Travis “Castaway” Waters is widely known as one of the best DOTA2 players in South Africa, becoming only the second player in the country’s history to reach 7000 MMR. Recently, Castaway has moved to Cambodia in Southeast Asia in an attempt to further his DOTA2 career.
GINX Esports TV’s African esports correspondent Julia Robson had the opportunity to catch up with Castaway to discuss his esports career, the scene in South Africa and his big move to Southeast Asia.
GINX Esports TV: In South Africa, you have been labelled the best DOTA2 player in the country. Boasting a 7k MMR in ranked matchmaking is especially a big achievement while playing on 200 ping. What does it mean to you to have achieved such a high status in the local scene?
Castaway: I’m very happy to have achieved such a status as I always wanted to make a mark locally when I looked into the scene for the first time way back when I was about 14/15 years old. I hope I can lead as a good example in and outside of the game for future esports players to look up to.
You competed in WESG with your previous team, White Rabbit Gaming. What did the experience to compete internationally teach you, in comparison to local tournaments?
C: Firstly, it taught me that the level overseas is a lot higher than locally, at least a few ‘tiers’ of skill (team-wise and individually). Secondly, that I had a lot of work to do on my own views of the game as well as my own skill set and hero-pool. Lastly it added more fuel to my fire of wanting to compete and win at the highest level of the Dota 2 world. I think any player who goes to a tournament like WESG would want to play at more tournaments like that.
The South African DOTA2 community is always hungry for more tournaments and larger scale prize pools. What do you think is needed to increase the focus on the South African scene and to discover more talented players like yourself?
C: I think this is the question of the esports scene in South Africa and I think there is no clear-cut answer. If you take Dota 2, the viewers haven’t been the best, especially when you compare it to CS or FIFA so I think tournament organisers and players need to co-exist within this environment of helping one another with that. How? I’m not entirely sure. Discovering talented players I’d say comes from their ranked match-making rating (MMR) and in tournaments.
The talk of the town is your departure to grind in the SEA scene. How did this decision come about and how did you pull it off?
C: I’d been quite a sad pepe for a while with the SA Dota scene. Not just because of the lack of tournaments and competition being a little stale, but also with the fact that we will never be able to practice against the best on an equal playing field. So I decided about a year and half ago that I’d like to move to SEA (the region is not as ‘stacked’ as Europe with so many talented players and teams) and my best friend Malan moved to Cambodia so I thought it was perfect. I was very blessed to be sponsored by a private family financially to be able to go overseas.
What are the goals you’d like to reach in SEA?
C: I have different sets of goals, each set has short, medium and long term goals. My MMR goals would be to get top 200, 100, 50 then eventually grind to top 10 and then number one in the region. My other set of goals would be to get noticed by a tier 1 team (preferably) or start with a tier 2 team and work my way with them through tournaments. Then to play at Majors and Minors and of course, play and win The International.
This is every Dota player’s dream and I’m no exception!.
Considering that you have now found equal playing field in terms of ping, what will be your biggest challenges?
C: Unlearning the habits I developed from playing on higher ping for the majority of the heroes in my role (Tinker’s ultimate – Rearm, Storm Spirit’s Ball Lightning). Basically, learning the limits of my heroes and timings between spells on this beautifully low 40 ping. I also think another important thing would be for me to really learn how to lane in middle with regards to creep aggro, perfecting that is extremely important and it’s going really well at the moment!
Lastly I think learning how to carry the game no matter what from whatever position I’m in, you see the pro players like Miracle, NoOne, MidOne etc. have this ability to ‘God-mode’ and carry their ranked games which I believe is why they can obtain such high ranks!
For other players hungry to create similar opportunities like you, what advice would you give them?
C: Develop/construct a plan on how you’re going to go about things – plan your finances, where you’re going to go etc., then work hard, watch replays, develop your game play, be critical of yourself always and believe in your own abilities.
What are the biggest differences between the opportunities in SEA region versus the ZA scene?
C: Firstly, there’s qualifier spots in SEA as a region for all major and minor tournaments as well as The International, so its a lot easier to qualify for an event as a random team than back in ZA playing European qualifiers on 180 ping.
Secondly the chances of obtaining a higher rank/rating and thus getting noticed by a good team is far greater here because you’re grinding ranked on equal ping and its less stacked with high MMR players than Europe. The tournaments in the SEA region are far more reliable compared to some random tournaments here and there back in ZA.
What challenges have you faced practicing in SEA and how did you overcome them?
C: Getting used to the ping and this just takes time, I’m already feeling like my full power is being developed and is unleashing itself more and more each game! The language barrier and general calls are different from Europe as well as the general play style, it comes with time to learn that SOD means smoke of deceit where as in EU its just smoke.
I also just talk to people in Afrikaans if they trigger me and that’s worked quite a fair amount – thanks Malan!
Finally, the heat here is quite different to South Africa, something outside of the game but getting used to that has also been a bit awkward but I don’t really mind it anymore – playing in boxers and having AC is quite nice!
What is required for ZA players to reach the next level?
C: I believe more players need to do what we (Doni, Frank and myself) as well as the Bravado CS:GO team has done and gone overseas. It’s the best way to show South Africa’s esports potential in my opinion. It’s like what Pain Gaming’s Dota 2 team or SK’s CS:GO team has done for Brazilian esports.
I believe we are quite far behind in most areas. Not to bash and say that ZA is doomed! It’s fine to be behind but lets now use this time to catch up. We have many great personalities and organisations that are helping and every little thing comes together in the bigger picture. I’m sure with time it will work out and ZA will be on the esports map one way or another!
Any final remarks for your followers?
C: To all my friends, family, followers, fans and most importantly haters I’d like to thank each and every one of you for all the love and support you’ve shown me in my decision to move, as well as in my career in South Africa. I appreciate it all. I hope I can make each and every one of you proud and prove the haters wrong. Love you all!