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Q&A: Escape Gaming’s qojqva on playing the TI6 wild card tournament and lower bracket hopes

It isn’t easy being a wild card team. Just a few games can mean the difference between walking away from The International with over $100,000 in guaranteed prize money or none at all. Thankfully for Max “qojqva” Bröcker of Escape Gaming, his team was triumphant over compLexity and Execration, and Escape will play on the main stage today. The mere promise of $100,000 is not enough for qojqva, who has previously attended The International in 2013 and 2014. He wants to go as far through the bracket as he possibly can.

After a triumph in the wild card, the group stage was not as good as Escape had hoped. Placing last with only two wins was demoralizing, but in talking to Slingshot’s Cameron “Turbo” Regan, qojqva seemed confident about the upcoming lower bracket matchup against Fnatic on the main stage.

Cameron “Turbo” Regan: How do you feel after the group stage? Do you think you guys can bounce back once you get to the playoffs?

Max “qojqva” Bröcker: Well, at this event every team is top one, and a lot of play styles collide at this event – the Eastern and the Western – so coming into this tournament as a really new team is difficult to perform. I think we’re gonna bounce back. We play Fnatic. We haven’t played them before I think, ever, so I think we can take it. (Escape did play Fnatic at Epicenter back in May and won)

CR: Do you think the element of surprise will help you in that game?

MB: I think so. We have some — I would say “strategies” that are not common, I guess. And I think our play style matches up pretty well against theirs. So, I think so.

CR: About your play style, the meta has involved a lot of different heroes being picked. Do you like that there are so many heroes that are available and viable, or do you think it makes planning to play against a team more difficult?

MB: I really like the meta. Almost any lineup can work. I think at TI6 something like 90 or 95 heroes have been picked?

CR: I think it’s 100 now.

MB: 100 actually? So like, yeah. That just means that a lot of strats are viable. Like, on the other side, just this Drow and Huskar thing every game is kind of dull. But overall I think I like this meta the most.

CR: Do you think Huskar is at a point where you have to ban him at the beginning of every single game? Or for some teams can you just ignore it?

MB: I think it really depends on the team. For example, Secret won like three games with Huskar and then it was banned and they lost six games. So, things like that you have to take into consideration. But there are definitely counters. There are counters to every hero in Dota. So it’s not like an auto-win hero, but you have to be very careful what you pick and what you give them when they take Huskar.

Speaking of counters, we saw you guys pick Ancient Apparition (AA) once and it didn’t do so well. Do you think that hero could be viable in that situation?

MB: I still think AA is the best hero in the game against Huskar, but in that game it was really difficult for AA to play. But I think that’s because we couldn’t use the map that game because they had Slark – it was against compLexity I think – and another invisible hero so our AA couldn’t even get Level 6, and then the hero’s just useless. If his ultimate is everything against the hero and he doesn’t get to use his ult before he dies, it’s just 4 vs. 5.

CR: Do you think a lot of your losses came down to those drafting mistakes? Or was it down to individual play.

MB: It’s probably both because with drafting you need to set yourself up to have a good game, and (Troels “syndereN” Neilsen) did not set himself up for a good game that game. When you draft something you have to be confident that it works and that game it was really difficult for him to get in the game. So in general I would say that it’s both.

CR: It must have been a huge relief to make it through the wild card. Were you very nervous before or during the games, or were you confident?

MB: Against compLexity we were pretty confident and we really wanted to win because at Epicenter we also played in the wild cards against them, and at Epicenter they won. You could see in the months before TI they were saying that we were the best opponent for them. They were really confident and we obviously wanted to beat them. They were like the No. 1 enemy for us. So, yeah, all of us were really confident and really, really wanted to win and then we did.

CR: What about your other opponents, EHOME and Execration? Were you more or less confident going against them?

MB: Well, EHOME is like an all-star team. I think some of my teammates were pretty afraid of playing against them. Some of the less experienced ones. I have played against a lot of the teams at TI3 and TI4, and throughout the years, so I don’t really get nervous. I don’t really have much more respect to tier one teams. So it wasn’t a problem for me but we did not make plays that would usually make against other opponents, if that makes sense. So that’s why we lost as hard as we did.

CR: So you mentioned that you weren’t nervous, but some of your teammates haven’t been to TI before. How do you help them deal with their nerves? Do you help pump each other up?

MB: We get pretty hyped up before our games, actually. And I keep just telling them that there’s no reason to be nervous. EHOME is like any other team. They just try to win. I keep telling them that they’re not better than any other team. That’s all you have to say. You can’t respect one opponent more than another. You’re gonna lose if you think like that. We kind of help each other in that regard, I think. So if there’s a question from (Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann) like “(Ren “ELeVeN” Yangwei) never shows on the map as Batrider. How do you do that?” And then we watch replays together and I tell him what he’s doing wrong, or how he can improve in that aspect.

CR: And KheZu is new. About a year ago he was playing Heroes of Newerth. Does teaching him help your knowledge of the game as well?

MB: Well there are things he uses or knows that I don’t really pay attention to because they’re normal for me. So I question myself a lot when I tell him something, which is a good thing because there are always new things to learn. So in that regard I think so. But yeah, he’s super new, he can’t know things that Dota players with 10 years of experience know.

CR: Before The International you added (Benjamin “NotAHax” Läärä) as a coach. How did you decide was the best way to utilize his abilities?

MB: Well, NotAHax is an ex-professional player. He’s more like a strategist I would say. He’s more like a (Peter “PPD” Dager) in that sense. So, he helped us a lot with drafts, and that’s the biggest part. Like, that’s what a coach does, help with drafts and figure out how to beat other teams. He gives us a starting point for what we can do in a game, and generally just helps us also with mental problems. So I think coaching is a pretty big deal in Dota actually, it has helped us personally a lot.

CR: Did the other wild card team’s performance surprise you? Like, EHOME came out and won their group. Did that surprise you or did you expect that they would do well?

MB: I expected EHOME and us would go through, there was no doubt for me that EHOME would pull through. I thought we would do better against them, but after playing against them one game I knew they would be a top contender for even winning TI. It’s just so different how they play from other teams I’ve played in the last few months. It’s really difficult against them. Their play style, it just fits the meta right now.