Actually I don’t even know what to say. It’s not that I didn’t expect it. Even talking about expecting it is so off track ! I considered that I became a pro when I joined a team that posted results that you could consider notable. I was part of the best french team at the time, we played games in international tournaments, played ESWC the same year. That’s what I consider professional. We were in 2011. With MTW we qualified for TI2. We won the TI qualifier, we won a Dreamhack, we had a couple of good placements in top international tournaments. Honestly, with MTW we had a team that was part of the pro Dota ecosystem. We had a pretty mediocre TI groupstage, we started in lower bracket.
It wasn’t the worst groupstage ever, it’s not like we had 0 wins, we had lots of close games. But we ended up at he bottom of the group and then we lost our 1st playoff game in lower and were eliminated right away. We had reasons to expect better you know, because for the entire year, clearly… For 3 or 4 months even we were the best european team by far. We dominated absolutely everyone, even NaVi. NaVi won TI1 and were on a massive winstreak, I think it was 20 wins, and we beat them in a bo3, in a Lan Finals. Navi was the team to beat and we were the ones to do it. The other teams, we dominated them quite easily and really, during the month before TI everything went downhill. It spiraled for X or Y reasons the way we handled stress for example or even because we practiced too much. Those were youthful mistakes. Unfortunately in esport we didn’t have any guidance/supervision. All that psychological aspect of the game, we had to learn about it ourselves. What happened at TI2 is the first mistakes we experienced that blew our chances in a tournament It was really hard because we expected so much more, we felt like we totally missed our shot at this tournament. We couldn’t play at our top level, even far from that.
MTW didn’t show anything at this TI. After that was TI3. This time we are playing with Quantic Gaming, and once again, same kind of season, we’re a team with strong results, maybe not as dominant as with MTW we didn’t really win tournaments but we were always top 4 or 5, we won a couple of big online tournaments even though we focus on Lan results. We’re part of the big teams of that season. We thought to ourselves, “we can’t do worse than least year” considering we went from groupstage to lower bracket and lost right away. Except that year, there was a wild card match for the teams that ended up 2nd of the qualifiers. Those teams had to face against each other to qualify for the main tournament. We had to face the runner up of the chinese qualfiier. This was do or die, either 2nd seed from china or 2nd seed from europe gets in the tournment. This time we lost the wild card match. We were thinking so hard about what would happen in the actual tournament, studying the team that were already in and everything that was got stopped without even thinking that was a possibility. We thought it would be a formality but it wasn’t a formality at all since they prevented us from playing TI3 It was, after all, even worse than the year before. We learned from the previous year’s mistakes, we were well prepared, but this time it was another type of mistake. As far as TI goes, I ended up going as analyst and commentator two years in a row, at TI4 & 5 because my teams didn’t allow me to qualify. We could have qualified with SIGMA, we had a good season, once again part of the big teams except that we lost two players a couple months before TI. It’s actually quite similar to what happened here for OG I think it was in May, they left the team because… according to them we didn’t practice enough. They wanted to train almost constantly, everyday. Us, we were in an another dynamic at that time. We wanted to enjoy our lives with more freetime and practice hard especially for the big tournaments. Anyhow, we couldn’t reach an agreement within the team and they ended up saying “this isn’t okay for us, so, we’re leaving” We ended up not having a proper team to play the qualifiers so we didn’t play them. By the way when I say we, I mean me & Socks, Titouan Merlioz, who’s the other french player with whom I played the longest. There was Funzii aswell, we were the french trio. In Sigma it was Socks me because funzii had already stopped playing Actually, the rest of the proscene (and people that will build OG) always respected us three. They considered us highly competitive with the Dota scene. Except for us, the results didn’t really show, or at least, less than for other pro teams. I tried another player experience around TI5 where I was picked up by Alliance as their captain. It went pretty well for a couple month and once again, we ended up facing team problems I think I came towards the end of what I could give to Dota. Individually I had to sacrifice a lot. I tried for too many years… not for nothing but clearly not what I hoped. OG contacted me saying that they were looking for a coach and that they respected me immensely. They said that they heard I didn’t want to dive back into a team as a player and thus wanted to give me a shot as Coach. At the moment I said no because I wanted to put distance between me and dota altogether After that, I thought back on the offer and I figured that coaching a team that already had good results – they just won the Frankfurt Major not too long ago- but was struggling would be exciting They had potential and experience to win big tournaments because it happened before. In a way I had an opportunity to put away all the dota problems I had during my career and see if my comprehension of the game and my real level in dota could fare well at the highest level of competition. When I thought about it I told myself, this might be the opportunity you were waiting for to figure out if, Yes or No, I was cut for greatness in dota. Was it inexperience, bad luck, or was I not good enough? When I joined OG, I didn’t fully realize how valuable the experience I gathered throughout the year really was. I was confident in my ability to explain, or even push ideas to others but I didn’t think that everything bad that happened to me, my chaotic path throughout the dota proscene would actually be a strength. I realized it quite fast after I joined, but before, I really didn’t know.
