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Artem «fng» Barshak: «When I was a drafter only two opponents were problematic: ppd and Xiao8»

This is a translation of this interview.

Russia, marriage, bad blood

- When did you move to Pushkino from Belarus? (Pushkino – a town near Moscow).

– I started moving in August, when I was playing for Vega Squadron. I planned to move from Minsk closer to Moscow a long time ago. I’ve said it many times: you can’t compare these two cities – Minsk is calm and quiet, Moscow is million times better.

When I came to Vega, I wrote to CEO, that I want to move here, he helped me. Of course there were some difficulties: I came here in August right after my vacation, team gamehouse is 5km away from here, so I headed directly there. Then I spent some time solving university problems. The idea was that my girlfiend gathers all my stuff in Minsk and sends it to Moscow, and then I sort it out. 

- I don’t see a ring on your finger.

– This is a long story. I know, why you’re asking. It’s because I gave a promise to marry my girlfriend after victory over Team Secret on The International 5. We visited registry office but found out that there is one problem, that won’t let us get married. I can’t tell what the problem is, but we can’t do anything about it. Anyway we are still together and happy. Sooner or later we are going to become wife and husband. 

- One of the brightest memories of Dota in Belarus is Power Rangers. Fng, Moonlight, chshrct, J4. You could lose to anyone but outplay such titans as Na’Vi. Do you still talk to this guys?

– Well, when you move from team to team, relationships almost end. ESports is not about friendship anymore. For sure there are exceptions like Ad Finem. But 2 or 3 years ago eSports has become business and it became difficult to maintain good relationships with your ex-teammates. I can greet them, ask how are they and what are they doing, but I can’t talk about Dota with them. I support my enemies in this case. For sure any reasonable person doesn’t want to harm himself.

- Don’t you want to play with them again?

– I want to, but speaking about pro-scene – then I’d rather say no, than yes. When you develop fast, there’s no time to stop, you don’t want to move back. You have to look for stronger players. 

- So, PR are totally in the past for you, right?

– Well, partly yes. It also comes from the fact, that PR didn’t participate in any tournaments my team did. Probably they became much better, but I can’t rate it. 

- Finalizing PR issues: Valve rated carry potential of Vengeful Spirit as «0». Is that fair? Apparation and Moonlight on Venge – that was amazing!

– This was our strongest combo. We’ve used it in Virtus.Prо, where opponents saw Venge, thought it’s a support and then we got another support. Core-venge is usually picked not because she is overpowered, but in case you want to confuse your opponent. She is too slow comparing to other carries. Her main potential is her strength on the 10th minute, she can easily swap and kill an enemy, and then destroy a tower. But Juggernaut for example outfarms her during the same 10 minutes, and he is more multifunctional. 

- What are your thoughts on the patch?

– I don’t like to rate patches, pro players can’t rate patches in the terms of «like» or «dislike». Game didn’t change, I have small discomfort because of too many changes, but it’s a matter of time.

- How did you become a Team Spirit player? And did you help select other players?

– Phobos had a simple idea – wait until all reshuffles end to see who’s left, then form a team out of these guys. He had two main requirements: ability to work in a team and desire to develop. Everyone understands, that this is not the best period for CIS, because we don’t have top level teams. In my opinion there was only one CIS top level team – Na’Vi. Top-1, top-2, top-2, top – 8 on The International. Then Virtus.Prо were on top in 2015. And 2016... I think there wasn’t such a team from CIS in 2016, that you can call top level.

Of course now we have Virtus.Prо, but it’s only one team. Looking at low CIS level and separate qualifiers for CIS and EU – we have pretty good chances. Team was put together out of nothing. Phobos wanted to play with Vanskor. Then Sasha wrote to me. As you understand – we had personal issues with Phobos.

- As I understand, you admitted your mistake having kicked Lil and Phobos from Virtus.Pro, and Phobos just said that such things happen?

– We think of this in a different way. It was a good experience. I’ll speak for mysef. If I made the biggest mistake of my life, then I get experience out of it and move forward.

- What do you mean by «the biggest mistake of your life»?

– That reshuffle... I don’t regret, now I think about today and tomorrow. When Phobos wrote to me, he expressed his point of view: I betrayed him. Actually that’s how it was, people relied on me, and I relied on others. This is betrayal. From my point of view – we had conflicts with Phobos and Lil. We had different vision. So I decided to go my own way. It was just a choice, not a mistake.

- But you’ve said it was «the biggest mistake of your life»?

– Well, you can consider as the biggest mistake of mine. But at that moment it was my choice, that would show if I was right or wrong. Now I understand that my choice was wrong and its effects still follow me, but this is not that important. Speaking about «bad blood» – there is none left. 

I was the third player in Team Spirit. Then we took Iceberg, but we had other options. We takled to 633, tried him as a carry, everyone were glad. Others didn’t fit Phobos requirements.

- What other options?

