World Pro Invitational Singapore
Dec 17 - 22, 2019
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Time has come to end 2019, and why not got out with a bang while watching the ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational Singapore? ONE Esports, a company that has not done much in terms of international Dota 2, has teamed up with PGL to host one of biggest non-DPC events of the year. And what a lineup they’ve managed to gather. All the top teams, outside of Nigma, will be in attendance and that’s the best christmas present any Dota fan could wish for.
So if we, the fans, have gotten our present, then what do the different teams have on their wishlists? Being the kind people we are, we reached out to Santa and he agreed to break GDPR to give us the top item on each team's wishlist.
Welcome to Team Secret, Matumbaman. Welcome back to the safe lane! Now meet Puppey. You know, the guy who's known for his out of the box drafts. No longer will you be put on the same hero for a whole tournament. Those comfort days are over. We realize that the beginning of your stint in Team Secret might be a bit rough thanks to this. And we love you, Lasse, so here. Have our version of gamer glasses. We’ve tainted these green, just for you. This way, every hero is green. It should make your life a bit easier and your Christmas a bit happier!
Green tinted glasses
WPI is an interesting tournament for Secret. While fans might have high hopes for them coming into the tournament, we believe that the team will come in with no expectations for themselves. They’ve been away from competition for so long that making the top four should be a huge success. We, however, want to see more from them. Their run in the DreamLeague qualifiers tells the story of a team that hasn’t missed a beat. We want to see Secret dominate again. We want Matu to raise another trophy. That’s what we want to see.
As other top-tier teams LGD decided to miss the first major tournament. But different to them LGD decided to skip not only the second Major but the Minor too. They lost in the open qualifiers of the Leipzig Major and now are left with WPI as their only chance to get some top tier competition. Don’t get the wrong idea, despite this LGD is still one of the major powerhouses in the Dota scene given that their lineup hasn’t changed since TI8. But at the same time, you have to ask yourself: how good can the team's mental strength be right now? They’re in desperate need of a confidence boost but playing in Singapore could turn out to be the opposite of that.
A successful tournament run, ending with a top-three finish, could be vital for the survival of the team. Even a finish outside of the top three could mean a confidence boost, as long as they’re the top Chinese team. Because if they can’t win against the other Chinese teams here, what’s the expected outcome of the next DPC qualifier? The key matchups for LGD will thus be the guaranteed one against Vici Gaming and the possible one against Team Aster. If they win against those two the final placement probably won’t matter as much for them.
For an organization that's had as much success as Virtus.Pro has had over the last few seasons, tearing down what's been built up isn't a decision that can have been easy. While we'll never know, there were probably hard discussions and negotiations to make the players stick around and try for another yet. But the rebuild was as inevitable as it was necessary. VP stood at a crossroads and chose the longer, but possibly more fruitful, path. By shedding the weight, no matter how good the player was, VP gets a do-over and thanks to them keeping Solo around, they can avoid the pitfalls they didn't manage to avoid last time around. All this positivity doesn't help in filling the big shoes left behind by the previous players. Because at one point, their fans will be sick of the rebuild. At one point the patience of their fans will run out. And then they either need to win or the fans need to lower expectations. I think we all know which is more likely to happen.
If this was a year ago, we’d say VP was pretty much guaranteed a top-four finish. Now all we can say, with some level of confidence, is that they won’t be a bottom four team. The rest is kind of up in the air for them at the moment. Basically all the trades the team made feel like downgrades with the potential of being upgrades. Solo will have a huge part to play in realizing that potential. So WPI is all about figuring out their own playstyle for Virtus.Pro.
This item isn't strictly related to Dota but we felt like we had to say chime in on the rebrand the team just went through. The new catchphrase "Live Evil" is smart and catchy, the darker blue play into that in a smart way, and EG's messaging has now embraced their team name for the first time in their history. But this new logo... it feels off. The old logo wasn't the best in the business. Maybe not even a top 5 logo on it's own. But paired with the history of the team it became so much more than just a logo. For fans, the sight of the logo brought back memories of players IdrA, HuK, Jaedong, PPMD, Fear, Canadian, PPD, and the list can go on and on. It was iconic, god damnit! I'm all for updating your brand but this aint it, Chief. That's why we've overridden Santa on this one. EG needs a good logo. Right now.
