Interview with DIGSMITE's Hunter Ataraxia



Wed 3rd Jul 2019 - 7:28pm

MSI is right around the corner which means a bit of R & R for the Dignitas boys before the first tournament of Season 6. It's also the perfect time to sit down and talk to Nathaniel "Ataraxia" Mark about how Phase 1 has gone and how the team feels heading into MSI. We also get to ask the all-important questions about what's life like in a Dignitas gaming house.

Dignitas ended the first phase of the SPL 7-2. Are you surprised at how the first half of the season has gone for you guys?

Ataraxia: Yeah, I was surprised in two ways. The first way was that I expected the first split of the season to go a lot more mixed for most teams, including us, because everyone was so new. With a lot of rosters that have never played together before and I didn’t think that any team, outside of maybe SK. I didn’t think that us, Rival, or PK would have dominant splits in that we won almost all of our games or went undefeated for long periods. That was the first surprise.

The second surprise was after going 7-0, I didn’t think that we’d lose. It was a nice gentle kick in the ass, to say you can’t slack off against any team. Everyone is really good and if you want to keep that record, you got to make sure the work stays in no matter what.

The team's two losses came at the hands of Renegades and EUnited. What did those teams do well to get the win over you guy?

Ataraxia: I think both teams are really good. They both have important players which you could put on top Worlds winning teams on any year that they’ve been playing. All of them have shown they are more then good enough, Benji, Raffer, and Emilito have all won Worlds, so they have Worlds winners and all of them are really good enough to win Worlds. I think the difference between them the current top three is that they don’t have the proper infrastructure and discipline, I think they’re missing a major coach presence or just general unity within the team. That will come with time, it just comes slower if you don’t have a coach.

Why we lost though. With Renegades, they came in with the EU SML meta with AMC and Jormungandr being really good and other teams hadn’t really been picking that up in the SPL. I think that was a big part as to why they beat us. I think at that point we were on a down trend anyway that started just after the SK set. I think us having a weak grasp on what they thought was good was quite harmful for us. I think that has shown as Renegades' run continued, as they started off really strong but since then they’ve never been allowed to play AMC and have been very restricted on Jorm and it’s shown with how many games they’ve won since.

For EUnited, we had some schedule changes that messed with everyone’s plans to go home and I think that motivation has dropped towards then end of the split considering we did so well at the start, which is a shame and it shouldn’t happen, but it did. It’s important now that get back on the horse sort of speak and put in maximum effort ready for MSI.

Dignitas finished 2nd overall in the first phase and got the chance to go to MSI. Are you guys excited for this and how do you think you'll perform heading into it?

Ataraxia: I’m really excited for it! I think this split so far has really excited me, I live for the big competitions and the tough sets and since they’ve all been best of five so far, every one has been quite exhausting. I think we’ve played the most games out of everyone, in that we went to five games more then most. I’ve loved that! When you come out of a five game, set win or lose, you’re exhausted physically and mentally, the adrenaline starts wearing off. It’s super addictive. Having that at MSI when there’s something on the line, winning week to week is important but winning a tournament in the span of a couple of days means you’re the best. I’m really excited because it means the most in terms of accomplishments and I think that’ll be really fun.

How we’ll do performing into it will be interesting, I think we’ve got a good infrastructure to do well but, unfortunately due to the rescheduling that I mentioned before, we won’t have long to practice before it. It is going to be difficult, but I think the boys will be super motivated and we’ll pull it through and come up with some good strategies and we’ll be fine.  

What are some of the positives and negatives you can take from Phase 1, as a team and individually?

Ataraxia: The positives from Phase 1 individually was that it was important to be recognised better as an individual. I love Prime and I miss him, but playing with him for five years started playing on my insecurities that I’m only in the SPL because I’ve been attached to Prime and if teams would really pick me up if I wasn’t with him. DIG did, they took a chance on me, well in my mind it was a chance, and I think I’ve performed pretty well overall. Having the individual recognition from the community and my peers was really important for me. That’s a huge positive to take from it.

As far as the team. I think this one is more of a mixed bag. When you move to a new environment, because all of us other than Hurriwind had been on a stable team for the past two years, well stable as in the keeping the core intact. For the rest of us, it’s quite jarring moving to a new environment. This is much different to Obey and I think it’s a lot different to what these guys are used to even though their core is still the same, Zyhroes played a huge part in how that team was run and him not being there really changed things up for them. I think adjusting to new personalities and new ways that the team is run and finding how this team is run has been a really mixed bag. It has been really good though I’d say. It is one of those things though as there are going to be some positives and some negatives, but the best thing is that everyone really gets along. Outside of Smite especially people are always doing stuff together, the house is super easy to live in. We’re always doing something fun, that’s the biggest positive.

