Esports Heaven got the chance to talk to Michael "ixmike88
" Ghannam wherein he talks about his comeback to the competitive scene, recruiting EternalEnvy to TEAM TEAM, his future plans and much more.
Hey Michael. Most of us are already aware of who you are but kindly introduce yourself to those who aren't familiar with you.
Hello, I am ixmike88, support player for Team Team. I used to host American-based in-house leagues, but now I focus on competitive and some streaming.
Awesome. Let's get straight to the point. You've previously been part of big teams such as coL and Liquid and have been to several TI's. Post Liquid, you've been unable to make the same stride in the competitive scene. I guess my question is, what exactly transpired? Why did ixmike88 go back to the shadows?
On coL and Liquid, I think the key to our success was just plain hard work. Back then, everyone was really cocky and lazy, and thought they did enough with just 2-3 scrims per week. We played 4-8 hours per day together, along with pubs afterwards, which was not an aspect of the game people cared about much at the time.
We also resolved our issues as a team instead of switching players constantly, as most other teams did at the time. As for after TI3, lots of reasons, I suppose.
I took an extended break after TI3 to focus on in-house leagues and to get away from the game a bit, and if you don't jump on right after TI, it's easy to be forgotten about. After the break, I chose to switch from support to offlane, and as Team FIRE/SNA, we went to a few LANS, but ultimately it was not a very successful choice, in hindsight.
Your in-house league -- IXDL is credited for bringing out amazing talents into the competitive scene such as Arteezy and Sumail. Why did you shutter such a successful running league? I presume you paid out of your own pockets in terms of prize money at times?
The league served its purpose. At the time, there was no ranked matchmaking so it was an easy place to go for anyone competitive. Once ranked matchmaking was released, the leagues began competing with Valve's system and it's hard to beat the convenience of it.
A lot of players complain about the communication issues and game ruining in pubs, but they are not very interested in playing in an in-house league again. Almost all prize money was actually from donations from the players, which I am still very thankful for.
But there is NADCL these days -- orchestrated by PPD. What do you have to say about that? How is it different from IXDL? According to you, what does it need to do to succeed?
(Note: NADCL has been discontinued for the foreseeable future)
NADCL is very different from an in-house league. It is just a normal tournament catered to amateur NA teams. In-house leagues are a lot more individually-focused, essentially just a hand picked pool of matchmakers.
The issues that arise with in-house leagues tend to be balancing activity with skill in terms of who gets to play in the league, managing the ego clashes between players, and handling the cliques and game selecting that inevitably form in the league.
You coached Digital Chaos (now Chaos E.C) for a very brief period of time. Did being a coach teach you anything different in terms of play style, strategy, etc?
Sure, as a coach, it is still give and take. You try to help the players with an outside perspective and take some of the weight of drafting off of the captain, but you can always learn a lot from any competitive team just by watching how they operate and seeing how their opinions differ from other players and teams.
That brings me to my next question. How do you apply what you've learnt in the past in your current team -- TEAM TEAM, considering you're the captain as well as the drafter?
It's hard to say. You just build up years of experience and trust your intuition and hope that what you're doing is right. Even swapping one player creates completely new experiences in terms of play styles, hero picks, and ideas that you may have never had before. Combine that with the constant game updates, it's hard to say anything with complete certainty.
However, at the end of the day, the fundamentals of Dota never change, so you just try to learn these things and keep applying and reapplying them to the new situations you're presented with. You need the confidence to believe in what you're doing and the confidence to accept you're capable of learning new ideas.
Speaking of which you came back with a bang after qualifying for The Bucharest Minor -- something many people wouldn't have expected including myself. Congratulations on that. How did it feel going back to the big stage after a long gap?
It was lots of fun and rewarding in that our work as a team turned into something tangible. Though one LAN doesn't separate you from these other teams, you have to constantly be working and progressing, otherwise it's easy to fall behind.
Nonetheless, my next question is very interesting. It is a rather known fact that EternalEnvy has called you out in public in the past and that both of you don't necessarily get along well together. What is the reason behind recruiting him to TEAM TEAM? Have you both put the past behind?
Players quickly learn that they can't afford to hold grudges. I don't know if there ever was any real contempt, but the player pool is far too small to be petty. Players also grow and change over time so even if you're playing with someone you vowed to never play with again, there's a reasonable chance that they've changed and matured as a person since you last played with them.
Ryoya and Boris were both playing carry for our team for a short period of time but they both chose not to continue further. There wasn't much time before the major closed qualifiers and we thought Envy was the best choice and would mesh well with our team.
Glad to hear that. Moving on, what are your plans for the immediate future as well as for long term as a competitive player?
Just to do my best in the upcoming events.
Tell us the difference between ixmike88 as a player during the times of coL and Liquid, and the ixmike88 of now? How have you made progress or matured as a player?
I was probably a lot louder back then, now I just mind my own business and try to do my best. As for play stuff, it's hard to say, everyone's knowledge of the game improves over time and the least you could do is be on the same pace if you want to stay competitive, but it's hard to tell where exactly your edge is sometimes. Any stack of 7k players now would probably win TI2 or TI3.
Alright. I guess that's it for now. Anything you'd like to say before we wrap this interview up?
Shout out to the people who still support me over the years, I know it's been quiet. I would like to especially thank BlueOceanz and Mikey for helping Team Team along the way.
If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.
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Headline image courtesy: Team Liquid