While SEA has always been home to some of the most passionate fans in the Dota 2 realm, it hasn’t always been in the limelight.
That certainly changed in 2019, with several Tier 1 teams emerging into the spotlight and making waves consistently both with their plays and out-of-game antics. Their emergence has brought them to the forefront of the game, resulting in some dramatic moments, controversies and truly bizarre headlines.
Here are our Top 10 SEA Dota 2 Moments of 2019
(See Also: Top 5 Shocking Moments in the Indian PUBGM Scene)
Boom ID’s "gg" call at the Bucharest Minor
This might very well be one of the biggest blunders in Dota 2 history. Indonesian powerhouse BOOM ID called "gg" when they were about to win the game and lost it as a result. Sounds bizarre? It’s painful to watch.
At the Bucharest Minor 2019, fighting for survival, BOOM ID were understandably under a lot of pressure. The game was going their way, but their opponents Team Team had a superior late game lineup that managed to make a last-ditch comeback.
The Indonesians took a disastrous teamfight, and were seemingly about to lose the game. However, while the heroes were dead, BOOM ID’s creeps were carrying the game on their backs. In Team Team's base, the tier 4 towers had fallen, and the ancient was dying to the creeps!
BOOM ID did not notice this though and forfeited the game before the creeps could finish the job, handing their opponents an easy victory. It wasn't until after the game ended did they realize their mistake. Many dubbed it as the biggest throw in Dota 2 history.
The Indonesians did manage to win Game 2 of the series, but lost Game 3 resulting in them being knocked out of the tournament. If only, they didn’t call "GG" in the first game, they might have advanced. A painful lesson indeed.
Kuku’s Tyrst with China
Undoubtedly, however, the biggest controversy in 2019 has to be Kuku being banned from the Chongqing Major and later WESG 2018: Finals, after he used some inappropriate language in a pub game. Tempers were already high in the Chinese community after Complexity's Skem, used a racial slur in an official game at the DreamLeague Minor. While the word may not have been used as an insult, it still didn’t go down well with the Chinese Dota 2 community.
Soon after, Kuku was found using the same word in a pub game and when called out, he immediately backtracked and made a mess of the situation when apologizing. This angered the Chinese community even further and eventually led to a situation where it became likely that Kuku was going to be banned from playing at the CQ Major by local authorities.
TNC put out a statement saying that the tournament organizer had explicitly told them that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of the player, a move which was seen by Valve as TNC deliberately trying to leverage the sentiments of the community. In the end, the company decided that the Filipino team’s handling of the situation was poor and as a result, Kuku ended up getting banned by Valve from competing in the Major.
But unfortunately, Kuku's ordeal wouldn't end there. The player was also not allowed to compete in the WESG 2018: World Finals held in February 2019, extending his punishment and casting doubts over whether Kuku's ban from the Chongqing Major was legitimately from Valve or the Chongqing Municipality.
Later in the year, when TNC Predator competed in the International 9 in Shanghai, Kuku and the rest of his team were booed when they came into the arena. They were also reportedly followed to their suite room and were shouted at and abused.
Cignal Ultra’s disconnect at the Leipzig Major qualifiers.
The most recent one of this list, Cignal Ultra’s unfortunate disconnect in the Leipzig Major Qualifiers that cost them over 100 DPC points and more in prize money, is probably the most unfortunate one.
In the match for the final spot at the Leipzig major, TNC and Cignal Ultra were going neck to neck, with both teams winning a game each, and pushing it to a deciding game 3. But nobody predicted what was about to happen next. In-game number 3, the game was even, but then a literal disaster struck.
The entire squad of Cignal Ultra disconnected from the game, due to a typhoon knocking out their internet connection. Eventually, after showing good sportsmanship for 25 minutes, TNC was given permission by the game admin to resume the game. They unpaused soon after and ended the game. March apologized in all chat before the game ended, but the series was over and Cignal Ultra lost their chance to qualify for the major.
The players took to social media to express their anguish and their helplessness. The fact that the sponsor of the team was in all likelihood the internet company that gave them their internet connection certainly wouldn’t have helped.
TNC’s spectacular 4th place finish at the Epicenter Major
Image Courtesy: Epicenter
Coming into 2019, TNC was struggling, to put it lightly. The team were demoralized and didn’t qualify to a single DPC tournament after Kuku was banned for his inappropriate remarks in a Pub game. They looked like they might not even make it to TI9.
Enter Heen. The renowned South Korean coach joined TNC in April. Almost instantly, the team started improving at an unprecedented pace. The put up quite a decent showing at ESL One Birmingham, securing a Top 6 finish. Then came the final major of the season - The Epicenter Major 2019. TNC had to put up a decent showing here to secure their TI9 direct invite.
Right off the bat, the Filipinos put up a strong showing to top their group and started off in the upper bracket. They knocked down RNG, to setup a clash against the eventual champions Vici Gaming. The team put up a strong and resolute showing but were barely beaten 2-1, pushing them down to a lower bracket showdown against the runner-ups of TI8, PSG.LGD.
TNC would have to show up if they wanted to stay in the tournament, and boy they did. In both games, TNC outclassed PSG.LGD with superior drafting and plays, knocking the Chinese team out of the tournament to secure a top 4 finish, the team’s highest placing in a Valve Major since the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 and qualified for The International 9.
Kuku’s departure from TNC
The Filipino superstar Kuku, who was loved and adored by many, left the team he had been playing with for over 3 years in September 2019. Since he joined the squad three years prior, Kuku had played a vital role in TNC’s success. After he joined the roster, the team went from playing second fiddle to other SEA teams, to becoming one of the most dominant forces in all of SEA.
His raw mechanical skill combined with the typical SEA fervour enabled TNC to win regional LANs, and start qualifying for international ones. He was the last remaining member of the team that made history at TI6, eliminating OG.
The player was with TNC for three years, in which they went from being the first ones to be eliminated to the ones that could cause a big upset, to winning $800,000 at WESG 2016. By the end of his time in the team, they had started placing top 4 in tournaments thanks to Heen’s coaching and Kuku’s leadership qualities.
At his peak, He did it all; from being the star player and carrying his team, to being the captain and the guiding voice of the squad. His departure will surely be remembered by SEA fans for years to come
vtFaded speaks out against xiao8
Perhaps the most under-the-radar drama in this list.
The legendary Chinese captain xiao8, who lead Newbee to a historic victory at TI4, publicly criticized Malaysian player vtFaded, who was part of the EHOME squad he was coaching.
He said that EHOME’s mid and carry players, 897 and vtFaded had no potential to carry the team. The remarks came off as somewhat of a surprise since a coach making such remarks about his own team’s players is unheard of.
Understandably, vtFaded got upset and made a post on his facebook profile stating that he thought that those comments are insensitive and a clear way of pushing the blame around. He also added that it is detrimental to his confidence and that he went through this, every day in training.
The player explained that while some people are able to handle the harsh remarks and criticism in order to improve, not everyone was cut out from the same cloth. He said that he was aware of his shortcomings. Being an easygoing person, he could not thrive in an environment where he had to face such bitter scrutiny and ego tearing.
Soon after, he departed from the EHOME squad and moved on to Alpha x Hashtag.
Fnatic’s steady rise and rapid fall
Fnatic started off 2019 with a respectable 6th place finish at The Chongqing Major and showed plenty of promise in the process.
But this wasn’t exactly new. 9 times out of 10, SEA teams look good but they never look like they would be able to win a championship and hang with the best teams out there. However, at the DreamLeague Season 13 Major held in March, Fnatic put up a hell of a performance, dropping only a single game in the group stages. They tore through the playoffs, even beating DPC leaders Virtus.Pro in the process to secure a 3rd place finish and book a place at TI9.
However, what followed is what makes this astonishing. The team completely slumped in the following months. They only played 3 tournaments after this DreamLeague Major and finished in the last place in all of them. A terrible showing from what was considered to be a stalwart of the region.
After their terrible performance, Fnatic decided that something had to change before TI9. So they made a decision, a decision to kick the perceived weakest link. A decision that would have disastrous consequences.
They kicked Pyo "MP" No-a, just 6 weeks before TI9 robbing the player of a chance to play for Millions of dollars and deciding to add their coach Kim "DuBu" Doo-young to their playing lineup.
This sparked outrage in the Dota 2 community who criticized the team and was regarded as a poor PR decision. However, the management, in all likelihood, would have expected this but decided that it was worth the cost since it would give them a better shot at TI.
Well, they finished in the last place after this roster change. So clearly not worth it.
TNC Predator makes history at Hamburg
Copyright: ESL | Helena Kristiansson
After TNC Predator underwent a roster change after TI9, many doubted them. They speculated that this team was weaker than the previous iteration and that the management messed up by letting Kuku, eyyou and Heen leave.
March and co. had to prove the haters wrong. They made it through the Chengdu Major qualifiers and won the WESG 2018: Philippine Final. But that was expected from TNC. To prove their strength, the team needed to do something extraordinary, something that would make the world turn.
And they did that by becoming the first SEA Dota 2 team to win an ESL One Championship and a premiere LAN tournament in Europe. They managed to achieve this incredible feat without dropping a single series throughout their entire run, establishing themselves as a premier force in International Dota.
TNC’s victory at the Chengdu major
At the end of our list is definitely our pick for the most memorable SEA moment of 2019. While some might have seen it coming, most didn’t. TNC Predator made history, by winning their first major at MDL Chengdu 2019.
After their dominating run at ESL One Hamburg 2019, weeks prior. TNC won the WESG 2019: SEA Finals and came into the tournament looking to make it three LAN championships in a row.
They got off to an amazing start and cruised through the entire tournament, only losing the Winner Bracket Finals. This was a crucial loss, as it would showcase TNC’s tenacity and resilience. They made it to the grand finals after a dominating victory in the lower bracket finals to setup a rematch.
There, they beat Vici Gaming 3-1 and became the first Filipino team to win a Major and etched their name in the history books.