Now that you’re well into the season, with two new players (including yourself), how would you describe the team chemistry? 

Ataraxia: Team chemistry is really good! Biggy has a ton of respect on the team, and I guess that is something that has transferred from his legacy of coaching the DIG which was the best online team for those two seasons. He had a really important message coming in that was during the regular split which I think is why we did so well for the first seven games. He wanted us to try something new every week, so we weren’t getting complacent and we weren’t just riding off the winds of the last game. We’d always practice something new in scrims and then try it out in the BO5 and the real stages and that has been amazing for development in team chemistry as it makes players play with each other basically. Early on in the season, me and Fred played a lot together, in ranked and in scrims, and we’d focus on ganking duo lane, getting me ahead, and using those power plays, and I think that showed in the sets against Rival. I had pretty good performances against them and Splyce as well. That was really cool. Then we swapped it up and we tried doing combo based comps, so we’d play stuff like a lot of Zeus and a lot of Ah Puch so Trix and Hurri had to mesh together. Those different playstyles have been really important and I think we stopped doing it towards the end of the split, which is a big part as to why we dropped of a bit, but Biggy has been so instrumental in making people click and improving chemistry and it’s largely due to stuff like that. He’s just a good social guy. He always gets people involved, and he’s just a really easy guy to talk to and hang out with.

It was recently announced that a new god would be coming to the game, Olorun, a Mage ADC.  We saw on Twitter that you seem to be excited about this announcement. What makes you so excited?   

Ataraxia: I just love new characters for my role! We haven’t had a new Hunter-type character since Chernabog, so since mid 2018. I’ve had a chance to play him and I’ll tell you what, there is nothing more satisfying in this game right now then ulting as Olorun and then using the knock back on his three as it’s all in slow motion and you crit them down before they hit the floor. When you get to kill someone before you hit the floor, it’s so satisfying. They’ve done a great job with him, he’s really fun to play. His one feels a bit like Dragonball Z when he charges it back.

I don’t know how good he is in the grand scale of things. He seems really good in moments, then he does kind of just die because his ult is on such a long cooldown and without that people just run him down. Even if he’s terrible, though, I’ll probably still play him in the SPL even for just one game. It’s the same with Scream playing Set, even if he’s terrible you got to give it a go just once.

How do you feel that you’ve personally been playing this Split? 

Ataraxia: I think overall, I’m really proud of how I’ve played. I’d say less so on last part of the split. To begin with, I had a really good start and a lot of people said some really nice things, which was a really important ego boost for me. I don’t want to touch on it too much but, personally, I’m really happy with how I played but I want to keep going further. I want to make sure I am known as the best by the end of the year. It’s the arrogant aim.

We asked Trixtank this a few weeks ago and wanted your opinion. Who would you say is the overall team MVP so far this season? 

Ataraxia: I’m not sure if I could say an overall MVP as it kind of changes from week to week. Attitudes rise and fall and how motivated people are or whether they popped off or not. Everyone has put in the effort to be the MVP at one point and all of us have had weeks where we wouldn’t call ourselves the MVP both on and off the game. I honestly don’t think I can answer that. everyone has had some really good moments and everyone has had some really bad moments, so I guess we’ll all not get it together.

How is the house life, now that you’re all living together.  Who’s the loudest, messiest, etc?

Ataraxia: House life is really good; I’ve been saying this to my family as I am home currently. Everyone gets along really well, and everyone does stuff together but at the same time everyone has their own interests. For example if you want to go to the gym, Biggy, Trix, and Fred are on it all the time and I’ve been doing that with them and that’s been fun, whereas if you want to go out drinking then Variety is going out every weekend, so if you want to go for a drink, that’s who you go with. Me and Hurri are more into the games outside of Smite then the others, so if there is a game that we’re interested in coming out, we’re the ones bringing people on that. That’s been my favourite thing, whatever mood you’re in or whatever you want to do there is always someone to do it with, which is really nice.

As far as living with them, the messiest without a doubt, Trixtank. Me and Biggy usually wake up the earliest out of everyone and Biggy used to do it a lot but not so much now, but he’d pick up all the rubbish on his desk because he’d leave so much stuff on it. To be fair to Trix, he does keep it contained to his desk and his room, so communal areas like the kitchen he does stay on top of it there, but we have seen randomly, he’ll leave his underwear on the stair banister or he has jeans next to his desk. Bit weird how that happens, but it is what it is. Everyone is generally quite clean though.

The loudest is absolutely Hurriwind. When he’s playing a ranked game, you’d know because his keyboard starts going and his mechanical keyboard is super loud. We had to get DIG to send him the keyboard with quieter keys because it was so loud! He’d type up a storm.

What’s your favourite set this phase?

