The South American Dota 2 scene has taken a tremendous leap thus far in 2023. On top of being the host for the Dota Pro Circuit’s first Major of the season, the region saw two of its best teams contend for the top spots at subsequent international events: Evil Geniuses and beastcoast.
Evil Geniuses, the North American organization which moved to South America at the end of last season, has enjoyed the largest success so far between the two teams as they followed their 5th-6th finish in Lima with a Top 4 placement in the Berlin Major, a 7th place in DreamLeague Season 19 and a 6th place finish in DreamLeague Season 20.
Many things can be attributed when it comes to deciphering the reason for EG’s recent accomplishments, but for this particular occasion, one can look no further than captain and Position 4 Farith “Matthew” Puente as the team’s driving force in officials.
Matthew joined EG from Thunder Awaken following the latter’s monumental Top 6 showing at The International 11, which became the highest placement any SA team had reached. Such a display was the culmination of a near decade-long odyssey within the region which saw various iterations of Thunder Predator, Infamous Gaming, NoPing e-sports and more.
With EG, the 24-year-old Peruvian captain, using his leadership and veteran experience, has not just continued playing at his best domestically. He has also translated his game on the international level as well with consistent showings throughout the year with EG.
Prior to the start of DreamLeague Season 20, BLIX talked to Matthew about his view on the state of the team, his individual progression as a leader and more.
The interview was conducted in Spanish and translated to English by our interviewer, Pedro Romero.
Current State of EG
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Given that EG is just coming off of a first place finish in SA DPC Tour 3 and fourth place in the Berlin Major, how do you see the current state of the team from your perspective?
Farith "Matthew" Puente: As of now, I feel the team is mentally very strong and it's something that I like given that we've been practically consistent with our results. We had a Top 6 finish [in TI11] coming into this year and we started off with Top 6 in the Lima Major and then we followed that with a Top 4 [in the Berlin Major]. As such, I feel we've been enjoying this season in addition to the constant practice we've done so far. In reality, our objective is to try to surpass that Top 4, you know?
As for why we've been getting these results, it’s because, for each time, we're restructuring our strategy and order because, in the past, we were seen as a team that played with an aggressive playstyle, but nowadays, while we've continued with that style, we're more structured and more organized. Outside of that, the team's mentality is at a state where we now have the confidence in believing we can win these tournaments and can make better decisions because of it.
BLIX: One of the reasons the team has been playing well so far this year is the inclusion of Chris Luck and Wisper, who arrived from Beastcoast before the DPC. How have you seen their contribution to the team specifically?
Matthew: At the start, I felt that we weren't fitting in well as a team. Individually speaking, they strike me as excellent players. They are monsters whenever they play Dota. They're very intelligent and experienced, but at the start, when we started playing and practicing together, I felt the team wasn't gelling because, before when I was in Thunder [Awaken], we played with a type of strategy where the mid and offlaner played for the carry, and as of now, we play with a different strategy where all the three cores farm and sometimes the mid-laner dictates the game.
Practically, Wisper and Pakasz are the two cores that occupy the majority of the farm. That said, at the start, we weren't finding our equilibrium as a team, but bit by bit, we talked it out. There were certain discomforts that had to be resolved by talking it out. I think Pakasz, more than anyone, hadn't found his level of comfort because he took charge of the majority of the farm so we needed to restructure our mode of play. Eventually, we settled that Wisper needed to make use of his utility with Smile and although they can take the lead as the primary core players at times, more than anything, they have to work to facilitate the playstyle of Pakasz and I think that's basically it.
BLIX: Talking about the team changing its structure, what was the biggest factor that changed in that regard?
Matthew: I think what changed the most was the team's hero pool. In the previous [TA] team, we didn't have a large pool in all honesty, but I think both Wisper and Chris have a very large pool and both understand all the heroes that fit in their roles. It gives us plenty of comfort so that we can do what we want and play through a multitude of strategies.
Leading EG as Captain
BLIX: As captain, how do you lead the team while also forming the strategy that enabled them to achieve the results from this year?
Matthew: I have a lot of support from the coach and the analyst. We work together in a way where whenever we play an opposing team, they provide an analysis of everything they do. They create the information, they bring it to me and we then debate over it. I tell them the things that seem good and bad to me and we eventually reach a middle ground. As the captain, I try to make the most effort for the team. It's always good to have someone who can talk, motivate the team, help them remember certain things or initialize a conversation.
