From top three at The International 2017 to failing to qualify for Minors and Majors in the new competitive season, the past six months have been absolutely demoralizing for any LGD Forever Young fan.
Chinese teams underperforming right after a TI is already a custom in the Dota scene. It happened so many times before, people have started to not even pay attention to what the teams do for the first few months of a new season. But the way the newly implemented Dota Pro Circuit works is merciless and does not give space for extended recovery and fooling around. Unfortunately, Newbee are the only Chinese team who got that. It might be that they understood that second place at TI7 is not a free ticket for TI8 or that they are so hungry for revenge that they’ve never stopped hunting Team Liquid. It’s true that Newbee’s start in the Pro Circuit was slightly eased by all the direct invites they got to Minors and Majors. We are now four months after the first-ever Dota Minor and Newbee and Team Liquid are most of the times still the only two teams directly invited to Pro Circuit tournaments. So, in that regard, some may be agreeing that Newbee had it easier. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse for the rest of the Chinese teams who faded away after TI7. LFY is one of them, and due to their mesmerizing TI7 performance, entering a new season, where the direct invites for TI8 are determined in the most transparent way possible, fans expected to see them fighting.
Let’s take a look at the past six months and see what happened to LFY and why they are now at the bottom of the Dota Pro Circuit rankings.
Although they haven’t reached The International 2017 Grand Finals, LFY’s run through the event and their lower bracket finals against Team Liquid were such impressive feats that at the Perfect World yearly awards ceremony from November 2017, LFY’s players won almost every award possible.
Perfect World 2017 Ceremony awards:
Most popular player: Tue “Ah Fu” Soon Chuan (LFY)
Best Support players: Tue “Ah Fu” Soon Chuan and Leong “DDC” Fat-meng (LFY)
Best Offlane player: He “Inflame” Yongzheng (LFY)
Best Mid-lane player: Song “Sccc” Chun (Newbee)
Best carry player: Du “Monet” Peng (LFY)
Perfect World’s ceremony happened after LFY were already struggling in the first Minors and Majors qualifiers, while Newbee were just crowned Champions of the PW Masters Minor and were also already holding third place finishes at ESL One Hamburg Major and AMD SAPPHIRE Dota PIT League Minor. More than that, a week before the PW awards, LFY were in the center of a rage quit drama in the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor qualifiers.
On the 15th of November, LFY played in the CN qualifiers semifinals for the said minor and were facing Newbee in a third and deciding game. Newbee had a good 7k gold lead by the 24 minute mark, but LFY started to recover some ground. Monet was top net worth, he had the Radiance complete on a Lone Druid and Newbee’s Storm was just caught off guard and killed. Nothing seemed decided. However, Super typed GG in the chat even before Sccc respawned and the game ended. Nobody understood what happened exactly and how it was possible for a tier 1 team to rage quit.
Later that day, Super went on Weibo to apologize for his action.
“I wasn’t feeling well today, we had some arguments during the game, I lost my temper and typed out GG. I’d like to apologize to the club, [tournament] organizers and my teammates” Super posted. LGD Gaming issued an official statement as well saying that it was for the first time this season when the team was not playing from the gaming house as the players had to go home to sort out the papers for the upcoming MDL Macau Minor. Playing while feeling ill, with fever and all, on top of a few miscommunication incidents during the game, made Super think that his teammates were not playing seriously. LGD Gaming fined everyone with half-a- month salary, except for Super who got a full month salary penalty.
The chapter was closed and a week later all the LFY players, bar Super, received their Perfect World awards and the team moved on with hopes for a swift recovery through the end of the year.
However, that never happened. At the MDL Macau Minor they didn’t exit the group stage, and at the same time, LGD Gaming, their sister team, were not doing well either. Experimental rosters, withdrawals from qualifiers and everything culminated with the LGD Gaming benching their veteran player Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng. That particular decision was hard to digest and understand by the LGD fans. Yao is a respected veteran, he has never been in the center of any drama, and unless he had plans for retirement, LGD decision was strange, to say the least. Anyway, 2018 begins, LFY is still with the same TI7 roster, qualifies for the ESL One Genting Minor when, suddenly, the community is informed that Super will be temporarily transferred to Invictus Gaming. Both LFY and iG cited the lack of performance and reasoned their mid laners exchange as a test to see if anything shifts in the overall results. For those following LFY, this was another signal that indeed something in the team chemistry was broken.
In an interview for the Chinese community at ESL Genting, Inflame was asked about the Super-Op trade. His answer also indicated communication issues inside the team. “This roster change was made not because we were not satisfied with Super’s skills, actually we really need a stable mid like him. It’s just we were not motivated when we were together and some changes needed to happen.”
ESL One Genting was another disaster for LFY, however, Inflame was positive that the team can improve. “We were mainly trying out our new roster and new drafts in this tournament. We’re not in our best form as a team, and I hope we can get things together as quick as possible and come back” said LFY’s offlaner at the time.
Unfortunately, his positive attitude from January 25, when the interview was taken, didn’t match what was about to come only two days after LFY’s return from the event. During that weekend, January 27-28, rumors that LFY would witness a huge roster change started to spread.
Inflame, although never cited backbone problems before, let everyone know on the 1st of February that he decided to retire for an indefinite period to recover from acute pain in his neck and spine. Two days later, the team captain, Leong “DDC” Fat-meng DDC was confirmed to have left LFY as well. According to a few posts on the Chinese social media website Weibo, corroborated with a statement made by the team owner, Jie ‘Ruru’ Pan, upon the new LFY roster introduction, it seemed like the team chemistry problems were bigger than anyone could have guessed. Although DDC was the team captain, he wasn’t willing to mediate whatever conflicts sparked between Inflame, Super and the rest of the team. Sources close to LFY reported to VPEsports that the team needed a self-motivated player who had a good sense of the whole picture and that can help them sparkle again. And who else could have been a better fit for this job other than one of the LFY founding members, Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng, who was benched a month back from the LGD Gaming roster?
Was LFY management aware of all the broken relationships inside the team even from 1st of January, when Yao was benched from LGD? It’s possible that this was exactly the case. Ruru was quite blunt in her Weibo post where she welcomed LFY’s new captain. “I think we would have disbanded the team if Yao didn’t join now. We believe he can save this team with his positive attitude and the great experience he brings” she said, adding in the post-ending that “LFY’s problem is not the lack of talent or skill, but more on a psychological level.”
Hopefully, all the changes will pay off for both LFY and LGD. The official shuffle window is closed, and the teams have to stay in the same formula for the next six months, or else neither LGD nor LFY will be eligible for any kind of TI8 invites. Ideally, they will both recover in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings and will reach top eight to receive a direct invite at the most anticipated event of the year. If not, they still have to keep their roster intact if they want an invite to the closed Chinese qualifiers. There’s always the open qualifiers option available. It wouldn’t be the first time when a high caliber team chooses that path. See EG’s and Team Secret’s road to TI6. However, the Chinese scene will get more and more competitive as we approach the TI8 and it’s doubtful that anyone will want to risk going through the gauntlet of the open brackets.