By Galen Andress
Player Name: Kiwikaki
Real Name: Jonathan Garneau
Current Team: ROOT Gaming
First MLG Event Attended: MLG Raleigh 2010
Number of Events Attended: 4
Best Placing: 2nd – MLG Dallas 2011 and MLG Raleigh 2010
Favorite Matchup: PvT
Other Favorite Competitive Games: Warcraft 3
Hobbies: Hanging out with friends and family, traveling
MLG: Thanks for joining us! You joined an elite class after Dallas this Season, becoming the only player to make the Finals of an MLG tournament twice. What does it take to do that in such a difficult tournament?
Kiwikaki: First I would say you need a lot of dedication to the game. I have been practicing a lot, mainly to get as far as possible in the MLGs. Also you need good practice partners, which I have on ROOT Gaming.
MLG: One thing that sets you apart from a lot of players is that you fit in some creative—yet technically precise—styles to go along with your standard play. How much time do you spend on wacky/creative builds compared to practicing your standard builds?
Kiwikaki: When I practice, my goal isn't to find creative builds; I just come up with them to solve the puzzle of some strategies that my opponents make. Sometimes the answer turns out to be unorthodox play that I've thought about.
MLG: So you don't go out of your way to practice or come up with unorthodox strategies?
Kiwikaki: Well, sometimes of course I'll try weird builds or strategies in practice games to see if they would be viable in a real game, but I don't really set aside practice time [just] to find new builds.
MLG: What advice would you give to players out there who are experimenting, trying to find the next Kiwikaki-esque creative build, like the Zealot/Immortal/Warp Prism rush from MLG D.C.?
Kiwikaki: Don't be scared to try out new ideas you've had, even if they look stupid at first. Ladder is made to try stuff out, so your stats don't matter. Long ago I heard people saying the Mothership was useless, and now I use it every game against Zerg when I get the chance.
MLG: Let's talk about your run in Dallas a little bit. You went 4-0 in Pool A (Idra, Socke, Gretorp, Huk), which was arguably the toughest group in Dallas. How did you feel after making it out of such a difficult Pool undefeated?
Kiwikaki: It felt good, mainly because I knew I would have a much easier road to the Finals.
MLG: There were a lot of great storylines in your group, specifically opportunities for you to get revenge against players that have had your number in previous MLGs. You were able to beat Huk, who eliminated you from Raleigh in the Finals, and Idra, who got the best of you in D.C. and is sort of a rival with your team, ROOT. Was the revenge sweet?
Kiwikaki: Beating Huk felt pretty good because it seemed like he just kept beating me last year, so finally getting my revenge was satisfying. I had practiced a lot against Zerg since I knew Idra was in my group, so it was a great confidence-booster to see that the practice paid off.
MLG: When you finally made it to the Finals, it was an extended series against Naniwa, who had taken you down 2-0 in the Winners Bracket Semifinals. Were you aware that he was completely undefeated heading into the Finals? What aspect of his play do you think was the strongest throughout the weekend?
Kiwikaki: I knew he was undefeated because they had been saying it on the cast. Naniwa's micro is very strong. I had to change my builds for the Finals because I lost to him in the Winners Bracket Semis, when I usually like to follow the plan that I set in training before the tournament. I was able to take two games off of him with simple 4 Gates that we both did almost every game.
MLG: You've been to all the MLGs so far. What do you think about the live LAN experience, especially at one as big as an MLG Event, and how do you handle the pressure of playing in front of such a big crowd?
Kiwikaki: There is always stress at LAN events, but I've gotten used to it. I like LANs a lot more than online tournaments because I feel like LANs are where it matters most, and you finally get to see if your practice has paid off.
MLG: What matchup do you feel most confident in right now, and which one do you feel is your worst?
Kiwikaki: I think my PvT is my best. I try to play safe and have long, macro games—which I'm best at. My weakest has always been PvP, because most of the time I refuse to go for Colossus wars, so I end up losing to Colossus a lot.
