OG broke the TI curse last year in Vancouver by taking home the Aegis. Even years are when Chinese teams were supposed to win, but that was thrown out the window. Now we are in an odd year, when no Chinese team has managed to win TI. But with the curse out the window and with TI9 taking place in Shanghai, we just might see that happening for the first time. China has four teams participating in The International 2019, but the team that will probably have the major load of expectations on their shoulders is the Chinese Juggernaut, Vici Gaming.
Vici Gaming made a big decision at the end of the 2017-2018 DPC season to merge their two teams, Vici Gaming and VGJ.Thunder into one team, by using the best of both worlds. Positions 1 and 2 were chosen from the Vici Gaming team while the other three were the players from VGJ.Thunder. With Newbee fizzling out, this was now the only team to potentially match TI8 runners-up PSG.LGD. Vici Gaming started the 2018-2019 season rather unimpressively, but one unexpected event made a huge difference in their season. Eventually, the Juggernaut built up momentum and today, Vici Gaming are the Chinese favorites to lift the Aegis in front of their home crowd.
Vici Gaming roster for TI9:
- Zhang ‘Paparazi’ Chengjun
- Zeng ‘Ori’ Jiaoyang
- Zhou ‘Yang’ Haiyang
- Pan ‘Fade’ Yi
- Ding ‘Dy’ Cong
- Bai ‘rOtk’ Fan (coach)
Start of the season
Vici Gaming’s new roster started off the season quite well, qualifying for the Kuala Lumpur Major and getting second place at ESL One Hamburg. The season was just warming up. At the Major, they were ousted by TNC Predator and secured a 7th/8th place finish. The position was nowhere close to what the team was capable of, but as a new team, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world either. Towards the end of 2018, VG secured their spot in the second DPC Major of the season, the Chongqing Major and also managed to win the Dota 2 Professional League Season 6, a competition that takes place between Chinese Dota 2 teams. A good way to end the year!
By this time, the team had had time to settle with the new roster and with second DPC Major taking place in China, Vici were expected to be one of the teams vying for the title. But instead, it was a similar story for Vici Gaming, managing just a 7th/8th finish. This time around, it was Evil Geniuses who had the honor of eliminating VG. Things went from bad to worse when Vici Gaming failed to qualify for the Stockholm Major and this was when the organization decided to do something about it.
Failing to qualify for the Major meant VG would have to take the hard route through the Minor qualifiers. But they decided to do it by mixing things up a bit. Their position 4 player, Pan ‘Fade’ Ti was benched and a few other players were tried out by shuffling roles. The offlaner Yang moved into a position 4 role and Sun ‘Agressif’ Zheng was brought on as the new offlaner. But after a loss in the Minor qualifiers, Vici realized this was not the right move to make and got Fade back in. The rest, as they say, is history. Vici Gaming qualified for the StarLadder ImbaTV Minor, won it, went on to the Stockholm Major and won that as well! Fade later revealed that the roster change had been made to make Yang, who was the vocal one in the team, play in a support position and even though he understood the reasons, he didn’t really want to come back. In hindsight, it is a really good thing he did. The failure to qualify for the Major was a blessing in disguise. A lot of times, more than ability, what hampers teams is their mentality. Winning the Minor instilled the winning attitude in their minds and they were able to display their full potential at the Stockholm Major. Not a lot of people would have predicted a team coming through the Minor to win a Major, but Vici Gaming had done it!
End of the season
With the Major victory, Vici’s qualification for TI9 had been secured. Towards the end of the season, there were no more qualifier mishaps for Vici Gaming. They managed to qualify for the MDL Disneyland Paris Major and Epicenter, although not with a crushing performance in either of them. VG had to settle for 3rd place in the regional qualifiers both times, indicating that even though they had won the Major, the team wasn’t an unstoppable force by any means. That fact came out in the open at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major where Vici reverted back to their old spot of 7th/8th, this time getting knocked out by Team Liquid. Even at ESL One Birmingham, they were bettered by their country mates, PSG.LGD and ousted 2-0 by Gambit Esports. All in all, it seemed they had peaked in the middle of the season and had faded off. But they still had one final trick remaining in their bag!
At the Epicenter Major, which was the last Major of the season VG made a strong run through the upper bracket and defeated Team Liquid 3-2 in the grand finals to claim their second Major of the season! Fade was probably the best player of the tournament and played his heart out. The time when he had been benched seemed to be very far back in the past. After TNC, Vici Gaming are probably the most unpredictable of the lot heading to TI9. But with the backing of a strong coach like rOtk and the home crowd in Shanghai raising the roof for them, the Chinese Juggernaut just might be the one lifting the Aegis at The International 2019.
The rOtk factor
In modern day Dota 2, the coach makes a huge difference and what better than having one who has been a runner-up at TI, incidentally for the same organization?! Coach rOtk’s experience can make a substantial difference in channelling Vici Gaming’s abilities in Shanghai because TI is not your usual tournament…it’s a whole different ball game!
TI9 team profiles:
Infamous, the ever Morphling roster
Na’Vi, the rejuvenated Ancient Apparition
Virtus.pro, the Storm Spirit of CIS
Fnatic – The Troll Warlord with a twist
TNC Predator, the Undying hope of SEA
Mineski, the rising Phoenix of Southeast Asia
Evil Geniuses – Sven on a cliff
Team Liquid, the Enigma of the season
OG, the Monkey Kings
Ninjas in Pyjamas, the menacing Meepo
Alliance, the Tiny path to success
Team Secret, Chen’s army
Chaos – Knights with a vengeance
Newbee, a Grimstroke of fate
Keen Gaming, Abaddon on a dark horse