An interview with Eric ‘ReiNNNN’ Khor – Manager of Fnatic Dota

Shounak Sengupta

6th, Mar, 2018
“A manager is not a person who can work better than his men; He is a person who can get his men to do the work better than he can– Frederick W Smith

A manager is one of the most crucial members of a Dota 2 organization, as crucial as any coach or player I might add because it is him/her who enables the team to be their best at all times.  While it isn’t the flashiest of professions nor one that gets you tons of glory, being a good manager can be just as hard as being a good Dota player.

And speaking of good managers, we recently got in touch with one of the best in the business, Eric Khor aka ReiNNNN who is the manager of the Fnatic squad. We get his take on all things Dota and some inside scoop on how the team functions and lots more in this candid interview.

Hi Eric, How are you doing? The team recently did relatively well at Katowice. Are you guys happy with the progress the team has made in the short time since Universe joined?

Hi. I’m doing good, keeping busy as the schedules are packed and there’s lots of behind the scenes work that needs to happen. Obviously, I am very happy about our performance at Katowice but at the same time, I am a little bit disappointed with the final placing because I feel that we could have finished in 3rd place. I really thought that we had a really good showing against Team Liquid and we were winning that 3rd game until we made some bad decisions and it didn’t end well. But yea happy with the result, a little bit disappointed as well but overall it’s a great confidence boost for our team which is good going into the next set of events.

So talking about that series with Liquid, do you think it was sort of disrespectful from their side to mess around with their roles in game 2 and probably not take it too seriously?

I mean it’s hard to exactly say. I guess there are two ways of looking at it, the first being that they got outdrafted and Miracle didn’t want to play the hero against the Broodmother and they adjust from there. But it’s still a bit disrespectful in the sense that if a similar situation had occurred in something like let’s say the grand finals, they probably wouldn’t have done that. But it’s still very hard to say what their thought process was during the draft and how things actually went down and regardless of whatever the reasons were I’m happy that we ended up winning the game quite decisively.

Currently, you guys have a small break due to the ongoing Bucharest Major? How do you think the teams will perform there especially the ones from SEA?

I think that TNC is generally a very strong team in LANs and they have this specific play style that is hard for teams who don’t face them regularly to counter. So yea I think they will be able to get into the playoffs but beyond that, it’s hard to say as we don’t know who they will be facing because it’s kind of random who they will be facing due to the Swiss format. They are looking like a top 8 team for sure at Bucharest.
As for Mineski, they are a very strong team with very good individual players but they have been in a bit of slump or aren’t in the same form that they were earlier in the season. In Genting and Katowice they had some tough opponents and couldn’t place very well but I hope that they do get into the top 8. It’s a little bit hard to say as they aren’t looking their best so I guess even if they do they’ll probably just squeeze through and be one of the lower seeded teams in the playoffs.

After that is the GESC: Indonesia Minor and Fnatic are one of the higher rated teams in attendance. Do you think the event could be your first DPC win of the season? Who would be the biggest threat other than EG for you guys?

I think that VG.J  is also an extremely strong team and it’s just that people haven’t seen enough of them. So I guess technically there is a kind of big 4 scenario with EG, VG.J, Na’avi and us. I’m expecting these 4 teams to get into the top 4 and then we’ll take it from there. Hopefully, we can win our first DPC event in Indonesia because it seems like a good opportunity for us to not only win but pick up some crucial DPC points.

Recently Valve decided to release patches every two weeks meaning a constantly evolving meta is the norm. What are your thoughts on this? Does this put additional pressure on the captain/analyst and coach who have to keep reinventing things to help the team?

I think the idea behind it is good but the execution is still lacking. When they first announced it I thought they would be releasing small patches every two weeks but I didn’t expect game-changing stuff so frequently because that is very hard to deal with. When the first patch came before the Katowice Major, I was really happy and we picked it up quite nicely and were stepping in the right direction. However, the second one was a big change with new hero talents and the biggest change for me which is the bounty rune exp. So yea it might not look like a big change but it actually is and these type of significant changes I don’t like to see and I feel like I have to watch Bucharest so intently just to learn what’s going on. So yea the first patch was great but the second one not so much but we probably have to give the system more time before we judge it.
I definitely think that it puts a lot more pressure on everybody in the team including managers and coaches because we all try to figure out what the best fit could be for the team and with so many qualifiers and matches there isn’t enough time to figure it out. So it puts you in a kind of rush and there are a lot of teams who take time to adjust to new patches and for them, it’s definitely very stressful.

Over the years the Fnatic organization has seen multiple rosters and teams. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the current team?

I feel our team is better at adapting to changes now and we are able to create our own meta. I feel like we set some pretty good trends in the recent SEA quals and have been experimenting quite a bit. I don’t remember Fnatic being like that earlier. It was more like we knew what we had to do and pretty much stuck to it. So yea I guess that would be my answer.

So who according to you brings that sort of mentality into the side wherein you are always ready to experiment and try out new stuff?

I think that Envy brings the most in terms of ideas and everybody else kind of follows up with more. For example, Envy will talk about supporting and then DJ will follow up and Adam will come in and then the team will try to discuss it over chat or in person. So yea I guess Envy contributes the most in that sense but at the end, everybody brings their own ideas to the discussions at the end of the day.

With the Dota Pro Circuit in place, teams have to keep playing and improving all the time and there are so many events in each season. Is this exhausting for the team and the staff? How important are a manager and a coach/analyst in helping the team keep in top shape?

I think that DPC is a good system and it’s what should have been done with Dota 2 maybe two years ago. But one thing I’m unhappy about is the sheer amount of tournaments and the invite system being unregulated. I feel that there are there way too many tournaments and people from more privileged countries like the ones in EU or NA have quite an advantage. Sure it’s busy and hectic for them as well but one thing they didn’t factor in is how much time it takes to get a visa. Especially for SEA teams, it takes time for the visa process to go through and to actually fly in and fly back. It’s happened for us that we actually got the visa for a player on the day we fly. I mean how dangerous is that? Every time we have to look out for a stand-in just in case someone can’t make it. It isn’t an ideal scenario. I remember during ESL One Hamburg, DJ got his visa while I was flying and I had to book his ticket using the really crappy airline wifi. So yea as you can see it gets really hectic and risky and for me personally it’s hard to do everything at the last minute because I’m in charge of scheduling and getting the tickets. For the players also they don’t want to take all the additional load and focus on Dota before the LANs and this type of things make it very hard.
So what I started doing now is asking all the tournament organizers in advance what the schedules are going to be like and if there is some free time the players can either go back home and get some rest or go for a holiday because the schedule does take a toll on them.

How has the communication been from the organizer's side? Is it manageable to coordinate with different admins and organizers or do tensions arise at some points?

I think that because there are so many tournaments and there is such a tight window, it’s kind of hard. For example, in January we played so many matches in different qualifiers and there is just one series after the other. There’s no time to think and reflect if there we lose or discuss why we lost or won for that matter. The qualifiers are so packed together that it makes it sort of like a competition from the organizer's side so there's always these silly arguments and things like ‘We announced first. And you have to reschedule’, but at the end of the day, it’s the teams that are suffering. So to answer the question it hasn’t been ideal, it’s been okay I guess. You don’t want to play one bo3 grand final and then another match immediately after. That doesn’t make sense. But with such little time, I think everyone has limitations and we have to do the best with what we get.

How much harder is it to manage a team where the players are coming from different cultures/backgrounds and mindsets like in Fnatic?

Ok, right now the mindset of the team is kind of leaning towards what the captain says. Right now Envy is the captain so everyone tends to follow his style of Dota. Of course, everyone has inputs at various times but they all want to do what’s best for the team. So right now I guess we are playing NA kind of style. Actually, I won’t say NA, probably whichever style Envy thinks is the best is what we go with.  Typically we have one loud voice who is getting things done and probably a secondary voice who also likes to chime in. 
Culturally speaking, all of my players are veteran players and have been travelling for a long time so it isn’t much of a problem. Of course, everyone misses their family and the girlfriend and their home which is natural and I try to help in the sense that anytime they need to go home for a short trip I try to make it happen given that there are no matches coming up. But one thing everyone struggles with is food.  I think that food is an extremely hard thing to adjust to and everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

Who among Envy, Pie and Uni has adjusted best to life in SEA? What are some of the common issues that players from outside the region face daily?

I think they adjusted quite fine and as I said earlier the food is the biggest problem. I try to give them food that they like as much as possible but it’s not always going to be the best. Apart from that the team is mostly playing games from the house and don’t really go out that much so they don’t face too many issues. Unless of course, the internet goes down then everything becomes a problem.

Many teams in SEA region are currently experimenting with importing talent from outside the region. Why do you think that is? What are some of the biggest differences in work ethics, approach, mentality and attitude of players from other regions according to you?

I think that a lot of SEA players went out as well. For example, the MVP boys left and Abed also had gone for a bit. Another big factor is that SEA region doesn’t have a lot of good position  5 players or good shot callers for that matter. I guess to compensate SEA teams look for better talent outside. I mean with this. So when we made the squad we only had Ohaiyo and DJ and we considered players from the region but went with the squad we have now. Personally, I have sort of an opinion on how I want players to be like some specific traits and fitting them in certain roles is key for me.
I think that SEA players are really talented individually but some of them have a sort of mental block especially when they are playing with teammates who are more famous or established. But when they are playing with their contemporaries or their friends they are just so good. Of course, speaking your own language and being comfortable is also a big factor. And in certain environments, some players aren’t able to voice their opinions and that can be problematic in the long run. Of course, there are some exceptions like for example Midone who went to Secret and he wasn’t shy to play with Puppey. Like in general, SEA players are really talented and just need a little bit of guidance.

What’s a normal day like for the manager of Fnatic?

Basically, the easiest job description is that I do the job that makes it easy for the players to focus on the game. Basically, I take care of everything else such that the player only has to think about Dota and winning. A lot of these players have just played Dota for most of their lives and not had to worry about other things. So I take care of all that including scheduling, accommodation, travelling, flight tickets, food, interactions with the media, finances and such. Also, there are times when the players are negatively impacted by the community and fans so I am there to act as a filter and help out the guys.

On a normal day, I am the first guy to wake up at around 9 or 10 and I’ll do my own stuff, answer some emails and go get lunch. The team generally gets up much later at like 12 depending on the schedule and then we set the scrims for the day which take place after lunch. Typically it’s about 3 bo2’s a day. And I try to watch them play and do my own work on the side as well. Replying to emails and other work. After the games, the team generally has a discussion which I try to join and if I have any useful contributions I say my part.

 Okay Eric I think we've come to the end of our interview. Thank you for your time and we wish you and the rest of Fnatic the very best for the rest of the season!

Thanks guys!

Follow Eric Khor on Twitter on @ReiNNNN

Also check out our podcast with Entity Gaming's HeStEJoE-RoTTeN and NoiA


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