Jaron ‘monkeys-forever’ Clinton is a veteran of the North American Dota 2 scene. His current team, Simply TOOBASED, achieved promotion to the upper division of the NA DPC Leagues by winning their first six series in the lower division. VPEsports caught up with him to talk about the team, the current Dota 2 meta, the DPC Leagues and the state of the NA Dota 2 scene, amongst other things.
The first six questions were done before Simply TOOBASED’s series against Felt, so the questions and responses don’t align with the current DPC League table.
Hello Jaron! How’s it going? How are conditions in Pennsylvania?
Things are going pretty well. It’s been snowing a lot lately, so I haven’t really been leaving the house too much, but I didn’t do that much anyways because of the pandemic. Just got two new Corgi puppies though, so I’ve been keeping busy with them and Dota!
Tingo & the pups playing in the snow. They're quite adorable I've gotta say pic.twitter.com/QB0YhVfrCK— Jaron Clinton (@MonkeysDota) February 2, 2021
Let’s jump right into the Dota 2! SimplyTOOBASED have been dominating the NA lower Division. Are you guys feeling confident you can make it up, especially now that you’re leading 5-0?
Absolutely! We were actually pretty confident going into the season that we’d be able to win the lower division, and I’m glad that we have been able to put up the results so far. We still need to win at least one more match, but we’ve been scrimming six days a week and have been working on a lot of different things, so the confidence is certainly there.
When you saw the lower division lineup, did you expect to be this dominant?
Yeah, we were. I actually qualified to a Minor with Boris and iAnnihilate previously, and I’ve been to two Majors with Zfreek, so the synergy was always there. But we’re all just having a good time playing some Dotes together, there is a lot of laughing between matches (and sometimes even in matches), so it is a pretty good team environment.
Was the five of you teaming up a last minute thing or had you been talking about it for a while? How is the chemistry within the team? Does one person make the calls or does everyone chime in?
After I got kicked from 4Zoomers, I was talking with Zfreek quite a bit about Dota and life because we’ve always been really good friends. He was planning on going to Europe with an EU team initially for this DPC season. But things fell through there so we kind of went for it and built a roster together with some experienced players, which didn’t really work out. After the first two open qualifiers for the upper division, Boris or iAnnihilate messaged Zfreek about teaming up and we ended up going with them. The team atmosphere as I mentioned before is pretty relaxed. Half of the time when I join Discord, someone is streaming the top 10 delicious food stands in the world or something like that and we end up watching people eating burritos for like five minutes! In game, whoever is feeling strong makes the calls. For the early game, a lot of the calls come from me, Zfreek and EmpyreaN, but as the game goes on iAnnihilate and Boris make a lot more calls with their power spikes.
Coming to the meta that is developing around patch 7.28 – how do you like it?
7.28 is a fun patch. A lot of zoo heroes came back in this patch and I’m a zoo lover, so I can’t really complain! This patch definitely felt a lot fresher for me, considering how long Dota 2 kind of went without any big changes, and I found a lot of motivation again with all of the new Aghanim’s Shards and other in game things to test out. That’s part of what I’ve loved about Dota for the 17 years I’ve played it – it’s an ever-evolving game and things are always getting changed. So when a meta lasts for 9-10 months, I start to get really antsy for the next big change, which this patch definitely brought.
Have you grown to love Aghanim’s Shards? Favorite Shard in the game?
The Aghanim’s Shards are definitely a cool addition. They’ve added a huge power spike for a lot of heroes around 20 minutes, and situational versatility for the rest of the heroes as the game gets to a later stage. There are a ton of cool interactions and ideas around the Aghs Shards that are yet to be explored, so I’m incredibly excited for when LANs finally start happening again and we can see the different regions clash. My favorite shard in the game has got to be the Nature’s Prophet shard, it is just WAY too good to pass up and I am fairly confident in being able to solo carry the game if my team can get to 20 minutes in a decent position!
Yes, the NP and Earthshaker Shards are a bit broken. Are you itching to play some Batrider in pro games after having it constantly banned out?
I’m always happy to play Batrider, don’t get me wrong. But Batrider as a hero is much better in the mid lane at the moment, so I’m not entirely sure how much I’ll be playing the hero.
How does the offlane feel right now? Good times as a position 3?
Offlane has felt good in various ways pretty much since I switched to it four years ago. But as I said before, this is definitely a zoo meta, which makes offlane a pretty good spot right now.
