David “Moo” Hull, the lone American on Digital Chaos’ roster, is soft spoken and reserved when I meet him.
You wouldn’t realize from a first glance that Moo is one of the top 80 Dota 2 players in the world – earned by virtue of attending The International after defeating countless others – out of almost 13 million unique players, according to Valve’s figures. These elite few players will battle for the title of best team in the world this week at The International 6.
Digital Chaos bullied its way to second place in its group, beating favorites NewBee and Team Liquid along the way. With the main event starting Monday, these self-described underdogs are a real threat in the upper bracket. Looking at Moo, I don’t see someone who is nervous about the trials to come. I see someone with an unshakable work ethic backed by a gang of misfits assembled at the last minute through unfortunate circumstances. I see someone who wants to win a championship and has a real chance to do so this coming week.
Cameron “Turbo” Regan: You’re in the upper bracket after a strong performance in the group stage. Were you nervous before the event started?
David “Moo” Hull: Yeah, we came into the event as underdogs. Lost to compLexity and EG in the qualifiers, so you go into this event and you kind of don’t expect anything, but you’re still gonna try because it’s TI.
CR: When you saw your group opponents did you feel more or less confident?
DH: Neither really. Groups A and B were equally hard, so I wasn’t really like, “Dang, Group B.”
CR: Were there any teams that you wanted to play or avoid, or was it just neutral?
DH: We wanted to play Wings. We haven’t lost to Wings yet, so even though they’re really good — it’s kind of like OG vs. Na’Vi. OG always wins because they just have their number. We might be that way with Wings, so I’m kind of happy we got them (in the playoffs). But they’re still really good, so we might just flop.
CR: I wanted to ask about the beginning of the year when you had your team formed with Archon and (Jesus “ztok” Carhuaricra), and then there was the Valve ban. I’m sure you’re not happy with the situation, but given all the success you’ve seen with DC – qualifying for three international LANs and TI6 – do you think you’re overall okay with how things turned out? Would you have done things differently?
DH: I don’t know. If ztok wasn’t banned I might still be on that team. I don’t know where I’d be right now, but I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I joined this team, maybe I work a little bit harder in the past events, but I think I would have done the same things.
CR: If you won TI, would you be thinking of him – among others?
DH: I don’t know. Ztok was a friend of mine but we don’t — you kind of drift away from people in the Dota world if you don’t talk to them enough. Because I’ve been traveling like every other week now, so, we don’t really talk anymore. If I had to dedicate it to anyone it would be my coaches. Without them we wouldn’t be this far, I think.
CR: Does that lifestyle wear on you, traveling so much and going to different events? You went to three events in July alone. Is that exhausting?
DH: It is and it isn’t. You lose your grip on reality sometimes, where you came from. Your home. Your friends at home don’t really understand, you know? You’re traveling the world to play video games. It’s not normal. But at the same time it’s amazing. I’ve been going to so many different places and I’m only 20. It’s an amazing feeling and I don’t regret it.
CR: You’ve lived in the DC house for a while now. Do you think you could do that year-round? Would you want to go home at some point?
DH: We had a few chances to go home when we were in the DC house, usually right after qualifiers when there’s a little bit of a break, like a week or something. But it drains on you. You can’t really have a relationship with anyone. Like, it’s hard to talk to my parents, my friends, or even have a girlfriend when you’re in a house like that because you just play Dota for 12 hours a day and then go to sleep. But, for right now I think I could. I could probably do it.
CR: You mentioned your coaches earlier. How exactly have you utilized (Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille)’s skills to help you guys?
DH: Well, we have Pajkatt and we have Loomdun. Pajkatt helps us with the mechanical skill parts. Like, he’ll do 1-v-1s with us, help us with match ups, just gives us new ideas about heroes. Loomdun is a very good analyzer and speaker, so he researches every team extensively and has a four-page essay ready for us about the team we’ll face when we wake up telling us what heroes we should pick against them, and even new things that we should think about. He also helps us communicate with each other. Like when there are arguments, he’s there to help us express our feelings without killing each other.
CR: When you guys attended those three LANs last month, your results weren’t that great on paper. Do you think you learned a lot from those match ups and the other regions?
DH: Yeah, that’s why we went to Nanyang especially, just to get LAN experience, because all of us excluding (Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen) and (Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok) don’t have much LAN experience, so it’s a really different feeling. But coming to TI after going to those LANs is kind of like playing at home, at least for the group stage. When you’re on the main stage and there’s fans cheering I think every team gets a little shaky. It really helps. It helped a lot.
CR: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
DH: We try and hype each other up. Like, we try not to get overconfident because that’s when you start playing bad and disrespect your enemy a little bit, but we have to wake each other up before a match. Even if it’s like 3 p.m. and we haven’t played any pubs or anything yet. That’s kind of the ritual.
CR: What’s it like playing with MiSeRy as your captain? How does the communication flow through you guys? Is it just MiSeRy saying what should happen or is everyone on the team offering suggestions, and if it’s a good idea you follow it?
DH: It depends on how the game is going. If MiSeRy is having a good game he usually leads, like most of the time he’ll give us general game plans of what’s going to happen and what he wants to do, and then we’ll follow that and maybe have small little ideas of what we’re going to do to help that. But if he’s not in control, then it’s usually either me, (Aliwi “w33” Omar) or Resolut1on kind of leading the game and telling us, “Hey, I want to take this tower, do this, do that.” Unless it’s against Secret, then MiSeRy is yelling louder than I’ve ever heard him yell before when we’re winning.
CR: Is that actually a serious grudge? Like, you go into those games more serious than you normally would?
DH: For MiSeRy it is. I don’t care as much. But he definitely does. When we win versus another team we’re hyped up, but when it’s against Secret we’re hitting their throne and he’s jumping out of his chair and banging on the desk. He definitely holds a bit of a grudge.
CR: Well, best of luck to you guys on the main stage. I know there are a lot of people who want to see you do well here in Seattle. Do you have anything to say to your fans, or shout outs?
DH: I read all the social media stuff even though I don’t reply to it, because it’s not really smart to reply to that stuff. But it’s inspirational when they tell you “good luck” or “you’re great.” Even when they tell you you’re bad, you think, “I’m going to prove you wrong.” I appreciate all of it. I really do.