One of Singaporean Dota 2's most successful players, Wong "NutZ" Jeng Yih has been a familiar face in the SEA Dota 2 scene for a while now. NutZ has played with multiple successful teams from the region including MVP Phoenix and Team Faceless where he showcased his skills as a Position 5 player.
Now, he leads Reality Rift who has recently begun making waves. The team managed to qualify for the 2nd Major of the season: The Leipzig Major earlier this season, and has also recently qualified for the ONE Esports Dota 2 Invitational Jakarta.
In an exclusive interview with AFK Gaming, NutZ talks about his experience in the Major, how SEA teams are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and his thoughts on the DPC system among other things.
Q. Hello NutZ, how are you doing? Are you all bootcamping at the moment?
NutZ: Hello. Yes, we are still bootcamping at the moment.
Q. Let’s go back to the start of the season. Can you tell us a little bit about how this Reality Rift Roster came together?
NutZ: Ilya, the founder of Reality Rift contacted me through Twitter. We met up for coffee and he shared his esports plans for SEA with me. Our visions seemed to align, so I started scouting for potential teammates. Luk was the first player that I brought along, as he was with me in a previous Singaporean stack. GK was our position 4 initially since the 3 of us played a lot of party games together. Kyxy and Alacrity were left stranded after their stint in Geek Fam. We decided to lend a helping hand and pick them up.
However, GK was unable to leave the Philippines even after several attempts at immigration. There was no way he could join us over at the bootcamp in Malaysia, so a trial was held to get a new position 4. We shortlisted a few candidates. Hustla stood out among the candidates with his dedication towards joining us even though his skills were meh.
Luk decided to leave the team several months later as the demand to perform in tournaments was too taxing for his health. We were left looking for a replacement for Luk as his departure was rather sudden. It was then that Drew came into the picture as a pub star. He was a high ranked player, we always met him in pub games. We scrimmed with him for a few games and things were working out. The process was quick and the next day he is in the boot camp with the team.
Q. Although, you didn’t qualify for the first Major this season, you managed to claim a spot in the second one (Leipzig Major). What do you think was the biggest factor that led you to qualify?
NutZ: I am not sure which was the biggest, there were many good factors and things were in place for us. Management support was good, we had 2 coaches assisting us with things inside and outside of the game. We just had to focus on playing well. Players were really motivated during that period to win that qualifier.
Game-wise, whatever we were doing just felt right and there was the magic going on. Luckily for us, there was a new patch and I think we figured some style that is really suitable for us.
Q. You’ve been to multiple LAN tournaments as well as Valve Majors and TIs. How does the pressure of each tournament vary?
NutZ: There are some tournaments where you are the favourites, while in some you are the underdogs. I like it more when we are the underdogs. It is easier when there are lesser expectations and you outperform and impress everyone with the wins.
The pressure difference to me is when you are playing in a higher tier event, you won't get away with certain mistakes. Knowing that makes you more cautious about your decisions in-game.
Q. Reality Rift employed a Sports Psychologist for the DreamLeague Season 13 Major. What were some of the changes that this brought to the team?
NutZ: We had Peter as our sports psychologist during the Major. Having a Psychologist helps in boosting performance a slight bit in my opinion. It works very differently for each individual. For me, it feels like having an old friend I can talk to about the team, or how I feel about going into the tournament.
There are some issues, about which you do not want to speak to your teammates directly since you are scared that it will affect them mentally or bring down their morale during the tournament. Having someone to speak to about those issues eases me up and hopefully, he translates it to the others in the best manner possible.
Q. How has the COVID-19 lockdown impacted Reality Rift as a team? Have scrims and training been affected?
NutZ: Both online and offline tournaments are being cancelled/rescheduled. We have fewer tournaments to compete in. Scrims can still continue as usual but having no real goals due to the uncertainty of tournaments availability is a problem for motivation.
Q. Considering the fact that the lockdown will affect the Dota 2 esports scene for quite some time, what are you planning to do for the next few months?
NutZ: Set up my mask production line.
Q. Is there anything in particular that you like or dislike in the new DPC season? Is there anything you would like to change?
NutZ: Nothing much in particular. In the current model, as long as you are not making it into Majors/minors you are not earning enough. With the new DPC season coming, it seems to be more supportive and sustainable for the Tier 2/3 teams. More teams/players can benefit from spending so much time and effort on the game.
Q. Give us your thoughts on SEA Dota 2? Is the competitive scene getting harder? Is the gap between traditional SEA powerhouses Fnatic/TNC Predator and the rest of the teams narrowing?
NutZ: I do believe it's getting slightly more competitive compared to around 2 years ago. Everyone is just getting better with time. So recently, teams like TNC are having problems qualifying from SEA for international events. We have like 5-6 teams from SEA showing that we are capable to take down competent teams at international events. Teams like Boom, Adroit and Geek fam are all having good showings.
Q. New Singaporean Dota 2 talents are becoming a rarity in the Dota 2 scene, why do you think this is the case and can anything be done to change this?
I think they are lacking conviction. The pool itself isn't big, to begin with. Truthfully, I don't think there is much that can be done anymore. There are still a few Singaporeans trying hard to make it though.
Q. There was a growing sentiment that Dota 2 is on its last legs. However, it has actually experienced a big surge in playerbase over the last two months. What are your thoughts on this?
I mean, I have been hearing this numerous times across the years. I believe this game will atleast still last for a few more years. It is still the king of its genre. Likely the surge in these 2 months is due to the lockdown too.
Q. Do you have any advice for all the Dota players in school right now, who want to go pro??
Do not waste your time. I mean if you are serious about going pro then spend your time wisely on improving instead of just mass grinding. Be smart about how you want to improve.
Q. Thank you for the interview. Do you have any shoutouts?
Shoutout to our sponsors Logitech G and also Delta Partners for supporting throughout. Also, keep up your good personal hygiene.
Parts of this interview have been edited for the sake of brevity and clarity.