Editor's Note: This interview series was conducted by Sideshow four days ago, but we had to send him off to Asia on a top secret mission. Ever the craftsman, he had hoped to refine the content further, but circumstances changed and Phase 1 Week 2 is about to commence so we are giving it to you in a fairly raw state.
Read on to hear some great insights from the mastermind behind Citizen7, Dogman, on the history of the roster, his approach to building teams, how he views their performance so far and how Citizen7 stack up against rest of the teams duking it out in NGE's Winter Premiere Group Play Phase 1.
- Dusttin "Dogman" Bowerman (Support)
- Justin "Kayuun" Ha (DPS)
- Ryan "Protoges" Griswold (Tank)
- Lucas "Peebimitsu" Nettesheim (Flex)
- Mikkel "Sypeh" Sypeh (DPS)
- Rasmus "Lyna" Hansen (Support)
- Alexander "Sword" Szymkiewicz (Coach)
First of all, I want to give you an opportunity to tell us about your team, if people reading had never seen you play before the Winter Premiere. You're a fairly new team, so tell me about how the team came to be, where the players came from, and how you've progressed since beginning?
Dogman: I created the team during my try outs with the Immortals Overwatch team. I decided I really needed a backup plan in case Immortals didn't work out for me (it didn't). I knew a few players from the collegiate Tespa series that were the literally the best in all of Tespa. Decided to pick up Kayuun (Played for CPP in the Tespa tournament) and Protoges (Played for UCI). Kayuun and one former member of the roster wouldn't play without Peebimitsu (a 16 year old kid from Las Vegas), so I decided to bring him on.
I didn't exactly know who to find for our 6th. We tried out many people but I was specifically looking for someone who could not only play Roadhog, but Genji. This was to ensure longevity of the roster as everyone on the team has a huge hero pool. We later picked up Lyna primarily to the fact that our other support player had complications with school. Nevertheless he's been performing to expectations and I think with time he can learn the role.
I think most teams would break up at the point that we're at currently. The expectations of the players only rise with beating top tier teams (i.e: FaZe Clan). I was extremely happy and surprised with the fact that we took these games so close in the open qualifier for NGE. Currently I believe if I keep my current roster it can perform in the long run. I'd like to think that we're like the old Rogue or Sodipop. They did god awful in their first major tournament, but later proved to take the losses and learn from them. At the same time we only have a maximum of 4 hours of scrims due to having EU players and players that are students. Especially when it's most optimal to run 8 hour scrim blocks every day.
I think personally I need to be less 1 dimensional as an In-game Leader, as most teams have figured out how to counter our original play style. With even more progress I think we could easily be a team to watch out for in terms of strategy, as I'm the creator of our set plays, strats, and comps along with our coach, Sword.
Let's talk a little more about the creation of the roster - this was in December, right? So when did you settle on your 6 with Lyna? How long have you had to gel and come together as a team?
D: Creation of the roster dates back to November. We decided to work with Lyna only just last week as our support player, Alined, was gone for two weeks. We may go back to the original roster but are working with Lyna for the tournament. So to answer your question we've only been playing with Lyna for about a week, but have been gelling as 5 together for about 2 months. As a team we're also trying to get more time in for scrims so we can get better synergy together.
You said that everyone on the team has a huge hero pool, and you saw many of them as the best in Tespa. Can you elaborate on that for me - what kind of hero pools do your players have and how do you see that working in the long term?
D: Sure, not that it could mean anything in terms of where I move myself in the team, but I've played almost everything regarding DPS and support at a high level. For team Sea Algae I played primarily McCree/hitscan. Then swapped to Ana/Zen to try out for method, and then learned Lucio through Immortals.
Kayuun was known for his Genji in the competitive ladder, but plays hitscan/Zarya. This is kind of the beginning of where I start to point out that not only do you need someone good in the current meta, but for future metas. Yes, he plays Zarya and Soldier76 very well, two heroes currently in the meta. But can easily swap to McCree and other hitscan with time.
Peebimitsu is probably our most versatile player. He plays D. Va/flex for us currently but is also known for his ladder play. He plays an insane hitscan and at time I'd rather put him there than Kayuun. But in terms of ult placement and personal management, he's actually crazy good. He takes time outside of the game to research his specific hero and how to perfect the hero he plays. He's also another decent Genji player but I believe this guy can easily master any hero he gets his hands on.
I primarily wanted Sypeh because of the fact that he can not only play Genji, but Roadhog. We've been known in scrims, and even vs FaZe in qualifiers, as Budget FaZe Clan. This is primarily due to the fact that I pretty much shape everything we do around Sypeh. This means our engages and entire goal as a team, is to support Sypeh. It's not hard to notice the fact that Sypeh is a star player. Both Lyna and Protoges have a smaller hero pool but in the long term, their roles shouldn't be a huge deal.
You mentioned the expectations of the team coming into the Winter Premiere and said "most other teams would break up at this point". You are only a couple of months old, playing in your first major tournament that you only just qualified for, and had a number of good upset results in the qualifiers. From my point of view, being disappointed by that (even having lost twice in the round robin) would indicate your team have massive over-expectations for their first event. Just to begin addressing this topic, what were your team's expectations coming into the Winter Premiere qualifiers?
D: I think expectations are still set on making top 6. I think the majority of the team understands that if we had more prep time before our matches we could easily beat these teams. Most smaller teams have expectations set way too high. I don't think the players in the near future would want to break up even due to disappointments. Any ideas for roster changes has been shut down due to the fact that my players genuinely believe that we have something special. I meant to say that most of these smaller teams do tend to break up after a few disappointing losses. Rather than taking these disappointments and looking at them negatively, we see them more as, "hey we could've easily beaten these guys, let's do it next time."
