posted by woodshrew,
The new EG lineup, image courtesy of @D2lGG
Evil Geniuses, A New Hope
This tournament has revealed the true character behind this EG squad. They have overcome one of the biggest roster changes in our scene, losing young stars Arteezy and Zai, welcoming back a familiar face in Aui_2000, and are now embracing the future. Sumail 'SumaiL' Syed Hassan is making his case as the next young star to follow, and he has shown excellent poise and composure in his first international LAN appearance. Much credit is due to the foundation of the team: PPD, Fear and Universe (and Charlie). They are an easy squad to cheer for, as PPD has cited a renewed commitment to practice and to one another.
What lies ahead however is a rising Chinese team that has already been battle-tested from numerous TI’s and victorious in many international contests.
Vici Gaming Awaits
Amidst the rumors of an upcoming lineup change, Vici Gaming has returned to the grand finals of a major tournament once again. In the post-TI4 winter ‘season’ it is clear that VG has been the standard of excellence, and now has an opportunity to cement a direct TI5 invite. If they emerge victorious again, we may see these players band together for the coming months and build a new dynasty in the East.
Championship calibre Vici, image courtesy of ESL
Can EG match Vici Gaming's Flexibility?
One of VG's advantages is their experience and this will show most in their flexibility. As the team has grown more and more comfortable playing with Black, they have shifted away from the 4-protect-1 rigid strategies to more diverse, mid-game oriented game plans. There a few trends developing from their drafts. One is that they value Sniper quite highly, placing both Black and Super onto the hero. With recent changes to the ability Shrapnel, VG clearly thinks the hero can provide long-range punch. They often pair their Sniper drafts with front-line initiators such as Clockwerk and Axe, or they just draft the ever-tanky Bristleback.
Expect at least one Super Ember Spirit performance, as teams often rely on signature heroes in grand finals. Case in point, fy has been on a tear with his Mirana support, and VG has built their deep playoff run off of his stellar performances. He's drafted his Mirana 3 out of 7 games in the playoffs. In the past they have experimented with putting Black on Centaur Warrunner in the safelane, and game-planned around early blink initiations. Now it seems that they favor his farming ability, leaving Super, iceiceice and fy to play the roles of initiators. Black will certainly find his farm and don't be surprised if we see another 6-slotted Medusa in a grueling hour long match.
On the other hand, EG in the past has run 'snowball' early to mid-game strategies that quickly secure objectives such as Roshan and towers. These drafts often center around buffing summons such as Visage Familiars or Prophet Treants with either Drow Precision Aura or Lycan Howl. With the addition of Suma1L, they have changed their focus in a few games, favoring Shadow Fiend and Storm Spirit, heroes which can accelerate their farm rate with powerful ganking ability.
The Prodigy, image courtesy of @D2lGG
Where EG may find their advantage is in their willingness to experiment and innovate within the series. In Game 3 of the Winner's Bracket Semi-Final, PPD drafted Fear his Necrophos, one of the forgotten heroes of this tournament. The pick had a direct impact on their victory over Big God, and is an example of both creative drafting and Fear's experience and hero pool. PPD' will be pushed to limit against the VG squad and we shall see if he can continue to craft his wins from the draft screen.
There is a saying in the Chinese scene that late game is won by the carry, the middle game by the mid-laner, and the middle lane is won by the supports. Well, fy and Fenrir are writing a new chapter in what supports can achieve in the course of the game. It’s on the rest of the scene to watch and learn: their movement and decisions are the engine driving Vici Gaming’s success. They play together as equals, often prioritizing farm to whomever can make the immediate impact. Through DAC, fy and Fenrir have an average GPM of 296 and 276 respectively, shunning the conventions of ‘4’ and ‘5’ positions. This is also clear in their perspective on junglers: who cares? They’ve stuck to Vengeful Spirit, Mirana and Lion. Heroes that can impact the game at every stage, but are especially deadly in the laning phase. Often times the duo are reason that VG is ahead, but also not behind.
EG has their own views on support play, as PPD, often regarded as one of the best supports in the entire Western scene, has in the past played the sacrificial ‘6th’ position. With Chen and Enigma emerging as very hot picks in this mini-DAC meta, Aui_2000 has returned to showcasing his jungling efficiency. Expect the clutch Chen Test of Faith’s and Force Staff’s which made him stand out in the days he wore Speed Gaming across his chest. EG often pressures teams into short-sighted and failed early ganks, because of how efficiently they excute the early game. Much of this is due to how they utilize the supports, often catching teams off guard with unusual lane setups, or maximizing the pull camps.
If PPD and Aui_2000 can establish their own farm and levels early, it will be on fy and Fenrir to rotate and flank the lanes of EG and break their rhythm. Pay attention to this battle of supports, as it is as much a battle of different philosophies. On one hand, EG will make you pay with every wasted smoke gank as they farm safely across the map, while VG will tear the game open and charge into the mid-game taking away your advantage.
What to Watch For in the Finale
iceiceice vs Universe
Their lanes may be across the map, but these two premiere offlaners are critical to their team. When EG plays at their best, Universe is the playmaker, dictating how fights begin, and turning the tide with big ultimates in the crucial moments of the match (ie. his Clockwerk and Void). iceiceice plays a similar role for his team, favoring heroes which can influence team fights and change an engagement with their ultimate (Tidehunter, Phoenix). These two players will compete to control the match across the map, and it is no doubt that their play will decide the series.
This old dog actually has a lot of tricks. Fear has been willing to play almost any hero, regardless of what the 'meta' is. He has played discarded heroes such as Lone Druid, Luna and Necrophos multiple times in the tournament. He must continue to adapt his style of play from one game to the next, depending on what PPD requires in his drafts. It will be interesting to see if Fear and PPD are willing to take the games late against Black's notorious farming ability.
Battle of the Middle Lane
Can Suma1L continue to string together consistent performances? His laning ability will be tested by Vici's accomplished laner Super, but this will likely not be a fair 1v1 engagement. fy and Fenrir will also test his mental resiliance as they make their impact on the game through smoke ganks and movement, and we will see if Suma1L can recover from any early setbacks. If he can not just survive, but excel in the middle lane, it will be an exciting oppurtunity for the young star to shine.
Who will take the first Dota Asian Championship?
This article was written by Ying “woodshrew” Sun, joinDOTA's Trial Writer.Ying has been into Dota since the days you could purchase Aegis. In between cliff jungling Furion in low priority queue and watching NEL, he's reading team Empire's twitter and watching Wagamama stream shirtless.Location: Ottawa, Canada Follow him on @woodshrewdota.