– Everyone we could – Illidan, Ironman, others. Phobos got Vanskor from th very beginning, so it would be unpolite to search someone onto his position. Some people didn’t respond, for example we talk, play together, everything goes well, and suddenly when we need an answer – a person simply doesn’t reply, ignores. Obviously we have chosen another candidate.

The Boston Major,, pressure

– What feelings did you have watching Virtus.Prо games?

– I don’t want to hurt anyone from Virtus.Prо, but it seemed for me they don’t understand they are playing at the Major. In my opinion this team was 100% the tournament winner, they played too good, their patch comprehension was much better than others’. However they faced a simple problem. I make conclusions only as a side specrator, they were not ready for the fact, that others would prepare for VP, even if it sounds stupid.

EG for example – tactically Americans had an amazing preparation. They outpicked VP on the first map, when Ursa and Wisp went mid against DK – it was imposible to win. Morphling was freefarming top lane, clock was good on hardlane. From aside it was not clear, how are they going to win. Moreover, VP had last pick, and they’ve chosen Ancient Apparation for Solo, I don’t know why…

– To hate Wispfor example.

– Apparation is good for quick attacks and kills, however all previous matches were won by VP due to good laning, not ganks. As well as typing “GG” after 15-20 minutes… Maybe this is right, you don’t waste your energy, but Lil told once: ”Don’t waste our time, leave after 1st minute or play till the end”. I don’t care, I was at home watching how Lil gets his words hit him back.

Second game – same trap as in the game vs IG.Vitality: they didn’t expect Alchemist. EG suddenly used Mirana as their carry. Aside it was clear, that Alchemist is the only solution that could save EG. The plan versus Alchemist is simple – don’t let him farm. But as Sumail got 4-10 creeps, he bought Iron Talon, went jungling and at that moment he was unstoppable. EG were on their way to late game. And then – Divine Rapier, Blademail. From my point of view every game must be simplified to completing some easy tasks, you must get youself some space, in case you made a mistake. Leaving the game only due to losing laning stage is not a plan. However, it’s captain’s mentality, he makes such choices.

– Lil told me that when you are on the stage in front of thousands of people, and you are against EG many things take a back seat.

– Yes, you reminded me of something. I’ve read Solo interview on where he said that his team played too uptight. Basically one loss killed them. The second factor is pressure, because they were considered favourites. Everyone remembers what had happened to Na’Vi when they won Starladder and showed their offlane Sand King several weeks before The International 6. There were many debates that they revealed their strategies. If they didn’t they could perform better.

VP looked cool, however, winning The Summit they forced rivals to take them seriously and gave a lot of information to their opponents.

– Maybe testing their strategies against the best teams at The Summit was right? 

– I asked myself: “Who were VP before The Major? A favorite or a team that needs time and experience?” Lil said they considered themselves favorites. So I’m sure they should have missed The Summit. Because if they come to the Major in such condition and not reveal their strategies on previous tournaments – then their opponents wouldn’t be ready for them. Also – at The Summit they had problems against Alchemist. Same in Boston against iG Vitality, and then EG. There is a sequence, but it’s only my view from aside. So, basically three problems – underestimating opponents, pressure and The Summit, where VP revealed their strategies.

Drafters, ppd, Resolut1on

– So as you’ve spoken about drafts and captains, who’s the best drafter in the world?

– There are two types: best drafter for a team, and best drafter in general. I’d say that SsaSpartan is the best – teammates trust him, he changes strategies depending of the current meta and enemy picks. Ad Finem got on top only because of his draft.

Best team drafter for his team is OG.Fly. He relies on his teammates and builds his strategies around pick – not the oppositw. You don’t win three majors that simple, people have to reconsider such approach. Team has to be above meta.

– Ppd recently announced his return to pro sceneHe will play with QOwho plays a completely different dota than EGPlus 19-years old BorisWhat do you think of them?

– I have two questions. Which region are they going to play in?

– North America it seems.

– North America seems a bit easier. I don’t know if ppd can share his experience with these guys. For example there’s a captain, who helped his teammates to develop – Puppey. All those who played with him got a lot of positive experience: w33, Fly, notail, Misery. Puppey taught them how to win. Same question goes to ppd: can he make these guys from different regions – Korea, North America and Europe – the best? If he can, then this stack has a potential to be stronger than EG.

– Is Peter that cool?

– When I was a Virtus.Prо drafter, only two opponents were a problem. Xiao8 was the first one, he could easily find a weak place in your strategy. And ppd knew your strength, fooled you while drafting and during the game you could find out that your strength is not a strength at all. Against him you prefer to pick heroes you are comfortable playing on. But he makes his pick and you realize, that you draft concept is already broken. I remember that during pick phase on 3rd or 4th hero I realized, that they are already far ahead. Obviously there was no difference which heroes we pick further. I asked my team to help and we tried to find the best solution, but usually it was a disaster. I see that everyone who played with Peter now have that ability to prepare to every opponent.

About his team. Well, it’s not that easy already to play in NA region. Earlier only EG and CompLexity could do something. Now there are DC and Team NP.

– What about moving to other regions? You’ve played in most top CIS teams, except Team Empire. You speak English pretty well. Do you receive offers from foreign teams? And do you want to try yourself outside CIS?

