HellRaisers - Who Let The Dogs Out
Against the odds, the demonic company march on Seattle, seeking a glory they have never experienced before, The International. A group of European underdogs, gathering from the trenches of Eastern Europe and beyond. They had parted ways with their previous organisation, Prodota Gaming on less than amicable terms, strengthening a resolve to prove their worth and choosing to replace Garter with Swiftending with their eye on bringing about a swift end for all who stand in their path. Indeed, this team formed of a rather mixed bag of players, having lost the first set of Open Qualifiers to the Loda stack, they stormed their way through the 2nd Open Qualifiers. Throughout the Groups they maintained a sort of dominance over other lower-tiered teams, especially considering they had only been playing with Swiftending for a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, they dropped games to Secret, Alliance, and PENTA, requiring them to make another push in the playoffs of the Main Qualifiers.
The playoff stage of the Main Qualifiers required the team, as Planet Dog, to gather their strength and use their advantage as an underdog team. Alas they fell to the Lower Bracket in the first round, before summoning the hounds of hell, running across the Lower Bracket and into the battle for the 2nd Qualifier slot. Pushing against their favour, they found themselves in possession of Mouz’s number as they took a rather convincing 3-1 victory to qualify.
Hailing from across the Eastern European region, the team is led by veteran support j4, a talented player who had been on what some might argue the talent discovery team of CIS, Power Rangers, for the longest time. In addition is 33, otherwise known as TheCoon, a pubstar who had some dominance during the days of the EEL and the FACEIT Pro League and had been playing offlane for the most recent iterations of Kaipi. Playing mid is pubstar and ex-London Conspiracy mid Keyser, the Greek that was left behind amidst the advent of Ad Finem, a highly capable player as a midlaner who dominated much of the lower-tier tournaments during his time with the Greeks.
This pack of players is further backed up by MiLAN, another pubstar who had been hopping across a myriad of lower-tier teams, most notably in Kaipi earlier this year with 33. Finally, closing out the squad is the polarizing player of the team, Swiftending, a well-known Serbian pubstar. He played safelane carry to a very respectable standard within the lower tiers of European competition, particularly during his tenure on Elements Pro Gaming.
Each and every one of these players come to TI with something to prove, despite the fact that qualifying to TI itself should have proven something already, truly enabling a fan-favourite underdog story. The last surprising team to have realized their dreams to an extent was CDEC at TI5, storming through the Qualifiers, the Wildcard, the Groups, and the Upper Bracket into a Grand Final. With the careful guidance of their coach Saksa, who was part of DC’s underdog story last year, HellRaisers seek to pull off this feat which could potentially be seen in but a few short days.
Draftwise, HellRaisers tend to go for meta bans and team-specific respect bans. The only thing that stands out in that regard would be their particular proclivity for banning out Nyx. Nyx was banned by them in almost half their Main Qualifier games and more so than any other hero. They almost always open the pick phase with a strong roaming hero along with either heroes key to the draft and likely to be banned in the 2nd phase or a solid offlaner for 33. Often the key heroes are somewhat signature heroes like Queen of Pain or Lycan which allow the team to capitalize on their strengths moving towards the 25-30 minute portion of the game.
That said, the team favours picking strong mid game lineups, often picking a strong and mobile support hero like Sand King or Night Stalker for MiLAN. Dominant midlaners like Queen of Pain and Lina for Keyser, and offlaners like Batrider and Dark Seer that hit key item timings around the 18-25 minute mark. This allows the team to make aggressive movements that forces the game in their favour and pressures the enemy team.
In terms of actual gameplay, they frequently start j4 off in the mid lane supporting Keyser when he’s on less mobile heroes such as Disruptor and AA while MiLAN tends to start in the aggressive lane. That said, HellRaisers favour strong laners for Swiftending and appear to highly favour starting Swiftending in the bottom lane regardless of faction, often pressuring the enemy side lanes when considering the fact that MiLAN roams aggressively quite often. Around the 11-minute mark, the team tends to group up as 4 and push the enemy safelane, often securing the tower and much of the jungle. However, they seem to be slightly less adept at this portion as they often end up losing their outer towers in return whilst being contested at the enemy safelane tower. This particular part of the game can be key to the success of the team as it involves Swiftending rotating from a usually free farm lane and getting active on the map with his pool of more active carries.
From this point, they often play on the other side of the map and 5-man for much of the game, farming together across the map whether it’s on their side or the enemy’s side. Nonetheless, this team favours active and aggressive movements more than many other teams as, even from behind, they will still venture toward the fog of the enemy’s territory rather than just sitting back and farming like most other teams might. This is arguably necessary, however, as their cores are rarely farm-heavy and, as previously mentioned, midgame centric, true to their strategy in each game. While many might frown on their risky movements on the map, it often pays off as the level of risk is highly unexpected at this tier of competitive play, allowing them to truly surprise enemies and capitalize on that to force games into their favour, especially when behind.
