Image by Valve on Flickr
As the Dota world prepares its road to TI7, teams and players reflect on the past months. Is the team, are the players surrounding oneself still capable of achieving the set goal?
While a lot of top teams opt to stick it out for the coming months, TI6 champions Wings have decided to call it quits and the team roster is no more. Where do they go from here?
The biggest storyline throughout this entire roster shuffle period has been the future of TI6 champions wings.gaming. The Chinese squad that took the Dota 2 scene by storm in 2016 had troubles keeping up this year and on top of that faced issues with their organization, resulting in them leaving the organization and playing as “Team Random” during the Kiev Major.
Now that the Major dust had settled, the players faced the wrath of ACE, an association by team owners and managers in China which oversees everything from tournaments, teams to contracts and transfers. While no official ruling has been made, the former wings players are reportedly banned from participating in any ACE tournaments and teams that choose to pick up these players will choose to not play within ACE territory either.
As a result, both EHOME and EHOME.K are reportedly left ACE, as they chose to pick up both y and Faith_Bian. Together with garder, the team looks to get back on their feet. Ever since their lackluster result at the Boston Major, EHOME had struggled to stay relevant in the scene and was never able to qualify for any offline event. Because the team changed their roster after the Kiev Major roster lock deadline, EHOME had to go through the open qualifiers in China and failed.
The raw individual skill and talent is definitely there for EHOME, though the question is if they can bring out the best of all their players. With CTY, old chicken and Faith_Bian, they have three of the strongest cores in the Chinese scene and both garder and y were part of two very successful TI runs, CDEC and Wings respectively.
Vici Gaming was once at the top of the Chinese scene, though it seems like forever ago at this point. Even though the squad was still able to qualify for events in 2016, it never seemed like a serious contender for a title or a top position but all that may change now. Hao returns to Vici Gaming and with him the hopes of titles as well. Together with the recent addition of ChuaN and the new coach LaNm, VG seems set to reclaim their position at the top of the Chinese scene.
South-East Asia saw a big shuffle in the past weeks as two new top teams formed. Fnatic rebuild a new roster following Mushi’s departure and acquired what looked to be an all-star line-up with DJ, Meracle and QO joining Ohaiyo and Febby. Both results and performances were rather lackluster though and despite initial signs of sticking it out together, Fnatic replaced Meracle with WG.Unity’s Ahjit. The team has yet to play with the new addition, though on paper it looks to be an improvement considering Ahjit’s international experience with WG.Unity in contrast to Meracle’s inexperience and lack of international attendance.
Following months of disappointing shortcomings in qualifiers across the board, Mineski pulled the plug and decided to restructure a squad around SEA superstar Mushi. Similar to Fnatic, the team looked to be set early on but underwent a lot of changes in the process. Former Fnatic and B)ears player Adam/343 has both been added and removed in the span of a week and a half. More surprising than this however was the addition of CIS veteran Mag, who had been announced as Mineski’s offlaner out of the sheer blue. The possibly biggest surprise though was the removal of Mineski veteran Bimbo/Raging_Potato. The Filipino player had been the foundation of the team for years but was dropped late for .Ark, another CIS player, formerly of Mag’s CIS stack Chip+4.
TnC may have performed well at the Kiev Major, though the loss towards Faceless is part of a grander problem TnC has continuously struggled with. Within their own region, TnC has failed to be consistently at the very top which has denied them many chances to play internationally. Part of that problem was the lack of a true leader, which they solved at TI6 with the addition of NA veteran Demon. Another NA player shall repeat that feat from here on out with the acquisition of former Team NP player Rose/1437. The former Secret coach has a rich portfolio of playing with teams from all around the world and the recent 2nd place at the StarLadder i-League Invitational is a first indicator of the team’s potential under Rose’s leadership.
Having failed to qualify for the Kiev Major, Team NP announced early that they would part ways with their support duo, letting go 1437 and svg. Aui_2000 would reprise his role as 4 position support and filling the void on the 5 position is none other than former Cloud 9 teammate and former Secret player pieliedie. Together with former teammate FATA, the team now comprises of 4/5 Cloud 9 members that played together in the 6 months following The International 2014. Incidentally, the 5th member, bOne7, is their coach.
The new old squad has had mixed results and performances, though the trend looks to be a positive one with a recent victory over DC securing a spot at The Summit.
DC, formerly Team Onyx, picked up former B)ears player and now free agent Forev who will join his former teammate Dubu. As a result, DC decided to remove Demon from the team and Bulba will once again play support for the team. The squad has displayed promising performances with the acquisition of Forev, though they fell short in the qualifiers for The Summit against Team NP.
(Note: The squad/roster that played under the DC banner at TI6 is now known as Thunderbirds)
Following the failed attempt to qualify for the Kiev Major, compLexity announced the departure of Monkeys and 747. Overall, coL had failed to live up to their own expectations and never accomplished to truly rival any of the other NA top squads. Once again, the team has turned towards European talent to strengthen their team and acquired the service of former B)ears midlaner and pubstar Feero. Initially, the last spot was to be filled with another European player, though when Demon was removed from DC, it opened up a path for him to join coL. Feero will take on the midlane, whereas Swindlezz returns to the offlane, making space for Demon as the 5 position support. The team hasn’t looked too convincing so far, though they also haven’t played too many officials yet.
Just day before the roster lock was initially set to close, Alliance dropped support player EGM and replaced him with pablo. Pablo has been in and out of the scene for a while now, playing in lower tiered teams and acting as a stand-in for bigger ones, though mostly within the Swedish scene. His most notable stint was with Horde, a team spearheaded by former Alliance player Akke prior to TI6.
Alliance looked promising during the Kiev Major qualifiers, though since then have performed on a rather average level, which likely caused the roster change.
EGM has found a new home quite quickly. Crescendo is a new team led by former NiP/Escape/Steak Gaming player syndereN. Together with former Cloud 9 midlaner Babyknight, Akke and former Fnatic stand-in Xcalibur, the team has a lot to prove and only little time to do so.
Like many other teams, Na’Vi changed its roster after not qualifying for the Kiev Major. The Ukrainian squad replaced support player rmn with former Na’Vi player SoNNeikO. Since the roster change, Na’Vi has looked stronger than before, though they still conceded significant losses to every notable opponent.
Despite an early exit at the Kiev Major, Team Secret looked strong enough to take on any opponent with the same squad. The public may not know who initiated the split between the team and pieliedie, but it didn’t feel like a change out of necessity, certainly not for Secret. The squad around veteran Puppey however found a suitable replacement in former B)ears player YapzOr and their performances with him so far have looked rather promising as the team already qualified for Epicenter.
Stability Good, but system still not perfect
Compared to previous shuffle periods, the current one has very few, big changes. Many of these roster changes are small, exchanging a single player with another team or picking up a free agent. The long sought after stability looks to be closer than ever, something that seemed far away when the roster locks were first introduced.
That said, Valve’s recent decision to prolong the deadline by 2 days shows that the system is not perfect either and Valve themselves aren’t exempt from criticism. An arbitrary extension of the deadline may be good for the players who have yet to finalize a roster, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste–would Valve do this for anyone?
The current extension seems to be in favor of TI6 champions Blink and iceice, both of which have yet to sign up with a roster. Though given the ACE ban (despite the fact that some would want you to believe there is none), it seems unlikely that the two have the chance to find a truly competitive roster in such a short time frame.