Though we’ve seen many other teams win TI before, the TI6 Dota 2 champions Wings Gaming still standout as a special team. Why? Well, for starters, they literally came out of nowhere, a relatively unknown Chinese organization that rose from the bottom ranks. But, that’s not all. The way Wings Gaming played was unique as well. They were versatile in every sense of the word. They often disregarded the established meta, running team compositions that were completely out of the norm and yet getting away with it because of their clean-cut execution as a team.
Having said that, it’s been nearly a year since we last saw Wings Gaming in action. As such, it’s only fair to wonder what they are up to now.
Starting from the Bottom
Formed in 2014, Wings Gaming initially tried their hands at qualifying for The International 5 via the treacherous Chinese Open Qualifiers. Though their then-roster made it through the Open Qualifiers, they fell short in the Regional Qualifiers. The organization then decided to drop the entire team and picked up mostly unknown players for the new season. In fact, of the Wings Gaming roster that eventually became Dota 2 champions at The International 6, Li ‘iceice‘ Peng was the only sole member to have enjoyed some form of fame and it was only because he was part of the Big God squad that Zhang ‘xiao8‘ Ning formed back in early 2015.
This new roster did not find success immediately. They would bomb out at a number of Regional Qualifiers in their first few months. Eventually, they would get their first taste of international competition as a team at the World Cyber Arena 2015, which was also their first LAN together. They finished a respectable fourth place finish, getting swept by Team Liquid 3-0 in the third-place decider match. In their second LAN at the Starladder i-League StarSeries Season 1, Wings Gaming would not even come close to advancing the playoffs, finishing last instead.
This string of losses would continue for Wings Gaming until April of 2016 where they got their first big break. In their win at ESL One Manila 2016, Wings Gaming started to show signs of the unsolvable puzzle that they would become, picking a total of 37 different heroes in 15 games. Coincidentally enough, their first LAN title together came against Team Liquid, who they paid back with 3-0 sweep of their own.
From Upstarts to Favourites
From then on, Wings Gaming became more of a fixture in events. They’d either get invited or found a way to qualify. And though they would not win a single LAN in the lead up to The International 6 until The Summit 5, where they once again showed their versatility by picking twenty different heroes in four games (therefore not picking a hero twice), they nevertheless entered Dota 2’s biggest annual tournament as one of the teams to watch out for.
By the time that The International 6 had ended, Wings Gaming had been immortalized forever as Dota 2 champions. And has been their MO, their versatility shined all throughout. Out of the possible 55 hero picks in their games during the tournament, Wings Gaming picked 40. This meant that they ran a different set of heroes and team composition in almost every match.
Many expected the win to be the start of Wings Gaming’s reign over the competitive Dota 2 scene, but that was not the case. While they remained favourites after hoisting the Aegis of Champions, they never could quite find their stride.
Eventually, on April 2017, the reigning Dota 2 champions left the Wings Gaming organization and soon after, disbanded as a team completely.
A Controversial Breakup
The breakup between Wings Gaming and their players was a very messy one. The players explained that the organization had failed to keep up with team payments. This was apparently due to a failed League of Legends venture. As a result, the players of Wings Gaming took matters into their own hands, reforming just in time for the Kiev Major under Team Random. Unfortunately, Team Random failed to perform. Much to the dismay of the many fans that cheered for the reigning TI champions to regain their form.
Soon after their early exit in Kiev, information about the former Wings Gaming players came up suggesting that they had breached a second contract signed with ACE. To this day, ACE, Wings Gaming nor the players themselves have kept mum regarding the exact details of this contract. But whatever it was, the result was a controversial breakup that saw all five players go their separate ways, leaving The International 7 without defending champions.
Where Are They Now?
Soon after parting ways, Wings Gaming’s former captain Zhang ‘y`‘ Yiping and offlaner Zhang ‘Faith_bian‘ Ruida found a new home playing for the standard-bearer of Chinese DOTA, EHOME. Chu ‘shadow‘ Zeyu soon found a new team as well, playing for Eclipse as their hard carry. A few months later, Wings Gaming’s position 5 support iceice and midlaner Zhou ‘bLink‘ Yang found new teams as well, playing for Sun Gaming.
All five have stayed with the same team since their breakup. Although shadow’s name did come up during the post-TI7 roster shuffle after rumours circulated that he was going to join Team Secret. This was later debunked as Team Secret brought in Marcus ‘Ace‘ Hoelgaard to fill in their vacant spot at the hard carry position.
Neither one of them has experienced the joys of hoisting a trophy again since their split. In fact, only Faith_bian and y` have enjoyed relative success so far while playing for EHOME and even they have failed to take their squad to the same heights that Wings Gaming once reached.
Legacy Lives On
While the former Dota 2 champions have since gone on to play for their respective teams, their legacy continues to live on until today. Many still point out to them as the standard for versatility. Their names still come up when talking about the best teams of all time, and some continue to study how they played the game up until today, even after the meta has changed many times over.
Many have also found parallels to Wings Gaming’s massive hero pool. In particular, Virtus.Pro’s performance at The Summit 7 was cited by many as “Wings-like”. En route to defending their title, Virtus.Pro did not play a single hero twice up until the last game of the finals when Team Secret banned out the heroes that they had yet to play.
And even though many have already accepted what happened to the former Dota 2 champions, we still can’t help but wonder what exactly would have had happened had Wings Gaming had a chance to defend their title at The International 7.
Do you think Dota 2 will ever come across another team quite like Wings Gaming? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.