With just a couple of days ahead of the OMEGA League Immortal division we had the chance to interview Adrian “Era” Kryeziu, who is at his third stint with Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Era, as well as NiP as an organization and as a Dota 2 team, went through a lot of changes over the years. So, we took the opportunity to find out from him what all the role changes that he made along the years meant to him and why he felt that he needed to do them.
We also touched on the roster issues the team has right now, the 7.25.c meta and how the change of the drafting stage might have impacted the gameplay. We spoke about how he deals with the whole pandemic restrictions that also changed the esports competitive scene, and of course, we spoke about what makes OMEGA League special.
Hi Era and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. I know that everyone’s schedule is pretty packed with practice games in preparation for OMEGA League so let’s get straight to the point.
You are down to four players since early July and I imagine you‘ve been looking for the fifth. Are you guys close to announce a full time member or should we expect another stand in?
Regarding this situation, I can tell that it’s a bit hectic. We live rough times and it translates to Dota as well. On one hand it’s tough to find a free of contract person right now, and on the other hand, people tend to be very stubborn. They believe in their teams for the right reasons and most of the proven players are already on a team. Snatching a player right now is very difficult.
Finding the fifth was definitely an interesting procedure, but to be honest it’s still hard for me to give a clear answer if we are going to play with a stand in or with a full time player. Right now, it’s slightly a bigger percentage chance that we are going to have a stand-in for OMEGA League.
Chicken Fighters was formed in March-April, when everyone was already experiencing lockdowns. That’s why even when you got signed by NiP you guys haven’t got the chance to meet in person, to bootcamp, etc. Is the same now?
Yes. It has been difficult ever since the coronavirus happened. Even with Sweden being a little bit liberal about it, or having a different approach for this pandemic, for my own good, for our families’ good I am unwilling to take an unnecessary risk. Even if in theory we would be willing to bootcamp in Stockholm, where NiP would be able to set it up for us, we would need to go through a lot of procedures. But for the moment, I feel that it would be an unnecessary risk to take. So, yes, unfortunately, we are yet to meet in person. I am the latest addition to that Chicken Fighters squad, but Charlie, Supream^ and SabeRLighT- have been on this team for about nine months now and they still haven’t met.
This is your third time under the NiP banner, does it feel like returning home in a way, how have things changed for you and for the organization through these 3 Era – NiP stages (2015, 2017, 2020)?
From the very beginning until now, the entire entity of NIP is a little bit different. There are a lot of new people working for NiP than when I was with the organization for the first two times. Not to mention they actually also changed location. The first two times I played for NiP they had the headquarters and the bootcamp facility in the southern part of Sweden, but now everything is moved to the capital, in Stockholm where I have actually never been. I haven’t visited the new headquarters and the bootcamp location yet. And as far as I know, there is also a lot of new staff in almost all of the NiP divisions. A lot of the people I used to know working here from the past two times are not with the organization anymore. So, in some way, it feels like a new workplace, but at the same time, as you were saying, the home state is still like that because it’s based in Sweden. Having the chance to play for my own country has always had a special meaning.
If you could go back in time and tell something to the 2015 Era who was at his first sting with NiP, what would it be?
Back then I was a bit over my head. I had been around for a while since Fnatic, and I was looking at myself as an already proven player. I felt like I was one of the better players in the squad, in a way. I was cocky for the wrong reasons. I had confidence but maybe from the wrong directions.
So, if I could go back and tell myself something it would be to still continue to work hard. You know, you are not done yet. Winning MLG Columbus, sure was a feat, it felt amazing, but I would tell myself that it is just the start.
Probably a lot of the reason that I ended up the jumble that I am today has to do with who I was back then. The main differences from me back then and now is the personal growth, not only play wise, but also just finding myself along the road.
Talking about changes, those who followed you since the beginning know that you came from HoN as a carry player and it was during The Final Tribe times when you started to switch roles. First mid, then support 5, then you went to support 4. At GODSENT you went back to carry and now back to 4. What triggered these changes?
