Interview with Davai Lama of D1 Hustlers on promotion to Division 1 for 2023 DPC WEU Summer Tour

The conclusion of the 2023 Western Europe Dota Pro Circuit Division 2 Spring Tour saw the top two teams... Pedro | 11. May 2023

The conclusion of the 2023 Western Europe Dota Pro Circuit Division 2 Spring Tour saw the top two teams in the league standings get promoted to Division 1 for the next tour. These teams include Team Secret, the TI11 runner-up which was on a downswing that led to their demotion to Division 2 in the Winter Tour, and D2 Hustlers, a team that experienced a reboot in WEU after being founded in North America under the same name in 2021.

While D2 Hustlers saw numerous people come and go throughout its history, just one player has been there the entire time: Cedric “Davai Lama” Deckmyn. The 22-year-old Belgian player, since starting his pro Dota career, experienced numerous obstacles in all the teams he’s been with, which also includes Wildcard Gaming, the same team that progressed to the TI11 Last Chance Qualifier late last season.

Since then, he returned to WEU, known by most, if not all, as the best region in the world, to try his hand on replicating the success he enjoyed in NA. Though DL and the Hustlers endured numerous twists and turns along the way, such as the disbanding the team following the Winter Tour and his formation of a new stack for Spring, he helped the team secure promotion to D1 in spite of it all. With DL’s team promptly renaming itself as D1 Hustlers for the Summer Tour, he hopes it can take another step in its ascent and appear in international competition while also maintaining their newfound status.

Following the end of the Spring Tour, Fragster.com caught up with Davai Lama for an interview on D1 Hustlers’ showing in the previous split, how he formed this new team from the last one, how he compares competing in WEU and NA, and more.

From D2 Hustlers to D1 Hustlers

Pedro Romero, Fragster.com: Just to start, how does it feel for you to finally be a part of Division 1 in Western Europe with D1 Hustlers?

Cedric “Davai Lama” Deckmyn: It feels amazing. I’ve been working for a very long time on getting here and on being in a good position to find a good organization to sponsor us. We had a rough phase as well this season and to me it feels amazing to have been able to overcome our slump.

Fragster: Going into the Spring Tour, the team faced off against big teams like Team Secret, Alliance, and Into the Breach. What were your expectations for the team before the Spring Tour commenced?

Davai Lama: We tried our best to not have any expectations. We just said that if we focused on ourselves and played our best we could beat any team. We knew we had the skill and dedication to qualify for Division 1, so we just had to take it one series and one game at a time, which we did a very good job of.

Fragster: Which was the hardest match you had to play in for the Spring Tour and why was it so hard in your point of view?

Davai Lama: Our series vs Old G felt the hardest, I think. It was our second series and Old G played a very high-tempo style. We lost Game 1 and they were pressuring us hard in Game 2, but we managed to turn it around and win the game. Game 3 was very hard-fought too and even though we had a much better draft it didn’t feel easy to win the game.

Difference between Winter and Spring Tour 

Fragster: The Spring Tour saw the Hustlers field a different roster compared to the one that appeared in the Winter Tour. For this go around, you played alongside Yuma, Adzantick, Thiolicor, and Xakoda after starting the year with Shad, Mirage’, Alex, and Flash. What do you think has been the biggest difference between playing with your current team and the one from the Winter Tour?

Davai Lama: I think the biggest difference is just general mentality and attitude. Last tour, we had some small issues in that regard and it really hurt us in the end. For this tour though. everyone worked extremely hard and we all got along really well with each other. Everyone put in all the work required and had the right mindset. We also managed to become a very tight group over the tour. Some of us were already friends so that helped, but everyone tried their best to bond with the team and trust each other.

Fragster: You wrote in a Reddit thread about my interview with Shad [Indji Lub] that you “played poorly in some of the important games because [you were] under an insane amount of pressure and stress last season.” How did you navigate the Winter Tour in a personal sense?

Davai Lama: There were a couple of external factors that made the Winter Tour extremely stressful for me. The biggest ones were me trying to plan my wedding and looking for housing afterwards, which involved a lot of bureaucracy and time pressure. My wife is from Indonesia and we only had a limited amount of time to look for a place to rent and organise our marriage and a salary from an org would have really helped enormously with that. I just thought too much about how making it to Division 1 would help us get an org and financial stability and put too many expectations on myself because of it.

