Elfi: 'I can do a lot better'
Today I’ll be talking with Samuli ‘Elfi’ Sihvonen, who will be playing in the upcoming IEM Cologne. As well as being a popular Finn and a strong PvP player, Elfi is also a former member of Team Acer so it’s always a pleasure to talk with him. Let’s get right into the interview!
You’ve shown strong results at IEM in the past. What is it about this tournament that causes you to play well?
It's hard to say, but probably it’s because I'm getting so many Protoss opponents! In the IEM Grand Finals there were four Protoss players.
You're often seen as a PvP specialist, yet you were eliminated in that matchup in DreamHack Summer and Assembly Summer. What do you think of your current level in PvP? Who are the other top PvP players?
At the moment I'd say that my PvP is again really good. At DreamHack Summer I actually said that PvP is my weakest matchup but now I've managed to adjust my game again. I played really badly in my games against Hero and I feel I can do a lot better if I have a good day.
You're up against two Zergs and a Protoss in your group stage. Have you been practicing these matchups over versus Terran, or any matchup specifically? What do you think your chances are of advancing from the group stages?
I was quite happy with my group; I'm scared of Slivko and he will be a hard opponent but I believe I have a decent chance. The open bracket will be quite hard as well; I will need luck to get a Korean Protoss from the open bracket. I don't want to play other matchups against Koreans. It's hard to say if I will advance. I haven't practiced any matchup specifically; I'm just working with all of them at the moment and I'll only focus on one specific if I have big problems there.
How do you rate yourself compared to the other competitors? Are you the favourite, the underdog?
I'd say I'm definitely between those - I don't feel any more that I could be called the underdog but I can't really compare myself with the top guys yet :)
If you make it past the group stages, is there anyone you'd really like to face or really like to avoid? As well as the obvious choices based on whether you think you'd win or not, is there anyone that you'd like to have a rematch against or an opponent that you just enjoy playing against?
There isn't really anyone I'd like to play just based on respect - I always just want to get as far as possible in tournaments so I'd want the best opponents for me; that's usually Protoss.
Hypothetical: It’s you and Nerchio in the finals. Who wins, and does playing against a former teammate help or hinder you?
I don't think him being my former teammate would matter to me - I would play normally and hopefully beat him! To be honest, whenever I play versus anyone from Finland I feel more nervous. It's probably because I want to be best in Finland; it makes me think that I can’t lose this match! I never get this feeling against anyone else.
You’re one of the few ‘personally sponsored’ professional SC2 players, among White-Ra, Grubby, Violet and Naniwa. What advantages have you felt being personally sponsored?
The best thing about being personally sponsored is that I can decide pretty much what I want to do. Of course I have some responsibilities, but now I'm able to freely pick what tournaments I want to go to and how I want to get things done.
Are there any disadvantages - e.g. is it harder to find practice partners?
Well, I mostly play ladder but even if I were to play custom games you need to have more practice partners than are on your team anyway, just so you can face every possible style. Overall, it doesn't affect my practice at all.
Do you feel that personal sponsorship should be considered by more players and sponsors?
Of course. There have already been a few players with sponsorship before me (like Grubby and White-Ra) and I believe in the near future there will be a lot more players with personal sponsors.
You’re a well-known lover of Japanese cat superstar Maru. Do you have a cat, or do you plan to get one? If you have one, would you train it to jump in boxes?
I don't have a cat at the moment :( If I had, I wouldn't have time for watching Maru but I'd be watching my own cat! When I get a new cat I think I will try to train it to do something funny like Maru.
So besides watching Maru videos, what do you do to relax after practicing for the day?
I don't really have any hobbies - just hanging out and killing time with my friends. Lately I've played a lot of DotA 2 with my friends and read manga.
What character do you play in DotA 2?
I play pretty much always Dark Seer because he's so fast; I can go alone most of the time because my teamwork is terrible :)
What do your parents and friends think of your pro-gaming career?
My parents are really supportive now. At first they were doubting, but now they accept it totally. Most of my friends have also played a lot so everyone understands my choice.
What places in Finland would you recommend to a first time visitor?
I'd say that if someone is coming to Finland for sight-seeing then it's definitely Lapland. I can't think of any place else people should visit - it's the only part of Finland that's a bit special. Oh yeah, everyone should visit the sauna!
What balance change do you think the game needs right now?
Zerg needs some slight nerfs, probably to creep spread and Infestors. Mass Infestor with energy is just too powerful. Protoss and Terran are both fine at the moment.
Are you looking forward to Heart of the Swarm? Do you think your style will mesh well with the new Protoss units?
No, I'd rather continue playing Wings of Liberty. The first months in Heart of the Swarm will be total chaos and the balance will be horrible for a long time while people exploit some new tricks.
What is your goal for this year?
I'd like to place in the top three in a major tournament this year. It will be really hard, but that's my only goal.
Do you miss your former team-mates at Team Acer?
Yeah, I miss them a bit - especially Rafa with his Panda story! :D
We miss you too. Finally, any message to your fans?
Keep rooting for me and Maru! Follow my Twitter and Facebook @rogelfi.
Thanks Samuli for the long interview and good luck at IEM!