Bloody Nine of Team DogChamp on DPC Division I promotion, team’s progression, career overview

Bloody Nine feature image

Even as captain of Team DogChamp with nearly a decade of competitive Dota experience under his belt, nothing could have prepared Daniel “Bloody Nine” Foster for the difficult challenge he was set to undertake.

Sitting in a tie for third place in the North American Dota Pro Circuit Winter Tour standings, he needed to manufacture consecutive wins against 5RatForceStaff and KBU.US in order to secure promotion to Division I. Even after enduring setbacks since the team’s formation such as making player swaps and almost nearing their total disbandment, events of which B9 was well accustomed to seeing through his time in the NA Tier-2 scene, they were still within the grasp of accomplishing their primary goal.

With the grueling pressure of performing well shouldering their backs, DogChamp managed to keep their nerves in check by not dropping a single game to their opponents, going 4-0 to leapfrog them both and reach Division I. Finally, after multiple failed attempts and patience, DogChamp can officially call itself one of the best Dota teams in the region. Furthermore, for Bloody Nine, who spent a long time roaming the lower levels of NA pro play, he can finally compete with the best players on the stage he has long sought to grace.

With DogChamp’s sights firmly set on next season, The Click sat down with Bloody Nine to discuss his team’s performance in the Winter Tour of the DPC, finally securing promotion to Division I after a year of trying, working with StoneBank as their newest carry, his career, and much more.

Bloody Nine on being promoted to Div. I

Thank you so much for doing this interview with me, B9. You’ve been promoted to Division I after playing in Div. II for a long time, so how are you feeling right now?

Bloody Nine: It felt good. It felt almost cathartic because we spent a whole year being in Division Two and we were always on the cusp [of reaching Division I]. We were like a series away multiple times from getting to Div. I but we finally pushed it over the edge and made it, so it feels good.

Were there any celebrations that you did after finally getting promoted to division one because as you mentioned as it took you the entire like more than a year to get to this point? So did you celebrate in any kind?

Bloody Nine: I was just kind of worn out that day, I don’t know. Something about competing kind of takes the energy out of you even if you’re just playing games. But later that week, I went out and had a good time with some friends and kind of celebrated for sure.

Rewinding to the final days of the Winter Tour, you guys were in the thick of obtaining that second promotion spot. You were tied with both 5RatForceStaff and KBU.US and had to beath both to gain promotion. Heading into that final day, how did you approach that day with your team?

Bloody Nine: We kind of just prepared the same way. Within a week before the matches, we’ll do either a scrim, and then we just looked at a lot of their replays, their Dotabuff games, and just kind of study up to see what they’re going to do to get prepared and make sure we knew how to draft. That was like the main thing we prepared for. Besides that, I just tell people to get good sleep, eat some food, take a walk, be in a good mental and physical shape for the game, and then we just go for it.

As those games played out, did you think it was difficult? Was it easy? Did it match your expectations?

Bloody Nine: I didn’t really have tremendous expectations. I thought I was pretty confident that we would beat them. I think that both series went a little bit easier than I expected. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we dropped a game. However, I think we prepped really well and even though we lost to KBU on our first series, we got a lot of experience through the season and we also had a stand-in for that one. So it was just the natural synergy with our main mid-player coming back that kind of helped us out.

You mentioned the fix in the synergy. How was the team able to fix those sorts of issues at this important part of the season?

Bloody Nine: We kind of realized what to prioritize for our team. They say ‘losing is learning’ and it’s true as long as you learn the lessons. We lost our first series to The Cut and that was a hard-fought three-game series. We took a lot of lessons from that. We kind of thought about how we want to approach different parts such as the draft and what we prioritize. We also learned about certain heroes that we liked more. I guess I don’t want to reveal too much because we’re about to be competing. The patch is still the same for now, but it’s just about learning from the losses that we took and getting kind of more precise with our draft and our approach.

Amidst the team’s performance within this 2021-22 DPC season, the team made a slight roster change. You guys brought in StoneBank for Creep- given that he had to return to China. What was the difference between playing with StoneBank and playing with Creep- for this new season?

Bloody Nine: They’re a bit, different players. They’re both really good but they do have kind of different styles. Creep- was a tiny bit like a stable carry and he would play more of the farming carries, be laid back, and not really throw. And in StoneBank, everyone once in a while, he’ll do a little bit of a throw, but he would also take control of the game. If he feels like he’s in a strong position, he’ll be like, ‘Look at this guy. Let’s just go kill him,’ you know?’ He’ll be very adamant about what he wants when he has control of the game and it can be very helpful to have another voice like that, so I enjoy playing with him a lot.

So it was basically you guys following StoneBank? He gets this sense of what’s going on and then he pounces in the offensive and then you guys just follow him? Is that what it’s like?

Bloody Nine: It often is that way if he’s on a hero like Ursa or something with a Blink [Dagger] and he’s kind of just like ready to go. I make a lot of the calls on the team, especially the overall calls, but in a lot of little tactical plays, he’ll see somebody and be like, ‘Let’s go kill this guy.’ It’s nice having somebody making shot calls like that, especially on a carry because he’s a very strong hero when [the game] reaches 20 minutes plus.

Through him integrating with DogChamp and the team doing as well as they did throughout the season, did you reach a point in which you felt like, ‘Hey, we might actually do this? We might actually get promoted.’ Did you feel that at a given point in the season?

Bloody Nine: I think we felt pretty confident because at one point we didn’t even think KBU was in the running [for a promotion] because they had kind of a slow start. But then they kept winning more and more and we were like, ‘Okay, so we’re probably gonna have a tiebreaker with somebody.’ We always felt cautiously optimistic, I guess because we’ve been on the cusp before like I said. We weren’t gonna just be like, ‘Oh yeah, we got this no problem.’ That’d be a bit arrogant at that time, but we definitely felt like we had the potential and that we were at least the second favorite [for a promotion]. Maybe The Cut was slightly ahead of us in people’s minds.

I guess you were mostly cautious partially because of what you experienced back then, right?

Bloody Nine: Yeah exactly. I mean it’s just healthy to be that way too. I guess there are different approaches. If you feel like you’re the favorite and you’re supposed to beat people but then you ever get behind a bit, you might put some unnecessary pressure on yourself. Whereas if you kind of just take it as it comes, you can be more adjusting on the fly, I think.

In the end, though, you guys managed to do it. You managed to make things right when it mattered. And then after you guys gained promotion to Div. I, I remember you took to Twitter and just gave a short and concise tweet about it. You basically said, ‘Hey, we made it to Div. I’ and that’s it. I checked your Twitter and you always make these kinds of minimalist tweets. It lacks in material but it certainly packs the biggest punch. You know what I mean?

Bloody Nine: Yeah. You mean from the DogChamp Twitter?

No, on your Twitter. 

Bloody Nine: Oh yeah, yeah. I just kind of keep it simple.

What goes through your mind whenever you make those tweets that talk about performing in DogChamp or anywhere else?

Bloody Nine: Well, I just like to be succinct, you know? I think brevity is important. I just want to mostly inform and it’s kind of a celebratory thing where I’m kind of modest, I guess. I don’t like to brag and I’m not the most excited, but I still have a lot of inward emotion about these things that happened, I guess.

Come on, man. You made it to Div. I! There should have been an exception right there. You know what I mean?

Bloody Nine: Yeah. Well, I was like, pretty excited when I talked to people. I just kept it short and sweet there. I’ll leave it to Luki to be the excitable one for the team.

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Bloody Nine on Team DogChamp’s progression

Talking about the team’s overall progression since its formation in early 2021, you guys were formed to compete in the DPC. You made it through the open qualifiers for the Lower Division. You tried to make it to the Upper Division but you couldn’t do it. You had to make your way from the beginning of that opening NA DPC season. To go from residing in the Lower Division for a year to finally getting that promotion, how do you view the team’s progression from its formation to now?

Bloody Nine: I think we definitely learned a lot and we’ve all improved kind of on our heroes and also gained new heroes. We’ve also kind of came to terms with everyone’s style so we have a great feel for each other as a team now. It’s been like a full year. Most teams don’t last this long for at least like the core four.

I’m pretty happy with our progression. I think we have good potential. We just need to be getting–this practice in the BTS [Pro Series Season 10: Americas] will be pretty important for us since we’re getting practice against these Div. I team before we actually play them in the DPC. But yeah, I’m happy with where we’re at and I hope to improve more and more. We’re going to scrim and go hard.

How do you view your own progression? You mentioned players learning new heroes or other techniques in the game. How have you adapted to playing in the DPC for this past year?

Bloody Nine: I think that I’ve become better at captaining, drafting, and understanding how to draft with my team. My overall play is about the same although I think I got much better at the start of last year for those first four months. Before that, I never really played one role. I kind of just did whatever in matchmaking. I gained 1200 MMR from 7.8k all the way to 9.1k and that was the highest MMR I’ve ever gotten just mostly playing [Position] 5, so I felt pretty good about my play in this past year.

You talked about how you’ve been with this team for a pretty long time. Looking at your career, it is probably the longest stint of any team you’ve ever been in. And then on top of that, with you having a good MMR and being the captain of Team DogChamp, do you feel you’re at the apex of your career after being in the NA Tier-2 scene for so long?

Bloody Nine: Yeah. I guess at the very start, I got a shot with Complexity and that was kind of cool. I was kind of in the Tier-1 NA scene but everything was very different back then and it was kind of brief, so I think this is definitely the apex for now. I’d like to go further though. We’ll see if we can.

Following the end of the 2021 DPC, where you guys were eliminated in the TI 10 qualifiers by bumble bEE’s, how did you mentally reset after that point? In other words, how did you mentally reset during the offseason?

Bloody Nine: We just took a break as a team and we were pretty much close to being disbanded. We never deleted our Discord nor officially disbanded but we were all trying out new options. I played with D2 Hustlers for a brief time and it was going alright, but then I went on vacation and they found somebody else. When I came back, I looked around, saw what was out there and we ended up just deciding to give it another go with the same squad because nobody could find anything extremely better. We were happy to just go back and play with each other again. And I think if anything, we’re doing better than we used to. It’s just been a pleasant surprise on how well everything’s going.

So the team we knew as DogChamp was literally done during the offseason. Is that what you were saying?

Bloody Nine: Pretty much. It easily could have been done had any of us gotten a really good Div. I offer, I guess. But there’s no point in really disbanding over anything more than a clear improvement on your current team.

What was the main catalyst of the team staying together? Was there a certain moment of time in which everybody came together and said, ‘You know what? Let’s just stick it out for the season and just see how it goes?

Bloody Nine: It was a little bit before the season (maybe a couple of weeks or a month back) and we were all weighing our options and I told everyone, ‘If you can find a great opportunity, you just go for it and I was doing the same thing. But in the end, none of us found anything that was that much better, and I kind of just brought everyone together. We were like, ‘You guys want to give it another try? We did pretty well. We were so close and if we just fix a few things, we can definitely make it and that’s pretty much how it turned out.

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Who is Bloody Nine looking forward to face?

Credit: Bloody Nine/Twitter

And certainly, it did turn out very well thus far. Talking about Div. I, you guys are going to take on the top level of NA Dota which consists of Quincy Crew, Evil Geniuses, Wildcard, Undying, and more. What do you think of DogChamp in its current state? How do you think the team will fare against the rest of Div. I as of right now?

Bloody Nine: We’re definitely the underdog but I do think we have a good shot. I think a lot of these teams are kind of tired. They’re not motivated like they used to be. They’re playing less and less Dota and I think that everybody’s gotten much closer over the last couple of years compared to how it used to be. That’s because we 2-0’d the number one team in SA last year. And we took a game off Undying. We’ve scrimmed against most of these teams and we’ve done fairly well. We can hold our own so I feel confident in how we can do. It’s just about whether we’ll come through or not. We’ll find out.

Do you have any specific team that you most definitely want to face in the season?