A good logo
In a way this change also a good analogy for their Dota 2 team. Moving away from something (or someone) that has served them well for years to bring in something new and exciting. EG is a hard team to place, currently. They're definitely still the best team in North America and a fourth place finish in the first Major of the season is nothing to scoff at. Yet... there's something missing. Maybe expectations on them are too high, too early based purely on the names on the roster. This is a team that replaced 2 out of their 3 cores before the season and are still adapting to that, while continuing to win. And that's the goal for EG. They don't care about the present. They care about TI10. We still expect them to do great at WPI but, if you're an EG fan, don't fret if they don't reach the finals. This is about Stockholm.
When we got NaVi’s letter to Santa Claus, we couldn’t help but feel a bit bad for them. Their list contained only one item. It read “Please, anything but last place at WPI”. Over the last two years, NaVi has consistently finished last (or very close to last) in all DPC events they’ve participated in. Now WPI isn’t officially a DPC event but the caliber of teams at the event means that it could just as well be one, and no one would bat an eye. NaVi’s roster needs some success. Something to build off. And for them, success is “anything but last” at this point.
Anything but last place
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see their luck turning anytime soon. The story of Natus Vincere over the past decade is eerily similar to that of Icarus. A grand team was built around Dendi, one that flew straight to the top of the world and sustained flight. But they, just as Icarus, ignored warnings and flew too close to the sun. Instead of working on their internal differences players were swapped out time and time again. And when Dendi realized that “his” team was gone he must’ve felt as foolish as Icarus flapping his bare arms before falling from the skies.
One interesting thing about this tournament is the fact that there’s a smaller tournament inside the bigger one. One of Chinese dominance. A hard-fought battle that PSG.LGD has ended up winning the last two years so VG really wouldn’t mind putting their rivals in the ground. Some may say that VG will end the end on top of China no matter what. That PSG.LGD ended up giving them a walkover by not making it to the Chinese closed qualifiers for DreamLeague S13. They couldn’t be more wrong. A walkover never feels as good as beating your opponents fair and square. So for Vici a win over PSG.LGD, and a higher finish in the overall standings, is at the top of their list this jolly season.
In order to end the year on this high note, VG really doesn’t have to do anything exceptional.
While their quest to win the first Major at the season was stopped at the very last moment, VG has proven themselves that they are the strongest team in China coming into this new DPC season. However, as a professional player the goalposts never stops being moved back. Winning WPI would give VG some peace and quiet over the Christmas Dota break, so they can come back and win a Major for China.
Many treated TNC’s win in Chengdu as the Major win for a SEA team. And while it was impressive, we can’t forget Mineski’s big win in DAC a year and a half ago. TNC now has to fight tooth and nail to not become the next Mineski. The next one-hit-wonder. Mineski didn’t win anything noteworthy after that DAC win. And TNC found themselves on the verge of not qualifying for DreamLeague S13 shortly after their big win. The cycle has to be broken as quickly as possible. Preferably in Singapore. But it isn’t going to be easy for March’s team.
One more, please!
There’s no doubt that the players on the roster have the skill to win a second tournament. However, the top of the Dota 2 pro scene is such a hornets nest that even the slightest misstep could prove to be the downfall of a team. That’s why it was so impressive that the TI7 roster of Team Liquid went 7 months without finishing outside the top 4 once, even if they failed to win any of the four Majors happening during that time. That sort of consistency is what TNC, and SEA as a region, needs right now.
The last month has been though-ish on the new Alliance squad. They started out the season strong, going 15 straight matches without a loss. They dominated Europe against competition such as Liquid and NiP. While Secret, OG, and Nigma was definitely missing, Alliance put themselves in a prime spot to compete for inclusion in the “best team in EU” award. We don't want to say that they've fallen off since but they're in desperate need of a statement win. Because they're not a bad team. If you look at their five recent losses, they've all come against good teams. They've lost to, in chronological order: VG, TNC, Liquid, Secret, and Liquid again. So four of the highest rated teams in the world right now. And all four of those are in Singapore. We're not saying that they need to beat all four teams but taking down one or two of those teams would be a nice present heading into the christmas and new year break.
In order for this to happen, Alliance needs to play away from their weaknesses. Not necessarily towards their strengths but they can't draft themselves into a corner like they did a couple of times during the DreamLeague Season #13 qualifiers. So what does that mean for them? It means having Limmp on the right heroes. Don't put him on Gyrocopter, or any other traditional carry type hero. Put him on fast paced, disruptive heroes that can roam around the map early, causing havoc and buying time for Nikobaby to come online. We want to be 100% clear here and say that we're not calling Limmp a bad player, if he gets the right hero for him he can be unstoppable, but we're saying that the team needs to draft around him more. Nikobaby has shown that he can win on almost anything, so give Limmp a good matchup and secure yourself the game.
