Will Carry for Fun: Mason Venne on why he plays professional Dota 2

This is my first of two 2014 interviews with Mason “Mason” Venne, which were both published on EvilGeniuses.GG. Though the original URL is still live, it’s no longer accessible by navigating site menus and the new format of the site has made it nearly unreadable, so I’m reposting the text here. For a bit of context, Mason, then-unknown an NA pubstar, originally joined Evil Geniuses as a temporary replacement for Clinton “Fear” Loomis, whose arm injuries prevented him from playing Dota 2 in spring 2014. But, eventually, Mason became an official member of the organization when it became clear that Fear was not going to return in time for The International 4. This interview took place while Mason was still a stand-in for the team and it was widely assumed that Fear would return soon™.

Mason is a divisive figure in the Dota 2 community, and I don’t condone a lot of the shitty stuff he’s said and done. But he is smart, insightful, and obviously a gifted Dota 2 player, and I see no reason to pretend that these traits can’t all exist in a single person. I suspect this will surprise a lot of Dota 2 fans, but in my one-on-one interactions with Mason, I found him to be pleasant and professional; I don’t think I’ve interviewed another player who took my questions so seriously, and answered them so quickly. He’s also the only player I’ve interviewed who has straight up said “this question sucks, write a new one,” which, honestly, is pretty refreshing.

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whatever happened to dat boi (left). also, the t-mobile shirt is deeply unflattering one everyone.

Hi Mason, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I know you’ve got a busy week ahead, so let’s get right into some questions. You’ve been around the North American DotA scene for quite a while, but standing in for Evil Geniuses is by far your highest-profile gig yet. So give us some quick background on who you are and where you come from. How old are you, and when/how did you start playing DotA?

HEY LOL! I’m Mason and I’m a 22 year old college student and a bad bitch fanatic. I started playing Dota 2 actively (daily, I suppose) around July of 2012, but I got a beta invite in December of 2011.

So your real name is Mason too? That’s not very creative. Why no handle?

Yeah, my real name is Mason. I could’ve had something awesome like a noun with alternating capital letters such as “UNiVeRsE,” but I don’t think I’m cool enough to pull that off. So I just use my real name.

And at what point did you start standing in for professional teams?

Well, the only team I’ve stood in for is Evil Geniuses. That started around two months ago.

How did you end up with the Evil Geniuses gig? I know you were reticent about joining a professional team, so what changed? Were you ever nervous about temporarily replacing one of North American DotA’s most well-known players?

I’m friends with pretty much everyone on Evil Geniuses and I’ve played with them in matchmaking and in-house leagues such as IxMike’s FANTASTIC league, IXDL. I ended up standing in for Evil Geniuses because several of the players had other commitments. For example, some games were at 2:00 AM for Zai on a school day, so if they were playing a weaker opponent, I’d be there to play in his place. In Fear’s case, I stood in because it’s in his best interests to rest his arm and allow his injury to heal.

As for joining a professional team, I believe this is something that people don’t understand about me. Like you said, I haven’t been very open about it, so this misundertanding is expected. I don’t believe I’ve ever said professional DotA is “stupid,” or a “waste of time,” or anything of that sort. I do feel however, that you should play for fun and play with people you like. Creating a team and joining that team just for the sake of being on a professional DotA player and competing, that’s not for me. Never will be.

Standing in and playing professional DotA isn’t nerve wracking for me at all. Whoever I’m playing for is of no importance to me. All I know is that I’m playing the game.

Well, you’ve obviously been tremendously successful as a stand-in with Evil Geniuses. For me, what’s most impressive is how well you’ve fit with Evil Geniuses’s somewhat unique style of running the mid as a/the hard-farming carry. How did you acclimate yourself to Evil Geniuses’s approach to the game? Did you work directly with Fear at all, especially for some of Evil Geniuses’s less traditional farming heroes (i.e., Dazzle, Tidehunter, etc.)?

Well, like I said before, I’ve played with all of these guys so it wasn’t hard to pick up what was needed in Fear’s absence. I just do me while trying to do what I think is in the team’s best interest. If I feel like picking up a Midas on Dazzle, I f*cking pick up a Midas on Dazzle. As for working directly with Fear, we’ve had some brief conversations, but mainly it’s just “yeah, do you.” Before my time is done with Evil Geniuses, I want to play one game of ultra-ricing — Anti-Mage, Phantom Lancer, or whatever. F*CK EVERYONE, I’M GONNA BE RICH AS F*CK WHEN THIS GAME IS OVER, WHO CARES IF WE LOSE?

For the last few weeks, you’ve been playing the safe-lane carry. That’s the natural choice, given that you’re standing in for Fear, but was there every any discussion of you playing any other position?

No, I’m a one player (on this team it really feels like a 1.5/2). But I also play a pretty good two, so if Arty wants to play a more traditional one (like Lycan), I can just go mid and he can play the side lanes.

Out of game, how have you been fitting in with the guys at Evil Geniuses? I’d imagine you know Fear and Universe from nadota.com, but what about Zai and PPD?

Yeah, I get along fine with everyone. Like I said before, I’m friends with pretty much everyone on Evil Geniuses. Arty’s got awful taste in women, Zai’s opinion on anime sucks, Universe is as deep as the ocean, and PPD refuses to draft me anything but Mirana. I had to ask for Bloodseeker like five times during today’s draft to get it. Great stuff, as usual.

If you watch Game of Thrones, what house would each of the Evil Geniuses guys be in and why?

I’m no Game of Thrones nerd, so I don’t know the houses or factions and shit. Ask me to relate the Evil Geniuses members to a hentai. Then we’ll get somewhere.

I don’t think I can print that, so I’ll just have to ask you later. Anyway, when I interview someone, it’s tempting to just focus on the glorious victories. But the better answers often come from questions about hard losses. Let’s talk about some of your (admittedly few) losses with Evil Geniuses. In the MLG TKO finals this weekend, you guys had one of the biggest throws in recent memory. What went wrong?

Well, I don’t want to blame anyone in particular, but ARTEEZY F*CKING DIED WITH THE AEGIS RANDOMLY BOTTOM WHEN WE COULD HAVE JUST THROWN BODIES AT THE TOP RAX AND WON THE GAME. But seriously, (well, I was kind of serious) that was a team loss. I didn’t go MJ (Arteezy’s way of saying Mjollnir), which, in hindsight, was a good pickup. I also missed a lot of arrows that game. We owned the top lane, but that’s not enough sometimes. Some matches require you to play at the top of your game, and I’ll admit that even though my score may have looked good, I could have played much, much better.

On the topic of playing better, I’ve seen you run a lot of Mirana, Weaver, Dazzle, and Storm Spirit with great success. But I’ve yet to see one of your games go right with Vengeful Spirit (I’m thinking specifically of the loss versus Team Dog in DreamLeague). Under what conditions does PPD draft Vengeful Spirit, and how do you usually try to build her to make her relevant? Under ideal circumstances, what role would she play?

That game was 100% on me, regardless of Arty saying we would have won if he played better. I was stubborn and greedy, and so I refused to get a Black King Bar versus Necronomicon units and a Quas/Wex Invoker. Because of EMPs and Necro mana burn, I was nothing more than a buffed up range creep that game. I purchased a Mekanism that was never used because I never had the mana to use it. How I played her was fine for our lineup, minus a couple of mistakes such as not going for Black King Bar. I also think you can build Vengeful Spirit for the late game with harder carry items, such as Desolator, Manta Style, and Daedelus. But with a Shadow Fiend on the team, that isn’t necessary.

And what about today’s courier kill in game one versus Liquid? You guys had just won a teamfight at the high ground of Dire’s top lane and were backing into the Dire-side woods when our beloved Throe dived straight towards the enemy Tier-3 tower. Was that just a miscommunication or were y’all teasing those poor Blogboys?

No clue. I have no idea how that courier died. WHO F*CKING CARES THOUGH! WE WON! GG LEAVE THE GAME ALREADY, LIQUID.

Speaking of which, do you have an opinion on the FLUFFNSTUFF blog fiasco?

I do, but I think it’s best I keep it to myself. Kind of like how he should have kept it to himself.

Heh. Well, let’s talk about the haters, then. What do you say to the critics who claim that you’re nothing but a glorified pubstar? And what about the /r/dota2 denizens who call your personality cancerous?

I think a lot of people talk out of their asses, and not just people on Reddit or on the Internet — /r/dota2 just seems to have a high concentration of stupidity. I do read Reddit, but I almost never post. I could say a lot of things, but I’m afraid they’d fall on deaf ears and it’s just a horrible waste of energy. If some guy wants to claim I’m an awful person and a horrible professional Dota 2 prospect because of my supposed terrible attitude (admittedly, I am a giant asshole in pubs and if I ran into myself in matchmaking, I’d probably tell myself to go kill myself) . . . whatever man, go for it! I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you otherwise.

It’s annoying that people act like they know me and then go on Reddit, GosuGamers, JoinDotA, and Team Liquid, and post their opinions like they are the gospel. Like I said before, I’m not going to refute things. At the end of the day, it’s just not worth getting worked up over. As for the people who insult my level of skill, who f*cking cares? “FEAR>>>>MASON!,” “MASON SUCKS!” — go crazy. Insulting my level of DotA play has next to no effect on me. For obvious reasons, I find it MUCH more annoying that people say things like “Mason would be an awful teammate.” With all that said, I do appreciate positive comments. They are nice to read.

Now that your official stint with Evil Geniuses is winding down, what about your future in DotA? What’s on deck for you this summer? Are you happy to subsist as North America’s most in-demand DotA mercenary? Has playing with Evil Geniuses changed your outlook on playing professional DotA?

My future with DotA? Honestly, I don’t see much in store for me, through my own choice. Who knows, maybe some things will happen and I’ll find myself playing professional DotA on a team as a regular member, but I doubt it. I’ve always had the same approach to professional DotA: play with people you like. Have fun. If your sole purpose in professional DotA is to make money, then get a real job. I know people who bitch about their teammates and seem like they are genuinely miserable. Why put yourself through that? Quit bitching, leave, and do something else with your time. Or just go back to pubbing instead of scrimming and playing matches.

Given your success over the last few weeks, I’d also imagine that you’re getting offers from some top-tier teams. Care to comment?

I’ve been getting offers to join teams for a long time, way before my time with Evil Geniuses. None of the offers have been enticing and I have had nearly zero interest in them.

Some people have been calling for you to permanently replace Fear on Evil Geniuses. What do you say to those people? Or, if you had the chance, would you?

Fear is a good player and works well with Evil Geniuses. They were winning games well before me. People overrate the one position, I think. If you ask any good player who truly understands the game, they’ll tell you that one is the easiest role in a lot of regards.

I’ve also heard rumors about Fear retiring after TI4. If that happened, would you consider joining Evil Geniuses full time?

Depends on the players. But if it were with Evil Geniuses’ current members, then yes.

Biggest question of them all: where do you see your DotA career going? Do you have specific goals? What would it take for you to look back a decade from now and see your career in progaming as a success? What does this all mean to you?

I’ve sort of answered this question, but not directly, so I’ll give it a brief answer. Probably nowhere. Not really, I’m already the f*cking man. No clue, just have fun and enjoy yourself. These questions are too f*cking deep for me, man.

Well, what’s your favorite anime then?

Anohana. I cried like five different times in the last episode. F*cking Menma. Yeah, I’m a bitch. Excuse yourself.

OK.

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