The coach, “the father, the mother, and the dude who cooks,” talks about his team’s journey from Brazil to frosty Ukraine
In the world of Dota, the new calendar year kicked off very brightly with the announcement of the DPC season. It came at a time when everyone was busy with preparations or celebrations, forcing people associated with esports to stop for a few minutes, read the ‘press release’ by Valve, try to understand it, and then return to the festivities. That, or they rushed to talk, praise, scold, express their opinion, troll, and all that. The pre-Major league qualifiers kicked less than a week later. The teams fought for places under the sun. Some were successful; some were not.
B8 were among those who participated in the qualifiers, with their crew leader Dendi, three Brazilians, and a German. The line-up was announced on January 2, which shocked not only the CIS community but also everyone who closely follows the scene. Yes, the ex-Midas Club moved to Ukraine in autumn to try out in a more competitive environment, but no one expected such a collaboration.
I managed to talk with the team’s coach Filipe Astini, who also serves as a manager, financial advisor, and a strong shoulder. Filipe shared how the idea to go to Europe came up, what were the options besides Ukraine, spoke about the dialogue with Dendi, and the tangible differences between the EU and SA regions.
The conversation starts at a slow pace, and Filipe's voice lacks the usual positivity and high spirits. There are two explanations for this (frankly expected) vibe: Astini woke up very recently and/or is upset about the team's latest results.
Of course, who wouldn't be upset? B8 got an invite to the closed qualifier, but they were unable to break into the top division of the DPC League.
Filipe: We’re fine. We'll be better; we didn't have much time to prepare. And we knew both outcomes would be possible — so more time to work towards where we want to be.
Arseny: How's Ukraine going?
Filipe: We like it here for sure. Otherwise, we wouldn't be up to stay here long, but I can tell from the first time we were here, in Kyiv, we really loved the country. Loved the city. And here, in Kharkiv, is a bit harder. It's really hard to get food that we like; we didn't get used to the food. And since it's pandemic, almost everything's closed, which I don't think has to do with Ukraine. It's everywhere; it kinda sucks. Also, I don't know if here's colder than in Kyiv, but every day is very…cold. We can't go to the streets, at least in the neighborhood where we live, because everything here gets so snowy and so slippery that it's even hard to leave the house to go for groceries and stuff. So I guess, when we were in Kyiv, it was a better state, but so far, everything's good. We enjoy being here.
Arseny: Did you guys play with snowballs?
Filipe: [Laughs] We didn't do it here. I guess in Kyiv, since it was the first time that some guys were seeing snow, yes. But here we just stay inside the house playing Dota.
Arseny: You told me that the cuisine is kind of different, and you're getting used to it. Can you tell me what exactly you mean by that?
Filipe: It's kind of a fun answer because it's weird what we got ourselves into. Basically, there's one supermarket that's 10 minutes from here, and it got closed. So, we need either to get an Uber to go to the market and buy things, or we need to choose a delivery App. And the most famous delivery app here is Glovo. And our Brazilian cards every now and then can get blocked, and you need to confirm the owner, and then it would unblock. And all of us got banned from Glovo. So there are just a few options where we can get food from. And that's what makes things weird. We have three options of things to eat for the last month. And it gets kind of weird when you're like this, you know.
Arseny: I remember when you were in Brazil with the Midas Club, you used to post a lot of sushi on Instagram. Tons of it. And I thought, how would you guys even manage to eat that amount of sushi?
Filipe: It's very common in Brazil, those all-you-can-eat restaurants. They just bring as much as you ask for a fixed price and you eat really a lot. Like you can't move after eating, but this is something we don't have in Kharkiv. At least twice per week, we eat sushi, but it's not something that you eat every day. At least for me, it's something, like, you should do weekly or so. Japanese food is something that's good here; I guess that's the best thing we have found so far.
Arseny: Have you tried the local cuisine? I mean, like, borsch or something?
Filipe: Those dumplings?
Arseny: As I can guess, you didn't eat much.
Filipe: No, that's the thing; it’s pandemic. So it's really hard to go to restaurants. Usually, they close very early, and even if they're open, it's something that you would like to avoid. I guess everyone wants to avoid contact with COVID, especially for people in another country living all together in the same house. Like, if someone gets it, everyone in the house would also get it, so we should stay a lot safer. I don't blame the city at all…not that I blame anything at all. I think the reason is pandemic. We should understand that, but it's for sure something that we have some trouble getting used to. That's the only con, I guess, because, besides that, we really enjoy our state.
Arseny: Why did you choose Kharkiv?
Filipe: When we were in Brazil, we decided to come to Europe, and we were considering options. We had basically three options that we believed could work. One was a bootcamp in Germany, but it was extremely expensive, something like eight times what we are paying here to rent our house and rent PCs. We also had an option in Poland. That was something around the price we pay here or just a bit more expensive. But with far less comfort: everyone would have been living in the same room. Six people sleeping, same room. And then we had Ukraine. And, at first, we were in contact with WePlay, maybe they could help us. And when we decided to come to Europe, and we were looking for a midlaner, I posted in a group chat, “Hey guys, I'm looking for a midlaner in Europe.” And then one guy said, “Hey, I can help you find midlaners. But why in Europe?” And then I told him that we would go to Europe, either Poland, Germany, or Ukraine. And he said, “Oh, I can help you guys settling in Kharkiv.” And then this guy, JoJo [John Tomczyk, Dota manager from the UK], suggested us the city because, here, he knew the guys from Zeus Arena. So you need two things, right? A house with an internet connection and PCs. So here we knew we could get PCs, and we had already looked at some houses on the internet. And, “Okay. It's doable,” you know? So that's how we ended up here.
Arseny: And how did you end up playing with Dendi? How much time did you spend in Ukraine before joining B8? A month and a half?
Filipe: We landed on October 27. So two months, yeah. After a month and a half, we kind of started talking with him and practicing with him to see if it would work out.
Arseny: And so how did that happen?
Filipe: We were trying midlaners from Europe: Adzantik, SymmetricaL. We liked playing with the guys. It was good, but we still weren't really feeling like a team. We couldn't be on the same page. Even the guys are really great to other players. But we still had so much trouble playing as a team. There are many reasons for that. The guys are new in competitive, and we speak a lot of Portuguese between us because we have a routine here between us. So I think it's actually most on our side that we couldn't feel like a team. We would finish a match, and we all discussed between us and the other guys were kind of lost. So I guess it was a mistake from our side that we couldn't really feel like a team with anyone. We tried out. And so all the time we were looking if it might work better with someone else.
And then Dendi and B8 announced that two players were out. And when we saw this announcement, we had a chat like, “Hey, imagine playing with Dendi.” You know, everyone imagined it; this comes through all. It would be so fun. “Oh, Holy sh*t; imagine we play with a TI winner. Yeah. I can't believe it. This would stop the entirety of Brazil to look at us. We would win everything. So why we don't send him a message? You're kidding, right? No, let's send, let's see what he says.” And then I sent him a message, and he was very open to try out and see if it would work. And then we started playing scrims together, and it was fitting well. I guess he has; besides being a really good player, he has so much knowledge of competitive Dota. From the beginning, we could already feel that we were playing like a team, you know. Not like we grabbed five players and played matchmaking. Because that was the feeling when we were testing players before, and then, with Dendi, it was the first time we felt how competitive Dota is like: the communication was very sharpened. “Oh, this is the guy we would like to play with.”
He has so much knowledge, and we have so much of a defined playstyle that we played. Like, we were, let's say, stuck in our region for so long. You know, we played just South America for so long. So we need to match those styles. We need to discuss more Dota and find out what's best for us. To really, really be on the same page. We already feel that we can discuss things together and improve together.
Arseny: Do you have that language barrier? You said that you were speaking Portuguese between you guys, but what changed when you joined B8?
Filipe: We speak English all the time. I think before it was mostly our mistake that it didn't work out with other players, but when it was with Dendi and B8, things felt more serious, so we would finish the match and be like, “Okay guys, this feels like a match. We could have won. Let's all sit down and discuss it as a team.” Usually, let's say we were with other guys, we would lose a match and then mute, talked between ourselves, and try to improve ourselves. And when we joined Dendi’s team, it really felt like a team. “Okay, we lost; let’s all be here on Discord and discuss what's going wrong.” And we improve as a team. The posture of everyone changed. It's more serious when we talk; it’s... 90% English [laughs].
But, for instance, RdO and Duster. Sometimes they talk in Portuguese between themselves. But it's something that won't affect the game. And when we are discussing drafts, for example, if I'm picking for RdO, sometimes it feels like I can just say faster in Portuguese what's on my mind. But it's something that, with time, I'm pretty sure, will go to English because the guys always played in Portuguese, always communicated in Portuguese. And sometimes there’s that, “Oh, I can tell this thing in 10 seconds in Portuguese, or I can spend one and a half minutes of draft trying to formulate a phrase in English.” But, with time, it's got to be the same time, you know?
Arseny: You mentioned that you were picking. Not Dendi?
Filipe: Currently, I'm doing the draft, but it's not something that I just...for people from outside, it is kind of complicated to understand. But, basically, it doesn't mean that I just go there and click buttons on the heroes. I would like to see them playing. It's like an entire process. We decide one week before what we got to practice. So everyone knows what we are practicing. Everyone sees what works and what doesn't work, halting practices. And when the draft time comes, we haven't formulated an idea. So the players can come up with suggestions. I will never pick a hero that someone doesn't feel comfortable playing. So it's something that we do as a team. You know, the last call is mine, but we do it as a team. Definitely.
Arseny: Speaking about you as a coach. You are not just a coach. You're a manager!
Filipe: [laughs] Yeah. This comes from a long time. I'm the father of the guys, the mother, the financial advisor, the lawyer, the guy that cooks; I don't know. We are together for so long, right? Me and the Brazilian guys. So I try to, let's say, to work on making them better people, and better people will become better players. So I do a lot of things outside the game, or at least I try to help them in their routine to have a healthy habit, exercises, meditation...all things that I see that will improve their daily routine. And this will improve them in-game also. It all happened so fast, right? And we had a guy that was our manager, but he's not working with us anymore. So, now, I'm also helping as a manager.
But I don't know if this will change over time. I’m scheduling scrims, planning if we are going to be, for example, here in Kharkiv or if we're moving somewhere else. There's a lot of things I'm doing outside the game, but inside, as a coach, it's mostly like to try to understand the patch together, see what's strong, what's not strong, define our routine where players will be practicing those strong heroes in ranked matchmaking and during scrims. Having the schedule set up and trying to watch the replays of those scrims, giving hints on how to become better players inside the game and getting feedback from what we are improving, are not, and define what we are going to be playing at officials.
Arseny: Let's go back to the Dota stuff, the DPC. What are your plans for the year? Short-term and long-term.
Filipe: I really would like to make it to TI. We improve every day; we have a daily routine of practice and playing officials, which we can enjoy, become better players every day and make it to TI. And it's really hard to just say what would be my expectations at TI since we seem to be so far away from it right now, you know. Just making sure it, for now, seems like a good goal to have in mind.
Arseny: How does having Dendi on your team affect what you're doing? Is there any pressure on you?
Filipe: I don't think having different players would make more pressure or less pressure. Why we focus so much time playing this game is because we have goals as players. And we would have these goals no matter which player is on the team, but I can tell, having him on the team is really good. He has a really good mindset. Very down, sure. So we are on the same page about what our main focus is to improve every day and that, by improving every day, the results will come. So we shouldn't just focus on the results.
We would love to be in the first division, but it was three bo3s. We had some time to prepare, and we didn't make it, but we can't stress that much just because, in five days, we didn't manage to get a result. We should focus on having time practicing that we should improve. And by improving this way we would get results.
Arseny: How did you find the DPC announcement about the changing of the system? Did it confuse all your plans, or you knew that it would happen?
Filipe: I really didn't like it, but I was really expecting it. The last announcement was that DPC points would count towards invites. And then they didn't say anything for almost one year, and then DPC points didn't count for anything anymore, which makes sense. But they should have communicated these in-between, and then they just have different rules, which are not even rules for invites. It's just written there that they're going to take the actual ‘form’ of teams, which is really weird. Look at the way it was communicated: “Hey, we’re inviting some teams, and we’re just making it up, just telling what's in our mind to invite.” It's not that they said the rules and teams at a time to prepare. Just to make clear, I don't think my team itself lost anything because of that. We got invited, we got the chance to make it to the first division, but it's not because we got in a good situation that I should say the system's good. The system's terrible. In South America, plenty of players like the Tava stack won't have anything to play for the upcoming three months because Valve just decided to announce one day before what would be the rules.
Arseny: So, not even the third-party tournaments?
Filipe: Yeah. Maybe they can play it, but, like, DPC is what a player dedicates his life for. To make it to Majors or TI. So it's really weird. And I think it's really weird that teams from open qualifiers can't make it to the first division.
Arseny: Can you tell me, please, more about the South America region?
Filipe: The first thing I need to say about it is that we have really good players. Because then I talk about the problems, and South Americans would think like, “Oh, you're flaming the region.” No, we do have amazing players. We have so much young talent coming from Peru because, there, Dota is maybe the biggest game in the country. So you see guys with 15, 16 years old showing up, and there's always a new generation coming up of really, really good talent. So we do have good talent, but it's really hard to practice, to have a really good practice. So these talents sometimes really don’t have the chance to show their skills; they have a lot of potential that really doesn't come up to results because mostly everyone, all high-level people play on North America servers. So Peruvians will play something between 80 and 110 ms, which is okay-ish. And the guys in Brazil would play from something between 80 and 200 ms. Because if you're looking at the map, Brazil is somehow as huge as the entirety of Europe. So if you're in the very, very, very Northeast, you get a playable ping. But if you're in the South where like São Paulo is, and basically almost everyone is from São Paulo, you get towards the 160-180 ms. So it's extremely hard to get practice because you are practicing in not the perfect conditions.
