Scythe.SG made history last weekend when they placed third at The International Dota 2 Championships held at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, instantly becoming the most successful gaming team in Singapore by prize earnings. I interviewed Scythe.SG’s team leader Han Yong “hyhy” Lim, in which he revealed that the team only had a week to practice after coming out from months of inactivity and that he doesn’t consider being placed third at The International to be his most prestigious tournament finish.
Read on for part one of the interview, concerning Scythe.SG’s pre-Gamescom preparation, and their experiences during the tournament itself.
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Can you introduce yourself, and tell us more about your history playing Dota?
My name is hyhy and I’m 21 years old this year. I’ve been playing Dota in Singapore for five years, and I came from teams like Aeon, KingSurf, Scythe and Zenith.
These were the very top of all the top teams in the region when they were active, right?
How did you get the invite to take part in the tournament in the first place?
IceFrog personally sent me the invitation. I used to help him with the changelogs in Dota. Whenever he needed help with changes or advice from pro gamers he would approach me and a few others. From those interactions I had good relations with him, so he reserved a slot for my team for this event.
Can you tell us how you formed the team for The International?
All of us came from different teams, but we gathered what we felt were the most individually skilled players in Singapore specially for this event. There was very little time to train for this event, so we felt that the best players would adapt and fit into the game quickest. We trained for about one week before the tournament and two days on LAN, so it was quite a rush.
I understand that ToFu was originally supposed to play for Scythe.SG in Germany instead of iceiceice. Can you tell us more about that?
Initially, ToFu was part of the team, but one week before the tournament something came up. We realised that our polytechnic examinations clashed with the event. ToFu was in his final year and final semester, so he decided it was a better option to stay for his studies instead. We actually tried whatever we could. We tried approaching the school for approval, we had letters from SCOGA (an online gaming association), but nothing went through. ToFu had no choice but to stay in Singapore, and that’s why we got ice as a replacement. As for myself, I missed a paper, but I think I got it settled now.
Do you feel that the last minute replacement of ToFu with ice affected Scythe’s performance at the tournament?
To be honest, at the start when we took ice into the team, we were pretty shaky. We actually felt that ToFu would have been better because we had a lot of role problems. But we were already in the worst case scenario and we just had to go along with it. The trainings went well and at the tournament we were actually very surprised at how well we played. Getting to third place exceeded our expectations. Overall, I’ll say that ice was still a good choice because he gave it his best, and so did all of us. I appreciate them for doing so.
You talked about ice causing some problems with team roles. Could you elaborate on that?
Like I said, we’re all some of the most individually skilled players in Singapore; but most of the top players are actually all carries. In a team you’ll find that you actually need roles like support, you need gankers and you need an engager. So we had five carries. *laughs* We actually had to change our roles around and force some of our players into support and engaging, but we actually managed to scrape through. I was very impressed.
Before going to Germany, how did you expect to fare at the tournament?
At the start, we were very confident of placing first. We were confident of our individual skills and we thought that since it was a new game, things like team play wouldn’t be so important yet. We were thinking individual skills were going to win us the game. But as we went into the tournament, we realised that it’s not that true: team play is actually the important thing there. But somehow we had it in us, and we managed to get through it.
Since we’re on the topic, what do you think you could have done better in your games against Na`Vi?
I think all of us felt the same. Every single team at the competition felt the same. Na`Vi was on a different level. I believe they were like this because they had a full month to train as a team, I believe on LAN. Their teamwork actually says a lot about them, they’re very good as a team. It seems like they’ve already discovered the top picks of the current game. As we all know, Dota is actually a draft game. They’ve actually mastered the draft, they’ve got the best picks for the game, and they basically crushed every single team. Even the Chinese, who were known for their skills and team play, they couldn’t fight against the draft. So, as I said, Na`Vi is on a very different level from the rest of the teams.
How about against EHOME? You guys won them once in the winners brackets, then won them again in the best of three but lost against them in the next two games. What could you have done better against EHOME?
For the games against EHOME, we were actually preparing strategies, strategies that can only work once — especially so since China teams are very smart. They know what causes them to lose the game, so they’ll work on that afterwards. After we won them (in the winners brackets), they went back and had a full day of discussion. The next time we fought them (in the losers brackets finals), it was completely different. They changed roles, they changed drafting styles, everything. We actually had another strat for them, and that’s why we managed to secure our second game (against EHOME). We lost the third and fourth game to them because we ran out of strategies, and we were not prepared to fight them again.
The most important factor was that we lost to Na`Vi in the group stage and then again in the winner brackets finals. That was the point when my team’s morale was at its lowest. We were actually aiming for first then, but the loss to Na`Vi was quite demoralising and we didn’t prepare as well as we would have done for our usual games, so against EHOME we kinda got off track and we played bad and we lost.
What did your team do to try to keep morale up after your loss to Na`Vi?
As the leader, I tried to remind them of the incentives and our goal (of placing first). But I think by then, first of all, we knew that Na`Vi was a very strong opponent, close to undefeatable, so we were already a bit disappointed. It was also partly because we knew that we already had the (third place) prize money on hand. It’s human nature, I guess. We already had a “back up plan”, so we really didn’t give it our out all against EHOME. We were really disappointed with that.
I was wondering about that last game against EHOME, how did you guys choose your heroes? It looked like you just picked all your favourite heroes.
Yeah, in fact we simply picked our favourite heroes. I did mention that we managed to fix our roles, but in the final game against EHOME, they banned very smartly. We also made a few ban mistakes, we banned away some of our own heroes. For that particular game, our roles were screwed up. We couldn’t get the heroes we wanted. We were forced to play heroes that didn’t suit our play style and it turned out badly. We expected to lose already, but we decided to play our best and see how it goes.
Did you pick Shadow Fiend for your fans? People are still talking about your Shadow Fiend after all this time.
I picked Shadow Fiend not because of my fans, but because I thought it was the hero I was most confident with. I think I play best at it and was hoping that I could bring my team to victory. Sadly, in that version, SF just cannot be played.
One thing about Dota 2 — there are a lot less heroes than in the original Dota. Do you feel that the limited number of heroes affected your team’s performance in the tournament?
Definitely. We have a few players who are actually known for just playing carries; they’re not really all-rounded players. There were many late-game carry heroes, 1 v 5 heroes, that we couldn’t use. That left our player, ice, with very limited use. That’s why banning and picking was very difficult for us in Germany.
I understand that Razer helped out with your team training and provided some support while you were in Germany. Can you tell us more about that?
Basically, Dota 2 was not revealed to the public yet, so before going to the tournament we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. We were not supposed to release any images or any footage of the game. Because of that, we were not allowed to go to any LAN centres to train, but we needed the LAN training experience to play well in a LAN competition. Razer was kind enough to lend us their training room and the computers were great. Training there was good, it was conducive, it was quiet, it was very private and we really could talk about everything we needed to, strategies and all that. We could even get our food and drinks here for free. It was the best place we could ask for.
When we were in Germany, a staff from Razer — Tammy (furryfish) — gathered support from Singaporeans. They actually went down to the Colosseum cyber cafe and got our friends and people to support us while we’re playing our games. This got to us when we saw it on Facebook. There was a wall of encouragement from everyone who signed, and it helped us really. But sadly we disappointed them.
I don’t think you disappointed anyone! But knowing that so many people back in Singapore were watching, did the pressure actually get to you while you were playing?
Yes, definitely. The atmosphere at the place there was enough, it was choking. The place was crowded. It was overfilled. People were cheering and clapping every now and then. The atmosphere was perfect, and the management there was great. The Valve people were very cooperative and very helpful. It was a great competition.
What was your team’s reception like in Germany?
I will say that the Valve management and the other teams actually saw us as an underdog team, because Singapore Dota has been on the low and we haven’t been very active. In fact, we have been totally inactive. So when we arrived at Germany, no teams actually took notice of us, except for the one team which we trained with online, EHOME. They were only team that was watching out for us. It turned out to be a bad thing, because they knew all of our strategies as we used them in trainings and they ended up being our opponents four times in the tournament. It was quite unlucky in a way, but we were still lucky that we ended up third.
As you guys made it out of the group stage, and then to the winners finals, how did everyone’s perception of your team change?
Everyone was shocked. They were really shocked. I recall that in the game against MYM, before we entered the booth, the fans outside were all cheering for MYM. There was nothing for our team. After we beat them, there was this huge amount of applause and congratulations from them and all that. Since then, things changed. Support came to us, but it didn’t last long. *laughs*
Could you share some lessons you learned from your experience in Germany for teams in Singapore and around the world to improve their game?
For teams that really want to improve, they should watch replays and see how teams win. Actually, they should watch replays and see how their own team loses. Most important is to figure out the key to drafting. Drafting is not as simple as it seems to be. There’s actually a lot of things you can do to secure the picks you want. Beyond simply banning a hero, you have to think of the hero alternatives so that if it’s banned, you still have a hero to fall back upon. It’s a lot of preparation. We spent up to five hours after every tournament day just to sit and discuss drafting.
Do you have any specific advice on drafting and banning?
A very typical good draft would have an engager, a support, two carries and a ganker. Basically, if you fill up the roles with the right players, it wouldn’t be too tough a game.
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In part two, hyhy talks about the tournament’s impact on his family, the difference between Dota 2 and Dota Allstars, and whether he feels Dota 2 will be able to pick up from another similar game, League of Legends.