Loda -- current owner and former captain of the legendary TI3 winning team ; Alliance -- was kind enough to sit down for an interview with Esports Heaven. In this interview, Loda talks about his transition from a TI winning captain to a team owner, struggles of Alliance post TI3 as well as latest meta trends.
Loda also speaks about his expectations with a newly built team at TI9.
Hey Loda. First of all, congratulations on the victory at The Summit 10. How will you rate the team’s performance at this event and how important this win is going into TI9?
We took a quite laid back approach to the summit, so I’d say I’m very happy with the results. If I’d rate our performance I’d say 7 or 8/10. It’s always hard to play your absolute best while facing lower tier teams. I was especially happy to see us come back after losing to Pain in the winner bracket, and not letting it tilt us.
Hard to say how important it is, but it was great to finally win something together and it was a great last tournament before TI :)
Lets go a bit back. You’re one of the few players to have won everything there is to win in Dota 2 including The International 2013. How does it feel that Alliance is back on the grand stage once again after struggling for the past few years post TI3?
It feels amazing to be back at TI. This was a goal I set out for the team 1,5 years ago, and more than anything it’s been a great journey together, through the hard times and the good times. TI is what every Dota team aims for, but there is a special feeling to go there together with these boys. Me and Qojqva have been there before, but for most of the players it’s their first time.
Take us through the thought process that you went through as a player from being right there on top of the world to struggling and eventually calling it quits on an illustrious career? How badly such situations affect the mental fortitude of any player? Did it affect you as well, Loda?
I think towards the end of my career I had struggled with motivation issues for some time. I was still very hungry to make Alliance proud, and to be a part of Dota, but my passion as a player was taking a hit for sure. It was very hard staying by “myself” on the squad. As you mentioned previously I’ve won most there is to win in the game, and at some point it was more important to me not losing, than winning.
It took a toll on my mental state for sure, but all things have to come to an end, and I’m happy to have been able to come back from that, return, and make it back to the top in another manner.
That being said, you’re now the owner of Alliance; the very same team you founded. I’m curious to know about the transition of a TI winning captain to owning a team. What are your responsibilities as an owner and how different is it from being a captain?
It’s been different for sure. There is just so much hard work that has come with becoming a team owner, and I can’t say it has been easy. But along the way I’ve learned so much about responsibility, juggling different roles and also how to be a good boss.
How do you juggle between your responsibilities as an owner having numerous things to do?
It’s extremely different from being a team captain, at the same time as being somewhat similar. As a captain you need to lead a team, you need to work with people and you have to rely on your gut feeling a lot of the time. When I just switched I think I tried to change too much at once, It’s been ups and downs, but in the end of the day I realized that the most important thing was still to stay true to my heart. I believe in doing things right, and as a business person people might sometimes see me as too caring, but it’s important to me that we stay true to our core and to what Alliance stands for.
I’ve probably worked non-stop since the day I took over, but I have a great team of people around me, awesome players to support, and they all make it worth it.
You’re also the coach of the Dota 2 roster. What do you bring to the table as a coach, Loda?
Being a Coach is hard. It’s not something that has come easy all the time, but I’ve always believed in the boys on the Dota squad, and my goal has always been to make them share my vision and understand just how good they can become. It’s easy to doubt each other on a team, and it’s easy to overestimate just how strong the best teams really are. Sometimes even if you get destroyed by tier 1 teams, and it looks very one sided, there are just minor details that can shift the whole game.
I hope that what I bring to the table is team spirit, a sense of belonging, helping the boys work as a unit and also experience when it comes to competing at the absolute top. Playing in front of thousands of fans can be intimidating, but you just have to find a way to revel in the moment and remember that this is what you live for as an esports athlete. Sometimes I feel like I do tons, sometimes I feel like I do nothing. It’s not easy being a coach, and I’m far from perfect, but I try to improve all the time. And sometimes the most important thing you have to learn is to take a step back and let the players do what they do best, play Dota 2 :)
Alliance is competing at TI9 with a fresh roster that was built from the ground up. It has taken almost 2 years for this roster to reach where it is right now after it was formed. What made you believe in this roster that you stuck with it for 2 years and not opt for any changes to it? It must have been difficult for you, Loda!
