4 reasons behind China’s poor performance at the DOTA 2 TI3 championship
Xairylle | On August 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm
In a previous post, we looked at the general performance of the Asian teams in The International 2013. We pondered how the Chinese were expected to dominate this year’s international like they did in the previous years. However, as the biggest DOTA 2 tournament drew to a close, it became quite clear that China wasn’t going to take the championship. Team Orange, however, was able to get third place, which makes Malaysia the only Asian team in the top three.
A year ago, in the previous International, they were a formidable force to be feared with their flawless execution, amazing team fights, awesome farming-skills, and great decision-making. So what happened to Chinese DOTA?
Chinese DOTA in the previous Internationals
In this in-depth interview (A Lifetime of DOTA) with Evil Geniuses’ Jacob “Maelk” Andersen and Fnatic’s Kai “H4nn1” Hanbueckers, they talked about several things about Chinese DOTA as well as whether or not they thought the Asian scene was superior. In the video, Maelk mentions that at one point, during the WC3 DotA days, the European (EU) scene was regarded as the juggernauts of DotA. That is until Singapore’s Team Zenith won ESWC 2008, and Chinese teams For The Dream and EHome won SMM 2009 and SMM 2010 respectively. EHome dominated 2010 and as Maelk put it, “completely demolished the European scene.”
During The International 2011 (TI1), the Ukranian team Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) dominated and won. In the same video, Maelk says:
When Na’Vi won TI1, the Chinese teams haven’t really prepared for DOTA 2 yet. It was a big accomplishment, no doubt. They won a million dollars, but I don’t think the Chinese were prepared.
A year later, The International 2012 (TI2) arrived, but this time the Chinese team Invictus Gaming (iG) won. LGD.cn was undefeated in the group stages. Asia dominated so hard that seven out of the top eight teams were from Asia, five of them coming from China. The teams had unique strategies involving heroes such as Morphling and Naga Siren. EHome also made significant use of the hero Io, who would later be an important hero to use or watch out for in the next International.
1. No scrims outside of China
In this interview with Team Zenith’s Daryl “iceiceice” Koh, he mentions how the Chinese teams scrimmed mostly among themselves and not with teams from South East Asia (SEA). On the other hand, also in an interview, LGD.int’s Theeban “1437” Siva says that the Chinese scrimmed against each other.
For those who are new or not familiar to the term, scrim is short for scrimmage and in eSports, it is used to refer to serious practice games between two different teams. Scrims are important in DOTA 2 in order to strengthen teamwork, synchronize team fights, test certain strategies and generally keep the team in shape. When scrimming, it is not only important to analyze one’s own play style, but also the enemy’s. As such, it is very advantageous to play against teams with different play styles in order to improve decision-making and in-game improvisation as well as the way they handle surprise tactics and strategies against them.
As most of us know, to this day, there have been ping and connectivity issues when two teams from different parts of the world try to play together. As such, teams from China, SEA, EU and North America (NA), can’t really play against each other. It’s a bit easier between teams from Asia compared to an Asian team trying to play against EU/NA. This is why LANs such as the International are much-awaited.
However, in the same interview, iceiceice mentions that it wasn’t always like this. During The International 1 and 2, the Chinese used to scrim more with SEA teams and are more open-minded to other play styles. And in the words of iceiceice:
Now they are just training among themselves thinking that they have the strongest playstyle.
2. No “High Risk, High Reward” Playstyle
The Chinese are known for playing safe. They would rather take it late game and farm for items before taking towers, Roshan or the Ancient. In the previous interview, 1437 mentioned how the Chinese loved to play lineups and strategies that give them the highest possible chance of winning. Who doesn’t, right? Everyone plays to win after all so it’s only logical to go for the way with the most chance of winning.
However, in DOTA 2, this is not always the case. Although we may see risky plays and surprise strategies that end up losing the game, this does not mean that playing safe guarantees a game. If a team ends up playing safe most of the time, the opposing team will take advantage of this or may read and counter the strategy as early as drafting phase. Also, this lacks the element of surprise, which is often the key factor to risky strategies aside from perfect execution. If an enemy is too taken aback, they start making little mistakes. Chinese teams are known for not making mistakes too often so being able to surprise them into making one may give enough room for teams like Na’Vi or Alliance to win a game. Western teams also have the tendency to go for crazy strategies and when something is crazy, it is usually quite hard to predict or read using simple logic. Add this to the previous point that the Chinese mostly played among themselves and you have teams that are not only feeble surprises, but are not that surprising as well. At least that is the case when compared to Western and SEA teams.
3. Less tournaments in China
This year, there have been more tournaments in the Western scene than there were in China. In China, major LAN tournaments were only the G-League, G-1 League, Alienware, and the DOTA 2 Super League. On the other hand, Europe had Starladder, EMS, DreamHack, Techlabs, and Thor Open to name a few. The Western scene also had multiple tournaments happening every month where some teams had to play matches for three tournaments each week. A good reason for this would be that DOTA 2 only launched their Chinese servers recently. Therefore, organizations and sponsors may still be a bit wary and hesitant about holding big tournaments both on LAN and online.
Tournaments are very important to keep a team in shape. Not only does it help players deal with pressure, it also compels them to train more seriously. Tournaments are also where the players may test the things they have learned during scrims and analysis. This way, they can save the better strategies for the bigger tournaments and drop the strategies that suck.
4. Improvement of the Western teams
In this interview with Zhang Zhi “LaNm” Cheng, he states that he feels “the Western teams are having a better understanding of the game than the Chinese”. True enough, results from the International show that the Western teams seem to be doing a better job in the current state of the game. However, does this mean that China has deteriorated skill-wise? This may not be the case. In the same interview, LaNm says that he does not feel like the Chinese teams became worse. It’s just that the Western teams got better. This may have something to do with the previous two points that tackle training, play style, and the regularity of tournaments.
Asia towards The International 2014
Now that The International 2013 is over, we can expect the teams from East and West to contemplate their matches and performances. This year, the West dominated. However, Asian teams won’t just sit around and mope over that. While it will take some time to get over the loss, what follows that will be a realization. Among many of their good traits is their ability to take what they have experienced, learn from it and improve from there. In fact, this was the case in The International 2 and in the interview A Lifetime of DOTA, Maelk mentions:
All the practice they’ve done with the European teams EG, Na’Vi, Complexity at the time had actually given them so much experience that they felt they got more a lot out of it than we did… …They just took so much from all this practice. And they just absorbed all of this information they took off the Western scene and converted it into these strategies that they perfected so to speak. …Europe is good with innovating and being original with lineups, but the Chinese are the best at perfecting it.
Also, hopefully, the Chinese teams will once again scrim with SEA and, if possible, go overseas to participate in LAN’s, as in the case of Na’Vi and Alliance participating in the Alienware Cup and G-1 League Cup respectively. The number of tournaments per year should also increase as DOTA 2 gets bigger in China. Organizations from both East and West may also coordinate with each other in holding tournaments that involve teams from both sides of the world. It would also be a big help if Valve lends its giant helping hand to making this happen. After all, the story of the road to TI4 begins when the curtains for TI3 close.
(Editing By Anh-Minh Do)