Since forming as an independent team prior to the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit, Team Undying has risen to prominence within the competitive scene. Whereas most teams tend to experience hardship immediately after their formation such as not qualifying for major events, Undying opted to nonchalantly subvert that trend without issue. Headed by a seasoned veteran in Moonmeander and exuberant young talent featuring Bryle, SabeRLight-, and Timado, Undying finished in 3rd place in the Upper Division for both halves before culminating the year with an appearance at The International 10, where they finished in 13-16th place.
Although their stay in TI was painfully short, Undying felt they had built a solid foundation for continued success in the future. To play so well in spite of not having any support whatsoever, the team wondered just how far they can go if they ran it back for another year. Fortunately for them, with renewed confidence heading into the 2021-22 DPC, Undying picked up right where they left off by winning the Winter Regional Finals (this time as Team SoloMid after getting signed in February) over Evil Geniuses, thus officially becoming the best current Dota team in NA.
Certainly, claiming the throne of best current NA Dota team is undoubtedly an incredible achievement for the players of TSM to experience. By defeating the usual kings of the region, they completed the improbable journey to the top after starting off with literally nothing to their names. Better yet, TSM’s triumph gave ample vindication to each of their individual players. For Timado, Bryle, and SabeRLight-, they showed to all that they too have the propensity to win like any other top player; and for Korean hard support Doo-young “DuBu” Kim, who wandered in various teams such as MVP Phoenix, Fnatic, and Geek Fam for nearly a decade before joining TSM, his Regional Finals win served as justification that he could still play in the highest level of competition.
With the DPC Spring Tour well underway, DuBu sat down with Gamelevate to discuss TSM’s current form after competing in the Regional Finals and Gamers Galaxy Dubai tournament and how the major NA org has supported his team since their move was officially made.
Not only that, he reflects on everything that happened in his career up until this point, from his successes to his failures as both a player and coach.
Competing in the NA Regional Finals, Gamers Galaxy Dubai
Thanks so much for doing this interview with me, DuBu. I’d like to start off by asking how are you doing right now at this point of the DPC?
I think I’m still adjusting to the new patch with the team on how we are supposed to play together. I’ve been watching replays, playing some Dota and thinking about how to play better.
Patch 7.31 has been out for almost a month now. Concerning this struggle with the new patches, has it only affected yourself or the rest of the team as a whole in trying to catch up to the new meta?
I think everyone struggled in the start, and then by practicing loads of times, I have more of a concrete idea of how we want to play together as a team.
Even while you guys are trying to accommodate to this new meta through this new patch, you guys have started off on the right foot in the Spring Tour. It’s a continuation of TSM like good form from winning the Regional Finals and participating in Gamers Galaxy Dubai. In other words, things are going well for the team. What do you attribute to this team’s current upswing since last season?
In my opinion, even though we won those games, if I look at the replays, we’re not playing that good in a given situation on the draft or some advantages we had. I’m not sure if we are owning. I don’t think so. Even in the Dubai LAN, I think everyone was really cocky from the Regional Finals, especially myself as well. I started picking some weird heroes and I started to have a strong ego too. I would say that ruined our team’s structure in the draft which led to us performing pretty bad in the Dubai LAN. We got second to last place which is not good.
Is being cocky the only main issue for this team not doing so well in Dubai after winning the Regional Finals?
Yeah, I think so. I think everything started from smaller things, right? Eventually, if that continues being there, then everything would collapse so I will say started from there and everything follows up.
Nevertheless, you guys have obviously improved for this Spring Tour. You mentioned the need to improve your mindset and try not to be too brash and cocky, but what else has yourself and the rest of TSM has focused on reworking heading in to this Spring Tour?
First of all, fixing individual mistakes and gameplay; and also, I would say, having a wrong mindset in approaching the game. It’s a new patch and then you have to think differently and accordingly.
Despite the setback from Dubai, as of now, the team has managed to resolve their issues for this season so far by going undefeated at the start of the Spring Tour, thus maintaining the team’s position as the best team in NA. Considering your career, in which you’ve been a member of other top teams such as Fnatic and MVP Phoenix, what has it been like to return to the top of a respective region after having already experienced this sort position beforehand?
