The new format of Dota Pro Circuit is finally giving a chance to the lower tier teams to make a living out of the game they dedicate so much of their time to. While some might be now at their first big competitive experience, for others, this first season of Dota Pro Circuit Leagues is the chance to show their potential after years of grinding through hundreds of open qualifiers.
Most of the No Bounty Hunter players have been around for a long time, but like many other of their competitors from the European region, they always struggled to make a break out from the lower tier scene. Three of them have been fighting in the Romanian pro and amateur scene for more than five years, the other two have always dreamed of getting to play alongside their Greek idols from Ad Finem. The fate hasn’t smiled upon them until now when the DPC has a dedicated Lower Division where they have a chance to actually fight for a spot into the Upper Division, where they will be able to play against the best teams.
No Bounty Hunter sit on the fourth spot in the EU lower Division at the end of three weeks of series in the DPC round-robin format. The next three series are crucial for them as they will make the difference between promotion or not.
Ahead of their first match of week four, we had the chance to sit and talk with Ionuț Radu “BliNcc” Muşat from whom we were curious to learn more about his teammates, how and when they met, and what plans they have now that the competitive system has changed, hopefully for the better.
Hi BliNcc and thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to us. You are at the first DPC experience ever and I think this is actually also the first time the No Bounty Hunter team enters a Valve sponsored tournament, so I’d like to start our interview by rewinding to the starting point of your career.
When did you start to play Dota and how did you discover the game?
My favorite game as a child was Warcraft III and I’m not exactly sure what year it was, 2006 – 2007, around that time, when I discovered the custom maps. To be honest, it took me some time to discover those, like one or two years. This is how I stumbled upon DotA. I wasn’t good at it at all. I was really bad, in fact, but I liked it a lot. I was still busy with the school back then, so I was playing just casually.
When did you get your Dota 2 key?
I think it was in the Spring of 2012.
That’s almost a decade now. For the people who might discover you just now, lets’ walk through the steps you made towards a professional career. I know that over the last several years you’ve been pretty active in the Romanian scene, you tried to form different national teams, you played on a lot of stacks, but how long did it take for you to make a full commitment and reach the point where you are now?
Long story short: It took me a long, long time! To begin with, when I started to play Dota 2, I was still very bad at the game. When the Ranked Matchmaking came out, I calibrated at around 3K, for you to get an idea of where I was in terms of skill. The problem was that I liked the game way too much to get demoralized by a low MMR calibration, so I put in the hours to improve myself.
I played a lot, with a lot of people, but I haven’t made fast progress. To make the step from a casual to an amateur and then to a semi-pro player or to whatever you want to call us, “No Bounty Hunter,” right now, you have first to reach a high MMR. The MMR grind you do it mostly solo, then you have to find a group of people to develop with, to grow together. The idea is to improve your skill, game knowledge, to grow as a person, and ideally to grow as a group. At least, this is how I see it. It is extremely hard to understand this game in-depth all by yourself. Even to the present day, I think there are very few people who understand and know this game in every tiny aspect.
Speaking about the fact that in order to succeed in Dota 2, you need to have a bit more than just individual skill, and because I know for a fact that the Romanian scene actually has more than several talented players, why don’t we ever see a successful attempt at creating a full national team?
I think it’s a mix of factors. First and foremost, we Romanians have a pretty strong ego and it’s very easy to step on someone’s toes when it comes to shot-calling or captaining a team. We lack discipline, we don’t know how to trust the person right next to us, and so on. Another issue is that right now I think we have way fewer skilled players in the Romanian scene than we had back in the XPC days, around 2013 or so.
You haven’t played in any WESG or IESF tournament, right?
Unfortunately, no, I have not. I wasn’t on the best terms with the people who were building the teams for WESG.
As far as I know, you, kAAN, and Flash have been playing together for a while now. For how long exactly?
Yes, we three have been playing together since TeamMoriarty, that’s around 2015-2016 I’d say. It wasn’t something super serious back then. We were just enjoying playing together, we were just starting to know each other. I think we started to play more seriously right after the last season of Romanian Dota Pro League.
