Interview with Zai: "It’s a good thing that young people are coming into the scene"
Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg needs no introduction. The Swedish star is one of the most successful Dota 2 players in the history of the game with multiple Dota Pro Circuit Major victories, Top 3 finishes at The International tournaments and over $3M in prize winnings. The player, currently plying his trade in the offlane for Team Liquid has always been known for his high-skill, versatile playstyle, and avant-garde tastes in music.
Zai and Team Liquid came into the ESL One Stockholm Major 2022 as one of the favorites for the tournament. Unfortunately, the team and the player were eliminated without getting a chance to compete in front of the live audience. Alexandra Aim caught up with Zai following the team’s elimination to talk about The International (TI), gameplay patches, his future plans, even some cinema, and more.
Thoughts about The International
Let’s talk about TI - it was supposed to be here in Stockholm last year, and it got canceled, but ironically, the PGL Major was held also here a month later (with an audience), how do you feel about that?
Zai: Well, looking back to the summer when it was supposed to be here, there were a bunch of different circumstances that led to it not being held here, and I think all of them were kind of solved shortly after. I think it was half the fault of Stockholm people, and maybe Valve has to share some of the blame as well, so as a whole it’s unfortunate, because it would be a nice place to have TI. But at least we have this Major which is still in Stockholm, so it’s nice that events are coming back.
Did you like TI10 in Bucharest?
Zai: Yeah, it was nice, I liked Bucharest, but at the same time there was COVID stuff in place, so the event was nice, but there was no crowd. For us, for players, and you know for everyone else it was kind of different as well. You couldn’t hang out with other teams, it was quite sterile in that way, so it was TI, but it was a pandemic TI.
Didn’t look that fabulous for us viewers as well. Where do you think TI is going to be this year?
Zai: There were some hints towards Singapore coming out. If that’s the case, I would enjoy it. To be honest, I’m just happy that TI gets to be hosted again and hope to have it in a more normal way than last year.
Thoughts on younger Dota 2 talent getting the spotlight
We have a lot of young talents at this LAN, almost none of the old-school teams are present. What is your favorite team/player right now?
Zai: It’s a good thing that young people are coming into the scene, because I think it’s been a bunch of old people for quite some time, so it’s nice. I think teams like OG, obviously you have to look at, their young players are impressive, all of them and they’re doing well so I’ll be excited to see them go forward. At the same time, they’re competitors of ours, so I don’t want to see them win anything. So there’s them, and trying to think of more young players, I’m sure there are more, I’m sure there are plenty.
I think OG has the youngest players, ATF is 16 and Yuragi is 17?
Zai: Yeah, but even I would say with last year, Team Spirit winning, they kind of started the shift a little bit.
Last year we got a lot of patches, but they were more like hotfixes and didn’t change the game much. What would you change globally?
Zai: I would like to see more map changes. In the previous patches, the map has been consistently the same for a long time. I think hill wards, for me, it’s a big thing, the vision they give is a little bit too strong, so maybe I would remove some hills or balance them in some way. Apart from that, healing slaves and BKB need to change a bit, they both are a bit too strong. For the next big patch, I would like to see those things.
So no cliffs and hills for Arteezy?
Zai: (laughs) Well, that will be good for him as well, he’s not doing that well so he can use it.
Different styles of Captains and plans for the future
Puppey and Insania - both have different personality types and different approaches to their captain duties. What is the difference between Zai in Secret and Zai in Liquid?
Zai: I think I have more responsibilities now to help out with, not captainship but still, I need to use my experience in a way in this team. I didn’t have to do that in the old team, in Secret we had five extremely good and experienced players, Puppey has been playing for far too long. And now we’re a bit younger people, not as experienced so I think me and Matu should contribute a bit with our experience and what we’ve done before.
You have been in the scene for a while, since your HoN days, tell me when you quit your career as a pro player, do you have plans for what you would do?
Zai: I have zero plans for when I quit, I have put it off, and when I eventually decide to retire, I’ll deal with it then. For now, not so many plans, you know, I’m just happy to play Dota 2, going with the flow. And also I’m lucky enough in my position to not worry about it immediately. So when that day comes, I’ll deal with it then.
Thoughts on movies
Let’s talk film
Zai: Ask away.
Could you give me a list of films (live-action or animation) that would always be on your watchlist? Also, if not a specific movie, you could name fav directors or even a whole movement.
Zai: I will always rewatch Paris, Texas, and Chungking Express every once in a while so those are always on the list. As for others, it tends to go periodically, but there was a period a while back where I watched a ton of Yakuza films and really enjoyed this guy called SABU. Postman blues for example is amazing.
Wong Kar-Wai enjoyer I see
I love his “Fallen Angels” and “In the mood for love.” Absolutely love the cinematography in his movies!
Zai: Yeah, that's a big reason why they're so rewatchable.
Right? “Paris, Texas” also has very good visuals. I think it's the strongest picture in Wenders repertoire, although I didn't watch everything, only the "iconic" ones.
Zai: “Wings of desire” is also amazing in terms of visuals but a worse film, in my opinion. But yeah, he is one of my favorites.
What do you think about his documentary works?
Zai: I think I haven't watched any. Maybe I should.
“Salt of the Earth” is amazing. You should start there.
Zai: I'll add it to my list.
I haven't seen anything by Sabu, should I give it a try? The only yakuza-related films I've seen were by Takeshi Kitano, and the games.
Zai: They're very ridiculous but kind of fun
They're genius, common
Zai: But SABU is more in the spirit of some Takashi Miike films rather than Kitano. Or more like Kitano's baseball film, kinda weird
Is he the one that made Ichi the killer?
Perfect! Thank you for the interview!