DOTA2: Exclusive interview with Cloud9 captain Ace

RealSport caught up with Ace of Cloud9 to talk the state of the Dota scene.

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(Photo Credit: Dota 2 The International)

We recently had a chance to catch up with Marcus ‘Ace‘ Hoelgaard, the captain and Carry for Cloud9. Ace, along with his teammates, have gone a long way forming Danish Bears, then getting picked up by Imperial. After a short stint with Imperial, Ace, BabyKnight, HesteJoe-Rotten, NoiA and Ryze joined Cloud9, a well-renowned organization in the esports community.

RealSport: At what age did you start playing Dota and when did you know that you were good at it?

Ace: I think I started playing Dota way back when I was 12, the good old Warcraft 3 days. I’m 23 now but I’ve always been good at games and competition in general. I used to spend all my time on sports, mostly soccer, but as I started playing Dota, I kind of transitioned into that more and more until the point where it consumed me. That’s what Dota does to you!

RealSport: Why did you choose the name Ace?

Ace: I chose the name Ace back when I was around 11 years old. Initially, I played a lot of Counter-Strike before moving into to Warcraft 3 and Dota. My brother and I used to have the same computer back then, I always played on his account under the name Ace. Basically, it was his nickname and not mine. When he suddenly didn’t want that name anymore and changed it to “Link”, I kept it! In the end, it was a nick I stole from my brother. The meaning of the name was pretty cool back then. In Counter-Strike, Ace meant single-handedly wiping the whole opponent team. Now I think the name is a bit too common for my liking.

RealSport: Who do you look up to as a Carry and why do you like their playing style?

Ace: I don’t look up to one player in particular. Every player has a time when they are “in the zone” and a time when they aren’t. If I had to pick one, I would say Notail. I like how flexible he is in play. Overall, I like players who can play both a space-making style and a farm-heavy style depending upon the situation of the game and that is what’s needed to win. It differs from day to day. I usually get an urge to play a particular hero, then I do some research on who’s the best and most experienced player on that specific hero and check him out. Let’s say that I wanted to improve on Ursa. I would find out that Aui is really good on that hero. So, I would start watching his latest replays to get some inspiration for my own Ursa plays.

RealSport: As the drafter and captain of your team, do you take inspiration from any other captains out there?

Ace: I don’t know the in-game culture of other teams. It’s hard to tell how the other captains run things, or how open or closed the decision making dialogue is. To be honest, I have never tried playing under an experienced, well-known captain, I only know my own methods. If I had to choose one I would say Fly, he seems like a stable captain and a really nice and humble guy too!

RealSport: You guys have been together since Danish Bears, through Imperial and and now Cloud9. What do you think is the difference between staying together and swapping teams?

Ace: I have been playing on the same team for a long time now, so long that I almost don’t remember how things are when you join a new team. So I’m not too sure. There are pros and cons to either method. One of the most important factors in order to play good, is to have fun while playing. Playing together for a long period of time gets you on the same page, which can be really powerful. Just take a look at Wings Gaming at the last TI. On the other hand, the in-game atmosphere can sometimes get “too relaxing and comfortable” on such a team. It’s important not to let it get to a state like that. I think it’s alright to get something new going once in a while, but not too often. I’m definitely not a fan of team changes every couple of months.

RealSport:  Who on your team rages the most?

Ace: After all the struggles we have been through, we have created certain rules about doing something negative like raging. It’s something that happens very very rarely during our games. I think most people could guess this, but I would point out HesteJoe as the biggest rager on our team! But not out of experience from our own games. It mostly shows when we are boot camping and he’s playing solo queue. A casual beast roar coming out from Heste a few times a day is something everybody has gotten used to.

RealSport: As a Carry as well as the captain of your team, what do you think is the difference between a Support being a captain and a Carry being a captain?

Ace: I think there is a big difference. This has always been a hot debate and also at times a struggle for our team. Supports usually have more time to “idle”, they often don’t have an opponent to lane against (contest last hits and harass war). Laning against someone takes a lot of focus. It’s hard to stay focused on your lane and at the same time think about the overall gameplan. A Carry should always try to be very efficient in what he does. That means no idling and always keeping yourself busy with either farming, killing heroes and/or destroying towers. These factors can make it hard for a Carry to think about decisions and the gameplan. Another thing is that cores need to have excellent mechanics and that’s something you get from playing pubs all day. Having the captain role leads to less time for pubs and more time for strategy, thinking, testing stuff and analyzing other teams. Personally, I’d say that the captain role is better suited to a Support. We have tried swapping around a couple of times but it didn’t work out. No matter which role the captain has, it’s important that everybody does their part in taking decisions throughout a game. 

RealSport: What are your thoughts on the current meta? 

Ace: I honestly feel like the meta is more random than it used to be. I don’t know if it’s the shrines or all the bounty runes that does it. It seems good to play more aggressive styles. It’s Dota though, you can play the game in hundreds of different ways. I think the roamer has a very interesting and creative playmaking role in this meta. I think Lina will keep shining like she has recently and I’m not sure if her recent nerf will affect her much.

RealSport: Who are your favorite heroes right now?

Ace: I love all the different Dota heroes. My most used heroes change each month. It’s so hard to choose my favorites, I have so many at the moment. It’s probably Gyrocopter, Ursa, Phantom Assassin and Chaos Knight! Generally, I’m all hyped for the more difficult heroes to master. I have always loved Invoker, Tinker and Meepo.

RealSport: You’ve played alongside Cr1t who’s playing for EG right now. Did he help you grow as a player?

Ace: Cr1t and I have known each other for a long time now and are very good friends. We have undoubtedly helped each other grow throughout our careers. I’d say we are in some way friends and rivals at the same time. I will never forget the 1v1 tournament back in DotA, where we clashed in the final to win a Dota2 beta key! Damn, I wish I could find a replay on that bo3 somewhere. 

RealSport: What are your team’s plans for the future?

Ace: We plan to keep working hard to get better both individually and as a team. Our final goal is to win TI. Hopefully, we can arrange a team house to move into for better and more intense practice, that’s something we have discussed lately.

RealSport: You’re one of the few players who play Bristleback as a Carry during pro games. Do you think BB needs any buffs to make it into a more viable Carry or is it good the way it is now?

Ace: I rarely play Bristleback nowadays but sometimes there is a perfect scenario where he is viable. He got a buff in the latest patch, so it will be interesting to see how it is going to affect him. One thing they need to change is his Scepter upgrade. I like the idea of it, but it’s just too weak. For example, he is usually really good at breaking Linkens Sphere, but his Scepter upgrade makes him unable to do that. Bristle usually has a hard time carrying a game alone. He’s more of a semi-carry that ensures that your team wins teamfights and keeps all their towers. Pair him up with a mid carry like Shadow Fiend and a mana source like Crystal Maiden or Keeper Of The Light to unlock his true potential! 

RealSport: Any tips for budding Dota players who want to make it to the pro scene?

Ace: Sure! It takes hard work and consistency to make it into the pro scene. Practice, practice and more practice! The simplest and probably the best way to get recognition is by climbing the MMR ladder. When you reach a high MMR like 8000 or 9000, pro players and teams will learn about you. Show you got the skills and opportunities will appear.

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