The Spectacle of Chinese DPC, what have we learnt so far?
Shocks, Surprises and Superstars have emerged in the first week of DPC action! Looking into the most competitive DPC region.
Week 1 of the Chinese Division 1 DPC league just concluded, with a very different start than what most had anticipated.
Problems with travel due to COVID-19 led to Valve postponing the event for a month relative to the other regions, which led to some interesting knock on effects.
Week 1 Results
First and foremost is information, as the teams got the chance to see how the global meta has developed in the aftermath of TI10. With the Division 2 league also concluded, there is also regional information to draw from in terms of what the game at present looks like.
Unfortunately the situation isn't entirely positive. Several teams are still without their full rosters in person, as the COVID-19 situation is still affecting travel. The DPC league also had it's duration cut from 8 weeks to a mere 3. With every team except PSG.LGD making significant roster changes, this situation is not ideal for the teams. It's hard enough to make a new team gel when you aren't all together; tougher still when you have very little time to adjust if the league isn't going well.
With Week 1 of DPC already in the books, how have our cast of of heroes fared so far? How have they surprised us? Who's stock is rising and who needs a reversal in fortunes? We look now at the week that was, and see what it can tell us about the weeks to come.
PSG.LGD : Still setting the standard.
PSG.LGD on the TI10 Main Stage
It is fitting that PSG.LGD is one of only 2 teams in attendance at TI10 who will go into the new season with no staff or roster changes. Even more fitting that these 2 teams are the Grand Finalists at the biggest tournament of all time.
Despite looking shaky in their opening game against Team Aster, they bounced back in stellar fashion to clinch the series. Last season, Team Aster was known the one team who could reliably win regional clashes against PSG.LGD, and were regarded as the regional kings. Unfortunately, that Team Aster is no more whilst PSG.LGD haven't dropped off a step.
Although we haven't yet seen Xiao8 dip too deep into the draft bag-of-tricks, it doesn't seem to matter. After 3 series they sit comfortably atop the pile, and the level of execution displayed means they should remain there for the rest of the DPC season.
The changing of the guard. Team Aster finally makes some upgrades.
The new Team Aster touches down
Team Aster's fortunes in the 2021 DPC season were topsy turvy to say the least. As mentioned, they would present a major threat in the region, however whenever they found themselves competing on the international stage they would crumble. To illustrate just how bad this situation was, Team Aster competed in 3 international tournaments in 2021; where they only managed a combined tally of 5 map wins, all of which came from the TI10 group stage. Despite qualifying directly to the playoffs of both Majors, they crashed in burned with immediate elimination in both occasions.
Whenever it was discussed with LaNm, he would acknowledge that his team's success was in some ways held back by him (the coach) also being an active player.
This season however, they have resolved this problem by replacing him with up and comer Siamese.C, who got called up from the Aster.Aries academy squad. They also made the decision to replace struggling midlaner White.Album with the seasoned Ori of Vici Gaming fame.
Results thus far have been very encouraging. With Ori offering a very stable playstyle that complements the stability of Monet, this team configuration seems to have given a new lease on life to Xxs and Boboka. Both players who thrive when allowed to play with more aggression, we have seen dominant performances from them both in all but a single game (Game 2 against PSG.LGD).
Xxs dominates PGS.LGD in Game 1 of the opening series.
The signature drafting acumen of LaNm has also been on full display thus far, winning games before the horn sounds. With the team saying in interviews that they believe Siamese.C is a position upgrade, and taking PSG.LGD to the wire, this week set a very positive tone to start their 2022 DPC outing.
EHOME : Resilience is everything
The new EHOME roster. The Future of Chinese Dota
Of all the surprises this season, the performances we have seen from EHOME have to be noted for just how shockingly good they've been.
Despite qualifying to the Division last season under the Phoenix Gaming banner, the whole team (minus Dolem) found themselves brought in to represent the storied EHOME. Though boasting players like Shiro who are regarded as representing the future of Chinese carry players; their lack of current superstars meant that expectations were quite low for this squad.
But EHOME went ahead to show us that they are to be reckoned with. Between Planet, Shiro and 7e; they have played every game to the absolute limit. Not only impressing with their lane prowess, but they have proven to be an extremely difficult opponent to break.
