The Top 10 SEA Dota 2 Players in 2021
2021 for Southeast Asia (SEA) Dota 2 was a year of emerging talent. Even though the veterans were playing strong and gave some excellent performances, it was the young guns of SEA Dota 2 who truly showcased their skills and elevated the scene to new heights this year. There were some who showed consistency, some who put forth flashy plays, and others who displayed a thorough understanding of the game and the meta.
Despite its shortcomings, The Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) 2021, and currently the DPC 2021-22 has definitely given a platform for these players in the Lower and Upper Divisions to truly showcase their talent and skill to the global Dota 2 community. Here are the ten players who best managed to do so in 2021.
The Best Dota 2 Players in SEA in 2021
Heading into 2021, Armel Paul "Armel" Tabios, was arguably the best midlaner in SEA, thanks to his outstanding performances in 2019 and 2020. While his individual performances in 2021 stayed up to the mark, other midlaners have caught up to the Filipino star and have perhaps even started overshadowing him. The fact that TNC Predator was unable to gain enough strength in an extremely competitive region to get to TI10 also hurts his profile for 2021.
Despite that, Armel was still a reliable midlane player throughout the year performed his task to the key. In matches where he had the edge, he would easily take the lead and do all the right things on the map, but in matchups based on skill, he was sometimes much more challenged. It did not matter whether it was by some clutch plays, rotations from his supports, or ganks around the map, he made sure to always make his presence known in the games, especially when he was on his signature heroes such as Puck or Templar Assassin.
He is yet to truly mesmerize fans with his performances in the new Fnatic roster. He definitely has the skill to do so, it is just boils down to him finding his rhythm within the new lineup.
Rolen Andrei Gabriel "skem" Ong is probably the most underrated player on this list. Playing many different roles and captaining his squads to numerous victories, skem has certainly made a name for himself in 2021. Before this year, the Filipino player had been moving from squad to squad and had even played for the North American team Complexity Gaming in the past, but, in 2021 he finally broke through with OB.Neon and BOOM Esports.
Following their ascension to become the kings of tier 2 Dota 2 in 2020, OB.Neon broke their shackles in the DPC 2021-22, qualifying for the Major and putting up stellar performances to place 5th-6th. Unfortunately, that was their peak. OB.Neon disappointed in the season that followed, failing to qualify for TI10, following which skem joined BOOM Esports.
After signing skem, BOOM Esports has done extremely well so far, winning 16 of its 19 series and looking like one of the best teams in the region heading into 2022. A significant chunk of OB.Neon and BOOM’s success should be attributed to skem who has captained the squads and has been very impressive across the board, showing his mastery on supports such as Weaver and Enchantress.
One of the first names that comes to our mind when we think of quintessential SEA carry is Marc Polo Luis "Raven" Fausto. He is arguably the most experienced active carry player in the region, and has remained as one of the main driving forces for Fnatic in 2021.
His smooth carry play was a joy to behold as a spectator. In an average Fnatic game, Raven would calmly acquire farm as his team made plays across the map, making space for him. There is an explicable joy in watching his impact unfold as the game progresses and eventually overwhelming the opponents. His farming patterns and decision-making continue to be amongst the best in the business making him one of the best carries in the region.
Raven had always been a safe bet for Fnatic, and he has delivered on that promise repeatedly throughout the year. His wide hero pool and experience on the field have proven to be crucial for the team many times this season, making him absolutely indispensable to the team.
While Raven and Fnatic might not have achieved their desired finish at TI10, the team’s choice to retain their star carry shows their faith in the player and could prove to be fruitful as we head into 2022.
Kenny "Xepher" Deo might not be as explosive as some of the other position four players out there, but he continues to be one of the most reliable supports out there. The relative ease with which he swaps positions with his fellow Position 5 player, Matthew "Whitemon" Filemon, gives T1 an edge as it allows the two players to specialize on certain heroes and also proves to be highly advantageous in the drafting phase.
Most games in 2021 saw Xepher play heroes like Treant Protector or Lion which do not require him to be loud or flashy allowing him to do his job quietly, consistently and perfectly. But on rare occasions, Xepher got to showcase his skill with flashy heroes such as Rubick or Earthshaker. But the fact that the meta did not emphasize many of these heroes for most of 2021, meant that Xepher did not have to show off his plays. Hopefully, we see him shine on these heroes in 2022.
The knowledge Xepher showed of the game in addition to his performances in 2021 made him a key part of T1's success this year. He was highly disciplined in executing his role, regardless of the task at hand - defending towers, initiating fights, or saving allies.
Timothy John "Tims" Randrup proved his excellence as a position four player for yet another year. While most veterans got overshadowed by their younger counterparts, Tims held his own and continued his stellar play.
By being a master at his role, Tims was able to assist his laning partner admirably and then give breathing room to other lanes with his rotations. There were also clutch plays he made from time to time even though playmaking heroes such as Earthshaker and Rubick were scarcely seen for a large portion of 2021.
Despite being as steady as ever, Tims had an underwhelming year with TNC Predator, as the team did not qualify for TI10, following which, he left the organization after having been with the team for five years.
Currently playing for BOOM Esports, Tims finds himself in yet another well-rounded roster. The team has so far been doing very well and Tims will be looking to continue on this road and aim for a more successful year in 2022.
At the beginning of this year, there was no doubt regarding the talent Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon possessed since he had delivered some spectacular performances for Fnatic in 2020. But there were questions about his consistency and whether he could shine in high pressure situations. 23Savage answered with an emphatic ‘yes’ as he grew dramatically this year with very reliable performances, making him the best SEA carry player of 2021.
