IG.V - It Ain't Over Till It's Over
IG Vitality formed shortly after the Shanghai Major, a tournament which marked the decline of Chinese Dota. The Chinese scene had been left overwhelmed by the young talent being fostered in western teams; while their constant shuffling of the old guard, which had worked for years, was left in the dust. Wings winning TI6 was a wake up call which completely opened the door and gave rise to many younger players in China being given a chance to play on established teams. IG.V rose from those ashes after the Shanghai Major, and while they have never been considered a serious threat to win a large international tournament they have consistently qualified for events. Inside of China they have even won a couple of high profile tournaments. As we fast forward to the present the current Dota 2 climate is in a very different place. We see new blood on every Chinese team in attendance at TI7 and most of the teams that barely fell short during the qualifiers are anchored by the newer generation of Chinese players.
“My theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.” - Tom Seaver
The first three months for the new IG.V team went horribly, with the team crashing out of pre-qualifiers while losing to teams like CDEC Avengers and Braveheart.Zombies. It was hard to imagine that only a month after finishing 23rd-28th in a StarLadder qualifier they would win H-Cup Season 7, beating VG.R in groups, and qualify for Progamer League 2016 where they would go on to finish third. Inside of China a new competitor was beginning to take shape in the form of IG Vitality. They continued their climb through the ranks of Chinese Dota, appearing more frequently in the top 8 of major lan qualifiers and during the first season of DPL finished 5th, ahead of IG, EHOME, and VG. This sudden transformation revealed the monster that had been sleeping inside of IG.V as they went on to take down Newbee and VG.J in the MDL and WCA qualifiers as well as claiming another Chinese lan win for VPGame Pro League Season 2.
The team then broke into the international scene when they finished 2nd in the Boston Major qualifier and would finally get their chance to play against the best teams in the world. Unfortunately both super and dogf1ghts were unable to secure their Visas in time and IG.V would be forced to play with two stand-ins for the event. IG.V was welcomed to the pinnacle of competitive Dota with a last place finish at the Major. However, they had managed to take a game off the eventual winner OG during the group stage and remained undaunted. The team shrugged off their loss and a little more than a week later won WCA2016, which may have been a critical moment in keeping the team together.
IG.V continued to do astoundingly well in China, taking 2nd place at the second season of DPL and qualifying for StarLadder and the Kiev Major. At the events however they continued to flop, finishing last place in both tournaments. It took IG.V a little time to recover after their loss in Kiev but when it came time for The International’s qualifier they proved they were well prepared, taking first place in their group and securing their slot to the prestigious event. Their road to TI was a constant uphill battle but the resilience and perseverance shown by each member of the team was crucial in their success.
There are a lot of complexities in the way IG.V play Dota 2 but to sum it up, they like to push. Juggernaut, Rhasta, Terrorblade, even Chen can be pulled out if the opportunity presents itself. Super uses the increased damage on Rhasta and the lockdown that level 1 Shackle can provide to zone the offlaner and secure Paparazi his farm. In the meantime Dogf1ghts roams on heroes like Earth Spirit, Kunkka, or Nyx Assassin and looks to help his other lanes. The timing of level 6 on both of IG.V’s supports is often crucial to how quickly they can put their plan in motion, requiring Serpent Wards as early as possible to begin pushing down towers and taking control of the map. These heroes often come with the advantage of having a very strong laning set up that is difficult to punish even when you know it’s coming. When you add in a healing ward to their pushes it becomes incredibly difficult to stop, however the very thing that makes IG.V so potent is also what may have been causing them trouble at previous lans.
What was working at home in China has been put to the test against the best teams in the world, teams who would study them and prepare for their most common strategies. While you might be able to surprise one or two teams during a group stage the same strategies will quickly be countered if teams like EG or OG know they are coming. What IG.V has success with can also be their kryptonite, responding weakly to pushes if they come before they themselves are ready with their items and levels.