Embodying a "the game isn't over until it's over" mentality allowed them to pull out a shock upset over the side of Major Winning Invictus Gaming, who truly thought they had the game 3 showdown in the bag. Asked what their goals were for the the season; the team responded that they simply wanted to retain their place in the Division.
Although they had the least diverse drafts of the week, they also showed by far the most fighting spirit. That, paired with the comfort displayed on their signature heroes, tells us that this team will rapidly improve. Though they need more experiencing in closing out games when ahead and improving their macro movements; the future looks bright. With the goal of remaining in Division 1 of DPC all but assured after such a strong start.
RNG Shuffle - Drawing Aces or Jokers?
Of all the teams in the division, RNG was the one that drummed up the most anticipation. This new roster would see 3 former teammates reunited, all of whom have found life apart quite difficult. Somnus, Chalice and xNova from the dominant PSG.LGD of 2018-20, would not only be playing against the league, but also against speculations that they're past their primes.
Things seemed to get off to a great start, with them able to take the initial series away from Invictus gaming, despite being in a losing position for most of the 3rd game. Demonstrating that they are able to play effectively under pressure, RNG seemed to be making a statement about what this team would be capable of.
However, these players all have some baggage from the last year or so of their careers. Chalice has developed a habit of playing too aggressively and far from his team at times. Somnus has developed a penchant for farming alone not present in his prior days. Even their carry GodKing sometimes finds himself dying alone in the most dangerous farming areas on the map, or dying too easily in fights.
What this means is a team that can look amazing against Invictus Gaming, and then go on to play dismally against LBZS a mere 2 days later, looking like a collection of 5 stars instead of a team at times.
The fear is there that this will turn out to be another failed experiment like Team Elephant, however if they can create a good team atmosphere; there's reason to imagine that RNG will find the consistency all the players have lacked over the last 18 months.
Building the Great Wall of Vici.
Vici Gaming made some drastic decisions in the transfer window, jettisoning everyone (including coaches Fenrir and QQQ) with the sole exception of carry player Poyoyo. With the challenges we already mentioned to playing successfully in this league, an entirely new roster is a huge gamble to take.
To further complicate matters, the players entering the arena are either unproven in high tier competitions (Support Yds and Offlaner Irving), or are coming off of extended hiatuses (Xm back from a 5 month break). Only Victoria of former PSG.LGD fame doesn't seem to have much baggage but even he hasn't been in a team competing for honours in quite some time.
This has been reflected in somewhat mediocre performances in Week 1. Though certainly they can be forgiven for dropping games to PSG.LGD and Team Aster, teams projected to end 1st and 2nd, their opening series against LBZS raised many concerns.
Struggling to take objectives as a team, and being very discordant with their itemization meant that they made the game harder for themselves than it should have been.
What this has meant, is that Vici Gaming are clearly a team in a rebuild phase. Though having very skilled players, sadly we haven't seen anything resembling team cohesion just yet. With the most difficult games out of the way though, they can now redouble their efforts to try earn a DPC Major spot.
Invictus Gaming : end of an era?
Invictus Gaming has arguably the team that has been hit hardest by their roster change, with talismanic support player Kaka stepping down after 2 years.
Kaka was the missing puzzle piece in the initial construction of this roster, and played an integral role in their rise as the defacto leader. With him as captain, Invictus Gaming had a stellar 2021 by winning the first Major, then making a top 4 run at TI10.
Replacing a player like this was always going to be difficult. And although the replacement player, Fade, is up to the task in skill; Kaka took more with him than just his in-game talents.
The Invictus Gaming we saw in the opening week clearly lack direction. In both of their losses (to RNG & EHOME), they arguably should and could have won; however an inability to communicate a cohesive strategy hamstrung their efforts. In both circumstances, they were able to farm well in the losing game 3; but couldn't find a way to use that farm effectively on the map.
There were moments when enemy teams would huddle up, expecting a classic Kaka smoke-gank that simply never came.
We've learnt now that Kaka was the beating heart of the team, and with 2 losses in the opening week, they need a new lease on life and quickly.
Phoenix and LBZS : Lambs to slaughter?
Phoenix Gaming and LBZS
Every season of the China DPC brings teams who seem there to gift points away, and this season is no different.
