With BlizzCon just round the corner, tournament veteran and BlizzCon qualifier, Azael was kind enough to accept an interview. While he’s commentated the event in the past, this will be the first year he’s competed on the grand stage. He shared his thoughts about BlizzCon, his opponents and WoW in general.
1. Hello Azael, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. For the very few people unfamiliar with you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey everyone, my name is Isaac ‘Azael’ Cummings-Bentley and I’ve been a Pro Gamer with Team EG for nearly 4 years now. I play Warlock and have won events such as MLG, IEM Global Finals 2010 and Blizzard NA Invitational 2011.
2. After missing out on BlizzCon by a whisker in 2009 against TSG—who incidentally went on to win the tournament—this will be the first time you’ve played at BlizzCon. Are you excited going into the event and how would a victory on this stage compare to your victory at the IEM Global Championship?
Yeah, losing like that was definitely frustrating as we had some pretty rotten luck I felt and came soooo close to getting to Blizzcon we felt we would’ve done well at the event so seeing the team who edged us out win it all kind of stung a bit. I’m excited going to play at Blizzcon but I’ve been a number of times before working for sponsors and commentating last year and so on, so I feel like I know what to expect. As far as how winning would compare I’m not really sure I’d have to actually do it to know but just based on the money alone it would be pretty amazing to win Blizzcon
3. Team EG had a really strong showing at the US Invitational, you guys only lost one series against Slip n Slide (Skill Capped) and well and truly made up for that in the final, beating them 6-0. Do you think you’ll be able to continue this dominance at BlizzCon?
You never know how things will work out at a tournament, but I feel as though we’re the most prepared team and if we play to the best of our abilities I don’t think there’s anyone we can’t beat. I won’t say that we’ll dominate Blizzcon but I will say that I can’t imagine a world in which I felt more confident about our chances, so we definitely have a great shot and at this point I feel like anything other than winning would probably be considered a disappointment.
4. With Blizzards decision not to reset MMR and the ladder, there’s been a distinct lack of queues, has that impacted on your ability to practice and how much practice would you say you’ve had as team since the US Invitational?
We all have access to numerous characters and I have upwards of 5 Warlocks given to me by various people so honestly it wasn’t that hard to queue on ladder when we felt like it, but at the same time with the differences in gear I really didn’t feel that playing ladder is even worthwhile. Instead we focused our efforts on War Gaming top teams on the Tournament Realm so it’s the same gear set and much better / focused practice as you can try out different things and let teams know what you would like them to try etc.
5. Hydramist recently set up a poll asking our readers who they will take the BlizzCon crown this year. With over 2000 votes so far, it’s been neck and neck between Showtime (Yaspresents) and Team EG. Do you see Showtime (Yaspresents) as your biggest rivals and do you see their Shadow Cleave as a potential issue?
Showtime is a fantastic group of players running a setup which can definitely be very tough for ours so they’re probably our biggest rivals as far as that goes but we have also prepared extensively against it and I really do like our chances. We know that preparing against a specific setup does not always prepare you for a different group of players running the same thing but I feel that works both ways as although there may not be a Shadowcleave as strong as Showtime there’s also no one they can practice against to prepare for us.
6. Further to this, what are your thoughts on the line-up of teams going into BlizzCon? Are you worried about facing any team in particular?
We’re not going to be taking anyone lightly, I feel like all the NA, EU and probably KR teams have the capability to take games off of any team there so we really just want to focus on minimizing our mistakes and playing consistent and careful so that we don’t drop any bad games. I feel that if we just play our best and don’t take any needless risks we should be fine against all teams as I think we can out play teams over the course of a series as long as we’re not giving up any easy wins.
7. With seven out of ten teams containing both a Warlock and a Shaman, some would say both classes are overrepresented at this event. What’s your view on this and the synergy between Warlocks and Shamans in general? Do you regard either class as overpowered in any way?
Yep, they’re both overrepresented at the event. Ever since Shamans got a magic dispel they became amazing when paired with Warlocks, because although there was synergy between the two last expansion you had to rely heavily on Devour Magic RNG which was pretty awful at times so now it’s much more consistent. As far as strength of the classes in the gear set in which the tournament is taking place I would definitely say without a question Shamans are the best healer because of their strong utility and the strength of passive healing through Earth Shield / Healing Stream etc while interrupted or CCed. Warlocks have great survivability when played correctly and with good portal usage and extremely strong consistent damage which makes them the DPS class of choice for most setups. I do however feel that when playing on live servers with the new gear set things have changed a lot simply because damage has gotten so insanely high that classes with higher burst potential have taken over quite a bit and so Paladins who have great survivability and Priests who synergize well with high pressure comps have begun to raise drastically in popularity while Shamans seem a lot weaker than they were before and Warlocks are much less common. In the past few hundred games on ladder maybe 5% of my games at most have been against Shaman / Lock teams while a solid 80% or higher contain a Mage or a Feral.