Nowadays, I feel that the South American scene and its players have been working hard over shaping their personalities and I feel the one thing I do well, as the captain, is I can start a conversation in a way that allows everyone to express themselves and propose their own ideas over what we can and can't do. I like that part a lot because I feel they listen to me and we can exchange ideas.
BLIX: At the same time Wisper and Chris joined EG, your former teammates DarkMago and Sacred went on to join Beastcoast. How do you view their progression in their new team?
Matthew: In reality, it's a thing that I have always thought about as a professional player. Whenever a person either parts ways with a team or leaves them for whatever reason, they always get better and undergo personal development because it helps you become a better individual. It helps you become aware of the things you're not good at and that wasn't the theme behind those guys in particular.
With them, we simply separated because we wanted to play with Wisper and Chris and [the switch] worked for them just as well as it did for us [after they went to BC]. They started improving also as individuals. The problem with them is that they've had a lot of struggles in international events like Majors and DreamLeague against other foreign teams. To me, the biggest problem with BC has been how they have not accommodated to the new meta and hero pool and I think that's it.
Acclimating to the New Patch
BLIX: I'd also like to know your perspective on the new patch of the game given that it's been live for around two months now since it was introduced during the Berlin Major. How have you viewed the team and their work around the patch?
Matthew: At the start, it was a little difficult [in understanding] the patch because there were many changes and it cost us a lot to get used to them, but as I said before about the team's hero pool, it helped us transition into the patch in a fairly easy manner. We got used to it fairly quickly. It also helped us that, although we're a South American team, we scrimmed with the European teams so we absorbed their strategies and implemented them into our strategy. To be honest, I really like the patch and this change was needed in order to reignite the desire to play Dota because, to be honest, it was getting a little boring playing this game, but this patch has revitalized the desire to play it individually speaking, and as for the team, I feel we have been faring well to the meta.
BLIX: For you, which hero changed the most for the better from this new patch and why?
Matthew: There are a lot of heroes to pick from, but for me, I love Bounty Hunter the most. I like the hero because, with his third ability, in which he stuns enemies, I feel it's very strong and I think it's something that is very important when it comes to winning your lane and the early game. I also think it's a hero that dominates the early game when everything is good.
On Kaffs’ Contribution and Matthew’s Individual Progression
BLIX: One person that has been receiving attention within the strategy department of the team is kaffs. He joined the team in April and some people have praised his contribution on how the team has played. How do you view kaffs' contribution since his arrival?
Matthew: I was the one who helped incorporate him into the team. I first got to know him in TI11 when he was a part of Hokori, if I remember correctly. That was the first time I met him so I talked to him about Dota and I liked how he viewed the game. At the start of his stint, no one in the team believed in him because nobody knew him but I didn't let that dissuade me. His vision of Dota was very good and he was someone who seemed very analytical. To me, what he has brought to the team is, how do I say this, analysis and guidance so I say his inclusion has been vital because, when he works with Vintage, both have some things the other person lacks and they've been able to work well together because of that and I feel the analysis both bring to the table is really good.
BLIX: And of course, you have experienced plenty of change and growth throughout your career. You were the captain of that Thunder Awaken team that went Top 6 in TI last year and are looking to do the same this year. Which part of your game has changed the most as a captain
Matthew: I believe the single thing I influence the most as captain, as much here as it was in TA, is my version of leadership and I think that's because the team gives me the opportunity to listen to me and that's something that opens a lot of doors, you know? Having the capacity to listen means you can incorporate ideas and create conversations in which you can exchange ideas regardless if you played well or bad. I believe that's the most important thing because, in SA teams, there has been a lack of that type of person who can start these types of conversations and have everyone in a team fall in the same line and I feel that's the most important thing about my role.
Within the game, it's a job that concerns the team because I contribute to the general strategy and provide the best communication possible. I mess up sometimes during matches, sure, but I believe I am someone who can do many things in the game. Sometimes I do it too much, but I'm very talkative. I put a lot of emphasis on the communication aspect so that everyone can talk and correct me when need be.
Matthew and Evil Geniuses are currently competing in the Bali Major. Be sure to check out BLIX's preview for the event to get a handle on the last DPC event on the year!