– I played for Empire as a stand-in once. Well, moving to another country, there are only two successful examples: God and Resolut1on.

– And both are doing pretty well, especially Resolut1on.

– Well, there was one more example – Azen, that played for His career ended up there. You have to force yourself to move to another country, leave your family. Basically leave your life here and start you career there. Maybe I’m ready for this, but I won’t move unless there will be no place for me in CIS. For sure there always will be a place in CIS for Resolut1on and God.

To be honest, during this reshuffle I wrote to TeamLiquid. Bulba left, support position was free. So I’ve thought “Noone takes money for asking”. But at that moment they were testing GH-God, he’s a top player. I remember casting The International qualifiers, he played for E-LAB on Keeper of the Light, I told that this guy is not a simple player. He’s from Lebanon, he played there with his friends. It was difficult for him to get out of the country. However he was always spotted in pubs by high MMR players. So two 9k players got the third one. If you see a person playing good in pubs from time to time, why won’t you try him out? There is even a tendency during reshuffles – every season at least one player from pubs appears in a pro team. Chappy from Empire for example. I played with him several times before New Year, he’s good.

– NaVi tested Misha from Comancheaverage fan doesnteven know who he is.

– Then it means Misha is already famous on pro scene. Once Miracle and Ana showed up in such a way. Goblak searches for such players at high MMR. Do you know how Polarity roster was formed?

– Do you mean NVMI?

– Oh yeah, NVMI. Phobos and Goblak asked me, whom they need to invite to the team. I replied: “Go to high MMR”. They saw Lil there, tested him on mid lane. But in his first game on Windranger he was hitting creeps the whole game. So they decided to use him on 4th position. He was good on Visage and Skywrath Mage. Perhaps I’ve made this story up a bit, but it was something like this.

What’s important that our top teams won’t sign such players, and we don’t have youth teams. Youth academy function is done by poor teams, who can’t afford famous players. Comanche play the youth academy role now, guys from PR reached success the same way: Ditya Ra, SoNNeiKo, Ironman. It’s not profitable to have two rosters. Let’s imagine you take Anton Python, John Doe, what’s next?

– Some Chinese teams have two or three rosters.

– They have another system. They have teamhouses, where all these three rosters play together nonstop. And in CIS it’s difficult to make a team bootcamp for a week. If we’ve had a kind of “Arena” in Moscow, then VP could possibly find 5 guys for a youth team, so they could train there all the time. When we will have team bases, where players can train – then we will get youth teams. And even if one of 5 players will become a top player, then organization can place him to main team or earn money from transfer.

Future, Team Spirit

– You are talking management, and I want to ask: you tried yourself as a caster, v1lat said you’re good…

– I’m, perhaps, more opened to the audience. I like to communicate with reasonable viewers, receiving feedback. I enjoy it. What I don’t like is schoolboys, that hear on streams, that I eat potatoes, then they come to my stream and spam there about potatoes. That makes me nervous.

– So don’t you think of changing roles? Not only casting, but management. Western teams would be glad to get a person with good English skills, nice game knowledge and CIS especially.

– Now I see no reasons to leave pro scene. For sure I can’t spend a lot of time in game. For example Ramzes666 slept 8 hours on a bootcamp and then played for 16 hours. I had same situation, but now I have another opinion, I try to use my energy more efficient way, 10-12 hours for trainings. And I will continue playing on pro scene until I can. It depends on my team results. And when I realize that I’m not that good, I will retire, because I will be ashamed to play further.

– What are Team Spirit goals?

– It’s an absolutely new team, we have 0 wins or losses. I can’t clarify our goals for now or try to make some predictions. It’s unreal. For now we hope to get invites to qualifiers. But we even don’t have invites, because we are a team just formally. There are several tournaments, where our names – including my little belarusian name – will get us some invites, but we aim to Major and Premium tournaments.

Also we refuse to play qualifiers, if we feel not yet ready. There’s no sense to play tournaments where you can’t win. We don’t want to go to a minefield.

– You say that results depend not only on you, but also on the team. Phobos is known for his stable good performance, but for example Vanskor’s peak is far behind and he doesn’t have much achievements lately. How do you feel about your teamAre youconfident about them?

– If I say I’m confident, then it would be a lie. You can’t be confident in a team, that hasn’t played together yet. But I trust them. Team future is my future, their future depends on our performance. We won’t let each other down. We are on the bottom right now. If someone drowns, we all will.

– Okay, let’s move to real life. You said that you solved issues with your studies. Where are you studying now? – In RGUFK on eSports course. I’ve already passed my first exams. It’s hard to explain what are we studying there.

For example the course is called theories and methods of eSports. 

Students visit for example, other game developers. But that’s not computer science. And I’m into distance learning.

– That’s weird, you’re still not a professor. And how do you spend your free time?

– I don’t have free time now, because I want to become a champion with my team.

– To become a champion of what?

– Everything! I play every day, and until we achieve good results, I won’t stop!

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