OpTic Gaming, the new team of old school players. Born out of the drama of PPD’s “retirement” from EG and year off around TI7, this team originally formed in September as the intentionally vague “The Dire” while shopping around with various organizations. Eventually OpTic and the Green Wall would win out and PPD was now leading an untested team into new waters. Would PPD be able to turn this team into a TI competitor in less than a year? Well, their initial run was a bit rocky and there was much to question about the team. PPD had been out of the game for a year and would take some time to get back into proper professional dota and drafting. Zai moved from his traditional position 4 to the offlane and while no one doubted his abilities as a player, there is always due concern when moving one of the best players in the world into a different role. Pajkatt and CCnC were also less proven choices. This would be CCnC’s first opportunity to play with tier 1 professional players and while Pajkatt has been around since TI1, he’s never had major success and missed out on the past 3 TI’s. The final slot started with Misery but ended up rotating a players through this role before hitting their stride with Neta “33” Shapira.
With 33 joining OpTic, things would improve, but once they swapped Zai back to primarily playing 4 they improved enough to contend for best team in NA. Thankfully for fans, this improvement came in time to help them become competitive in the Dota Pro Circuit. Oddly enough, because of how OpTic’s qualifier runs worked out, they have only played in one non-Major tournament since January (the StarLadder Invitational, which they won 3-1 over VGJ.S).
While their placings in these majors are a mixed bag, it’s important to note who they lost to in each tournament. They were taken down by VP three times, Liquid once, and TNC once (though the TNC loss shouldn’t be weighed too heavily since it was a best of 1 and TNC later beat Liquid in a best of 1 as well). It’s hard to complain too much about these losses considering how few teams actually can take down Liquid and VP, but the fact that OpTic didn’t take a single game in any of those series is concerning. Unfortunately that final loss to VP sealed OpTic’s DPC fate and forced them to play in the NA qualifiers.
OpTic would go into the qualifiers extremely confident that they would make it through, but reality is often rockier than expectations. While they would tie for top of their group with Complexity and VGJ.S, they would end up losing the tiebreaker and then dropping into the losers bracket of the playoffs, forcing them to fight for the third and final qualifier spot for TI. Luckily for them, OpTic would learn from their earlier surprise loss to Immortals and take down Immortals 2-0 for the final slot. Now that they qualified, what are OpTic looking for at TI? The players have performed well this year but it’s still vital that they make a strong run at TI because a weak showing in Vancouver will make the team unlikely to avoid a roster shuffle and the players will have lower value during the post-TI shuffle. Pajkatt, 33, and CCnC all need a strong performance to justify their slot on a championship-contending team. Zai is already well respected but is still pursuing his Aegis after years spent on NA’s best teams. PPD perhaps needs results the most as he has the highest expectations to try to meet. He has already cemented himself as the best captain in NA, having placed top 3 at 3 TI’s in a row (including winning TI5). Will the pre-TI break give OpTic enough time to figure out how to beat the top teams? Only time will tell.
OpTic has built a rather interesting team for themselves because of their versatility and ability to role swap. Pajkatt and CCnC have done an excellent job switching between playing space-making fighters and very flashy mids or hard carries. There have been many games throughout this season that OpTic have played in a very simple manner, creating space for Pajkatt to farm on cores like Morphling, Terrorblade, or Luna. On the other hand we’ve seen plenty of games where Pajkatt switches to heroes like Gyrocopter and Lifestealer to allow CCnC to shine in the mid lane using heroes like Templar Assassin or Huskar. An important part of this strategy is relying on 33 and Zai’s playmaking abilities to carry them through the early game and some of the mid game. This style contrasts to some other teams that like to run more tri-core lineups that either present each core as a farming threat or allow a team to scale much better into the late game. OpTic doesn’t care about that at all. They would much rather have 33 on heroes that can move around the map and fight, gank with the supports, or apply huge pressure to enemy lanes. You can see this most prominently in 33’s hero choices like Lycan, Visage, Nightstalker, or Beastmaster. Another advantage to this dual-core style is that you rarely have to worry about cores ending up starving for farm since your offlane is now playing a much more aggressive style. It’s important to note that even when 33 switches to playing less traditional offlaners, they’re often still filling a similar role to a more standard hero. Using Lycan as an example, he fills the same roles that OpTic would normally need from a Beastmaster. Both heroes are strong in dual lanes that can easily pressure towers without much help.
This kind of high-pressure style is what OpTic have found the most success with thus far. Their goal with cores that can shove waves and 33 on heroes that can split push is to create situations where they always come out ahead. You will regularly see OpTic take fights down a man while 33 or another core is split-pushing a lane, usually a tier 3 by the mid-game. This creates a situation where if OpTic win the fight, they are then much more likely to go high-ground and take barracks. However, even if they lose a fight, the enemy team is forced to deal with the splitpush already knocking on their door, weakening their enemies’ objective-taking ability. Oftentimes this will create enough space and waste enough time that OpTic are then able to put together a defense at their own highground
OpTic’s massive improvement this season when they picked up 33 and then switched him into position 3 shows how 33 has become the glue that holds the team together. 33 is arguably the rookie of the year for his performance on OpTic over the past several months. Unfortunately this has also created a situation where if 33 has a bad game then it can have a snowballing effect on OpTic’s performance because of how Zai often plays around 33 in the early and mid game. Even if the cores are doing alright early, the games where 33 struggles are almost always the ones OpTic loses. 33 and Zai have proven to be the two players most likely to play whatever hero is needed to win that particular game. This is vital because it gives PPD the most options possible when drafting and is shown in the fact that 33 and Zai have played 46 and 44 unique heroes respectively in this calendar year. That puts 33 and Zai as the two players with the most unique heroes in 2018. This hero variety draft advantage is vital because OpTic has made a mark for themselves as one of the best teams at cheesing with last picks with 33’s Broodmother being their favorite pick.
Pajkatt has been a strong, stable carry player in a time where carries often struggle greatly in lane because of the prominence of strong duo offlanes. Pajkatt himself is likely very happy with how this season has gone for him, considering many were surprised when he was picked as the carry of choice for this team. Don’t try to predict what Pajkatt will play too often as he is only a few heroes behind Zai and 33 in terms of variety. Pajkatt is actually the 2nd most versatile carry player in terms of unique heroes this year at 38, behind only N0tail. One of the biggest reasons Pajkatt has been such a reliable carry is his decision making about when to go into fights. You’ll rarely see him join his team when they are taking a poor fight. While this does lead OpTic to sometimes losing games where Pajkatt only has one or two deaths, they win far more games from him sticking to 0 deaths and never feeding his advantage away.
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums