So here we are, another week. The days have slipped by before we were even able to figure out where they were going, but there will be plenty of time to existential contemplation later. We’ve got some people to interview! The second installment of our Raidcall NALL Player of the Week series shines the spotlight on Nika “CruelGGs”, an avid Dota player, member of the WhatisHip.TV staff, a founder of the Raidcall NALL, and currently the second place player in the ladder. I spoke with Nika about his brainchild, the league, so far, as well as his team in the recent Smoke of Defeat tournament and his focus for the future of the NALL.
Nika, thanks so much for joining me today. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Nika Kharadze but just about everyone calls me Nick because that’s sorta become my American name. I attend San Francisco State University and I’m double majoring in Philosophy and Journalism but possibly just going to switch Philosophy to a minor to speedup my graduation. I love Dota a lot man, I’ve been playing for like eight years now but it wasn’t until about mid 2012 that I realized how much I really love Dota as a game, and also it’s E-Sport side. Other personal interests are just hanging out, drinking, etc etc. Also, for anyone who doesn’t know, I am an article writer for both Dignitas and Alienware so maybe/hopefully you’ve seen some of my stuff.
I, for one, have seen your stuff, and I thoroughly enjoy reading it. You say that in 2012, you really found your love for Dota. Did you play much before then? What other games do you play?
It’s been around eight years since I’ve started playing and I have to say it’s been a great part of my life. I really feel like I’ve actually learned a lot from Dota, as weird as that sounds, and I don’t think I’ve ever stop playing unless I absolutely have to. I play CS:GO and Far Cry 3 a little here and there but nothing compared to my consistent 5+ hours of Dota a day.
Well, you clearly put the time and effort into Dota to progress to a high level of play. Has that ever translated into any experience with competitive play?
Meh, a little. I’ve played in a bunch of amateur stuff. I played in the Purge Cup in 2012 where we got to semi finals I think and actually got casted by Purge himself as part of the prize for getting so far. I also won a Go4Dota tournament with some of my cousins while I was in Europe. This was also over the summer of 2012 while I was actually practicing with a different team at the time. Most recently I played in the Smoke of Defeat tourney hosted by the fabulous Dota Cinema community, and our team made it to top 16 out of 128 teams. So I guess not too shabby.
Let’s talk a bit about that tournament. You were the captain of the team; who else was there with you?
Oh man so with a few stand ins the roster for the majority of the tournament was me(CruelGGs), Ohaiyo! =), Capn’Crunk, Zanza, and Computer991. We also had Wangsbig stand in for us once.
What role did you play as captain?
I played support, so Computerand I switched off between the 4 and 5 spot.
Had you ever had any previous experience as a team captain before this tournament?
Yeah I’ve been captain of one teambefore this and to be honest I kind of promised myself Iwouldn’t go back to captaining everagain but I don’t know it just kind of happened I guess. It’s a lot easier this time though for whatever reason I have yet to figure out.
Well, I guess it all depends on the chemistry between teammates. How did you guys do?
Like I said before, we placed top 16 out of 128 teams in the bracket. Not too shabby but to be honest with you Mason, we could have made it to the top 8, but Bo1’s are sometimes a little tricky.
That’s for sure. A whole number of things can go wrong in a single game, and it’s tough without a longer series to fall back on. Although you didn’t win, were there any other teams that really blew you away?
E+4 and Pain Gaming are probably the two names you’d recognize from the bracket. If we had to play against either one of those teams they would have wiped the floor with us. E+4 actually ended up winning too.
And from what I hear, you’re actually going to be interviewing them, so everyone keep an eye out for that! Nika, let’s get into some more fun questions, a little less serious if you will. Who’s your favorite hero? What’s your favorite item?
Magnus has got to be my favorite hero by far. I don’t know if it’s because he’s slightly better than most of the other heroes in the pool right now or because he’s a bigass rhino with a spear but something about him really tickles my fancy.
My favorite item would have to be shadow amulet because it is clearly the absolute best item in the game and can completely change a game around once a hero gets a shadow amulet. No but really my favorite item would have to be blink dagger, because unlike shadow amulet, it actually does something.
I agree, I think the tooltip on the amulet is lying and the fade time is more along the lines of 15 seconds, or at least it always seems that way. So what hero do you hate playing against the most?
