Park "March" Tae-won has already become a fan favourite in the SEA region. Known for his outgoing personality and his outrageous battle-roar, he recently led his new team - TNC Predator to claim SEA’s first-ever ESL One championship at the 2019 edition in Hamburg.
AFK Gaming spoke to him just before he departed for his team’s boot camp for the upcoming MDL: Chengdu Major. Our conversations covered various topics ranging from Korean Dota 2, his days in the Army, TNC Predator’s goals and more.
Hello March, can you tell us a little bit about how your journey with Dota 2 began??
March: I’ve been playing since Dota 1. It wasn't even Dota All-stars. It was before that. No one really introduced me to it, I was just playing random Warcraft custom games and just got into it so I kept on playing. I was attending high school in Canada when I first started playing the game but I only started playing it competitively during my third year of university..
Even though Dota wasn't very popular in South Korea but it was in Canada.. My first LAN was the World Cyber Games. I represented South Korea and I developed an interest for playing in a competitive environment. So when another opportunity came up to play in the Korean Dota League I decided to pursue my career there.
You made your name in the international Dota 2 community with your performances in the offlane. Why did you switch to playing the support role?
March: At first I started as a mid like all other players. As time went by, I changed to carry and then I changed to offlane. But ever since I went to the army and came back I figured it would be better for me to use my experience to play as a support. That’s why I made the switch.
How hard was it to pick up Dota again after a two-year break?
March: When I was in the army I couldn't play Dota for the first year because my rank wasn't high and I didn't get any personal time or vacations. But in the second year of army training, I started using more of my vacation time and I was able to play at least once a week outside of the army. It helped me keep in shape, but I was still very rusty and my MMR wasn’t that high.
When I first came back I was 6k MMR and after 6 months I got to 7k. It took me another half year to hit 8k again.
What are your thoughts on compulsory military training? Do you feel like it has it helped you in your esports career?
March: When I went to the army, I was at the peak of my career. I was a little upset about that. But I try to not think about the past and think more positively like how joining the army made me healthy.
I didn't really have a healthy life or have good habits. I used to eat late and not workout. Joining the army really improved my overall health which allows me to play efficiently for longer hours.
Has your role as a former coach for Fnatic helped you to become a better player? If so, how?
March: Coaching a top tier team helped me a lot. Whenever you team up with another player you get to learn a lot of his ideas.
I was influenced a lot by QO when I first came back. We played in the TI8 Open Qualifiers together and he gave me a quick catch up tutorial on the type of Dota played at TI6 and TI7. After that, when I joined J.Storm, Fear taught me a lot about what helped his team to win TI5 and Jimmy (Demon) taught me a lot about how to play Position 5. After coaching Fnatic last season, I got a new perspective of how they think and I could use all those ideas to create a better version of myself in-game.
What are your thoughts on the Korean Dota 2 scene? T1’s entry into the space has surprised many.
March: I don’t think the Korean Scene has gotten any better. There are no new players, the same players from TI5 are just playing in different teams. I think the Korean Dota 2 Scene is dead. T1 isn’t really focussing on the Korean Dota ecosystem, it is focussing on having a good Dota team. They’re not strict on having five Korean players.
Do you feel like Heen’s work with TNC as their former coach has helped you to lead the team better?
March: Like I said it in the post-game interview, the three Pinoy players (not taking anything away from kpii who is already experienced) are very talented. They know a lot of the basic stuff, which I don’t even have to tell them. Sometimes, I actually learn from them because they do a lot of things correctly. Heen kept them in really good shape, so I didn’t really have to work on map-movements and a bunch of other stuff.
I just have to worry about strategy and they’re very willing to follow my strategic lead. Heen also told me about the players’ strengths and weaknesses, which helped me adapt to them.
How and why did you decide to join TNC Predator?
March: After TI9, I was still thinking about whether I wanted to coach or look for new opportunities. I had a lot of talks with Heen at TI9 and he just kinda gave me the opportunity to join TNC. He referred me to the organization and explained to them what kind of person I am. Since they already had a really good experience with a Korean coach, they thought I would be a good fit for them as a captain and so here we are.
As captain, do you make all the in-game calls? Give us a glimpse into how TNC communicates with each other during games.
March: I do make a lot of calls. But all the other TNC players also contribute. TIMS is really good at making these aggressive killer calls which are really precise late-game. He makes these calls about targets who are out of position in the teamfights. But in general, Armel and Gabbi also lead the team, which is an essential part of being a good core player in the late-game.
In the early game, I mainly say things like: “Defend this tower”, “Push this tower”, “Control the runes”, “I am stacking here”, “Play around this area” and such. So I think shot-calling responsibility is evenly spread out amongst the team.
Despite having some of the most mechanically skilled players in the world, SEA as a region seemed to lag behind the others prior to your victory at ESL One Hamburg. What do you think the teams and players in the region have been lacking?
