Image by Vici Gaming Twitter
Three teams from China have received a direct invite to the home tournament and are preparing for the biggest esports event of the year. After somewhat disappointing results last year, with a single team in top8, the teams from the region have picked up their slack and looked a lot more active throughout the year during the DPC season.
Vici Gaming finally managed to break their second place curse from last year and had some amazing runs this time around. The most impressive of them was definitely their back-to-back championships in StarLadder Minor and DreamLeague Major. Currently sitting in the third spot of DPC-rankings, Vici Gaming is going to TI not only as favorites, but as the strongest contender from the region.
Vici Gaming had their roster for almost a year now. Built around superstar VG.Paparazi it quickly started evolving after rOtK joined the squad as a coach in September of last year. Not only did the versatility of the team started showing progress, but also the individual skill of the players started to rise immensely.
It is hard to argue against VG.Ori being the most improved player of the last season. Whereas previously he would generally play second fiddle to his superstar teammate, over the last year he not only caught up in terms of skill level to Paparazi, but would often be the MVP for his team, handily outplaying the majority of other mid players.
Team’s general playstyle often involves aggressive moves and objective-based gaming. Their drafts reflect that—over the last three months the only non-tempo core they played consistently was Medusa and even she was more than ready to join most fights. The most popular heroes for the team are still push and midgame-oriented with Shadow Shaman, Templar Assassin, Leshrac and Death Prophet all being in top15 in terms of popularity.
Vici Gaming is a team in its prime: they have both the experience that comes from frequent LAN participation and motivation, that is usually associated with younger teams. The players are hungry for the win, but are not reckless. They are calculated, but not timid and they will certainly put on a show.
PSG.LGD was the strongest Chinese team last year. In fact one could argue that they were the only strong team from the region in the last TI. This year they didn’t look as impressive.
Multiple top4 and top6 finishes is what allowed the team to get to the biggest stage directly. PSG.LGD was consistent, but was not dominant and this doesn’t make for a good look coming into TI—everyone expects the team to do well but only few expect them to win it. Once again, it could be a good thing, as underestimation of the opponent is still one of the biggest reasons teams lose games they shouldn’t.
LGD.Maybe and PSG.LGD.fy are still the driving force behind the team’s successes. These players have a huge following for a reason and they still mostly deserve it, though while Fy doesn’t seem to ever lose his form, Somnus, who skipped parts of the season, is starting to show his age here and there.
He is sometimes outclassed by younger mid players, he frequently lacks the impact he used to have on the game and would sometimes make questionable strategic decisions. Whether these issues will be resolved by TI is probably the biggest question on PSG.LGD fans’ minds—the team simply doesn’t work as a champion team when one of the star players is underperforming.
The last team from China that was directly invited to the tournament is also the last in the DPC standings. One top6 and one top12 finish at the Majors is what allowed the team to participate in the home tournament and they are far from coming to TI as favorites, especially after failing to qualify to both the last Major and Minor.
The team looks good on paper: you have KG.kaka as one the strongest position four supports in the region, tons of experience between KG.eLeVeN and KG.old chicken and a dash of new blood from KG.一, but this tried and proven formula still fails to deliver better results.
Perhaps the roster will activate at TI and will show plays that should theoretically come from this team, but so far things are looking bleak for Keen Gaming. More importantly, it is hard to identify the problem with this roster: whereas Vici Gaming could be more flexible so not to get caught off-guard by unconventional lineups and PSG.LGD could really use a motivation and practice boost on their cores, Keen’s problems look more holistic, therefore infinitely harder to resolve in a limited amount of time.