The power of psychology in esports: Aui_2000 on what helped Tundra win Dota 2's TI11

Tundra Esports player 33 lifting the Aegis at TI11
Tundra Esports claiming the Aegis at TI11 (Photo: Aloysius Low for Yahoo Esports SEA)

Tundra Esports' coach and winner of The International 2015, Kurtis "Aui_2000" Ling, recently shared his experience coaching the team throughout the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season, including what he thought contributed to Tundra's amazing year in Dota 2.

Just a few weeks ago, Aui_2000's journey as a coach culminated in a victory at TI11, as Tundra Esports lifted the Aegis of champions in Singapore.

Aui_2000's Medium post touched on multiple topics, such as the DPC system, what happened to Adrian "Fata" Trinks, and numerous other subjects. Here's what he did felt led to Tundra's success at TI11.

Hiring a psychologist

Aui_2000 credited sports psychologist Daniel Abrahams as an integral reason for Tundra's success at The International.

Daniel helped the team focus on five biopsychosocial pillars in order to give them the best chance of victory, which were:

  • Leadership

  • Structure

  • Values/Behaviours

  • Deliberate practice

  • High-Performance mindsets

In a series of tweets, Daniel explained what each pillar means and how they incorporated it into the team.

That said, Daniel's impact wasn't limited to the five pillars — he also helped the team to learn from their losses and develop a healthier approach to the game.

As Aui_2000 stated in his post, "The main reason we wanted to get a psychologist was because we thought we were the best team at the Stockholm major, but we choked due to the crowd and mental pressure."

"Dan brought us to the next level by helping us develop good mental frameworks and tools for mental preparation, as well as helping us learn how to reset from losses. It’s a testament to his work that during TI we always bounced back and never lost a 2nd game in any series."

Figuring out his identity as a coach

Coaching in Dota 2 is still in the infancy stage, and thus every coach has their own approach when taking the role.

Aui_2000 described the players of Tundra as extremely skilled and smart, but overly reliant on his input, which was a gruelling task to take on in the DPC, saying, "I wasn’t able to find a good balance. We developed a bit of coach dependency, and it led to me feeling burnt out after one season."

After the first Tour, Aui_2000 decided some adjustments needed to be made, and implemented these changes to avoid some issues he'd faced in the past.

One key rule was that players were not allowed to discuss another player's performance in his absence — instead if a player had an issue with someone else, they would either discuss it directly with the other party or through the coach.

This change was enforced in order to prevent the team from fracturing apart due to issues growing between players, something that Aui_2000 experienced in his career as a Dota 2 professional.

"This rule was set up because, in the past, internal non-direct team talks have led to fiendy flame sessions and tribalism/cliques occurring within the team, both of which don’t result in problem-solving oriented discussions," he said.

Drawing from his past coaching experience

One of the things that has made Aui_2000 such a valuable asset to Tundra Esports is his long tenure as a coach.

He has worked with several star-studded teams in the past, including Team Secret, Fnatic, Quincy Crew, and Newbee. His career has taken him all over Europe, North America, China, and Southeast Asia.

All these coaching opportunities have given Aui_2000 an in-depth look into what each team did well and what they struggled with, which fuelled his growth as a coach.

With Team Secret at TI6, Aui_2000 learned how to be a positive force for the team, TI8's Fnatic taught him the importance of tackling team problems head-on, while TI9's Newbee was a lesson in giving players more freedom to play their game.

Recognising that each player at Tundra had their own specific needs

Dota 2 teams build their strategies on a core idea that they implement in pro games.

At TI9, OG focused on nonstop fighting, utilising buybacks and heroes with global presence such as Io and Spectre to win games.

Wings Gaming and Team Spirit lifted the Aegis due to their incredible hero diversity, while Newbee won The International in 2014 because they were the best team at playing the Zoo meta.

While a team's identity might centre on one specific strategy or draft, each player's role in that identity is very different.

Aui_2000 was aware of this and realised that every player on Tundra Esports had their own strengths and weaknesses and a "one-size-fits-all" approach to coaching them wouldn't work.

For Oliver "skiter" Lepko, Aui_2000 focused on improving his laning stage in order to enable him.

In his words, when Skiter had a good start, it allowed the team to play around him and win the game.

"For example, Skiter and I watched every lane and early game together and that produced really good results. This was because when Skiter’s fundamentals are solid, the game becomes very clear for him, and he can focus on making calls we can play around."

Other players had different needs, though.

Aui_2000 described Neta "33" Shapira as the smartest mechanical player he has ever worked with.

For 33, he didn't have to improve his fundamentals; instead he needed his coach to help him develop hero builds and figure out bad matchups for his heroes.

"For example, I had no clue how Broodmother worked this patch, so I needed 33 to talk about the hero and what it needs to be strong. We took what he learned in pubs to try it in scrims and figured out the good/bad matchups and what heroes we wanted with Brood."

It takes a lot to build a team capable of winning The International and there is more to Aui_2000's journey to lifting the Aegis a second time.

Dota 2 fans can find the full post here, which includes information on the tournament, personal player stories, and Aui_2000's future in the Dota 2 scene.

Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.

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