I’m not sure if I don’t really see much of a change. Even in the past, when I was in either a good team or a bad team, I was always getting chased by Dota. I would always think about improving and the only difference within that space was cockiness but I’m not so sure. I was really cocky back in the Fnatic years as well so I would say those issues only happened with me when I started having some sort of success.
I tried to be humble, but in my mind, I was like, “I’m a god. I can do anything,” and then I get smacked and punished for being cocky. *laughs* Yeah, it happens again so it’s like a cycle and now I’m trying to improve again. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying to improve throughout my career and even in the last few weeks. I always tried to play pubs, think about what I can do better and gaining more MMR, but it’s just about the difference in effectiveness.
I guess this mentality cycle that you’ve described is still going on for you, right?
Yeah, it’s the same cycle. You worked really hard and then you gain some success. Obviously, you feel really good in being rewarded, you know? You feel like you got everything so you get cocky. You continue playing the game but you don’t really see what you could normally see in the past, so you make mistakes. You then realize that so you try to fix it. Yeah, it’s like a cycle.
Do you feel like you’ve made progress in overcoming this mentality problem? Or do you feel you’re still at an impasse or perhaps stagnated in this regard?
I don’t really know but what I did yesterday, after my work was finished (scrims, practice, etc.), I was kind of upset that I made a bunch of misplays or and had such a wrong approach to the game. I was sad, but I can’t really do anything until I play today’s scrims, right? That’s because otherwise, I want to prove to my team that I worked hard and I tried to fix everything that they asked me to, so the only thing I can do is basically play better today. So what I did yesterday was just going to the gym, workout, and come back with a good mindset; and then I watched some of the replays and think about what I’m going to play tomorrow.
So I guess you’re taking this in a “one day at a time” kind of approach, right?
Yeah. That’s because there’s nothing you can do about the past and then if you keep staying home, you might just feel sad, you know? As a person, I can’t really handle that and the only way for me to feel better for myself is playing better next time. But next time is in the future. I can’t fast forward time so the only thing I can do is go to the gym and prepare for the next day.
Synergizing with his Undying teammates
You sort of touched upon working with your other current teammates. Compared to people such as SabeRLight-, Timado, and Bryle, who are still rather young in their careers, you are undoubtedly a veteran in the scene and has served as this team’s leader at times alongside Moonmeander. How’s it been for you to build a bond with those three young teammates which has then translated to success in competitions?
I think at the start, I had both a wrong approach and wrong mindset. I’m talking about the early period in Undying. I think one of the biggest reasons why we got last place in TI, and I’m just talking from my side, was because I think I had the wrong mindset in a sense that since I am an elder compared to them, I am better than them. That doesn’t mean I’m straight up better than them, but you know I’m trying to say.
I basically tried to teach them. I talked about things like what I know or what I knew in the past. Sometimes I was correct but I wasn’t right all of the time. It was like 50/50. Sometimes I was correct in my advice and sometimes I was maybe wrong. But at the end, I realized this I had the wrong mindset. They are the zoomers and I am a boomer, so they are better than me. Nowadays, I’m trying to learn more from them compared to me teaching them. If everyone in my team has the same mindset, then we can bond as a unit.
As in the case with every team that is formed in Dota, there’s going to come times in which they struggle in trying to secure wins in competitions. Obviously, the same sort of story played out for Undying in its beginning where they tried to reach the top of NA but failed to do so last DPC. But then you guys became one of the best Dota teams as TSM. While trying to build that bond with your teammates, was there a moment you can recall in which you felt that this team was going to be successful?
I don’t really remember a specific moment where I felt we were going to be successful and I’m not even sure if we are successful now, but what I remember was when we were playing against EG or Quincy Crew, I was having a lot of fun. Like, a lot of fun. I was having fun playing with my teammates more than just playing Dota. Everyone knew how we wanted to play the game and we were on the same page. That’s why every game was so fun to play. That kind of feeling is what you need to have for success.
