with 1 million concurrent viewers, LoL Brazilian League with 300.000 (both with local offices and well represented in the region) and Dota 2 with 3 different studios casting for 2.000 viewers fighting with each other. Where does the money go? Far away from the Dota 2 scene, that's why we struggle.
Moving on, you’re now the coach for Furia’s Dota 2 team. How was this team formed?
Furia CEO approached me saying that he was looking to expand for other games, and as he is a big Dota 2 fan and the game was in his plans. Also, Akkari (one of the team owners) made a tweet asking for hints on how to enter in the Dota 2 Scene, since I am also well known in the CS:GO scene, most people tossed my name into the hat.
So Furia had in mind that Dota 2 was a good game to invest in and I was the right person to do this. We were very aligned with our mindset of working on a long term team which also made negotiations easier; the issue is, the region does not have this mindset.
I picked players that I know they have the right mindset - 4 of them had already worked with me in Midas Club (Hyko has been with me for like 2 years, but RdO like 7 days). The public raised a lot of questions about us, because those were not the players they have been used to see playing International LANS and qualifying for events and also I was most known for being a CEO and not a Coach. I believe when we qualified for the Minor now it showed to our fans that we know what we are doing. Besides Duster, this is going to be the first DPC event for everyone in the team (actually the first time most of them are going to leave the country), and also Duster will be debuting as captain in a DPC event.
Furia is a well-known organization in South America especially renowned for its CSGO team. What was the objective in joining them when you could have continued in your own org with the same players?
As I mentioned, Midas Club started as something that I used to do with my free time as a Consultant, so I had the money I earned in Germany and invested a bit in the scene. That meant that I couldn't invest much time and also had very limited money.
Furia is a huge organization which is able to invest a lot of money. With that I can get the resources I believe I need to make a Tier 1 team, which is having all players and me at the same place practicing and focus most of my time in Coaching.
Unfortunately we weren't able to get a gaming house so far, so we just bootcamp during the qualifiers, which is extremely helpful to get a better result on it but we still lack the possibility to improve the way I expected when not playing the qualifiers itself. We have very young players and I believe to get a jumpstart, we can't play remotely.
It's something that even our fans have already noticed. We usually begin Major qualifiers playing poorly and end up the Minor playing our A-Game.
Where is the team based currently?
Our players are from 5 different cities in Brazil, I just moved from Germany to Brazil also because that's when we planned on having our gaming house, which was a bit delayed, but we plan to have it as soon as we get back from the Minor. This will also help us with travelling; for example, Rdo lives in the countryside and takes around 13 hours to get in Sao Paulo. That's insane considering I am used to taking less time to come from Frankfurt to Sao Paulo, but that is some third country issues that having a gaming house also solves.
Now that you’ve the backing of Furia, you must be solely focused on coaching and not having to worry about other things such as managing the team, etc considering they have a lot of monetary backing?
There are pros and cons. One good part is not worrying about the monetary side. Beforehand, Midas finances were directly related to my finances since I had no investors behind me, which was very stressful and demanding. So, on this side, I am way less stressed and can be better focused on coaching.
On the other hand, we do not have a dedicated manager. We have one player manager for all line-ups that helps us with accommodation and tickets, but for everything else I am doing some work I wasn't used to like managing the scrims, worrying about player’s food and health issues, dealing with T.O´s and our social team, etc.
It's been a learning process for me. Some things are very simple and do make sense - like its good that I am dealing with the scrim agenda. It's a bit complicated since in South America we have tons of delays and so on, but it makes sense. But sometimes I see myself discussing for 3 hours with tournament organizers and trying to explain the reason why we should not play US East if it is a South American Qualifier and not being able to focus on the draft of the game which is just about to start and I question a bit this work split.
At the end of the day, esports is a new industry with new jobs that we are constantly trying to understand how we can improve to perform better and there isn't a clear best
practice. I myself am a big fan of having a dedicated manager, but it’s not our current situation.
With that said, what is your job as a coach? What are your contributions towards the team as a coach?
I am Head of the Dota 2 division and Coach. So the players joke that I am to them a: lawyer, doctor, accountant, dad, mom, manager, cook, nutritionist, personal trainer, IT support, relationships advisor and the list goes on.
But ok, I know people are most interested in what coaches actually do. I have heard every possible podcast or interview with Heen, Ceb, etc. And something we conclude is the job of coaches as I mentioned, a new job in a new industry, it isn't very clear and very different from coach to coach and some things that we may say might even give away some advantage we can have from other teams, but I will give some bullet points.
