Having cast the majority of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Upper Division games during the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit season, in addition to covering a major and refining his casting ability in the process, Dota 2 caster Bkop (Benjamin Kopilow) believed he was nearing a callup to appear in The International 10 as a play-by-play commentator.
After inexhaustibly spending years to get noticed through his casting, he felt he was on the verge of working alongside the game’s biggest talent and finally standing on esports’ grandest stage.
However, after not receiving a callup by Valve to work TI, Bkop was left off the final talent list and had been consigned to watch from the sidelines as his colleagues covered all the games from the group stage until the grand finals. It’s a sour note to absorb in an otherwise impressive year for the 28-year-old caster, but it’s one he will use to better himself for the future.
With a hopeful outlook towards the next DPC season, which is due to begin in November, Bkop was interviewed by The Click on his thoughts about TI10, the Chinese and Southeast Asian team’s performances there, what it was like for him to miss out on working the event, the ongoing conversation over the people who did work in Romania, and much more.
Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, Bkop. The first thing I’d like to know is what you’re currently up to since we’re in a dead period with TI recently being finished and the DPC season is fastly approaching.
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “Right now, I’m just kind of sitting around and waiting for news or an offer for next season. I’m not really doing anything at the moment.
I covered TI qualifiers and watched TI, and then from there, it’s just been no work recently. I’ve done some streaming. I think I’m going to do more of that as we get closer to the DPC to freshen up on my casting because it’s been a while since I did anything.
I’m going to use that time to cover some more stuff on my own channel and make sure I don’t get rusty because I always want to be ready to go [to work].”
For your stream, are you only restricting yourself to Dota or are you playing other games?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I don’t really stream much else but I definitely want to stream more. I feel sometimes that my streams are restricted to Dota just because that’s what brings people to the stream so I haven’t exactly expanded into more [games].
I definitely thought about playing other games and expanding, but I want to focus on casting at the moment just to make sure I’m ready to go come the new season.”
Bkop on China and SEA’s performance in TI and the 2021 DPC season
The first thing I’d like to touch upon is what happened in TI10. You covered the brunt of the Chinese and Southeast Asian region by casting the upper divisions and qualifying tournament there, so I’d first like to know your thoughts on the Chinese delegation in the tournament. Did they perform up to your expectations?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I think the Chinese teams that were there kind of met the expectations that I had for them. Obviously, I would’ve liked to see PSG.LGD win [the tournament], but that didn’t happen.
Elephant and Team Aster both finished in 13-16th place but I kind of expected that [to happen]. Especially with the troubles with Aster, I moved them down from where I thought they would place because they had White Album, who was sick and playing well below 100%, so I kind of expected them to place where they were.
“I had a lot more expectations for Elephant, but I wasn’t surprised at where they finished just because that team has been struggling for a while. When they first made their roster, they looked really good, but as time went on, you saw that they almost [performed like] that first iteration of Team Secret where there were too many stars.
“Usually, a team is full of stars, but it seemed like these are the main guys you want on your roster and it’s just five main guys and it didn’t seem to click for them.
There were a lot of chemistry issues with these players, so I kind of expected that from Elephant. IG at Top 4, I think that was great for them.
Especially with everyone talking about how poorly they played and how inconsistent they were, seeing Vici at Top 6 is way better than what people expected.
“With Ori, as much as there were people who thought he didn’t do that well [in TI], I thought he played pretty well. For Poyoyo, in his first big event with Vici, he played pretty well [too].
I definitely think there is room for them to grow. I don’t know what’s going to happen next season if they’re going to change their roster, but if they’re on different rosters, they are definitely players to watch.
Ori is one guy to watch, but Poyoyo is going to be an interesting player to follow so we’ll see where he lands because I think he can be one of the next big carry players in the region.”
Obviously, this tournament was blighted by the problems with COVID and teams struggling to find appropriate accommodations while in Romania. You mentioned White Album feeling terrible and not being able to compete at 100%. Had those issues been resolved in time for TI, do you think Aster and Elephant would’ve performed better or perhaps reached the same level of play that PSG.LGD, Vici, and IG showed?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I think Elephant probably would’ve still been in the same place. I had a lot of expectations for them but they didn’t look like a team that would be able to fulfill them.
