Every year the professional scene gets an injection of new players. They revitalize the teams and their strategies, they create hype around their names when they make successful debuts on the big stage, and sometimes, with them joining in, it starts a new era for the team they play for.
Perhaps the best example for all of the above is Nikolay “Nikobaby” Nikolov, who is actually far from being a newcomer in the true sense of the word.
The Bulgarian carry player has a lot of years of grinding through the lower tier teams. He started in Europe, but as he declared for VPEsports at TI9, he found it ”hard to find a tier one team there,” although he got to play on small squads that served as launching pads for players such as Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi, Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat and Aliwi “w33” Omar, to name a few. Nikobaby gave himself four years to make it big. In order to achieve his target, when he was offered to join a Southeast Asian team, he didn’t flinch and moved to the Clutch Gamers house. The big opportunity came a couple of months before TI9, when Mineski knocked at his door. Surrounded by great strategic minds at his new team, Nikobaby infused Mineksi with his fire and carried them from regional qualifiers to the main event of The International 2019, where he stood out as one of the most flashy carry players and one of the most proficient Faceless Voids of the whole tournament.
In the aftermath of TI9 Mineski fell apart and Nikobaby moved back to Europe, where he was brought into a new project by someone who knew him from his early days in Balkan Bears, No Logic gaming and Basically Unknown. Neta “33” Shapira suggested Niko to Adrian “Fata” Trinks, who liked the idea of having a “high energy player” who can “perform under pressure” as he told us at the beginning of the season. The new roster was announced on the 18th of October. A week later, Alliance lost their entire line-up and picked up the newly formed stack. Under the Alliance banner, Nikobbaby has already won his first LAN tournament, at DreamLeague Rotterdam, he attended his first Major and he is set to play next month in the second Major of the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit.
This year seems to have been a great one for those who worked their way to the top via Asian teams. Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon, a 17 year-old Thai carry, took the spotlight in the TI9 regional qualifiers. He was playing on Team Jinesbrus, alongside three of the Korean Overlords. His Morphling, Alchemist, Anti-Mage and Juggernaut pushed his teammates from open qualifiers to closed SEA regional qualifiers, where Mineski were close to lose the ticket to TI after being forced to an epic game five.
23savage didn’t make it to TI this year, but given his incredible qualifiers run, he was given a chance by Fnatic, who recruited him in the aftermath of the biggest tournament of the year. At the beginning of the new season, he got to play in his first Valve sanctioned tournament, The Chengdu Major. Fnatic placed only 9-12th, but with a new coach on their side, they are looking to impress at the upcoming Leipzig Major.
It’s been nearly two years since Invictus Gaming had been given a chance in any tournament. Although they qualified for TI8, their former days of glory were a fading memory, and through 2018 and 2019 they’ve been obscured by other powerful Chinese organisations. The first time when the fans could finally say that IG started to make a come-back was only this November, when their brand new team took everyone by surprise at the first Minor and Major of the new season. Their rising star is without a doubt the 18-year-old mid laner Zhou “Emo” Yi, who has been promoted to the main team from iG. Vitality.
Emo made his debut at a Valve sponsored tournament at DOTA Summit Minor with a record breaking Invoker, and brought iG the first tournament trophy in two years.
By winning the Minor, Emo and Invictus Gaming qualified for the Chengdu Major as well, and proved that their Minor run wasn’t just a stroke of luck. They placed third after losing the lower bracket finals to TNC. Emo enjoys the flashy mid heroes and he is able to always set a high tempo with Storm Spirit, Invoker, Zeus, Templar Assassin, Tiny or Kunkka.
South America Dota was defined this year by the rise of Team Anvorgesa, a mix of veterans of the scene joined by three young core players who challenged even the most decorated teams. Adrian “Wisper” Cespedes Dobles, Jean Pierre “Chris Luck” Gonzales and Hector “K1” Rodriguez all have their pivotal role in the SA team success, but the latter has impressed in the carry position the most. Much like Nikobaby, K1 has had a few years of grinding before he found the player formula that allowed him to blossom. Now playing for beastcoast, the five SA players started in the season leading to TI9 as Team Anvorgesa. Their sprint through the last few months ahead of the regional qualifiers for The International brought them a contract with Infamous, and under this tag, K1 wrote history for his region on the big stage. His name is now synonymous with Wraith King, a hero on which he pushed Infamous to top 8 at TI9. However, he doesn’t really like to play strength heroes, he told us back in June at the StarLadder ImabTV Minor.
“To be honest, I don’t like playing strength heroes, I prefer playing on Terrorblade, Phantom Lancer… But, if the captain tells me to play a certain hero, I’ll do it.” Back then he was already known and feared for his WK. K1’s hero pool is rather wide, which allows his team to craft drafts that emphasize aggression, but also shine in the late stages. After TI9, the five players got signed by the NA organization beastcoast, but continue to play from South America.