The main thing actually started with the fact that I was a co-owner of The Final Tribe. Me, Handsken, jonassomfan and then with Ludwig Sandgrenwho, who was also the CEO. But it all started with us, the three players who were part owners of the company and we wanted to do everything possible to make this project keep going. We ran into a lot of difficulties finding players for the Dota 2 squad. We were not the most attractive organization and the main problem started there. The easiest way to deal with this situation was to start switching players in their roles. We had Frost back then, who is a carry player and he always has been a carry player, and instead of forcing him to make a role swap to something he never played before, it was easier for me to adapt to what we needed.
I have to admit that I always wanted to try to be a captain myself, so that’s how I first tried to play position 5. But after I tried it, I understood that this is not something for me. I do enjoy thinking a lot about the game, preparing, talking about drafts, strategize and all of that, but I see myself more as the right hand of the captain. I want to be the assistant, the helper rather than making the final call. It doesn’t feel natural for me to make the calls in the game and I had to admit that playing position 5 was not the most entertaining thing I’ve done in Dota. I didn’t feel the love that I always had for the game. I didn’t enjoy the game as much from this position so that’s why I went on switching back to carry.
Coming to Chicken Fighters there was an opportunity for me in position 4 and this is also something I wanted to try. Besides, being in the scene for a long time, I always felt that it’s been difficult to find players for this position. Players that are hardworking, talented, good, solid, like everything that you need from a support. I always enjoyed playing Rubick, Tiny, Earth Spirit and I felt that it will be a natural transition for me to go for it and the thing is I really enjoy it and that’s why I am still playing it now.
I never saw you playing offlane. What is it with the offlane that you don’t like?
I actually don’t know exactly why I’ve never played offlane. If I look at the classic heroes for offlane, the Darkseer, the Batrider, Centaur Warrrunner, I can’t say that they are boring heroes or anything like that, but they just don’t attract me. Offlane doesn’t feel like a natural switch for me.
There are actually a lot of players with a solid career behind them that made the transition from core to support. To take a few examples: Fear, Mushi, Misery, and I actually noticed only in the OMEGA League EU qualifiers that G (God) has also switched to support. From the outside, for some it might look like the older you get, you might feel the need to take less demanding roles. However, all these players have also become captains of their teams, and I believe you had this role with TFT as well. So, here’s my question: do you think that all the experience gathered through so many years of competitive play in a core position helps you become a great captain?
I think it’s a combination of things and definitely the experience part plays a big role. Having a player in your team that’s been around for a decade gives you the person that you look at for answers, but I also think that this can be fulfilled from any position. For the captain role specifically, I think you just have to feel yourself up for it. You have to believe in yourself, to be overconfident in yourself and obviously, it’s a plus if the team believes in you as well. But I don’t think it’s just something that comes to you if you practice it, like you would practice to become a good mid lane player and eventually you become the best at your role.
The captain role for me is actually two things: the ability to talk to your players outside the game, but also to make the in game calls. He is the one that gives you the guideline, the blueprint that all the other players should try to match with the decision making of their own
Dota PIT wasn’t exactly successful for NiP. It was the first tournament on the 7.27c patch. Do you feel like you guys got a better hold on the meta now, compared to when you played at Dota PIT?
First of all, a huge thank you to Cr1t for standing in. It’s always very nice to have him around, he is extremely talented and you have so much to learn from him. So, having Andreas partake as a stand-in was a pleasure, but the main problem was not having a stand in, it was me switching to position 5 for that tournament.
Dota PIT is a really good example of how a good idea, in theory, can turn really bad when you put in practice. I had not played 5 in a long time and laning nowadays is way trickier than it used to be. You have to be really prepared in terms of match-ups and synergy and pulls and whatnot. I didn’t play the laning so well and when it came to the patch and drafting and strategies, I have to admit that I was the one drafting and I had the complete wrong read on the patch. So, from there to now, I for sure would like to say that we have a way better read on the entire situation.
Fingers crossed that IceFrog doesn’t feel like he saw something wrong with the heroes and the economy during these OMEGA League qualifiers and he drops a patch just before the Immortal division starts.
Yeah, please knock on wood.
The drafting stage was changed in 7.27 How has the ban change from 4-1-1 to 2-3-2 affected the gameplay?
