DC - Off To The Races
Now wrapping up the club’s second year of operation, there really could be no better fitting title for Digital Chaos. Initially, a North American team comprised of regional veterans and a highly vaunted newcomer support, the team’s prestige was never matched by its results. Time and time again, they would fall just short of qualifying for LANs, only to sometimes squeak in due to visa issues or other calamities befalling other qualified teams. Once the new year rolled in, the 2015 model’s wheels began to come off: First, 1437 replaced Biryu, then TC was replaced by Resolut1on, and then finally in one fell swoop in late March 2016, four out of five player in the remaining roster were scattered to the wind.
What came roaring out of the gates prior to the final roster lock before The International 6 was a sight to behold. Another promising team of old and new faces, but this time with a primarily European lineup. While besting their contemporaries in almost every regional qualifier and even qualifying for the Manila, their place on the international stage was still yet to be proven. After a soggy July on the LAN circuit, expectations were low going into TI6. A true dark horse going in, DC stormed through the group stages and fought their way to a grand finals appearance, only to come up just short against Wings Gaming.
After only a small pit stop to swap out one North American offlaner for another, DC’s momentum from TI6 continued well into the rest of 2016, netting them a top four finish at the Boston Major and even a LAN victory in early 2017 at ESL Genting. While this iteration of European transplants waged their campaign, elsewhere in the world the roster that would carry the DC mantle to TI7 languished in the shadows. Their new carry, Mason, quickly bailed on his new team Doo Wop early on in the Boston Major season. Forev would change teams three times. Abed, renowned for slaying compLexity in the TI6 wild card round with his Meepo play, was stuck in the shadow of Team Faceless and MVP in the SEA region. DuBu, while sticking with the aforementioned MVP.Phoenix, failed to follow up the squad’s diesel powered spring season with results in the fall and winter, eventually leading to the breakup of South Korea’s only relevant team. And finally, poor sweet BuLba: a charter member of Digital Chaos, thrown into an awful churn of poor results in his time on Evil Geniuses, Team Secret, and Team Liquid.
Eventually, these spare parts would find each other in the run up to the Kiev Major. Together with Demon (and, at this point, sans Forev), they would form Team Onyx and jockey for position against an increasingly heated North American field of competition. Despite an initial so-so performance, their first place finish in the Kiev qualifiers over teams like compLexity and Team NP cemented their place as contenders within the scene. Prior to Onyx’s LAN debut at Kiev, news came from out of nowhere that the existing Digital Chaos squad were leaving the organization and that Onyx would become the new DC bannermen.
A last place finish at Kiev would not deter the 2017 model of Digital Chaos, though it would prompt the replacement of Demon with Forev. Following the signing of the Team Onyx lineup, it seemed like the spirit of the original DC squad was back in action: BuLba was back in the captain’s chair of the organization he helped get started, and right when Clutch Gamers and Team Freedom were unable to attend The Summit 6 and ZOTAC, respectively, Mason and the boys were there to fill their slots. Even their 5th-6th placings mirror the path taken by the TI6 2nd place finishers. Should DC put up another strong group stage this August in Seattle, the similarities might be too much for the competition to ignore.
Digital Chaos’ play this patch leaves a very interesting sort of fingerprint of the player composition of this year’s lineup. 7.06e has left the state of the meta in a place such that each player’s hero pool - a historic stumbling block for many scene veterans - is accommodated very nicely, putting DC in the fast lane to continued success. Gone are the days where double roaming support were the defacto standard, as are the ultra-defensive babysitters of the Frankfurt Major. The flexibility and faced paced nature of the team as a whole fits snuggly in their own niche; a strategy that left many of their opponents in the NA qualifiers in the dust.
Leading the charge is Mason. In the days when he was the carry for Evil Geniuses at TI4, Mason was (in)famous for his hero pool: a select few very mobile heroes that could seal the deal before his hero’s potential would get eclipsed in the late game. Here in present day, many laps later, these tempo controlling core heroes have once again come back into style. For when the long term game plan centers around Abed, heroes like Weaver and Venomancer are the go-to favorites as of the The Summit 6 and the TI7 qualifiers. Their abilities to bully down and shove in lanes offsets both hero’s lack of flash farming tools. On the other side of the coin are the heavy hitters like Lifestealer, Sven,and particularly Bristleback for when the onus is more on him. Commonly, Mason has recently been favoring quick and easy build up items like Sange & Yasha, Veil of Discord, and Solar Crest, as well as farm enhancers like Hand of Midas and Mask of Madness on his more farm oriented cores.
