Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 - Team Previews [Part 1]

Vignesh Raghuram

27th, Mar, 2018
A full year has passed and we return again to China, to arguably one of the biggest tournaments in Dota 2 history: The Dota 2 Asia Championships, this time a Major.

Last year’s edition featured, among many things, the return of the B-God: Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei, The Fall of EG and Team Liquid, and Invictus Gaming’s first major international LAN victory since ESL One Frankfurt 2014. The tournament also showcased some of the most impressive Opening and Closing ceremonies of Dota 2 LANs ever seen. Sitting as one of the premier majors right in the middle of this season along with the Bucharest Major, it is highly likely that the winner will almost guarantee an invite to The International 8.

The Teams

Team Liquid

The reigning TI champions with a drive to become the first ever team to successfully defend the Aegis, Team Liquid look to continue dominating the scene as a top team feared by many. In spite of all that, they’ve looked slightly shaky as they were eliminated by Fnatic in the recently concluded Dreamleague, a highly unexpected result. However, the team was missing their star carry Amer ‘Miracle’ Barkawi decided to not attend this event.

With him back in the line-up, Liquid will remain as a respected and formidable team, and among the favorites here in Shanghai.

Team Liquid is headed by none other than Kuroky; the calm and collected captain remains a very stable drafter and player. Bringing to the table a wealth of competitive experience, he appears to be the unsung hero of the team, the stable emotional check, and balance. In contrast, we have his supporting partner, GH, making the big flashy plays. They are arguably one of the best support duos in the scene right now, with a near-perfect balance of solid position 5 and flashy position 4. Add to that the stability in Mind_Control as a very suitable position 3 player, both in his playstyle and his role, the team has a very strong supporting cast. Miracle~ and Matumbaman round up the team offering 2 players with seemingly vast hero pools.

Playing a very solid style centered around Miracle~ as the standout player with solid early-mid game control and reliable late-game prowess, it’s hard to find a fault in their all-rounded strategies. Team Liquid is easily one of the biggest favorites heading into the Dota 2 Asia Championships.

Long-time CIS darlings Virtu.Pro come in looking strong off the back of 2 consecutive championship wins at the ESL One: Katowice 2018, and the Bucharest Major 2018. Seemingly having trouble at the Dreamleague Major, they’ve quickly pulled themselves back to the ground on the back of the recent roster swap (RodjER in, Lil out) and delivered some of the most sensational performances in Katowice and Bucharest hardly putting a step wrong.

A diverse support duo in Solo and RodjER, both players are adept at the heroes they play. With Solo taking on the 5 role, RodjER freely makes solid early game rotations, securing the lane for No[o]ne in particular as Solo plays very sacrificially, allowing RodjER to do that much more. Perhaps the most consistent player on the team, 9pasha plays the 3, allowing them to dominate teamfight upon teamfight time after time whether it’s on his signature Omniknight, his dominant Brewmaster, Puck, or Sand King, he delivers. Add to that the team’s recent favor for Furion in the offlane, the generic supporting cast of the team allows them to play greedier drafts. No[o]ne and Ramzes666 round up the roster with their one-two punch of flashy plays and stable yet thorough dismantling of foes, respectively. The duo prove a very formidable core with vast effective hero pools, making it hard to ban out vs VP.

Often placing No[o]ne at the forefront of their strategies, the team play a similarly all-rounded style, focusing on securing a good early game and taking objectives step by step. However, what truly stands out for the team is their brilliant team fighting and coordination, sure to give them an edge at DAC 2018.
Team Secret

The European giants, towering across all competition except Team Liquid in Europe, are out for blood. They have been under the radar of late, disappointing in the last two majors. But fans of Team Secret need not worry too much as they look like they’ve had a resurgence of late and recently won the Dreamleague Season 9 – Dota 2 Minor without dropping a single game.

The similarities between the Top 3 teams on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit can be seen in how their rosters play together and how the different roles all mesh. Very few teams can emulate Team Secret’s formula for success, their distribution of farm, the way they approach the laning stage, their unique hero pools, knowing when to go in and most importantly, when to back out. Puppey playing the hard 5 gives him room to be the brains of the team, directing each member as the brain directs each nerve, ensuring there is a clear game plan while sacrificing his own “glory” of farm and flashy plays on the map. Add an awkward 3/4 duo of FATA and YapzOr, Puppey’s sacrificial style let’s both these players get the most of their heroes with the farm remaining on the map.