With Aster, I think the big question mark was always White Album and whether or not he was sick. He’s one of the newer guys to really hit the scene in a big space. He was playing with SAG (Sparking Arrow Gaming) prior to this and he’s with Aster.
“Although Aster finished lower than I thought, had everything happened according to plan, maybe they’d get Top 8. I didn’t really see them getting Top 3 or 4, so they were close to where I thought [they would finish], but at the end of the day, they were obviously hindered. I don’t know if they would have finished much higher if everything went a-okay.”
Whereas Aster didn’t make the Top 8, one of the teams from SEA (T1) did, so that leads me to ask about your thoughts on that region’s performance in TI.
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I think Fnatic finished where I thought they would. They had a lot of struggles throughout the season–I’m actually surprised they got Top 12.
I thought they probably would’ve had Top 16 and then get eliminated in the first match against Undying, but they ended pretty much where I thought [they’d be].
“With T1, they definitely could’ve gone further, but by going up against Vici, who ultimately finished Top 4, it’s not where I thought they would finish. I think T1 has a lot of chemistry.
I don’t know if they’re moving their roster but if they stay together for another year, they could become the top team coming out of Southeast Asia again.
“I also think that they proved during their games that they are a really solid squad. It’s just that they had an unfortunate matchup against Vici [before they could’ve done more].
I think they would’ve beaten OG if the matchups went the other way like if Spirit played Vici and T1 played OG. I think they would’ve advanced further but they can be happy with where they finished. I don’t think it’s something to be upset about.”
Fnatic qualified for TI through the qualifying tournament and TI qualified through accumulating enough DPC points. Given the region ended up sending two representatives to TI, were you satisfied by its performance from the entire DPC season (majors and TI included)?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “For SEA, I was a little disappointed at the lack of teams that made their way through [to TI] because you only had Fnatic and T1 instead of having three or four teams.
For a long time, OB Esports x Neon seemed like the team to beat and towards the end, they kind of took their foot off the gas. In Season 2, they ended up coming in fifth.
This was a team that, to me, had all the pieces together, but for some reason, everything kind of fell apart. I don’t know exactly what happened, but to go from second to fifth just–it felt like their momentum died out.
“Them and TNC (or one of them) were those that I expected to compete for TI but both missed out. I was definitely disappointed because there was a lot of great Dota coming out of that region, but maybe it’s just more of a learning experience that they need for next season. Because you can’t coast through the second half of the season like OB x Neon thought they could.
“TNC always felt like they were on the cusp of doing great things, but at the end of it all, they came out short and that was a team that kind of had some disappointing performances.
Although those guys should look back and be upset about where they finished, they should also understand that they have the potential to do better. They came fourth in the first season and that featured them losing 2-0 to Execration, a team that finished below them.
Those are matches that you can’t give up and it seemed like TNC weren’t fully there. And then OB x Neon in the second part, as I said, they kind of fell apart.
I don’t know, I kind of expected one of those two teams to go to TI. Overall, was I happy with where T1 finished? I thought they could have finished higher. The region itself did okay, but more could’ve been done from them as a whole.”
And what about China?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I thought China was amazing. There was a lot of discussion before this season that China wasn’t all that great nor as strong as it used to be.
I mean, I’m biased but I thought that was just so untrue. This is the hardest region [around]. I know there are a lot of people who want to say ‘EU is a tough region and that there are so many great players,’ and there are so many great players, but with China, you’re talking about a region whose top players are in almost every single team.
“The fact that EHOME is now, from what I believe, disbanding or having a new roster? You had a team with Sylar, Xm, Chalice, Fade, and xNova who are superstars and famous based on what they did in the past.
For that team to come in sixth and not really perform that well shows how tough this region is. You have LGD, who came in fourth in the first season, and Elephant, who came in fifth! You have Somnus, yang, fy, and RedPanda (for Season 1). Those guys are all great players.
“To have five teams go to TI from China was amazing. It shows that during international events they had it going on. All these teams that deserved to be there got there, especially IG who had been together for 2+ years.
You got LGD who look like they’re always reinventing the wheel. The fact that they had five at TI was probably ground-shaking for every other team knowing where they’re coming from.”
About PSG.LGD not winning the TI grand finals
Moving to the grand finals, China managed to send one of their own (PSG.LGD) to that phase against Team Spirit, who went on a rampage through the lower bracket. They defeated OG, Virtus.Pro, IG, and Team Secret before facing PSG.LGD. What do you think went wrong for LGD in those grand finals?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “Everything was fine until Game 5. You saw it happen at a slow pace for LGD. It was a lineup that they wanted. It was a draft that they loved and yet they never really got out of the/ gate.
You can look at Games 1-4 and be like, ‘Alright, Team Spirit dominated Games 1 and 2, but in Games 3 and 4, LGD dominated.’ It was just a back-and-forth [affair] and then in Game 5, I honestly felt that Spirit won it, at least in my mind, from minute 12.
LGD wasn’t going fast enough, they weren’t playing the way they needed to, and they were on a hard timer. I believe the panel talked about how they had a 20-minute timer, and as you got closer to the deadline, you knew it wasn’t going to be enough.”
Yeah, they even singled out Ame since he was playing Tiny. They mentioned how if he couldn’t perform in that Game 5 then LGD was basically doomed.
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “Yeah. Obviously, the whole talk is with Collapse playing the Magnus which was something we saw at the OGA Invitational. He had an amazing game.
The guy looks like a moving VacPack, he’s so good. *laughs* You put yourself up against a tough task which you want to draft that way. You’ve beaten it before, you know you can beat it, and you have this confidence out of winning the last two games.
“I don’t think the draft was this massive issue. I mean, obviously, it gave [Spirit] a lot of comfort heroes. Giving TORONTOTOKYO the Ember (Spirit) too is a comfort hero for him.
I think a lot of eyes were on Collapse, but TORONTOTOKYO played so well. I mean, everybody in Spirit played well. There’s no one person who didn’t play well and I think when you look at LGD and the way they played in the first 20 minutes of Game 5, it just wasn’t even close to finishing quickly. It wasn’t what they needed.
It felt like things were not running on all cylinders and they just came up short. Things like that happen. Obviously, it happened on the grandest stage. It’s TI Game 5, LGD had been there before, but unfortunately, they didn’t come away victorious.
“Actually, I think that’s one of the things I have a problem with regarding TI. It feels like winning TI is an all-or-nothing thing. Your season is either ‘you win TI or you lost’ and it’s like that Ricky Bobby quote from Talladega Nights.
‘You’re either first or you’re last,’ and that’s what it feels like sometimes in the Dota season. You either win TI or you’re last and for LGD, I’m glad they’re staying together because there’s nothing to be upset about.
“Yeah, you didn’t win TI, but if you look at the season as a whole and how much they dominated, even in the things outside the DPC, they can go into next season confident that they’re going to be right there. It feels like Spirit played their game so well but it didn’t feel like they figured out LGD in a massive way.
I still think LGD can throw things that teams wouldn’t be ready for. Obviously, there are patches and that might change some stuff, but LGD can definitely go into next season feeling confident.”
As the runners-up of TI10 and the best Chinese team, what does PSG.LGD needs to focus on next year so that they can lift that Aegis of Champions that has long eluded them?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I think continuing to do the same as before. They definitely look like the team that can lift Aegis next year. Obviously, that’s very preemptive.
We don’t know what the forthcoming patches will look like. There are always changes with how the DPC season will look like, how player burnout will emerge, what they’re going to do, how they’re going to coast through it, but I think this is a team that has everything going for them.
“It’s just decision-making and drafting here and there that separates them from lifting the Aegis. I don’t think there are many things where they can be like, ‘Oh we did this and this which went wrong.’
They did a lot of things right and it was a few smaller things that they can address during the season, and then when they get to TI, they can have their kinks worked out and hopefully win after finishing second a couple of times with massive heartbreak. Second-third-second is a rough run to endure.”
Bkop on not appearing in TI10
As everyone knows, you weren’t called up to participate in TI10. What was your reaction towards not being included in the casting lineup?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “It’s kind of heartbreaking. I knew back when the invites were given a few months before that I wasn’t getting invited. I didn’t get an email or a call about it.
I had a couple of people, who work as casters, call me to see if I was going and I said I didn’t get an email which meant I wasn’t going.
“It definitely hurts. It definitely makes you sit there and think about what you could’ve done differently and why you weren’t included. There had to be something I did or maybe I just didn’t fit the production or whatever they had planned for TI.
So now, since I knew I wasn’t going, I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do for the future so that I can go next year. It’s hard to see what else I can do. I did a lot.
“When you look at just about every series–I think I missed only one series of [the DPC] SEA Season 2–plus working the Singapore Major, to work harder than that? I’ve got to figure it out.
I guess the goal is if there are two seasons, I want to work on both of them. I want to work in both majors. If there are three seasons, I want to work all three of them including the majors.
I just gotta do more and hope that I can, in the eyes of those making the decisions, prove I can be there, make the production [work], and show I have the worth of making them that much better.”
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being absolutely sure, how sure were you over getting that TI callup?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I really don’t think I’m ever getting called up. I try not to get too excited, that way the disappointment wouldn’t hurt so much, but I think this year was a bit different.
I thought I put everything out there, grew as a caster throughout the year, and showed that I should be there. I still usually like to keep my expectations in check. I had a lot of people reach out to me and be like, ‘Hey, I think this is the year.’ I think I kind of let that gets to me and had me thinking, ‘Yeah, maybe this is the year.’ I don’t know, I try to hold back on that and think that I’m almost never getting hired.
“I like to think I’m not getting hired so when I do get hired it’s a lot more of me getting this great feeling of ‘Yeah, I’m finally moving up.’
Even in this [upcoming] DPC season, I would love to get hired and work all those seasons, but I don’t expect to work them. I want to prove that I should work those seasons. My saying is ‘I keep it at two percent because it’s my favorite kind of milk,’ and that’s enough of a percentage for me to think I’m going, and if I don’t go, I’m not as disappointed.”
Many people have supported you despite your absence from the tournament. I assume you’ve read some threads on Reddit that vouched for your inclusion, so what do you make of the support you received from the fans?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I think it’s definitely mixed. Obviously, I do appreciate the support. I think I did a good job of showing and proving that there are so many people out there that want me at TI and to continue working.
I love that kind of support. I will say though that there are loud vocals about comparing [talent], making excuses, or saying so-and-so stole this spot or whatever. It’s not like that and I don’t like that kind of support.
“I don’t think that’s fair to others who have worked as hard as I have. Everybody who was at TI deserved to be there and I think everybody who was there is amazing at what they do.
Don’t get me wrong. Do I love seeing that people want to support me and see me do more? Of course. But I don’t like it when it becomes ‘X is better than Y and Y didn’t do this’. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think that’s the proper way to go about it.
Again, I love the support and I think I want to do more and prove that I should be [at TI], but I don’t like it coming at the cost of comparisons and the way some people pointed out things that are not right.”
That’s the sort of issue which has affected the scene especially right now during the post-TI window. There have been a lot of conversations regarding the talent that worked in the competition such as whether it was okay for Valve to select people who don’t have much experience in covering Dota. Do you feel a sense of difficulty for Valve or tournament organizers to find a balance between broadcasting games with an analytical eye to appeal to the devoted portion of the fans and a casual perspective for the new viewers?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I think it’s always hard for TOs to make decisions. There’s always going to be someone who should’ve been there or people wanted them to be there.
At the end of the day, I think you could have one of the best talent lists out there but there are still going to be upset people. There’s still going to be people who say ‘What about this person? What about that person? How is this person here? How is that person there?’ It’s just always going to be a thing that TOs have to deal with.
“Just like the people who are watching who have their opinion on what they want to see, the TOs have their opinion on what they want to produce, what they want to show, and what they think is the best way to go about it.