At the moment, I really thought, “this is my shot at testing my own level and see if i’m good enough”. It was quite egocentric of me. Of course, I was a big fan of OG’s playstyle, even though it wasn’t working well at the time, I was sure that if I were to coach a team, OG was the one. It was clear in my head, in my mind but I mainly thought that it was the moment for me to prove myself in Dota. Was passionates me about Dota is not being a player for the sake of playing, it’s more about reaching the highest level possible. I didn’t look at any team back then and thought that it was an unbeatable team, or that we could beat them or not. When I watch Dota I think to myself “this is good but if they did this or that, they would get crushed”. The moment I joined OG as coach we won…. well, all the Majors we participated in. We won Manilla then Boston, then Kiev and after that they changed the Major system. It went perfectly, we were the amongst the best teams, and in 2016-2017 we were the best team in the world without any doubt. That being said, at TI, systematically, we hit a wall. With OG too.
Before TI6, we just won Manilla, we’re clearly the best team or at least, everybody thinks of us as the overwhelming favorites. If we’re not winning TI6, at least we should be top3, for sure. We won the group stage but nobody is surprised by that because, you know, OG topping it’s group is normal. After that, we lost in Upper bracket, lost in Lower Bracket and we went out immediately. We didn’t win a single match on the main stage. It was a huge disappointment for OG. In this case, we were not ready mentally. We entered TI6 as favorites to win and I know from experience that this is a bad position to be in. People consider you favorites but this doesn’t help you really When the game starts, you have to play and this doesn’t help you besides adding pressure. We’re not starting at 10-0, it’s a normal game, 0-0 and you will have to crush them because everybody expects you to. And the other guys, in the other team are great players, they’re not there because of luck. You are facing a great team as well, they’re here to win and they almost have that extra spark which is : “We’re about to beat OG” They weren’t playing the same against us than against any other team. They played their hearts out because we were the team to beat. After TI7, for the first time they changed their invitation system and almost all the team had to qualify for every tournament. Before they used to announce the invites and then start the qualifiers. I remember that the qualifications started about a week and a half after the end of the international and we ended up taking almost no break. The players took a short break anyways, you have to understand that those are the only ones the can take all year, but they showed up to play the qualifiers for the first tournament, a little rusty. They didn’t practice for over a week, they didn’t practice as a team, we went for it quite directly and our results were not good at the first. We had a lot of adjustments to make and the confidence levels within the team started to lower. It created a sort of bad dynamic in which, instead of working gameplay problems, wait for everybody to reach their old level, we ended up fixing trust issues, team communication. It was a downward spiral we didn’t manage to escape from. We we’re not qualifying for anything. Nothing was working anymore. We went through 3-4 difficult months and you have to understand that this season was different. There was tournaments all the time, we were under pressure constantly. There wasn’t 2 weeks in the year where we could work on the issues we had before having to play high stakes games again. It was always qualifiers into tournament into qualifiers. We couldn’t learn anything from that. Our start of the season was really challenging and around January we started playing better but not for long. Our results went downhill again and I think we reached to point of no return for some of our players. They lost their faith in their teammates. We decided to change Resolution.
It was a mutual decision. He left the team and we were okay with it because we didn’t get along gameplay wise. When Resolution left, I moved from Coach to player. Notail especially pushed for me to join as our 5th player.
We knew each other for a long time and he’s convinced that i’m the solution to all that. If I have to coach, I will coach. If we don’t find a suitable replacement for me as coach, I will go back to coaching. If there is a player that can play better than me, I would go back to coaching. If on the other hand, I’m convinced that I have to play to make the team better because I would have a bigger impact playing, I will play.
