Interview with Masters Champion Ataraxia

A quick introduction to Nate ‘Ataraxia’ Mark.

He is a two-time SWC runner-up, winner of the Masters LAN, captain of what is currently the best team in the world Obey Alliance, winner of the 2014 EU regional championship, creator of the famed Unicorn Build of old, the 2nd highest esports earner from the UK (no points for guessing who is in first) and long-standing veteran of the Smite competitive scene.

If you want to learn more about Smite and its competitive scene, Ataraxia is the sort of person you should be listening to!


On top of the recent success you have been seeing as a team, you must be very happy with your own personal performances. Over the Spring Split you have the highest K/D, KDA and GPM, What more could an ADC want? You are now pushing for the title of best player in the world. What would you attribute that too? Do you think that you have progressed in any significant way, or is it more that your current team gives you a platform to produce these performances?

I don’t think I’ve really changed. I’d say I’m less anxious about what people think of me, what I build and how good of a player they actually think I am. I don’t think many viewers, or pros, actually rate me that highly and that’s something that I used to fight against and get upset about. I like to think I’ve overcome that now; I don’t need other people to validate me when we’ve been performing as we have, as well as myself being personally relevant in the scene for such a long time.

More than that, though, I think it’s always been the team that’s made me look good. Prime, Twig, Variety and Frezzyy have been making me look good since S3 and now I have maniaKK and EmilZy making me look even better!

Worlds is what everyone always has one eye on. As great as the success Obey as a team has seen so far, I assume you have a focus on making sure you are the best team in the world going into Worlds. How do you hope to achieve this?

The hope is to keep on doing what we’re doing. We’re meshing really well as a team and I’m confident we’ll only grow stronger as the season goes on. We all get along better than any team I’ve been a part of before, and everyone is always keen to test their ingenuity as the game is updated. So long as we keep that fire and passion we have, I think we’ll be well on our way to becoming one of the top teams in the world.

When talking to Hi-Rez at one of the recent LANs you said if you were to win Worlds it would be down to Emilzy. His stats speak for themselves – from the Spring Split he had highest assists, but more impressively for a support, he had 3rd highest KDA and 9th highest GPM. He is quite clearly putting in great performances, as someone tagged as a cerebral player, what does he give outside the game on top of his great in game performance?

EmilZy brings a ton of energy to the team for sure. He’s the youngest player on the squad by a fair bit and he definitely brings that youthful enthusiasm. I think it’s such an underrated feature that a lot of teams lack, but EmilZy is genuinely excited by the game and loves it a lot. He’ll talk about stuff that happens in the SPL, LAN or scrims days afterward because they were awesome moments. A lot of people get disillusioned with a game after they spend so much time playing it, but I’m glad EmilZy isn’t one of those players because it’s something that makes us all better as a result.

We have seen a lot of criticism recently of Season 4 from the community. I will admit having played from beta at the start of the season I was just happy for some genuine change, although the priority on pressure and early snowballing is starting to grate a tad. We have seen the removal rituals (rightly so), we have had complaints about the map and we are seeing adjustments to experience thresholds in early levels. Overall what are your feelings on Season 4 and do you think these changes will be an improvement to the game state?

Like you, I’ve always loved change for the game; playing the same thing for so long definitely gets stale and I’m glad that Ajax and the rest of the design team aren’t afraid to try new things and test the waters, regardless of how much the community moans. It keeps the game fresh, it keeps the game growing and most importantly it IS making the game better. I’ve really enjoyed Season 4 so far through its highs and lows, and I’ve had a ton of fun playing it. Maybe it’s because of the roster we have now and the fact that we’re doing so well, or maybe it is just the state of the game. Either way I’m having a blast.

With that said, I am very excited for the changes that are rumoured for Season 5, with a map overhaul and what not. I think it’s going to be the season that really shows the vision Ajax and the rest have for Smite and I can’t wait to see it. Should be extremely spicy!

As a follow-up, in what ways would you like to improve Smite in its current form? This does not have to be minor changes, it could be drastic changes you hope to see in Season 5.

I think map changes are something I’m keen to see. Snowball and pressure have been essential to competitive Smite for as long as I’ve been playing, and while they should be important I do feel like comeback mechanics are lacking right now. I think currently if you win a teamfight, then you usually swing a lead big enough that unless you and your team seriously cock up, it’s insurmountable. To counter that, I’d like the number of things you can do off a won teamfight to be lower, at least in the early to mid game. A teamfight won right now usually means you snag all the contestable objectives on the map and/or enough towers. Perhaps making objectives harder to kill, towers harder to kill or much shorter respawn timers for levels 5-16 would be a suitable way to counter it.

That’s all off the top of my head though, honestly so long as the game keeps changing I don’t mind where they take it!

As captain of Obey, what extra responsibility does that put on your shoulders? To those of us not playing competitively, it can be hard to understand exactly what the role of captain of an esports team is.

There’s not much, really. I think a lot of teams bring their own definitions to ‘captain’. Personally, I just try and keep the team focused. If we’re going on a tangent with picks, then I try to get us coordinated. If we’re getting too flustered in game, I try to direct the flow of the game. These aren’t things that are unique to captains though, and I’m definitely not the only person on the team who does it. All in all, it’s really hard to quantify what it means. You’d probably get a better answer from a non-captain team member!

Not focused on Smite in particular but on esports as a whole, how sustainable do you see esports as a career? It requires dedication, skill and a lot of time to be an esports pro. In its current state, the exclusivity and effort required to make it to the top, combined with the lack of longevity, does not seem to have the economic rewards those economic factors would normally provide. As well, eo you think in general enough is done by the companies and organisations who profit from esports to make it sustainable for players?

I think if you go into esports, you’re almost certainly doing it for the passion, not necessarily for the economic reward. Personally, the money is a means that allows me to keep doing my dream job, which is competing in a video game. Any extra I make is obviously fantastic, but after this is all over for me, I’m under no illusion that I’ll probably be in a less than ideal situation job prospect wise.

That’s something I’ve made my peace with, and I fully understand that it’s my fault. I COULD stream, I COULD produce videos and I COULD go the extra mile to ensure job viability after I’m done playing.

In the end, I think it’s up to players to decide how much they get out this. There’s a lot of room for players to make this a sustainable income for themselves if they’re willing to put the work in!

To end, I would just like to say good luck in the rest of the season, hope you win Worlds, would be great to see another Brit lifting the hammer!


Top image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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