Heroes on My Mind: An Interview with darkmok

DreamHack Summer clip of Darkmok

Photo Credit: DreamHack

This week has been full of ups and downs for darkmok and the crew on Misfits. They finished Gamescom with a second place prize, but unfortunately were not able to secure a spot to BlizzCon and the final Heroes of the Storm championship this year—a crushing defeat for any team. In the aftermath of the event, I got a chance to sit down and interview darkmok about how his past, how he ended up on Misfits, and where the team is headed in lieu of BlizzCon.

On Getting Into Heroes

Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me a little bit about how you ended up playing Heroes professionally? What drew you specifically to this game? How did you end up playing competitively?

Of course. So while still going to school, I was already playing a lot of computer games such as single player RPGs like Gothic 1-3, but also strategy games like Battle of Middle Earth 1-2 and Warcraft 3. I then discovered League of Legends around 2010, played it so much that I, at some point, wanted to give it my everything. And in 2013, I got very close to qualifying for the LCS with the team AVA Prime, but fell short, left my team due to internal issues with our manager and us five players. I still tried to get into the pro scene, but you know, it was really hard, because teams would pick more known players over me just because I was not that famous, so it’d be a risk for them.

Then, at the end of season 4 [and] the beginning of season 5 of league, my friend Blumbi introduced me to Heroes of the Storm.

He wanted me to play the game, because he knew I was gonna be good at it, so I played more and more with him. He’s also the reason I got into the scene so fast, because he was already known. He basically insisted that teams would have to play with him AND me. 😀

So you’ve actually been doing this progaming thing for a while. Do you think that your experience (mechanical, strategic, mindset, w/e) in LoL has prepared you for Heroes of the Storm?

Yes, for sure. I have played League for ~5 years, and of course there are differences between those games, but Heroes was not hard—I didn’t need to last hit, didn’t need to worry about what to buy. And I was an aggressive AD carry in League, playing a lot of Draven and Lucian, so I started of playing aggressive Heroes like the melee assassins and Valla.

I think I was always too reckless, so that’s maybe one of my weaknesses, but I think by now, I’ve improved a lot at that.

But you know, I did invest all my time and energy into LoL, but I never got anything out of it—apart from then succeeding in Heroes haha.

In Heroes, you’re well known for playing bruisers, particularly Thrall and Sonya. How did you end up in that role?

So in the first team I was in—it was with Blumbi, Devizz, Happythermia and RQSux/Cowtard—I was not supposed to be the melee bruiser/assassin since Devizz played a lot of Illidan, etc., but I think I was just better at it by default, so that’s why we swapped. And at some point, I picked up Thrall because Happy suggested it and kept playing the Hero, because I thought he was fun.

I think he’s super clunky for a melee Assassin, especially when you put him side by side with Illidan or Zeratul.

He was! His Windfury made you cancel like almost all of your autos, but I think I managed to not always [mess] up. And then he got buffed and now he feels smooth to play.

Darkmok at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

I’m a bit salty, because people called Lowell ‘Green Jesus’ even though I was the only one playing him for months.

That’s true. I know you were playing him long before he was “cool”.

And I was also better at playing him!! People always asked me for talent builds because they had no idea about Thrall.

On Practice

What does a typical practice regimen look like for you? What do you think is the most important thing to spend time practicing? Is it different for pro players versus aspiring players on ladder?

For me personally, it changes depending on if there’s a big tournament coming up or not. But usually, I play Hero League in the morning, then we would start scrimming other teams at like 12 or 13, play until 16, have a break, play again at 17-19, another break, and then finish the day with games with a third team from 20-22.

After that I often played more Hero League. That’s the schedule we had for most of our time this year in mYi/Misfits. Nurok and me probably played the most games since we always went for Hero League. Sometimes we would talk about strategies as well and watch replays, but that’s a lot less now.

I am kind of lazy when it comes down to analyzing my own replays and mistakes. But often I know what I did wrong, so I don’t really need to do that.

Mmm hmm, that’s what they all say.

Haha, I mean you’re right, I should probably look at it, but I sometimes just can’t be bothered with it and would prefer playing another Hero League game over it. But the rest of my team does that, especially HasuObs used to watch a lot of replays and see what went wrong—unfortunately, sometimes immediately after frustrating games, so not the way I wanted it to be. 😛

On Joining Misfits

For those that don’t know, the Misfits organization started as the sister team of League of Legends organization Renegades owned 100% by Chris Mykles (MonteCristo). After the main team was banned from LCS, the sister team broke off and formed its own organization under the moniker of Misfits.

How did you end up finding a new home there? What are some of the perks with being affiliated with a team that has rich roots in MOBAs?

So it was the team’s decision to not sign with mYinsanity again. I personally didn’t need to make a change, since I felt like mYi had done a great job, but at the same time going for something new should never be a bad thing, so we started looking for new sponsors. We did talk with Tempo Storm and Mousesports, but TS picked up the Tempest roster, and then Nurok got in contact with Ben Spoont, the owner of Misfits, who was looking to expand into other games like Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. So we talked to him and the rest of the org and they were super nice and really—like really—wanted to sign us.