8. The first round of the event will be a Round Robin, do you prefer this format? Also since every possible match up will take place in this round, do you think we’ll see more comp switches in the single elimination round as the teams will have a better feel for each other?
I don’t really prefer it as we lose any advantage we had from a high seed and I feel as though teams won’t be prepared for how much damage we deal and how we play so having to play every team once before getting to the single elimination phase may give people a chance to adapt / get used to how we play. That said I have to admit that Round Robin is the most fair way to do it and the best 4 teams should get out of the group stage which is really how it should be. As for changing setups, I don’t think we’ll see that because you have to lock in one setup for the entire series so if you try some counter comp or w/e and it doesn’t work out you’re stuck with it and are probably screwed. I think it’s best to just stick with the setup you’re best at unless you’re extremely desperate in this rule set.
9. This year Blizzard have implemented a stacking healing debuff that will kick in at the 15 minute mark. Do you see this having any negative effects and could it potentially benefit one comp more than another?
It does seem kind of like a bad idea to me and honestly I’d rather just see the games end at the 15 minute mark, because I feel like it gives a massive advantage to certain teams such as the RLS and Shadowcleave. Our setup against RLS it’s extremely easy to turtle it out for the RLS and basically with the Rogue spamming gouge, and using all CDs defensively it’s extremely hard for us to get enough damage out for a kill but with the healing debuff up it’d be insanely hard for us to heal through their damage even without them playing aggressively. As for Shadowcleave it’s a simple matter of DKs being able to basically solo healers even without help from their Warlock because of a huge amount of interrupts and Necrotic Strike so I just feel like it might be impossible to heal through their damage with the added healing debuff on top of Necroctic Strike simply because I feel like an ability that absorbs healing when heals are drastically reduced becomes extremely overpowered.
10. Woundman and Reckful, two staples of the WoW arena scene for some time and, in fact, two of your former RLS partners, recently quit the game. What are your thoughts on this and do you think the current direction of PvP had any influence on their decision to quit?
In all honesty the game on live servers really isn’t very much fun at the moment because damage is simply too high and all the issues with queues because of the MMR system etc but I don’t think that really had anything to do with them quitting. For all the tournament players the fact that there was only one tournament this year is pretty awful, with MLG not having WoW because the spectator client wasn’t ready, and IEM dropping the game it was a really slow / boring year and many people were evaluating if it was worth the time they were putting in to try to stay competitive. When both of them missed out on Blizzcon I just feel like they didn’t see any reason to continue playing anymore with live servers not being fun, and no tournaments on the horizon to prepare for it just was a good time to quit, and many other pros / top players seem to be doing the same thing. If there aren’t fixes to make playing on ladder enjoyable again or more tournaments added I think you can expect the rest of the remaining pros to quit pretty soon.
11. Arena has been in decline as an e-sport with only Blizzard holding tournaments this year. What changes could Blizzard make to improve the viability of arena to make it as an e-sport?
This topic has pretty much been beaten to death so I don’t really want to kick a dead horse, but basically they simply need to make it more of a priority. Promote the game to get it back into tournaments, make more pvp oriented balance changes, have a competitive gear set / patch that’re meant for tournaments, etc. If the game is in tournaments and actually has good shout casting / spectating and is promoted well and on time without massive delays etc etc then loads of people will watch it simply because of the huge player base, it doesn’t matter if the game is perfect as long as people enjoy it.
12. What’s your impression of 4.3 so far and, in particular, melee MS effects been buffed to 25%?
Haven’t really followed all the notes, but with damage already out of control 25% MS will make a bad thing that much worse. I’ve heard you get to ride on the back of a dragon in a boss fight though!
13. Once again, thanks for taking the time to speak with me and the best of luck at BlizzCon. Do you have any additional comments or shout-outs you’d like to make?
Big thanks to Team EG, and all our sponsors – Intel, Steelseries, Monster Energy, Kingston Hyper Technologies, MSi and so on, as well as my teammates Cdew and Talbadar, those people who have really made an effort to help us prepare such as Conradical and Reckognize and most importantly everyone who’s cheering for me at Blizzcon! Feel free to come up and say hi if you’re going to be there!