LGD as an organization has a prestigious Dota pedigree, with perennially competitive teams that are often among the Chinese elite, if not the best in the world. They sponsor multiple rosters, but their main squad has always been the center of attention. At The International 2017, this dynamic was upended when, despite LGD’s superb play and veteran line-up, they were ultimately upstaged by their sister team LGD.ForeverYoung. That team’s terrific run ended in an unceremonious sweep by eventual champions Team Liquid.
For many teams, such a placing would be a mark of progress and cause for celebration, but for LGD it was a sign that things needed to change. They could call themselves a top tier team, but something was lacking. With the X-factor essential to seizing championships obviously absent from the squad, they splintered apart and many of the players left or went inactive. The team went dormant early in the Dota Pro Circuit season.
At the start of 2018, however, a new roster coalesced out of a strange mixture of Chinese superstars and promising aspirants from across Asia. Wang “Ame” Chunyu returned from his period of inactivity, reforming the dynamic duo with Lu “Somnus丶M” Yao, better known as Maybe, that had carried LGD so far at TI7. The pair of stars joined a new supporting cast and were ready to show the world that, this time, they had what it took to become champions.
Coming to LGD were Xu “fy” Linsen, the standout support player of Vici Gaming, Yang “Chalice” Shenyi, a new offlaner rising up in the Chinese scene, and Malaysian support import Jian Wei “xNova” Yap. With these three, the team immediately found success in the new year, qualifying for several events. Over the past few months, they have continued to improve, culminating in a Major win after their Paris Saint-Germain re-branding at EPICENTER XL. That was swiftly followed up with a consecutive trophy at the MDL Changsha Major two weeks later, securing their high place in DPC standings, locking up an invite to TI8 and again cementing PSG.LGD’s place among the top tier of teams. With their pair of major titles, this LGD iteration has shown it certainly is championship material, but it remains to be seen if they will be able to carry this momentum into Dota’s grandest event.
PSG.LGD’s form is best gleaned from their most recent official matches at the Shanghai Supermajor, where they finished 3rd place behind VP and Liquid. Coming off of two Major victories, they came into this tournament at their most confident, but it was here that they also encountered their most difficult challenges so far.
PSG.LGD’s playstyle revolves around early-midgame rotations. When they look their best, fy and Chalice roam around as laning breaks down securing kills across the map and giving Ame and Maybe the space they need to farm. Maybe is usually on a hero that comes online shortly after his supports successfully collapse the orderly lanes composed by their opponents, allowing him to join the map-wide skirmishes when his hero is at its most potent. PSG.LGD take the initiative to secure runes and early towers that further increases their control over the map. xNova often plays the sacrificial role to protect Ame’s greedier heroes and to best enable fy to follow up the team playmakers’ initiations with crucial stuns and timely ultimates. While this careful hand-off of responsibility from xNova and fy to Maybe and Chalice in the early game requires precision on the part of LGD’s players, they have demonstrated this prowess in game after game.
Ame’s heroes take full advantage of the farm priority he is given and turn it into strong objective control in the mid and lategame, whether through rounding out teamfights, providing a splitpush threat, or directly countering the enemy cores in lategame clashes. This is reflected in the draft, where Ame’s hero is generally picked late. Fy often waits for the opposing carry to be revealed before selecting the perfect weapon from Ame’s arsenal to secure a favorable matchup that fits with the earlier picks.
The other key to PSG.LGD’s drafting is the captain himself. Fy’s hero pool has an outsized effect on the early stages of the draft, often drawing numerous bans and block-picks. At the Supermajor fy’s Io was first-phase banned by opposing teams when PSG.LGD was first pick in almost every single game the only exceptions being two games in which Virtus.pro left it open, and subsequently lost to it. Similarly, his Naga was banned several times in the first phase late into the tournament as teams became more aware of how powerful that hero was in his hands, especially after he used the Slithereen Siren to maximum effect against OpTic Gaming in the group stage. His notorious Rubick also drew attention, of course, as did Clockwerk, a new trademark that he shared with Chalice throughout their hot streak.
Clockwerk was another important cog in the PSG.LGD machine, with fy using flex picks like Clock or Mirana (shared by Chalice/Maybe), with a high-priority support such as Bane, Witch Doctor or Jakiro for xNova. These picks in the first phase set up the PSG.LGD early game, allowing them at least one reliably strong support pick while not sacrificing the flexibility of their draft. The players’ hero pools overlap in ways that allow PSG.LGD to easily create synergies within the drafts, enabling cores like Mirana and Shadow Fiend (paired with Bane and Clock, respectively) to shine in the midgame fights that PSG.LGD love to initiate.
