Esports.gg caught up with the longtime player and coach about his journey, transition into becoming a caster and the newfound struggles that come with it.
If you're a fan of competitive Dota 2, you've more than likely heard of the name Theeban "1437" Siva. Whether it's from his time as a pioneering player and captain, as a coach for numerous successful teams, or more recently, his YouTube content or casting and analyst work - 1437 has been around for as long as Dota 2 has been an esport. Like many others though, despite a considerably formidable career - 1437 has yet to conquer the gauntlet of The International. TI9 saw the veteran unable to make it to the event, marking it his first time missing the tournament since its inception.
He's undoubtedly already made his mark as a player and a coach, and in the past year and a half, he's made the switch to casting fulltime. Esports.gg had the chance to sit down with 1437 to talk about his journey into casting, and how despite this change in paths, the goal is still the same - a place at The International.
1437's Decision to Pursue Casting Full-Time
Mike: You've had a pretty busy season between casting the SA DPC, NA and SA Qualifiers, playing in the DPC and recently becoming a dad! Tell me about your year!
1437: This year has been very different for me especially this past year, with COVID and all the lockdowns happening. I decided that I was really going to do the casting full time. I don't think I was going to play because 1) I didn't feel like there were any teams that I could build during that moment. And 2) I was ready to move on with my career, more into my family life. And my wife and I, we were looking to expand our family, and now have a baby.
Mike: How and when did you come to the decision that you wanted to get into casting?
I think it was around the time I was in J.Storm, right after we failed to qualify for TI9. I wasn't brought in as an analyst or anything, and it was the first TI I wasn't a part of. It was honestly so heartbreaking.
My wedding was coming up, so I was going to take a break - the first break I've ever taken in my whole life from Dota. After around 3 months, I was going to come back and play again. What ended up happening is that I got a mallet finger injury from playing basketball. It was very painful for some time, so the break just got longer. I got really involved in Dota Underlords and started streaming which was something I really enjoyed.
At that point I thought maybe it's best I kind of take a step back and do more content and stuff like that. That's when I started out casting again, especially once Dota Underlords started to die off. From there, I more or less made it my focus, I was going to make it happen: to cast and be an analyst at TI. I want to be able to share my knowledge that I've accumulated over the last 10 years playing, coaching and being in the thick of things.
"I want to be able to share my knowledge that I've accumulated over the last 10 years playing coaching and being in the thick of things."
Casting with Gareth and Aui_2000
Mike: You've been a player and a coach for most of your career - what was the transition into casting like for you?
1437: Casting wasn't the easiest thing for me at the beginning because there's a lot of nuances. You need to kind of adjust and work with somebody else too, and it's very important that you guys are cohesive. SA DPC was amazing for me though, I got to cast with Gareth and I think he's an incredible caster. I learned a lot just by casting alongside him and I think we worked together really well.
I've been really grinding it out and doing what I can, and I'm just very happy with the kind of product I was able to put out. I think I cast over 400 games in the last year alone.
Mike: That's absolutely insane. Most of the casting you've done so far has been with Gareth - how did this partnership come about?
1437: The thing about Gareth is like, we literally clicked after two games. He understood me, I understood him - we knew exactly what we needed to say and how to have fun with it. I don't remember which tournament it was - might've been Pushka League or Dota Pit. But as soon as he talked I knew at that point. I'm like "Yo, he and I work really well together". And then when I found out that he was going to be part of the SA DPC with me I got really excited. Working with him is loads of fun.
When we did SA DPC together we did every single game - Upper and Lower Div together. I think I casted with Trent a couple of games, but that's because Gareth was sick. I would love for us to be like a casting duo or something. At this point we've worked 2 DPC Seasons together so I think that counts for something. I would love to cast more with Gareth if given the chance.
Mike: On that topic, you also had the chance to cast with Aui_2000 during the TI10 Qualifiers. That had to be one of the highest MMR casting duos ever - what was that experience like?
1437: The thing is, when we're casting together, I understand exactly what he's saying in real time, and what he wants to point out because, like, we're thinking the same thing. I don't need to absorb what he's saying. and think about what he's saying. I can just take it in like “Oh, I know exactly where you’re going with this”. Boom - and then we just got that connection and can talk about the game non-stop. The flow is solid there. I saw some of the love people were showing us on Twitter and it was awesome.
It's funny, because Aui was the one who showed me the most love of everybody else in terms of like, my casting as well as my analyst work. He understood why I'm saying what I’m saying. Actually, I was the one who asked him “Let’s do a cast together, I’ll do play-by-play, I don’t care.” I think he brought it up and that’s how that happened. It was amazing and really fun.
With Gareth, he's really good at being able to take in what I say and give something back. But with Aui, like we're talking on some different level. For example, something I feel is missing in casting generally is the mentality of the players.
Everyone's talking about the Dota itself, but what's going on in the player's head is extremely important as well. Sometimes when they make a decision, they'll be scratching their head, but it's all the emotional stuff that's coming into play as well. This is something I know first-hand - because I've competed against them and with them as their captain right?
