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Zai: "I'm a boomer, I'm a veteran, and I try to use my experience to move the team forward"

Ludwig "Zai" Wåhlberg talked with us about Team Liquid's adaptation to the patch 7.33 at ESL One Berlin Major 2023, his long career, and expectations coming into The International 2023, as the team already qualified to the event by DPC points. The interview was taken in Berlin on May 6, before the match between Liquid and Evil Geniuses.

The Major was in a vacuum for the participating players

— How much has Team Liquid changed its playstyle for 7.33?

— In the beginning we tried too hard to change it. And we came into this tournament trying to do too many different things. We misunderstood what heroes are supposed to do in this patch and we went in another direction, which turned out to be super wrong. Since then we adjusted that back to more like we played before.

It's a bit of an evolution to how we played the last patch, with the addition of all the new map changes. But I think we really overestimated how much this game is going to change. And I think the truth is that it hasn’t changed that much in terms of heroes. That's what we’ve realized throughout this event.

— Can you say that now you really understand the patch?

— No, I think it’s too early to say so, I'm sure there's a lot of unexplored stuff going on in pubs right now. Probably there is something that's super busted and broken. We just haven’t really had time to experiment with it, and haven’t got to experience it either. I think this tournament is kinda in a vacuum for the participating teams, and I’m sure there is tons of other stuff out there.


— Who from the other teams understood 7.33 really well?

Gaimin Gladiators were the biggest reality check for us. Because we played a bo5 finals against them at DreamLeague. It was early days of the patch, so we both played similar things to what we played before. There was a couple of days between that and our match in the groups, and we tried to change everything during that time. Whereas I think they didn't change much at all. After losing to them we realized that all the heroes are still strong, the way they are playing is still strong. Why do we have to change? They're probably one of the teams I look up to the most in terms of game understanding and drafting.

— One of the Russian casters said he heard a rumor that you could withdraw from the Major before playoffs. Any comments on that?

— I don't really know what that is about. I don't think it's true. Because we haven't had anything like that, we already played DreamLeague and qualified for this tournament, our intention was always to play.

"I went to play mid because I liked concept of '1vs1', and now it became a bit useless". 9 Pandas Kiyotaka on his growth and patch 7.33
He is happy he didn't have to play against SumaiL.

Zai on offlane meta and why he thinks it is kinda boring and dull

— How has your offlaner role changed in this patch? Because it seems that all the focus has switched from the mid to sides. Do you like the changes?

— Yeah, with the Twin Gates, there's always added pressure to the sidelanes now. I think it's a bit weird, because there's so much happening there. You have to always be a little extra on guard because all of the sudden there could be three heroes, and even trilanes popping up here and there at level 1.

In terms of heroes it's kinda similar to how it was previously. Maybe with an extra emphasis on auras, because Crimson Guard and Pipe of Insight were both buffed. It reinforces this grouping up and buying auras deathball kind of playstyle. Personally for me, whatever the meta is, I'm trying to adapt and play my best. But I think this one is kinda boring and dull. It's not that creative, so I hope some auras will be nerfed slightly, so you can play other styles as well, even on the offlane.

— Do you think these gates should be nerfed?

— It would be sad to nerf them straight away. Because we're still exploring the game with these gates in them. And it would be sad to see them be super nerfed or changed a lot. Maybe, we could have them be delayed at the start so there's not so much going on at minute 0. Maybe up until minute five. But apart from that, I feel it's a nice change. I also think that we have something new that was never in Dota before, and it would be sad to see it gone. Because it's new and fresh, so I’d keep it.

"In the end, we're just nerds who play videogames". Quinn on beef with RAMZES, burning out, and playing mid in patch 7.33
"I was always on horrible teams that got very poor results".

— Liquid was a promising team for a long time. But it was failing big LAN events over and over in the past. What changed, can you attribute it to something specific, or was it just you all getting better and better?

— It’s definitely we all improving as players, I think. As a group, we had Matu who came with more experience, with knowledge of longer tournaments, playoffs, LANs, and stuff like this. I think for the rest of them, now they are completely on that level. They caught up to both of us in terms of being able to perform on a big stage.

