OG Ceb Interview at Riyadh Masters 2022

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AFK Gaming

Interview with Ceb: OG and the Itch to Compete in Dota 2

Vignesh Raghuram
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Sébastien "Ceb" Debs just can’t seem to stay away from the esports spotlight. Despite retiring, unforeseen circumstances have forced the OG star to make a return to competitive Dota 2 time and time again. First it was the ESL One: Stockholm Major in May 2022 (which he ended up winning), and now it has been confirmed that he will be returning to the OG lineup for the Arlington Major in August as well.

However, between these two events, Ceb also made an appearance as a talent at the Riyadh Masters 2022 where AFK Gaming caught up with him about his itch to compete, his thoughts on the DPC and The International 2022 (TI11)’s new format, as well as the Riyadh Masters and the middle eastern region as a whole.

Ceb’s itch to return to competitive Dota 2

Ceb with OG at the Epicenter 2019

Ceb’s retirement at The International 10 was quite surprising for many in the Dota 2 community. Here was a player who was still on top of his game and still looked like he had more to give to Dota 2 esports. So fans were pleased to see Ceb have another run as a competitive player in the ESL One Stockholm Major 2022 where he went on to lift the trophy.

We were curious about whether that had sparked an itch in Ceb, prompting him to return to competitive Dota 2 once again. Ceb explained that he alway feels that urge to compete as a professional player. “I always do feel that itch. To be honest, the reason why I am not competing is not because I don’t enjoy Dota or competition. I think it is in my DNA, I will always enjoy it. It’s also not because I think I don’t have what it takes anymore, I know I still do,” he said.

He explained that he has to sacrifice a lot to be a top-tier competitive player. “It is very difficult to have a balanced life in a way. Finding time for your friends, your partner, your family, and many responsibilities you get as you grow up. It is hard to find that time when you devote your life to Dota 2, so that’s kind of what’s holding me back,” he added.

Of course the itch is always here, but I know what the itch comes with. It comes with a lot of sacrifices, a lot of work, a lot of pain, and of course a lot of great things. But I think sometimes it is the right moment, sometimes it is not.”
Ceb

OG’s two-time TI champions still have the drive to win

OG after its triumph at TI8

Valve

It is perhaps this urge to compete at the highest level that is causing so many of OG’s two-time TI-winning stars to step back into the limelight once again. Ceb also agreed that many of the OG players are beginning to feel the itch to return to competitive action.

“I think Ana (Anathan Pham) is itching for sure,” he said. “He’s here, standing in, which is quite uncharacteristic of Ana. But Ana is unpredictable, so this could change or not.” Ana played for Team Liquid at the Riyadh Masters 2022 and will be competing with Royal Never Give Up at the PGL Arlington Major 2022.

“I am sure Topson (Topias Taavitsainen) is itching very much. He has been playing a lot of Dota and I think he is… I don’t wanna say ‘peaking’, because I think there is always a higher level for Topson. I think he has no limits on how good he can get. But I think he is in really good shape,” said Ceb. “JerAx (Jesse Vainikka) is obviously itching. He is coaching now, he was playing not too long ago. They’re all gravitating towards the action. Which is exciting!”

However, Ceb did say that Johan "N0tail" Sundstein may not be feeling this urge that much. He explained that N0tail needed a breather after all he has been through over the years. “N0tail is maybe the one player who is itching the least,” he said. “But just like me, Dota is in his DNA and he is actually doing work with the Dota team. But I think maybe he is the one that had to carry a lot on his shoulders over the years, so maybe he is the one that needs the bigger breather. And I think he is still in that mode.”

Ceb noted that this inherent desire to stay close to competitive Dota 2, something that is in his DNA, is why he chose to work as a talent in this event. It satisfies his need to be close to the action without any of the pressure that comes with actively competing. “It’s fun, it’s a different way to look at the game. You get to talk about the game with a lot of different people, you get to also put some distance with things. I enjoy it very much, and I think out of just pure curiosity, it is always nice to touch different kinds of jobs like production, camera jobs, etc. It is quite different from what I used to do obviously, so I enjoy that part too,” he said.

Even though it is completely different from competing as a Dota 2 player, he is still very happy to take part in the events as a talent. “There is no pressure, it is more about can you help viewers enjoy the games as much as you do yourself,” said Ceb.

Of course, things have changed drastically in the last week after we sat down for this interview. Ceb will be forced to step right back into the high-pressure competitive environment as OG’s stand-in at the PGL Arlington Major 2022. While OG has already qualified for The International 11, the team will be hoping to add another Major to its kitty, heading into the biggest Dota 2 tournament of the year.