Their own finishing moveWatching Gambit play lately has had something bothering me that I couldn’t put my finger on. They haven’t been bad — far from it actually. They’ve done well in their regional qualifiers, making it to MDL Chengdu, and looked like they would repeat their qualifier success for DreamLeague only to fall against Virtus Pro and Na`Vi at the very end. However, when they made it to the first Major they looked like they were just trying to play everyone else's game — the methods they used to find success in the CIS region were nearly unseen. It’s a little abstract to say but it seems like they lack their own identity as a team. When things don’t go well for them, they really don’t go well. This might come from them trying to fit themselves too much to the “meta” and straying from what works for them regionally, incorrectly assuming that because this is how the best teams in the world play, it’s how they should play as well. Looking at how other teams have found tremendous success by sticking to their guns, I’d like to see Gambit try to play to their strengths and sharpen the tools they do have instead of trying to be a team that they aren’t. The upcoming tournament in Singapore will be a perfect opportunity to see if they can stand toe to toe against the best teams in the world on their own merits, rather than conforming to what other teams are finding success with.
China is a tough region right now. A region in limbo, in a way. The national matches are incredibly tight and there are an incredible amount of clubs looking to take a step up. And that’s the region's biggest problem. Thanks to the abundance of teams, with money behind them, the talent often gets diluted over too many teams. Still, Team Aster has managed to claim a spot as one of the top national teams. Yet, they’ve failed to make waves internationally. Some may claim this is simply because of bad luck, their group in Chengdu was not the easiest. Some claim it’s because they’re a bad team. We definitely don’t want to say it’s the latter of the two but if luck was such a big factor, then why do they consistently place behind teams that should be below them?
After getting their tickets to the Leipzig Major this LAN presents itself as a golden chance for Aster: with no DPC points on the line and with some of the top competitors in TNC, Secret and LGD, they can try out different strategies or simply get some practice with less weight on their backs. It can go either way - it is hard to tell if a top team really tries its best during these kinds of events, especially when the weirdest patch yet keeps getting revamped.
Peace and quietFor Team Liquid this season has, so far, been one centered on improvement, just like the two previous ones. This all came together in the qualifier for DreamLeague Season #13 where they went 10-0, a feat not even Team Secret managed to pull off, and qualified in convincing fashion. However, the teams many doubters haven't been converted yet, and not even the blindest of Liquid fans (read: the writer of this preview) can say they're wrong. The qualifier was played on a brand new patch and the two top teams, Nigma and Secret, just came off a lengthy break and were both somewhat rusty. Also, this was an online tournament. In fact, this squad has never won a true tier 1 LAN. The closest they've come was their win in DOTA Summit 10, against five teams not qualified for The International. So for the entire Liquid squad, winning WPI would mean their doubters would have to quiet down and they could get some peace and quiet for Christmas.
And there's a very real chance that Santa will fulfill their wish. Again: yes, the Major qualifier was played on a new patch and the pro meta will have, somewhat, stabilized in time for WPI. However, if you looked at the actual games being played, it wasn't like the team abused one strat over and over again. In fact, all three of their cores carried at some point of the qualifier. And when one core had a less than optimal matchup, he happily sacrificed himself for the betterment of the team. And on top of that, Liquid was one of the few teams that successfully came back after an early deficit. Even if the opposition in Singapore is absolutely top-notch, Liquid fans should be excited for what this tournament has in store for the team.
When Santa gave us J.Storm’s wishlist we had to pause for a moment. The team just wanted a win. But it wasn’t a tournament win. Nor a win against a specific opponent. Any win would do. Be it taking a game off EG or having a strong showing against Secret, they’ll take anything to change the negative trajectory they’re on.
Fear and co. started the season off in such a strong way. They qualified for the first Major from a region where none of the top teams sat out and, once there, made it to the second round of the upper bracket before falling out. Ever since it’s been all downhill. J.Storm has only managed to win two series and didn’t even qualify for the Bukovel Minor. So please, Santa, give them a sign that they should stay together over Christmas.
Writer: Julmust, OmniEulogy, UberXD
Writer: Julmust, OmniEulogy, UberXD