"We are not here to get 2nd or 3rd place, we want to win!": Leon "Nine" Kirilin, Mid-Laner of Tundra Esports

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Credit: Image via Tundra Esports

Tundra Esports' DOTA 2 roster has been making quite a few waves in the professional circuit thanks to exquisite performances from the team. Despite missing out on a TI qualification, Tundra Esports has managed to not only face-off against some of the best DOTA 2 teams in the world but has also defeated them with some spectacular displays of DOTA 2.

After conquering the ESL One Fall 2021, Gfinity Esports had the opportunity to have a chat with Tundra Esports' star mid-laner, Leon "Nine" Kirilin. The player spoke at length about his journey, his inspirations as well as his absolute dislike for Batrider.


Without further ado, let's dive into an excerpt of the conversation we had with Nine.

Nine talks about the growth of the DOTA 2 esports scene and more

Q: Before getting started, could you tell our readers a bit about your story and how you came to become one of the best contemporary DOTA 2 players?

Nine: My name is Leon Kirilin and I come from Germany. I spent a lot of time playing DOTA when I was growing up and at some point I realised I was quite good and I wanted to make that final step to go pro.

I pushed myself really hard to achieve high MMR, which I did and joined Penta [Sports], my first professional team. That was the start of my career. Afterwards I had a lot of ups and downs. Being at Tundra [Esports] is definitely my biggest up. I think throughout the last year I have tried to grow as a player and a person.

Q: First of all, a hearty congratulations on winning the ESL One Fall 2021. Throughout the course of the tournament, which opponent seemed to be the hardest for you to beat and why?

Nine: The hardest opponent for us to beat was probably Virtus Pro since we lost to them 2-0 in the group stages. They had a good read on how we were playing as a team and it was a real struggle. However when it was time to face them again in the upper bracket we were confident that the practice we had put in every day would yield good results.


Even during the tournament, we had scrims every day so we could get ahead of the meta and find new strategies that were good. So when we met Virtus Pro again we felt we were able to adapt and come prepared with new heroes.

Q: Apart from your mid-lane signature heroes like Zeus and Lina, we have also seen you playing a bunch of unorthodox heroes like Winter Wyvern and KOTL. What is your inspiration behind drafting such heroes in high-intensity tournament matches?

Nine: The main inspiration is to win the game. Simple as that. I like to try out and ask for certain heroes during scrims because, in the end, you want to try and find the best possible heroes.

Sometimes they are heroes like Winter Wyvern and KOTL who are a little more unorthodox and not as easy to play. Once I have a feeling about a hero that could be broken I just try it and see if it works out.

Q: You burst into the professional DOTA 2 scene back in 2017. What has it been like to play with legends of the game like Fear, fng, and others? How much has their influence affected your growth and performance as a player?


Nine: I really enjoyed playing with FNG and Fear. They were probably my favourite and the most inspirational teammates I have played with. Even though Fear is older than the average DOTA player and he already won The International he was still the hardest working player in the team. I have a lot of respect for him because of his dedication to the game.

That dedication is still something that inspires me because I have always had a problem with giving 100% to the game. His influence and my work over the last couple of years have made me a better player.

Q: It is a huge disappointment to not be participating in The International for any DOTA 2 professional. Considering the fact that stellar teams like yourself, TNC Predator, Team Nigma, and several others won’t be participating this year, what are your thoughts about the competitive structure that has been set by Valve?

Nine: I think that the competitive structure and the whole league system is enjoyable. It's good for the tier two scene as well and there are a lot of ways for teams to earn money now. Obviously, it still needs improvements but I think it's getting there.

When it comes to the DPC points I am not a fan of how many points teams get for winning the regional qualifiers because I feel the teams that go on top at the majors should get more points. You should be rewarded for playing the best on an international level.

Q: What do you think about the future of DOTA 2 esports and what is required for sustaining a healthy competitive environment?

Nine: I think DOTA 2 is a lasting esport. It has a very loyal fanbase and it's a game that is constantly changing which makes it stay interesting. On the competitive environment side, I just hope that we can have a more regular tournament structure with lots of LAN events.


During COVID we had a real downslide in a lack of tournaments and LAN and I missed them a lot so happy we slowly moving back to them

Q: If you could remove any one hero from DOTA 2, which hero would it be and why?

Nine: I would have to say Batrider. Maybe just the first spell but I feel like the way the hero works is super annoying. I just hate playing against it, it's very annoying. If you make one mistake you can just die. It doesn't matter how tanky you are. It doesn't matter what hero you are playing. Very few heroes can play against Batrider.

Q: Your playstyle has often been compared with various notable mid-laners. What do you think about that and is there any professional player from whom you draw inspiration for your playstyle?

Nine: I am happy I am being compared to other notable mid-laners. When it comes to who I draw inspiration from there isn't really anyone in particular because I feel like I play the best DOTA when I listen to my feelings. I like to figure out what works best for me.

Q: There is a fair bit of time left before the next DPC season kicks off. What are the long-term goals for the team and how do you plan on achieving them in the upcoming season?


Nine: The long-term goal is to get to the next TI. All of us really want to get to LAN events and majors. We don't want another season where we are missing out. We want to prove that we can play on an international level throughout the year, then get to TI with a solid year under our belts.

We have been improving consistently and we plan on just working harder and keeping up the momentum. We are not here to get 2nd or 3rd place, we want to win!

Q: Finally, if you had to give any advice to new players who aim at becoming a professional DOTA 2 player, what would it be?

Nine: First thing would be to accept that it will be a long journey and you will need to put a lot of work in. You need to put all your energy into continually improving and don't get distracted from the path you are taking. Competition is fierce and it won't be easy. You should be ready to make the commitment.

Read More: "While we are still growing, our aim is to compete at the highest level" - Anthony Graham, Co-Founder of Tundra Esports