DPC Week One: Top Teams Trade in China and CIS Youth Rises
The first-ever all-online edition of the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) is finally here. All six regions have completed both Upper and Lower Division play and they all have some interesting storylines forming. Given that the first season will run all the way until the end of February, there’s certainly plenty of Dota to look forward to until the first Major. Until then, let’s have a look at how the first week of online play unfolded.
Young Talent Shine in CIS
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Week one in the DPC CIS Upper Division was definitive proof that the roster moves of last year were the right decisions. The young talent on each lineup showed exactly why they kicked the likes of No Techies out of their roster spots.
First up, Natus Vincere were predictably coherent against the newly signed Team Unique. The former NoPangolier were man-handled by the former FlyToMoon in two short games. Given that one of these rosters weathered most of 2020 together, and the other was formed just for the DPC, this is no surprise. But it’s comforting to see that Na’Vi are quick on the take up of some of the patch’s strongest heroes, while also being happy to give either Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosian or Andrii “ALWAYSWANNAFLY” Bondarenko their comfort pick Chen.
Na’Vi finished up their week with a stomp of No Techies. This was really the statement game of the week. A stack of CIS veterans, including former Na’Vi veteran Vladyslav “Crystallize” Krystanek, couldn’t take out this former tier two lineup.
Virtus.pro were similarly spectacular in their series against Team Empire. Having spent much of the year raving about how good the VP.Prodigy lineup were in 2020, it’s vilifying to see them succeed in the DPC. Their defeat of Empire saw them simply overpower their opponents with lanes they were comfortable with. Nothing complicated, but sure enough the youth rules in CIS.
Europe is a Battlefield
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Europe kicked DPC week one off with a grudge match between Team Liquid and Vikin.gg. The later team were seemingly snubbed in favor of the bigger team name. However, Team Liquid were able to triumph and prove they deserved to be here. The lasting image of this series was from the player interview cams. Team Liquid were interviewed from a location in their custom made facility, while Miroslav “BOOM” Bičan’s cam showed bars on the window of his gaming room – a stark contrast.
Team Secret, the undisputed dominant team of 2020, surprised many by dropping a game to mudgolems. However this was just a speed bump on their journey to a win. Far closer was OG’s nail biter against Chicken Fighters/HCE. Despite HCE not being able to play under their new banner due to technical chicanery from Valve, it didn’t stop them putting on a landmark performance. OG looked pushed in all three games, and struggled to close out against a team that barely rose above tier two competition last year.
Overall, the tight matchups show that this league is set to be one of the most competitive in the world. It feels like at any point one of these teams could take the win off the other, as everyone has lost at least one game in a series just one week in.
Although Team Nigma sit at the top of the standings after week one, thanks to playing two games this week, it’s certain they’ll struggle to keep that position.
South America Keeps Things Light
It’s good to see beastcoast back on top in South America. While scheduling of the OGA DPC South America Regional League has helped beastcoast, their two performances were still incredibly impressive. However, there’s nothing clean about their gameplay. They gave up crucial team fights in both of their wins, and really had to fight for the victory. If they can’t polish their performances, they’ll drop games in future.
Meanwhile, Infamous looked incredibly strong against Thunder Predator. TP’s highly impressive roster features Joel Mori “MoOz” Ozambela, who surprisingly didn’t make it onto an North America lineup. This Infamous forster have now played together for over 10 months, and are one of the most consistent lineups in the SA scene.
The match of the SA DPC week one was between NoPing e-sports and SG e-sports. Each game veered into a 50+ minute war as neither team could keep themselves from getting caught. Questionable team fights, even more questionable drafts, and a general lack of coherence from the teams. It wasn’t clean, but it was definitely entertaining. As the late game in my schedule of watching, I appreciated this matchup keeping me awake.
SEA is Just As Brawl-Heavy As Ever
The most aggressive and fight-happy region in all of Dota is back with a vengeance, with the competition in Southeast Asia heating up to a fever pitch as expected. The first match of the Upper Division was already a preview of things to come this year, with marquee squads Fnatic and T1 doing battle right from the get-go.
Fnatic would end up taking the series with a flawless 2-0 performance, with SEA veterans Marc Polo Luis “Raven” Fausto and Kam “Moon” Boom Seng leading the charge. It’s clear that the absence of the Pro Circuit for so long has not dulled Fnatic’s collective game sense and ability to play their signature brand of Dota, so they will once again be the team to beat in Southeast Asia for sure.
Neon Esports meanwhile have been making waves right off the bat, launching themselves to the top of the round robin table after playing two matches in week one of the DPC. Neon handled BOOM with relative ease, sweeping them aside two games to none and making them look like they weren’t quite ready to compete at this level. The first game was a total outdraft in favor of Neon, as they were able to exploit a gaping hole in BOOM’s lineup by picking Storm Spirit against a draft that had no way of locking the mobile semi-carry down. This resulted in a scoreline of 27-17, with Neon coming out on top after just 33 and a half minutes of play. Neon then closed the series out in 45 minutes in the second game, with Erin Jasper “Yopaj” Ferrer styling all over BOOM with a 20-1 performance as Queen of Pain.