We were just a stack of no namers playing in the weekly ESL challenges. Those events don’t exist anymore but, I feel that they were a very good indicator of your progress as a group. I think we played in those weekly tournaments for months without winning any kind of prize, but we felt the progress we were making. With time, we started to improve, we started to enter the ESL Monthly circuit and it was super nice to see the real progress.
Alright so in all local events and in the ESL weekly cups you played mostly on Romanian stacks, so let me ask you how did you find ntakii and dEsire?
We know ntakii since those weekly ESL events. A funny story from those times is that we, the Romanian stack, were constantly beating his team and we actually started to talk more with him after one day, he wrote to us in all chat “you guys can only win with stuns.” Once we talked more with him, we liked him a lot. He is a very, very nice person with a lot of positive energy, so we began to take him with us to various low tier events.
With dEsire it’s a bit of a different story. When we started to play with him, I think absolutely everyone had him muted in-game and he also had all of us muted. He isn’t the most friendly person at first, but he is very skilled and once you get to know him, he is actually a nice person.
I think we played with him for the first time a year or two ago in various qualifiers. He always wanted to play with his Greek boys from Ad Finem, but he’s never been fully focused on Dota 2 because he is a professional football player. So, he is somehow stuck between these two.
No Bounty Hunter roster:
- Radu Ionut “BliNcc” Musat
- Heisu Daniel “kAAN” Andrei
- Angel Florin “Flash” Niamtu
- Angelos “Ntakii” Tikai
- Sakis “dEsire” Kartsampas
Coach: Cristian “ppasarel” Bănăseanu
Manager: Alexandru “Danudaia” Biro
There are a lot of players in the tier 2, tier 3 scene who are stuck between a full-time job and their desire of making a professional career in Dota 2. Most likely, this happens because until now the tier two scene has been so ignored and neglected by Valve. Hopefully, the new DPC format is here to change that.
Do you see it that way, are you already daring to think that you can make a living out of Dota for real?
I, personally, just finished my university studies, I have a job right now, and everyone in our team is in the same situation, having a commitment elsewhere for a constant income. We all made an effort for this first season of DPC Leagues and some of us managed to negotiate less working hours, some of us even quit their jobs to fully focus on this so, yes, we do see the new competitive format for the Dota Pro Circuit as a real chance at becoming full professional players and we take this opportunity extremely serious. The way the DPC is built right now for the lower tier teams with these Lower Divisions is 100% a step forward and it gives us a lot of hope.
Why is the team named No Bounty Hunter? There are a couple of teams in the Lower Divisions with names such as yours. No Techies, No Pangolier, what’s with the hate for these heroes, what did they do wrong?
Haha, there is no hate for Bounty Hunter. The team tag was created a very long time ago for a fully Romanian roster. If I’m not mistaken, it was the second team after No Tidehunter, with such a name. I wasn’t on the team when the tag was created. Back then, the team had B0ne7, Flash, akiM and two more guys. Anyways, the story goes like this: akiM was playing a lot of Bounty Hunter and he was a good and annoying player on it, so most of the teams were banning the hero when they were playing against akiM and this is how the team tag was created.
Is akiM still active in the Dota 2 scene?
No, unfortunately, he is not playing anymore.
After three weeks in the DPC, you are on the fourth spot in the standings. How confident are you that you can snatch a top-two finish to promote in the Upper Division for the next season?
Well, we think that Hellbear Smashers are by far the strongest team in the Lower Division and they will most likely finish on the top position. I don’t want to sound arrogant or anything like that, but besides them, I think we can beat anyone else in the league and make it into the top two.
How much do you practice in between the DPC series?
Good question. We actually don’t play any scrims. We have zero scrims until now because we knew right from the start we won’t be able to, and we assumed that. That happens mostly because of our daily schedule outside Dota 2.
About two months before the DPC started we played with two Russian players, who are now with Meta4Pro, and the plan was to enter with them in the DPC. However, during those two months, we realized that we might not be able to rectify some problems so we decided to change the line-up and bring in dEsire and ntakii.
