Metro Manila (March 2) - Despite having multiple offers to either play professionally or be an on-air broadcast talent for Dota 2 pro tournaments, veteran Dota player Michael “Ninjaboogie” Ross said he chose to be the new head coach of Filipino Dota 2 team Blacklist Rivalry because he felt like the time was ready for him to lead a squad of Dota players.
“I felt like I’m ready to try coaching a team. Lucky enough, Tryke (Gutierrez, co-owner of Blacklist International and Tier One Entertainment CEO) messaged me and I was just like, ‘Yes, I’ll absolutely do this,’” Ninjaboogie said in an online interview.
The 31-year-old Filipino-American captain and support player was last seen in the DPC SEA Division I broadcasts as one of its resident analysts and interviewers. He found his talent work fun, but said he had more fun being part of a competitive scene.
“I’m born to compete. I’ve been competing all my life. Sure, talent work is fun and all, but it didn’t give me a sense of fulfillment,” NB said. He adds, “I tried talent work and while I was casting a panel for the first DPC, I was watching them and then when I was able to interview the players, I felt the respect we had for one another. There was a thought that came to the back of my mind. I’m like, what if a team won the Major and asked me if I would go there as an analyst or whatnot. But sadly, they didn’t.”
Ninjaboogie also says he intends to be doing things nearer to the Philippines because he needed to do legal matters.
“I can’t be too far away from the Philippines because what if I needed to like, sign a contract or do lawyer stuff. There was a very small pool that I would say yes to based on the current situation I am in my life,” he claimed.
Ross added that he can no longer see himself suiting up to play competitive Dota, saying, “I’ve already come to terms that my playing days are over, because the wear and tear I put my body into, like the carpal tunnel is already affecting my hand movements.”
However, he believes that this competitive spirit will continue as he suits up as the new master tactician and strategist for the black-and-orange boys.
As early as his announcement last February, Ninjaboogie is already finding out ways to improve Blacklist Rivalry’s overall performance as the team heads to the DPC SEA Division I Tour II.
With 60 DPC points already in the bag and finishing fourth place in Tour I, the first-time head coach says he is already finding ways to help the team improve its overall game performance.
“What I'm trying to apply for them is, I’ve been in a lot of winning teams, and just having that winning mindset before coming to the bootcamp, I was already watching a lot of their games, listening to their communications, and identified some of the things I felt was very weak,” Ninjaboogie said.
One of his early observations was that Blacklist Rivalry was playing based on feeling.
“They were playing based on feeling, and I feel that’s not a good approach when you’re playing high-level Dota. You need to be very tactical and smart with the decision-making in-game so kinda like, I wanna introduce the mindset I had and try to like, refine those ideas with them,” NB said.
Ross explains that playing with feeling does not allow one team or player to think about the different stages of the game, saying, “Feelings change, right? And before I became a Major champion and before 71 came to the team, he made it very clear to me that the way I was playing Dota was, I’m playing with my hand, not with my head. That’s not the way you should be playing,” referring to the advice he received from veteran esports coach Tang “71” Wenyi.
Ninjaboogie also says that the upcoming Dota 2 patch, Patch 7.33, is a “gameplay-defining” one and one that may change the course of the game.
“It’s really hard to say, but I feel that it’s gonna be big. Some heroes that are currently in favor might fall off, or these heroes, depending on what skill changes are gonna be made, I feel like this patch is going to be a big reset button for the whole scene,” Ross said.
For Ninjaboogie, who used to suit up for storied esports organizations like TNC, Mineski and Execration, tilt is a regular part of the Dota 2 game. However, he believes such a mindset happens due to the lack of preparation.
“I’ve also watched documentaries about Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, his teammates and whatnot. They say like, they’re very toxic in practice and whatnot. I learned that it’s actually good if practice is more stressful, but obviously you don’t go to the extreme and make it a living hell for your players. The practice should train you for that stress so that when you do encounter it in a game, you don’t go into tilt mode,” NB said.
He also says that one piece of advice he shared to Blacklist Rivalry is that when one’s mind is going blank, stepping back and regaining calm helps clear their head and focus on the game.
NB also says that having a good heart and being there for his teammates is one thing that the team can expect from him, as he best understands the effects of constant competition on players’ mental health.
“There’s a lot of people you encounter in life. There’s some who have malicious intent even if they have such a good upfront image. Everyone can put on a mask. For me, I just wanna bring out that good heart to my players and I feel like it would just spread from there.”
Blacklist Rivalry agents can expect that Coach NB is all hands on deck when it comes to coaching the Redeem Team, as he says he’s taking this role very seriously.
“When I started playing Dota, I never played it for the money. At first I wanted to be the best player. Then when TI came out, I wanna win that. I’m all about leaving a legacy behind in terms of accomplishments and whatnot. I’d like to say that I’ve accomplished a lot as a player, and I would like to kinda keep that kind of mindset as a coach. I told Tryke that I wanna be known as one of the most accomplished players in the Philippines,” Ninjaboogie said.
NB says that while he’s already been in so many instances when he raised the Philippines’ flag in competitive esports, it would also be “very meaningful” for him if he becomes part of a winning Filipino team - this time as the team’s shotcaller.
“I’m gonna do everything I can. I’ve always been about winning, and people who know me know how serious I take this game. Dota has been my life. It’s changed my life in many ways, so yeah, I’m taking this role very seriously,” he stated.