MLG: A lot of people feel that Protoss is the strongest race at the moment, especially in the late game. Do you agree with that?
Kiwikaki: In some situations Protoss is the strongest, yes. But the combination of Battlecrusiers and Ghosts is nearly impossible to beat, and Zerg with a lot of Brood Lords and Infestors is also very strong. If [Terran or Zerg] try and make a standard army, then Protoss will be strongest at 200 food.
MLG: Blizzard recently released a set of patch notes (1.3.3) that are going onto the PTR. How do you feel about the changes on the way for Protoss?
Kiwikaki: I like them so far. Archons becoming Massive units could change PvP a bit, since they can break Forcefields. Build times on Gateway units being reduced is nice too, because I think it's going to be possible to do double Gateway openings against Zerg again, which I like a lot.
MLG: How hard do you think it will be for Protoss players to readjust their openings around the new Warpgate research time?
Kiwikaki: The timings and builds will change but I don't think it will be too hard to adapt. It will clearly be hard for the Protoss players who only go for the 4 Gate all-in, but I don't do that too often.
MLG: Tell us a bit about your competitive gaming background.
Kiwikaki: I started playing Warcraft 3 when it came out a long time ago. At that time I was just playing for fun and didn't know there were big tournaments. After a few years of playing for fun I got into competitive gaming. I tried to qualify for the WCG Finals, and I did—that was my first major tournament. After that I qualified for many tournaments all over the world. I got a lot of 1st Place finishes in the North American scene, but I wasn't good enough to get to the World Finals. I got into the game kind of late, so other pro gamers had a big advantage over me.
After a few years of WC3 I got into poker. I played poker professionally for about three years. When I heard StarCraft 2 was coming out I knew I wanted to be a pro gamer again, so I stopped playing poker and began playing SC2 full time.
MLG: Warcraft 3 is a very different RTS than StarCraft 2, specifically because it has less focus on economy management and more on unit control. What skills do you feel carried over best from WC3 to SC2, and what was the hardest thing to adjust to?
Kiwikaki: As you said, unit control was a core part of WC3, so I feel like my unit control in SC2 is probably the best part of my game. I didn't find anything very hard to adjust to in SC2; the macro mechanics and being able to put buildings in one control group are very similar to WC3.
MLG: When did you join ROOT, and how were you recruited?
Kiwikaki: I joined during the Beta. Catz asked me if I was interested in joining, and I thought it would be good to have good practice partners, so I accepted.
MLG: Are you living in the ROOT house in Florida?
Kiwikaki: Not full-time, but I went two weeks before MLG to practice. I'll probably go back again like that to train before big Events.
MLG: What's it like to go hang out with your teammates and practice before big Events?
Kiwikaki: It's pretty cool, since we're all in a practice atmosphere. It's a lot easier to practice with them when we're all in the same house and you can just go smack them on the back of the head and say, “Yo, come practice.” It was a good experience and we all had fun.
MLG: So you've made it out to Florida for practice, but a few months back you went all the way out to Korea and were one game away from qualifying for the GSL. Do you have plans to go back and try to qualify again?
Kiwikaki: It's not in my plans right now as there are so many tournaments in North America, and you have to live in Korea to participate in the GSL. Maybe I will go again one day if the time is right.
MLG: What are your thoughts on the explosion of competitive StarCraft 2 in North America? How far do you think it can go?
Kiwikaki: Having a huge tournament scene in North America is pretty awesome, especially [since it’s] the first year that the game is out. StarCraft 2 has had so much success in such a short amount of time, and the tournaments keep getting bigger. I think it certainly could get as big as it is in Korea.
MLG: What do you do with your time when you’re not playing StarCraft?
Kiwikaki: Not a whole lot, really. When I'm not playing I like to travel a lot with friends and family.
MLG: Thanks very much for taking the time to talk with us! Any shoutouts before you go?
Kiwikaki: I want to thank my fans for watching me, and give a shoutout to my team, ROOT Gaming, and Dr Pepper for sponsoring me.