Mondragon on career
|Author: Thorin||Like aceresport.com:||16.07.2012, 23:15 PM|
Christoph "Mondragon" Semke is a legend within the foreign Brood War scene. He appeared in four WCGs, most famously beating Zerg legend and Korean bonjwa sAviOr en route to a bronze in 2007. Mondragon also won the European Cyber Games, EuroCup XIII, The Ace , and GGL Americup 2. In his final BW tournament he finished runnerup in the Teamliquid StarLeague 2, losing to NonY in the final. The foreign master of ZvP discussed his lengthy BW career, the highs and lows of his competitive resume and how foreigners matched up against the top tier Koreans over the years.
When did you set your mind to playing competitively in BW?
I started playing BW for the team BoK - it was a very old school clan and very well-respected, with a bunch of skilled and very friendly players. Some Time after I joined [PL] was when I got interseted in competing seriously. Kalaschni was the founder of PL and one of the finest Zergs in Germany. He started to practice with me a lot and is one of the reasons I improved that much during that time. After 6 months in PL I went on to join my brother's team ToT (Templars of Twilight) and took over all the tasks within the team basically.
Did you watch Korean BW at any time during your career?
I never really followed the Korean scene at all. I didn't watch streams either, because I considered it boring. I've always considered watching replays way better for improving your gameplay, because you could focus on the aspects you are interested in and not on the scenes the observers and commentators pay attention to.
Were there any Korean pros whose replays you particularly enjoyed watching or found instructive?
Actually, once a Korean was really active in the WGTour ladder back then. I think his name was bejjang and he really inspired my ZvP gameplay. From him I saw a very ling-heavy ZvP style which influenced my ZvP until the very end of my BW career. Other than that, I liked to watch any Korean Zerg to improve my skills.
In 2003 you managed to take a map off July, prior to his rise to the top of the Korean scene a year later. How often did you play or practice against top tier Korean players?
The first Koreans I faced were those who played on WGTour back then - such as July, bejjang. Other then that I used to play a bit with Midas and some other [gm] member that became relatively well known, but whose name I can't recall. Besides that I've never really practiced on a regular basis with Koreans. The only possibility to face Koreans was to play PGTour and get lucky enough to face top tier Koreans.
What's the timeframe that all took place in?
WGTour existed until like 2004-2005, I think. Then there was the PGTour and later on there was iCCup. My practice with midas was before WCG 2006, where I faced him in the groupstages - so we'd known each other before then already.
How would you assess your level in comparison to those Koreans at that time?
Unforunately I was not even close to being able to compete with Koreans at that time. The sad thing is, that no non-Korean was ever able to challenge the Koreans.
What did you feel you lacked when you faced the top tier Koreans?
I definitely couldn't keep up with their multitasking/APM. Besides that they just had the better practice partners and were used to playing against the very best players. My practice was only against the top non-Koreans and that level wasn't anywhere close to the Koreans's levels. Once you start practicing with players on a higher level you will slowly close the gap and get more competitive and I didn't have that opportunity to practice with Koreans on a regular basis.
At the 2004 WCG you lost to Advokate in the Ro16. Was he the better player at the time? How confident had you been to reach the next round? Had you won you'd have faced XellOs, who was the eventual gold medalist, so had you thought ahead to that match at all?
Tough memories coming back :P I was confident about winning against Advokate and it was one of the very few times I was really angry with myself, because I made a stupid mistake which caused my defeat. In general I was prepared to lose against Koreans and did not really expect to beat XellOs afterwards but I was sad that I wasn't given the opportunity to show my best because I lost to Advokate before. But it was one of my very first offline events and thus it was kind of okay anyway.
Over the next few years you had a lot of success, winning the European Cyber Games (the old name for SEC) and some online tournaments. Notably, in those online tournaments you beat Draco in a number of series and yet at WCG 2006 you lost to him and went out in the group stage. What was the significance of that game and can you provide some analysis of how your game against Midas went in that group?