YapzOr is a force to be reckoned with, his Rubick has overtaken many a core hero and his prowess on Earthshaker makes for teams wasting 1st/2nd phase bans on out of meta heroes. FATA, on the other hand, delivers time and again on Teamfight controlling heroes like Tidehunter and Puck, enabling the cores to do so much more. Finally, of course, the dynamic core duo of Ace and Midone, among the best in the world at their respective roles. Ace especially always seems to take over the mid-game, making flashy plays and securing objectives even when playing traditionally boring, “un-flashy” heroes like Lone Druid and Lifestealer. Meanwhile, Midone displays a vibrant innovative light, always playing with seemingly flawless game-tailored itemization and brilliant knowledge of his limits.

There are only a few words to describe the team’s playstyle: fast, aggressive, disciplined, calm. Surely we would’ve thought that they’re a very loud team who get overhyped, yet we were proven wrong with their calmness and precision when it came to the execution of their drafts. They will seek to secure their stamp on the tournament and the season with a victory in Shanghai.
Vici Gaming

The hometown hopefuls of DAC 2018 have relatively high expectations coming off a 2nd place finish at the ESL One: Katowice 2018 – Dota 2 Major. Definitely, an inconsistent team, a title-win at DAC 2018 will put them within touching distance of an invite to TI8, truly befitting a team with that much individual skill and experience. Having played in the European servers recently thanks to their participation in the ESL One: Katowice and the Bucharest Major, it will be interesting to see what new strategies they can bring to the table amidst a patch that heavily favors their greedy style.

The exciting 1-2 punch of Ori and Paparazzi appear to offer a stable core for the team to fall back on at all times. However, previous patches haven’t been favoring this as the team seemingly failed to mesh. Come ESL One: Katowice though, things began going their way and the meta shift allowed for a more favorable playstyle for the team, allowing both cores to amass vast net worth game after game.

Recent minor balance patches do not seem to have affected the team, however, the team is less rigid in terms of farm distribution compared to other teams, allowing both supports to get some measure of farm and stay relevant. With their level of individual skill and wealth of experience, LaNm and Fenrir tend to make key early game rotations, mostly to shut down enemy cores and protect Papparazi from heavy and frequent ganking. Completing the lineup is eLeVeN, the offlaner exhibiting great game knowledge in playing his role. In spite of a general lack of flashy plays in contrast with other offlaners such as Mind_Control and FATA, he tends to play a very stable and flexible style, often playing slightly more farm-light offlaners, again pointing to the sacrificial style of the team.

With a farm-focused playstyle and solid early-mid game performances, the team seems to have few chinks in their armor besides choking, but their versatility means they are a team that cannot be banned out by enemy drafters. Vici Gaming will be hoping to get a great placement at the DAC 2018 to allow them to take the next big step towards the upcoming International.

Chinese powerhouse Newbee is in much the same state as Vici Gaming. Victors of ESL One: Genting and a 3rd-4th at Bucharest, they fell short at Dreamleague Season 9 against a resurgent Fnatic roster, crashing out in 7th– 8th Place after losing 2-0 to Evil Geniuses. Following their swift exit at Dreamleague season 9, they look to reaffirm their status as a top Chinese team at DAC 2018.

Rallied behind the rising legend that is Sccc, the team do not appear to have any fundamental issues. Looking back at their performance in Dreamleague Season 9 and ESL One: Katowice, it could be argued that their losses have slightly been due to the draft. Opting for a more 4-Protect one type playstyle reminiscent of the Dota 1 days, the team have been favoring heroes like Medusa and Outworld Devourer in the current patch with playmaking, low-farm offlaners, carries. Sccc remains an intimidating mid player, having a wealth of signature heroes in harmony with Moogy’s vast hero pool, making it hard to ban out this team. Add to that kpii’s prominence on heroes like Tidehunter and Puck along with his Omniknight, the team is rarely without resources. Similarly, Kaka has a pool of very effective heroes, Earth Spirit and Sand King, in particular, this patch. That said, what seems to make it or break it for the team is the 5 player, Faith. Favoring strong teamfight heroes with AOE or ganking skills, he has built a solid foundation for the team, his signature heroes this patch being Rubick and Disruptor. Setting a clear game plan for the team each game, it would appear that Faith is the real genius behind Newbee’s success.

Prioritising key mid-game timings in their strategies along with strong teamfight, Newbee is very similar to Team Liquid, often winning crucial team fights and taking objectives in a step-by-step manner. The discipline with which Chinese Dota has long been associated also shines through as Newbee seek to claim another title to secure their invite to TI8.

The best SEA team according to the DPC points table, this team has taken their foot of the gas after a strong to the season. The team has, as all good teams do, fallen from glory, having stagnated at the pinnacle for too long. Here at DAC 2018, they will seek to reclaim that long-lost glory after a long bootcamp in China.

Jabz’s transition to the 4-Position/Captain has been a revelation, he has a brilliant mind about the game. In cahoots with him is the sole Filipino player ninjaboogie and together they have proven to be an above average support duo, frequently making space for the two cores and making key rotations that allow Iceiceice to shine. Next is the face of the team, Iceiceice. With a wide range of heroes in his arsenal, consistency in mechanical skills, and droves of experience, he is the foundation of the team, constantly delivering game after game to the best of his ability.

Working with him is Moon, the young Malaysian offlaner has been solid in the Mid position. He receives an undue amount of respect in the drafting phase because of his prowess on heroes like Mirana and Puck, getting off key initiations and often controlling the tempo of Mineski’s games. Completing the roster is the Legendary Mushi, a veteran of the scene and an all-time great, he brings his experience and widely respected carry skills to the team, often opting to take a step back and playing the heroes that fit, allowing his offlaner and Mid to shine through.

With a traditionally fast playstyle and Mushi’s experience to keep the team’s aggression in check, the team tend to draft around powerful mid-game timings and seemingly don’t sacrifice anyone in the laning stage, which often places the burden of winning the early game on Jabz’s shoulders. Placing well in DAC 2018 may well reignite the flames of glory that Mineski once rode at the start of the season.
TNC Pro Team

After a roster change that saw them ditch 1437, the team have much to prove to their ex-captain and show that they aren’t the B-Team in the TNC organization. Having fallen to Chinese team VGJ.Thunder in a close and tense 2-1 series, the team need another boost to their confidence, especially after losing to Fnatic in the finals of the Starladder Season 5 SEA qualifiers. It’s been 3 months since this roster last won some DPC points and they certainly seek to add some more at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018.

Leading the team is Kuku with his unique captaining, hardly hesitating to go for slightly unorthodox drafts on top of flashy support plays. Joining him is TIMS, the hyper-aggressive playmaker. Highly underrated, TIMS remains an extremely stable support player who always gets the right things done game after game with admirable discipline, such that he might even be considered the pillar of the team. Riding ahead of them is the eccentric Sam_H, who recently has had seemingly lackluster performances. However, his generic attitude towards the game and self-improvement should see him back on his feet as the team’s sensational playmaker as he once was with his stable hero pool. Lastly, the strong duo core of Armel and Raven provide a formidable finish to each of the team’s games, consistency in the skill being their common trait. The two have proven time and again to be highly capable individuals, adapting when required yet staying true to the game plan.

Playing around early timings most of the time, the team is strongest during the early-mid game, often taking decisive tempo-setting team fights during this period. However, this style is heavily dependent on Kuku’s draft and its ease of execution. The team looks to be the underdog at the tournament, overshadowed by Fnatic and Mineski’s recent successes in DPC events, but perhaps the Filipino roster will finally gain some DPC points to help their TI8 invite cause.
Evil Geniuses

Evil Geniuses reign over the NA region has been surprising given the strength of other teams in it, but their hold on the top spot has been slipping of late. With the resurgence of Complexity, VGJ.Storm, and Optic Gaming; Evil Geniuses have real competition in the region for the first time in quite a while. For a team that is aiming to be the best in the world, that’s a worrying sign.

Evil Geniuses’ inconsistent performances in DPC events have made it extremely difficult to know just how well they will perform against the rest of the teams at the DAC 2018. Their stakes lie on shaky grounds of them being a better team than what was showcased in the recently concluded NA qualifiers of MDL, GESC as well as the Madness Qualifier.

Arteezy has time and again proven to be extremely solid on his brand of carry heroes. Given the right laning stage, a farrago of perfected farming patterns and objective based gaming has catapulted Evil Geniuses to victory numerous times, including the recent past where they pummelled every single team at the event and VGJ.Thunder in the Grand Finals to take home the title. After extremely impressive performances at The Bucharest Major and the ESL One: Katowice 2018 where Evil Geniuses’ fluidity between their 3 cores was a real nightmare for enemy teams to deal with.

What Evil Geniuses lack is that finer touch. Their skill is on par with many top teams in the world; either of Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan or Artour “Arteezy” Babaev could be said to be among the elite at their role. The win at GESC: Indonesia was a good initial step, but EG cannot be content with just that. A team of Evil Geniuses caliber should be vying to win a Major, not simply be an also-ran.



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