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Despite their efforts to overcome a hostile crowd in Shanghai, China at The International 2019, TNC Predator exit the tournament on the 9th-12th place. They had a rough season overall and had to deal with various problems. 

Nonetheless, they qualified for TI9 via Dota Pro Circuit points and had an impressive group stage run to start the Main Event from the upper bracket. We’ve talked to Paul “Armel” Tabios just ahead of TNC’s first series in the playoffs and tried to reach a few sensitive topics. Here’s how our chat went. 

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Congrats on the group stage run here at TI9. It’s obvious that something has dramatically changed for TNC since Heen joined in the coaching role. Can you talk to me a bit about what he brings to the team? 

The thing he helps us a lot with is the draft. We don’t need to think so much about it anymore. He is the one who watches the replays, who analyzes them, he is the one who thinks about what heroes are good and what heroes don’t work for us, he is the one who makes our strategies. Of course, we are helping him and we talk about all these things, but I’d say that our drafts are 80% his work. 

Your play style, and the way you act in the game has also changed since he arrived at TNC. You guys seem to be more calculated, you play  more careful, is this something that he also teaches you or it’s just something that you guys learnt in time, on your own?

No, he is definitely trying to teach us to be disciplined in the game.

Your season was messed up because of all the troubles you had to go through. You couldn’t play a couple of tournaments with Kuku so, given all that happened this season with TNC, did you expect to make it to the upper bracket playoffs at TI9?

Actually, in the practice games before the tournament we were kind of winning, and we are not used to it, because the way it usually goes with us is that when we go to big tournaments we lose in scrims. But, just before the group stage here  we did very well in scrims and we messed up in the start of the tournament. When the groups started, we had to adjust and figure out what we should be doing with each day.

Did you anticipate the crazy fast paced games, the “run at them” tactics and the shenanigans with core Ogre Magi and the support Invoker? 

Yes, we kind of did because most of the teams arrived in China early and we had the chance to scrim with most of them, so we knew what’s going on. 

The only series that you lost 0-2 in the group  stage was to Mineski. What happened there, was it because you practiced a lot with them and they might know you too well? 

We were a bit nervous, anxious on that day. It was the first day in the tournament and I think it’s safe to say that we lost to ourselves. Instead of going for the win in that game one versus Mineski we stalled the game and we lost, and in game two they played very well. 

Do you feel like the group stage meta will carry on through the main event, or should we expect most of the teams to bring different strategies? 

I think the meta will be pretty much the same. Maybe some teams might have discovered something new on the past few days and will show it in the playoffs, but you never can be too sure. It’s TI and it’s how they say,”everything can happen,” even some teams might overthinking it. 

What teams pleasantly surprised you so far?  

Infamous are the biggest surprise for me. They were so close to make it to the upper bracket, so close. 

And what team do you think will be the first to reach the grand finals?

Based on the group stage results, OG is really strong. They beat everyone.

Would you like to play against them here, at TI9?

Of course! We want to learn from them, but we want to beat them as well. 

Has  OG’s ultimate underdog story from last year inspired you somehow, gave you hope that no matter what difficulties you might encounter through the season, you can still show up big time when it matters?

Kind of, yes. I recently watched the documentary that they released, “Against the Odds” and the “True Sight” after TI8 and both are so inspiring. Not only for me, but I think for any Dota 2 player. Of course not everyone will share the same story with them, for instance I don’t think it’s actually going to happen for us this year, but regardless, you have so much to learn from OG.

Considering all the drama between Kuku and the Chinese community, are you nervous to go on to the TI9 stage? Do you expect the fans in the arena to be a bit hostile towards TNC? 

We only hope that the incident is in the past already for everyone. We did our best to move on from that moment and we worked super hard to get to TI. I really hope there is no issue anymore. 

Thanks for the interview, Armel, best of luck in the main event and I hope we get to see you smile more often. Any shout-outs at the end of the interview? 

Shout-out to my family, my girlfriend and to all the TNC fans who kept supporting us. Thank you very much guys, it means a lot to us. 

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More content from TI9:

CCnC: “OG are a super fun team to play with”
Monet
: “We are hungry for success […] after all, we have 0% playoffs win rate”
rOtk:“Playing at TI is a mind opening experience”
Mag: “We are no strangers to the lower bracket”
Maybe: “Playing against Virtus.pro is fun”
w33: “Positions don’t exist anymore, they’re just heroes now”
TI9 Media Day Vlog

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