LFY - Tale of the Underdog
It is an interesting facet of human psychology that so few people ever expect the unexpected, that so few people think twice about shoeing in favourites to tournaments, and counting out those that they wouldn’t consider ‘tier 1’. If there has been a theme over a majority of the Internationals, especially the last 3, it has been that of the underdog. Whether it is Newbee making a stunning lower bracket run from the verge of elimination, CDEC literally coming out of nowhere to barely miss out on the ultimate glory, or we have DC during TI6, surprising all but the most ardent Dota-fiends with their exquisite play, the International is the tournament in which underdogs excel.
LFY go into the tournament undoubtedly underdogs. A team that was seemingly at first just a vessel for xiao8 to cling onto professional play until the pesky youngsters chiselled his fingers off the rudder, LFY achieved fairly middling results from the end of 2016 to the beginning of 2017 with a lineup that only Monet and Super survived, the other players all moving on. However, on Yao’s departure, xiao8’s retirement, and a veritable hokey pokey with different support duos, the lineup we know and love today coalesced.
They are a mix of young and old, seasoned and fresh, those with lots to prove and those only needing to prove one more thing. Super and ddc are players who have stepped onto the stage of the Key Arena more than once before – for Monet, Inflame, and Ahfu it will be their first time. What unites them is their clear hunger for victory, their fortitude in the face of seemingly certain defeat, their confidence in going up against teams that on paper should best them, and winning anyway. Never count out an underdog.
Watching LFY’s play can put the viewer in mind of a craftsman wielding a hammer with surgical precision. From the second the horn sounds, they find the weaknesses in their opponent's lineup and apply as much pressure as they can at that spot until something gives. They run fairly similar lineups if they can – Monet and Super on two strong, scaling cores while Inflame plays a tempo-dictating offlaner capable of roaming and making the space the other two cores need. Ahfu and ddc are a formidable duo, and their early game rotations can often result in kills in any of the enemy lanes; it is not that uncommon to hear the announcer proclaiming an Inflame ‘mega kill’ before 15 minutes in part due to the supports’ efficacy.
The ideal LFY game would run something like this: strong lanes result in a victory during the early game, which transitions into confident 5-man movement around the map, taking towers and asserting their lead further. Then, with a patience and restraint that ddc’s LGD pedigree undoubtedly influenced, they would tighten the noose and close the game out. Of course, there are few teams whose game plan wouldn’t resemble something like this – what distinguishes LFY is their remarkable ability to lose the early game, sometimes quite badly, and once again with patient and restraint minimise the mistakes they make later, and capitalise on their opponents mistakes to mount a comeback.
LFY’s play in the Mars Dota League, their last public showing before TI7, demonstrated a style in which their affinity for 5-man Dota developed further into a TI4-esque focus on pushing. Cores such as Lycan, Chaos Knight and Dragon Knight often found their way into LFY’s draft, as well as defensive supports such as Omniknight and Dazzle. Indeed, throughout the tournament this style of play was also adopted by LGD and Newbee, giving a hint of what style of play may be the trend for TI7. Should that be the case, LFY will be scrutinised very carefully by other teams for their style of play that, with just a bit more polish, is as good as any team at TI7.
Every team needs its young, wunderkind core player, and LFY has theirs in the form of 17 year old Monet. Like so much of the new, uber-talented Chinese blood that has risen through the ranks since the Chinese region’s total capitulation to the West at TI3, Monet was forged in the scorching fires of Chinese inhouse leagues and C-team cups. First on FTD.C, and then CDEC Avengers (one of the many teams cultivating up and coming Chinese players under the CDEC franchise), Monet was brought in under the tutelage of xiao8 in the original LFY roster, and he is still somewhat of a diamond in the rough. Much like the paintings produced by his namesake, Monet’s play often seems to be lacking in clarity and focus, and for every moment of blistering brilliance in which he places his team on his back and hauls them across the finish line – often on signature heroes such as Morphling or Weaver – there are games where he struggles to find his footing and gather enough momentum to become unstoppable. However, these moments of inconsistency were fewer in MDL than they have been previously, and an extra month of boot camping and practice could be all Monet needs to become a competitive, tier 1 carry.