And in terms of drafting and playstyle, we went from being kinda gimmicky and cheesy in a way, to being more all-rounded and solid. These two things I’d attribute the most to our progress.

Reflecting on his career and Dota veteran status

— You've hit 1000 games played on LAN events. What does that achievement mean to you?

— That's a lot of games. I haven't reflected on it. I know I've been playing for a long time, but I never realized the amount of games. To see myself on that list, among players in top-5 or top-10, it's nice. It's a testament to how long I have been doing it. It's nice to look back and see that I have been able to consistently perform on that level for so long. Hopefully I'll add a couple of more LAN wins to this.

Yatoro: "I don't like dyrachyo as a carry player. I just don't like that kind of playstyle"

— Arteezy once said to me that he doesn't consider himself a Dota veteran and still feels young, in a sense. Do you feel the same?

— I don't think I agree with him. I definitely feel that I've been around for a long time, and I’ve done this for a long time. I don't know what else a veteran would be. I think even him, whether he likes it or not, is a veteran of the game. There are a couple of players who are even more veterans, but I think we are definitely up there. And I think it comes even with my role in this team. I try to use my experience to move the team forward. I'm a boomer, I'm a veteran, yeah.

SmackDonald, Insania, LezzQQ, Khezu, Zai in 2012. Source: Dreamhack

— You were always the youngest player on your teams, and now you're "an adult". It feels a bit strange.

— Yeah, when I was starting to play, I was always the youngest of the group on all my teams. And since I didn't quit since that point, I stuck with it, so now, even though I'm a veteran, I'm not one of the oldest players around. There are players far more senior than I am, but in terms of years playing I'm up there, so it's cool.

TI10 was the most painful TI to lose for Zai

— Let's talk about The International. You got to top-3 four times. Which one did you feel was closest to winning?

— TI10 was the one when I felt like that could've been the one. There was TI4, TI6, TI10 and the last one. At TI4 I was super young, it was my first TI. Our team [EG] was also kinda new and we were just doing things and everything was working. I had no expectations. TI6 was kinda similar. Because I was having a break that year, and I came back only for TI, and all of the sudden we are top-3 again. So the expectations there were very low as well. And at TI10, there were expectations, and we all felt we were actually good, and we could actually do this. That was the closest that I felt and probably the most painful one to lose as well.

MATUMBAMAN and Yapzor after loss to Team Spirit at TI10. Source:

— Are you more confident this year compared to the last one?

— I had no confidence last year in terms of our TI run, whatsoever, so I wasn’t expecting much. This year, I think there are definitely expectations on us. And I think we should perform this year as well. But I think we should use this early qualification to not stress out about it and just play the rest of the year with the intention of going to TI. Hopefully we will try to time our performance and keep in the back of our mind that TI is the big goal and we shouldn't go crazy or anything until then. Hopefully it goes well.

— Some people believe three slots should be enough for China. What's your opinion on that?

— Europe is obviously a very competitive region. And I think it's very hard to do well here, and to consistently get points and qualify for TI. I'm not quite sure how to fix that, honestly. One of the better solutions I've seen was the Last Chance qualifier. I think it was a nice addition to the circuit. It gave every region a shot at qualifying for TI at that later stage, and coincidentally it was two European teams last year going through. But it was fair and square, and every region had its shot at it.

The other solution is adding more slots to the whole thing. Because if you start taking slots from regions and adjusting the ratio, maybe China or SEA loses one. But at some point it does feel unfair as well because, while Europe is a competitive region, this game is for every region. And in a region like, for example, China, where the game is already kinda going downwards, if we remove another slot and all of a sudden there are only two Chinese teams that get to go to events, we accelerate the decline of that scene even further. So I think, either Last Chance or adding more slots would help here.

Dyrachyo after winning Berlin Major: "Maybe we are lucky, or maybe we are just better"

The Berlin Major 2023 The Berlin Major 2023

Liquid Liquid

Zai Zai

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