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Photo by: StarLadder

By Taras Bortnik
Special to VPEsports 

Alliance have qualified today for the EPICENTER Major by taking down 2-1 Ninjas in Pyjamas in the upper bracket finals of StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor.

Captain Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi and his team had been dominating through the tournament so far. They made it to the playoffs on the first day of the event and secured their spot at the Major on the first playoffs day. It’s been a long and hard fought season for the Alliance overall, but all the hard work they’ve put in starts to pay off.

Taras Bortnik is present this weekend in Kyiv, Ukraine, at the last Minor tournament of the season and he got the chance to sit and talk with iNSaNiA prior Alliance’s series against Ninjas in Pyjamas.

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Your first day in the tournament was very strong, what do you think about Alliance’s performance so far?

We have high expectations for us in this tournament. We want to make it to the Major and to The International via DPC points. This is our last chance to achieve that, we are ranked 14th at this moment and if we can make a Major run and do decent there, we should qualify for TI, so that’s our goal.

Overall, we aren’t perfectly happy with our performance on the first day. But we are happy about the results. I just don’t think that those games were our best games.

At the end of day one, I spoke with Nahaz and he said that you got taken to the limit. So, the hard matches you had on that day went that way because of personal mistakes or was it something else?

I don’t want to show any disrespect to our opponents, for me personally Winstrike played very well, but I think for us it was the lowest standard. We can play so much better against some of the best teams. On day one we played our worst, we messed up in some crucial moments. Our coordination was very off and we didn’t play well as the team. In the next few days, we want to make sure that our coordination will be on a point.

In the same interview, Nahaz picked you MVP of the day. Not only by performance, but also for your drafts. He also pointed out your ability to keep your players focused and motivated even after a loss. Can you tell me a bit more about that side of your captain role? How do you manage to keep your players in a good mood and motivated?

For me, it’s very simple, because I really, really believe in my players. It comes to me naturally. But I wouldn’t pick myself as MVP, especially of the first day. I said this before, when we wake up on the right side of the bed we can win against anyone. Liquid, Secret, LGD – any of them.

It’s not that hard to beat Liquid since they are down to four right now…

Oh, Liquid… What have you done? I am so sad about the Liquid because I really like them. We actually looked up to Liquid a lot as a team. They were locked together for so long and wanted to be the same. We also watched a lot of their games, so I am really shocked.

Do you have any thoughts on why Kuro and co decided to do that so close to TI?

It’s really hard to say. But in my previous career, before Dota, I played on a team that was very similar to them in my opinion. We were the best team, very stable. And we had one guy who always got all the blame. Whenever we would lose he was the one blamed. And I think it affected the dynamic of the team. But we were winning so much that it didn’t matter. Once we started losing a bit more, he took a lot of the blame and hatred.

I don’t know the situation inside the Liquid, but maybe Matu experienced the same thing. It’s a tricky thing because when I kicked that guy, it was a huge mistake. We suddenly didn’t have the guy who would accept anything and adapt to the team and do whatever the team needed him to do. That’s what I am worrying about Liquid. Matu did a lot of the dirty job. But on the other hand, maybe they just need fresh blood to motivate them again. You can never know the exact answer to such things.

Let’s go back to this Minor. Who do you see as your strongest opponent in Kyiv?

Our biggest rivals, for the whole season, not only at this Minor, are NiP. At the start of the season, we did great against them, but in the second half of the season, we couldn’t beat them. Ninjas in Pyjamas are our biggest rivals, so we want to face them later in the tournament.

During the season you’ve played with Madara as stand-in for a few months. Did he change anything mentality or playstyle wise for your team?

The whole situation started with Micke who had his long time injury, so he had to take a break. Madara was the best option for us. He’s a high-skilled player, we took him in so we had to change the style. Micke likes to fight, he’s very active, but Omar is more of a classic carry. You have to buy him time and he will win the game. Actually, I think that he did a bigger change than we did, he’s good at adapting. I could not have asked for a better stand-in.

I see that you are a bit ill. Do you have a cold or something?

I have a tearing throat and my voice is a bit broken. I am sneezing, coughing a bit. Just a simple cold, I think.

Does it affect affects your performance somehow?

I am definitely way more tired than I should normally be. I am the captain so I’m supposed to talk a lot and losing my voice makes it hard to say anything in the fights when everyone is yelling. Alliance style.

Do you think Lone Druid is broken?

I think the level 25 talent is a bit OP, yes. It provides you a 10 seconds BKB with 30 seconds cooldown. It’s super broken, especially in the late game.

How fast you turned from ‘a bit OP’ to ‘super broken’! (laughing)

Ha-ha! Okay, he is super broken! But you know, I can’t blame myself for drafting this hero. But, yea I feel Winstrike’s pain because technically speaking they should have won that game. I said it to my team yesterday. You know, I always believe in our victory, but in that game I had a hard time seeing how we could win it. But, Max Qojqva, man, he’s a beast! When he plays his Lone Druid he becomes someone else.  If it’s balanced or not, it’s for Valve to decide, I guess. Thank you, Gaben.

As mentioned before, you are now 14th in DPC rankings. For Alliance to make it to TI, you have to claim at least top-8 or even top-6 at EPICENTER. For that to happen you will have to beat a few of the top teams, the likes of Secret, VP, LGD. Are you worried about that?

Well, at the start of the season, when we had to play against Liquid or Secret we were worried a lot. It affected our mindset and we placed last. At this point, we’ve taken games of all of them and we beat them in scrims. So, now we are sure that if we play well, we can beat all of these teams. In Birmingham we beat LGD 2:0, we played super well. And in the recent qualifiers, in my opinion, we had really close games. For now, we are very confident. We are not worrying about which team we play against, it’s much more about excitement now.

Unfortunately, our interview is coming to an end. Last question: Did you feel the crowd in the Cybersport Arena supporting you even when you played against a CIS team?

I was very surprised! There were a lot of fans and they were excited to see us. I definitely felt the love and support during the matches. Damn, that was a feeling.

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More interviews from the StarLadder ImbaTV Minor:

ASD: “To me personally, Alliance’s playstyle is somewhat incomprehensible”

K1: “In Peru, the organizations ask for big prize money cuts. Something around 70%.”

Y: “Looking back, I feel sad because I understand that we could have performed much better”

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