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Dota 2

Singapore Major: Missing Players and Substitutes

Michael Hassall

The Singapore Major kicks off from March 27th and will run until April 4th. But as the first LAN of the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit, and the first major offline Dota 2 tournament in over a year, expectations have been high. That’s why it’s a shame to see so many big names missing the event for a variety of reasons.

Singapore at Night

The Singapore Major is set to have its fair share of substitutes and missing players (Picture Courtesy aotaro/Flickr)

Holding a Major during an ongoing global pandemic is never going to be easy. But as strict testing protocols and regional travel restrictions are enforced at the Singapore Major, we’ve seen teams announce player absences and substitutes again and again. With this comes a wave of substitutes, that can often be hard to keep track of. Fear not though, as Hotspawn has compiled the full list of absences and their replacements.

March 20th: Na’Vi to Use Substitutes at Singapore Major

Seven days before the start of the Major, the first big absences were announced. Natus Vincere reported in a post on their website that Andrii “ALWAYSWANNAFLY” Bondarenko and Bogdan “Iceberg” Vasilenko had both caught coronavirus.

As per their statement, the team reported that former Evil Geniuses carry Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev would step up to the team as the solo mid player. Coach Andrey “Mag” Chipenko would also return to the stage as a five position player. All things considered, this was the best set of replacements Na’Vi could find. RAMZES is one of the best talents in the CIS region, and Mag has complete familiarity with the roster.

Still this substitution has taken one of the more promising teams in this tournament down several degrees of quality. Instead of the regimented and practiced Na’Vi stack, which pushed regional rivals to their limit in the regular season, this untested lineup must now compete on the international stage.

March 21st: Neon Esports Natsumi to Miss Major

With the Singapore Major less than a week away, Neon Esports reported that John Anthony “Natsumi” Vargas was unfit to travel. The team did not clarify the exact reasons behind this, but did wish that Natsumi “gets well as soon as possible.”

In his stead, Rafeal “Rappy” Palo would step up to the plate. Rappy (sometimes styled as “Rapy”) competed with Neon during much of 2019 and 2020, primarily while the team competed in Tier Three events. He has not competed internationally since 2018.

With their primary carry out, the team’s captain Rolen Andrei Gabriel “skem” On will return to that role. While skem has been holding things down as the soft support of Neon, he was previously the carry player on several important rosters including a 2018 stint with Complexity and a 2020 run with Cloud 9.

March 23rd: Milan Substitutes For MSS At Singapore Major

By Tuesday evening it was beginning to seem like no region was safe from positive coronavirus tests and resulting substitutes. This was confirmed on March 23rd as Quincy Crew’s coach Jack “KBBQ” Chen announced that Arif “MSS” Anwar had tested positive for coronavirus.

Luckily for Quincy Crew, Milan “MiLAN” Kozomara, whose has plenty of NA Dota experience, was able to be a substitute for the Singapore Major. MiLAN previously played alongside Yawar “YawaR” Hassan, Quinn “Quinn” Callahan, and Avery “SVG” Silverman in the now-defunct Chaos EC.

Despite this, it’s still a huge blow to Quincy Crew who were looking to prove themselves internationally. The team has stood up to the likes of Evil Geniuses in their home region all season long. If EG are an international caliber team, then QC should also be in the conversation.

March 24th: Team Nigma’s Mind_Control to Miss Major

Even with the clock constantly ticking down to the Major, and casters and talent already arriving in Singapore, teams were still announcing absences as later as March 24th. Team Nigma revealed on that day that Ivan Borislavov “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov would be forced to miss the event.

In his stead, coach Roman “rmN-” Paley would step into the offlane role and attempt to hold the team together. This isn’t the first time that rmN- has stood in for his players in recent memory. During KuroKy’s extended absence in 2020 due to injury, rmN- stood in for Nigma at OGA Dota PIT S2, the inaugural OMEGA League, OGA Dota PIT S3, and ESL One Germany 2020.

However, after initially being victorious at Dota PIT S2, teams quickly began to focus and target rmN- in-game. As a result, Nigma’s results started to fall off, and it was a blessing when KuroKy returned. Hopefully in this single event, rmN- will be able to step up to the plate and be victorious.

March 25th: T1 Forev to stand in for Kuku

Just two days before the start of the event, T1 announced that Carlo “Kuku” Palad would not be attending. T1 did not specify why exactly Kuku would be absent, describing it as a “recent health problem.”

Lee “Forev” Sang-don will instead stand-in for T1. Forev has plenty of experience with the squad, as he was a member of the organization’s original lineup. However, Forev will not be familiar with the team’s current lineup and will definitely have some adjustments to make.

T1 were set to show off the high-quality of the SEA region. But now, without one of their brightest stars, the team may struggle in international competition.

March 25th: Beastcoast Pulls Out of the Major

On the same day that T1 announced their substitution, beastcoast announced it was pulling out of the Singapore Major completely. Beastcoast reported that Steven “StingeR” Vargas, the team’s captain, had been exposed to someone with coronavirus and had subsequently tested positive for the illness.

The announcement reported that the rest of the team had also been exposed but had initially tested negative. Despite this, the organization decided it was best if the squad missed the event entirely—They couldn’t guarantee the rest of the stack wouldn’t test positive at a later date.

Beastcoast was the run-away favorite in South America, and missing international competition after a year of regional online events is a tough blow. It’s also a massive shame that SA will not get to showcase its best team on the international stage.

March 25th: Na’Vi to Miss the Singapore Major

Just days after being the first team to announce replacements, Na’Vi became the second team to pull out of the event. The team made an official statement accompanied by a blog post late on Thursday evening.

The team stressed that this decision wasn’t purely motivated by positive Coronavirus tests, but also by the difficulty in finding substitutes in time for the Singapore Major. Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović was initially set to travel with the team to Singapore, but canceled fights scuppered those plans.

With them stepping down, the event is now temporarily down to just 16 teams. Valve or tournament organizers, the future of Major now looks very much in jeopardy.

March 26th: Aster’s Borax will not attend Major

With the Major just a day away, China’s Team Aster revealed that their support Ye “Borax” Zhibiao, also know as BoBoka, would not attend the event. While speculation and rumours filled public forum’s the official explanation given was “unexpected personal reasons.” They explained that the support player would return to the team after the Major.

Team Aster

Team Aster announced they’d be heading to the tournament without support Borax after “unexpected personal issues” arose.

In his place, assistant coach Cheng “Mad” Han would step up in the support role. Primarily a caster and coach, having last played professionally in early 2020, Mad will have huge shoes to fill to be part of China’s number two team’s starting roster.

Overall the wave of substitutions is both concerning and comforting. The relatively large number of player absences and substitutes due to positive tests shows the Singapore Major is taking safety extremely seriously. But it also brings to light how dangerous it is to run a LAN event during the ongoing pandemic. Valve and organizers PGL and ONE Esports have taken a risk in holding the Singapore Major. As much as every professional Dota fan is eager for offline events the safety of players must come first.