They would later go up against Vietnam’s very own 496 Gaming in the final day of the first week in a series that would go the distance with three games played. 496 put Neon on the ropes to start the match, edging them out in a back and forth Game 1 that nearly consumed 60 minutes of in-game time. Neon would counter quickly in the second game however, crushing 496 in less than 30 minutes thanks to some incredible Puck play by Yopaj.
For the deciding match, both teams reverted to the beloved “caveman Dota” style of play, starting with a full five-on-five brawl in the Radiant jungle that resulted in a teamwipe before the creeps even spawned. Rolen Andrei Gabriel “skem” Ong scored an ultra kill at the horn thanks to his Keeper of the Light, giving Neon the boost they needed to eventually win the game.
Top Teams Trade Wins in China
It’s been business as usual over in the Far East, with the teams expected to get off to a good start taking the top spots in DPC week one. EHOME, Vici Gaming, Invictus Gaming, and Team Aster fill the top four, with PSG.LGD Gaming following in a close fifth after a breathtaking series between them and Aster on the final day.
EHOME and VG were clearly up to the task in the first day of competition, brushing aside relative unknowns Team MagMa and LBZS respectively in two clean sweeps. EHOME, in particular, required no more than an hour and change to put Team MagMa away, thus putting themselves on the board early with a good bit of momentum to work with.
Chinese superteam Elephant did not get the start they were hoping for however, dropping their first match of the season against iG in a close series between the two. Elephant took the first game in the series off the back of a stellar Puck performance by the well known Lu “Somnus丶M” Yao, but proceeded to lose the next two maps after both Jin “flyfly” Zhiyi and Zhou “Emo” Yi found their groove.
LGD on the other hand came very, very close to securing a top four spot. Only to be denied at the absolute last minute by Aster in a barnburner three game series. The match in its entirety elapsed a whopping 188 minutes of play time, with the third and final game, in particular, being the craziest map we’ve seen so far in this Pro Circuit season. In typical Chinese Dota fashion, both teams just refused to give each other an inch, with the situation eventually escalating to include a grand total of six Divine Rapiers.
But it was Aster that won the day in the end, after punishing a critical error committed by Malaysian import Cheng “NothingToSay” Jin Xiang as LGD’s hard carry Riki near the Dire base. Aster quickly capitalized on his grave mistake, running down the middle lane in a mad dash to take down LGD’s Ancient after stealing back some Rapiers. One final teamfight later and LGD found themselves completely unable to stop Aster’s advance, and there was just nothing they could do to prevent the inevitable.
The Geniuses Return in North America
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Evil Geniuses fans rejoice: the Boys in Blue are back from their (virtual) vacation in Europe. They’ve come back to start DPC week one with seemingly more skill and understanding of the metagame in tow. Their first week in the North American Upper Division went about as smoothly as they could have hoped, notching two important series wins on the way to the top spot on the table.
First on the docket was 4 Zoomers, the runners-up at BTS Pro Series Season 4 in December of 2020. EG proved that time away from the NA region had not caused them to forget how to play against their neighbors, winning the first and third games of the series to start with. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Azel “Abed” Yusop flexed their immense skill throughout the match, posting impressive kill-death ratios in the two games that their team claimed victory in.
4 Zoomers did not take the series loss lying down however, showing glimpses of their own brilliance particularly in game two. Though it looked like EG would stage a late game comeback with some Divine Rapiers of their own, the Zoomers held strong to close things out just a few minutes after the game hit an hour of elapsed time. Though they ended up losing the match, the Zoomers should definitely not be counted out after showing such heart and determination.
EG then proceeded to do the same to the SADBOYS — which is kind of ironic considering that Arteezy used to play under that name before joining EG in 2014. Peter “ppd” Dager and the rest of his team looked like they would actually get the upset over EG after taking the first game in the series, but the Geniuses quickly turned things around in the two games thereafter. Abed and Arteezy once again led the way for EG, with both cores playing well as Void Spirit and Phantom Assassin as well as Morphling and Storm Spirit respectively. These two will certainly be the driving forces for their team going forward, and are likely to post astounding numbers throughout the season.
Whether or not they will be enough to dethrone the kings of America in Quincy Crew, however, has yet to be answered. Quinn “Quinn” Callahan and his cohorts trounced 5ManMidas in their first match of the season, and are no doubt eagerly awaiting their chance to face EG as soon as possible. That one will definitely be a match to look out for, given that they are the two best teams in the region right now.
Overall it’s been a promising start for the DPC Leagues. There’s still issues surrounding formats and teams changing names that really should be resolved. However, more than anything, this is a solid base to build on. The rest of the Dota Pro Circuit season will continue over the next five weeks, featuring five different matches per day in each region.