I had the chance to have a chill Discord conversation with Lizzard – about his history in esports, his experience as a pro player and caster and his thoughts on the patch and current meta.
This is the second part of our "A conversation with" series, the first being with Dendi.
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Some interesting points (full transcript below):
Alright. Tell me about yourself. I read that you started with Warcraft 3. How did you get into it?
Oh yeah. I have an older brother, so he started with Starcraft and I could never beat him at it. Then when Warcraft 3 came around, I was like “this dude had me in Starcraft. I’m gonna win in Warcraft no matter what”. So I practiced a lot. I would wake up before school at 4 AM just to play it, or I wouldn’t sleep.
I was pretty alright, I won some tournaments. I competed in some European tournaments as well, some EU championships. ESWC, stuff like that.
I really loved the game. I still love it. I love it more than Dota, haha.
Yeah, well… It has its ups and downs. I think it has its positives and negatives, the fact that you are playing it alone makes it a bit more fun as you have no one else to blame, right? But at the same time, that’s the beauty of Dota.
It’s a bit lonely, though.
It is. That’s why Dota is also nice because you have like 4 guys next to you to flame and to be happy with if you win.
Yeah. How long ago was that?
That was a long time ago. I played Warcraft 3 when I was 13 or something, competitively. I was a kid, but I was pretty alright.
So you were basically a pro player if there was a thing like that.
Yeah, I was. I mean – I was winning some tournaments in which you would win some 50 EUR, 100 EUR.
I think that is nothing, but yeah.
Your parents were probably looking forward towards your pro player career?
Haha, no! They were doing everything possible to get me away from playing Warcraft. They would see me playing the whole day when I was 13. Then I would come back with 100 EUR and I would feel like a BOSS. I would buy all my friends chocolate, we’d go out, we’d get some nonalcoholic beverages. Sometimes we would even go ham and buy a beer!
Nice, the thug life. Why did you decide to transition to Dota then?
I stopped playing everything in high school. I didn’t play anything at all.
I don’t know. I only played Warcraft. I wasn’t too into games. When I started university a friend of mine (who obviously hated me) gave me a Dota key and forced me to play it with him. Now he isn’t playing it but I’m still stuck. That’s how I got back into it – basically University, 5 years ago or something. Maybe a bit more.
How did you decide to go pro then?
I didn’t decide that. I just was the possibility of me going pro. I mean – I never really won too many things as a pro, I can’t really say that I achieved a lot. In comparison to WC3, I think it’s very similar how much I’ve achieved in Dota and WC. Only in WC, it wasn’t developed, so you couldn’t really make money out of it.
But what happened is – I played a lot of pubs and I realized that… The thing is – I didn’t even follow the scene. I didn’t even know the pro players, but I would realize that every game that I was playing had over 1k viewers in Dota TV. And I realized that people were adding me all the time. I got to rank 1 and at one point and some pro players started adding me and asking me if I could join their teams. That’s basically when I tried it out.
I really like the competitive aspect of it. I always did. I don’t think it’s that game that matters too much. I just wanted to compete a lot back then.
So, what did your parents think about it this time around?
Well, at first they kind of hate you and they think you’re wasting your life, but I was big enough, so they couldn’t really influence me in any way any longer.
Once I started paying their bills and stuff like that they were like “all right, this isn’t too bad, you can continue doing that”. So…
Yeah, I mean, nowadays it’s a bit easier to convince people that this is a viable career option with the prize pools and everything. Back then, back in WC3 days, it was just – you’re playing for a mousepad, so…
Yeah, pretty much. Playing a tournament all day to win a mouse or 25 EUR, it’s like – whatever…
Well, it’s a bit of an asshole question, I guess, but I’m still going to ask it- why didn’t you make it to the tier 1 scene?
I don’t… honestly, if I knew, maybe I would…
Maybe you’d make it?
Yeah, I mean I’m still playing. I haven’t given up. But if I knew why I didn’t make it I’d go back and fix it right now. I think... I don’t know honestly. I have no clue. Bayed, not good enough… Sometimes in some patches….
I think the bottom line is that I’m sick of losing, that’s it. I’ve played with way too many stacks in which we’d lose let’s say 60% of our games and win 40. That just drains someone. That’s why casting is so nice.
Yeah, it’s more chill.
