We are at the beginning of a new year, but we are also just eight months away from The International 10. In Dota 2 time that’s really not that much, four Majors and four Minors are what keeps the fans and the professional community apart from the biggest tournament of the year. TI is the ultimate goal for each Dota 2 team out here and the biggest life changing prospect for every player that puts everything aside to fulfil their dream.
For some of the professionals, the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit is the moment when they entered their main quest for TI. They rose up from the lower tier teams, they’ve been given the opportunity to make a mark, and they have already shown that they have the potential to become key factors in their teams’ success. We take a look at who are some of the newcomers, but also some of the more experienced players.
Danil “gpk” Skutin is one of the youngest Russian mid laners to join the high ranks this year. At his 18 year old, he got to play for only two other teams before getting recruited by Artsiom “fng” Barshak at Gambit Esports. This season, fng chose to surround himself with a lot of youngsters and handpicked each of the Gambit current members after thorough research in the tier two scene. Gpk made his competitive debut with Gambit at ESL One Hamburg in October 2019 and he reached the grand finals, giving the CIS fans a lot of hope for the new season. Gambit dragged TNC in that grand final up to a game five, and through all those games gpk stood out by only dying 4 times through the entire series. Storm, Ember Spirit, Lina, became feared heroes in his hands. Even when his team lost the game, he managed to finish without giving his life a single time. Gambit was defeated 2-3 in Hamburg by those who a few weeks later would become the champions of the first Major of the season.
Chengdu Major, was a different story for the young gpk and Gambit Esports. They were presented with a few difficulties arriving in China, delayed Visas, long flights, the tournament was also the first time ever for most of the players when they had to deal with jetlag, cultural differences and the stress of a big tournament. All in all, it wasn’t their dream debut at a Valve sanctioned tournament and even though one can find a lot of explanations for Gambit’s terrible performance in Chengdu, captain fng said to us “we lost because we weren’t good enough to beat the teams at this Major, and I think that happened because we didn’t understand how meta will develop at this tournament.”
Gambit’s chance at redemption came at the ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational Singapore, where they’ve been matched against some of the finest tier one teams and managed to place third. Given gpk’s versatility, Gambit was once again able to surprise their opponents by sending their midlaner in the safe lane on Lifestealer, for example. Gambit will return to the DPC stage with the WePlay! Bukovel Minor, where they have a clear target, win it all to reach the Leipzig Major. Alongside his teammates, gpk might be much more prepared to take the scene by storm this time around. They have a couple of great names to go through, including Nigma, Ninjas in Pyjamas and RNG, which will only make the competition even more interesting to watch.
Much like fng, Alexey “Solo” Berezin embraced this year the idea of building something new. Virtus.pro lost three of their iconic players this season, and the solution was to inject some new blood.
Egor “epileptick1d” Grigorenko was scouted in the public matchmaking and brought to VP straight from there. He had no competitive record, hence the team’s decision at the start of the season to actually withdraw from the first Minor. They chose to accommodate their new players before throwing them into the fray. Their decision seems to have worked so far, as VP is one of the two CIS teams now qualified for the DreamLeague Season 13: The Leipzig Major. The tournament set to take place at the end of January will be epileptick1d’s debut at a Valve event, but not his first big appearance. He already found out how it feels to play in front of a live crowd at ESL One Hamburg and at ONE Esports Invitational Singapore. VP placed top six in these two tournaments, which should be regarded as a good start all things considered. From here on it will be up to epileptick1d to carry VP to The International 2020, and that alone is a story worth watching being written in front of our eyes.
Xiong “Pyw”‘ Jiahan is far from being a newcomer to the scene. He’s been to The International already, in 2018 with Team Serenity, he earned the WSOE golden necklace in Las Vegas and placed second at the next edition of the event. When they qualified for TI8, Serenity were somewhat regarded as the new Wings Gaming. It was their unconventional playstyle and intricate drafts that made them look more like the TI6 champions. However, they never raised to the Wings level and faded away with time. One of their players stood out through all the Serenity period. Pyw caught rOtK’s interest at the beginning of this season and was brought to Vici Gaming to fill in the empty slot left by Pan “Fade” Yi.
Upon his arrival at VG, Pyw made a role swap and embraced the support position after a few years of playing mid and offlane. Judging by the results so far, it seems that he integrated quite well and that rOtK found the perfect strategies to enhance his potential. Ever since he joined VG, the team went from good to great. Even when prompted with the Midas Mode insanity, VG managed to take first place, they finished first in what can be regarded as the most disputed qualifier for WESG, they placed second at Chengdu Major, which potentially secured them a place at TI10, and they are the fresh champions of ONE Esports Invitational Singapore.
VG’s run in Singapore was spotless and Pyw’s contribution to the team’s success was undeniable. He made himself noted in an environment where he is surrounded by great players who can easily take the spotlight. Pyw is the playmaking support at VG, and his Disruptor, Rubik and Tiny have become signature heroes for him, but he amazed the fans on Puck or Venom. VG is one of the teams that seems to have perfectly read the big 7.23 patch and are now set to play in the Leipzig Major as well. They will look to consolidate their top position in the DPC ranking at the end of January, which is the next tournament where the Dota 2 fans can watch Pyw in action.
Invictus Gaming was completely reborn at the beginning of the season, and while their midlaner caught the limelight, they also have a great asset in Thiay “JT-” Jun Wen, playing from the offlane. JT- is one of the many players who left the SEA region to join a Chinese team. At the beginning of 2019 he was sent on loan from Mineski to Newbee and after a few months he landed at Invictus Gaming. Although he didn’t shine at his former Southeast Asia teams, and not even at iG in the beginning, it all clicked together when the TI2 Champions formed their roster for the 2019-2020 season. JT- forms a dynamic duo with Zhou “Emo” Yi from the midlane, both being the playmakers for their team.
He oftentimes plays Kunka from the offlane position, but he is not afraid to mess with his adversaries on a Pudge if the draft allows it. He generally plays heroes that are crucial in team fights, big initiators that can create the perfect set-up, hence it is more likely to be given Magnus, Sand King, Centaur Warrunner or Tiny.
At the Dota Summit Minor he was also playing offlane Earthshaker to allow his team to abuse the annoying Morph combo. It all worked perfectly for him and IG so far. They took the Summit Minor trophy, they placed third at the Chengdu Major, and they are now set to participate at the Leipzig Major, alongside VG and Team Aster, from Chinese region.