Gotta love the zoo (not really). Do you guys scrim against other division 2 teams or do you also practice with division 1 teams? What about teams from other regions?
We’ve been scrimming a decent amount of upper division teams actually, as well as South American division 2 teams. We haven’t been scrimming as many North American lower division teams because we didn’t want to reveal any strats to make sure we made it to upper division next season.
This is the first time Valve has deployed the league system for DPC. How do you like it on the whole?
I think the DPC league system has a lot of positives, especially for the tier 2 and tier 3 scene in each region. The leagues have definitely helped saturate each scene and give a lot of newer players exposure that they wouldn’t have been able to get previously. But at the same time, the tier 1 and tier 1.5 teams took a huge hit, which feels silly. It always seems that with every good thing Valve does with one aspect, they unnecessarily punish the other aspects of the scene. For example, the bottom eight teams at each Major get zero extra prize money (no prize money on top of the DPC League money). So if you aren’t amongst the top eight teams in the world, your reward for qualifying to a major is just a LAN experience. Considering there was 40 million dollars raised by this amazing community last year which kind of disappeared, it’s pretty insane to me that eight high caliber teams are not going to be rewarded at all for their efforts in the scene.
That is quite weird, not doubt, along with the fact that bottom two teams from the lower division get no prize money. Do you think this system can help tier 2 and tier 3 teams get better and make it to the top? Is it the current system good enough for them to sustain themselves?
Like I said, I think this system definitely enables new and younger players to focus more on Dota 2 and motivates them to try to improve, and make a name for themselves to possibly get scouted by bigger teams. By no means is it a perfect system, and I still would like to see a lot more changes/improvement from Valve, but I love that they are finally trying to grow each scene. I have seen a lot more motivation in NA with the advent of the DPC Leagues. Players have been trying a lot harder in the last few weeks, and it’s just good to see.
What changes would you like to see for next season or next year?
I’m not going to pretend to have all of the answers. I’m sure there are plenty of behind-the-scenes things going on that I’m not aware of. But personally, I’d love to see a prize pool cap on TI, maybe around $25-30 million dollars. That is still such an egregiously large prize pool, that the top teams will still play their hearts out and focus on it entirely, and Valve could use the remaining $10-15 million to fund the bottom eight major teams actually getting a monetary reward for being a top 16 team in the world, or to help put on the old Valve majors that had 3 million dollar prize pools, which were basically like mini-TIs. I know those Majors had their issues as well, but I definitely think that Dota being so TI-focused is quite literally killing the competitive scene, slowly but surely. It’s sad to watch. I’ve seen this topic discussed countless times, but unfortunately, it never seems to get much of a reaction out of Valve.
You have been a longstanding name in the NA Dota 2 scene. Do you think the region has been getting better? What does NA need to matchup against EU and China?
NA was definitely at an all-time low before the DPC leagues started. There were only had three or four big NA teams with recognizable names competing consistently, and past that, you just didn’t really hear anything from the region. But the DPC Leagues are pushing players to work harder and perform better. I would say a continuation of actually getting support for the tier 2 and tier 3 scene is exactly what NA needs to actually start being competitive again. If you ask me, the main reason why NA became so non-existent is because there were no new players entering the scene or getting recognized. You could attribute that to various things, but one of the main reasons was it just was financial suicide to try and compete in this region without an organization behind you. You would have to beat Evil Geniuses or Quincy Crew (or Cr4zy and Complexity Gaming in the past) to ever make it to a LAN and actually be in contention for prize money. Those have never been easy feats, especially when NA players would have to have a full time job in addition to trying to compete. Anyways, I do think the region is on the correct path towards improving and just needs some time.
Hopefully, we see the NA glory days not too far in the future. What is the story behind the name ‘monekys-forever’? Is it because you love rock climbing?
Haha, I get asked this one a lot. To the best of my memory, it stemmed from my mom calling me her little monkey when I was young, and my brothers WC3battle.net name was snowboarding-4ever, or something along those lines. so I combined those two things into monkeys-forever.
What do you love to do when you’re not playing Dota 2?
When I’m not playing Dota 2, I’m mostly either watching Dota 2, doing some sort of physical activity like rock climbing or running, or I’m hanging out with friends (I do this less nowadays considering the pandemic, but I still have my friend bubble that I see semi-consistently).
Thanks you so much for your time! Any shoutouts?
Shoutout to my team and fans. I truly appreciate all of the support over the years. Without all of you, I certainly would not be in the position that I am!