You’re never going to have everybody happy. It’s something that you need to know when you’re casting too. You’re going to get those messages of people saying, ‘You’re not great. You’re bad. You should stop,’ but you’re not going to impress everybody. It’s just impossible, so I think it’s always tough for Valve and every TO to appease everybody.”
On working with colleague during 2021 DPC season
This year you worked in a very different environment compared to last year. In 2020, you were confined to your home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But for 2021, you were able to work with actual people in live studios. What was it like to work with a blend of new and familiar colleagues for this DPC season?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “At one point, I think I worked with every single person I worked with prior to [the pandemic] and it was great to work with them every day.
We’d get lunch every day and you kind of learn things about each other, build chemistry together and make sure you give the best cast you can. It really does help to be with the same people often.
“Honestly, it was great. It was very different because you’re getting instant feedback instead of waiting for the event to end and sending a Discord message.
You’re getting instant feedback and everybody’s working together to make the best possible broadcast. You build that chemistry because you’re working together and gaining that sense of friendship also, so it was nice working with everybody. We go to the gym together and spend time rock climbing together.
“It’s all things that make the broadcast a better place because the chemistry hits, and when the chemistry hits, you can see how smooth the broadcast goes.
We had so many people saying that the SEA and China broadcasts were so smooth and great and I think a lot of that had to do with living in the same area, hanging out together, and working together in person. I think it was a big part in making that possible.”
Before this season, you mentioned in an interview with Daniel Offen that you wanted to be more clear with your casting heading into the 2021 DPC season. With that said, how would you grade your performance after this year?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I can’t grade it a 10 because 10 includes me going to TI and kicking butt there, so I can give myself a 6.5 to 7 potentially. T
here’s always room to grow, but accomplishing them and making them in the best way I can are also a part of that grade. Maybe that year where I do everything and go to TI and do well there is a 10, but right now, I’m pulling at a 6.5 while waiting to do more and continue perfecting my craft.”
I think fans would give you a 7 to 8.5, but for you to grade yourself like that is something I didn’t expect to hear.
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “There’s no bell curve on my grade. There are no extra bonus points. I am the teacher. I’m sucking up to myself. You don’t get too much extra credit when you’re grading yourself.
I know I’m a little harsh on myself, but I like to keep my grades harsh and low just so I can continue growing.”
Is there anyone who you think should receive more attention from watching them work during this past season?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I definitely enjoyed listening to MLP and johnxfire. Those are two guys that have worked together forever and I think they do a good job. Like I said, chemistry is really important to a broadcast and they have heaps of it.
They’ve been working together for so long that they’re a pairing I want to see more of.
“Neph is another guy I worked with who I think puts in a lot of hard work, especially behind the scenes. He’s definitely someone I want to see doing more and being out in the spotlight.
I think he definitely deserves it. Honestly, I’d probably cite everybody I’ve watched. It’s always such a grind and climb [to get noticed], but those are guys who I want to see do more.
Nomad as well, I think he’s someone who showed a lot of prowess in the first season when he was hosting and I’d love to see him be a host for another region.”
Who should be included in the DPC for next season after not working there last season?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “People who weren’t included in the Upper Division who I want to see there next year are again MLP and johnxfire. I think they are two great guys.
They’ve proven that they can be at the top, so I’m really hoping they can get their opportunity to shine because they are going to shine bright when they do.”
Moving back to yourself, what is your best casting performance of this past season?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “It was definitely that crazy 100-minute game between LGD and Aster. That game was wild. It was eight Divine Rapiers throughout that entire game. Start to finish, that game was nuts.
“Also, the games with me and Black^, with how we continued getting constant 100-minute games. We’d see the Arc Warden [in the draft] and I think the two of us looked at each other and thought, ‘Here comes a 100-minute game.’
It was like–I don’t know. *laughs* Seven Divine Rapiers, some of them not being used, Galaxy Racer taking on Motivate. Trust. It’s just nuts to see that.