Recently I’ve started banning Undying in just about every CM match I’m in. I hate playing against the hero, there is just so much he can do in the early stages of the game that I just can’t handle it and we often times lose to a good Undying player in the first 6 minutes of the game. Not to say that I don’t love the hero though, I actually think he’s a very clever hero and love that he’s now in our scene as opposed to when he first came out of Dota 2, I just can’t play against him.
Ah Undying, the hero that wins competitive games, yet leaves me 0/16/0 in pub games. Then again, that’s probably more my fault than his. Getting away from my mediocre play, what’s your favorite pro team? Who’s your favorite pro player to watch?
Right before the International 2 I was a huge Na’Vi fan, and I still am, but during the International 2 I began looking at some of the Asian teams for the first time in my life as I didn’t really see much of Asian Dota aside from Luminous’s Youtube channel. I absolutely fell in love with just about all the teams. My favorite of the teams though was Orange, I was really impressed by how well they played because I kind of considered them underdogs at the time but honestly they won my heart over so much that I leveled up my Orange pennant to level 5 or 6 I believe. I still rock that bad boy in my player loadout screen. Today I still support Orange even though they lost Yamateh. Ohaiyo has a very good name in the Dota Scene so I’m sure Orange will do just fine with him, although I’m a little upset at Yamateh. My favorite pro player to watch is probably Dendi to be completely honest. The guy is just a really great person, you can see it in the way he presents himself. He has this sort of positive energy radiating from him and I think that makes him the most fun to watch. He actually reminds me a lot of some friends I have back in my home country.
Opa Dendi indeed. There is something infectious about him. Now, before I let you go, let’s talk business. You are one of the founders of the Raidcall NALL. Tell us about your feelings about the league so far. How difficult was it to get the league up and running?
To be completely honest and straightforward with you, Mason, the first week was a piece of cake. People were excited and happy to hear about this opportunity that we were presenting to the Dota community, but after the first week we lost a few players. We still had around 30-35 players but knew we had to expand. Expansion was not easy and for about 3-4 days finding a league game was quite difficult. So I guess you can say it had its ups and downs, but everything in life will so it’s nothing to be put down about. Nowadays my job is very easy as games get played automatically via IRC everyday.
You guys really have come a long way. It was only a few weeks ago that the Skype chat logs were constant questions of who’s gonna be on when. Now that you’ve started to get bigger, how do you envision the league growing in the future?
I’m positive it will grow, especially with Raidcall now sponsoring us. As long as there are people playing Dota in the world, there will be a place for this league.
How do you feel the RaidCall sponsorship will affect the league?
Well a sponsorship is always good, it shows that we are doing something right! I think it will affect us in a positive way; we can hand out bigger prize pools now so it should get more people interested in the league.
Do you hope to become a major league in the future, or do you hope to stick to an amateur scene?
I for sure don’t want to spread this to the non amateur players of Dota. They already have plenty of opportunities out there for them but there are not really that many for the amateur players, especially anything with an actual cash prize. So no, we want to help the amateurs get a little more out of Dota, not really the other professional guys.
Last question for you, Nika. What advice would you give to players looking to play more competitively in tournaments and leagues like these?
Honestly, the best thing to do is play a lot of Dota to prepare but also try and check out some vods on some professional casters’ sites like LD, Lumi, Purge, etc and try to pay attention to what the pros are doing. I swear it’s actually a lot of fun and you learn a lot from it, especially support players. I feel amateur support players are often times very misinformed as to what they should actually be doing. Just pulling is not enough guys! Also try to get your hands on any replays you can. Everyone has access to the TI2 replays though so watch those if you haven’t yet!
Nika, thank you so much for sitting down with me. It’s been a real treat talking to you! Any shoutouts before we go?
Shoutouts to Greg “WhatIsHip”, Raidcall for sponsoring our league, Piet Smet from Dignitas for getting me involved in the scene, Brian Estrada for helping out with the league, LD for being super nice to me all the time whenever I needed something, Purge for being my first interview ever and giving me the chance to interview him back in the day, and I wanna thank Lumi for posting youtube videos because honestly his vids were the reason I got so interested in Dota. And finally I wanna thank you, Mason, for giving me this interview today! I appreciate it.
Well there you have it folks, WhatIsHip.TV’s very own Nika “CruelGGs” claiming his spot amongst the best that the Raidcall NALL has to offer. Be sure to stay on the lookout for more installments of Player of the Week as well as all the other wonderful things popping up on our site!
As always, the IRC channel for the league is #NALL, and you can also join us in RaidCall Channel 5547943.