It was the group of death of the WCG that year. It was obvious that it would come down to the game between Draco and me to determine the second player to advance from the group along with Midas. Unforunately Draco had the upper hand this time. I remember playing Midas on the main stage and the game was over kinda fast. I made it to the mid-game and did not cause any damage with my mutas and midas overwhelmed me in a very convincing fashion. He was just one of the very best players at that time.
You played Goody and White-Ra in the playoffs, in the quarter-final and third place decider respectively. Being as both are known for their play in SC2 describe what they were like in BW.
Goody has always been around and was probably the player with the lowest APM I've ever seen but he still always managed to stay at a decent level and qualify for important tournaments. White-Ra was one of the finest European players and probably the one that devoted most time to practicing. He's always been one of the top players and an opponent to fear. In the third place decider he seemed a little bit nervous and did not perform his best, so I won 2-0.
Another player you beat frequently in online tournaments was Testie, a friend and team-mate of yours. What can you say about him as a player? Where would you rank him amongst the best foreigner players of all time?
Testie has been a dear friend of mine. He was an excellent player, an excellent person, a genius 2on2 ally and an awesome team-mate. We often met in the finals of various tournaments where we had tough fights on the battleground. One tournament he was able to beat me straight up 4-0 while just a few weeks later I was able to beat him 4-1 in another final. It was a great time back then where both of us dominated the scene. He was definitely one of the best foreigners of all times even though the very big tournament win was missing for him.
There was a time when he was given an opportunity to go to Korea and initially it was said he would, but in the end he declined. Realistically how good could he have been in Korea? How would his low APM style have coped?
I don't know why he did not go to Korea but I am sure he would have done better than most of the foreigners that tried it in Korea. Even though he was a relatively low APM player he had an exceptional feel for the game and impressive macro and multitasking. High APM does not always mean that you use them efficiently. The key is to be able to use the necessary APM when its needed and not to spam 200 APM like many Koreans did. Since Testie was a random player he would have needed to focus on one race in Korea and that would have paid off for him.
At WCG 2007 you famously beat sAviOr in the group stage on Paranoid Android, the same map you'd lost to Draco and Midas on the previous year. At the time sAviOr had already lost to Bisu and was no longer the bonjwa but your win was still very unexpected. What do you remember from the game? How significant was it in your career?
It was once again the group of death of the WCG, with Testie, sAviOr, Reason and me. After beaing Savior I felt a great relief and I still don't know how I managed to do it. He gained a little advantage, with his first mutas killing a few of my drones, but somehow I managed to come back. The spectators could not follow the game from outside and when they saw that sAviOr and I were not clicking and hitting the keyboard anymore people were looking at me with a questioning look. I only put my thumbs up and they had very surprised faces. This win really felt great and was an additional motivation boost which influenced my tournament performance for that WCG.
In the semi-final you faced Stork, who was an OSL and MSL finalist at the time and one of the very best Koreans, who went on to win the gold in the end. How competitive were the games with him? Did you have chances to win?
Unfortunately there was not a single moment where I even had a slight chance to beat him. One of the games he did a normal rush I've practiced against thousands of times but his micro was extremely good and I did not stand any chance. The game was over within a few minutes. The other game was a little bit longer but he controlled it easily and beat me in the mid-game.
On the other side of the bracket PJ won the silver medal and beat sAviOr in a Bo3 in the quarter-finals. Do you think him beating sAviOr takes some of the prestige off your win, since sAviOr lost unexpectedly to two foreigners at the one event? Do you think either result suggests sAviOr was off his game?
sAviOr was considered the best Korean at this time but PJ has been a progamer in Korea as well. I do not want to take away any credit from PJ for beating sAviOr, since PJ is a very good player himself, but Savior seemed to have his best shape during that tournament. You never know how travelling and being outside of his home country influenced his gameplay. It is not only your skill in the game that makes you perform well. Many factors contribute to good performance such as health, feeling comfortable in a place, feeling at home, feeling familiar with the language/country, feeling the support of the fans etc. Maybe he just did not feel the way he needed to feel to perform well during the days of WCG 2007.
