Taras Bortnik had the opportunity to sit down with Virtus.pro’s Bakyt “Zayac” Emilzhanov for an exclusive interview for VPEsports, where he opens out about the tough challenges he had to go throw by having family members fighting the coronavirus and how this experience motivated him to start a fundraising campaign for the village doctors in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Zayac also answered a lot of Dota 2 related questions, of course. What went wrong in the OMEGA League for VP, how the team works with Artstyle, what’s the Techies status in the current meta, what are the hot picks for position 4 right now and many others.
Let’s start with a topic that’s on everyone’s mind right now and it’s a very important one for you, coronavirus. You are the one who’s fighting the pandemic not from the couch, but with all the influence that you have. It’s been a while now; can you share some feedback or results of your fundraising campaign?
Yeah, it’s been a month now. Everything slowed down a bit, because it needs to be always promoted. Our goal is to raise 10,000 dollars. I was thinking about starting streaming, I have ideas about how to do that other ways, but then the OMEGA League started.
After all, I have a job which I have to do. My friends also have other business to do. But anyways, we will push it to the very end.
Are you satisfied with the support received over social media?
It was a bit weird to start such a campaign, but all these emotions, patriotism and compassion, the dire situation, forced me to do that. Without these feelings, I would have been just another person who stayed on the sidelines. To be honest, when Virtus.pro supported me and all the opinion leaders started to share the info, to write about how cool that is, I realized what a great thing esports has become and why I play Dota. I can influence things, help people just by being an ordinary guy from Kyrgyzstan. That inspired me the most. I have great gratitude in my heart to the fans and community.
Your crusade started because your mom and your aunt got ill. How are they now?
They recovered, but not everything is fine. My mom is already doing well, she is working, there are no complications. My aunt … when she got the coronavirus, she was after an accident, she had eight broken ribs, she is in the process of recovery now. Obviously, the coronavirus also knocks out the body. Therefore, she is still recovering. But she is stable now.
Don’t you have that feeling that everyone got used to the pandemic too fast? I mean, all of us know how horrific COVID is, but at the same time, it feels like people are not that careful as they were in spring. Many can go to the supermarket without a mask etc.
I thought about it, but it’s a very tough topic to speak about. We have to understand that no country can shut down everything and lock the people into their homes. Even resort areas cannot be completely closed because it would be a great punch to the economy. Of course, you can lock everything up, wait for the vaccine and then live as you did a year ago, but that will put everyone in a very hard situation. So yeah, I understand why so many crowded places are functioning and most likely, they have to.
From what I know, most of the people of the world will go through the virus. There are a lot of predictions, but I suppose that more than a half of the people would get COVID. It just depends more on the readiness and adequacy of the people themselves. If you get sick, the main thing is to stay at home, not infect other people and just get cured. This is the norm.
At first, I was very scared too because when you learn about the coronavirus from TV or the internet it is one thing, but once my older brother called me and said: “We are sick. Three of us are locking down at home” (my stepmother, my father and my older brother), at first, I was shocked. I looked on Twitter – and I saw that my mom’s best friend is also sick. And all this in one day. I was very scared. But all the same, this disease… It exists, yes, it is fatal, but it is not so terrible. I have a lot of friends who have been ill. And it became easier for me to perceive the situation.
The worst thing is the scale and threat for the people who are not aware of this virus and don’t know how to behave. These people are in great danger. They may think that this is a common flu and go infect their relatives. They start taking antibiotics without consulting a doctor and that is what we are fighting. We recorded a video for my fundraising and for our local television so that people understand that there is a specific treatment protocol and that it is necessary to isolate and maintain hygiene. I think this is the norm. I think a person will get used to anything quickly enough.
Let’s talk about Dota. First of all, the OMEGA League. Huge tournament, big prize pool, prestige. Some people are even considering this as some sort of replacement for TI. You’ve started the tournament with two tough games versus Alliance and NAVI. What problems have come to the surface after these matches?
I’d say that we did pretty decent preparations for the event. We were training very seriously. Me and Artstyle couldn’t arrive at the bootcamp, but despite this, we have played like 60 scrims and prepared various strategies.
First game was versus Alliance. We started to confuse similar strategies and drafts. That’s what made us not play as good as we could. Secondly, we played good in scrims, but that caused us a big disservice. When you win a lot in practice matches, you are getting used to it, and you become a bit more relaxed than you need. Anyways, we discussed what was wrong and how to handle it.
Moreover, at first I didn’t realize that because of the time zones, my games started at midnight. I had to mess up with my regime in order to keep up to the schedule.
It looks like the games got a bit slower than in the previous patch. In the current patch, most of the games tend to go past 40 minutes, but Virtus.pro showed that a fast and aggressive style is still an option. Is this something that you’ve developed with Artstyle who is known for such game style?
Hard to say. We always like to play very dominantly, to press the enemy from the very early stage, win lanes and secure the advantage. Sometimes we are playing incredibly aggressive, but we realized that it’s more an exception than the rule. We always have a plan B, we can play for the late game. What I do admire in Artsyle is that he gives some sort of the inner certainty in the strategies. Eventually, it happens in tournaments that after some losses you hesitate to use some moves again.
Artstyle just knows how to support it in his own ways, he knows how to say that everything still works, but you made a mistake somewhere. However, he is not so involved in shaping the strategies. He gives some of his tips, follows the scene and tells certain players what heroes are hot meta or interesting picks. He doesn’t push hard on strategies. He is more like a support and a listener who corrects you.