Misfits Heroes of the Storm team with their coach Jowe

Photo Credit: ESL

So that’s what we did, and it’s quite nice because they have a bigger reach than mYi and are growing really fast because they have upcoming teams like the freshly qualified LCS team and the Overwatch team that’s also doing fairly well…and us, of course haha.

With a lot of larger organizations pulling out of Heroes, it’s surprising to see an org like Misfits invest into the scene. Do you agree? Is this something noteworthy?

I mean, I don’t really get why all the organizations are pulling out. Because if you ask me, Heroes has a bigger shot at being a sustainable e-sport than League in the future. And that’s just because LoL has been around for over 6 years and people want changes, the game gets boring. It got boring for me, that’s why I stopped playing in the first place.

I do understand though that the game does not have a large audience, but for teams to pull out of the game, it is not helpful.

So you don’t think the novelty of Heroes will wear off after 3+ years or something like that?

I don’t know, and I don’t have time to think about that if I wanna be the best at what I’m doing. The players that already retired, because they got bored of the game or don’t think it’s worth trying anymore are a bit weak in my eyes. The game is still kind of new and, if Blizzard keeps supporting the game and sells it better, it will continue to run.

I think a big problem is just there are a lot of players who play casually and don’t really care about the pro scene.

Do you think there’s a way to incorporate them into the scene and somehow get them involved in some way?

First of all, Blizzard needed to implement a watch feature right away, and make it visible for everyone that starts the game like they recently started doing. They need to make announcements for tournaments more visible—they need to hype it up more.

On Gamescom

I’m sorry, but we’ve got to talk about Gamescom a little bit. You guys started the year as “underdogs” and become the team to beat. Now everyone expects you to make it to the finals every tournament. What’s it like having been on both ends of the spectrum?

Being the underdog is generally a little easier. You have much less weight on your shoulders because you are not expected to make a big run. You have not as much pressure, and for some, not having pressure is just better for performance. But it was kind of funny because we were still called underdogs when we were winning things, so Blumbi enjoyed that a lot I think.

But in the end, if you are a good team and have the will to win, it should not matter how people see you and how much pressure is on you.

Obviously the end results of the tournament were brutal for you guys, especially after playing so hard and so long that day. Can you walk me through some of your post-tournament thoughts?

Looking back at Gamescom and the games, and then seeing the result that we did not win the tournament feels so bad. I believe we were and currently still are the best European team. I’m not taking anything away from Dignitas and Fnatic, because both of them are super good and worthy opponents, but in my opinion, we lost to ourselves at the last tournament. I watched some of the games we lost and…oh my…did we [mess] up. It was harder to lose those games than to not lose them. Some of the losses are my fault I would say, because in that last game on Cursed Hollow against Fnatic, I called to go for core through mid. My team followed and the call was fine, up until the enemies recalled and I didn’t call my team back. Instead I think I encouraged them to go all in, which is—just looking at the game where not a single kill happened—such a sad ending.

We probably have the best Hero pool out of all the teams, so I think we would also do best against in the international competition—also because we already played the big teams twice in the last two globals.

Misfits advances to the finals

Misfits after their win against Fnatic in the semifinals

Of course you can say we had a long day with almost no breaks and [bad], cold food, but that’s not why we lost.

I mean look at what we did in game 5 against DIG. We decided to go for an all in comp with Butcher on BHB, the map where you can almost always win by just playing the map. And we willingly gave the enemy team Zagara even though we were first pick.

It’s sick that we go crazy in the qualifying game for BlizzCon…like throwing away all the hard work on an impulse.

On The Future

Now that the team isn’t headed for BlizzCon, do you have any off-season plans? Is it just like a short vacation for you guys, or are you using it to train even harder and get an edge going into next year?

We definitely needed to take a vacation after this last tournament. We didn’t have any big breaks this year in between the regionals and the globals, so yeah. Most of us are trying to avoid the game for a bit, so we can start off fresh.

e.g., I spent some time with my girlfriend and funnily enough also played Heroes with her instead of just unplugging from the PC haha—but the rest of my team is not playing at all, I believe.

Do you know if you’ll be participating in the big secret tournament at the end of the year that Blizzard hinted at? If you can’t tell me, just blink twice.

If that tournament turns out to be real and even half as big as they made it sound like, then yes, I believe we will definitely participate. We’re all very competitive players and we don’t want big breaks, we want to keep playing and be the very best!

Wrap-up

I have a totally random question for you. I’m crazy about space right now. What do you think about astrophysics, astronomy, and the future of mankind among the stars?

I think that if I wasn’t playing the game so much and having my brain being focused so much on it, I would worry a lot more about the future of mankind on Earth.

Enigmatic, foreboding. I like it :p. Any last words or shoutouts?

Sorry for being a bit salty about the last tournament. I wish all the best to Fnatic and Dignitas, make Europe proud. And thanks to everyone for cheering for my team and being a fan, because for the first time, I feel like people really, really support me and my team!


EsportsJohn a wood tier scrub who can’t get out of D3. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

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