When we did this, we knew that dEsire won’t be able to completely free his schedule in such short notice. ntakii was also working full time when he joined and we didn’t know if he could take some time off or not, so we decided that instead of making a scrim schedule and risk not being able to respect it, to have a certain number of pub games played individually each day. We also decided to play in Snow Sweet Snow, where there are almost all the teams from our division, plus some of the teams from the CIS Lower and Upper divisions, and we look at that tournament as an opportunity to have some kind of practice against the teams in DPC..
Other than that, we do a lot of theory crafting and we watch replays, analyse our plays and so on.
Talking about watching replays and doing analyses, I know you have Cristian “ppasarel” Bănăseanu, TI8 OG coach, helping you every now and then. How much impact does he have on your games or how much is he involved?
ppasarel was kind to answer our call and help us every now and then. We go to him every time we encounter a problem that we don’t know exactly how to solve fast, or if we have some issues related to rotations, timings, things like that. He is watching replays with us, he explains to us some things. Because we can’t scrim, the discussions we have with him are super important. After every discussion with him, we try to implement everything he told us and we can see from each series the improvement we make in certain areas. Besides all these, he is a very honest and blunt person and he never cuddles us, which is extremely important and helpful. We are truly grateful for all his work with us.
Given the tier 2 general situation, I imagine you are all free of contract and he is helping you in his spare time, without charging you.
Did you try to get a sponsor, an organization to sign you for this DPC season?
We’ve actually been in talks with some organizations but we couldn’t reach a consensus. We are still looking, but we try to find something that will please and really help everyone on the team. I personally don’t think it’s super bad that we didn’t sign with an organization yet. I think it’s actually better if we prove ourselves first in this season, if we get to the top two and show the sponsors that we are serious and that we are here to stay and deserve to be signed by a team.
You’ve told me that for this season you couldn’t commit to a strict practice schedule and I can’t help but ask you how did you guys adapt to the new patch. There are plenty of new spells and mechanics added to the game through these Aghanim’s Shards, how fast did you learn everything about them and how do you like this shard change?
I like the Shards addition a lot and I find it very beneficial for the game. This game was never made to be easy and every time they add a new mechanic or a new layer of complexity, as they did with these shards, the game only gets better. I’d say it took us a week or two to learn all the new things added to the game and to feel comfortable on the 7.28 patch.
You are playing offlane right now, how do you like the role in the current meta?
I see this role as one of the most active in the game right now. It’s extremely important now to win your lane. The days when you pick whatever is left for the offlane and hope for the best for that lane are long gone and obviously, I’m glad it’s that way. The lane match-up can easily win you or lose you the game now.
Who is the team captain?
Flash is drafting. We trust him 100%, he is a very smart person and he understands the game very well, so we have full faith in him. However, he is more of a quiet person, so he is not our shot-caller. Theoretically, we should have a single person to do all the calls and take the big decisions in-game, but for now, we are passing this responsibility between us. We are not the most well-organised team when it comes to calls, and sometimes it shows in our games, but we are working on that.
How is the communication going with three Romanians and two Greeks on the team?
Surprisingly well. The fact that we played together for so long and that we know each other for a few years now definitely helps. We all speak English and we are all familiar with each other, so we don’t have any issues in that department.
We will wrap up our interview here. Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to us especially because I know you don’t have much free time and I hope next season we get to talk from the Upper Division. If you have any shout-out to make now would be the time to do so.
Thank you for reaching out to us and I’d like to thank everyone who dedicated some of their time to help us. I’d like to say a big thank you to our manager, Danudaia, to our social media guy Eduard, who is taking care of our Twitter account and to give a shout-out to ntakii for his constant streams. Go check it out, guys, twitch.tv/ntakii! Unfortunately, I can’t stream these days, but I’ll let you know when I’ll be back on a streaming schedule!
You can catch No Bounty Hunter in action live, today, February 10 at 21:00 CET/12:00 PST on DreamLeague official Twitch.tv channel as they fight against Creepwave for a top-two finish in the DPC Europe League Lower Division.