Riding shotgun is Abed, whose flashy plays harmonize perfectly with Mason’s aggressive style. Mainstays for him have recently heavily rotated around Puck, Queen of Pain, and Lina. The first two are a no brainer: Puck and QoP’s inherent mobility allow Abed to pull off insane plays, take over the map, and even from behind allow him to get cheeky pick offs and lane cut. Lina is a different story, and it more resembles his play on his trademark Invoker, showing of builds that emphasize her role as a magic-based nuker or a heavy right clicker. Despite which build he goes, though, Blink Dagger is always included. Every now and then, most recently in only one game at The Summit 6, we are treated to an Abed Meepo when he slips through the ban stage (even though his lone recent appearance was a loss).
Further down the farm priority exists an interesting relationship between the team’s former offlaner, BuLba, and their current position 3, Forev. While Forev’s pool as of late has revolved around most the offlane standards, initiators like Batrider, Timbersaw, Legion Commander, etc., BuLba now finds himself in a very opportune position. Criticisms of his support play in the past centered around his lack of familiarity with the meta’s support pool, back when he supported for teams like mousesports and Team Liquid. Now, BuLba finds himself firmly in his wheelhouse: roaming 4-position supports are in, and many of them intersect with an offlaner’s hero pool, including Night Stalker, Sand King, and his signature hero, hands down, Clockwerk. Having two career offlaners on the team definitely shake up the match dynamic, favoring aggressive initiations and bold plays. DuBu, whose Earth Spirit is right up there with greats like Jerax and BoBoKa, is no stranger to this new pace, but also has the flexibility to make sure that Mason and Abed have room to breathe and achieve their draft’s potential.
It has been a long time since Mason has graced the Key Arena as a competitor. Roughly three years ago, he replaced Evil Genius’ carry Fear in the team’s run at TI4, and since then he has taken some time off and made some open qualifier runs at Majors and TI6 with various NA Dota stacks. It wasn’t until 2017 where another major lineup shift for DC gave Mason his shot to reclaim a spot among the finest in the international Dota community. After a last place finish at the Kiev Major, Mason came back stronger and now stands with 17 other carries hungry for the Aegis. Just like his signature hero, Weaver, his hero pool these recent patches have generally revolved around playing aggressive, do-something heroes like Venomancer, Lifestealer, and Bristleback. His fast paced play perfectly compliments the rest of his team’s energy, and together they have done a fine job restoring an old classic.
Abed’s defection to the NA scene from his incubator in SEA, Execration, is yet another flight in a year marked with increased intermingling between SEA, EU, and NA. Having snuffed out compLexity’s TI6 run last year during the wildcard play-ins, just having him in the region was enough for the remaining NA hopefuls to fear the potency of Abed’s devastating mid lane performances. In addition to the game sense and reaction time to pull off dominating plays with standards like Puck and QoP, he stands out as pretty much the only Meepo player left with the reputation to back up the habitual first round bans of the otherwise off-meta, micro-heavy hero. Tempo, like the rest of the machinery of DC, is key, and for Abed it is not just a strength, it’s his signature on a 10,000 MMR cheque.
Spanning three regions and four teams, it has been constant motion for Forev since TI6. Part of an initial failed build of Team Secret, lackluster results with his old teammates on MVP Phoenix at Boston and a failure to qualify for Kiev on B)ears in Europe cast dispersions on whether the 5th-6th place TI6 finisher was even going to pull into Seattle this year at all. Then, when DC swapped out Demon for Forev in the post-Kiev roster swap period, things began to turn around. Stellar performances through the NA qualifier for TI7 on Faceless Void, Legion Commander, and Enigma were enough to best the competition and punch him and his team’s ticket to TI
Following a rocky final half of 2016 in Europe, featuring stints on Team Secret and Team Liquid that were disappointing at best, BuLba kicked off his 2017 by coming home to North America and forming Team Onyx. For the first time since the formation of the original Digital Chaos squad in late 2015, BuLba had the luxury of entering his team at the ground floor, as opposed to being picked up by other teams like EG or Liquid to patch up holes in the roster. Things really began to take off for BuLba once his humble Onyx squad got picked up by DC and Forev joined the roster, causing him to transition from his trademark offlane role to a support position. He has adjusted well, playing aggressive 4-position supports that were once offlane mainstays: namely, Night Stalker, Sand King, and even his trademark Clockwerk. Now couldn’t be a more opportune time for BuLba to show that his support play is the same caliber of the competition they now face in Seattle.
It seems only apt that the former player from MVP.Phoenix have all found TI-worthy homes in other teams, and the plucky DuBu is no exception. One of two of the original SEA transplants on Team Onyx, his reunion with former teammate Forev has provided a the environment in which to recapture the glory days of his dominant early 2016 performances. Causing havoc around the map with his legendary Earth Spirit is only one of the many gears in his shifter: lockdown heroes like Rubick and Crystal Maiden and even hard babysitters like Dazzle had all yielded good results in the recent NA qualifier. HIs cheery, jovial nature and teammate comradery is only rivaled by his in game playmaking, begging the question: is this power of friendship and playfulness the secret to his power? The results speak for themselves.