Wildcard Gaming’s Sammyboy: “We would have been able to iron some things out [in TI11 LCQ] but we were just a very inexperienced team.”

Ordinarily, with the conclusion of the Dota Pro Circuit, the teams that consistently put in the best showings throughout... Pedro | 29. October 2022

Ordinarily, with the conclusion of the Dota Pro Circuit, the teams that consistently put in the best showings throughout the year earned an invitation to compete in The International, Dota 2’s centerpiece event. Spanning across six regions, 18 teams, which consists of 12 receiving direct invites and the remaining six winning their regional qualifiers, have a chance of lifting the coveted Aegis of Champions.

For the 2021-22 DPC season, however, in order to increase the number of teams taking part in TI and foster a more exciting environment for fans and competitors alike, a new format was adopted by Valve for the event. The biggest change in Valve’s overhaul was the creation of the Last Chance Qualifier. For each of the two highest-placed teams that didn’t win their regional qualifier, they can reach the proper event by outlasting their competition in a short preliminary stage.

Wildcard Gaming was among the few teams that obtained that last chance to qualify for Dota’s grandest spectacle. After signing independent team D2 Hustlers to formally enter the scene, they stayed within the highest level of Dota in NA for the entire 2021-22 DPC, beating major powers like Evil Geniuses along the way.

Although most of Wildcard featured young players who are brimming with talent and promise, it was through the direction of veteran carry-turned-support and team captain Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson that made their LCQ appearance largely possible. He was signed by WC on top of the D2 stack as a key addition to their contention aspirations after playing with 4 Zoomers for nearly two years.

While WC’s journey to reach TI ended prematurely with a second-round lower bracket loss to Vici Gaming, they, alongside their captain, know that just making it this far is a cause for excitement for the future. Now they can aim higher and aspire for better results instead of languishing in the basement and absorbing disappointing losses.

In the first part of Fragster’s interview with Sammyboy, he covers his experience in the TI11 Last Chance Qualifier, what went wrong in the competition, playing in the SEA server, and more.

Experience in Singapore

Pedro Romero: A lot of things have happened in the DPC since I last spoke to you. You were signed by Wildcard Gaming and eventually appeared in the TI11 LCQ. How has been your experience so far in Singapore in competing in the LCQ?

Sammyboy: It’s been great. It was a big learning experience not only for myself but also for the rest of my team. It’s the first time that we’ve really been able to compete against the slew of international teams, gain experience from that, and that the teams are all human and beatable to some extent. We didn’t make Top 2 but it was a pretty tough competition. Secret and Liquid are both doing really well in the main tournament. I really don’t think there was that big of a skill difference between the teams that we played against in the Last Chance Qualifier and the teams that are actually attending TI. A lot of those teams, on a different day, could have qualified for TI themselves. It was definitely a big learning experience and Singapore has been really great as well. It’s a really cool city.

How have you viewed playing in the Southeast Asian server so far?

I’ve been having a fun time. Some of my teammates have been complaining about it but some of that is kind of copium. The pubs are definitely unique in terms of it being very aggressive having lots of fighting. The server is also very inflated by Ti players. If you go to the leaderboards and look at the Top 100 players, 60 or 70 of them aren’t even from SEA. There really is just a lot of high-skil pubs happening with a lot of really high-skilled players. That’s how TI always is like. Even when TI came to NA, that would be the only time it would have really good pubs. That happens to any major but the pubs have been pretty solid for me and that’s been another part of the learning experience.

During a past conversation with TSM’s Dubu, he talked about how he viewed the SEA server as one of the toughest servers in the world. Do you think it’s actually like the hardest server to play in given your experience so far?

I don’t know if it’s the hardest. I’ve gained 500 MMR since I’ve been here. It hasn’t been that tough for me anyway. I’ve been having a good time. I’ve been smiling and winning all my MMR so for me it hasn’t really been a problem. I don’t know if I would say it’s the toughest.

You mentioned how your teammates found playing in the server a little bit tricky. What exactly makes playing in that server particularly tricky?

They’ve just had a hard time adapting by playing with the SEA players and actually figuring out how to communicate with them. A lot of them speak English but a lot of them like don’t have a lot of respect for you. They don’t really want to listen or they don’t really want to trust your ideas because they want to do their own. I think it’s just a respect thing. I think a lot of them just don’t have respect for people outside of their server, so if they don’t respect you, then it’s gonna be hard for you to get along with them.

Wildcard in the TI11 LCQ

Taking your career into account, this is your first appearance in an international LAN in three years (the last being the Bucharest Minor in 2019). To appear in the LCQ after a long international absence, did that thought ever cross into your mind?

