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The Comeback Kid: Maut’s journey to Manila and The International

TI7 dates
TI7 dates are Aug. 7-12, 2017 at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington.

Author’s Note: I initially conducted this interview with Travis shortly after he returned from the Manila Major, but we decided to hold the article in case he was invited to the International as well.

It’s no secret that the life of a caster in any esport isn’t easy. They work long hours in high-pressure environments and deal with constant criticism – fair or not – from fans. Traveling all around the world to cast events can be exhausting, but the roar of the crowd and the thrill of the game make it all worth it. For Travis “Maut” Bueno, it seemed like the day he would get to experience that thrill kept eluding him.

As a veteran of the North American Dota casting scene, Maut was one of the founding members of HighGroundTV alongside Greg “WhatIsHip” Laird and Dakota “KotLGuy” Cox in March 2014. In July of that year, Maut and KotLGuy were invited to cast the International’s group stage games, but not the main event. HighGroundTV was known for broadcasting mostly North American tournaments, including the American Dota League and Canada Cup. The organization’s most successful project was its collaboration with Dota Pit, which went on to spawn a LAN event earlier this year. But after a year and a half of broadcasting, HighGroundTV closed its doors as a broadcasting studio in September 2015 after its members went on to different projects. KotLGuy had joined Beyond the Summit as a full-time caster in February, Maut joined the fledgling studio and talent agency MoonduckTV in August, and WhatIsHip eventually became Beyond the Summit’s global sales director after HighGroundTV.

Maut will be returning to Seattle just over two years after he first put on his headset and casted for the first time at the International 2014. He has many more events under his belt since then. The Manila Major. The Summit 5. StarLadder. With this wealth of experience and an intense work ethic to back him up, Maut is ready to take the Emerald City by storm, and Slingshot’s Cameron “Turbo” Regan had the chance to catch up with him.

Cameron “Turbo” Regan: What was your first reaction when you found out that Valve wanted to bring you out to cast the Manila Major?

Travis “Maut” Bueno: It was 3 a.m. New York time, I was awake, just browsing the internet as I usually do. Suddenly I got a message from Bruno: “Hey man, can I call you right now?”

So there’s two thoughts going through my mind; one is that I’m not going to Manila and they were going to tell me and the other thought was they were inviting me and I was about to lose it. Sure enough, after a 10-minute conversation with Bruno, they were going to give me a shot at Manila and I lost it. I jumped up and down for a good couple of minutes while howling before getting back to normal.

CR: How did you prepare for the tournament? Was it very different from how you would normally prepare to cast something like Canada Cup?

TB: Uhh, not really. It’s kind of the same preparation as Canada Cup. The only thing that was different for me were the people I was casting with. I’m used to co-casting with Purge, Zyori, Grant or MotPax for Canada Cup and now I would be casting with GoDz, LD, Waga, Winter and Merlini. I’ve only casted with one of those people before Manila (Merlini), and I think that made me the most nervous during the group stages. It’s funny, I’ve been doing this for four years and I still get nervous when I cast with a new person.

CR: The Manila Major was your first time casting a LAN event, correct? How did it feel before the start of your first series on the main stage of the arena?

TB: I was honestly so confident when it came to casting on the main stage. I just did my own thing and had a lot of help from my co-casters and it felt so good. The first series was exciting but I couldn’t tell how many people were there. The crowd was pretty loud and that got me going but when I go back to the Fnatic and LGD series when the crowd was full and people were cheering for DJ and Fnatic it gave me chills just to think about it.

CR: Were you satisfied with your casting in Manila?

TB: For the main event definitely. I don’t know why I had those nerves going in to the group stages but when I hit the stage it was so much better and I crushed it honestly.

CR: Earlier this year it seemed like you were going to be casting the Dota Pit LAN after working with them for a few seasons. Zyori said that “they pulled out of our agreement shortly before coverage began.” What was that experience like on your end?

TB: It was just a large miscommunication honestly. I thought that Dota Pit wanted to work with me and Moonduck but there was never a contract that was signed and when we were negotiating with them for the next season it became apparent that they wanted (Toby “TobiWan” Dawson) and joinDOTA to work with them. This isn’t the first time this has happened in esports, and it actually happens all the time. I was never owed anything, I de that abundantly clear and while it did hurt at the time you’ve got to just suck it up and keep working doing other gigs or else you’ll never get anywhere. Dota Pit and I are on good terms and I’m glad to see that they are succeeding so well, and I look forward to their events in the future.

CR: What do you think was the most memorable moment from your time casting in the arena?

TB: The low ground black hole from DJ was pretty cool. That was the first time the crowd got real hyped and it just made me feel so euphoric honestly. That type of crowd with that type of reaction. It’s unreal to talk about honestly.

CR: Viewers at home could hear the crowd, but what was the atmosphere like in person?

TB: Unbelievable, they didn’t have crowd mics live for the player intros but that might have been one of the hypest parts of the tournament when Secret, OG, DC, EG and Na’Vi came out they went NUTS! It was electrical in there!

CR: How was meeting the fans there?

TB: I actually didn’t get to meet many fans but they were all nice and gracious, it was a pleasant experience. Honestly some of the coolest Dota fans you’ll ever meet.

CR: What was, in your opinion, the biggest surprise of the tournament?

TB: I think Fnatic doing so well was the biggest surprise. Most people from the English Talent predicted that they would be bottom four I think, and when they came through the upper bracket beating Alliance, everyone had to take a second and think “Wow, OK. These guys could be good.” When they beat LGD then everyone knew they were the real deal.

CR: What are your goals for the rest of the year, as a caster?

TB: TI6, to do more LAN events, to work on my observing and to just grow as a person.

CR: Any shout outs?

TB: All my fans that take their time to listen to my casts. My friends and my brother who is super into my Dota career as a Dota player himself. I’m trying to get him to get into Dota casting too but I’m sure he’s too shy for that lol.

Cover photo: NVIDIA Corporation/flickr