What differences can you highlight between Mag and ArtStyle?
If you compare them, Mag was more of a drafter when I played in NAVI. He was a clear-cut unit who creates strategies, comes up with some things together with the team, has a lot of say when it comes down to strategies used and picks. He was more like the sixth player who has his own responsibilities in the game. And as far as I can say, ArtStyle is more like the soul of the team, he cares more about the emotional state of the players, even during the game. It cares more about our mentality.
How do you like patch 7.27?
I quite like it. It completely suits me in terms of heroes in my position. I like what kind of heroes are in meta now: Earth Spirit, Elder Titan, Tiny, etc.
Name the top 3 heroes for position 4 right now.
Rubick, Tiny, Phoenix.
With the 7.27 patch, Valve changed the draft stage from 4-1-1 to 2-3-2. How much did it affect the gameplay, perhaps it became a little harder to pick signature heroes?
On the contrary. Because there are less number of bans available in the first phase. Previously, it was possible to ban almost the whole hero pool of some players almost immediately. Now, you can pick the core position heroes in the first stage again, because after that there are three bans. Previously, if you took a carry in the first stage, the opponent could possibly find a good hero against him and you, obviously, would lose the draft. Now you can take some hero as core and use the bans to block the counters for it and play calmly. Then you have two more bans before the last pick. This allows for more signature heroes to be taken.
I can’t help but ask about your signature Techies. The community hates them, but is there a place for Techies in the current meta?
Techies is still good, but it’s a very specific hero. It all depends on your strategies and your execution. You can create a very good, balanced strategy, because Techies, although they aren’t your ordinary support, they still get the job done. You just need to balance all this, and it can be very cool, because the hero is not particularly studied, and just a few people love Techies. Many more blindly hate them. But yeah, Techies emotionally undermine the opponent. Immediately.
Name three reasons to love Techies.
It is complicated and unusual. This was one of the main reasons for which I started to play Techies. Secondly, Techies is the most strategic hero. There are heroes on which you can just walk, kill and you don’t have to bother too much in strategy, you can just pick some aura heroes and right-click to finish everything,
Techies are slightly more sophisticated. You have a lot of options and different things that you can think of. It is very cool. Well, thirdly, just look at them, they are very handsome (laughs). Killing from a distance is very enjoyable.
Virtus.pro is not the only Dota 2 roster in the organization. Not even the only tier-1 roster. Is it difficult to share tournaments with VP.Prodigy?
As I understand it, just one team per organization can participate in a tournament. Because of that, VP.Prodigy were not in the OMEGA League and they played Dota PIT, while we didn’t. It’s just that when we played before that break, in July, when there were a lot of tournaments, it had no effect at all. We did not have any serious conflicts of interest. In general, the fact that we have another roster in the organization does not affect our own squad in any way.
Does it affect you from the point of view of preparation? After all, you have two strong teams that can train at full strength with each other, while not giving away secrets outside the club.
It’s a cool topic, yes. When I even played in Korea in MVP, there was a similar system. But we don’t have that here. We treat each other like regular teams.
When you were with NAVI, you also had the captain role. Did you become a kind of co-caller in Virtus.pro or did it take you some time to learn to speak less in the game?
I try to position myself as an active player. It means that I don’t have to constantly make calls in the game. But I want to participate in general, in terms of developing the strategy. I have ideas, and sometimes I suggest them. Then we discuss, so my ideas are either rejected, and experienced players explained to me why, or accepted if they are good.
Sometimes there is such a theme that your captain or someone on the team does not always play well. Then, you must take the initiative. Or if there is some difficult moment in the game, you are losing or something else, you have to turn on, start coming up with some ideas.
Besides that, we have some kind of distribution of responsibilities. In simple terms, we are the supports, me and Solo, and we are leading the laning stage of the game. Where to go, how to rotate etc. When we control the active runes, No[o]ne is often making the calls.
This is roughly what my responsibilities look like in the early stages of the game. I have to be as productive as possible and call when I have the opportunity to gank. Each player has goals, where they are responsible for certain moments, stages in the game. Obviously, if iLTW is farming and at one point he simply says that we are going to end the game, that’s his responsibility.
Solo is, in his own way, a cult personality in the world of CIS Dota. This is a player who says: “I want to play with you”, and you will. I understand that you have experienced this effect on yourself. You had some expectations from Solo as a leader, a captain. Did you know where you were going, and did you have your own desires and requirements for the captain in the team? How different are your expectations of his leadership approach, perhaps, from how it happens in real life?
In short, he met my expectations. In some things, I was pleasantly surprised by how the team building is going, not only in strategic but also in some general communication things. I expected VP to be a little different in some regards, but I didn’t know what to expect.
Let’s move on to blitz questions. Money or love?
I have to ask. Why?
We put our meanings into words. At the moment, at this stage in my life, I want money.
Can Cola or bottled?
The first hero you played in Dota 2 was?
I don’t remember, Spirit Breaker or Lifestealer. Spirit Beaker, I suppose. It was really cool. I was probably five years old. My older brother came up to me and said: “Here, brother, you press the Charge of Darkness on the hero, you run at him, you fight him head to head, and when he starts to run away, you press the ultimate.” And I’m like, “Cool!” (laughs).
What are you missing in life?
The Aegis (laughs).
The International is tomorrow. Who would win it, East or West?
What is power?
Every human being has its own power, which motivates him. The most important thing is to realize and understand what is yours. Mine is determination. My determination allows me to believe that everything will be much better and that I can do it.