It obviously did but it feels that finally COVID is on the downturn. I haven’t had many opportunities to qualify for LANs. At the start of for 4 Zoomers, we were actually really good by winning online tournaments over teams like Quincy Crew and Evil Geniuses. However, COVID happened so there were no LANs to actually qualify so for the whole year and a half that I was on 4Z, there was just one opportunity and it was TI. Then there were two Majors this year that I had the opportunity to qualify for and then there’s TI. There really haven’t been that many chances to actually qualify for events if you look at it that way, so it did feel really good to at least be able to attend and play.

You mentioned the difference when it comes to playing in an online tournament and an actual LAN. Given that you played for virtually the entire DPC in an online capacity with WC, how did the team prepare for the LCQ compared to the past?

Unfortunately, our team had probably the least practice out of anyone here. In total, we probably played about three to four days of scrims compared to other teams who were scrimming for two to three weeks. We used our group stage as our scrims because we really didn’t have any scrims. We also lost a player last month which was a really big setback. Aloned did great but he couldn’t actually scrim with us. He was preoccupied with real life stuff that he had already planned out before we had asked him to play. It was a whole slew of unfortunate events that led to us not having as much preparation as I would have really liked for the LCQ.  That was a big part of why we did pretty okay despite not having a lot of real preparation.

wildcard ti11 lcq 2022

Wildcard Gaming in the TI11 LCQ (Credit: Wildcard Gaming/Twitter)

Would it then be fair to say that not having enough time to prepare was the main reason as to why the team didn’t do well?

We were going against a lot of veteran teams and if we had more preparation, we could have made a farther one. We would have been able to iron some things out but we were just a very inexperienced team. Most of my teammates had never played at an international LAN before. You look at the winners of the LCQ (Team Secret and Team Liquid), these are veteran teams. All five players on their teams have 10 to 20-plus LANs and five-plus years of real Tier-1 competitive experience. I think we could have broken into the Top 6 of the teams if we had a better bootcamp and better preparation. I’m not sure it would have pushed us to actually win but I do think it was a really good learning experience for everyone on my team.

Taking all that into account, how did the team oversaw the integration of Aloned for the event in place of esK, who stepped aside on a personal hiatus?

It was just about making him comfortable. I was just trying to make sure he was comfortable with the drafts and his position on the team. We tried to give him a very defined role which helped him excel. He was able to take that and really excel for himself which was really amazing to see. He played great in a circumstance that wasn’t that easy to do well, to begin with. He’s joining a team that he doesn’t know much about. It doesn’t even use his primary language. He’s a Spanish speaker so he was put in a very hard and uncomfortable situation. It was really on us to just make him feel comfortable and enable him to be confident and I think we did do a pretty good job at doing that.

Do you feel being comfortable while playing those matches reverberated throughout the rest of the team? After all, the rest of the team didn’t have as much experience as yourself when it comes to playing an international event going into the LCQ.

Sammyboy: It did to some extent. Aloned had it the easiest because he was our new player so we were more focused on making sure he feels comfortable. I put more priority on making sure that he felt comfortable ad I kind of told the rest of the team that we have to be the ones to suck it up to make him feel comfortable and we might have to be uncomfortable in some situations to make sure he can succeed, which was kind of part of it. On the other hand, I also think that it’s not so easy. Aloned actually has more experience than the rest of our team. He really drew on his experiences from standing in for Thunder Awaken at the Arlington Major. For the rest of my team, this was their first time. This was basically their way of getting their feet wet especially for our two cores in Yves and Davai Lama. Both of them had some nerves to work through over the course of the group stage, but I’m still very proud of them for working through them and trying their best.

Wildcard wasn’t the only NA team to bow out in the LCQ. Nouns saw the same fate as they were knocked out in the first round of the lower bracket. How did you view their performance? Additionally, what do you think was the biggest factor as to why North America struggled in the LCQ?

I think they just looked like they had some mental struggles. They had been talking to themselves about doing well in scrims and I think they had more expectations and that led to more nerves and more mental struggles which led to them letting themselves down in some sense, which was sad to see. North America as a region is just very inexperienced. As I said, we’re a young group of players. In comparison, Nouns have more experienced players in Moo, ZFreek, and Gunnar. All of them have LAN experience except for Husky. They had four players that had plenty of experience to draw from compared to us, which only had me. Obviously, we’re a smaller player base and a smaller region. We don’t get to practice against the best teams all year so it’s kind of understandable that we’re not going to be as good as these European teams that have been scrimming the best teams in the world all year. I think it’s just the reality of life.

Read the second part of the interview with Sammyboy here.

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