Execration - The Wild Card
Who are Execration?
An honest question for most of the fans who do not follow the SEA scene regularly, as they go through the list of teams attending this year’s International. While this is not the first stint of Execration at Seattle, their form today is a far cry from the team that took 3rd place in last year’s Wild Card bracket and barely missed out on the main event. With their roster being unstable for the majority of the current season, their results suffered and Execration largely went under in the masses of teams in the SEA region. Naturally with a lack of good results, the standout players that had been noticed during TI6 were swept up by more prestigious organisations and rosters, resulting in the loss of both Abed and Tims. Passing through were also other celebrities of the scene as Gabbi and DJ had also joined and left without leaving a lasting impact on the team’s performance. The one time their ever changing roster played at a premier tournament was at ESL One Genting, but a quick exit in the group stages showed the gap that had developed between them and the stronger teams both regionally and worldwide. With Faceless, Clutch Gamers and Warriors Gaming all taking the spotlight via the few qualifier spots of the SEA region, Execration seemed doomed to a shadowy existence at the fringes without any success this season. Clearly radical steps were overdue, but in the resulting shuffles, Execration continued their streak of failed qualifier runs sinking ever further into obscurity.
As TI7 approached, Execration finally settled their roster on the 3 familiar faces from last year of Nando, RR and Kim0 as well as the additions of James and Raging potato. Making it through the open qualifiers, they successfully upset Team Faceless during the main qualifiers and proceeded to complete the surprise by defeating their Filipino rivals Clutch Gamers for the last ticket to Seattle. So did all the hardships earlier on in the season finally pay off? It is hard to say. While there certainly is more to Execration than meets the eye, realistically speaking they are also among the weaker teams among this year’s competitors. Their recent performance during the WCA APAC qualifier is a testament to that: During the group stages they did well enough but with the beginning of the playoffs, they started to struggle. In the end they managed to qualify to the main event, but they did so as runner-up. Against a field that is notably only for teams being absent from Seattle, the Filipinos can’t possibly be happy with their performance and we can be sure that Execration will have trained hard to make sure that they can shine just as brightly as their compatriots in TnC on the grandest of stages.
Execration’s game play is difficult to put into words. Why you ask? Because sometimes it seems like they do not know what they are going to do either. Looking at drafts and laning decisions, the only constant is an aggressive stance with lane dominance in mind. The resulting focus on the early game puts the supports of the team - kim0 and RR - into key positions for Execration. In order to achieve their aim they often utilize roaming heroes such as Night Stalker or Tusk, trying to set up ganks on key targets to ensure a strong early game presence for the Filipinos. The additional pieces to their lineups are a haphazard mix of heroes excelling during team fights or pickoffs such as QoP or AA and some form of initiation such as Void or Nyx. Taking all these into account, it is difficult to say if their game plan extends further than just “dominate lanes, kill the opposition and then snowball to victory”, especially as their lineups can often lack a “true” mid to late game carry that can take up the pieces should their traditional aggression pan out badly.
Even with a more well-balanced draft that is not entirely reliant on winning the early stages of the game, Execration seem to thrive in an environment of chaos with engagements all over the place and kills happening at breakneck pace. When it works out Execration are quite a sight to behold, diving relentlessly, cornering their opponents and destroying them all across the map, often winning games with staggering kill advantages. In times where this approach does not work out that well, Execration quickly find themselves severely disadvantaged by their draft and their movements become uncoordinated as individual players try to go for hero plays to turn the situation around. Often resulting in bleeding more kills to the opposition as the deficit gets too large to handle, sometimes they are able to turn games around but - more often than not - they crumble under the pressure and proceed to fold not too soon after.
Maybe I am too harsh on Execration for lacking a clear-cut game plan and crisp execution as for example OG are known for, or maybe the Filipinos have just embraced the stereotypical SEA pub mentality wholeheartedly and want to see the world burn. It remains to be seen how this unbridled aggression bordering to lack of discipline holds up against the best the world has to offer in Seattle as Execration has not had games against teams outside the SEA region for the longest time.