When PSG.LGD loses, it is generally because they lack a playmaking hero for fy. When he was forced onto Elder Titan or Windranger at the Supermajor, the team had difficulty finding the kills across the map they usually rely on to make up for deficits in the laning stage, and thus were often on the back foot when it came to the midgame. They still tried valiantly to force fights around objectives, but it was often forestalling the enemy’s aggression at their own towers, instead of the brazen assaults they orchestrated in their successful games. Loss of initiative generally spells doom for this team, as their play suffers from the obvious discomfort of being relegated to their own side of the map.
When examining the games they lost in Shanghai, it’s clear that PSG.LGD’s main weakness against the elite Virtus.pro and Team Liquid lay in the draft. KuroKy in particular was able to secure strong lane matchups in both games Liquid played against PSG.LGD. He addressed both fortes of LGD’s usual draft strategy by restricting fy’s hero pool and blowing out the 1-position one upmanship Ame usually relied on. Challenging fy through GH, Kuro bet on his fellow support to outplay China’s preeminent 4 on his own heroes, notably a Sand King in game 2, and forcing LGD’s captain onto heroes he looked highly uncomfortable on. Miracle’s Tinker was also picked last in both games, acting as the ace-in-the-hole to nullify Ame’s right-click carries. With fy’s playmaking hamstrung and Ame’s typical lategame supremacy stolen, PSG.LGD fell to the eventual Supermajor champions.
With a couple patches of changes since then and plenty of time to brainstorm new ideas, PSG.LGD will surely come to The International with a retooled drafting strategy, but it is doubtful that their play itself will change. This could be fortuitous for the Chinese team, as their playstyle has proven to be highly effective in Dota’s current mechanics set, something unlikely to see major adjustments until after The International.
Ame’s best heroes are those you would expect from a top carry player playing during the most recent patches. He played Gyro throughout the months that the pilot soared, and during the same period frequently played Morphling to knock enemy Gyros from the sky. The Morph pick was especially effective against Mineski in Shanghai, being a deciding factor in PSG.LGD victory over a team that has troubled them in the past.
What makes Ame unique are a couple of pocket picks the team brings out. The young star has a scarily effective Arc Warden, a hero that can single-handedly win games if given the right start. Combined with certain supports in the lane, the hero can farm an early Midas and quickly begin outpacing enemy cores in networth with near-unparallelled safety, translating gold into tower pressure as the game goes on and the relentless split pushing takes its toll.
Ame is perhaps best on those sorts of splitpush illusion heroes, with his Terrorblade also being a signature pick for PSG.LGD in recent times. His command of the map is impressive, and his ability to teamfight with these heroes is not to be underestimated, as he is adept at timing his dive into the fray to cause the most havoc possible.
While the dual lane metagame has meant an increased emphasis on the 1v1 matchup in the midlane, Maybe’s heroes still function best when supported by supplemental picks. His Mirana play in the first game of the Supermajor series against OpTic is evidence of this, where fy’s Naga nets set up multiple long-range arrows, leading to key pick offs throughout the game and keeping the momentum going after a dominating laning stage against CCNC’s Storm Spirit.
This combination of laning prowess and midgame fight coordination defines Maybe as a player, and it will serve him well as he looks to make another deep run at this year’s International.
Chalice also plays a strong Brewmaster, another hero with which the team finds an inordinate amount of success. No matter what he is placed on, he is usually one of the primary initiators for the team, starting fights himself or directly following up one of fy’s bold maneuvers to cement PSG.LGD’s stake in the area. When PSG.LGD’s draft and play are matching well, the pair of fy and Chalice dictate when and where the teamfights happen with spells like Moonlight Shadow, Song of the Siren, Hookshot, and Primal Split that allow for supreme control over the flow of engagements. With PSG.LGD’s incredible teamfight coordination, as long as they can start a fight on their own terms, they will usually finish it their way as well.
His spell usage has always been tremendously impressive, but his ability to time Song of the Siren in a teamfight both to disengage from nasty engagements and to set up brutal reprisals is magnificent. His intuitive sense for area control extends to his play on Clockwerk, where his cogs are always placed for maximum effect, often trapping high-value heroes far from their comrades, in his team’s closing jaws. Simply put, fy is always using the right spell in the right place at the right time even as he carries the captain’s burden of shot-calling and strategizing, and that is perhaps the greatest feat anyone on this supremely skilled squad is capable of achieving.
This is readily apparent when one looks at the four main heroes he played in Shanghai. Jakiro and Witch Doctor are great dual lane supports that have high damage output in teamfights, while Bane and Vengeful Spirit are some of the strongest laning supports in the game and have excellent single-target crowd control that can also save friendly cores in a pinch. Bane and Jakiro in particular became high-priority bans for the opposing team, as their strength is amplified by other favored picks like Mirana and Naga.
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums