Breaking through the ceiling of North America’s competitive Dota 2 scene is considered difficult, especially for a new squad. But in the first stages of The International 8, VGJ.Storm already has plenty to be proud of — especially with just about six months under the squad’s belt. The American team, based out of Brooklyn under basketball star Jeremy Lin’s supervision, placed first in the group stage 12 to 4, and they’ll be taking on the massive Dota 2 tournament’s upper bracket this week.
At the helm of the team is Avery “SVG” Silverman, who has been seen around the North American circuit plenty. He was picked up by Evil Geniuses twice as a coach, and he was briefly recruited into the ragtag, player-first squad NP, which became Cloud9 at The International 7.
Now, he leads VGJ.Storm in his first-ever captain role. Following the momentum of the successful group stage, he spoke to The Flying Courier about the past and what’s to come.
The Flying Courier: You’re top of your group without a doubt — pretty much unmatched. What’s your big gut feeling on how it’s going so far?
Avery “SVG” Silverman: I am obviously happy with our performance, but I don’t put a lot of stock into it. I put some stock into it, but not as much as people may think. I think groups count for some at TI but they don’t count for a lot. Ultimately, you either end up upper bracket or lower bracket. Beyond that there is not a lot that changes.
You either going to show up on the main stage or you’re not - that’s going to determine how far you go. That’s pretty much what I’m going to put my stock in; how we’re performing on the main stage and how can we go on to win it.
TFC: It’s been pretty diverse so far in terms of meta. A lot of teams have opted for picks such as Clinkz and Windranger in position four — you guys sort of avoided the straight up meta stuff. Do you have any particular reason why you avoided, say, Clinkz for example?
Silverman: I don’t want to say something too specific, but we did scrim a lot of the heroes that ended up being played by a lot of these other teams that we chose to ignore. The things with metas is that you usually want to play in a way that suits for teams strengths, as opposed to patch strengths. And, whatever you can incorporate from the patch into your strengths is where you really get a good strat. So that’s what I’m always trying to do.
Some heroes like Clinkz, for example, maybe they’re strong on the patch. Maybe some teams with with him. Maybe it doesn’t work for us for whatever reason. So, we’re not going to play him as much. But it doesn’t mean we’re not prepared to play, or we don’t understand, the hero. I’m always trying to think and play for my team’s strengths. That comes first, instead of some hero that’s just broken.
TFC: For you specifically, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster this past year or two. Cloud9 didn’t do too well last year — and now, with just a little over six months at VGJ.Storm, you’re the top of your group. What do you think the difference is that clicked over at VGJ.Storm?
Silverman: VGJ is the first team that I’ve first captained for, kind of built my own ideas for, so that’s a big difference. Every other team I played on I was just kind of playing for that team. And the others where I coach aren’t my teams. But this team is really my team, in a sense, so I learned a lot about what that means, how to make that work in both good ways and bad ways.
The big difference is that when this team formed, there was no real baggage that came with any of the players when it came to each other. There was no past conflicts or strife. One of the big things is that nobody should have an ego, we’re all on equal footing on this team. We had a very short time period to get to where we are. So in order for that to happen we had to put the individual aside and focus on the team.
TFC: Speaking of EG, they swapped their roster twice since you finished coaching. What differences have you noticed since stepping away, if any?
Silverman: They’re performing pretty well, so I’d say they found something that’s working for them pretty well. That team’s gone under a lot of rosters since they were four-or-five years ago. When I was coaching them it was still some of the old guard and this team is pretty much the new guard. There’s only one original member of the founding team still on it. I was coaching like three-to-four, Suma1l, Universe, PPD... So I just think they’re trying to find a new direction that works for them. It’s Suma1l’s org now. I was fully behind trying to make them the best team I could, it didn’t work out — these things happen. I have no bad feelings on it. I think they’re finding their new direction and it’ll work well.
TFC: All three North American teams landed in the top of the bracket. Do you think NA is a big threat to you because you’re all from the same region — or is that how you’re looking at it?
Silverman: I personally don’t care. Any team is pretty much a threat to anyone here. They’re all equal opponents. Whoever lands on the other side of the bracket is your opponent. I don’t think NA beating the upper bracket means that NA is stronger, it just means that that’s how the groups played out.
Ultimately, TI? People have made these lower bracket runs. All three NA teams could lose in the lower brackets and lose 9-to-12. I don’t put too much stock into it. If we end up playing other NA teams, those matches are different from the others because we played against each other a lot more so there’s certain familiarities that come with that…but it’s not a huge difference.
TFC: So your first match is against OG -- but because of the miscommunication issue your team got penalized; no coach, 70 seconds off. How are you approaching this match different or the same?
Silverman: I’ve actually drafted with penalty time before — one of the qualifiers we played in on Complexity — so I actually have some experience drafting with it. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance, but honestly these tournaments are full of diversity no matter what happens. You have to overcome these. So, it’s not gonna faze us. We’re just gonna go in with the circumstances available to us.
TFC: Any final words for fans about your team, or about the event?
Silverman: Thanks for the support. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue our momentum on the main stage, and hopefully, we’ll do really well.