Only five months since its formation, Team eHug has already come a long way towards making itself a name in Dota 2. As one of eight teams participating in the upcoming American qualifiers for ESL One in Frankfurt, we were happy to have our very own Kevin Tocao stop by to talk with the players themselves at the eHug team house in New York City. ESL: You’ve described the eHug organization as “three good guys who love DotA and want to create a pro team that will treat its players right.” Could you elaborate on Team eHug’s formation and goals as an organization?
eHug Management: We founded Team eHug after reading about the pitiable contract situation of the old Speed Gaming (now Cloud 9). Despite the large headline viewership and prize pool numbers, the opportunity to pursue professional Dota as a career was only available to a select few. The lack of support for the scene was especially pronounced in the Americas, and so we decided to lead the charge and be part of the solution. We wanted to provide an environment in which talented American players could practice full time and compete at a high level without having to worry about making a living outside of the game.
Monthly grocery stipend keeps eHug fueled and Jigglebilly smiling.
ESL: Team eHug seems to be built heavily upon a community foundation – you’ve been very open and transparent on Reddit. As fans yourselves, what kind of things do you guys want to do to connect with fans of Team eHug?
eHug Management: We are up for anything! We try our best to host fun events and publish entertaining content, but it’s impossible for us to anticipate what the fans want. Please reach out to us at [email protected] with any suggestions or requests, and we and our players would be happy to oblige. Help us give you what you want <3
ESL: Let’s talk about the upcoming ESL One qualifiers. How has the team been training?
Donal “ima_sheep(sux)” Cheung: Yeah, we try to wake up sort of early because we try to scrim European teams and they tend to start around 10:00am [EST] but most of the games are at around 1pm and then end around 4pm. But we’re also scrimming more North American teams because we like to play on US East because most of our tournaments are on US East.
Jared “Pandaego” Fletcher: Yeah, and we recently switched drafters. We’ve been experimenting with Justin drafting for us and it’s been working out well. But we still need to practice it a bit more – since Jigglebilly went home for Easter, we have only had about a week to try it out.
From left to right: Jared “Pandaego” Fletcher, Donal “ima_sheep(sux)” Cheung, Marcus “Jigglebilly” Dastrup
ESL: So right now three of you are living in the team house – Jigglebilly, ima_sheep(sux) and Pandaego – while Cak3z and Justin are still at home. Do you feel that having a team house is necessary for eSports teams that want to seriously compete? Does it complicate things that the whole team isn’t there?
Marcus “Jigglebilly” Dastrup: I think it depends on the team’s chemistry. Some teams can get along with living in their own homes and some play better when they’re living together.
Donal: I mean, it can get awkward at some times for us. I remember when I first came here and it was just me and RyuUboruZ – we are good friends, but sometimes we just sat here not really talking. I think it would be more fun if we have all five here. And sometimes it can get shitty because at home you can relax more. Also at home I have really bad internet but here I have a nice monitor and fast internet.
Jared: Yeah, I think it’s not necessary because there’s a lot of teams that are very successful without a team house but I think it can be very beneficial. We sort of came to a team consensus that it would be really good if we had five people here. It would make a big difference in terms of being able to schedule scrims and manage everything in person instead of over Skype.
Justin Rosselle [via Skype]: Although I understand the benefits I really don’t think it’s necessary. Without having lived there at all it’s hard to say, though. Lots of European teams are very successful without a dedicated team house, with just some boot camps before major tournaments. However, teams in China and Korea opt for the team house, which seems to work for some of them
ESL: So what are your expectations coming in to the ESL One qualifiers?
Jared: I think going into it we set our expectations to win because there’s not much point to it if we don’t [laughs]. We definitely expect to win the first round, and I think we have a pretty good chance of beating Team Liquid if we keep practicing.
Justin: I expect to place third, behind EG and Liquid.
ESL: EG is currently seen as the North American standout in international competition. Do you expect more American teams to compete at the international level?
Clay “Cak3z” Winkler: Maybe not at an international level because it is dominated by very good teams right now so it’s hard for a new team to jump into the mix, but I think the Dota scene is growing a lot everywhere.
Jared: I’ve been playing Dota 2 since December 2012, I think, and since then the North American scene has grown a lot. And this might be why EG is doing so well. There’s so many more teams now and actual American tournaments. Like before you couldn’t play unless it was the morning and on the Luxembourg servers. So now you can play more seriously at night and on US servers so people who work part time or are students have a better chance to play. And of course that leads to a larger pool of talent. It’s also nice with American tournaments because if you wanted a spot in a European tournament there was usually only a spot for the one dominant NA team.
Pandaego taking a break from DotA to play some Dark Souls 2
ESL: Did you guys watch any of the Open Qualifiers for the Americas Qualifier? Of the teams that qualified, which teams impressed you guys most: Vas’Avi, North American Rejects, Top 5, or Union Gaming?
Clay: I think North American Rejects have the best players and best team work out of all those teams.
Jared: We’ve played against all those teams. But I think North American Rejects is the favorite among them. We’ve scrimmed them a few times – they’re really good. I think we’re about 50/50 with them. I think their biggest weakness right now is that they’re not that used to the current meta. And it will also depend on how they adjust to the new patch coming out. But I think the new patch will be really good for them because a lot of the heroes they like are getting buffed – I know Korok likes playing Windranger and those changes should help a lot.