Although qualifying for Division 1, both squads are fielding drastically different rosters than what they qualified with.
Phoenix had almost their whole roster called up to EHOME, and were forced to field a wholly new team. LBZS on the other hand found almost everyone going their separate ways, keeping only CatYou. Unfortunately, we have not yet seen any of the new callups reaching the same level as those they're replacing (with a notable exception in M77 from Phoenix Gaming).
Part of the difficulty for the players is the awareness that there will likely be disbands or a suite of kicks once the season ends; which can frustrate creating synergy.
If history is any guide, we should expect to see these 2 teams relegated come the end of the season. However, LBZS have already taken a surprise victory over the side of RNG; in a series that, whilst very long, largely saw LBZS in control of the games and simply struggling to close things out.
It remains to be seen what more upsets can be pulled by the young squads. However on the final day of DPC, it will be them who have the chance to spoil the Major ambitions of the teams above them.
How is the game being played right now?
Strong lanes - The Preferred Supports
Most picked Support heroes
China has been relatively stable in it's drafting patterns for some time, and even though the heroes may swap out, the ideas not so much.
Having strong heroes in the laning phase, who can then aid your pushing hero in the midgame has been a regional stable for a long time. We see this reflected in the most picked support heroes, with major emphasis on heroes that enable their lane and who have a very strong spike with levels. Bane of course dominates this region as he does all others.
However China has made the decision to mostly play Spirit Breaker support instead of offlane. Enabling a major amount of early aggression whilst making space for whomever the offlaner is to still get farm.
The Chinese Fighting Specialty
The off and Safelane are dominated by fighting heroes
From the day that he was released, Mars has always been overrepresented in China and this DPC season is no different. Being picked a combined 11 times, although suffering an abysmally low winrate of 18%.
For the offlane connoisseur, the choice has been clear with Pangolier dominating 5 of the 7 games he's been picked in.
We've seen the odd Tidehunter and Beastmaster emerge as well, however week one wasn't even close in terms of preferred offlane picks.
For the safelane though, the ability to eventually fight directly into the opponent is highly prized. We've seen no other heroes even get 3 games played; whilst Morphling and Wraith King are in practically every draft so far. Both of whom boast 50%+ winrates which means the pattern of their picks should continue into week 2.
Rotating cast. A very small Mid Hero pool
The most picked heroes in the midlane
The play we saw from the midlane has been more versatile than the sidelanes but not by much. The most picked heroes though have found themselves struggling as none of them have a higher than 50% winrate. Even the Queen of Pain, darling of the global mid meta, only has a 40% winrate this week.
The most successful heroes in this lane are ones barely picked, which has contributed to a very skewed winrate on both ends of the picking spectrum.
Not allowed! Heavily banned but rarely picked.
Io & OD have been banned in practically every game
By far the heroes that have the greatest draft involvement, although mostly through bans. Io has so far enjoyed a 100% pick/ban rate with a 100% winrate, being banned in all but 2 games and dominating the games where allowed through.
OD has struggled though. Banned around 95% of the time, however with a 0% winrate as his games went quite poorly.
Nonetheless the entire region is showing the appropriate respect for heroes that have been quite dominant the world over.
Hero of the Week: Death Prophet
This hero has been ridiculously versatile for China. Occupying every role except the safelane. Many games have come from the offlane, however we often find her as the centerpiece of play anyway.
Definitely the DPC Hero of the week with how stable she has been, even for the teams in losing positions.
Play of the Week
The play of the week comes from the PSG.LGD vs Vici Gaming series.
A Roshan fight that Vici Gaming appeared to be able to win, with an Aegis that would help turn the game around. PSG.LGD had other ideas though.
8 buybacks and 2 minutes later however, and it would PSG.LGD standing on top of it all in an insane fight!
The battle continues!
Week 1 is only a taste of all the DPC hype to come!
With 2 more action packed weeks to fill the 4 Major slots, anything can still happen.
You can follow the action on the PWRD Twitch Channel, and stay tuned to our coverage of all things Dota2 here!
Sean "Snare" Rihlamvu
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Snare is a die-hard gamer who has immersed himself in all things esports. Whether it be writing, casting, analyzing or hosting; he brings his infectious passion to everything he does.