Ceb is a big fan of TI11’s new format

There is no doubt that The International 11 is going to be a massive event for fans who missed out on attending the event live at The International 10 due to the pandemic. However, it is also going to be quite interesting since Valve revamped the tournament format to include more teams than ever with the Last Chance Qualifiers, an expanded playoffs phase, and a longer overall tournament.

The International 2022 (TI11) will feature 30 Dota 2 teams competing in it

Valve

Ceb is a big fan of these new changes. “I like the format change because the more teams the better for TI. Obviously, you don’t want too many teams but I think this is a nice increase. I am all about merit, so I love it when teams have more chances to prove themselves as they get invited to the tournament,” he said.

“I think these qualifiers, wildcards, and last chance qualifiers for TI, they’re super hype,” Ceb added. “Everybody watches them because there is so much tension and it means so much for the teams. So as a viewer, it is super exciting to watch these games.”

Since the tournament is going to be longer it is going to give teams more time to develop the meta. So I think we are going to get better games at the end of the tournament, because teams are going to get smarter and smarter about the meta and how to counter each other. It’s going to come down even more to who can play the best, so you are going to sick plays. I think the level of the games is going to go higher as a consequence.”
Ceb

I was also curious about whether Cinderella runs like OG’s legendary one at The International 8 would be less likely since momentum may get affected by the longer tournaments. Ceb had a different take on the matter.

“The beauty of Dota is that it is such a complex game that any team can have its chance in a way,” he said. “The game offers so much room to play with, so maybe the surprise factor is going to have less of an impact. But at the end of the day, I know that teams can also grow during the tournament. Teams that have very little experience, maybe they get surprised and now they get more time to adapt.”

The Dota 2 Pro Circuit needs drastic changes

While Ceb is happy with the changes to the format of The International 11, he also hopes that the Dota 2 Pro Circuit will also undergo a radical transformation next season. He is primarily hoping for shorter seasons that would eradicate many of the problems that teams are facing in this DPC season.

Ceb stated: “I think they need to leave more room between competing periods so that it is more breathable for players. I think the format is less hype than it used to be. I also think that there is less at stake, there is less money involved which when you think about it actually matters. There is less at stake at DPC Games and the viewers can feel it.

He also explained that it is difficult for players from different regions to compete in the same team in this DPC format. “The format makes it hard for players from different regions to mix within a team because they now have to kind of live away from their country for an entire year whereas before they didn’t,” he said.

“Ana for instance would not have been able to play for OG if it was this DPC back then. Black^ (Dominik Reitmeier) going to China, iceiceice (Daryl Koh) going to Europe, all these things are damaged harder now that DPC is happening and I think it is just detrimental for the overall level of the game,” he added.

Ceb on the Riyadh Masters 2022 and MENA region for Dota 2

Shorter DPC seasons would also mean more room for third-party events like the Riyadh Masters 2022. Ceb said that he really missed third-party events such as this tournament. “I think it (Riyadh Masters) is really amazing, I’ve missed big third party tournaments. You know we’ve obviously had DPC for a while. It is two seasons now and it got a bit stale, so I am really happy that we have something to shake things up. To be fair, I am much more of a fan of the super packed Dota 2 action over a smaller amount of time than the long format of the DPC. It is awesome, I love the vibe here, it is more than a Dota tournament, it is like a big gaming festival. It is very packed, there’s a lot of things to do. Honestly I like it a lot,” he said.

Ceb is also hoping for esports to grow and evolve in the Middle Eastern region over the next few years. He said, “I am really hoping that it keeps on growing. I myself am Middle Eastern, I am from Lebanon. I am half-French, half-Lebanese. I grew up in Lebanon and not in France so I’ve always hoped to see more Dota action, just esports in general in the Middle East.

He also added that esports in the Middle East makes a lot of sense culturally. “Sharing video games is actually something that people do much more in the Middle East than in Europe. There are more LAN cafes. I think there is also the weather, which allows for more inside games when it gets too hot, so yeah, I am just hoping to see the scene develop more. And as you said, there is a lot of talent,” he added.


To close out the interview, Ceb thanked his fans for all the support and love that they’ve shown him. “I love them with all my heart,” he said about Dota 2 fans. “I’ve had less opportunities to go to LANs and kind of get to meet Dota fans. It is always heartwarming, I think it is the one thing that will never change about the game: people being able to share the same passion. So for me it is just a blessing that we still get to do that. Thank you for being you, and hopefully we get to do more of this in the future.”


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Vignesh has been covering the esports industry for nearly 5 years starting with the early days of the DPC. His industry expertise includes experience in Dota 2, CS:GO and Mobile Esports coverage.


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