You surprised and impressed many with your runnerup finish in the TSL2, playing a lot of well known SC2 names along the way. You beat BRAT_OK, Fenix and SEn along the way to the final, where you lost out to NonY. How memorable was that tournament? What significant events do you remember from it?
I remember the tournament well, for various reasons. It was the last one in BW, the best game ever, and the best-organised tournament with the most attention in BW. The community considered me rather bad at this time because I hadn't been around too much and I was known for my "bad" ZvT. But I practiced my ZvT a lot and then I had to face Fenix and Brat_OK, two of the best Terran players in the tournament. I was able to beat both of them and people were surprised I did that well in ZvT. Afterwards I was able to defeat SEn 3-0, which surprised the community a lot because SEn had shown very good performances until then. The finals are the most remarkable story. NonY has been rather inactive and only started to practice for TSL2, I was considered not good enough and too old to compete, and in the end we met in the final. Unforunately I lost after being up 2-0, but NonY played extremely well and overall it was a pleasure to finish my BW career with such a prestigious tournament.
A number of well known SC2 names played for your team, ToT, over the years. Please provide some comments for the following names: HayprO, ClouD, SEn, iNcontroL, Ret, SarenS and Naugrim.
HayprO - Was a very good Zerg player that had some ups and downs but the most disappointing thing was his hacking incident. I know it was the only time that "happened" to him and I really like him as a person, he's very friendly.
ClouD - Was a very reliable and friendly person and member. Unfortunately he hasn't shown consistent performances.
SEn - You've gotta love him. I took him into ToT after WCG 2004 and he has developed to one of the finest Zergs, he's just so lovely and friendly.
iNcontroL - He was always a very reliable member and I admire him for always waking up so early for our clanwars. I enjoyed the time :)
Ret - An up and down player. He joined and left ToT several times but I've always appreciated his stay. He is a great player and a great guy you always want to have in your team. I hope he will continue like this in SC2.
SarenS - Had a lot of potential but never showed the willingness to become one of the best and became inactive very often unfortunately.
Naugrim - I still consider him as guy with a lot of potential, but he is lacking the activity. Otherwise he could become one of the very best!
What are your thoughts on BW's balance? The case could be made that a lot of features in BW are accidentally beneficial rather than due to well-thought-out design (control group size, muta-stacking) so what is your assessment of the evolution of its balance?
It took many many years to find the perfect balance of BW and eventually it was completely balanced in my opinion. So everyone should take into account that SC2 is still relatively new and things will get perfectly balanced when time has passed, especially with new add-ons coming up. There have always been issues about the balance in BW where Z>P, P>T and T>Z but it did change quickly again. In my opinion BW has been balanced for the last few years of its existance. But I do agree with you, that some things look rather accidental, like moving the larvae on the left side of the hatch by "stopping" them and stacking the mutas by adding an overlord or larva. But luckily those "accidental" programming mistakes gave more room for players to perform better.
The approach to balance for the majority of BW's existence was to use map pools or discovery of new applications of existing features of the game (muta-stacking and so on) over time. In SC2 there has been constant patching and units are directly changed based on how they are affecting play across a number of skill levels. What do you think of Blizzard's approach to balancing SC2 and where it should head?
I think the approach Blizzard is trying to use in SC2 is correct. In BW they did change unit and building costs and strengths as well in the beginning. In the end very slight imbalances were evened out by well-designed maps, which were created by leagues and map editors but not by Blizzard themselves. I guess it will be like that in SC2 as well. At the beginning Blizzard must somehow fix the general gameplay and eventually players and maps will develop new strategies and ways to approach the game.
In 2008 you were quite critical of MBS and auto-mining when those were revealed as features of SC2. Now that the game has been out for some time do you still hold the same opinions?
Of course, deactivating those features would give players more space to distinguish themselves from other players and I still think it would make the game more challenging and interesting, because it would increase the multi-tasking ability. Nonetheless they added other stuff that forces you to keep up with multi-tasking, such as larva injecting, chrono boosting and mules.
Can SC2 ever be as good a game as BW in your opinion?