We talked about it a lot and was convinced that it was the right call for the team that i’d play instead of coaching and that’s what happened. For reference, I always was had the highest ranked amongst the team in ranked. I don’t think it means that much, but at least it proved that I could play on the same level, mechanically.
They used to watch me play, we discussed the game a lot, most of my inputs as coach came from my experience as a player. I really consider that for a coach to understand his players, he has to be able to put himself in their shoes, use the same tools.
That’s one of the aspect of my coaching, it allowed me to understand them and also legitimize my position.
If you are able to explain something to your player by doing it yourself, better, in game, well there’s no discussion. The problems with Resolution came from his game philosophy. With me playing it was clear that we wouldn’t have the same problems. We were on the same page, I coached them for three years, went to tournament. We got along perfectly. But still, there were so many changes within the team, we had no coach and with me playing all the roles in game were modified. Add in the patches and we had to work tremendously to recreate a strong team. But the trust issues, lingering for months, were still there and even getting worse. I think for exemple, that Fly, our captain, and S4 – the two that left afterwards- didn’t think that me playing would be a solution.
They didn’t tell me at the time but I think it played a role in their departure. I think it wasn’t the main reason, I know it wasn’t the main reason but it didn’t help. They might have thought, Seb as a player might help, but this clearly isn’t the solution to our problems. Under those conditions, rebuilding the team was impossible if everyone isn’t fully believing. Actually the bigger problem was the lack of trust between Fly & Notail. Actually, it was unilateral. Fly didn’t believe in Notail as a player anymore. It was there for months. Personally I didn’t agree with that statement at all, so I guess that Notail trusting me didn’t help Fly trusting me. It’s hard to tell but the general atmosphere was quite bad and not trusting. To me this is a sign of weakness. When we lost -and it’s normal- I used to be like this. But i’ve grown since.
When you’re facing defeat, you have two options, accepting it or not. Not accepting it means finding an excuse, a scapegoat.
Accepting defeat means truly seeking why. Some players still believed, others didn’t.
In that case Fly & S4 didn’t believe anymore and when they had the opportunity to leave, they did it without thinking twice. S4 got an opportunity to leave for EG and took it instantly. It was during ESL Birmingham, we didn’t know anything. When Fly learned that S4 was leaving he asked to join alongside him and EG accepted. Fly & S4 left, we are the dawn of the biggest tournament of the year, the supermajor in China et we heard about them leaving at 9PM, less than a day before we had to leave.
This was, I don’t know, maybe 2 weeks before the TI qualifiers. Since we had a player switch during the season, outside the transfer period, we had to go through the open qualifiers. We are 3 out of 5, our captain is gone and…. I mean all our players are key and we lost two of them. 3 out of 5, without our captain. The world crumbled around us.
Instantly it brings me back to SIGMA. Except it’s even worse than SIGM, a thousand times worse. I’m telling myself, this isn’t possible, it’s surrealistic. We didn’t understand.
S4 already, it’s impossible to comprehend but Fly, it’s something else. Fly was the team’s identity. He was here since the beginning, before me. He was the captain throughout the years. I had a pretty strong relationship with him as coach. We worked in a duo for all this time, all the rough patches, we got through them together. I would not have thought…. I mean, it couldn’t be possible. I can’t even imagine what it was for Notail, what he felt, but for me already it was a huge pain. I mean an actual pain, a real life pain.
But on top of that there is also the fact that we are two weeks away from the qualifiers and we had to figure out what to do. We were in shock, we did not see that coming. Yes, we were going through a rough patch but to get to the highest level – and we used to be at that level so we knew all about it- we had to stick together, through the bad results, trust each other. They were there with us they should have known. Maybe we were pushing the team (me & notail & jerax) but that’s not how we felt, we thought the team philosophy was what drove us to success. It was impossible to conceive and yet it happened. We had to shake ourselves up and keep on going, even harder considering the amount of work. A few minutes went by, maybe an hour and Notail, Jerax & I we agreed to not let this take us down. We needed to bounce back. I was so revolted, sad. I thought it was terribly unfair. I stopped thinking about what happened and focused entirely on the international. There was no way that this would be the end. We had to rewrite the end of the story. No way it would end like this. Jerax & Notail traveled to Paris to figure out our next move. Of course we didn’t go to china considering we were three, but I told them to come to Paris because I didn’t want the three of us to sit in our houses alone, one in Denmark, one in Finland because we would have ended up depressed with our dark thoughts, it would not have been good. We needed to be there for each other talk this through and figure out the plan. So they show in Paris for a few days, Redbull actually housed us right away.
