The International 2018 created a record when OG won the International 2018. It was the first time that the rotation of TI winners was broken. Starting from TI2, every alternate International featured a Chinese team as the eventual winner. Dota 2 has a massive fanbase in China, however, the Dota 2 scene has fallen into a pit since 2016.
The current DPC season has only two teams who have won two Majors. Team Secret won the Chongqing Major and MDL Disneyland Paris Major. The other team to win two Majors is Vici Gaming. The Chinese team won Dreamleague Season 11 and EPICENTER Major.
Vici Gaming secured the third place in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings with their EPICENTER Major victory. What makes their victory extremely important is how close it is to the International 2019. TI9 takes place in Shanghai and it would be unfortunate if we did not have a strong contender from China.
Vici Gaming fills that spot right now, and they seem to be the only Chinese team capable of possibly winning TI9. However, they are not the only Chinese team in the twelve direct invites to TI9. They are accompanied by Keen Gaming and PSG.LGD.
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Vici’s victory at the EPICENTER Major holds special significance in the grand scheme of things. The Chinese team has always been a contender for the position of the best team in the Dota 2 scene. However, up until the start of the EPICENTER Major, Vici was not considered a real threat.
The EPICENTER Major was the final Major of the DPC season. Its proximity to The International makes it a very important tournament for many. Vici’s EPICENTER victory came after they managed to win against teams such as Gambit, TNC Predator and Team Liquid in the Playoffs. Their Group C matches saw them winning against Alliance and Forward Gaming.
The Chinese team has a very young roster, players who were not a part of the original Chinese Dota 2 revolution. This roster change came at a time when multiple Chinese organizations were still clinging on to the old, experienced players. The lack of adaptation from these experienced players meant that they were unable to compete with the rising skill level on the western teams.
Vici’s young and dynamic roster shows a desire to change and adapt their gameplay with patch changes. The Chinese team has excellent coordination and have a deep understanding of its gameplay and strategy. At times, they are seen to target one particular opponent player, a player who often holds the key to their opponent’s gameplay.
Pan “Fade” Yi is the In-Game Leader for Vici Gaming. He also plays the role of Position 4 on the team. In the current patch, the role of the Position 4 player is often more important than Position 1 or Position 2. Fade plays on heroes where he can make plays and enable Paparazi and Ori to assert their dominance. His inputs to the mid lane are minor, but more often than not, they are enough to help Ori take the advantage.
Once Ori buys a few key items, he can work on his own with minimal input from his support players. However, the initial time period can be crucial for the mid-lane matchup. This is especially true if Ori’s hero statistically has a disadvantage against the opponent.
Ding “Dy” Cong’s Earth Spirit is a signature hero that often warrants a respect ban from Vici’s opponents. The player has utilized the hero to his maximum potential and is not afraid to initiate into the midst of the fight. His timely Rolling Boulders and subsequent skill usage can save the lives of the core heroes on his team.
Dy and Fade work in tandem beautifully to initiate team fights and alter the course of the game. At the EPICENTER Major Grand Finals, they were responsible for much of the initiation on the team, allowing Ori and Paparazi to deal their damage unhindered.
The Chinese region is one of the most important markets for Valve. The game publisher is also one of the few American companies to be able to expand at a high rate in China. Part of the reason for this expansion is a huge interest in Valve’s games in China. The original Dota ( Blizzard’s Warcraft 3 mod) was a huge hit in China. When Dota 2 released, its demand in China skyrocketed. Valve has always worked with the Chinese government to abide by its laws. They have established different visuals for Dota 2 in China. Recently they also announced the release of a Steam Client exclusively for China.
The TI9 venue in Shanghai is a very strategic decision. Part of the reason for the shift in the venue is because the KeyArena in Seattle is undergoing reparations. However, it makes sense to move The International to other countries and not limit it to North America. Once we glance outside North America, the obvious choices for The International Venues are Europe and China. Europe played host to The International 2011. So China became the obvious fit for TI9.
Additionally, hosting TI9 in China brings about a resurgence in Dota 2 fanbase in the region. It comes in a year when Valve has released the steam client in China, abiding by the Chinese laws. Rightfully so, TI9 Shanghai has already crossed the prize pool for the previous year. All predictions point to TI9 Prize pool crossing $30 million this year.
The Chinese teams are very scattered right now, with Vici Gaming being the only team strong enough to challenge Team Liquid and Secret. The other teams, including TI8 Grand finalists, the PSG.LGD team is simply not good enough in their current form. However, PSG.LGD is still a worthy adversary and can possibly rise to the very top once more. They already have the firepower and the necessary roster to make such a move. However, they need to find decent drafts and the right strategy going into their matches.
For the most part, PSG.LGD seems unable to handle the deep ranging strategies from some of the top teams in the DPC season. They are easily ( and consistently ) able to win against weaker teams, but they seem to run out of steam when facing against top Western teams.
Winning TI9 would bring about a resurgence in Dota 2 player base in China. It is a huge market and Valve would not want to lose the interest of this market. It is also a market where investments into esports are increasing at a fast pace. Chinese organizations have huge pockets backing their teams and these organizations will want to see results.
The International always throws up surprises. The best teams throughout the year, usually do not win The International. OG’s victory in 2018 was one such example where the team dominating the DPC season was unable to even reach the Grand Finals.
The International 2019 starts on August 15 and will continue for a period of ten days. However, there are still six slots open for teams to fill via the Open qualifiers. You can follow the Open qualifiers and teams participating in these qualifiers here.