It’s more chill. You’re on the sidelines, you’re watching the game, and you’re enjoying it. While when you’re playing it can be really rough and at one point I just felt that…
It felt more like I’d rather go out and dig some holes or be a construction worker than show up to play Dotes. And when you realize that’s how you feel it’s definitely time to stop.
I still have the fire every now and then, I still have that spark – and I still have that belief that if the right team came in the right situation I could go for it but it takes some luck and a lot of discipline.
Definitely, probably circumstances and luck - getting together with the right people is probably the most important thing to be successful. At least from the people I’ve talked to – it’s very hard to actually find the right people because while you’re not on the tier 1 scene not everybody wants to play with you. Getting 4 other people who are serious and really want to train and want to improve is almost impossible.
It’s really hard. Last year I was with some teams (I’m not gonna name them), but I really burned out. I had a lot of energy, and I had a lot of discipline. I’d show up early, I’d do everything that’s possible for the team, but at the same time you’d see someone dozing off in the middle of practice and it just messes with you.
It’s like that – a little bit of luck and a lot of discipline and skill in finding the proper people. Like everything in life, right?
Sure. Yeah, it’s not just being good in Dota, it’s being good in networking…
Yeah – networking, life overall.
…talking to people, managing people’s emotions. Actually, a hard thing to do.
So, casting, pretty chill – you like it, you talk about Dota.
Yeah, right now I’m just talking about it, enjoying myself, playing and streaming as well but just trying to enjoy the game a bit more.
That’s the bottom line – if I don’t enjoy it, I don’t want to play it.
That’s why I think these youngsters are so good. That’s why I think I was so good at Warcraft when I was a kid as well. You just love the game, and when you love something, you play it no matter what – no matter what the circumstances are.
You don’t even need discipline – you need discipline to stop playing it, you know, you’re just addicted.
True. That’s interesting. So, did you intentionally go into casting?
No, not really. Gareth Bateson from Joindota, a caster, he came to one of my streams and he was talking about his casts, and I told him that I was going to kill him unless he invites me to cast something with him.
I didn’t even know where he was working BTW, I didn’t know that he was in Joindota or anything like that, and then suddenly he invites me. I guess he was afraid or something, I don’t know, haha
I’m kidding, he’s a good friend. He invites me, we cast a bit there, then I was working with Killer Pigeon on that and afterward, I just kept getting invited either by him, Killer Pigeon or someone else.
It was very random, out of the blue. I never planned on casting. Even when they invited me I was like “alright, I’m gonna do this one time and that’s it, I’m not gonna continue, I want to play with teams, I want to compete, you know.”
And then I was like “alright, I can travel, I can cast, I can have fun, and I also like doing this, it could be a possibility for me”.
At least the way I see it makes a lot of sense for you because you’ve always been a very entertaining streamer, right? You’re funny, your skilled, and this kind of skills transition very easily into casting, especially as an analyst.
I’m not surprised that you’re getting a lot of attention on Reddit right now when people can see you on the bigger tournaments. I hope at least (I don’t know if you hope the same thing), but I hope that this is a break for you and you get more opportunities – I want to see you more in tournaments, but I don’t know what your plans are – if you want to continue on this path or continue playing, because it’s hard to do both.
Yeah, definitely is.
Alright, so what do you think about the metagame right now, because I read in your esportsheaven interview that you like all the changes IceFrog is making, everything?
Yeah, I don’t mind. Somethings can be disgusting – if you remember… I remember that patch with Sniper and Troll being broken.
Spin to win?
Yeah, as well. Back then I had a team and we were doing quite well. We basically broke into every premium tournament. Basically every T1 tournament we qualified for – not the LANs, but the closed qualifiers or online events. But we had this idea that we should play our own game no matter what the meta is and we would continue losing 24/7 vs Snipers and vs Trolls, so it wasn’t fun definitely when it lasts long and when you don’t realize that you have to adapt to the meta. But once you realize you have to adapt to the meta those broken heroes can be fun – you just have to prick them and practice them or find a way to deal with them. And finding a way of dealing with them is probably even more fun than picking those broken heroes.
Probably harder as well.
It’s definitely harder because even when you counter them a few times and you play well against them they still win games. Right now you see this Naix – you crush him on the lane, it doesn’t matter. He goes into the jungle, gets Midas – Radiance and suddenly he’s unkillable with Rage. He’s really strong.
