All patched up
Last year we watched a patched together Bravado Gaming Dota 2 side head over to WESG in China to take on the world and try put South African Dota on the map. They did not. This year the team going over to fly the South African flag is our current Dota powerhouse (GLHF: It’s funny because they have a gaming house.), White Rabbit Gaming.
One of the patches in the Bravado side last year was Travis ‘Castaway’ Waters, we chatted to him while the team was in China, and we’re chatting to him again this year to find if he thinks WRG can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of EHOME and Arteezy’s Team Canada.
“It will be different for me personally as I’ve faced this competition now and I’ve been in that firing line, so I know what I can expect skill and tempo-wise. Going with WRG, I’d say we will be a lot more prepared as we are a set team who have been playing together as five for a while now, versus just a quickly made stack (like last time). So I think we will have a lot more synergy, understanding and trust in each other.”
The synergy between the White Rabbit Gaming players can only be getting better, with them not just being teammates, but also housemates. We assume they enjoy romantic, candlelit meals together before playing scrims and in the various competitions. You know, for synergy.
Nicholas ‘Schlinks’ Dammert has already spoken to us about life in the WRG gaming house, but we thought we’d take a quick minute to get Castaway’s thoughts on the situation and how it might help them in China.
“I think from us living together and surrounding ourselves with each other’s ideas it creates a bond and a trust between players, which has developed tremendously within the team. I’ve seen it first hand when it comes to things such as calling for a TP (teleport) or trusting someone’s call on what to do next. So I’d say that living, breathing and eating DotA together is amazing for that side of growth, as well as the obvious of everyone just committing more time and playing more scrims, which also develops the things mentioned above.
The house forces these aspects to come into play, where you’d have to try and bring them together if you were playing online only. All-in-all the house is amazing if you can do it, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for big growth without one.”
Other South African esports organisations have proved that there are many ways to grow outside of a gaming house – salaries have turned Sinister 5’s Dota side into a local challenger to WRG, and Bravado Gaming’s incredible marketing and success has allowed them to consistently cherry pick the best players in the country, in every esport except Dota, because they all want to wear the Bravado jersey.
Return to the East
But we digress, let’s get back to China. The WRG boys have formed themselves into a well-oiled fighting unit, with the aforementioned gaming house and candlelit dinners, how else are they preparing for their journey to the East?
“Focusing on the teams we are going to be playing during the group stage and focusing on the fact that people won’t research/know how we play, so this is our strongest weapon. For local tournaments we would just focus on our own style and making sure we don’t make mistakes within our current skill set.
I think, getting out of group stage is our first hurdle and some of us would be happy with that, but personally I want us to come top eight. I think if we practise hard we can do it.”
Top eight would be an incredible achievement for a team from South Africa. Just looking at the list of qualified teams, there are a couple of names that have been seen in the top tier of international Dota: EHOME and mousesports.
There are also a lot of other recognisable names, Team Leviathan, HappyFeet and paiN Gaming, and a lot of teams with very recognisable players, Team Canada, Team USA and every team that qualified through Europe.
See if you recognise any of these names: Arteezy, Faith_bian, Resolut1on, No[o]ne, w33, Loda, Aui_2000. If you don’t we’ll do some Dota to football translating. That list could read: Ronaldo, Neymar, Messi, Kane, De Bruyne, Pogba – you get the idea. It’s the best players around.
Top eight is going to be tough, but we love the determination and are very excited to see White Rabbit Gaming truly tested on LAN.
The battles to come
We’ve established that the contenders are tough. But are there any in particular that Castaway would like to avoid in the early stages of WESG?
“The ‘tier one’ teams we obviously do not want to face until later, hoping to miss them in group stage games. Team Canada comes to mind with Arteezy. The Russian and Ukrainian stacks with the Virtus.pro players in them. We just don’t want to play versus them early as they are extremely strong.
Although I do believe we can beat these teams, it’s just demoralising and can be derailing to the team’s mental space to have a crushing defeat early on in the group stage.”
It makes sense to want to ease into the competition and get some confidence-building wins under your keyboard, but we know that Castaway is a competitor. He’s gone head-to-head with some of the best players in the world online, while climbing to great heights of the old Dota MMR system, so he must be itching to see what he can do against them with no ping disadvantage.
“Personally, I would love to play versus No[o]ne and Arteezy, two of my biggest educators for my midlane growth. Although I said we don’t want to play these teams, at least early on, it would be nice to play versus these players on LAN.”
Wisdom from the Orient
Last time he was in China to compete, Castaway had some tough matchups in the mid lane, but they might have been tougher than they needed to be because he was often playing heroes he wasn’t entirely comfortable with. Until the last series against T Show, then he got his Invoker and took out all his frustration from the previous games on the poor T Show players.
T Show disbanded after that game. Probably not because of Castaway, but he definitely didn’t help.
It’s been an entire year since then and we know how much a game, and meta, can change in that time. Castaway has also had 12 months to grow as a player.
“I had to play some heroes out of my comfort, but I’d firstly say that I’ve developed a lot more as a player since then. I believe I’ve become more versatile in my thinking, playstyle and hero pool, so I don’t think it will be as big of an issue as last time.
I’d say I’m better suited now as I feel as though I’m playing more heroes at a higher level currently. I just feel comfortable on more heroes than last time. I’m also going to grind the stronger mid lane meta heroes in ranked before the tournament and test them out in scrims to perfect them.
I think playing each match to your greatest strength is another thing the three of us (Odu, Schlinkz and I) learnt from our time at WESG last year with Bravado. Every team at that event is very strong so we’ll need to fire on all cylinders to win.
And to believe in yourself and in your ability, you’re not playing versus immortals, they’re just people who can lose. So we just have to play to the best of our ability and draft in accordance to our style and strength.”
We don’t know about you, but we’re pumped at this confident attitude. No-one expects a team from the bottom of Africa to rock up and slay the gods of the Dota world. How great would be if they manage to take down a few? It’ll be a tale for the ages of South African esports.
If anyone can do it, it’s Castaway and the boys from White Rabbit Gaming. If not, at least they can come home and have a nice romantic dinner together.