I think that's kind of the future: a play-by-play and analyst who are both very knowledgeable about the game and can talk to each other at a really high level. A caster who does that well also is Capitalist. He's pretty high MMR and he understands a lot of the high level stuff that these players might be thinking about.
The Story Behind D2 Hustlers
Mike: Speaking of playing competitively, you had a pretty successful run in the NA DPC with the D2 Hustlers this year too! Is competing still something you're leaving open?
1437: D2 Hustlers was just me doing something for my pastime, I thought that being able to play with in the DPC would improve my casting. It also puts me in the thick of things just a bit. I can understand the drafts a little better and it gives me a fresh perspective, and helps me know what the players are thinking.
I was always thinking about what’s going to help me and how I can improve (my casting). In terms of playing with D2 Hustlers, I’m not a bad player - I still got it, but I was definitely very hands-off. We just scrimmed like once a week before our game and then we just played, we just took it all like it was just for fun.
Before TI we did play a little more, I think that kind of hurt some of the other guys and their mentality because now they started to think more seriously. And I feel like because we were just so chill and laid back it allowed us to perform better before. TI is a whole other beast. And those three guys who never even played a qualifier before it really got to them.
Mike: For a team that was just having fun and chill, you made it pretty deep into the TI10 Qualifiers. Did the thought of qualifying ever cross the team's mind?
1437: I knew for a fact we weren’t going to make it, like I literally told my team “Guys, we have like a 0.001% chance to go to TI”. Not to demoralize them or anything but I was saying like don't expect to go to TI because if you do, that's how you're going to screw yourself over, you know?
Whenever you think you got an opportunity, then you're going start fumbling you're going start choking. You think “Oh we should be winning this”. I was just trying to help them remember why we got to where they are, because we just didn't care. We just didn't care, like people we played against, they care too much. And you just see in the gameplay. They're just so scared.
"I was just trying to help [the team] remember why we got to where we are, because we just didn't care. People we played against, they care too much - you can see it in their gameplay, they're just so scared."
When we played, we got scared as a team, because there was a point where we started caring. For me I knew I was just playing for fun because my goal the whole time was always to focus on casting.
The Barrier to Entry for New Casters
Mike: You mentioned that casting wasn't the easiest for you at the start because of the cohesion but it seems with Gareth and Aui, you've got that bit down! Is there any other aspect that you feel like has been challenging for you so far?
1437: I think for me at least, the biggest and the most difficult thing is actually getting the jobs. I'd like to be able to cast more European tournaments or be part of something on a bigger scale, but it's hard to break in. Don't get me wrong - SA DPC has been amazing. There's a lot of love in South America for all the guys who work there too. But SA, we feel like we're kind of in a corner on our own, while the rest of the world is happening.
I've played and coached in NA and Europe, lived in China and Southeast Asia for like four years. Now I've casted SA as well - I feel like I'm pretty well-versed in all of those regions. The goal has always been the same - make it to TI. It's just now I've decided I want to do it as a caster and analyst, instead of a player or coach.
The goal has always been the same - make it to TI. It's just now I've decided I want to do it as a caster and analyst, instead of a player or coach.
It might be awkward for me to say, but if you look at the casters right now, it's always the same faces. It definitely feels like there's a bit of favoritism. It's something that exists everywhere, and it just is what it is. But at the same time if you deliberately don't allow new talents to come into the scene, it's going cause problems.
Just like with players, it should be about boosting people up and giving them opportunities. Like the SA DPC, we didn't have a single person representing the region at both the Majors. Gareth only got the job [at the AniMajor] because OD couldn't make it. And once he's there, at his first ever Major by the way, everyone's like "Holy shit, this guy's good!". I'm sitting there like "What do you mean holy shit? This guys BEEN good the whole DPC season!" He brought that energy every single day, every single game.
They brought in some other people that were kind of new - you had Ephey, Gareth, Aui and even SUNSfan right? It was like a breath of fresh air, because they brought something new to the table. They were arguably the best part of the talent list at the event, in terms of how people saw them. I'm really happy they got that opportunity, and I have a lot of love for these guys.
After 1,300 duo casts MLP and Johnxfire are ready: “I want us on LAN, I want us to be able to show off what we have. It feels like it’s just been so close yet so far.”
Esports.gg had the chance to chat with the long-time duo to talk about their journey as professional casters. The duo have had a breakthrough year, but are still waiting for the opportunity to bring their energy to a big offline event.
Gabe "TCGDota" Phillips
Mike: This seems to be common issue that a lot of the up and coming casters face. When we spoke to MLP and johnxfire, they spoke about how they felt they didn't get to showcase what they have on a LAN. Is this something you feel as well?
1437: Absolutely. That's one of the reason I cast so many games, I really just wanted to make it to a LAN. I never turned down a single opportunity to cast, and it stings because I feel like I was just waiting to get an invitation that didn't happen.