We started to rebuild the team, checking out replays. We decided on the players we wanted, Ana & Topson, they accepted and we left for our training center in Berlin. From then we played for 15 days straight, non stop. This was more than training, it was getting to know each other, really start a team spirit. Notail & I, we knew what we wanted to do, where we were going. Fly & S4 leaving ended up a dark segment of our team. The lack of trust, this bad atmosphere that distracted us, it was behind us. Yes it hurt. It’s like we amputated a sick limb but we are better because of it. Yes we have to rebuild everything, we are starting from scratch, even worse but at least we have hope again. I used to play with Topson a bunch because he’s a player that will always play 10 pubs each day. I watched him play so much and I thought that he was a player with a unique style. Players like him always catch my eye because I love Dota. I have a lot of respect for players that have a different approach to the game. Most players play to win but some players play because they believe in the way they play. They won’t play a hero because he’s meta at the moment, they play it because they believe. I watched his stream a lot, his POV, etc. He was an aspiration when I started playing again with OG. So for me Topson was an easy pick, I wanted to give him a chance because I was persuaded that he had an amazing potential but nobody knew how good he was. We told ourselves, as a team, this is going to be extremely hard, we are starting from the bottom but there is no way to go but up. It worked really well instantly. We felt that we a good cohesion, a good dynamic but more importantly, we had fun playing together, which was totally different from before. It was not a job anymore, we finally reconnected with the essence of what we like about that dota, and the especially the highest level of dota. During our training for the qualifiers we didn’t play the teams that would be at TI because they were at the Super Major. Those teams then took a 3 week break before the practice for TI and the tournament itself. The two most intense months of the year. After qualifying for TI and the beginning of practice for it, we started to play those top teams and we ended up realizing that we had a really high level. We dominated some teams, against other it was more difficult. But we felt that our potential was more than dominating the qualifiers. It gave us strength, we worked our asses off, with the same spirit. The International 8 started and we are quite confident. Not confident enough to think that we would win – even though we sure want to – but confident that we were a good team. The group stages started and we played the 4 best teams right away, we knew it would be hard. We started with 1-5 I think, on the first bo2’s. We were 8th place out of 9 in the group. I think it was during the two first days, I can’t remember clearly but it was a hard start. But we knew it would be hard so we regrouped, thought about what went wrong and didn’t lose hope. We stayed focused. We managed to turn things around and we went from 1-5 to 9-7, scoring 8-2 on the last two days and we got to the Upper Bracket. Obviously we are super happy because it was not guaranteed we made it to the Upper bracket with this team that went through hell. We were chosen by the first place finishers of group B. They were a team against which we were confident because we played them in training a lot and it went quite well.
But at the same time, it’s still our first match on stage at The International, it’s a completely different world. For Topson especially, it was his first lan, I mean, maybe he played a couple of lans in Finland but this is his first big tournament, and it’s the International. You can’t get any bigger than that. We we’re not entirely confident, but we played.
During the first game, we realized super quickly that our mental strength that we build in the groupstage was still here. This resilience, this determination didn’t abandon us, and maybe it was even stronger in the high stakes games. The first match was a 2-0 when it could have been difficult. It build our confidence even more. Now, it’s time for OG vs EG. It’s THE game everybody waits for. For us obviously it’s a very peculiar game because it’s Fly & S4.
It’s a scary game. The challenge for us is to forget that it’s this match. They are players from an amazing team, it’s going to be difficult and we’ll give our 100% but it’s not Fly & S4. It’s EG’s captain and EG’s offlaner that’s it. And the rest of EG of course. This match is scary but we really took the time to free ourselves from the pressure of “EG vs OG”
If EG wins then EG wins, it was anticipated, we gave our all to it, no regrets. We really tried and managed to play without pressure. It was a match for the ages. Three games and the last one was incredibly hard, we drowned under their pressure and everybody thinks that it’s over but we are calm, collected. It’s a hard game but we expected it and we managed to claw our way back as we hoped. We won. So now we just beat EG 2-1, we sent them to the losers bracket. We got out of the booth, shook their hands, nothing to say. It’s a moment I will remember all my life. It’s….. there is no need to say anything. This look it means everything, it’s… good in luck in losers. What happened was supposed to happen and we were extremely happy. But it was a relief as well. Saying to yourself, “it’s done.”
