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Q&A: BuLba on Team Secret’s bad second day, lower bracket dreams and being in the public eye

Team Secret is the reigning Shanghai Major champion, with some of the most acclaimed players leading its roster. Team Secret is also one loss away from elimination in the lower bracket of The International 6. While the first day of play was solid, its second was not. After losing all its Day 2 games, Team Secret managed to salvage the group stage by defeating Team Liquid twice.

Despite perhaps having their confidence shaken, Secret is a team full of veterans, each member having been to The International at least once in their careers. On the main stage they have a real opportunity to make a comeback and prove that their strong performance in the open qualifiers and at StarLadder last month wasn’t a fluke. Slingshot’s Cameron “Turbo” Regan managed to catch up with Sam “BuLba” Sosale before they played their first game on the main stage to hear his thoughts about how Secret could manage to turn around their performance in Seattle.

Cameron “Turbo” Regan: So, the group stage started off pretty well for you guys, but on the second day there was a losing streak. Do you think it’s hard to put those losses behind you and start fresh?

Sam “BuLba” Sosale: I think because it was a chain of like six losses, and we were really confident after the first day, and we were also very confident after our practice before the tournament started. And then suddenly in the span of a day we went from the top of the group to second-to-last place. That was a very sinking feeling. So it’s like maybe if you start off not so great on the first day, it doesn’t feel as bad, but we started off very confident. And regardless, six losses hurt our confidence quite a bit. But then I think that the most important thing is learning about why you lost and what happened, so that’s the biggest goal.

CR: When you get into those situations and hard losses, do you think that having (Theeban “1437” Siva) around is beneficial?

SS: Yeah, we have 1437 and (Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling) as our coaches, so they both help us in that way. More so because every player on a team is biased about why you might have lost a game, and having a third person who doesn’t have any bias in that situation is useful. So they talk it over, give their opinion, and it’s up to us really to take that information and actually put it in our games. It definitely helps.

CR: So what kind of tasks do you delegate to Aui and 1437?

SS: I think we let them do their own thing. 1437 has been coaching for a while now, and it’s Aui’s first time coaching. But he did coach us for the qualifiers so he learned some stuff there about what to do. We’re all really good friends with each other, like Aui has been one of my closest friends for the entire year since I helped him at TI5. We’re just comfortable talking to each other, and I’ve known 1437 for a long time. I respect what he has to say as well, so they kind of just do whatever they feel they need to.

CR: What’s it like living and boot camping with everyone? How do post-game and post-scrim discussions go with you guys?

SS: We usually just let 1437 or Aui lead discussions. We all have opinions about why we won or why we lost or anything about the game, but it’s better if you save that for a bit and let the coaches talk it out and tell us what they think. As for living with the team, I’m close friends with all of them. I’ve known (Artour “Arteezy” Babaev) and (Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao) for a while, and I’ve also known (Johan “pieliedie” Åström) for a while. (Clement “Puppey” Ivanov) is like the only person I haven’t known much. He’s a very chill guy. So everyone on the team is close friends, they’re very easy to live with.

CR: How is the experience of playing with Puppey? He’s a legend of the scene and very well respected. What’s it like playing with him?

SS: He’s a really great captain. He’s a demanding, authoritative figure. You feel comfortable that he will make the right calls to win you the game. When he has to step up you know that he will do it, and that’s very rare for any captain in Dota. He’s probably one of the only captains that can really do that. And he garners a lot of respect as well. We all have a lot of respect for what he does and who he is.

CR: Who does lead in those late game situations? Because we’ve seen a lot of games go late in this tournament. Is it Puppey leading the whole way through or will EnVy step in and say, “we should do this?”

SS: We all lead during different parts of the game. I try to lead when I feel comfortable leading. I let the late game decision making go to EnVy and Puppey because that’s their strengths as players, as well as Arteezy. So it’s honestly those three that handle a lot and I’ll occasionally help, and pieliedie will do the same. But it’s mostly Puppey, EnVy and occasionally me who will make those decisions.

CR: Is it the same way during the draft, with everyone contributing?

SS: We all contribute in the draft; we all give our input.

CR: What’s it like playing with Artour and EnVy on the same team? Did you have to adjust your play style to fit how they wanted to play the game?

SS: I didn’t really have to adjust. I think I can play any play style. Personally I think you can always learn something new, and that’s the point of all of this. To learn, get better and hopefully win. They are definitely both carry players in a way, so I had to adapt a bit in that regard but that’s basically it. I don’t really play like a (Henrik “AdmiralBulldog” Ahnberg) style of offlane.

CR: Since we’re at TI and you’re about to hit the main stage, do you think about previous Internationals that much? Do you think you can pull off a win against LGD like you did back in 2013?

SS: I’m confident. Like, I don’t want to put too much in the second day when we lost all our games, because that was the confidence-breaking stuff. So, if we just get past that and don’t think too much about that – because we were doing really well before that – and as long as we just believe in ourselves we’ll be fine. I mean LGD is still LGD, they have probably the best Chinese captain on their team. But I’m fairly confident.

CR: How do you feel about the off lane meta this patch? Do you think Iron Talon needs more nerfs or is it okay?

SS: I actually think the off lane is in one of the best places right now. There’s a lot of things you can do in every game, and you can really do anything you want. It’s actually quite enjoyable to play I think, it’s not like last year or a few months ago where you had to jungle. It’s good.

CR: Because Secret is so well known, the community can be quite critical when you make mistakes. Do you pay attention to that at all, or do you try and ignore it?

SS: That stuff definitely affects players. Each player handles it differently; I personally try to avoid reading too much into it. I think everyone will deal with it in some way, just like in any real sport you have critics. It’s just that in the world of esports it’s way more easy to access, because you have to read that stuff – for example Reddit and twitter – you read that. And every player does kind of read that as well. It definitely affects you if you read it too much. When you come to these events and you meet people you realize that’s an extremely vocal minority. At the end of the day you’re doing something that you love and you enjoy doing. So that itself is a good feeling in the end.

CR: Do you have any words for the fans, any shout outs?

SS: Shout out to our fans. Hopefully we pull through in the losers bracket.