What has been the major difference between playing with TSM/Undying and all of your other teams throughout your career in the past?
I’ll say the biggest difference now is I have Moonmeander who is the captain. I don’t need to think about core structure or leading the team because that bothered me for my entire career because I think I’m not really good in that front. I have good ideas but I don’t execute them properly through the team, if that makes sense. I have problems as a leader.
You didn’t know how to properly lead a team? Is that what you were trying to say?
Yes. Now, since I don’t need to lead the team, the only thing I need to do is basically play at my best compared to the rest of the team. I just need to play my game, but because of my past habits and experience, I sometimes struggle. I tried to overcome them through my whole team structure instead of focusing on myself, so that’s the biggest difference. Now I have Moonmeander because in the past I didn’t have him.
How crucial has he been to this team doing so well in the DPC?
How crucial? Very important! *laughs*
TSM knocks on the door
Short and sweet. Simple to the point. Good enough for me. Moving on, I’d like to talk about how Undying, an independent team, ended up getting signed by TSM prior to the Regional Finals. What was it like for your team to be approached by such a big organization like TSM to compete in Dota?
It’s really good after all since it happened, but to be honest, in the past, when we were trying to get signed, every day was stressful because it takes time. Somedays, they say, ” Yeah, we’re going to get signed by TSM. Let’s have a meeting.” We also had some meetings with other orgs. We talked about sponsorships and how much we can get or what we are going to do and then there was delay after delay after delay.
One day, you would think, “Man, finally we are getting this,” and then in the next day, you would be like, “Man, why are they not sending us the contract? Are they just talking for the sake of talking it?” And then one day you would also think like, “We don’t need it. When did we need all this big salary and stuff? We never needed it,” and then after that is like, “It’s okay. It takes time, you know? It’s like big money.” Everyday is like a roller coaster basically. I try not to be like that, but it’s just a natural human reaction to these proceedings. And at the end, after we got signed and we received our salary, now I feel like, “Oh yeah. We’re actually signed.”
For the majority of your career, you’ve played for an actual organization, but by playing with Undying, you had to experience the rigors of not having real support as an independent team and striving to find success. How stressful has it been for you to play as an independent after spending quite a fair amount of time you know being supported by orgs?
It wasn’t really stressful because I’ve been there a few times in the past. First time was before I joined MVP Phoenix. I spent two years grinding to become a pro and the second time was with Team Onyx who was then signed by Digital Chaos for TI6. I knew if either myself or my team is good enough, then results will follow naturally. There was one time where I was kind of sad which happened during a slump in my career was after I was kicked by Geek Fam. I realized how bad I was as a player. I felt I was just not good enough, you know? At the time, I had to restart again and think about how to improve.
Reflecting on past struggles in career
I remember you talked about the need to improve after you left MVP Phoenix prior to joining Team Onyx. Do you feel there’s a similarity in the sort of issues that you faced between the time you left Team Onyx and the time you left other orgs like Geek Fam?
I think each case was different. From MVP to Onyx, it wasn’t really big or anything. We were just like–nevermind, there was actually one issue. There was one common feature: cockiness. After TI6, everyone got cocky, I’m talking about MVP Phoenix. Everyone thought we deserved something better and that’s how we separated from one another and were then smacked. *laughs*
And then I joined Onyx. It was a team built with BuLba, Mason, DeMoN, and Abed, and then we went to TI7 and I got cocky again. I thought I deserved something better. I was really young, you know? I had less experience than before. After that I went to Immortals with the old MVP Phoenix team and we were decent, but in the end, it didn’t go well there so I struggled that year. Next, I joined Fnatic as a coach and that team was doing really well and I got cocky again. I was smacked in TI9. I got kicked from Fnatic and then I joined Geek Fam, in which I was kicked by them also. After I left GF, I realized how bad I was.
Soon thereafter, I started from zero again with a new stack with Timado and Bryle. Before that, I was coaching Team CR4ZY which didn’t end well. After that, we made a new team called Undying. There is a big difference between Undying and all my past teams. That’s because with Undying, my mindset that I started with is completely different compared to others. Because I’m feeling I was starting from zero with a clean slate. I was honestly kind of sad that we got signed by TSM because we had to drop our “Undying” name. I had a huge–how do you say it–feeling towards that team.