The players still have a kind of mindset that they should carry the game alone, play this one versus nine. So, they are very skilled mechanically, but competitive-wise, there are not so many skilled players. Of course, there's like beastcoast – they've been representing the region very well. There's Thunder; Infamous also. The upcoming players still have a kind of mindset that they should do everything alone. You know, this is how I see the region. There's also Argentina, and they get even worse ping than you get from Brazil. So, maybe, you have amazing talent in Argentina, but they are playing 200 ms. You can't really see if they're good. Of course, the officials are played on the South America server, but, again, you need to show that you're a good ranked player for teams to find you. And then you're playing with the 200 ms. So it's really hard for Argentina and other countries in the South of South America.
Arseny: Can you recognize the difference in gameplay and style between European Dota and Brazilian-Peruvian-South American-Argentinian Dota?
Filipe: Yes, but I guess nowadays it's new. Now we have the pandemic, almost one year without events. But since we were having, before that, many events, South America could learn something from European style, and European style learned something from South America. And the meta now is very lane oriented. So all matches are played to win lanes, and this is something that's always happening in South America: everyone is very lane-oriented. They will do anything to beat their lane. Because, again, they're mechanically better than in the theory of the game. So they will just ‘win lanes, win game.’ And this has been like South America meta for so long. And, lately, the world meta has shifted into this ‘win lanes, win game’ because of patches and so on. So I guess now they have more things in common, but still, South America plays faster than other regions.
Arseny: When we last met at WePlay! Bukovel Minor, which was exactly a year ago. I remember that you and Duster and RdO were there, besides other Furia players. I guess sexyfat joined a bit later, right? I remember that you and Duster were like father and son, and you were always together. And I remember talking to you guys. Can you tell me about your relationships with Duster? How did you find him? How do you guys copy with each other and stuff?
Filipe: How I got to know Duster? He was making memes about my team and posting on social media to make fun of us. That's how.
Arseny: Ironic. [both laugh]
Filipe: He was, I don't know, 15 years old or something. He was very, very young. And by that time, Midas Club was like an in-house league, and we just started with that team. And it's fun to remember those things! I remember I had a partner at Midas Club, another owner, and this guy's like, “Hey, we shouldn't let these kids make memes about us.” I said, “Hey, man, I'm having fun. It's fun what he's making.” And then I started talking to him, and he became one of the moderators of our in-house league.
The guy was analyzing reports and so on. And soon, he was improving so much and showing such a high level that I had a team, and I'm like, “Hey, Duster. I guess you should be a stand-in for us.” And we tried to play this tournament together, and he played really well. But we were a starting team. We were still really, really bad. And then I thought, “Hey guys, we all have so much to improve, to become better. Duster, I think you're already good. I don't know how, but you can play in a team that is playing Majors.” Later, he told me that he needed to leave the team to focus on his studies. And in between those, like, the next ten days, pain Gaming approached him. And he went to pain Gaming, stayed there; I don't know how long, one year, maybe a bit more than one year. And then when he left, he sent me a message. “Hey, I want to play at Midas Club. But just if I have you as a coach.” And then we started building our team, and we are here together until now.
Arseny: And when did RdO join the squad?
Filipe: I guess like it was at the very beginning, maybe not the very first lineup, but like five days afterward, you know, when we were just testing players. We tried some mixes. It was like, Astini De Sunga it was called, something like Astini in Underwear. Again, we were just there to make fun. You know, like of course we were trying our best, but we knew by that time that we couldn't achieve much. We were just trying our best but having fun with the game in this team. Maybe RDO wasn't in the very first, but he joined very, very early, and then he's been together with us from that.
Filipe: I wanted to thank all our fans. Everyone in Brazil and South America. Also, I see that we got a lot of support from the guys in the CIS. What they can count on us is that we were going to do our best to improve every day. We love the game. We want to be the best ones in the game. And we work hard for that. We are still very far away, but every day, we will be giving our best. I can't promise that tomorrow we’re going to get good results, but what I can promise is that we've got to be giving our best to become a better team. And with time, the results will come. We need to worry about becoming better still. Then results will come.
You can also listen to the audio version of the interview here.
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