The Vikin.gg Saga
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A few months ago, before the rebranding, Vikin.gg’s social media banners had a seemingly simple and trivial quote from the Grettir saga, one of the most popular epics about Icelandic Vikings: “One's back is vulnerable, unless one has a brother." A simple truth, seasoned with a bit of pathos, which may be unnoticed until that certain moment.
The org’s launch story and the emergence of the current team are really somewhat reminiscent of the heroic Medieval feat. The first Vikings roster was a stomp: the squad played together for only a month and did not include any of the current players, and then was knocked out from MDL Chengdu Major Europe Open Qualifier... by the stack of Seleri, Aramis, and Shad (together with Tanner and Crystallis, who was a stand-in for offlane). Can you guess what happened next? ImmortalFaith personally recruited the Seleri, Aramis, and Shad trio and invited Tobi and Tanner to join them. The latter moved to Ninjas in Pyjamas in January 2020, while BOOM took his place.
The best way to describe the current Vikin.gg team is to listen to what the players themselves have to say about each other. "Family,” "friends,” and "colleagues" are words with meaning to create a strong bond between people who are united by one goal. Yes, they do not call themselves brothers, but the vibe is almost identical. The roster is completely entrenched, and the guys feel great at the top line of the Group Stage at Epic League.
“We were friends before we played on Vikin.gg. We wanted to play together, and we ended up playing for Vikin.gg, so it's very nice for all of us. That's probably why we're still playing together for such a long time: we're having fun playing together. But at the same time, when you played together for so long, you also become colleagues. Like, you cannot be best friends because you also have to criticize each other. So it's about the balance,” says Melchior “Seleri” Hillenkamp, the team captain and position 5 support. By the way, he calls himself “captain” with a slight hesitation, believing that the biggest part of the role is done by the team's coach, Daniel “ImmortalFaith” Moza.
Seleri, at 21, is the most experienced player on the team. The calm and sensible Dutchman has been playing in professional teams since 2015, having changed six teams in four years before joining Vikin.gg. Of course, these were also semi-professional rosters who tried to shine brightly and break to the top, but Seleri got to this point only after years spent at the tier-2 level. Seleri crossed paths with Skiter and also played in Tuho (along with qojqva and bOne7) in the TI7 closed qualifiers.
It's funny, but Seleri came to Dota having never played a MOBA before. “When I first tried it, I remember I was very confused. Why am I looking at the game from the top? Aren't I supposed to be first-person, like in a shooter? I was so confused. And I kept getting lost on the map; didn't know there was a mini-map. I was quite intrigued by the game, though. It seemed very interesting. So I just slowly played it.”
In the same year, Melchior decided to watch The International; it was the second at that time. And the show won him over. “I've probably watched everything there was and had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed watching the game in a team format. You could see what was possible. Seeing that probably helped me to start competing”.
“I've always wanted to compete in things; it’s very natural for everyone around me. When I was very young, I played chess, and in some ways, these games are pretty similar.”
ImmortalFaith is a coach for everything for us.
Each player has a special motivation to play, and Seleri's mind is fed from the outside: ideally, he wants to provide protection for animals by creating his own organization. “The motivation for me to try is more like a general in life: you can actually do something that's very, very beneficial for the world. I always wanted to maybe start a company or anything that could be beneficial for the environment or animals, but I have to get some money first.”
In addition, Seleri dabbled in poker when things were not going well in Dota but then decided to return to esports.
Hide your couriers when @Seleri4096's around 🐺 pic.twitter.com/imZQA3Dysh— Vikin.gg (@GGVikin) December 2, 2020
However, Adam "Aramis" Moroz was the initiator to create the stack. Long before Vikin.gg, he just wanted to gather a team of good players and try to achieve something. This is how the backbone of the team appeared, with Aramis, Shad, and Seleri. They played for several months but could not find a suitable midlaner and offlaner. And then ImmortalFaith knocked at the door. They started so well that Aramis himself did not believe it: “We were owning, we were really good. We started winning every game almost. It was quite shocking because none of us have had any competitive past. And suddenly we just win almost every match together. It was pretty fun. I just thought it's still fun, obviously, but there are those honeymoon periods in teams.”
Adam has a low, velvety, and measured voice of a man who always has a plan. While his teammates chatted about team mood, bootcamp, and other things, Aramis said that every match for Vikin.gg begins with preparing tactics, reviewing the opponent, and choosing the basis for the draft (which is mainly their coach's job). Adam knows that at the highest level, almost all teams have unique styles, but they force opponents to play weaker in a manner that is unusual for themselves, which is why they lose.
ImmortalFaith is like a sixth member from my perspective.
Adam is worried about two things: he has the desire to become the best, and also he wants to provide for his family, with whom he lives in Israel. His mother supports her son's desire for esports, although at first, she did not understand what he was doing: “She didn't really understand exactly what I meant until I started actually getting money, but even before that, she saw that I'm very passionate about it and she just supported me. So I'm very grateful for it, because you know, not every player has this type of support”.
In March, Vikin.gg managed to make a splash, beating Team Secret, who seemed then an invincible machine. Comparing the feeling after that match and the recent victory over the same team during Epic League, Aramis notes that only one thing has changed. “We were pretty nervous, fresh out of the oven, ready to go. But we were super motivated and also pretty nervous. The difference is that we're still motivated, but we're calmer. We're pretty chill about poaching big teams now, we don't really care anymore.” Self-control is one of the key factors in winning. Adam is also helped by meditation before matches: he spends 20-30 minutes on breathing exercises before important meetings in order to simultaneously focus and relax.
Aramis tries to keep in touch with Fly and 33, who became his idols — Israeli players, some of the best in the world in their positions. “I remember watching TI3 and I saw this guy [Fly], and I was like, ‘Wow, Israeli. Holy ****,’ Maybe I can make it as well, make it though. It was a huge motivation for me.”
In their long adventure, the Vikings once managed to moor and descend on the earth's firmament together. It happened in February 2020 when the guys got together for a bootcamp in Romania.
“I was traveling from the Czech Republic to Romania. I had to get off my bus in Budapest, in Hungary, and to jump in a car. I couldn't find my driver for like 30 minutes and I thought, ‘I'm lost, and I'm not gonna make it to the bootcamp. I'm going to be lost in Hungary!’ But then after like 30 minutes, I managed to find them,” says Miroslav “BOOM” Bican, the team’s midlaner.
On the other hand, Seleri calls that period the most difficult year of his Vikin.gg past. Melchior believes he started the year poorly; he just couldn’t do anything. Surely, the teammates came to the rescue. “I was having pretty hard periods with gameplay, but it was fairly easy to combat — thanks to my team. They...we always believe in each other when things go wrong, and I got the time to just practice and improve my skills slowly.”
But everyone is sure of one thing: the bootcamp turned out to be great, even despite the missed opportunity to get to the first major tournament. The guys first met, had a good time, and went to the quest room. The team plans to meet again.
“We have a good bootcamp location, but we just cannot go there right now. It’s in Romania and the numbers [COVID-19] are not looking great. So yeah, we'll go there as soon as possible,” says Seleri, who is happy to be able to spend time with the team again.
Surprisingly, the most modest character on the team turned out to be the main streamer. Tobias "Tobi" Buchner is an offlaner for the Vikin.gg team. During the conversation, and in general, he somehow reminded me of Gustav "s4" Magnusson: short answers to the case, a clear presentation of the game, and sarcasm, which, at first, could not be discerned by the tone of voice.
Austrian-born, Tobias is the oldest player on the team at twenty-three. He joined the guys last November after ImmortalFaith invited him and has been showing great Dota ever since.
“I used to watch Mind_Control and Zai a lot; learned from them. I also followed Chinese offlaners because they play really, really well.” The logic is excellent, and Tobi's manner of playing is reminiscent of the aforementioned guys. Nevertheless, everything began a little differently for him. “When I first tried Dota, I remember playing Lifestealer. I didn’t know anything about roles back then, so I just played. Pudge and Invoker were my favorites also,” Tobias chuckles. “It was TI7 when I decided to dedicate myself to professional Dota”.
Tobias says that the goal stays the same: to win TI10 (and even after listening to the tape several times, I was not sure whether it was said in all seriousness or with a bit of sarcasm). However, Tobi doesn't think they played well enough at the beginning of the year, but nevertheless, the guys have improved a lot since then.
Fun fact: Tobi has almost completed his bachelor's degree in physics.
The guys at Vikin.gg know a lot about a radical change of disciplines: Seleri played Team Fortress, Tobi came to Dota 2 from a MOBA mode in StarCraft, while his teammate Indji "Shad" Lub, the main carry, switched to Dota from MMORPGs.
And although Shad did not like Dota at first sight, after a short period of resistance, the Dutchman got in and never got out. He started watching Arteezy and EternalEnvy’s streams, although the main idol for him is Nisha, even though now he most often plays in the middle lane.