This was actually the hardest thing for me to cope with since I was the one drafting at Dota PIT. It was just very tricky for me to understand the first phase, actually. The dynamic is so different from when you used to have the second pick revealing two heroes after the first pick drafts one hero.
Now it’s 1-1-1-1, you know. The two bans I kind of like in the start going into three afterwards. It allows everyone to start of a base of a strategy in the first phase so you can get any good combination, the heroes that you like as a team and when the enemy gets to pick on what you are trying to do, they can alter your vision for the game, or protect something that they want to have. So, I really like that change. However, it’s the first phase that kind of bugs me and I’m yet to fully understand how to utilize it or which pick I like more. Do I like the second pick more, because of the last pick or do I like the first pick more because of the 15th pick?
For every Dota 2 fan out there, the month of August is synonymous with The International. Unfortunately, we can’t have it this year because of the corona pandemic. So, let’s talk about the event that we look at like the mini TI that we can have, OMEGA League. What does this tournament mean for everyone involved, besides that’s an online event with top tier teams fighting for a nice amount of money?
picture credits: WePlay! Esports
For me personally, this is a big step in the right direction, where we will have to change something. In my opinion, the problem has always been that The International, as great as it is, has also been the problem in balancing the structure of the competitive scene.
TI just has too much value in comparison with any other tournaments. We tried to solve that with the DPC system where you had to qualify for it through points, but at the same time, the DPC system with the TI involved made it so that third party tournaments were close to nonexistent. The online leagues disappeared entirely, like when I started playing in Fnatic, joinDota hosted an event monthly. The Defense, for example, was an awesome tournament, an awesome setting that sort of gives you a lot of diversity. It wasn’t a LAN every month, a qualifier every month. It got too hectic with the DPC system, it was just too much. You play a qualifier for this Major, you win the qualifier, go to the LAN, you come back and have a week or two at tops and you are back at it again, qualifiers, LAN, etc. I think this kind of system is slowly suffocating the scene.
The OMEGA League introduces a system that can be used like an in-between idea. Obviously, the OMEGA League has a lot of more attractive things to it, like you said yourself; the top teams, and a good chunk of prize money, but even the prize will be lower, the format with multiple divisions, all with their own prize pool and the possibility to advance to higher ranks will help the scene. Getting the tier two teams involved, getting a broader view of the entire competitive structure I think it’s extremely healthy.
picture credits: WePlay! Esports
Is OMEGA League also a sample of what you guys, the professional players, hope the Regional Leagues to be?
Most definitely. If it can work like this, I think we are going to look at a very different structure going up into TI in the future and it will be very interesting to see how it pans out.
I saw some players saying that they lost motivation though these last few months, and some saying that these online tournaments brought back some nice memories. How was it for you and how do you feel knowing that in the near future there will be more online leagues, perhaps even the Valve Regional Leagues scheduled for October will start as planned?
For me, all this online format brought a bit of nostalgia, since it was a part of my beginning as well. When I came to Dota 2 I grinded through the smallest online leagues or every single weekly tournament we could get into just to have the practice.
It feels good to have them back, I must say, but yes, at the same time it feels bad knowing that you won’t have any LAN soon. In the end, the spirit of professional esports is LANs. That’s where we express ourselves the most, that’s where everything comes together. LANs are where you see the best plays, the best crowds, the nicest commentators and analysts. You come to that LAN place and your entire mindset changes, you are there for one thing only: to compete, to give your best.
The problem with competing from home is that you are surrounded with possible distractions. It can be harder to get into this killer mindset from home. When you are at LAN it comes automatically.
Well, we reached the end of our interview. I’m not going to ask for any predictions for OMEGA League because I’m sure with this being an event put together by a collation of teams, and an event you want to feel like it’s the mini TI of 2020, you all want to bring your best game. So, I wish you guys good luck, I’m looking forward to seeing who is your fifth and I hope we will all see each other at a LAN when it will be safe.
Thank you for having me. And I would take this opportunity to give a shout out to all the people who have been following and supporting me from the start. It’s been a long journey with some bumps in the roads, but I’m still trying my hardest and I won’t give in until my ambition is fulfilled. So, thank you all!