The problem with all the balance patches is, that the gameplay of SC2 will change completely with all the expansions, and balance must be adjusted constantly when new expansion sets are launched. Therefore we will only see the final balance when all the expansion sets are released. Even though BW will always stay the best game ever made for me, I am sure Blizzard will find a way to balance SC2 as well as they managed to with BW in the end.
Grrrr... and ElkY's success in the early days of Korean BW is legendary and many still talk about those days. Would they have been able to keep up if they'd remained full-time professionals into the following years? What is your opinion of the other foreigners who made efforts to become pros in Korea? Did any of them realistically have a chance at making the A team of a Korean team and/or qualifying for an OSL/MSL?
Grrrr... and Elky were the posterboys of foreign BW in the early days and if they'd stayed focused they would have been able to stay amongst the very best BW players. All the players that tried their luck in Korea must be rewarded with credit because it is not easy to completely focus on gaming and show the dedication to be forced to play 8-10 hours a day. None except IdrA were motivated enough to stick to it and therefore only IdrA was the only one that could have made it to the very top, but unfortunately he didn't make it.
Purely in terms of talent or playing style are there any other foreigners who could, if they'd had the opportunity to go to Korea, have done as well or better than IdrA and Draco etc.?
Maybe SEn, but other than that I guess not.
Team Acer player Paranoid was in ToT with you in BW. Describe him as a player.
Rafal is a player with extremely high APM and an exceptional macro. He has everything that is needed to be come a top tier player but just as in BW he has been lacking consistency in his performances. If he had the dedication and willingness that is needed to become one of the best, without having periods of "inactivity", he would be among the best players.
How would you describe Mondragon's strengths and weaknesses as a BW competitor to someone who was very familiar with BW but had not, for the sake of this premise, ever seen him play?
My strengths were understanding of the game situation, "crisis management" and my macro. I had a special feel for the game and could read every situation pretty well and was really good against some unorthodox strategies because I could adapt to them very quickly. My weakest point was my ZvT during a long period until TSL2 when I practiced it a lot. Also my Muta micro was not as good as other parts of my game play.
Is there a specific Korean opponent you'd like to have had the chance to face in a BoX offline?
In general I would have loved to face more Koreans in ZvP in offline events. In particular I would have loved to have given it a shot against Bisu, but unfortunately I was never given this chance.
Is there a match in your career that really stands out?
One of the most exciting matches was against Reach at Blizzcon 2005. Even though I lost 1-2 it was a good experience. The match I won was played on a buggy map where Reach researched additional scarab damage and his reavers had 175 damage or something like that, and even though he had that advantage I was able to win the game. So we didn't have to replay it, I didn't even notice it during the game and was told afterwards :P
What can you say about your departure from Team Acer, which has just been announced?
I've had a great time in Team Acer from July 2011 to now. It was an interesting challenge to be part of this project and take responsibility for the development of the SC2 roster. We are a very new team and we achieved quite a lot in our first year. We have a very stable, skilled and friendly roster, which is capable of achieving even more in the future. I was happy to start this development as the team manager and hopefully Fred, Josh, Uwe and all the other members can continue like this and make Team Acer into an even better team in the future. Now the time has come when I will quit my SC2 activity to focus on my last months in university.
When I watch streams and see players playing in front of many viewers live in the venue, and in front of thousands on the stream, my fingers start to itch and they tell me they want to experience something again - like in BW. I don't know what will happen after my university in a few months - on the one hand it is time to stop playing and apply for jobs but on the other hand I feel the desire for competition. I don't know what is going to happen, but I would definitely like to stay involved in e-Sports for some companies that are interested. I know that there is quite a lot of potential in e-Sports and I am sure I could be of use for some e-Sports interested companies with my e-Sports background and my studies background. Last but not last I would like to thank Team Acer, especially Josh, Uwe, Fred, my SC2 members and everyone else that contributed to Team Acer.
The final words belong to you.
Thanks a lot to my supporters and those who have never given up in supporting me. I hope we can somehow meet again in e-Sports, though probably not as a player but as an employee for a company that is interested in e-Sports, because I would like to give something back to the community that has always supported me. Take care and see you.
(Photographs all courtesy of their respective owners)