March: Before, the SEA scene, including teams like TNC, was definitely lacking discipline. But at least for this team, they believe that it is very important to maintain good discipline both inside the game as well as outside. They know that it is very essential to be good teammates to each other and not just be good players. And I think this is influencing the SEA region a lot. As you can see, there are a lot of good teams in the region at the moment.
What were your expectations going into ESL One Hamburg? Tell us more about TNC’s mindset going into the playoffs after finishing 9-1 in the group stages?
March: We didn’t have any expectations going to ESL One Hamburg. We were very comfortable and knew that we would do well. If you put pressure on yourself, you aren’t going to perform well. So our mindset going into this tournament was to just have fun and to treat the matches as scrims. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t taking these tournaments seriously, I am just saying that if you take a match as a scrim, you can play more freely and you can play better.
I expected ourselves to do well, but at the same time we said to ourselves that we didn’t expect anything from these tournaments. That was our mindset.
Congratulations on winning the Mercedes-Benz MVP award. Tell us what that feels like!
March: It’s great, I get a free car but I think a few other players deserved the MVP award more than I did. I got lucky because this team is a new team, and when it’s a new team which does well, you tend to give a lot of credit to the captain.
Give us a sneak peak into what team comms were like after Gambit took game 4 in the grand finals. How does TNC handle that level of pressure?
March: There was some pressure, but at the end of the day, we had a mindset where we didn’t care if we lost 3-2 in the final game. We were saying to ourselves, “Fifth game, no pressure, just play our game”. I was confident that if we play it like a scrim, we were gonna win. We didn’t have that much pressure, even though we lost game 4.
Let’s go back in time a bit and talk about The International 9 SEA Regional Qualifier. You were, inches away from qualifying for TI9 with Team Jinesbrus, however a couple of bad decisions in game 4 of the grand finals versus Mineski cost you dearly. What went wrong and how did you feel after that game?
March: I think it had something to do with us coming into the grand finals from the lower brackets. We had already played seven games at that point and were really tired. We were at this LAN cafe and it was a really bad situation where people were smoking inside, which was giving us headaches.
We had this mindset where we wanted to finish the game and win it. Gunnar and 23savage made this call to go for the throne, while Febby wanted to go for the Roshan. It got very confusing and chaotic which lead to me as a captain saying that let’s just follow one idea, which was to go for the throne. We went for the throne, we lost.
After that, I thought I was fine but it was just too chaotic. But now thinking back, maybe I wasn’t feeling alright. If I watch the replays, the obvious play was to go for the Rosh, which with the Double Damage rune on 23savage’s Juggernaut wasn’t going to take a long time. Going high-ground after that would have been an easy win.
What are your expectations for the MDL Chengdu Major?
March: Going into the MDL Chengdu Major, I still think that not putting pressure on yourself is the best way to play. So I am not going to expect anything, I don’t really mind going out of the tournament in last place either, as long as we play and draft the way we practice. I still believe that as long as we do that, we will do well in this tournament.
We saw the Nightstalker carry and the offlane Naga Siren, which are quite unique in a pro-setting. How do you devise come up with these strategies?
March: I try to be very creative and listen to everyone’s ideas. From time to time they come up with really good ideas about how to play Dota. They give me heroes they want to use in competitive and say what they’re confident with.
Before, when someone suggested their ideas, I listened but not as much as right now. Whenever, they something, I take it very seriously and try my best to make it work. Because of that, we have a lot of strategies, so I am going to continue doing that.
Are you currently living in the Philippines? If so, have you had a hard time adapting to the lifestyle there? Also, have you tried balut yet?
March: The lifestyle here isn’t really that different, to be honest. I am just out there playing Dota. Food is really the only thing that is different, but they’re trying to accommodate for it and give me the food that I like.
No, I don’t really know any food in the Philippines other than Jollibee.
Image Courtesy: Valve
If you could change one thing about pub games in your region instantly, what would it be?
March: If you look at the other regions, SEA is the 2nd biggest as far as the player pool goes. As a Position 5 player, I find games pretty easily. So even though, a lot of people are complaining about ranked matchmaking, I am fine. I just hit my highest ever MMR, so I am not complaining.
What advice would you give to young players who want to go pro and are considering a career in esports?
March: To aspiring players, it doesn’t matter how good you are, it is important to have a good relationship with other players and be open to working with each other because at the end of the day Dota is a team game.
I can say many other things, but I think this is the most important one.
What do you want to do when you decide to hang up your mouse?
March: I don’t know, I just want to keep playing. I don’t have any other interests other than Dota. I spend a lot of time playing the game, compared to other players who don’t play as much. I try not to worry about the numbers I have and just keep moving forward. It is just fun for me, so here I am.
Finally, Do you have any shoutouts or words for your fans
March: Shoutout to my family who always supports me. I will keep trying my hardest. Keep cheering for TNC!