Bloody Nine: Well I think we have a little bit of a rivalry with The Cut that just brewed up. I don’t know if you heard about that but we had some words for each other. They kind of flamed us after a loss and then we took to Twitter and had a nice argument. We ended up talking it out in the DMs and mostly everything’s under the bridge but it would still be nice to beat them and get our revenge. Besides that, StoneBank also wants to beat EG. I think beating EG would be fun as well, just kind of taking down the classic number one of the region even if they’ve fallen a little bit recently.

Taking a look at the rest of the team, more people are becoming aware of the team’s existence through their performance since its formation. Not only is DogChamp is led by someone as experienced as yourself. It also features exceptional talents such as Lukiluki, RayLalisa, and yarintheslayer. Have you been aware of the attention the team is receiving through their performance in the NA professional Dota scene?

Bloody Nine: For sure. With Yarin specifically, he’s started playing IXDL. I think people didn’t really know anything about him until recently but he got his NA rank in the leaderboards. He probably got some friend requests and some attention. He even got a team offer or at least like a tryout offer from another team which is bound to happen. I think people have definitely had their eye on us.

I think Luki has grown as a popular figure in the scene as well. Everyone kind of knows who Ray is if they’ve been around [for a while]. And with Stone bank, I think nobody really knew him but he’s probably got some more attention on him now. Even if we don’t last forever, I’m sure he’s gonna have a great career. He’s still very young. He’s like 21.

Following up on that, has it changed how you approach the game in a competitive sense?

Bloody Nine: Yeah. This season is the most serious I’ve taken DOTA in the last year. Like I said before, I never played one role specifically. I would always play different roles. I mean, I’ll still mix it up but I’ve mostly just focused on 5 and trying to master the craft. I watch replays. I watch a lot of matches. I try to learn drafting and see what people value in terms of heroes and first pick or second pick, Radiant or Dire. I do a lot of studying. It’s just fun taking it seriously and seeing how much you can really get out of it and where my potential can reach.

Credit: Bloody Nine/Interview

Would it be fair to say that this is the first time you’ve ever been this serious about Dota in your career?

Bloody Nine: Yeah, for sure. I never really took it that seriously. I had some weeks or months where I would but it’s also partially just due to the way the season is made. That’s because beforehand it was pretty hard to just keep a team going when there was nothing to play. But now by having the leagues, where there’s constant playing and these BTS tournaments in between, it makes it much easier to just commit to a team.

In the past, we would make a team for a qualifier, take whoever you can get, then you probably lose or win, then you play some tournament, and after that, you’d probably disband either way. And then you’d do it over and over again. It just made it hard to find consistency and I think the way they changed the league, even though it’s not everybody’s favorite, is a step in the right direction for sure.

What about your teammates? Have you sensed them changing their game in the past year?

Bloody Nine: Yeah. I’ve talked to them about adding different heroes and they’ve been usually receptive to that and they became more focused on how they play. I think StoneBank has improved by playing with us as well. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but he went up by around 150 ranks in Europe from 270 to top 100. Now he’s competing with the top carries out there. I think we’ve all improved. Our attitudes have also become a little more serious towards the game in the past year.

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Bloody Nine on next DPC tour

Obviously, the goal of DogChamp is to stay up in Division One and maintain its status within the NA DPC league infrastructure. Besides that, how will you approach the next year? What are your goals for this next tour?

Bloody Nine: Yeah, I would definitely like to stay in Div I. but I would love to just have a great run and actually compete for a slot at a Major or at TI eventually. I do think we have the potential [to do it]. It’s just about whether or not we’re going to do it, like I said, One other thing I would like to do is try dropping some merch for the team, but I haven’t fleshed out that idea quite yet. I think that’d be fun to do and a nice little avenue to make some more cash.

You mentioned working on improving yourself within the Pos. 5 role. You’ve been known to switch back and forth between Pos. 5 and Pos. 4 over the years. With a view towards next season, how do you think you compare to the other Pos. 5’s within Division I?

Bloody Nine: I think I can easily compete with all of them. I would say DuBu is probably the best Pos. 5 in the region right now, but when we play in pubs, I’m always taking games off him. I think my record is pretty good against him. I never feel like he’s doing anything exceptional in the game. I think being Pos. 5 is just about being pretty stable and if anything my drafting and captaining is more important to some degree.