I've been hearing the past week about people getting their TI invites, and it seems like I'm not on that list. So that's going to be another TI that I'm missing. It's heartbreaking to be honest, because this time around I feel like I did everything I could, but it's not really in my control.
I think one of the things that hurts my chances is social media as well. In terms of my social media presence, it's not much there. I'm the type of guy that even though I've been here since the start, I'm here because I love Dota. I don't love Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I love Dota and I'm here to talk about Dota.
I'm here because I love Dota. I don't love Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I love Dota and I'm here to talk about Dota.
I know these things like social media are important - I'm just not too good at being part of that stuff. I'm not one to befriend someone just because I want an opportunity. On one hand, I can try and adapt, but at the same time I don't want to be disingenuous to who I am. That's the last thing I want to be.
Mike: I'm sure there's a lot of disappointment and frustration, you've no doubt put in the work. Did you have somewhat of an expectation that you'd be able to make it this year?
1437: I did, to be honest. Especially during the SA DPC, I feel like Gareth and I were doing a very good job. We felt good too, just speaking to one another about it. We thought "Yeah, it's gonna happen this year."
I think it stings that I had four different coaching offers, and they were all pretty solid. Two of the four teams that asked me were already guaranteed for TI, and one of them got really closed. I turned it all down for casting, so I look kind of dumb now. But that's just who I am - at the start of the year I had already made my mind up that I was committed to casting. It's not that I'm opposed to it, it's just that my path was already set for me.
Maybe I shouldn't assume or whatever, maybe that's just bad of me. I think that's probably why I'm more disappointed but I'm still human.
Maybe I shouldn't assume or whatever, maybe that's just bad of me. I think that's probably why I'm more disappointed, but I'm still human.
The Road Ahead for 1437
Mike: Damn, that's rough. I guess at this point TI10 is out of the question for now. What's next for 1437?
I'm not really certain at this point, but retirement is something that I considered. The whole social media super presence - I'm not like that. I'm a lot more straightforward, I say things how they are and I just love Dota. That's why I played Underlords even when I was injured, cause it had to do with Dota. I begged, BEGGED for an Artifact key for so long for the same reason.
All my life since I was 14 years old, all I knew was Dota. I'm 28 now so that's 14 years - half of my life in the game. I think this is the first time I'm considering stepping away completely. Especially now that I have a family, and have to think about them too. I'm not a teenager anymore where I can just make careless and risky decisions following the path of Dota. For the most part it's worked out but now things are a bit different.
Mike: If you were to retire and step away now, would you be able to say you're satisfied with what you've accomplished in your career?
1437: If I were to leave...that's a good question. In terms of playing career I'd say yes, in terms of coaching I would agree. I'm just sad I was never able to win a TI, I won a Major and a Minor but I never conquered TI, and that is something that will always be on my mind. At this point I've already accepted that it's not going to happen as a player at least.
In terms of casting I feel like I still haven't been able to showcase what I'm capable of. I think my next step is a LAN as a caster and analyst, but we'll see.
I think for the most part, I'm leaning towards continuing casting. The chances of me playing again are not realistic. I want to be able to stay close to my family. I have a new baby and she's very precious to me and I just want to be close to her. I've been so focused on casting and doing analyst work and all that.
The thing is I don't even know what I would do if it wasn't something related to Dota. I've dedicated 14 years of my life to the game, and there's so much that I feel like I've learned. I think no matter what I'm doing, whether it's playing, watching or analyzing, you can always see my passion for the game.
I've dedicated 14 years of my life to the game, and there's so much I feel like I've learned. I think no matter what I'm doing, whether it's playing, watching or analyzing - you can always see my passion for the game.
Mike: Word. It's been great catching up with you! Do you have any closing thoughts or any shout-outs you want to make?
1437: Shout out to my family who has supported me, throughout all this, my wife who has always pushed me to be better. And is very understanding during the happiness but also the frustrations that I may go through.
My fans, those who do support me who also understand me, they're so loyal, they're incredibly loyal. And I love them very much. I definitely do a lot of the stuff that I do for them. Shout out to those who are willing to listen, whenever I had something of concern or I may have had some questions or whatever, that they were able to give me good feedback. Like people I work with, I can't really say that everybody was the same in that regard.
I want to give a special thanks to the people that I worked with at DOTA Pit. I feel like all those guys have been so kind. They've been very cool dudes who are very underrated in my opinion.
Shout out also to Aui_2000 because regardless of everything that's happened in the past, he's been the same person since day one that I met him. He's helped me out with a lot and he's amazing. He understands me, and I understand him very well too because we kind of like went through the same path. I'm very happy for him that he was able to showcase what he has and be able to get there.
Mike: Thanks for your time!
1437 is currently an analyst for the ongoing OGA Dota Pit Season 5 China tournament which you can tune into here.
“I couldn’t get him paid until we got an organization”: Undying’s GoFundMe highlights need for more institutional backing in pro Dota
Undying’s need for a GoFundMe highlight’s some of the problems with Dota 2’s professional scene and structure. The team heading to TI10 said their lack of funding has led to an inability to fund a bootcamp.