OR you see these Wisps – I’ve played Wisp a few times, this hero – honestly, it's very hard to lose with him, no matter what they pick – AAs, Winter Wyverns, Witch Doctors… It doesn’t matter. If you see Wisp Luna you might just as well abandon.
So yeah, there are some downsides in these broken heroes, and it’s a fact that they can ruin your pub experience, but in pro games it’s different. They are going to be banned out, people are going to build against that, people are going to think about the meta that they have to adapt in order to deal with those heroes – maybe even the lane compositions are going to change, so… There is a lot of crazy stuff happening once you bring some chaos into the game.
I think that probably the most fun I ever had in Dota was when I started playing in WC3 days – Dota 1, 5.84c or something like that. It was really fun because I was discovering the broken things, the new strategies, and I think that with every big patch IceFrog is bringing a little bit of that feeling back. Like – let’s see what’s new, what works better right now, and that’s a very important feeling to keep the game fresh.
Of course. I couldn’t agree with you more – I think you put everything I wanted to say in a much more eloquent way.
Haha, I guess that if it lasts for too long, then it’s not that good…
Then it’s still stale. The problem is that it’s like in WoW. Some new dungeon comes out, people go and kill themselves in it for a week, and then everyone realizes how they were supposed to be doing that dungeon and everyone beats it – those 25 man raids or whatever they are.
It’s kind of similar here - you play the new patch for a week or 10 days and you realize what’s broken and everyone starts spamming those broken heroes and it becomes stale again. Then these small little nerfs happen to get these heroes out – which is, I think, very nice. I like the way they are doing things.
What about the deny changes right now? I don’t know if you read or heard but Kyle criticized the deny mechanics a lot.
It’s Kyle, he just wants to talk shit, it’s whatever…
Nah, I believe he has a point there. He definitely does. It’s not only the person denying is taking advantage in the lane – it’s the fact that you have these heroes that aren’t able to go to the jungle and recover. I don’t think it’s only the denying like he says. Actually, I just read the title…
He basically said that because you get a little bit of gold and XP AND you deny some XP to your opponent, basically if you’re a T1 team and you’re mechanically better than your opponents than you pretty much can guarantee that you win the lanes. And if you win the lanes – it’s easier then to secure the game. You basically win the lanes and hit some push timing and win a 30-minute game.
It’s like a formula that’s working really well for most teams so they are not that creative because of it. And he thinks, I guess, that if denying changes – it would be harder to win the lanes, so people would be able to be more created and to outsmart their opponents.
I agree with that, I agree. However, if we just left it this way for a while more I think people would start adapting. It’s like always – whatever is broken, whatever is impossible to deal with – people start adapting to it and they become better as teams.
However, I have to agree that it’s very hard for T2 T3 teams to win against T1 teams. It’s also the banning phase – you have more bans than you had before. You just ban out all the niche picks, the broken heroes, and then these T2-T3 teams can’t really rely on those. And it doesn’t even have to be Meepos, Arc Wardens, Brood Mothers, you just have to ban out the heroes that team is specifically good with.
The thing about these T2, T3 players most of the time is that they have a few heroes that they are really good with and they could even compete on T1 scene with, and they have a bunch of heroes on which they are not good enough with – they are alright, but not good enough. They are going to get out-played. So if you just ban out those heroes from their cores, suddenly the game is much easier.
And every pro team has started banning out most picked heroes from even T2 and T3 teams – no one is risking anything. No one wants to risk losing from to a Meepo or something like that. Even if they are tier 3 and you don’t recognize a single nickname on their roster you’re still going to ban-out a Meepo if you saw them play it.
Yeah, I guess it’s not that hard to make some research – just check their Dotabuff profile.
Just Dotabuff is usually the way to go I think.
Makes sense. Well, the counter-argument is that this year a “tier 2 team” won TI, unexpectedly. Everyone was thinking that they are not T1 now.
One can argue that not the best team has won the last TI, but at the same time, it happens. And OG did play well and yeah…
I don’t know, maybe even if they ban out the things that they play there is a way to play around it, IDK.
But no, they didn’t. First and foremost – they didn’t ban out, if you watch the games that OG played.
