The International 5 spotlight: Vici Gaming - Black^ vs Hao

posted by ProxyPL,
With The International 5 drawing near we present the first in our series of team spotlights on TI5 contenders, starting with Vici Gaming. We run down the history of the team and document their story over the course of the last year and their playstyle. We also dive into the topic of whether kicking de Dominik 'Black^' Reitmeier was a good decision when looking back on results.

History of the team

cn Vici Gaming is a Chinese organisation founded in October 2012. The couple of first interactions of the roster were based on talented players without previous competitive experience. The team wasn't hugely successful at that time. After quite a few roster changes and bringing in some experienced players including Chinese superstar carry - cn Liu 'Sylar' Jiajun, the team started to pick up momentum at the end of 2013.

VG is actually the first Chinese team to take a win on Western soil outside of The International as they won RaidCall EMS One Fall Season in Poland in December of 2013. They continued their good run in the first part of 2014 which eventually led to them being invited to The International 4. The team performed well throughout the year but definitely were not a favourite going into TI.

However, to a shock of many VG topped the group stage at The International. Despite losing in the 1st round of Winners Bracket to the eventual winners Newbee, the Chinese squad pulled of a great run through the Losers Bracket beating most of the favourites and advanced to the Grand Final where they eventually lost to NewBee once again.

Highlights from ESL One New York Grand Final

First part of this season: time of Black^, era of domination

After TI 4 VG's captain - cn Fan 'rOtk' Bai announced his retirement, with Sylar also leaving the team. sg Daryl 'iceiceice' Koh, who at that time was considered the best offlaner in the world, as well as German carry de Dominik 'Black^' Reitmeier, who has been playing in China for a while for CIS, and a brief stint with Team DK, were brought in as replacements. The team got off to a hot start and many were wondering if they had become the best team in the world.

The team definitely proved that this statement was true winning three major LANs: i-League, ESL One New York and The Summit 2 in the second part of 2014. However, despite the team's early success and still good performance at the turn of 2014 and 2015, some rumors surrounding the future of Black^ in the team started to emerge. It was said that Black^ might, or even would be kicked from the team due to communication issues. However, all the VG players when asked about it denied that it will happen.

Vici Gaming was by far the best Chinese team at the Dota 2 Asia Championships, the largest event in Dota 2 history outside of The International, finishing second. However, that result was not good enough for them...

Vici Gaming triumphant at Starladder XII LAN Finals

Second part of the season: trading Black^ for Hao, the downfall?

The rumours turned out to be true. In the post-DAC Chinese reshuffle Black^ was kicked from the team and the TI 4 winner cn Chen 'Hao' Zhihao was brought in. A general opinion in the Chinese scene was that VG has came out the strongest out the reshuffle. However, many Western experts argued that it wasn't a great move and that sticking with Black^ would be the better choice.

His departure was confirmed by IceIceIce in an AMA on Reddit when he said:

Communication issues existed in the first place due to the difference in the understanding of the language and black is more of a player that just does his own stuff, language barrier made it worse. He did improve overall as a player and in this aspect as well but he still wasn't standing out at times when we needed him to especially when me and super gets a bad start at the lane. This is more of the main reason.

Many expected VG to be as dominant as they were at the beginning of the season yet again. Even tho it looked that way at the first event they attended - StarLadder XII where Vici destroyed all the opposition and claimed the title. Iceiceice even went to say: "I'm surprised, I didn't know how bad the other teams were" in one of the post win interviews.

In the end that statement definitely came back bite him as VG wasn't nearly as dominant at the future tournaments. They have repeatedly lost to eu Team Secret, us Evil Geniuses and ru Team Empire. They're position as the strongest team in China is also being challenged with a recent 3-0 defeat to cn LGD-Gaming in the finals of i-League.

Black^ (on the left) was replaced by Hao (on the right)

Was kicking Black^ a good decision?

This is a question that the team should at some point probably ask themselves. The main reason why Black^ was let go appears to be the communication barrier that he couldn't nullify. However, it doesn't seem like the fact that Hao speaks fluent Mandarin had a huge impact on the team's results.

It appears that there are still some internal issues and lack of trust in leadership rumors are also floating around. Although the arrival of a new patch does sometimes shift the balance of power, given their experience VG should have been able to ride the wave.

With Black^ in the team they had a period of domination and then they were definitely in the top 3 of all teams across the globe - and feasibly are still top 3. Communication might be a thing that Black^ was lacking, however, his mechanics and ability to farm efficiently while still keeping very high rate of participation in the fights are only second to cn Xu 'BurNing' Zhilei's (according to our statistician Gorgon).

VG probably still is a team that could be argued for top 3 spot in the world right now. However, the goal behind bringing in Hao was surely to improve it. Unfortunately the Chinese carry doesn't seem to match Black^ when it comes to mechanics. Can better communication make up for it? It does not seem so yet.

Whether it was a good decision is obviously the team's eventual placing at The International. In multiple interviews the team gave the impression that they are only interested in 1st place. Is it achievable? Is this the right roster for it? Would the line up with Black^ have had a better shot at contesting for the gold? We will know soon enough.

Vici Gaming play style: relentless AGGRESSION!

Aggression, yes AGGRESSION is what defines Vici. In the early game it comes mainly from their support duo and their offlane. VG's supports are by many considered the best duo in the world. They are magnificent at roaming especially if they get their hands on a Rubick.

cn Xu 'Fy' Linsen and cn Lu 'Fenrir' Chao tend to apply incredible amounts of pressure on both the safelane as well as the mid lane. In the meantime on the offlane iceiceice is also incredibly aggressive. Although it can at times lose him the lane, it always keeps the enemy occupied.

Due to that pressure from the support duo as well as the offlane both Vici's mid laner as well as their safelane farmer are under a significantly less pressure. This lets them farm relatively freely in the early parts of the game.

In contrast to other Chinese teams VG's mid laner - cn Xie 'Super!' Junhao doesn't dictate the tempo of the game. Contrary to the rest of CN squads he is not the flashy but the stable part of the team. It can be that way because supports act as the game's leading role.

Since the mid game it is full on aggression from the whole five man squad which is very hard to stop because of their top tier execution and magnificent timings. VG thrives in team fights thanks to their very high individual skills. Because of that they create chaos in order to force high amounts of team fights and skirmishes. However, it seems that when they are matched against equally skilled players things do not end so well for the team.

Additionally a thing to always look out for is fy's Sand King. When he gets to play that hero you are always in for a show. Thanks to his incredibly efficient farming he always comes out with an early Blink Dagger. Since he gets his hands on blink his ability to dictate the tempo of the game and movement around the map is second to none.

fy's signature hero: Sand King

Looking ahead to The International 5

The lack of domination past StarLadder can be partly attributed to an incredibly tight schedule that VG had for the past two months as they attended six LAN tournaments on three different continents in a span of only 60 days! If VG get some rest, then regroup and do a have a beneficial bootcamp this could be their return to force.

Even at the time of the their domination they often dropped a game or even a series against opponents that no one would expect them to have any trouble with. Because of that and putting the expectations aside the team performed pretty well recently. It is probably less than they expected, but no one with the right mind will overlook Vici when it comes to teams that you should fear at TI. A poor result at TI could well see the team change roster after the event.

Where do you think VG will finish at The International 5?

Huge shout out to @ShockwaveDota for the awesome graphics!

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