I see, I see. Let's talk about the qualifiers then. You guys were in all four qualifiers and didn't originally qualify as you only made the Ro8 twice. However you did take down Method twice, Rise, Selfless, and FaZe on that path. How did you feel about your performances in those games?
D: I think two of the four teams there to any other team would mean that we're at least a decent team. We never flunked out to smaller teams and only lost to Liquid, C9, and LG. We performed as well as we could I personally believe. At the time we had to get a sub for one game vs TL due to an internet outage, and vs LG, Sypeh was having major framerate issues. Not that this is to blame for our losses but I do think we performed pretty dang good during the qualifiers.
How do you feel about the matchup against Liquid? They're a team that've been struggling recently and look to be one of the weaker teams at the top of NA, but despite beating some other good teams you fell to them twice in a couple of reasonably close games. How do you feel about TL and that matchup?
D: I think beating TL is definitely in our grasp. Our first game against them was actually really close considering that they got an extra map pick over us due to being top seed. I don't really personally count the second game against them; Blizzard servers crashed during it and we had to get an emergency ringer. I do think they're definitely currently one of the weaker NA teams, but at the same time they just took a map off Immortals, which is no joke.
In the first round robin of eight teams, so far you've had two losses to LG and Renegades. I saw you tweet after the first, being fairly hard on yourselves but comparing the situation to Rogue. How do you feel about the games against LG and Renegades, and can you expand on your comparison between yourselves and Rogue/Sodipop?
D: I think vs LG in general their play style does have a huge impact on how my team plays. Their playstyle has seemingly directly countered our team's playstyle in the past. I personally think they're one of the best teams in this tournament and probably will make it to top 4. I probably underestimated Renegades, as in the past, as kingdom, they had a relatively easy qualifying bracket. They've proven to be a great team and I think personally, I really need to step it up as an IGL.
I compared our team to Rogue first due to the fact if you look all the way back to the Operation Breakout Tournament, they lost to only the top teams at the team, and beat smaller, up and coming teams. I compare myself to Sodipop/Immortals because they got destroyed at ELEAGUE but eventually became a stronger team in the end. I think my team has a lot of potential, and it's just a matter of time and experience before we really display that potential in tourney.
You've mentioned your IGL qualities and the need to refine them a few times now, could you start off by explaining your usual style of IGL and then why you think you need to work on it?
D: Usually as an IGL I call pretty much everything. I would come up with set strats and plays for us to engage with, then I decide midfight where I want the team to go positionally. Usually before every fight I have our Reinhardt tell me the enemy ults that are up, and I come up with a game plan with our current ults in the situation at hand. Preferably my goal as an IGL is to win every fight with only two ults. Obviously this doesnt happen and you need to use reactionary ults, or counter ults.
I think I've been trying to find the balance of what to call. In the past I called our engages, when to use our ults, what ults to use, where to go positionally, the basic calls regarding flanks and what not, and even mid fight I sometimes even target called, as Lucio. The team has expressed that maybe I call too much for them and they want to have a feel for when to engage themselves. This is a learning experience for our team and it also gives us more variety in our style of play. This variety comes from the fact that they're calling their own ult engages and dictating when to use them so it's less predictable than when I'm calling ults and when to use them.
The main reason I did this in the past was the fact that I had the most experience on the team and had the best and most reactive responses to what the other team was doing. I've tried swapping roles to Ana/Zen and tried getting a Lucio or support/flex player. But unfortunately it's extremely hard to call engagements when you're not playing Lucio. It's also easier for me to focus on the game as a whole on Lucio. Others know that I have the mechanical skill to be playing Ana or another support class, but it's best for the team that I play Lucio since I'm in the IGL position.
At the same time I feel like in the past we've only had one form of play, and that was to be aggressive, take the fight to the opponent. We're trying to vary our play as much as we can, at the same time this could be too much for us and we're starting to face the consequences of learning a new play style.
Interesting insight, thanks. You're up against Immortals tonight, who've been looking hot recently. How do you feel about that game?
D: I feel like Immortals is definitely beatable. We're up to the challenge. I have a really good understanding of how they've played in the past due to the fact that I've worked with their coach and trailed with them for over 4 weeks. I think I have a good idea of how to beat them as well.
How about the rest of the field? Who do you think you match up against well?
D: I think the entirety of next week is our week. This week has been a great warm up. We'll match up well against Kungarna at least.
But at the same time I'm confident vs FaZe and Team Liquid.
coL is going to be a challenge for me personally, but I feel like they play to the level of their opponents.
To progress to the next round of the tournament you don't need to be beating everyone, you just have to not place bottom two in the round robins. What are your aims at this point, what do you think is reasonable for your team to achieve and what would you be happy with?
D: I think our aim is to get top 6 and prove our worth to potential sponsors. It's reasonable for us to get top 6 and even get top 4 in my opinion. I'll be happy with any of said results. But honestly I'm just glad we get to play in the tournament. Otherwise we would be sitting around like Bird Noises or other small unsponsored teams that deserve a shot.
How has playing outside an organisation affected you guys so far? What would being picked up change for you?
D: It really hasn't affected me personally due to the fact I've been playing unsigned since open beta. It affects the team due to the fact that everyone has school and two players live in EU so it's difficult already to make our 4 hour scrim blocks. Getting picked up would hopefully bring our players together and expand upon things we personally want to develop. This would give us a foundation to stop schooling and invest full-time into being a professional player. But the main factor is scrim time. Currently the schedules just don't align with what we would like. If we're already beating teams with the 4 hours a day of scrims than I personally believe we can only get better with an org to back us up.
Thanks a lot for talking to me and good luck for your games in the rest of the tournament!
D: Yeah man, thanks for the interview and thanks for the well wishes :D You're an awesome dude Sideshow (Editor's Note: He sure is)