Topson, I used to play against him actually a year ago (before TI, right around this time), we used to play each other a lot. And he would win versus my team quite often (he was playing with Illidan’s stack), and we didn’t really see him going T1. He was good, but we didn’t see him going T1 and when he did we knew his heroes. Everyone in the T2/3 scene knew exactly what he played. We knew his full hero roster – it was three-four heroes, he never played anything else versus us, so we assumed that he doesn’t play other heroes.
At the same time when it came to TI people weren’t really banning every single one of them, because you couldn’t, right? And if you ban all of Topson’s heroes, Ana is going to take over and smash you.
Yeah, I think probably teams were more afraid of Ana than from Topson, so they were putting more focus on his heroes – the late game heroes especially, because OG was coming back a lot.
Three bans are quite a lot, but they are not enough for 5 players.
That’s true, that’s true. Unless you’re playing against Bulldog, then you just ban out his whole hero pool in the first phase and then you do whatever.
And then you’re playing against 4 players.
Teams did do that to him, right, they would focus all their bans on Bulldog.
Yeah, I actually talked to Puppey back in the day when we were working together. I think it was around TI4 and he said that everybody was banning Bulldog’s heroes because they knew he was playing three or even two heroes really well and that you need to remove them. But, I think that he said that they figured out on the grand finals (of TI3) that the key on beating them was focusing on Naga Siran on EGM and leaving Bulldog to do his thing.
That sounds like a, not the best idea – leaving Bulldog to do whatever, but alright. I don’t know how that worked out for him.
Well, they lost obviously the GF, but I think they did quite a lot better than the first time they met in the upper bracket. I think in the UB they lost 2-0, and in the Grand Finals it was really close, so there was some merit to this plan. Who knows.
So, do you want to see some specific changes?
Small nerfs to Io perhaps, so he isn’t completely overpowered as he is right now. I think that’s what is definitely necessary – besides that, I don’t know.
Everything else is fine and fun, I think. It’s still very early in the patch – it came out two weeks ago, people should chill out a little bit, play it a little bit before calling for unnecessary changes.
I saw you playing core BH a little bit on your stream. Not very successfully I should add.
It depends, it depends. The first day I played him I won 3 or 4-0, I won all the games. The next two or three days I played him I was dog shit- I lost every time.
I think I lose inspiration to play the hero, or it becomes boring, but I still force myself because it’s the most fun hero for me at the moment.
But the hero is really strong. The fact that I was losing doesn’t matter – I could lose with Wisp as well. Bounty is really alright. As a core, that hero could do so much.
First and foremost – you play that lane versus pubbers. So you’re going to tilt that carry. You tilt the carry – he’s losing 12 gold, 20 gold – he’s flaming his supports, “hit this guy before he takes my gold”. He’s mad and that’s the most important aspect of it. And afterward you just hunt the supports and kill them, so the hero is pretty strong.
Sounds like a good plan. Na’Vi actually played him as a position 1.
As a carry, right. Yeah, you can. As long as you play him as core. I think that a few patches ago you could really tell by the way he was being changed that he is going to become a core. IceFrog was buffing and changing him patch by patch in a way that was giving this away so it was just a matter of time.
And playing him as a carry or offlane – it doesn’t matter, honestly. I think he could be a good carry too in the right game. The problem is you still have to get that very early BKB or some mobility item because you are fairly squishy until you get that 350 HP talent.
Yeah, and they played him with Medusa mid, I think, so they had the late game secured so to say, which is cool.
Definitely, the patch is new, interesting things are going to come out, probably, we’ll see.
What tournament are you casting next? Next week, I think?
Yeah, I’m going to Berlin in two days, actually, to cast ESL Katowice, with Gareth actually. We’re doing it from the studio, so we’re not where the tournament is, but it should be fun still.
But you’re casting not the qualifiers, but the actual tournament? Are the teams going to be there?
No-no, we’re offsite commentators.
No, I mean the teams who are playing if they are going to be in Katowice?
Oh yeah, I think so, of course.
I see, alright. Should be interesting.
Well, alright man. I don’t want to keep you for longer.
From having my breakfast, I just woke up, into an interview.
…with a hangover.
Haha, I don’t have hangovers. There you go – you found out something about me unless I’m drinking in Ukraine or Russia. Then I have hangovers.
Alright. Thank you a lot for doing this, I think it was an interesting conversation.
I wish you everything good – in casting, in playing, and it’s going to be interesting to follow your career one way or another.
Thank you very much!
Thank you a lot, man, bye-bye!