Honestly, I think that people overall overestimated their understanding of teams. How you build a strong team and how long it takes to do it. Dota 2 is getting more and more competitive every year, and yes there was a time when a relatively unknown team could break into the scene and win everything, but that time is no longer. For almost every single team out there right now they have several players with years of experience of competing at the top of their game. For us, many of the players had barely any experience from comp Dota 2, and you need to spar against the best to become the best.
The team did struggle at Majors and Minors despite being absolute beasts in the qualifiers. Is it because of lack of experience or knowledge or something else? Also, is it something to be worried about going into TI9?
It was tough even reaching the majors, and once you are there and you are seen as a “major” team it becomes even harder. You need to dare to pull through and commit yourself when it’s at its hardest. I always knew they had the skill to be at the top, the question was if they had the commitment to becoming a top team, and all that comes with it.
The hardest thing has probably been to stay strong and keep believing when people around you do not, but I’ve always trusted my own gut feeling, and my own capabilities in building teams. As long as everyone on the team has shown that they can improve and move forward I’ve known that we will get to the top, it’s just a matter of time. We’ve done something with this squad that no one else dared to do. 4/5 of our players just have a few years of Dota experience, and for them to be where they are today is a huge accomplishment in itself.
I don’t think we should be worried about the fact that we have struggled in the past. Every hard point and difficult times with this team is a lesson that you carry with you when you play at the big stages. We are Alliance and we never give up. We have prevailed and we have proven that we are where we are supposed to be. We will go to TI to play our hearts out, and we will not be scared doing it. We go there as a unit, and our struggles have brought us closer, our hardships made us more resilient, and by doing what no one else dared to believe we could we have shown that anything is possible. Dare to reach for the skies, because anything is possible.
What are your expectations from the team at TI9, Loda? Do you believe this team has the same charisma like the Alliance of 2013? After all, they have big shoes to fill!
I rarely try to have expectations until the moment we are at the tournament itself. Dota is a game where the strongest team of the day always win, and it’s not until we’ve sparred against some of the top teams days before TI that I will truly know what to expect.
I know we are a top 8 team, that we can be a top 6 team, but also that the boys could grow insanely much during the tournament itself and that a top 4 finish is not impossible. All I know is that no matter the results, every team at TI is there to win, and they will do everything in their power to get as close to the Aegis as possible. It won’t be easy no matter what :)
There are similarities between the two teams for sure, and charisma wise I’m sure they have as much as the old Alliance squad. But they are not the same team. These boys are going to have their own journey, their own story and their own TI experience. I’m just glad I will get to share it with them.
Give us a brief overview on the latest patch and possible trends that the spectators can expect to see at TI9?
The latest patch seems faster than the previous ones this year. I expect a lot of teams to try to take control of the game in an early stage, and not give the opponent much time to be able to regroup. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Alchemist make a return as a top pick either.
Is the current DPC system useful to Dota 2 in the long run? Are you satisfied with the way things are currently being handled by Valve regarding the pro circuit? What changes can be made to possibly better the competitive circuit, Loda?
I’d say the DPC system is for sure good for dota 2 as a whole. There are improvements to be made, but I’m confident Valve has already considered ways to tweak the DPC for next season.
If anything, I’d like for Valve to invest a bit more of their own money into the DPC prize pools, and instead force tournament organizers to spend all their time and money on running exciting and well produced events. This year I think almost only ESL has been able to run proper audience-based tournaments, and that’s a bit weird when they have not even been part of the DPC system.
Alright, that’s a wrap Loda. Anything you’d like to say?
I want to give a big shout-out to our sponsors who have been here with us along the way. Our fans, the ones who never stopped believing even when it seemed the most helpless, that kept sending positive energy and comments when it was not easy to. And finally, a big shout-out to everyone in Alliance, to Kelly, to Marcus and everyone else in our organization. You are all a part of why we are where we are today, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this alone.
Thank you, and LONG LIVE ALLIANCE!
Esports Heaven wishes Loda and Alliance the best of luck at TI9!
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Headline image courtesy: Alliance