Fragster: Another thing I want to know about this roster is its creation. This is a roster that consists of players from different regions. What was the process like in bringing the roster together?

Davai Lama: As soon as my previous teammates left me, I felt pretty desperate, I had to make a team to compete in WEU with a limited amount of time from scratch. That same week I was also getting married. I even remember messaging players during my wedding party. [laughs]

I immediately contacted my good old friend Yuma [Yuma Langlet]. We’ve played in countless teams together so it was an obvious decision for me. There wasn’t any other carry I wanted to play with. After that, I asked Adzantick [Elliott Hammond], which was also a relatively easy decision. I thought he improved a lot over the last year and really took his attitude to the next level, so I really wanted to play with him too. Then Yuma mentioned Thiolicor [Thiago Cordeiro] was looking for an opportunity to play in Europe and I thought he was amazing so I immediately started talking with him and he showed interest in trying out this team.

Then all we needed was a Pos. 5 player. Since we thought we would have enough leadership in the team and we weren’t looking for a captain-style support player, I asked Fishman [Dzmitry Palishchuk] if there were any free agents available and he mentioned Xakoda [Egor Lipartiia]. I thought he was very good so I immediately contacted him. He was definitely on the fence for a while, but I managed to convince him it would be a good opportunity for him and we could be a very good team. The formation of the team had its uncertainties and turbulence, but we managed to get together and start scrimming, and as soon as that happened, things went swimmingly from there.

Fragster: Since this team consists of players based in various regions around the world, I can assume you must have addressed how the roster adhered to the residency requirements in order to compete in the WEU DPC. Who among you guys are actually living in Western Europe? Is everyone living together or are there people playing from where they live?

Davai Lama: We all played from home this season. Thiolicor lives in Brazil and Xakoda in Russia. I’ve always lived in Belgium even when I played in NA. Yuma went back to his home in Germany after he left Peru and Adzantick has always lived in the UK.

On the dissolution of D2 Hustlers from the 2023 Winter Tour

Davai Lama: I also want to touch briefly on how the last iteration of D2 Hustlers fell apart [last tour] since there has been a lot of speculation about this matter and I would like to share my view on what went down.

Before the season started, we had already decided we wanted to play together but we ended up without an org backing us and were unable to play the open qualifiers, so our only option was to the buy a slot ourselves and I decided to buy the ex-DGG Esports slot so we could play the first tour. I saw it as necessary and as an investment. When that came, I also fully owned the slot and the team. After the season ended. Alex left when he got a good offer from Ancient Tribe.

We also didn’t have any orgs that wanted to sponsor us sadly so we were in a tough spot. Wildcard asked me to try out with them and were able to offer a good salary and I was in mild financial distress at the time so I agreed even though I thought D2 Hustlers was a better team. I told my teammates and they assumed I was leaving and were looking for backup options. We had a talk about what would happen with the slot if I would leave.

It would have been unreasonable for me to just hand over the slot to them for free since I had put in a lot of my own money on it and they understood and agreed to this. I offered to hand over the slot to them for almost half the price I bought it if I ended up leaving, but they found this too hard to agree to anyway. They basically chose to play the open qualifiers if I ended up leaving. The tryouts with Wildcard didn’t go very well, however, and they ended up going with Lil_Nick [Nick Hartzler] instead, which didn’t really work out for them.

I went back to my team and said I’d stay, but they must have been disgruntled about the whole situation, which was understandably so, and decided to just play the open qualifiers themselves with symetricaL [Moiez Lin], which also didn’t really go well for them either.

In the end, it was a nasty situation that arose from the fact that we couldn’t find an org in time and I don’t think anyone was in the wrong or right in the situation, although I did feel a little betrayed at the time, but I imagine they must have felt so as well.

Working with current version of D1 Hustlers

Fragster: Among your current teammates in D1 Hustlers is Yuma, someone you played with during the first iteration of the roster from 2021. What’s it like playing with him once again after roughly two years?

Davai Lama: We’ve always remained in contact and we’ve played in so many teams together, even before we considered going pro, so it’s definitely nice to play with him again. I know him so well and I’ve always believed in him, so I know what to expect and it makes working with him a lot easier.