As a carry, 23savage ticks all the boxes. He plays the laning to perfection, maximizes his farm, avoids enemy ganks with great positioning, and gives the sort of teamfight performances that all teams look for from a carry. But what makes him truly elite is his uncanny ability to magically conjure up farm even when his team is at an overwhelming disadvantage. Many a time this season, T1 has had to rely on 23savage to carry the game after a terrible mid-game, and more often than not, he delivers when he is called upon.
He has silenced his naysayers and even claimed his biggest premier title victory with ESL One Summer 2021. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to evolve and carry forth SEA’s banner in 2022.
Qualifying for TI10 and delivering some great performances at the event is what makes players and teams great; however, Filipino midlaner Erin Jasper "Yopaj" Ferrer is the sole exception for the SEA region. Yopaj was one of the most deadly and consistent midlaners in SEA, destroying opponents one after another. His mechanical skill is undeniable, but what separates him from the rest of the roster is his ability to carry the game single-handedly.
It has been Yopaj's job to crush his opponent in the midlane in many of OB.Neon and BOOM Esports games and then the player continues to make moves around the map, racking up kills after kills.For some, making outstanding counter manuevers, breathtaking teamfight plays coupled with some spectacular solo kills is a rare occurrence, but for Yopaj, it is the norm.
The only reason he isn’t ranked higher on this list is his overall lack of major titles in 2021. His results fell slightly below the mark despite his performances, during his time with OB.Neon. The team had a fantastic outing at the Singapore Major 2021 but afterwards, the team's performance suffered and consequently failed to book a spot at TI10.
Yopaj now plays for BOOM Esports, which is in good shape with four wins in four series in the DPC 2021-22. He has already secured a few third-party tournament wins with the new lineup. It will be interesting to see if that translates to success in the DPC in 2022.
Matthew "Whitemon" Filemon’s progress in 2021 was inspiring to watch. He came into the year as a relatively unknown player and emerged as a position five player that every carry would envy. Aside from individual brilliance in the laning phase, Whitemon displays a sixth sense for detecting rotations and ganks and has made simple support plays like warding and timely smoke rotations into an artform.
Despite playing in the position 5 role and possessing relatively low farm, Whitemon still changed the course of the game many a time in 2021 with crucial saves on heroes like Abaddon, game changing initiations on his signature Lion or perhaps even with his imposing laning presence on Enchantress.
In conjunction with Xepher, Whitemon put in admirable work which paved the way for the success of T1’s cores.
Carlo “Kuku” Palad has gone from taking down OG with his Huskar in the TI6 playoffs to becoming one of SEA's most prominent torchbearers, as the captain of T1 in 2021. His journey this year has certainly been monumental, going from being unable to make it to the Singapore Major to becoming SEA’s finest when the season ended at TI10.
While the rest of the teams in the region struggled to sustain good results in 2021, Kuku's T1 was able to perform consistently, securing top rankings at regional and international events throughout the year. Although Kuku's strongest suit was not particularly offlaning in 2021, the amount of team impact he had inside and outside of the game cannot be understated. The crumbling of T1 at the Singapore Major due to his absence indicates his importance in the lineup.
Throughout the year, in multiple interviews, we could see the respect that the entire team of T1 has for Kuku. He is affectionately called the Master and blindly trusted for all drafts.
Although T1 didn't always have the best laning stages, they were incredible at turning things around during teamfights, and to execute such smooth comebacks they way T1 did was truly remarkable. It is important to have a good captain, someone who knows exactly what needs to be done. For T1, Kuku was this discerning player who was vital in executing such dramatic comebacks.
In 2021, Kuku's contribution to T1 was simply priceless, especially in a region such as SEA, where strong captains are hard to come across.
T1 was outstanding in 2021, and one player who often took center stage was its midlaner Karl "Karl" Matthew Baldovino. Throughout the course of the year, Karl became a master at pushing the limits with his aggressive yet calculated attempts at killing his enemy. It is mostly ‘make or break’ time in the midlane and he often went absolutely bananas if he was on a hero who could make plays like Batrider or Puck, allowing T1 to sink into their comfort zones.
Not only did Karl do an outstanding job in the midlane in the laning phase, but he also set the tempo of the early to mid game phases with his rotations proved to be crucial for the team’s game plans.
Like the other T1 players, Karl is also one of the best in the region when it comes to understanding the situations in the game. As the year has progressed, his skills have matured, making him the best SEA player in 2021.
Honorable Mention - DJ
Compared to his usual standards, Djardel Jicko B. "DJ" Mampusti, did not have a great year in the Dota 2 scene. While he did manage to have some jaw-dropping performances through the year, the consistent reliable DJ that we were so accustomed to was missing. The primary culprit behind this sudden drop in form could be his switch to the position five role earlier this year. As a result of this switch, he was not able to utilize his famed ability to make plays and set the tempo on his position-four heroes.
Nevertheless, thanks to all the experience he has accrued over the years, DJ was still one of the best position five players in the region and proved to be vital in enabling Fnatic’s qualification to TI10. Despite the roster changes his team underwent after TI10, he stayed put, proving to be a key member in the DPC 2021 season.
It is sometimes the experience and understanding of the game that can carry the day when options are limited by the role you are playing. Over the course of 2021, DJ did exactly that for Fnatic, helping the team to gain some important wins. It will be interesting to see if DJ can return to the previous high standards he set for himself now that he is back on his preferred position 4 role in the new Fnatic roster.