Like a sentimental value to the name of the team?
Yes because I really like my current teammates. The big difference between Undying and Onyx is that when I joined the Onyx, I didn’t really have the correct mindset of how important it was to have such good teammates that can compete together. My mindset at that time was first of all, too cocky and, second of all, I didn’t know the difference between satisfaction and being cocky. I’m not sure how to describe this but I’ll give you an example.
When I just started Dota, when I just started my career for those two initial years, for every team that I joined I had the mindset of “This is not the team that I’m going to win TI with” because everyone had really low MMR, right? I just started Dota so the only thing I was thinking about was my own improvement. Finally, after those two years, I got to MVP Phoenix and had some decent success, and then when I joined Onyx, I had the same sentiment. I still thought I could find some better team for myself, but the biggest difference between being with MVP and DC was with MVP, I grinded myself to get to the top.
But with DC, compared to MVP, the difference in effort that I put on both myself and the team was huge but I was still looking for something better. And now I realized those mistakes. When it comes to Undying, I’m starting from zero again, and now finally with this team, I feel like this is our team basically we started from nothing and I am no longer looking for something better, but sometimes I still get cocky.
By becoming more mature as the years go by and you continue getting older, do you think back to all of your past teams and regret not being as humble as before? Do you regret not being more humble in the past as you would have hoped?
In the end, if I talk from my current situation, I will say no, that there is no regrets because I like how I am right now. But yeah, maybe if you ask me like after I got kicked from Geek Fam, then yeah I would say that I have regrets. That’s why I like to keep trying had every day, right? It’s so you don’t want to regret anything.
I don’t think of them as mistakes. I like where I’m standing. But if I didn’t like where I stood a few years ago, then at that time, I would have probably regretted some of my decisions. But in order for me to not have regrets in the future, I have to try hard every day because the biggest reason why I’m not regretting right now about my service is because in the past two years, DuBu started trying hard every day. That’s why I’m not regretting the past right now.
Current state of North America in DPC
I want to focus on the current state of North America as far as Dota goes. As of right now, how do you view the region’s current state? How have you viewed the general playstyle that this region has shown competitively?
I think people are going to get shot in this upcoming Major by how good NA teams will perform. And about the NA region, I will say it’s because there’s no new blood. Everyone’s a boomer in this server. *laughs* They’re all stubborn and cocky in a sense, you know? But because they got smacked so hard, it’s now time for us to show up again.
How would you rank NA compared to the rest of the world?
I honestly don’t know and I don’t really want to rate it either. I can rate which reason has the best pubs. I can confidently say that Southeast Asia is the best. It’s better than EU. I’m not sure what’s going on in the China pub, but I’ve been playing EU, SEA, and NA and SEA is straight up the best. It’s so good. It takes a lot to play in that region because everyone is really high skill, so if you play Dota there, it’s satisfying. It feels really good to play there.
How would you explain SEA’s rise to prominence as far as pubs go. What makes them so grueling and competitive compared to NA or EU pubs?
I’ll say it’s about hunger because people in SEA, in addition to most of the Asian culture, are more hungry and willing to try harder. They don’t really care about their life. They don’t care about the life level that they need to get. They don’t care. All they care about is wanting to win and play more. They just want to become better and success.
I guess it’s about the sort of cultural difference between SEA and NA?
The one thing that I still don’t get is why people make fun of others trying hard. It’s weird to me. For example, if I’m spamming few heroes to win my pubs really hard, they sometimes flame me. “Oh, this guy is only playing those two heroes” and blah blah blah blah. Isn’t it normal? If that’s the case, then why are you playing in pubs if you’re not trying hard? What do you gain from it? It’s such a weird thing to me.
What do you think must be done for NA to catch up or show the same sort of hunger that SEA has exhibited?