The actual Pos. 5 play is not extremely hard as long as you remain focused and remember what you have to do. It’s kind of like a lot of remembering with Pos. 5 and doing little things compared to the other rules where you have to actively think about some things. I think Pos. 5 is more about remembering when to pull, noticing what time is right toward, and when to protect so it’s just different. But I feel confident matching up against the other Pos. 5 players for sure.

Do you emulate your drafting or play style off another player as a Pos. 5?.

Bloody Nine: No. I think I just naturally gravitated towards some heroes, but of course, I will try out different heroes that have become meta. I’ll see what other people are doing. I watched a lot of replays of various players. I learned Enchantress from Puppey and I learned Treant from LATAM. These were the type of heroes that I didn’t play as much so I like watching replays and then doing some things that are my own style after enough games.

In correspondence to the upcoming Winter Tour, Dota is going to see the arrival of 7.31. It’s a patch that many people have been waiting for the past few months. What do you think this patch will bring in terms of changes to the meta?

Bloody Nine: I’m not really sure. I was just talking to somebody actually before this. I hope that it brings more volatility to the mid-lane. I feel like it’s gotten a little stale there and it’s mostly just a farm fest. I’d like to see a little more battle there. I would like to see some nerfs to a lot of the meta heroes (Queen of Pain, Wraith King, Weaver, Bane) that are just in all the games and always performing well. It could use some toning down. And I would like to see some nerf to health regeneration. I think that a lot of the lanes are just about buying a Ring of Health or Helm of Iron Will and it’s less about working with the resources that you have and you’re just constantly topped off and I don’t like that as much.

I’ll make sure to send this to Valve in order to make the changes that you want it. (B9: Thank you, thank you.) Outside of the fans that have paid attention to Div. II, there are obviously those that don’t know much about DogChamp and yourself and how the team plays. So to those that are beginning to know who the team is, how would you describe your team’s playstyle?

Bloody Nine: I think we’re very focused on our own game and we have certain heroes that we value and we play towards their strengths. It’s mostly about what we want to do and we try to enable our cores and whoever is on their signature hero to have a really good game. That’s the main idea but Dota is a very fluid game so everything changes sometimes.

It can’t be denied that your current age is a pretty old age in terms of esports players’ careers. Not many people reach this age and still be playing competitively at the highest level in their respective games. There are those whose goals change as time passes, so for your case, what is your goal in this late stage of your career?

Bloody Nine: I still feel like I’m in great shape Dota wise and I think I can still compete for a while as long as I maintain a good attitude and stuff like that. Eventually, I’d be open to coaching and also working in other parts of esports. I’ve thought about trying out more of a manager perspective in years to come. But for now, I’m not really trying to change anything. We just made it higher than we’ve ever been so I might as well keep going.

With all that stuff and more we will expect to see DogChamp play well in Div. I. We have the NA regional finals coming up with the four top teams in the region squaring off. Who do you have as your pick for the upcoming regional finals?

Bloody Nine: It is hard to say because I believe it will be on the new patch. Based on that, who would adjust best to the new patch? I’d probably fever Undying actually because I think Bryle and Timado are probably the youngest core duo. Usually, the younger players adjust pretty quickly to new patches. They kind of just figure out what they like to do. Given that it’ll be on a relatively new patch, I’ll favor TSM. I think they’re a strong team already. Mix that with the new patch and I’ll go with them.

Right, right. One more question. I’ve seen it on your Twitter. I’ve seen it on your Discord. I’ve seen it everywhere else that corresponds to the name Bloody Nine. It’s probably the most important question of the interview: What is your favorite Pokemon?

Bloody Nine: Probably Mew.

Why?

Bloody Nine: I don’t know. I always thought Mew was really cute and also powerful. I just liked it when I was a kid. It’s just sentimental value.

What about Mewtwo?

Bloody Nine: Mewtwo is cool. I like Mewtwo as well. I have no problems with him but he’s not my favorite.

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