Alliance came to the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor with a clear objective in mind, secure a slot to the EPICENTER Major. They were dominant through the group stage and reached the Minor grand finals by defeating their season rivals, Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Our special reporter at the last Minor of the season, Taras Bortnik was able to talk to Jonathan “Loda” Berg, the mastermind behind the Alliance. The interview was conducted right after his team’s victory in the upper bracket finals and touches a few subjects regarding his long road with the young squad that he put together one year ago.
Congrats on the win, you seem calm now, were you expecting the boys to make it to the grand finals from the upper bracket?
Thanks, I look calm but inside I’m nervous, excited, there’s so many feelings I have right now. It’s awesome. I managed to find a way to stay calm, to stay relaxed, no matter the circumstances. If we win it’s obviously good, if we lose it just means that there is still room to improve. But yeah, right now I am super happy, because this grand finals slot is coming with EPICENTER tickets and that means that we can still make it to TI9 via DPC points. It means so much for our team.
After your first day in the group stages, I spoke with iNSaiNIA and he said that the communication wasn’t on point and that you were going to fix it. You had two days off, what else have you worked on?
First, as you’ve just said, we worked on our communication and coordination. But in these two days that we had off we also kind of played around with the drafts. We tried some new staff, things that didn’t really work out. So we kind of fell back on other ways to play. But yeah, we focused on our coordination, because when two teams are equal in skill, the one who coordinates and executes better will win. The drafts of the upper bracket finals versus NiP were quite even for at least two of the games and it came down to who executed better. Honestly, we were able to push the ball to in their side of the field and put pressure on them. We really don’t like when NiP get to decide how to play the game, because they are doing it extremely well.
After the first game of the series which you lost, what have you told to your players?
We didn’t really think that the draft was that good, it was also something we tried out. We practiced something similar but we weren’t sure about Io. And more than anything I just reminded them what we talked before the series: “don’t think too much about this game, we just picked Io and it didn’t work out, the hero is garbage.”
So Io is garbage now because of the 7.22 nerf?
I think so. I think that the nail in the coffin for Io was the removal of the XP talent. It’s so important to get levels on Io. I am not sure if the hero is really dead now, but for sure, it’s way harder to make him viable now.
You have already secured a spot at the EPICENTER Major 2019, so should we expect a bit more fun, unusual grand final here?
It’s still a lot of money on the line, but I wouldn’t be surprised if even Pudge would be drafted. The hero is not that bad.
Let’s talk about you and your role with the team. How did your coaching approach change over time?
My coach approach at the beginning and now is quite similar, but I think that for a while I was too affected by things. I’m not saying that you have to always be happy as a coach, but now I’m trying to always have a positive attitude and I’ve set goals very far ahead. I feel like for a while I let others influence me with things like “you need to win this,” “you need to reach the Major,” etc. So, at some point I said “f**k all of you, you don’t understand how it is to play on a team and what you should do to constantly improve as a team.”
It’s not healthy to put pressure on a team with players at the beginning of their Dota 2 career. It’s useless to pressure them. I’d say that my job as a coach was more about being strict, making sure we follow a schedule if you want, and I tried to teach them to handle things by themselves. I don’t want to be the guy on who they should rely 100% all the time. I want them to decide the picks between themselves. I have my own ideas about the draft, of course, but I’m just showing them a direction, but at the end of the day, my personal goal is to see them standing on their own feet. That’s what is all about.
When you put this team together you had a long-term goal, but now, obviously, you must have a short-term goal, TI9. Do you feel that the players are ready to play at the highest levels, to play against the likes of Team Secret, PSG.LGD, Virtus.pro?
Well, it’s not like I expect us to go and destroy everybody, but I’m sure we are ready to show what we can do. I mean, we had a lot of issues playing with stand-in here and there, unable to practice properly, but now feel ready, yes. Everyone on the team is hungry to prove themselves and now we got to the point where we no longer fear the names of other teams.
Final question of our interview, as a master of “rat Dota,” do you think that this kind of strategy has a place in the current meta?
I think that “rat Dota” isn’t only about split-pushing. It’s also about making the enemy split apart. A lot of staff in Dota is about grouping up and take objectives and make cohesive decisions. But if you are pressuring the opponents on different lanes you can split them and take them down one by one.
Thanks for your time and best of luck in Moscow at the Major!