By this point in the game, if it goes that long (usually around the 40-minute mark) this team actively shoves waves in and threatens heavy split pushing while taking surprisingly even fights back in their base. Granted, of course, that they have the high ground and shrine advantage in their base, this particular play often works out for them, with the split pusher coming back to give them an increase in teamfighting ability and thereafter grouping up to push and end. This is perhaps the most important part of the team’s late game as they very rarely fail to defend their base, allowing them to get enemy racks while not losing their own. Conversely, if they fail the defense, the game is often lost then and there.
Hence, HR appear to play very clockwork Dota, with key timings, movements, and specific play styles present in all games regardless of draft and faction, truly playing a harmony that raises hell.
Essentially the star player of the team, HellRaisers play around Swiftending the same way Cerberus chases a red ball with all three heads in the House of Hades. The last pick of the draft is often saved for Swiftending’s hero, where he can afford to go ham with few obstructions and little contest in lane. In a meta where the safelane has been weaker than ever, Swiftending in HellRaisers truly stands out as the key player to the strategies of this demonic company with his pool of active carries, similar to the way Agressif played back for CDEC in TI5, active and early rotations on heroes capable of fighting early.
Not playing many farm-intensive heroes, Swiftending is an extremely exciting player to watch in these games. With much to prove and a fierce desire to show his worth, he shines for HellRaisers as the lava of the Underworld shines across the depths of the world.
His former compatriots having been to the stage of a Valve event before, it’s finally his turn as he seeks redemption after they parted ways. Already having won the Main Qualifier against them, he wants to take it to the next level too and go as far as they did. However, a long road lies ahead for him what with a whole new level of competition and the format of the tournament. It won’t be nearly as easy for HellRaisers as it was for Ad Finem, having to first survive the brutal Group Stages to even make it to the main stage.
Playing a myriad of snowballing, dominant mid heroes, he is a key element of HR’s strategies as they rely on him to provide the damage throughout the mid game and have the items and capability to hit buildings come late game. His massive impact in fights can’t go unnoticed as he demonstrates his skill at the game.
As previously mentioned, 33 or TheCoon was a well-known pubstar and dominant league player. Utilising his vast experience from playing with several pro players in such environments as well as his past teams, he brings a lot to the team’s perspective of the game. Particularly adept on Dark Seer and Batrider, he is unafraid to experiment and remains one of few players who persistently play these constantly nerfed offlaners to a highly respectable extent. Outside of that, he seems to play another classic offlaner in Tidehunter, mostly guaranteeing a stable offlane and providing solid teamfight capabilities for his team.
With Fly having achieved much as an Israeli player already, 33 follows in the trend of dominant Middle Eastern players playing in Europe and achieving new heights within the competitive scene. Arguably a regular on stacks with the likes of SingSing and Gorgc, he has certainly shown his mettle as a formidable player as well as someone with the potential to become a popular figure, much in the same manner as that of those mentioned. Doing well at TI will only push him on to greater heights, potentially as great as his fellow countryman.
The other Balkan player of the team, he plays the position 4 for the team, centered on making early game rotations and normally the crowd control for the team in fights. Much in tune with the meta, MiLAN excels on heroes like Night Stalker and Sand King, often acting as a secondary initiator or counter-initiator for the team, in tight cooperation with 33. Further to that, he is an aggressive player that actively pressures the enemy safelane every game and subsequently pairs superbly with 33’s Dark Seer, for example.
Hailing from the less-known country of Bosnia, he is the first from his nation to have made it this far in competitive play. A popular pubstar often found in games in the ‘Watch’ tab of Dota 2, you can be assured that he is a brilliant player up to date with the meta and one who is unafraid to attempt new things. A forerunner in the advent of Balkan Dota amidst the successes of players such as w33, he will pursue the glory that so greatly encapsulates the population that plays Dota 2.
Long-time CIS veteran j4 is no stranger to the hardships of playing Dota at a competitive level. Having been on Power Rangers for approximately 3 years without ever moving on, in comparison to his old teammates SoNNeikO, fng, and Ditya Ra, he is easily the one with the most to prove. Most top-tier CIS players have come across a brief tenure in Power Rangers before, only to be poached by other top teams later on but j4 has remained. At the zenith of Power Rangers as a team, he would only proceed to hop across an assortment of lower-tier teams, before finding his new home with the squad that now fly the banner of HellRaisers.
A slightly less-than-confident drafter, he is the mastermind behind HR’s successes, playing a sacrificial position 5 in the manner of many captains today while dictating how the game should unravel. Like a conductor of an orchestra performing “Orpheus in the Underworld”, he directs his team toward their melodious movements towards their success. Specialising on heroes such as Rubick and Disruptor, he actively dictates the manner in which HR take their fights, one true to their name, that is, to raise Hell itself.