Ataraxia: I have two favourite sets. For personal performance was the Rival set. It was our first BO5, which was a big challenge and it was really good for that set because we had scrimmed Rival a ton beforehand and they were not good. Then they came to game day and they were insane. They were super good and continued to be super good throughout as they finished 1st in the split. If people were being honest about rosters, they had no right to be, as they have a role swap and a lot of people had big question marks over players and how they do on new rosters. Which is fair enough and they would all say that themselves and it’s amazing that they all banded together and made this insane team and doing so well. That was an important set for me as it went to five games and they did really well after that and it was really good for me to see Twigg doing so well in particular, so I’m super happy for that. On a selfish point of view, I think I played really well in the Rival set and Yammyn put up a tweet saying I do so it definitely made it true.

My other favourite set to play was the Splyce set because I think we should have lost that set. It was a really important set for us with trying stuff out, two or three of those games we played stuff we never tried in scrims because it didn’t seem a good idea. Having that confidence in picks and each other playing stuff that we haven’t really practiced thoroughly is really important. It was a big set to know that could pick those picks. For example, in Game 1, Variety played He Bo solo into Hades. We never played He Bo solo. I don’t think we even played He Bo and for him to say, "Look, I think it’ll be good into this match-up as we’ve never played against Hades and it used to be good," [and] for everyone to be ok with it. Then for us to lose that game and for nobody to have a go at him. In other teams, they might be like, "What were you thinking with the He Bo pick? We’ve never practiced that," and be super upset. Everyone's chins were held high. We tried it and we learned from it. It was all positive, even though we lost. That is such a huge part to how the future of this team will go and that’s what I use as the benchmark.

On top of that it was a super tough set. It’s easily the hardest set of the year that we’ve played, even the ones that we lost and honestly Spylce should have beaten us.

What are the team’s plans while you wait for Phase 2 to start up again? 

Ataraxia: The break is quite short, I think Biggy has a plan to go to Hawaii, which is quite cool. He’s met someone while we’ve been out here so they’re going on a little holiday. For the rest of us, we’ve done our home time beforehand. Variety wants to go to Vegas as he hasn’t gone home. For me personally, I’ll be on the grind using my time to go home now, maybe practice some Olorun.

Which team or player from another team has really impressed you so far this year? 

Ataraxia: The two players that have impressed me the most are Raffer and FineOkay.

I think Raffer has had a really good split so far, despite how up and down Renegades have been. I think he has been playing amazingly in every single game that they’ve played. He’s got a decent god pool, he’s found his style and he’s working well with his teammates. He’s in good spirits as well which is super important. I’m really impressed with Raffer and really happy for him as well, Raffer is definitely a guy who plays on his team environment and while it was great to have him on Obey, we knew going into last season he wanted to play with Funballer and it’s awesome to see that people that close and that friendly can do so well together. People would say, "Are both Funballer and Raffer that good anymore? Are they washed up?" etc., but it’s really good that they are both doing so well, but Raffer in particular because we did team together and I’m super happy for him.

FineOkay has been an absolute menace, he’s insane! I’ve never played against him till this season and he’s always been on middle of the road teams in NA, which for the EU master race means that they’re not that good. Jokes aside, he’s been a monster and he’s a really nice guy as well, so you couldn’t be happier that someone is getting the amount of recognition that they are getting. He’s just genuinely nice, always got a smile always up for a laugh and I’m happy he’s doing well because he deserves it.

There has been a bit of a shake up in rosters throughout the league already this season. Are there any new rosters you're looking forward to facing, either at MSI or in phase 2?

Ataraxia: For me, it’ll be whoever wins MSI and EUnited and Renegades. I don’t like losing at all, I’m a really bad loser in general. It doesn’t sit right losing and I want to make sure we do beat them. I know we have a chance to face Renegades at MSI. Our bracket is against the 1st seed from the qualifiers and then the winner of PK and Renegades, so if Renegades beat PK we play them. If not, we won’t, EUnited should be on the other side of the bracket so I don’t know if we’ll get to play them or not, so I don’t know if we’ll get to play them at MSI but at least in Phase 2 we will and I’ll make sure that we do win.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Is there anyone that you would like to give a shoutout to?

Ataraxia: Yeah, just the usual shoutout to everyone who watches esports. Without everyone who watches and supports esports, I wouldn’t be able to do this right now. I’ve now moved across the world to live in America to play a silly video game and that’s my job and it’s awesome. Anyone who watches esports, Smite or otherwise, you’re supporting the industry which means you’re letting me live my dream and I am eternally thankful for that.

Thank you again to Ataraxia for taking the time to speak to us. All of us at Dignitas are behind the team heading into MSI, to keep up to date with all things Dignitas and Smite don't forget to follow Ataraxia on Twitch and Twitter.