Jabz and Mikoto from Talon Esports


AFK Gaming

Exclusive Interview With Jabz and Mikoto: Talon Esports' Quest for Dota 2 Glory at Riyadh Masters

Dhruv Saikia
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Talon Esports has had an eventful journey during the 2023 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season. Throughout the season, they enjoyed some success, establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the region, especially with their performance in The Lima Major 2023. However, as the season neared its end, they faced a setback that dealt a blow to their morale – narrowly missing out on qualifying for the Bali Major 2023.

Despite the disappointment, their spirits were lifted when they secured a spot in the highly anticipated Riyadh Masters 2023. The event boasted an incredible prize pool of $15,000,000, setting it apart from others as a momentous occasion.

At the Riyadh Masters 2023, Talon Esports displayed their prowess with some impressive performances against some of the best teams in the world. Before their second upper bracket series against Team Liquid, Anucha "Jabz" Jirawong and Rafli "Mikoto" Rahman, the core players of Talon Esports, sat down for an interview with AFK Gaming. Their insights and perspectives added to the anticipation surrounding their upcoming matches and shed light on the team's strategies and mindset going into the crucial stages of the tournament.

Jabz, Tofu, and Zai at The International 11

Talon’s toughest competition: Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid

The Riyadh Masters is the fifth Tier-1 tournament that is happening in the 2023 Dota 2 season, attracting attention from all corners of the competitive scene. Among the teams that have dominated the season, Western European juggernauts Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid have particularly shone, showcasing their prowess. Talon Esports, while achieving some commendable finishes, have found themselves in the shadows amidst the overwhelming dominance of the WEU teams in most of the tournaments.

As the tournament approached, there was curiosity surrounding Talon Esports and their outlook on the event. The team's preparation and mindset were crucial factors, especially considering their previous disappointment of not qualifying for the last Major. Mikoto expressed, "I mean now coming to Riyadh, we are more prepared than other teams, especially because we did not qualify for the last Major. I feel like because we did not qualify for the last Major, we learned from everyone, like from the previous Bali major and we discussed a lot because we did not have a good result. Then in Dreamleague and also in Riyadh, I feel like we’re trying to adapt the playstyle also, we keep discussing what’s a good hero to pick in this meta."

When asked about the strongest opponents they foresaw at the Riyadh Masters 2023, the answer came as no surprise. Mikoto pointed out, "For me, I would say its probably Gaimin and then Liquid. I feel like they are still the top three strongest teams in the world right now and then they are also stable. I think they are pretty good team." He admired their strategic prowess, noting that many other teams sought to emulate their gameplay. Mikoto acknowledged the learning opportunity his team gained from observing these formidable opponents, making them eager to test their own skills against such high-caliber adversaries. He added, "It’s just maybe their strategy-wise in the game. I feel like maybe most of the teams are trying to copy from them, and I think we learn from them also."

23savage and Talon Esports at Riyadh Masters 2023

Maintaining Mental Fortitude in Long Tournaments

The Riyadh Masters 2023 is a grueling tournament that can take a toll on players both physically and mentally, mainly due to its long schedule. To overcome the potential burnout, we asked Jabz whether they had any specific ways to avoid burnout and stay focused on the tournament.

Jabz shared his approach to staying strong throughout the competition, stating their extended period of rest due to missing out on the Bali Major 2023. He said, "For me, I just chill whenever I can, before coming to this tournament I already have a lot of breaks cause we didn't qualify for Bali. So during that time, I didn't play Dota for like two weeks or something. Coming to this tournament, I knew it was going to be stressful and a lot of pressure, so I just took it. Looking towards rest after this."

It seems that missing out on the Bali Major 2023 may have had some positive effects on the team at the Riyadh Masters 2023, as it gave them more time to rest and prepare for the event.

The team’s impressive performance on the international stage will serve as a source of encouragement and inspiration for other teams in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region. Throughout this season, other SEA teams have only experienced disappointing outcomes in various inter-regional tournaments, including the three Dota 2 Majors in 2023. This has left SEA with only two spots in The International 2023.

The disparity in achievements seems to be attributed to several factors, as Jabz highlighted. He pointed out that Talon Esports possesses a higher level of discipline compared to other SEA teams, along with a clearer understanding of what strategies work and what don't. Their commitment to refining their gameplay and tactics has set them apart, allowing them to thrive on the international stage.

Jabz further emphasized their strategic advantage, stating that they focus on practicing their strengths and identifying which heroes excel in the current meta and which do not. This meticulous approach to preparation has enabled them to adapt and perform exceptionally well in various competitive scenarios.

Quote "I think we just have more discipline than them (other SEA teams) and we are more clear about what is right and what is wrong. It’s just that, yeah."

Talon Esports and Team Liquid at Riyadh Masters 2023

Ambitions for The International

Having successfully secured their spot at The International 12, Talon Esports is now aiming to evolve even further as they prepare for the tournament. As the highly anticipated event approaches, the team is well aware of their past performances in the tournament, which have not reached the desired heights. However, with their qualification achieved, we were eager to learn more about their goals and aspirations for TI12, especially since 23savage's initial objective of qualifying has already been accomplished.

Jabz expressed a strong determination to make a significant impact at TI12. He emphasized his burning desire to perform well and, above all, to claim victory in the prestigious tournament. "I think it's probably a win. Because like for me, I have qualified for almost every TI, and I didn't do well. So I kind of want to aim to do well in TI," he confidently stated.

Jabz showcased his best performances at The International 2018 and The International 2021, achieving remarkable Top 12 finishes in both events. However, in the other TIs he participated in, he could only secure Top 16 placements. Reflecting on these experiences, Jabz openly discussed his mentality during those times and how he has evolved since then.

He candidly expressed, "For me, I feel like that time, I didn't really know what to do as a player. I struggled to handle the stress and express myself effectively. It felt like I choked during those tournaments, or something like that."

Over time, Jabz has undergone personal growth and development, honing his skills and refining his approach to the game. As he gears up for The International 2023, Jabz remains focused on overcoming any hurdles that may come his way. With his improved mentality and determination to perform at his best, he strives to make his mark on the grand stage, aiming for an even more impressive display of skill and competitive spirit. The upcoming tournament presents a new opportunity for Jabz to demonstrate his growth and showcase his potential to the Dota 2 community worldwide.

Mikoto from Talon Esports

Mikoto's meteoric rise as a midlane prodigy puts him in the league of esteemed rivals such as Nisha, Quinn, and Sumail. Undaunted by the challenge, he embraces the opportunity to face the world's best players and test his skills on the grandest stage.

As a rival? Well, I would say it's still like Quinn or Nisha. Oh, I also think Sumail is pretty good in this tournament, especially. I think they are probably the top three players in the world right now
Mikoto on who he considers his midlane rivals

In closing, both Jabz and Mikoto extend their heartfelt appreciation to their devoted fans, whose unwavering support and love have propelled Talon Esports forward. With this unwavering backing and the team's indomitable spirit, Talon Esports paves the way for an exciting and promising future in the competitive Dota 2 scene.

As we bid farewell to these players, we eagerly anticipate the unfolding of their journey in The International 2023. Stay tuned to witness the triumphs, challenges, and exhilarating moments that await Talon Esports, as they carry the hopes of SEA into the biggest tournaments of the year.

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Since 2012, Dhruv has developed a deep passion for Dota 2, which has only grown stronger over time. With three years of experience as a competitive player and a background in writing, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to create content around the game and its esports scene.

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