While Execration’s one-dimensional approach to the game sounds like a massive weakness, they can at least claim unpredictability for their benefit. You can never be quite sure what kim0 pulls out of his wizarding hat for the series, be it a position 1 Puck, a dual lane mid or something completely out of the meta and therefore drafting and setting up your game against them can be a taxing undertaking. How to prepare for a team that flourishes in chaos and is hard to analyse? This also factors into another of Execration’s strengths as their players are quite versatile in their hero pool and early picks in their drafts are often picked up by different players depending on the situation. Swapping lanes and sometimes farm priorities at will drafting against Execration can feel like playing a rather difficult game of bingo. Is it Nando’s puck? Or maybe James’, might just as well be Raging Potato’s, who can tell? Maybe even Execration cannot tell until the draft is finished.
Nando has been one of the staples in Execration’s roster since 2015 (disregarding a short stint on another roster right after TI6) and is almost stereotypical to the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Excelling at cores who need little farm or experience to come online, he is a true embodiment of the Filipinos fast and loose playstyle. Aggressive and prone to heroic plays, Nando can look untouchable at his best, but at his worst he is just another feeder on the SEA pubtrain.
Nevertheless he is the pillar his team relies on, his wide hero pool and flexibility also allow Execration to switch up their roles. Especially his safe lane Puck is rather infamous and a thing to watch out for. Having been a part of Execration’s attempt last year already, he knows just how bitter it is to falter only steps away from the finish line. With a spot in the groups secured this time around we can be sure he wants to prove himself in front of the world, telling them that it was not only Abed, who worked his magic for Execration last year.
James is a rather new face even for the volatile SEA scene as he has had his breakthrough into the professional scene only this year. After fluctuating around tier 2 teams without much success, he was being recruited by LeumiK into Execration and since then has been playing the midlaner for them. Just from his signature heroes of Puck, Lina and QoP we can already clearly see that he leans much more towards the tempo-setting midlaners instead of the “farming mids” who have found so much success in recent years. Can this new SEA talent take the world by storm as so many “new” midlaners already have? The potential certainly is there, but we also have to consider that this will be his very first TI and with that nerves might just be a foe too strong to overcome.
The offlaner for Execration is Bimbo aka Raging Potato, a familiar face for even casual followers of the SEA scene as he has already been around for what seems like forever since he started out his professional career in 2011. Ever since then he has been following his hyper aggressive playstyle, truly deserving of the raging epithet of his ingame handle (whether or not the potato applies is probably a question best pondered sometime else). While he currently handles the offlane for Execration, during his career he has played literally every other core position with success as well, making it unsurprising that he is the third player involved in the swapping mayhem that is Execration’s tricore.
Although he is a veteran of the competitive scene, having also made it to the Frankfurt and Manila Major during last season, this year’s International will be his debut in Seattle and we will see just how much of his explosive play can be brought to the table against the very best.
Among the players released in the Post-TI6 shuffle was also RR, another staple of the SEA scene. While he found his first successes with Execration, he wandered the scene in search for greener pastures and played for Mineski and HappyFeet until finally returning to Execration right before the TI qualifiers. Handling the support role on Execration, he usually tends to be the more passive one of the Filipinos’ support duo. Although “babysitting” in Execration’s case is more comparable to charging in besides your cores, trying to keep them alive during their endeavors, instead of securing the lane in order to farm up. Naturally that results in fairly aggressive posturing during games even if on more defensively-oriented heroes such as Oracle or Ancient Apparition. With last year’s Wildcard exit surely still on his mind, RR has come to Seattle to make amends and take his own game one step further.
LeumiK (or kim0) is very much so the heart and soul of Execration. Being the founding father of the team since its very inception, he has been with Execration through all the highs and lows. Dedicated as he is to his brainchild, additions to the roster have always been handpicked by him, based not only on their skill but also on their attitude and approach to the game.
Much like the family father he is to his 3 children, it is him who guides the young bloods and hotheads on his team. But in true Execration fashion he leads the charge instead of directing it from the back. Usually playing a roaming hero such as Night Stalker or Tusk, Leumik is always busy setting up a kill or a play all around the map, ensuring the success of his teammates, even if it costs him his own life by diving further than it is safe. But even then for him that is alright, it just shows how dedicated LeumiK is to the team, an attitude he always expects from each and every teammate inside and outside of the game. Representing the Philippines at his second International, it is LeumiK’s example that shows us again and again that the stereotypes about southeast Asian players are just that, stereotypes. There is no reason that a player from this region should inherently be less able to progress to the top. With just enough hard work, dedication and professionalism SEA dota can shine just as brightly as every other region.