- Define team practice routine as a team.
- Define who do we play against and schedule the scrims.
- Watch replays together of scrims, guiding the players.
- Watch specific replays of teams I would like us to inspire in the playstyle.
- When do players need to be together in Discord or Bootcamp.
- Define Mindfulness time together with our Performance Coach.
- Define team practice as player.
- How many pubs should the player play with each heroes.
- Select replays of specific heroes in which I have some input to give and discuss with the player.
- Define together with the player which heroes he will be practicing.
- Suggest better time to wake up, sleeping and eating routine.
So basically if you see X hero being picked, it means I discussed with players beforehand about using this hero, they tried it out in a scrim, the player has played an agreed number of ranked matches with the hero to be mechanically proficient with it and then during the draft phase we agreed as a team it was a nice choice and we pick it. For some more specific heroes, tempo control heroes that have a very specific play style it would also mean that we extensively watched replays of it together where I guided how the teams are playing and we as a team discuss how we are playing it. Example, I can't simply pick Chen because the hero is meta and Duster is a god with it, this would mean a lot of previous work as a team to be able to play this hero, which has a very specific play style in a team. This is the work I do as a Dota 2 Coach, but I believe most of the result is in what I don ́t do in Dota specifically, which is trying to turn all of us into better people thus becoming better teammates and better players.
Duster is the only player who is experienced when it comes to playing international LAN events whilst others are relatively new to the scene. In which ways are you both; Duster and yourself, grooming the current team for the upcoming Minor slated to begin in early January?
So far, to be honest, we aren’t able to work a lot on this. We were practicing in the Rampage Series and AORUS League, but we have tons of issues when the team is remote and decided to forfeit AORUS. We plan to bootcamp before the Minor and this would be where we would be able to work on that. But the truth is that you get ready to play LANS by playing them, so the focus is to attend as many LANS as possible and improve with time. To have a good performance at our first LAN I believe we need to succeed a lot in our scrims during our bootcamp to gain confidence to play the Minor, because having confidence and being an underdog with no expectations in our team would make us strong contenders.
Do you think nerves will play a role in the way your team performs at the Minor? You’re placed in a group that is stacked with individual talent and prowess such as Nigma, Gambit, etc. I feel it is basically a group of death. According to you, what are your chances of getting out of the group stage?
Yes we aren't so lucky with groups, we just played the qualifier in South America in the same group of Pain Gaming and Beastcoast, losing the spot in the playoffs on a tiebreaker with Beastcoast. But it's fine; we want to improve, so the better the competition the more we should be grateful for the opportunity of playing them.
For sure nerves play a role, but I expect my team to do well in that sense. We have Bernardo, our performance coach, that was one of the biggest reasons for us qualifying for the Minor and I believe his presence will help us a lot with this.
We clearly are the underdogs in a group with the favorites, but I don't want to think about the chances and it comes up a lot on how much we are able to improve during our bootcamp. My goal is that we finish the tournament stronger as a team and this does not depend on which result we have. but if we are able to improve—to give our best and finish with the trust that we have the right players to become a better team everyday—then that is a win for us. I strongly believe we have this capability.
How are you prepping up the team with constant updates in the new patch?
As mentioned, so far we are on a break until we bootcamp, but we are very close to each other so every day we are discussing in our WhatsApp group about new perceptions we have in the patch and this leads to longer discussions. Our players are playing tons of matchmaking and when we meet to bootcamp, we will be able to discuss more about the understanding that each player has towards the patch and analyze how our opponents are playing it. We will have a lot of material from ONE to watch which will be very helpful.
Alright, let’s end it here. All the best at the WePlayBukovel Minor! Anything you’d like to say?
Thanks a lot for the few fans we have! We are a new team in a region with tons of "dinosaurs" that have been in the scene for many years so it's hard to get supporters, so I really value the few we have. We have long term goals and we are dedicated to it, it's the game we love so we all feel grateful for having the opportunity to have it as our job and this means we are always giving our 100%.
We have new players and the results will come with time.
When they announced our line-up we got a lot of hate, mostly on me to be honest. People used to say we would never get out of Open Qualifiers. We did at our first qualifier and made 6th at the TI Qualifiers, then they say we never make to a playoff qualifier, then say we never get to a LAN--well, here we are.
One of the top players in Brazil mentioned if we ever got to playoffs he would retire, I respect him a lot and if he would keep his word, I would miss him. Glad it seems like he changed his mind and hopefully more people will change their mind about us.
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