“We had that happen either twice or three times during TI qualifiers where we had 100-minute games. But being able to keep it up for 100 minutes and being able to keep that energy all the way through is something I’m proud I could do.
Me and Black^ were at a 100 for 100 straight minutes. Well, not at 100 for 100 straight minutes because you don’t want to be overhyped in the beginning, but once we got to 25 minutes, it was just like us being ‘Who’s going to win this game?’ At any moment, you can see anyone take it.”
Bkop on 2021-22 DPC season
Looking towards next season, which is due to start in November, what do you expect to see both personally and competitively speaking? How do you think each region will fare?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I’m excited to see the [roster] shuffles. Once the dust settles and we know who goes where and what’s happening, I’m definitely excited to see how that all plays out.
If it’s from what we’ve seen on Twitter, like with what the rumors are saying, I’m excited to see three seasons and three majors. I think that’s going to be big and I’m hoping that the DPC point distribution changes a little bit.
“I’m really hoping that it’s not so top-heavy coming out of the regions. I think majors have to be changed, the payouts have to be changed a little bit. I’d love to see changes there and hopefully see things not become as top-heavy for many regions.
“For myself, again, if I have the opportunity to do SEA and China again with the way I did last year, I’d love to do it. I’m hoping to just be working at all throughout the entire year.
As I said, I expect that I’m not working until I’m told I am, so I’m hoping I get told I’m working and then hopefully prove that I can be at TI.”
Have you ever thought about working in the west (in regions such as North America, Europe, or South America even)?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “”I would like to work in pretty much any region. Obviously, the bulk of my knowledge lies in China and SEA, but I know all these other regions almost just as well.
I wouldn’t mind if we saw EU-CIS or Western-Eastern Europe together again. I would love to work over there. I know I can give just as much as I did to the SEA/China regions last year as I can with any region coming into this next season.”
As I mentioned, this season will have a different schedule. Instead of starting off in January, the DPC will begin in November which is roughly a month after TI. Also, if one thinks about it, this new schedule is similar to the one used before the pandemic hit. Don’t you think it’s a bit too early for this season to start so soon?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “If the players are game for it, then I think it’s fine. I think the Dota season all the way through the year is alright. Is it a short break? Yeah, but I have a feeling it’s going to have just as good Dota [as last season]. I think teams do want to continue playing. Do I think there should’ve been an additional month of rest? Yeah, but if these teams are ready to go, then they want to play as quickly as they can. They want the turnaround to be quick.”
You already talked about dark horses for next year, so I’m giving you a chance to make your ‘way too early’ prediction for TI11. Who do you think will make a deep run for that tournament?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I gotta say LGD. Me saying anything else would just be super wrong. *laughs* It has to be LGD. We just haven’t seen the roster dust settle down. I think IG will remain the same but I have no idea what else happening in China.
There are still so many roster swaps that are yet to be seen, but it’s just a quick turnaround [before the new season]. There are rumors that Sccc is coming back with a roster. It’s kind of crazy that we might see some new teams. Nevertheless, there are going to be those fresh teams out there who will make a surprisingly deep run.”
What about the teams in North America? Are they capable of making a deep run for next year?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “You gotta kind of see where Quincy Crew goes, where those players end up, and if there’s going to be fresh blood coming into the region. NA usually seems to be Evil Geniuses, QCY, and the rest, but with us not knowing about QCY’s future, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.
“There are definitely capable players in the region. Undying looks like a team that, should they stay together or make one or two changes, we could see them make a run.
EG always feels like they’re getting great players to make a run. Overall, it just seems like with NA, while fielding contenders, I’d like to see more growth with their rosters. There is definitely unharnessed talent which could make some sort of run for the region.”
That about wraps up all of my questions for you, Bkop. Once again, thank you so much for this interview. Just to close it out, do you have any final words to share? Do you have any shoutouts to give?
Dota 2 caster Bkop: “I’m always giving a shoutout to my one fan. She knows who they are. That one fan has always been on the support trend. As I always say at the end of every interview, that one fan is right there in my heart.
And thanks for all the support, everyone. Hopefully, I can do more with it next year and have that culminate into a TI appearance.”