With all this fuss as I might say we forgot that we were in Winner Finals at TI boys !
We realized that we were top 3 and it’s totally surrealistic. LGD is the chinese powerhouse. And the chinese players are well known for not feeling pressure. Everybody expected them at TI. They confirmed how good they were when they sent Liquid in the lower bracket with a 2-0. They crushed them honestly. No other way to say it. It was two games, 15 and 20 minutes, total domination over Liquid that are the reigning champions. Everybody expected Liquid to be the favorites of TI and LGD said : “No. There is no Liquid, it’s our TI” So we played LGD and we went at it the same way, without too much pressure. We felt great, we just beat EG, we’re enjoying ourselves, it’s an amazing TI already for us. Every game we played we had fun. It’s true – and I know it’s something people say just like that – but we are having the best time. We are extremely happy to be able to play LGD.
We beat them on the first game and we thought that they were not invincible. This game was rather, not easy, but still…. clearly we’re up to the task. The second game we lost it, they played brilliantly, we tried our best but there was nothing we could do. On the third one, same as against EG we played a breath taking game, they were about to end the game, to throne us.
Except this time, once again, confident but maybe unrealistic we thought “this will never work, what are they doing?” It ended with them trying to throne us, us defending and finishing the game right away. For everyone it was a crazy move but for us it meant that we were in the grand finals of TI. LGD took out EG in losers finals, I remember, we were watching the game… I did not dislike it. I did not dislike it.
They are back in grand finals. What’s so great about it is that bo5 is a great format for Dota.
We know that we will go to the end of things there. The best team will win for sure.
In terms of drafting, in terms of everything. Both teams will have to play all their cards. We are thrilled to be able to play this final match. We won the first game, once again convincingly.
We were feeling great but we did not let our guards down and luckily we didn’t because it would have been even worse. They won game two and three ultra convincingly. We were a little shook because they just dominated us twice and we couldn’t afford another loss. They had only one more to go Basically all the signs were at red for us. But we managed to bounce back mentally once again. In game 4 we pulled one of our legendary comeback that defined our run at TI. We fought as hard as we could and won the game. For the first time in 5 years there would be 5 games in a TI finals. We thought about what we would like to play for this 5th game. We thought about the heroes we would like to play, win or lose. Obviously we didn’t want to lose but we wanted to carefully pick what we would end our run with. We played what we wanted to play and we paid it the hard price in the early game. Obviously none of those heroes were meta. We lose all our lanes and once again, it’s an incredibly difficult game. I think the score was 20-4 or 20-2, I can’t remember. It’s a disaster but we’re not feeling that bad, maybe a little pressure but not that bad.
It’s game 5, it’s tense. We stayed focused, we held down the fort and the instant we started climbing back we felt that they were crumbling totally. I think they thought “No this can’t be, not again, they can’t come back, it’s impossible” We really felt like we lost them and when it hit us, we felt amazing, we thought, they’re gone. When happened in the moment is, I don’t realize it, I’ve got Ana who’s barely 19 that has to pick me up by the shoulders and tell me “No seb, it’s real, we just won TI.” They were up, they’re hugging and I’m sitting down on my chair, thinking “ they must have buyback”, I mean in my head, I don’t know what’s happening at all but i’m not there. They have to shake me again and tell me “Seb, we won”
I tell myself, let’s go. I’m going to the stage, i can’t remember exactly, I know there was fireworks from the images but I can’t remember.
I’m so shook, i didn’t think about that eventuality at all. I was not ready. What really got me is that we didn’t receive praise or congratulations, we received a lot of “Thank you”. It means something else to me, it mean that we were able to share something with people, there was some sort of connection with the people who watched, whether they were fans or not. Just for that it’s already an unbelievable experience. There was a massive hype in France around our run and our victory at TI that I didn’t expect because I always thought Dota was not getting any bigger in France, that it was sad but it was like that. Well now I know, people are hyped. Be proud of it, share the story. This game has brought so much and even more during this TI. It would be sad if there was not more people that knew about it. In any case, I know Dota will get bigger, there is a growing passion around it and it’s for the best. Just for that I want to say thank you and keep on helping the game grow, so we can all keep on enjoying this passion we have for Dota.