TI11 Regional Team Preview: China & Southeast Asia
Yesterday, we profiled the teams representing North and South America at The International 2022 (TI11), looking at each one and determining their chances of making their mark in Singapore. For this latest entry in our TI11 Regional Team Preview series, we’ll be looking out to the Far East and the regions of China and Southeast Asia.
Both of the regions in question are storied in different ways. China has always been a bastion for professional Dota 2, dating all the way back to the DotA Allstars days when legendary squads like EHOME, CaNt, and Club 7L ruled the world. Southeast Asia, meanwhile, is home to some of the most passionate players to ever grace the scene, owing to the internet cafe culture that helped popularize Dota there in the first place.
Today, they stand as the two regions that represent Asia in Dota 2.
China: PSG.LGD, Team Aster, Royal Never Give Up
China has claimed three out of the eleven titles contested at The International thus far, making them second only to Western Europe when it comes to overall success at the event. Typically, Chinese teams are touted as the strongest coming into each edition of The International, and this year is certainly no different.
Three-time runners-up PSG.LGD lead the charge for the region, after bagging the highest number of Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) points for the second season in a row. They are far and away the best team from China right now, as they were in the previous three iterations of the world championship.
They may even be better now that they’ve had time to gel even further and come up with new strategies, as well as time to improve themselves as individual talents. Thus, they are once again a major threat to reach the Grand Finals at TI11 — thanks to their immense skill, coordination, and massive hero pool.
But we’ve been singing this same old song for years now, and PSG.LGD have yet to capture the Aegis of Champions — even though they’ve been long overdue for a title at this point. Their mental fortitude seems to completely evaporate when it matters most, and quite frankly their legacy may just end up being that of serial choke artists. They never perform well in the clutch at The International. And the fact that Zhang “xiao8” Ning is still their coach even now, there isn’t much reason to believe they’ve sorted out their nervousness in Grand Final situations.
Their recent defeat at the hands of Team Spirit — the very squad that sent them packing at the TI10 Grand Finals — at the Arlington Major is just more proof that they still haven’t done anything to prevent utter meltdown in high-pressure situations. And because Dota 2 at the highest level is a mental game, even more than it is a mechanical one, the inability of PSG.LGD to keep their composure is a death sentence and a half.
We’ll just have to see what steps they’ve taken to solve their choking problems, if any.
Team Aster is second among Chinese teams that qualified for TI11 through the DPC regional leagues. Coached by one of the most intelligent Dota players to ever live in Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng, Aster have improved themselves vastly over the course of this season. After acquiring Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang from Vici Gaming late last year, they’ve been on a steady upward trend — culminating in a highly impressive third place finish at the Arlington Major.
Second place at ESL One Malaysia thereafter only strengthened their case as one of the top teams in the world right now. Make no mistake: this new roster of theirs is no slouch, and though they’ve still got plenty of work to do before they can think of the Grand Finals, we’re confident that they can at least get within striking distance of the Aegis of Champions this year.
Finally, there’s Royal Never Give Up (RNG), led by Lu “Somnus” Yao — also known as one of the best midlaners to ever come out of China. He, Yang “Chalice” Shenyi, and Yap “xNova” Jian Wei are very familiar with the kind of pressure that comes with playing at The International; after all, they were once in the booth at the International Grand Finals as part of LGD.
Soft support player Hu “kaka” Liangzhi has been there as well, as part of the Newbee roster that got swept by Team Liquid at TI7. There’s no shortage of veteran experience here, and their consistently decent showings in what is perhaps the toughest region in the scene this year prove that they’ve all still got plenty left in the tank. Daniel “Ghost” Chan Kok Hong is the only member of the squad that doesn’t have any TI experience, but we’re sure he can lean on his seniors to guide him through the competition.
Southeast Asia: BOOM Esports, Fnatic, Talon Esports
The Southeast Asian fans, for all the ups and downs of the scene over the years, remains the most intense and fanatical in the world of Dota 2. This opinion is hardly up for debate; just ask any Dota community figure what their favorite non-TI Dota event was, and they’ll probably say it was the Manila Major.
SEA Dota always delivers the hype. The region is forged in the fires of battle, with the SEA server forever notorious for producing frantic games that see total kill scores reach up to the 50s and beyond for both the Radiant and the Dire. And it’s this very playstyle that has gotten squads from Southeast Asia far at The International, as well as in deep trouble when all the cards are down.
For the longest time, SEA teams have been characterized by their “emotional” play. They are often beholden to their excitement at major events, both in good ways and in bad ways. When they’re winning, their momentum feels almost unstoppable. The kind of pride that they carry with them fuels their fire, allowing them to go beyond their limits on paper. But because fire rages without a care in the world, SEA teams can also burn out against more disciplined opponents.
Whatever the case may be at TI11, the home court advantage will certainly come into play. Singapore is undoubtedly ready to blow the roof off of the Singapore Indoor Stadium should a team from the region make it that far. But of course, the three SEA representatives in BOOM Esports, Fnatic, and Talon Esports will have to steel themselves first, lest they throw away games that they should be winning.
BOOM Esports comes into TI11 with the seventh overall spot in the DPC rankings. Their recent run at the Arlington Major was decent, with a top eight finish after losing to Entity in the lower bracket. They didn’t fare so well at ESL One Malaysia, though, finishing in ninth place alongside their compatriots in Talon Esports.
Fans can expect them to at least put in a good showing during the group stage in Singapore. If they can handle “easier” opponents like those coming from the regional qualifiers, we should see them place well and secure an early upper bracket slot. It gets much more difficult from there, though, as the pressure-packed bracket will shrink the room for error.
Fnatic, meanwhile, are here after placing 12th overall in the DPC standings. They actually only got here because of a mathematical error on the part of Valve, which once saw Outsiders as the final direct invite to TI11. Upon rectifying the mistake, Valve revealed that it was, in fact, Fnatic that held the 12th spot.
The way they qualified for a direct invite doesn’t exactly bode well for them, but you can bet that hearing the news that they somehow made it in will light a fire under them. It’ll be tough for Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong and his teammates to figure out what they can do better compared to the rest of the season, and they’re going to have to do so fast before they face elimination in the group stage.
And then there’s Talon Esports, whose roster is a mishmash of Southeast Asian talents that have been around for the last three or so years. Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon, once known as the most explosively talented carry in the region, is back at The International after leaving T1. Not bad for someone presumably kicked from his previous squad.
There’s also former Grand Finalist Damien “kpii” Chok Sau-jing, who will undoubtedly inject some much-needed wisdom and experience into this roster. But we’re most keen on watching how Rafli “Mikoto” Rahman fares in his first ever appearance at The International. This young man has been on the rise as a midlaner for about four years now, and now would be the time for him to have a breakout performance.
Overall, BOOM still has the best chances out of the three SEA teams at TI11. They certainly don’t measure up immensely well against some of the top dogs, but if we had to pick a dark horse from this region, the honor would absolutely have to go to them.