“At the beginning of 2020, I had very little experience and was also mentally a little weaker. I was getting very nervous when playing against big names, like Alliance, Secrets, you know. I was already a pretty good player, but still a guy from the pub. I had to understand how to play in the team environment more at the time. And, right now, I'm just mentally stronger. I feel I know how to play around with my team or not, as well. I'm not really letting my emotions affect me anymore,” Shad analyzes the work done on oneself from the beginning of the year.
A strong mentality is essential when playing match after match, qualifier after qualifier, sometimes with no interruptions between the games. Vikin.gg had such an experience this year when they had to participate in several more tournaments in the spring while trying to get to ESL One. A relaxed team environment helps to cope with pressure. Shad notes that Tobi is the best joker on the team, and this is where the fun begins.
After polling all the team members, I have compiled a list of the funniest Vikin.gg players. All responses are shown anonymously.
- The Best Vikin.gg Comedian according to the players were Tobi and Shad, sharing the same number of votes.
- Seleri won the Dad Jokes nomination. He also wins the Mister Seriousness Grand Prix.
At the time of the Epic League group stage, Miroslav "BOOM" Bican is the best midlaner of the tournament by a margin. He is first in kills and XPM, second in GPM, third in assists, and he dies the least. Miroslav admits that he is a longtime SumaiL fan (who is not doing very well in the tournament, by the way).
“I guess everyone's idol has to be Dendi, but for me, it’s SumaiL. He was this 15-year-old kid that just came onto the scene and was owning everyone in lane, just outplaying everyone. Those 30-year old people that were playing the game for 15 years you know. That was crazy for me to watch.”
BOOM and SumaiL have already met each other, and Miroslav won those games; however, it was by no means easy. “His mechanical skills are the best; he’s so good. Even with the 150 ping, he's still really good at CSing, better than me." But BOOM was not nervous; rather, on the contrary, he was anticipatory. Now, Miroslav longs for a meeting with him on equal terms of internet connection. It is interesting that BOOM was a talented table tennis player as a child, so fighting one on one is a common thing for him.
Though, Miroslav's esports career began with arguments with his parents and moving to a friend, “At the last year of my high school, when I was about to graduate, I didn't think it was something that I wanted to do in my life, proceed with that kind of career, studying and stuff. So I decided to quit school two months before graduation. And I actually had to move out of my parents' house because they wouldn't let me live there if I didn't finish school. I left for a bit over a month and lived at one of my Dota friend's house. He basically let me live there for free. I just made the decision that I'm going to commit to Dota. But after a month, my parents calmed down and let me come back, and exactly at that moment, I started making money. Perfect timing. It was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
My family, my grandmother, my parents; everyone was disappointed in me, but now, I guess, they see that it was the right decision for me.
BOOM sends special thanks to his friend Petr "Hajadlo" Hajek, who gave him shelter then.
Vikin.gg is now at its peak, few will argue with that. BOOM understands that if it weren't for the coach, the roster might have fallen apart in the middle of the year. He instilled the ability and desire to communicate and discuss in them, which Miroslav considers the main strength of the team: “We are very good at communicating, and Dota is all about it.”
“ImmortalFaith is a guy that has a lot of experience working with people and talking to people. He's obviously done coaching like all his life, basically. So he knows how to talk to players and how to keep them in line and confident”.
Indeed, each player noted the coach's investment in the team, his dedication to the idea, phenomenal skills, and ingenious drafts. And, surely, discipline: he lined up the guys and sent them to me in strict order by a schedule.
im back to divine again brothers thank u @ODPixel @ImmortalFaithd pic.twitter.com/FhcEivijFz— SirActionSlacks (@SirActionSlacks) November 12, 2020
After spending a few hours with the guys, laughing and having a good time, I realized what, after all, is their main fighting force. They were brought up to be partners and friends, a team to the bone. By the way, their game speaks about this: sometimes players rush from their spots to protect colleagues and participate in a crowded fight even if it was not necessary and was meaningless, while the supports jump under the train without hesitation to divert attention from the runaway-carries.
These guys are having a great time with each other, and, at the same time, they are almost better than others at realizing the importance of good communication and a serious approach in any match of any tournament. Commitment and trust are the main principles of Vikin.gg, and the guys follow them. Personal skills can be sharpened at scrims.
Vikin.gg made Dota fans all over the world fall in love with them not only because they are underdogs who managed to defeat strong opponents several times, but also because of their aggressive playstyle, tactical flexibility, and studying their opponent with care. One of the team's plans in early 2020 was to try to squeeze into TI10, and, you know, I think they could break through there. Today they are talking about a schedule for the year ahead: the guys are seriously going to fight for the TI10 (or 11?) title, and, as my instinct tells me, they would.
Sometimes all we need is a little bit of faith.