Group A’s two advancing teams are probably the ones that one would expect given the six teams that entered, but the group winner isn’t the one most of us were expecting coming into the Playoffs. #2 overall seed willowkeeper would of course be the team that should come out on top based on past results, but the newly-minted Fresh squad had other ideas. Despite going down 0-1 in the Winner’s Bracket Finals, they managed two straight wins to take the series 2-1 and advance with the high seed in Group A.
To be fair, it’s not like Fresh winning was a ridiculous outcome – we’ve seen them perform well in Cycle 7 and 8, and the team has great roots in Dawn and REXXARS. But tree has really been their nemesis – out of sixteen games in the last two cycles, they’ve played eight against willowkeeper, with just a 2-6 record. Three of their four series losses have been at their hands. So there’s some history here.
Enough introduction, though, we’ve got more interesting things to get to, namely the thoughts and reactions of the players themselves. On to the Minterview!
Has the “merger” of Dawn and KNX accomplished what you hoped it would?
L4BYR1NTH: Well, our goal is Thailand, and I think we are on a good path to accomplishing it.
You’ve been on three very good teams now in the past six months. Do you think the current Mint lineup is the best of the three?
XIBBE: REXXARS was not a bad team, but Mint and BMG are a tier up. Between Mint and BMG I really don't know what to think. BMG on a good day was a great team, but we could be terrible at times. Mint is similar in many ways, but I have more influence on my teammates which makes the whole situation more comfortable. I really like having a position where I can take big decisions for the team, so Mint is my choice. Although, if I could count the team I played CiC for, old BMG with Limmp, then there would be no question. That lineup with fUzi could beat any team in the history of HoN.
COMING INTO THE SERIES
Both Mint and tree play four-protect-one strategies; how does your game plan change when you’re facing a team similar to yours, as opposed to one like SynC?
L4BYR1NTH: It changes our playstyle. When we face tree we don’t let them play their game, we try to get them out of their comfort zone and make the game easier for us. SynC don’t play the same strategy every game, and it’s not that easy to get them out of their comfort zone since they have so much experience.
As a jungle player, is it different playing against a team that doesn’t run traditional junglers?
ICELANDGOGO: tree is the hardest team to play against as a jungler, especially an aggressive hero that relies on ganking (like Parasite). It’s not hard or different to play against them because they don’t run junglers, it’s that they’re so good at rotating farm on their supports and utilizing the jungle as a farming tool. With two players stacking the jungle it’s difficult to keep up on farm, and Boxi’s strong suicide play makes it even harder for an aggressive jungle hero.
Back in the Dawn days, beating you soon became about shutting down probusk. Do you feel more balanced now, or better at protecting him?
L4BYR1NTH: Yes, we definitely are more balanced now, and achieving that was one of the main reasons we made the roster changes. Our old suicide players couldn’t play offlane carries, and so we had to get the main carry on probusk. But now with Xibbe we can put him on War Beast, Madman, or anything else and get something like Witch Slayer for probusk.
In Game 1 you were interrupted while trying to take Kongor at level 1 and it felt like you never recovered. Do you think you could have taken the series 2-0 without that disadvantage?
XIBBE: The failed Kong attempt in itself was not a huge setback. We lost 135 gold on every hero, but most of the regen was still there. The problem was rather that we ran into the tree’s typical shortlane trilane strategy, without managing to really win mid, or shut down Boxi. Since the problem was more with early game execution and strategy, if we played again without a Kongor attempt in the first game I still think it would've ended 2-1.
In Game 1 (3/4/3, 345 GPM, loss) and 3 (12/2/10, 643 GPM, win) you played Puppet Master, but with very different outcomes. What was different about the games?
PROBUSK: I think they came out ahead of the drafting phase in Game 1, as well as us losing 135x5 worth of gold from teleporting down to try and kill Kongor at level 1. The lineup we had in Game 3 also allowed other heroes to set up on lanes, and had Bubbles to deal with Kinesis 1 vs 1.
Game 1 you were in the jungle, games 2 and 3 you were support. Do you think the jungle role has diminished, and if so, is it justified?
ICELANDGOGO: The jungle role hasn’t diminished, it just doesn’t work very well for our team to play it against tree. By playing two supports, you keep the supports of tree busy by trilaning, and they don’t get to do what they are so good at – farming their jungle in the early game.
In Game 2 you played core Engineer in an aggressive trilane, which isn’t a typical trilane hero, and offlaners aren’t usually trilane cores. Is this something you practiced, or were you taking a chance down 0-1?
XIBBE: We have run offlane trilane Engineer once before, vs SynC, and in that one scrim it went really well. In Game 2 it was not originally planned as a core Engineer, but I asked to play it as core and the team agreed. We don't have a lot of practice with the hero, but I would not say we took a big risk, as we were comfortable with it. Besides, in that specific game it was a great fit.
As for being a part of the trilane, it's more of a comfort zone thing. While I will often be the core in the aggressive lane, depending on what heroes we pick I might also end up somewhere else, like I did game 3 playing Bubbles shortlane.
In Game 2 you were 15/1/13 on Doctor, reminiscent of a 19/1/7 Maliken in Game 3 of the Cycle 4 Loser’s Semifinals. That was the first time Dawn made a lot of noise, finishing third; does this series outcome feel similar to that for Mint?
PROBUSK: Both results of the series were most likely unexpected from a community’s point of view, so in that regard they are similar. However, we’ve made a lot of changes since then, and comparing our team now to the one we had in Cycle 4, I would rate the one we have now higher.
In both your wins you ran an aggressive trilane. Do you think the trilane meta is making a comeback, and do you feel strong playing it, or was it just a coincidence?
CERENIA: Coincidence is not usually a word I want to describe my drafts :D. Jokes aside, I think there is a formula to beating every team, and we’ve had success trilaning against tree. We’re okay with trilaning, but I think it’s one of the hardest strategies to execute; every action triggers a chain reaction, so you have to be completely on point to maintain control. I definitely think we’ll see trilanes in the future, but in most scenarios junglers are too strong to ignore.
You guys were knocked out in Cycle 7 and 8 by tree; does this win feel a little sweeter because of that?
ICELANDGOGO: Yes of course! When you spend a lot of time playing a game and trying to get better, it feels extra satisfying to beat a team you have repeatedly lost to. It gives you confirmation of your improvement and the energy to keep getting better. I still feel new to the competitive scene, so I don’t always know what to expect, but it feels really good winning against a team that has caused you to struggle.
How does a series win like this change your outlook on potentially going to Thailand?
PROBUSK: This series win over tree has given us a significant confidence boost as a team, and it’s very important for the overall morale. It feels like we are going in the right direction.
You’re likely going to be facing Nullstone in the first round of the playoffs bracket (Mint is 2-0 vs. Null). How confident do you feel against them, or potentially Reason Gaming?
CERENIA: We respect every team in the qualifier, and Nullstone is a team I’ve had countless battles against back in my KNX days. With that said we’re pretty confident we will make it to the GF, but we’ll need to be on our toes. This is the round where teams are going to pull out their secret weapons, like Kongor level 1 (*cough cough*).
Many thanks to the members of Fresh for taking the time to answer our questions, and good luck through the rest of the playoffs!
quincy0191 is a HoN veteran with a focus on the numbers. Fascinated by quantifying and valuing human beings, he shunned the world of finance in favor of sports and competition. When not on Honcast you can find quincy playing games like Civilization and Pokemon, or watching movies, writing, pondering, or catching a game of baseball.