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OMEGA League Asia division kicks off on August 1st, and unlike most of the recent online big events, this one will be filled with lower tier teams from Southeast Asia and China looking to impress the world with their fresh names.

Blaze is one of the six Chinese teams playing in the OMEGA League and as the whole roster is pretty young, we reached to their team leader, Hua “Libra” Shi, to learn as much as possible about his players and the whole project. The interview was conducted earlier this week and we would like to give a shout-out to Blair Zheng for helping with the translation.

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Hello and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I’d like to start our conversation by going a bit into what is Blaze. As far as I know, it’s a project that aims to find young, talented players and shape them into tomorrow’s China legends. Could you, please tell us more about the project, when and how it started?

Our team and our sister team Ocean were both established by OldBoys, a team of retired legendary players. The very beginning of everything was before TI9, when YYF intended to set up a new team, but since most of the top players were under their own contracts, it was quite hard to put together a strong team.

At last, the founders chose to select talents through youth training, the “live-streamed trials”, which was a quite new thing at the time. On one hand, they would be able to select the talents they needed for the team, while on the other hand, with their own popularity, they could demonstrate the capabilities of the new talents of CN Dota through the live stream. At the beginning, the 10 players of the two teams were the new talents that stood out in the trials; while many other young players from those trials can also be seen in other clubs in China right now.

As for the goal, I think the ultimate goal for any Dota 2 professional is to become a TI champion. It’s the same case for us. However, I think our goal, for now, is to show our strength, to be known and recognized by the community.

This might sound like a strange question, but in the Western world, the teams usually have a manager and a coach, so we are not really used to having team leaders. Could you tell us briefly what are the team leader responsibilities and why do you see this position only at the Chinese teams?

Personally, I think there is a role like a “leader” in Western teams; maybe they are called the “team manager”. The daily routine of a leader is to make arrangements for the training and schedule of the players and to coordinate with the tournament organizers. If there is a LAN tournament in the future, the leader will also be responsible for the Itinerary, etc.

Three players of the current Blaze roster have a brief competitive experience, having played previously for either iG. Vitality, Team Serenity, or in one of the squads of the FTD club, but how did you find Tang Kaiwen and XHD?

Tang Kaiwen and XHD were both selected through the youth training trials at that time; the former is a carry with a high MMR in ranked matchmaking and he has a unique hero pool, and the latter is a mid with an outstanding map awareness who delivers a steady performance in the laning phase.

What’s the age range of your players?

The youngest is 21 years old, and the others are basically 23 and 24.

Is Blaze running on the same model as the big teams, with everyone in a team house, a strict training schedule and all?

We have our own base and our own schedule for training. Basically, the intensity of our training is the same as the big teams.

I imagine working with young talents it’s very different from working with well-established players. In a way, you shape their personality and teach them the way of becoming a true professional. Is it harder to work with young players, did you ever encounter difficulties in making them understand that they need to practice a certain amount of hours per day, to spend a lot of time in the team house, etc?

First of all, I’m a newbie leader myself, so I’m growing together with the players. Although many players in our team are very young, they have a lot of professional experience. Everyone has their own personality, and sometimes it does give me a headache, but overall our players have strong aspirations for victory, so the team is quite cohesive. I hope I can offer them some useful life advice as I don’t want them to be top players only in game.

Not having a TI this year is rather devastating for any Dota 2 fan, but for a youth team such as Blaze, it might be a blessing in disguise. Of course, nobody knows exactly when the TI 10 is going to happen, but let’s imagine it will be sometime in Spring next year. Do you think that’s enough time for your players to become a threat in the Chinese qualifiers and perhaps deliver a Wings or Serenity story?

The confidence of the whole team still needs to be improved through more achievements. Personally I’m confident in our players.

Blaze is the one responsible for eliminating PSG.LGD in the ESL One Los Angeles Major open qualifiers back in February. How did you and the players feel after that victory, was it more of a confirmation that your work and dedication is starting to show results?

I wasn’t the leader of Blaze at the time, though. We had two strong guest players and PSG.LGD were not in their best form. Of course, it felt good to win, but it’s been a while since then, and we need new results to prove ourselves.

How important is it for the team to perform well in the upcoming OMEGA League, or do you look at this tournament as an opportunity to test yourselves in a competitive environment?

First of all, we appreciate OMEGA League for giving us a direct invite. For our team, every game from now on is an opportunity to make progress and to prove ourselves. We especially cherish the chance to play against teams in other regions. In terms of this tournament, I hope our players can be in their best form and we can win. 

Looking at the caliber of the teams we have in the Europe and CIS division of OMEGA League, I can’t help but wondering why there are no big names in the Asia division. Do you have any insight into why that happened, at least for the Chinese teams?

Several big tournaments have just ended for the Chinese teams, so the big teams need to take a rest, I think. Plus, we are around the time for roster changes and adjustments, so maybe the big teams are preparing for those.

Is there any team in the Asia division that you would take more pride in defeating them than any other adversary?

No team should be taken lightly. Since we play against Chinese teams more often, we are more familiar with them. And we are looking forward to playing against SEA teams.

Thanks again for your time and I hope that when the LANs are back again we will have the chance to see Blaze playing live on a tournament stage. I wish you and the boys the best of luck at OMEGA League!

Thank you VPEsports for interviewing us. Hopefully, more followers will like and support our team!

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