Vici Gaming. Despite being such a storied team whose name essentially means victory, Vici have yet to claim the ultimate victory. They came close in 2014, falling only to Newbee, the singular team at TI4 with Deathball execution superior to Vici’s. Since then Vici have continued searching for success, but have yet to reach the TI finals again. 2019 has been their best season yet, will it finally be their year?
Vici Gaming VICTORY AT LAST
Vici is one of the most iconic teams in Chinese Dota. Their original roster contained now famous players such as Fenrir, cty, and fy. While this roster didn’t last too long, Vici were able to acquire Greedy, the team captained by YaphetS. The team had underwhelming results until late 2013 when they were joined by Super and the now-infamous rOtk. Now this was a team worthy of the name Vici Gaming. They went from rarely breaking into the top-4 to a making a string of top-4 finishes. They cooled after a few months, though, sitting at a middling spot that was better than the old team, but not quite the championship form they had only weeks ago. The team slumped even more during the lead-up to TI, but as we’ve seen recently, you can never really be sure what will go down once The International begins.
This iteration of TI would be a bit different. Valve departed from the previous years’ split group stage format, combining the two groups and moving from two games for each match to only one. Vici thrived in this format, taking first place in a group of 16 teams with a 12-3 record. Their only losses were to Na’Vi, EG, and Cloud 9. Vici were one of only four teams to begin in the upper bracket and they were a clear favorite going into the upper bracket. Their first round opponents were Newbee, who just barely avoided elimination in the group stage by beating LGD and mousesports. Well, Newbee shocked the world and started the match by beating Vici in only 14 minutes, the fastest game of the main stage. Newbee went on to win the match and sent Vici careening to the lower bracket, the worst case scenario for the rest of the lower bracket. As expected, Vici tore through everyone else and met Newbee once again, this time in the grand finals. Well, it was a grand finals, that’s about all you could say about it. Vici won game 1 but faltered in the next three. With a final scoreline of 1-3, the match ended in less than an hour and a half of game time, unheard of for a Bo5 in Dota 2.
Sadly the loss proved to be too much for the team to take. Sylar left the team and rOtk chose to retire. The next season hadn’t even begun, but hopes to see Vici stick together had already been quashed. Vici made a very interesting move next, bringing in the all-star iceiceice and his friend Black^. This was the first, and to this day only, time a major Chinese team picked up a Western / non-Chinese-speaking player. The move worked quite well for Vici and they managed to continue their strong performances until DAC 2015. Vici collapsed during the DAC finals against EG, leading to them replacing Black^ with Hao. The team managed to continue its strong performances, eventually leading to a strong run at TI5. Starting in the lower bracket, they managed to win all the way up to 4th place before finally being knocked out by LGD.
Then, for a long time, Vici struggled to reach such heights. No amount of roster swaps or full shuffles could help them. They didn’t even qualify for TI in 2016 and 2017, and their TI8 finish wasn’t much better. Finally, in the fall of 2018, something clicked. The new team of Paparazi, Ori, Yang, Fade, and Dy managed to find success where so many struggled before. They also picked up the long-gone Vici legend, rOtk, to coach their team. They qualified directly for the first Major and made it to the top 8 before taking a surprise loss to TNC. Another top 8 at the Chongqing Major made people wonder if they had real potential beyond middling Major performances. They were certainly doing well enough to qualify for TI, but could they do anything more? The answer seemed like no to start, with RNG knocking Vici out of the DreamLeague Major qualifier. As you’d expect, though, they won the Minor qualifier and then crushed through the main tournament, finishing with a clean 3-0 of Gambit Esports in the finals. Vici carried this momentum from the Minor into the Major like no other team had. They secured their upper bracket placing then proceeded to win out. Vici beat Secret, PSG.LGD, Fnatic, and Virtus.Pro to earn the championship in Stockholm. Suddenly, just like that, they were the first Chinese team to win a Major after PSG.LGD. Vici became the best team in China and secured their qualification to TI9.
Vici pushed on, faltering only briefly at the MDL Major where they returned to their top-8 form. After Paris Vici showed that winning a Major was no fluke. They went to the Epicenter Major and somehow improved upon their performance from DreamLeague. Vici took first without dropping a single match over the course of the event. Vici became the indisputable best team in China and found themselves in the perfect spot heading into TI. They proved that they can beat top teams and won the biggest event before TI, but because of their other finishes they don’t appear as worrisome as some of the other teams. This inconsistency earlier in the year works to their advantage as they haven’t put a huge target on their backs like Secret have.
There’s one more thing, though. The curse was broken last year. China’s TI was stolen from them by OG. With TI taking place in Shanghai, China this year, there’s no doubt that Vici are looking to right this wrong and bring the trophy back in front of their home crowd.
DPC Major Performance
Player Highlight - Fade
Pan “Fade” Yi is a relative newcomer to the professional Dota 2 scene, especially for a captain. He started out on Thunderbot Gaming before getting picked up by VG.Potential and eventually making his way to VGJ (later VGJ.Thunder). It was with VGJ.Thunder that he found success. An oddity, he captained this team from the 4 position rather than 5. Odd doesn’t mean bad, though, as his team found success throughout the 2018 season including a 2nd place finish behind Virtus.Pro at the Bucharest Major. A disappointing performance at TI8 and a change in Valve’s DPC rules lead to VGJ.Thunder disbanding. Fade stayed with the organization though, moving to Vici Gaming and, well, the rest is history.
Fade is very interesting as even after upgrading to Vici Gaming he has held onto his beloved 4 position. It’s rare for us to find captains like this nowadays. He loves his Earth Spirit, though he is also well known for his Tusk. He loves to roam around the map and take over the early game. This is the biggest thing he brings to the team. By leading from the 4 position he is much better able to dictate the pace and strategy of the early game. While most position 5’s are unable to rotate and get involved with plays they’d like to call for, Fade is able to actually make it happen.
BONUS SPOTLIGHT: rOtk
I would be remiss to write this without giving rOtk his own section. This man lead Vici to a TI final once before, he can do it again. He performed well on Team DK in his early years, but he was not the leader of that team. It's possible DK would have found more success under his leadership. rOtk's influence has been quite clear with Vici's strong performance this year. With more and more teams using the coach as the drafter, rOtk now provides drafting prowess and strategic leadership that no one else on the team could provide. This is even more important because of Fade’s relative inexperience as a captain. rOtk helps offset how green Fade is with his almost-decade of experience.
Players(Click the icons to read more about the players)
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Paparazi... what a player. Perhaps best known for being the first player to reach 8000 mmr on the Chinese servers, Paparazi is about as notorious of a pubstar as it gets. At times he has been the best mid player in the world (including beating the likes of Sumail and Miracle- in past DAC 1v1 Mid tournaments). Paparazi was essentially the gold-standard of Chinese mid players since joining the competitive scene. Now though, like many other mid players, Paparazi has moved to the carry role. Favoring fighting heroes, he often prefers to play the likes of Juggernaut, Lifestealer, and Sven. His team looks to enable him as often as possible, knowing that he will dominate his lane whenever given the chance. And if he dominates his lane, you can be sure that he will dominate the game.
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Zhou “Yang” Haiyang is the offlaner for Vici Gaming. Coming from VGJ.Thunder with teammates Fade and Dy, Yang has been a Vici player all of his career. Yang is a relatively stereotypical offlane player, though he seems to like Batrider more than most. He actually has a very respectable 60% all-time win rate with heroes like his Omniknight coming in very useful lately (his Omniknight boasts a 76% win rate and was used to take down Liquid at Epicenter). Yang will likely continue to focus on his very feast-or-famine heroes, the Batriders and Dark Seers of the world. He is still solid on ratty heroes like Nature’s Prophet and Beastmaster, where he really struggles is on slow, tanky heroes with no playmaking potential, i.e. Tidehunter. That said, Yang will be a consistent force in the offlane for Vici, he may even shine if given a favorable matchup.
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Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang, much like the rest of the team, has only been involved with the competitive scene for the last couple years. As far as rises though, his was about as quick as it gets. Ori played 3 tournaments with Duobao Young before moving on to Vici Gaming. That being said, he now has the longest stretch on Vici of everyone now on the team. As for his heroes, if Yang is a relatively stereotypical offlane player, then Ori is the mid player the stereotype came from. He plays everyone you’d expect him to: Templar Assassin, Storm Spirit, Shadow Fiend, Lina. The list goes on but it would take far too long to list all of the heroes he can dominate the mid lane with. Ori has the mechanical skill necessary not just to keep up with other mids but to dominate them as well. Look for Vici to focus heavily on Ori and almost always last pick his hero. He doesn’t always need a favorable lane matchup to carry the game, but it never hurts.
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Dy finds himself in an interesting position thanks to Fade. He is one of a select few players to fill the position 5 role without leading his team. The common logic for the position 5 player taking the role of captain is that all of the other roles have more going on mechanically and are often busier while position 5 players have less to do and can focus more on analyzing the game as a whole and determining the best way for the team to move forward. Well, Dy is left without any of that, and you can see it in the way Vici picks his heroes. While Dy does play the standard position 5 heroes, he also plays several position 4 heroes as well. His Nyx Assassin and Earth Spirit would make for his most common heroes that don’t fill his standard role, and he certainly excels on them. This overlap between Fade’s and Dy’s hero pools allows Vici to pick significantly more aggressive support duos, but this rarely presents a problem because most of these heroes can still provide value without any items. Dy is always willing to make the sacrifice play when he’s needed, and his team won’t hesitate to throw him under the bus if it means achieving victory. He wouldn’t mind it, either.