Here at GLHF, we love the challengers. We dig the new guys who saunter up to the big dogs and remind them that it’s a long way to fall when you’re at the top. Hell, being an avid gaming supporter would be super boring without a little upset every now and then.
And so we get to Sector 17 Zephyr, a Dota 2 team that is already making waves, despite being formed less than half a year ago. We spoke to their captain and co-manager, Ryan ‘Frank White’ Hughes, and got his thoughts on life as a lesser-known team.
But first, a short background on where the S17-Zephyr team came from, and how Frank White got involved.
“The Sector 17 MGO has been around since 2011, with a few inactive years between the DGL seasons, and a few appearances at DGC. One of my online mates had started a team to compete in the Crucial Cup, and I tagged along. After a dismal performance we disbanded, and I thought to myself that the next step would have to be meaningful with regards to my dedication and commitment to a long Dota year. S17 was looking for players and I decided to try out for the team.
S17 made their Dota team active for this year’s DGL Ladder, competing under the name ‘Zephyr’ – formed with three previous players, the rest being recruits to the team. I think it is exceptionally important for our progress and understanding of the game to have S17 veterans to direct the flow and team dynamics.”
Zephyr has been doing so well that there has been some internal talk of forming a second squad below them within the S17 house. So, if you’re looking to join a team, get your trial boots on and don’t miss the opportunity when it comes around.
On the topic of team dynamics, this is how Zephyr makes their decisions come game day.
“S17 took a completely different approach to setting specific roles (drafter/decision maker), so we decided on having everyone contribute. This eradicates miscommunication or uncertainty of players’ hero pools, and we can pick what we are comfortable with in relation to the draft and meta. We build the draft around our support picks. With regards to decision making, it’s either myself, offlane, or the mid. When calling is involved, it depends on who is in the lane during the initiation of the fight. But it mainly lies with James ‘SeMaJ’ Soldin, as he has a decent understanding and can predict the outcomes of the fights.”
Semaj can predict fights? He must be some sort of prophet, no wonder they’re doing so well.
It would seem that the team knows their individual strengths and weaknesses rather well, then. But how well do they know their strengths as a team?
“Concerning our team’s play-style, we are better and more adapted to early team fights with sequenced plays, lane pushing, or securing lanes in the early stages. Drawing the game out is not our preferred approach. We are more of a mid-game fight team, as this best suits our drafts and individual player skills. We are mostly all about the stomps and not dragging games out.”
You won’t see any cautious, potentially-sleep-inducing games with these guys on the map. Expect high-risk, high-reward type plays – exciting Dota FTW. Literally.
But, of course, pulling off those explosive plays takes practice, as all five players need to be on their best behaviour. But it seems that the Zephyr lads value experience over training any day of the week.
“Currently we use most of our DGL matches to practice our drafting and synergy. Only because we have dedicated a lot of our play time to scheduling matches to contribute to our position on the ladder and overall experience in the competitive scene.”
Say what you will about this training tactic, but the results speak for themselves. S17-Zephyr is currently sitting in a comfortable third on the DGL Ladder. As well as recently qualifying for the LAN Qualifiers of the Gigabyte Dota 2 Challenge. Kudos, lads, learning while you go seems to be working for you. We like to think it’s working for us too.
And it seems as though it’s mostly smooth sailing, even in times of stress. The guys are all friends with each other, making conflict almost non-existent, and when we asked about how they manage to fit games into their working or studying lives, we were reminded of a simple and beautiful truth.
“Everyone who plays Dota always has time to fit a game in.”
So, what’s the next step in the development of the team? Well, they would firstly need to solidify a manager position in their setup. They currently share managerial duties between a few of the players, which is an acceptable solution, but not the best. Any aspiring managers out there, now is your turn to speak up.
Speaking of managers and development, Frank White believes that effective management and development of players is the main difference between local and international teams.
“I think local teams are lacking in the fundamentals of management, criticism, and the willingness to achieve with the sole purpose of why they started. A lot of teams will form for a DGL season and just disband because the team did not achieve their desired results. Yet the amount of effort put in by the team amounted to nothing, and players weren’t managed or criticised by a player of greater skill. I see this to be very important for player growth: If someone is too arrogant, how could they ever develop out of their mistakes? This method of player growth has impacted my skills highly just by considering someone’s advice.
Having in-game casters also increases the moral and motivation to compete and improve one’s self, and the amount of insight and excitement has grown confidence for many local players.”
Well, there you have it. Sector 17 Zephyr, a lesser-known team sitting high on the Ladder, and waiting for their chance to take on Damage Control in the first round of their Gigabyte Challenge LAN Qualifiers. Catch those games on 18 and 19 June, by the way. Keep an eye on nAvTV’s Twitter page to find out exactly where you can watch.
We thought we’d just sneak in this rare opportunity to pat ourselves on the back, as Frank White reminds us that what we’re doing here at GLHF is a good thing. Maybe even a really good thing.
“To be honest, when I received a message requesting an interview, I was stunned and thrilled. I thought the spotlight was only ever on teams performing in the Masters, or on a team that’s currently the best in the scene. I feel if not so well-known teams (outside Masters) were focused on and known to most of the community, it would fuel the motivation to become something greater.”
Finally, we’ll leave you with an excerpt from Frank White’s own Tome of Knowledge, something that inexperienced players may not have realised.
“Tome of Knowledge: At first I thought this was a waste for any hero, as the experience isn’t so great. But when you are solo supporting and you have been stuck on a level before your ultimate, this is the most beneficial item.”
Is it okay if we say “we told you so”?
Thank you very much to the guys from Sector 17 Zephyr for their time, and good luck for your upcoming matches.