In today’s Dota-sphere, Super seems somewhat of an anachronism. We live in the era of midlaners such as Maybe, Sumail and Ana – players which have entire teams built around their prodigious talents that manifest in flashy, crowd-pleasing plays when the chips are down and the stakes are at their highest. Super does not comfortably fall into this category. He is a relative veteran of the scene, starting out in Dota 2 with the second-best iteration of Team DK, managing to finish 4th in TI2 and 5th-6th in TI3. After that, he was part of the Vici Gaming squad which came 2nd in TI4 and subsequently 4th in TI5.
Throughout both of these teams, and through with LFY as well, he has consistently played a particular style of mid – one that is solid and utterly dependable. He rarely has supports playing to maximise his farm, and yet he finds it anyway. He is rarely on an iconic playmaking hero that can dictate the tempo of the game, and yet he makes plays regardless. He is a player that has 142 professional games of Viper, Death Prophet and Razor in total for God’s sake. That alone proves a mental fortitude that should raise his estimation in anybody’s eyes, and marks him out as a different kind of player than we would typically expect to occupy the mid lane role nowadays.
The ultimate prize, an aegis from the biggest stage of them all, has thus far eluded Super despite an understated and illustrious career so far. With a team made up of players that seem to complement one another so well, TI7 could well be the moment Super steps up and cements his place as an all-time legendary mid player.
Inflame is a player whose stock rises with every game he plays in the LFY shirt. If Super is the anchor of the team, Inflame is a merciless pirate above deck, leaping from rigging to rigging and routing the enemy wherever he encounters them. He is a particularly versatile player, having played professionally in every core role, and in LFY he has truly come into his own in the offlane. There are few players capable of dictating the tempo as effectively as he does, especially when drafted his signature hero of Puck. In the MDL grand finals, LGD felt it necessary to ban Puck out due to the threat of Inflame posed on it. More than one comeback from a seemingly unrecoverable position was engineered by Inflame’s commanding play from the offlane position, driven by his sharpened killer instinct and ability to spot an opportunity for a kill or teamfight changing ultimate from half the map away. At present, Inflame has neither found outstanding success on a world class stage, nor been given many opportunities to display his talent on such a stage. Seattle in August presents a chance he cannot pass up if he wants to prove that cometh the tournament, cometh the player.
I’m going to come right out and say it – Ahfu is an absurdly underrated player. Only seasoned fans of the SEA scene will have registered the existence of the Malaysian support player before he joined LFY, and those who did will nod in agreement upon hearing of his decision to join a Chinese team in an effort to push his way into the top tier of Dota. Before his move to LFY, he played for WG.Unity who were a dominant force in the SEA scene, and even managed to knock out Complexity and finish 5th – 8th in the Boston Major. Ahfu’s style of play is a heavily roaming position 4 that’s not afraid to both drive vital lane rotations and accrue comfortable amounts of farm. It’s hard to resist drawing comparisons between Ahfu and the infamous Malaysian position 4, Chuan. Both players moved to China in search of bigger and better things, both players are happy to assert themselves in game through their aggressive style of play, and both players’ teams success was in large part based on the talent of their position 4s. The one difference? Chuan won an International – it is up to Ahfu to take up the standard and do his fans, and Malaysia, proud.
There are three players that have attended every single International tournament, and all three are due to attend TI7 as well. The first two are Kuroky and Puppey, but more than enough website inches have been filled with regard to their careers. It is ddc that is the third player with such an achievement, and he is easily the most overlooked of the three. This is, in great part, due to the fact he has never won the illustrious tournament that he has qualified for so consistently. The Macau-born position 5 is one of the few notable Chinese players prominent in original Dota that still plays at a competitive level, and there is damned good reason for it. Despite suffering somewhat of a slump after leaving LGD, a team which he achieved substantial success with including a third place at TI3, he has made a resurgence in LFY as a support player. Ddc’s partnership with Ahfu has resulted in a formidable support duo, and watching LFY both competently defend a lead as well as mount impressive comebacks inevitably puts the observant Dota fan in mind of 2012-era LGD, and their ability to do the same. DDC is a player who is undoubtedly in the twilight of his career – but that does not prevent him from making it the zenith as well.