I honestly don’t know because I never studied about that. I don’t know. I don’t know how to fix it. Maybe I’ll say there are some pros for it. I’m not gonna name names but there are a bunch of pros–like Tier-1 players and streamers–they have to behave well. If they don’t behave well, what are their viewers going to actually learn? They’re going to learn how to call GG and disconnect. Obviously, everyone’s going to do the same thing because they saw their idol doing that. It’s like “Oh, this guy did that and he’s a Tier-1 professional player so I’ll do the same thing.” This issues also points to me too because I’m competing in NA so I have to behave well also.
Taking a step above pubs, your team has been in Division I since the beginning of the DPC. You’ve seen various teams come and go and you face them as well. Has there been an improvement in the sort of competition in NA in a way that improves the entire scene overall?
I’ll say yes because today Wildcard Gaming showed up. They showed that they are a better team than 4 Zoomers. It was very impressive. Before the interview, I opened the replay and was watching it. The NA region is not dead basically. There are still people grinding and competing every day.
In the beginning of the DPC, NA was known to be led by just one team: EG. They used to be the top team that nobody else would have tried to catch up to. But as the DPC progressed, they have been joined by other top teams like QCY and TSM. Do you feel the rest of the region is starting to catch up to the traditional top team in EG?
I think so. As long as we are all trying to improve then for sure.
How would you describe the perfect environment for NA to be one of the best regions in competitive Dota?
First, though it’s physically impossible but this has to be the first condition, more people have to be playing Dota. If this doesn’t get solved, then I’m not so sure. You just need more people playing Dota so you can have more competition in pubs. I don’t see any other way. You just need new people and new blood coming in. We need some 16-year-olds showing up with 12k MMR but in order to see that, we need some 1,000 more people playing the game in NA every year. *laughs*
Has there been anyone that caught your eye in trying to break into the DPC? Has there been like any new blood that you feel they should absolutely make the DPC?
Today I just saw WC’s mid player esK. He was owning the game maybe because I was watching the replay. He should be considered for sure.
What about players in support, your position?
Maybe Sammyboy because I was watching his Enchantress replay and he played pretty good. He did everything correct and I was like, “Wow.” And then I was comparing his build with mine and whatnot.
So far as the DPC has gone you know, many people have viewed yourself as one of the best support players in the region. Of course, this comes after many years of being a professional in this game. How have you maintained your form as a top support player after many years in your career?
I’m not sure if I stayed on top all the time but I will say when I was doing good, I just basically put lots of effort in. Even though I sometimes don’t make it, I force myself to do it. Obviously, it’s more fun to watch some YouTube or drama, but I just keep playing because I want to win TI.
What will DuBu’s future look like
Winning TI is what many people constitute as being successful in this game. At the same time, there are others who view success as having a long and stable career. In your case, what does success mean to you?
Success to me is you’re playing the game all day every day but you’re not worried about living. That’s success. It can probably be like freedom financially speaking. Also it can be concerning the fame that you have. You can still get respect from playing the game. You have no issue financially nor with your family. Good.
Has that always been your main goal for success? Or has it changed as the years gone by in your career?
It was always like that maybe because my goals aren’t that high. However, after much time, I understand now that the life I’m having right now. can always go away in one second if I stop improving. If I stop learning, the one that I’m having right now can go away.
That’s an admirable goal for you to profess and I think that’s a goal that many people would love to have. Playing any other game without any other worry or issue as you said, I think that would be a very good life to have.
Right now, your age is close to being 30. It’s an age where most people would have already retired from either traditional sports or esports. Have you ever thought about when you would like to stop playing competitively and also just stepping away from as a player?
No because one of my goals is to become the oldest active player in professional Dota, so my dream is continuing. I don’t know when that time going to happen. Maybe I can go into different games as well, but I just want to keep competing. Thankfully in Dota, old people are still competing.
I’ve seen you play League of Legends in that one video from TSM. Maybe you could start a career there.
No, I’m too old for that game. *laughs* I agree that I’m very good at LoL, but I don’t think I can do that. Maybe I’ll win TI first and then I’ll see how that goes.
How about coaching? Have you ever thought about that?
I’ve been a coach for a few times in my career and it’s not so fun, I would say. Playing is more fun.