Cover Image source: Joindota
It’s been a turbulent year for TNC and not a lot of success has gone their way but the Filipino side are known for being a side that shows up at LANs and their presence at TI8 will certainly make things interesting. No silverware this season put TNC in a tough spot in the SEA Qualifiers but they persevered from a near unwinnable situation against sister team, TNC Tigers to book their tickets to Vancouver. We take a look at their journey from TI7 up until now.
TI7 saw TNC with an exceptionally good group stage performance and an equally horrific playoff performance that rewarded them with a 9th-12th place finish. They didn’t find the need to make any roster changes immediately and kicked off their DPC campaign hoping to prove themselves in the new season. Unfortunately only one SEA team reigned supreme at the start of the campaign and that was Mineski.
The team reached the SEA Qualifier finals 3 times in the first 6 events but were inconsistent in others and failed to make the LANs. MDL Macau would be the first DPC event for TNC, much thanks to a monster performance by Raven on his Terrorblade against Mineski in the Qualifiers. At the LAN as well, the acclaimed carry player stepped up once again as TNC found wins over teams like LGD, LFY, EHOME and eventually VP in the semifinals. They fell flat in the finals, losing 2-0 to the team that knocked them out of TI7, OG.
After Macau TNC fell into a slump. Not only were they successful in the SEA qualifiers but the manner in which they were losing was quite disheartening to see. With Fnatic and Mineski being directly invited for ESL One Genting, the road was clear for TNC but they were unable to get out of the group stages. Their next event would be the Bucharest Major where they won against Mineski, OpTic Gaming and Na’Vi in the groups but then fell to VG.J Thunder in the playoffs. It was clear at this point that TNC needed a change. Something wasn’t working for them and they were unable to play in a convincing manner that would give fans hope of them taking a trophy.
Change came in the form of 18-year old Armel, who had previously played for Clutch Gamers. And departing the team was the only non-Filippino player in the squad, Theeban ‘1437’ Siva. The Canadian IGL had been with the squad for about 8 months, bringing in a better drafting approach that allowed Raven to shine and let Tims grow into a world class 4 position by giving him the space required. However, Kuku and the gang felt that he had nothing new to give and the midlaner moved to the 5 position, allowing Armel to continue playing mid.
TNC secured their first LAN spot, shortly after the change as they overcame Fnatic to make it to the Dota 2 Asian Championships. At DAC, they took down big names like OpTic and Liquid as they finished in a respectable 4th place after losing out to the in-form VP. A convincing performance in the group stages followed by a good run in the playoffs, while Kuku shone on his new role and Armel impressed everyone with his play from the mid lane.
Towards the end of the season, TNC made it to 2 more majors, MDL Changsha and China Dota 2 Supermajor At Changsha, they got unlucky in the seedings and went up against eventual winners, PSG.LGD pretty early on. At the Supermajor, they needed a miracle to get a direct invite for TI, but fell to OpTic Gaming who had been ramping up their form in the recent weeks. Overall, despite some glimpses of hope, TNC had a disappointing season and their performances against the stronger teams was lacking for the most part.
At the TI8 SEA Qualifiers, TNC finished top of the group but were beaten by Fnatic in the playoffs. They fought out a series against sister team, TNC Tigers for a chance to go to Vancouver and were able to come out on top. After the series was tied 1-1, Tigers took a massive 25k lead and 2 sets of barracks. TNC Predator were on the brink of elimination but made slow and steady comebacks with the help of Tim’s Naga who kept the lanes pushed out. The game would go 74 minutes before Predator were able to close it out, making it one of the finest comebacks in the history of competitive Dota.
In terms of drafts, TNC’s style is quite unique. They will often go all in on their cores and hope that Raven and Armel will step up to the challenge. Both players usually play LANs with lesser hero pools than teams like Liquid and Secret and you’ll typically see even the supports of TNC stick to 2-3 heroes at a LAN. Raven has made quite a few heads turn with his performance on the TB. Of late he has started playing heroes that tend to have impact earlier and can go around and dominate the map. These include Lycan, Lifestealer and even the Slark. For Armel, the recent trend that TNC picked up on was the Bloodseeker. But he still busts out the occasional OD and SF, two heroes, he seems to be confident on. Other staples include Dragon Knight, Death Prophet and Razor.
The addition of Armel and Kuku’s captaincy has surely been a plus for TNC. They have always been a hard working team and are feared for their ability to knock out favorites from any stage of the competition. TNC have also done relatively well in group stages of the DPC events they played, something that they’ll need to repeat to go far at TI8. Success at TI8 for them will depend on getting themselves that upper bracket cushion because on a good day, they can blow VP, LGD and Liquid out of the server at the same time.
Historically, they’ve had some iconic performances at TIs but it’s that same reputation that makes other teams be extra careful when facing them. Much of their success will depend upon Kuku’s draft and temperament and his ability to enable the likes of Raven and Armel.