Last year’s EPICENTER 2016 captured the imagination of International DOTA 2 fans last year with an impressive stage and even bigger budget. Naturally, when EPICENTER 2017 swung around right after the Manila Masters, everyone’s eyes were once again on the tournament.
Playing host to 5 invited Tier 1 DOTA 2 teams, the qualified teams had plenty to prove coming to the tournament. We saw the Southeast Asian(SEA) hopefuls Clutch Gamers continue their Cinderella story from Manila Masters, Team Secret looking for a second chance after being upset at the Kiev Major and Chinese hopefuls LGD.Forever Young (LFY) looking to prove themselves.
Team Odd, The International (TI) tournament 2016 2nd place finisher, also came into this tournament on unsteady ground. Since leaving Digital Chaos, the roster has yet to find any success in terms of tournament wins. Na’Vi’s new roster was voted in by popular vote – which, on hindsight, might have been unwise.
The Big Blues And The Comeback Kids
Evil Geniuses and LFY finished top of their respective groups, with EG continuing their excellent performance from the Manila Masters. Syed Sumail ‘SumaiL’ Hassan played 9 different heroes across 9 group stage games, innovating the use of Earthshaker as a middle lane hero.
That’s a different hero every game; talk about variety! Check out his mid-Shaker below:
In comparison, LFY’s Xie ‘Super’ Junhao only played 5 heroes across LFY’s 9 games. Since acquiring Malaysian Dota 2 player Tue ‘Ahfu’ Soon Chuan (Position 4 Support) and He ‘Inflame’ Yongzheng (Offlane) on May 6th, LFY has met with similar successes like Clutch Gamers.
The two teams were polar opposites when it came to their groups. While EG was expected to perform well, LFY were the clear underdogs against the likes of Team Secret, Team Liquid and 4-time Major Champions OG.
At the new patch’s infancy, it seems that LFY’s existing playstyle of drafting stable lanes with an emphasis on team fighting (like how LGD and EHOME play DOTA 2) are well-suited in approaching a new patch.
Compare this to EG’s ability to explore patch possibilities with SumaiL quickly while leaning onto their team anchors Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev and Saahil ‘UNiVeRsE’ Arora to ensure that their gameplay still has some stability.
Upset And Disappointment For Honeymoon Teams
OG has yet to recover their Kiev form even with their coach 7ckingMad back with the team. The boys in green only took home 3 match wins: 1 against Liquid, 2 against Na’Vi. Their loss against Faceless at Manila Masters also showed how rapidly competition is catching up to them.
Na’Vi’s new roster was also a point of contention as they got into the Epicenter LAN through a fan vote. Falling apart entirely in the group stage, their teamplay was clearly not up to par yet to be competing against DOTA 2’s best. This was repeated with Planet Odd, who constantly threw huge leads away against the veteran teams in their group.
Clutch Gamer’s performance was disappointing for the fans as well, but not entirely unexpected. As this is their first time truly competing in another country, they’ll have to use this as a learning experience to prepare for TI 2017.
Hero-Centric Strategies Are Suffering
If you could find a similarity between Team Liquid and VP, it’s their focus on certain heroes. For VP, it’s Ursa Warrior and for Team Liquid’s Lone Druid and Invoker. This harkens back to a time where Alliance dominated International competition, but similarly we should not be misled.
Although VP and Liquid favour certain heroes, their viability is often dependent on the quality of supports that the teams can get. With teams now drafting to dominate the early game, strong combat supports are having lesser and lesser impact compared to before.
I say this because it’s not the Crystal Maiden that’s turning games even though she’s the most picked support – it’s Treant Protector. He changes how the game is played – regenerating towers mean that teams have to kill towers in one sitting for a successful push.
Furthermore, being able to use Treant’s skill, “Living Armour” to heal incidental damage to towers also allows teams to commit to pushes easier without worrying about a splitpush trade
Add an excellent teamfighting ultimate that can literally stop enemy carries dead in their tracks, and you have a great support which provides much-needed stability in a new patch and manages to counter other popular draft picks with such as Ember, Queen of Pain and Storm Spirit (thanks to his skills, “Nature’s Guise” and “Overgrowth” which root these evasive heroes and prevents them from escaping).
LFY: EPICENTER’s Cinderella Story
If you’re familiar with LFY, you’ll understand that the irony is that they are made of veterans of the Chinese scene. However, this is perhaps one of the best performances each individual player have been making and a great opportunity for them to galvanize their status as an invitee to the TI 2017 Chinese qualifiers.
The odds are against them, but in a single-elimination tournament anything can happen. It’s a make or break for LFY, and I believe that they will make it! Catch the action over here!
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