When Newbee made it to the grand finals of The International 2017, there were no doubts in the minds of the community that whoever faced them would have the uphill battle of a lifetime to claim the Aegis from the Chinese powerhouse. They had managed to get second place in their group and sailed through the upper bracket, beating group toppers LFY in the process. Instead, what happened was totally unexpected. Team Liquid wiped the floor with Newbee beating them 3-0 to claim the title of TI 7 champions. It was the first time in history that there had been a clean sweep in the grand finals of a Valve event. Come the new season, Newbee was one of the few teams, along with Liquid and Virtus Pro, to maintain the same roster. They figured with a few improvements, the roster would surely be one of the top contenders for TI 8. Their journey of betterment started well but got derailed somewhere midway. Let us take a look at how the 2017-2018 season unfolded for Newbee.
Xu ‘Moogy ‘ Han
Song ‘Sccc’ Chun
Damien ‘kpii’ Chok
Hu ‘Kaka’ Liangzhi
Zeng ‘Faith’ Hongda
Wang ‘SanSheng’ Zhaohui (Coach)
Total games played: 192
Games won: 102
Win rate: 53.13%
Total heroes picked: 103 ( Unpicked heroes – Arc Warden, Bristleback, Broodmother, Clinkz, Crystal Maiden, Huskar, Meepo, Morphling, Pangolier, Pudge, Spectre, Techies)
Tournaments won: 2 (2 Minors – Perfect World Masters and ESL One Genting)
DPC rank: 7
The 2017-2018 season started quite decently for Newbee. On the road to vengeance against Liquid, they managed to secure a top 4 finish in the first Major of the season. Around three months into the season, Newbee secured their first tournament win of the season when they convincingly took down Vici Gaming 3:0 in the finals of the Perfect World Masters. But just when things seemed to be looking up, they were ousted by Na’Vi in the second Major of the season, DreamLeague Season 8 and had to settle for the 5th-6th position.
Following that defeat, Newbee got a break for nearly two months and some good time to scrim as the new year unfolded. It seemed to pay off as they came back strong in the very first tournament of 2018. Having lost 2-1 to Liquid in the group stage playoffs, Newbee came back strong to defeat them 3-2 in the grand finals and take home the silverware. After five months, the Chinese giant had exacted revenge for the humiliating defeat in the TI 7 grand finals! It was around this time that the position 4 Naga Siren started getting popular and Newbee played it to perfection. The winning duo in quite a few games was Zeng ‘Faith’ Hongda on Disruptor and Hu ‘Kaka’ Liangzhi on Naga Siren. The world thought Newbee had arrived for the season and would mount a serious challenge for the horde of Majors that was on its way. Well, the world was wrong. After that win, the TI 7 runners-up managed a 3rd-4th place finish in the StarLadder Minor. At ESL One Katowice though, the humiliation was back as Evil Geniuses annihilated Newbee 2-0. It wasn’t even a competition. The first game lasted 20 minutes and the second one was over in 18! That was sort of the point where the beginning of the fall started for Newbee. This can quite clearly be depicted if the season is divided into three parts.
Newbee’s win rate in different phases of the 2017-2018 season
The season started decently for Newbee. They picked up the pace in the middle of the season when the win rate was close to 60%. But in the final third, it dropped down to an appalling 44.64%. The games played – win record in all three phases was:
Sept – Dec (2017): 72 – 39
Jan – March (2018): 64 – 38
Apr – June (2018): 56 – 25
After ESL One Katowice, Newbee did manage a top 4 finish at PGL Bucharest a week later. But that was just a one-off result. In the five Majors that took place after Bucharest, they ended up 7th or lower in four of them. The only decent result was at MDL Changsha when they managed to scrape 4th place, but that tournament did not have the likes of Virtus Pro and Team Liquid. Reason for the slump? The organization claimed it was due to the constant tournaments and lack of scrim time. But that was the case for other teams as well. Maybe a look at the heroes played by Newbee will give us a better idea.
Most Played Heroes
Some conclusions can be made from the heroes Newbee picked through the season and in the last four months of the season (March 2018 – June 2018). What the tables show is that Newbee continued playing their successful heroes even as the season progressed. Sand King, Disruptor, and Gyrocopter were all nerfed towards the tail end of the season. And even though they didn’t go out of fashion, there were other heroes that made it to the top. For example, Newbee hardly played Clockwerk, Beastmaster, Axe, and Windranger. If I remember correctly, all these heroes were first picked in one Major or the other. But Newbee preferred to stick, and stubbornly so, with what had worked for them before in the form of Disruptor, Dragon Knight, Naga Siren and Death Prophet. Besides the nerfs, teams finally began figuring out Newbee’s playstyle and it wasn’t a surprise they didn’t do too well. I can understand going with the same strategies IF they are working. But if they aren’t, it makes no sense to rinse and repeat. Also, focusing on the same few heroes makes it easier for opponents to either ban or play around those heroes.
Newbee’s most played heroes – entire 2017-2018 season
Newbee’s most played heroes – (March 2018-June 2018)
Coming to hero combos, it is quite clear that Newbee like their Disruptor and Sand King. Disruptor dominated a few weeks in the season, but of late, he is nowhere to be seen. As for Sand King (most played hero of the season), the nerfs have been coming in heavy with every patch. Even though teams keep picking him based on comfort, the hero’s win rate is sub 50%. When they did work, the combos did well for Newbee. Especially the Omniknight Disruptor partnership. Now, however, they need to look in a new direction.
Newbee’s most played hero combos – entire 2017-2018 season
If an analogy of this season is to be made with Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ theory, Newbee is the best example of how non-adapters cannot survive. They rose in prominence till February 2018, when the patch remained constant. But as soon as the biweekly patches started rolling, Newbee could not adapt quickly their form started falling.
The International 2018 is a month away. The positive thing for Newbee is that the patch is not subject to a change. The last change to happen was 7.18 and in all likeliness, that will be the one TI 8 will be played on. Considering the fact that they take time to adapt, Newbee can make use of this period to figure out the meta and unleash their best in Vancouver. We know that the potential is there for this team. They showed it last year in Seattle. Additionally, the team has a new coach in the form of TI 4 winner Wang ‘SanSheng’ Zhaohui. With a non-changing meta and TI winning coach to guide them, can Newbee exorcise the ghosts of the past few months to mount a challenge for TI 8? After all, it is China’s turn to win The International!