While the plan might be simple, the execution we saw during the Chinese qualifiers for TI7 from IG.V was close to perfect. They were able to take early barracks in quite a number of games with their Juggernaut / Shadow Shaman pushing lineups. Sakata’s role in these games is to be able to survive in the front lines, be that through survivability on heroes like Razor and Dragon Knight or using mobility to keep himself alive with Storm Spirit. This makes it extremely difficult for teams to deal with Rhasta’s Serpent Wards without being initiated on and potentially losing a fight on their side of the map, which would lead to disastrous results. This fear alone paralyzes players, making them hesitant to jump into IG.V due to the understanding that making one mistake could lose the game. IG.V on the other hand sit behind their Serpent Wards and wait, eagerly awaiting somebody to move just a little bit of out position for their chance to deal a critical blow and end the game.
Paparazi is one of the select few who had the honor of playing with the legendary YaphetS on Immortal Magneto as well as Team FanTuan while Paparazi was still using the ID Yuno. During DAC 2017 Paparazi won the solo mid tournament, defeating Suma1L, Sccc, and Miracle to do it. Perhaps he picked up a few things under the tutelage of the player who used to be considered the best mid player in the world. When IG.V picks Invoker he will sometimes switch to the mid lane in order to play the hero. His individual skill shines on IG.V as he lives up to his role as the carry on heroes like Sven, Juggernaut, and Lifestealer. While IG.V might not have the best chance to win TI7 Paparazi is rapidly improving as a carry player, and the experience he and his team have gained by qualifying for so many lan events continues to pay off. In the near future with some more time and experience, Paparazi could be one of the best carry players in the world.
The mid player for IG Vitality. Sakata has only played on two teams over the last three years, Immortal Magneto, and IG.V. He is usually responsible for making sure the early game goes as smoothly as possible on heroes like OD, Razor, TA, and DK. His item timings are critical to making sure that IG.V hits their timings and they don’t just get rolled over by a team defending their towers or applying pressure in other lanes. While Sakata usually plays survivable front liners he is also very adept at playing heroes like Storm Spirit, Sniper, and Ursa. His flexibility to play the safelane carry and swap with Paparazi offers a wider range of strategies that IG.V can run if they choose to do so. Unfortunately during most lan events he has seemed outclassed in the mid lane but as he builds his experience he should be able to hold his own.
Due to the way IG.V drafts InJuly can sometimes be overlooked because of the heroes he plays. While IG.V pushes rapidly he ensures the enemy team has difficulty pushing into them on his Batrider, Dark Seer, and Tidehunter. When things go well his presence is barely felt as games end quickly and all it requires is one good pick off to potentially give his team an insurmountable lead. As offlaners go InJuly is not the player who would come to mind when you are asked who the best in the world are but he regularly obtains his items at decent timings and plays with confidence when it comes to starting fights. Like super, InJuly started playing competitive Dota 2 for DT Club although InJuly started earlier back in 2011. His time on LGD in 2014 netted him two first place finishes at G-league and i-league Season 2, but that team was short lived. If he can continue to play without letting the pressure of TI affect him he could be the deciding factor in some of IG.V’s games.
Dogf1ghts first made his impression on many of us when he played his support Rikimaru, backstabbing enemy cores and silently building up items until he was able to kill anyone on the map. The rotations made by Dogf1ghts on his Earth Spirit, Bounty Hunter, Earthshaker, and Rikimaru are a sight to behold, often securing his mid laner farm while also stunting the growth of the enemy. In the later stages of the game the utility provided by Dogf1ghts is often key to taking team fights cleanly, silencing or stunning the proper enemy heroes or outright killing them himself. While he has only been playing competitive Dota 2 for two years his game sense and ability to play a wide variety of heroes is invaluable for IG.V. His contribution to the early game of IG Vitality can not be overstated.
Not to be confused with LFY’s Super, super has been around for a very long time. Starting off on DT Club back in 2012, he then went to Rising Stars where he played with Xiaotuji and Air before bouncing from team to team. Under his leadership IG.V went from just another secondary club to being a real threat in the Chinese scene. His Shadow Shaman during the TI7 qualifiers was critical in their 1st place finish at the end of the group stage which secured their invite. His positioning and understanding of what needed to be done to quickly close out games made IG.V look like a force to be reckoned with after a bit of a slump. If IG.V is going to do well at TI a lot of the credit will belong to super, both for his play and for the way he controls his team.