ESL: eHug has more experience playing South American teams than most – which South American teams do you think have a chance at the qualifiers?
Donal: Revenge is pretty good, if they don’t lag. The South American teams play on a lot of delay so if that could get fixed they would be a lot better.
ESL: What other rising teams are you excited about?
Marcus: It was pretty interesting when those Chinese teams were picking Wraith King, Tusk and Sniper. They definitely showed creativity.
Donal: I’m rooting for MVP.hot6 because my friend Jubei is in it. And I got details on three players they’re bringing in and I think they’ll be quite good. So watch out for Hot6!
Clay: I haven’t seen them play a lot but I hear MMC is all the rage right now.
ESL: Any predictions for TI4?
Jared: Obviously eHug [laughs]. Though I would say DK is the obvious frontrunner but EG has a chance as well. But it also depends on what this patch does to the meta.
Marcus: Yeah, I would say if this patch lasts until TI4 we’ve gotta see what happens after the patch drops and how teams react to it. It might come off as arrogant for me to say Team eHug is gonna win TI4, but you gotta set your expectations high and you gotta be confident. And confidence is key.
Donal: I think Na’Vi is gonna be second from statistics.
Justin: It’s hard to say. I think a lot of people would just say DK after seeing Star Ladder but I think a big part of them winning was being prepared to beat Lycan. And with the new patch, anyone can win
Clay: I think DK plays really well on LAN with an audience so I think that will have a big factor when you play at a event like TI4 for a lot of money and in front of a lot of people.
ESL: Let’s talk about the new patch. What are some of your favorite changes and some of the changes you think that will have a big impact on the current meta?
Clay: Maybe my team will let me play Tidehunter again – I like that hero.
Justin: Lich’s Frost Armor on towers just seems really good. I think the Eul’s change is actually pretty good as well – people won’t be able to blink out of it anymore. I don’t think it’ll have too much of an impact but I like the change. I don’t think the Aghs on KotL will be broken, but I think it will remind people that the hero exists and he’ll get picked fairly often.
Jared: A lot of the supports got buffed significantly besides Dazzle and AA, who got slight nerfs. I think supports will have a huge impact in the next patch. The KotL change is huge – that hero might be first pick or first ban every game.
Donal: The heroes I wrote down on the board [Tusk and Lina] might actually get picked now with some of the changes.
Marcus: Yeah, that Lina change could make her more viable against heroes like Na’ix or Juggernaut or any BKB carry.
ESL: Any final words or shoutouts?
Marcus: Yeah, shoutout to Microkiller!
Jared: Shoutout to our sponsors and fans. Thanks for supporting us – we’ll make you proud!
Donal: Shoutout to Sleisel, my #1 fan. Shoutout to Jubei and Korea!
Justin: Shoutout to Lust and BloodyNine!
Clay: Shoutout to Ryu thanks for playing with us and Bulba – thanks for the kiss on the cheek at LAN.
Remember to watch the ESL One America Qualifier on ESL One, featuring Team eHug, Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid and For Sweet Revenge.
Wednesday 30th April
- 19:00 – Team Liquid vs TOP5(Bo3)
- 23:00 – eHug vs Union Gaming(Bo3)
Thursday 1st May
- 23:00 – Evil Geniuses vs Vas’Avi(Bo3)
Friday 2nd May
- 01:00 – Revenge eSports vs North American Rejects(Bo3)
- 18:00 – American Semi-Final #1(Bo3)
Saturday 3rd May
- 21:00 – American Semi-Final #2(Bo3)
Sunday 4th May
- 19:00 – American Final(Bo3)
Name: Donal “ima_sheep(sux)” Cheung
Hometown: Norwich, Connecticut
Years playing Dota: Don’t remember. Too long.
Favorite heroes: Alacrity and MoM Invoker, Zeus, PotM
Favorite teams and players: eHug.ima_sheep(sux)
Other games/hobbies: CS:GO, Magicite, Binding of Isaac
Name: Jared “Pandaego” Fletcher
Hometown: Bothell, Washington
Years playing Dota: Eight
Favorite heroes: KotL, Shadow Demon, Dazzle
Favorite teams and players: Zai and Universe, AKA Young Dunk
Other games/hobbies: Dark Souls 2 and Diablo 3
Name: Marcus “Jigglebilly” Dastrup
Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona
Years playing DotA: Nine years on and off
Favorite heroes: Brewmaster, Troll Warlord
Favorite teams and players: None
Other games/hobbies: Ventrilo with the boys
Name: Clayton “Cak3z” Winkler
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Years playing DotA: Five to six
Favorite heroes: Clockwerk, Bounty Hunter, Tidehunter
Favorite teams and players: Cloud9 and Fnatic, iceiceice and Bone7
Other games/hobbies: CS:GO and Hearthstone. Skimboarding, fishing, biking, boating, anything in the sun.
Name: Justin Rosselle
Hometown: Mt. Airy, Maryland
Years playing DotA: 2.5
Favorite heroes: Morphling, Anti-Mage, Lone Druid, Sand King
Favorite teams and players: Cloud 9, Vici Gaming, Orange from TI3
Other games/hobbies: Diablo 3