Fragster: Another thing to consider while watching the Hustlers is your head coach Mangusu [Andrei-Vlad Sateanu]. How much of a contribution did he give to the team since joining? What kind of ideas does he bring during matches?

Davai Lama: Mangusu has brought a lot to the team. He works very hard and has been one of the keys of our success. He has many good ideas about the game in terms of teamfighting, playing the map, and drafting. He’s been a very good all-round coach. He’s also a good friend of us and we put a lot trust of him so it makes his job a lot easier

Fragster: What are the communications like within the team during a particular match? Who’s the most vocal out the team? Who speaks the least? How do you fit in with the team in terms of comms?

Davai Lama: It’s hard to point out exactly who talks the most and who talks the least. In general, Xakoda is the quietest and I’m the most vocal, but in-game, it doesn’t always translate, everyone does their job in terms of communicating really well. For example, in the early game, Xakoda, Adzantick and Thiolicor will rotate a lot and talk the most. When I want to pressure or I hit my timing, I will talk a lot, and in the late game, Yuma will often take charge of the games when he’s the strongest hero.

Fragster: How would you describe each player personality-wise and game-wise?

Davai Lama: Yuma: Hardworking, assertive, consistent; Adz: Dedicated, clever, funny; Me: Passionate, trustworthy, flexible; Thiolicor: Sharp, clutch, smart; Xakoda: Russian, focused, stoic.

Fragster: It’s been recently announced that Yuma left the team. Can you provide a comment on what happened with him?

Davai Lama: We liked playing with him, and he liked playing with us. We all believed in the team but he got an opportunity that he wanted to pursue.

Comparing WEU and NA

Fragster: Before moving to WEU, you played with Wildcard Gaming in NA after the org acquired the Hustlers lineup for the 2022 season and it was there where the team consistently placed 3rd/4th in the DPC and competed in the TI11 LCQ. How do you look back at your experience of competing in NA?

Davai Lama: It was my first long-term team. It was also the first time I got paid a (small) salary, so it was an amazing experience for me. There were a lot of ups and downs in that team but in the end we made it to the LCQ and played some good games.

I think we didn’t improve as much as a team as we wanted to, but I learned so many things there that I don’t have any regrets. Before I played in Wildcard, I was just a relatively talented but average player, and after Wildcard, I really became a potent competitive player. I learned a lot from Sammyboy [Samuel Anderson]. People might have very mixed opinions about him but I still learned a lot of very good things from him and I still consider him a good friend.

Fragster: Since you’ve been one of the few that have been with this D1 Hustlers roster from the start and have played in both NA and WEU, what do you think is the biggest difference between playing in both regions?

Davai Lama: The talent pool in Europe is just so much bigger. There’s so many talented teams and you cannot ignore any opponent. In NA, there’s very little high-level players and even less players that have the time and money to try to go pro in Dota. That’s why there’s only about three teams in NA right now that can compete internationally.

Fragster: Which region do you think is harder to compete in and why?

Davai Lama: Obviously Western Europe because of the aforementioned reasons. There’s just so many players here that put a lot of time and effort into going pro and the region is just bloated with good teams that want to play here because of the prestige and viewership.

Sadly, that means that it’s very hard to qualify for the Majors and TI through WEU. If the 12 TI invites were handed out right now, OG, Entity, Secret, Nigma, Quest, and us would have to play for one spot at TI even though every single one of us would be the favorite or at least second favorite in every other region.

Expectations for Summer Tour

Fragster: After finally qualifying for Division 1, what are your expectations for this team in the Summer Tour?

Davai Lama: We will do things the same way. We know we can qualify to the Major if we play our best and things come together. We also know we can go 0-7 if we f*ck up and don’t learn from our mistakes. In the end, we won’t put any expectations on ourselves but to try to play our best and give everything we have.

Fragster: Which team are you most looking forward to facing in Division 1 and why?

Davai Lama: There’s no team that stands out for us, every single team is a worthy opponent, but also beatable. We’ll prepare as much as we can for every opponent and do whatever we can to win.

Fragster: Why did you choose “Davai Lama” as your gamertag? What’s the story behind that name?

Davai Lama: When I started playing Dota, I heard Russians use the word “davai” a lot. I found out it meant something like “go-go” and really liked the word so then I suddenly thought of combining the word with the Dalai Lama. I thought Davai Lama sounded hilarious and went with it.