We all know the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog a new trick and while Dota (and life in general) is never quite as extreme as that, it is true that the older generation usually struggles to keep up with the younger players. However, the experience that is gained over the years can in some cases matter more than being the mechanically superior player. We see this exemplified in cases like LaNm, Fenrir, and eLeVeN. LaNm in particular is one of the old guard, having played professionally in WC3’s DotA for Nirvana.cn. One thing is for certain, his ability has not degraded with time, as he is still known for making plays from the support position and has immortalized his name on heroes like Earth Shaker and Sand King. Fenrir on the other hand has stepped out from under Fy’s shadow and had a successful stint on EHOME before joining VGJ.Thunder and eventually coming back to Vici Gaming. Together they can be considered the most experienced support duo from China, as well as two of the most accomplished support players in the Dota scene.
Paparazi, Ori, and even eLeVeN benefit hugely from LaNm and Fenrir’s knowledge, and for Ori in particular the opportunity is massive. He had never really been on teams that would be considered competitive until he joined Vici Gaming, but became well known in late 2017 for his entertaining and sometimes game losing aggressive playstyle. It took time but Fenrir and LaNm have succeeded (somewhat) in taming the beast that Ori can be, and have tried to rein in Paparazi as well. Their efforts to keep the team from taking terrible fights while trying to go high ground or by diving past shrines have shown results, although mixed; Vici Gaming is generally considered one of the stronger teams in the world and among the top three in China. With all that said, they still have a lot to prove after multiple close calls throughout the DPC.
Vici Gaming made it to six Majors over the course of the DPC season, and truthfully their results give a reason to look optimistic heading into TI. They came 2nd at ESL One Katowice, 3rd at MDL Changsha, 5/6th at both DAC and the Supermajor, and then last place at the Bucharest Major and ESL One Birmingham with a pair of losses to Team Liquid. They also recently won DPL Season 5, the Chinese league that generally indicates how well the Chinese teams are faring against each other. They sit solidly in the middle of the pack, which is a pretty good place to be when trying to get into the upper bracket at TI where half the teams above them should be in a different group.
The Aegis narrowly avoided Fenrir’s grasp in 2014 when Vici Gaming ran into the wall that was Newbee, while LaNm has also had multiple close calls of his own. He came 2nd at TI1 while playing for EHOME, 4th at TI4 with the legendary DK squad that was favored to win it all that year, and then two 5th/6th placements once again with EHOME during TI5 and TI6. The International stage is no stranger to either of these supports and if they can offer the knowledge needed to keep their teammates calm under pressure, we could see them do a lot better than most people expect.
Vici Gaming has been the leaders in a couple of unique different picks, specifically for LaNm over the last few months. We’ve seen him play standard supports like Dark Willow, Naga Siren, and Clockwerk, and then throw in a curve ball and play Tidehunter and Zeus regularly as well. Surprisingly his support Zeus picks have worked tremendously well for Vici Gaming, as they won all three games at the Supermajor when they successfully drafted the hero. Not only that, his K/D/A during those three games were 4-2-24, 9-11-38, and 5-2-24; having tremendous impact at every stage of the game, especially when he often got his Aghanim's Scepter at around the 30 minute mark. As soon as he had his Nimbus fights immediately became much easier for his team, as well as pick offs and even split pushing with the Nimbus from across the map. However, it didn’t take long for teams to recognize the strength of LaNm’s Zeus, and that’s where some of his other heroes come into play.
Picking Tidehunter for LaNm serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it is eLeVeN’s second most played hero in competitive Dota, so it makes it difficult to tell who will be playing the hero when it is picked up early. Secondly, it gives LaNm an incredibly powerful team fighting ability in Ravage as well as a tanky support that is capable of front lining for his cores to gather information and break up initiations. While Tide and Zeus are two of Vici Gaming’s most unique support picks LaNm has also played Elder Titan, Clockwerk, and Pugna as recently as the Supermajor. Many people remember LaNm for his amazing Earthshaker, Rubick, and Lion; the truth is he might be the most diverse player on the team in terms of his hero pool, and he keeps adding to the list.
This gives a slight advantage to Vici Gaming as you never know which picks are going to appear to be their core heroes, only to end up in the hands of LaNm; if you guess incorrectly you could find yourself on the receiving end of eLeVeN’s Doom or Tidehunter, or Ori’s Kunkka. However just having this flexibility does not guarantee Vici Gaming success. Ori and Paparazi are two of the rising stars in the Chinese Dota scene, bringing VG from a team that failed to make it through the qualifiers for TI7 to being directly invited to TI8.
One issue Vici Gaming has that we’ve seem abused by teams like Virtus Pro, Team Liquid, and PSG.LGD are VG’s relatively weak lanes. If the players can get off to a good start they have shown they are capable of beating any team in the world; the problem is getting there. Quite often they get outplayed in lane and end up either losing kills or dying and giving a tremendous advantage to the enemy, and sometimes it isn’t even due to a bad matchup. The players on VG try to push their heroes to the limits and while this sometimes works in their favor and gets them kills they otherwise wouldn’t have, they are also just as likely to die when there was no reason to make such a risky play. At TI where the stakes are much higher we might see their tendency to go for these high risk plays be reduced a little bit, which might be a huge boon for eLeVeN and his tendency to overextend.
Ori on the other hand has thrived in the mid lane due to his knowledge of when he can push his luck and when he should sit back and farm the wave. Quite often, Ori will be the highest networth on his team rather than Paparazi, even though he is often active around 6-7 minutes rotating to other lanes to try to get kills and pressure towers. If VG can hit the ground running they often don’t let up, always trying to find the next pick off and the next objective to follow it. It’s very similar to how Virtus Pro play, except sadly not as well refined, but the pressure they create still causes a lot of teams to crumble; as mentioned previously we have seen them win against Team Liquid and even Virtus Pro with these strategies. While they will not be a favourite heading into TI8 it would be a mistake to call them an underdog or dark horse. There should be no surprise if Vici Gaming finds themselves as one of the last teams remaining in the tournament, and at that point they definitely have what it takes to win the whole event.
Paparazi first got his name on peoples radar during his time in IG.Vitality due to their qualifications to the Boston and Kiev Majors, on top of that the team had managed a 4th place finish at DAC 2017 and eventually even qualified to TI7. His effort paid off as he was invited to join Vici Gaming afterwards. Paparazi’s hero pool is somewhat unique for a carry player as he enjoyed playing Sven and Slark until he was forced to pick up more conventional heroes which he is now better known for. His Monkey King, Faceless Void, and Razor have all seen a lot of work lately and helped bring his team the direct invite to TI8. Over three games during the Supermajor his Monkey King managed to put up a combined 14.20 k/d/a, even earning a respect ban against Team Secret.
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums