The 2018 Winter Shuffle — the last Dota 2 roster shuffle until end of The International 2018 — gave birth to a lot of good lineups. Though, this shouldn’t come off as a surprise, considering teams had to make extra sure that they got the right players. Or else, they risk an early breakup and having to go through the perilous Open Qualifiers to have any chance of securing a spot at TI8, which is something that only last year’s Planet Dog have done. EVER.
Of course, while a lot of Dota 2 teams decided to make changes during the 2018 Winter Shuffle, some stayed put. The triumvirate of Team Liquid, Team Secret and Newbee all decided that their current rosters were good to go, as did other teams on the season leaderboards, such as OG, Mineski and ViCi Gaming, among others. But, we’re not here to talk about the teams that decided to stick with what worked. Rather, we’re here to list down those that decided to shake things up and emerged from the 2018 Winter Shuffle looking much better.
— Evil Geniuses (@EvilGeniuses) February 14, 2018
Evil Geniuses made waves when they let go of Saahil ‘UNiVeRsE‘ Arora and put in his place Syed Sumail ‘SumaiL’ Hassan, all the while bringing in Rasmus ‘MISERY‘ Filipsen to captain the team and Sam ‘BuLba‘ Sosale to serve as their coach — BuLba was Evil Geniuses’ coach when they won The International 5 — while moving the ever-so-versatile Clinton ‘Fear‘ Loomis back to playing mid after spending much of the season as the team’s captain and position 5 support.
Back then, the move made little to no sense. After all, why would you move one of the best mid laners in the world into a new role at the cost of kicking out arguably a top 5 offlaner? However, just two months later, we’re already seeing their risky move pay off. No longer forced to contend against two to three players at a time, SumaiL is now free to exploit 1v1 matches and force rotations, giving Artour ‘Arteezy‘ Babaev even more space to farm and carry the team while Fear focuses on doing whatever the team needs to win.
We’ve only seen Evil Geniuses’ latest roster play in three LANs so far, but in all of their appearances, they’ve looked mostly good. In fact, if not for an unfortunate matchup with Team Secret in the opening rounds of the Captain’s Draft Minor, who knows how deep of a run they could have made?
Having said that, Evil Geniuses are one of the few Dota 2 teams that emerged from the 2018 Winter Shuffle that has a legitimate chance of disrupting the status quo and making a run at the top 4 spots in the season leaderboards.
Evil Geniuses Roster:
Artour ‘Arteezy‘ Babaev
Clinton ‘Fear‘ Loomis
Syed Sumail ‘SumaiL‘ Hassan
Andreas ‘Cr1t-‘ Nielsen
Rasmus ‘MISERY‘ Filipsen
— Iceberg Esports (@IcebergEsports) February 10, 2018
There are only a few Dota 2 teams in the world right that have on their roster both a player who has won a TI and another who has won multiple Valve Majors. There’s OG, who has Gustav ‘s4‘ Magnusson (The International 3), the dynamic duo of Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein and Tal ‘Fly‘ Aizik (Frankfurt Major, Manila Major, Boston Major, Kiev Major) and Jesse ‘JerAx‘ Vainikka (Boston Majors, Kiev Major) and then there’s Team Liquid, who has Amer ‘Miracle–‘ Al-Barkawi (The International 7, Frankfurt Major, Manila Major) and the rest of their TI7 winning roster. You can throw in Team Secret in there for good measure, with Clement ‘Puppey‘ Ivanov leading the way (The International 1, Shanghai Major, DreamLeague Season 8 Major).
That’s some pretty elite company that Iceberg Esports find themselves belonging to; Aui_2000 won The International 5 with Evil Geniuses, while MoonMeander won 2 out of 3 Valve Majors during the 2015-2016 season with OG. Sure, feel free to criticize the fact that they weren’t the “leaders” in their teams when they won big, but still, they won BIG and that’s what ultimately matters. That means they have experienced the highest of highs and they know what it takes to get there.
Yes, the rest of the roster are huge unknowns. ritsu is more infamous than he is popular. Meanwhile, both kitrak and bryle have yet to appear at any Pro Circuit LAN. But they have had good showings so far together as a team and have already even qualified for a Pro Circuit LAN.
If Iceberg Esports can ever pull it together, they’ll be a team well worth keeping an eye on.
Iceberg Esports Roster
Ravindun ‘ritsu‘ Kodippili
Jonathan ‘bryle‘ De Guia
David ‘MoonMeander‘ Tan
Kurtis ‘Aui_2000‘ Ling
Kartik ‘kitrak‘ Rathi
In the first semifinal match at SL i-League Invitational S4 LGD Gaming have overpowered Newbee and advanced to the final of the tournament.
— StarLadder Dota 2 (@dotasltv) February 4, 2018
In just their first month together, LGD Gaming have qualified for three Pro Circuit LANs (2 Majors, 1 Minor), very nearly qualified for another (they got swept by VGJ.Thunder in the Grand Finals of their first Pro Circuit Qualifiers), and eliminated Newbee in their LAN debut at Starladder i-League Season 4 en-route to a second-place finish where they also made the reigning TI champions Team Liquid tap out in less than 20 minutes.
If there’s one Dota 2 team that the rest of the world needs to worry about after the 2018 Winter Shuffle, it’s definitely LGD Gaming.
LGD Gaming Roster
Wang ‘Ame‘ Chunyu
Lu ‘Maybe‘ Yao
Yang ‘Chalice‘ Shenyi
Xu ‘fy‘ Linsen
Jian Wei ‘xNova‘ Yap
— Roman Dvoryankin (@dvoryrom) February 14, 2018
No offense to Natus Vincere and their latest additions, because really, they have the potential to be a great team and who knows, they might even end up getting the better deal out of their blockbuster trade with Virtus Pro. But, the CIS bears were already a great Dota 2 team before the trade, the addition of Vladimir ‘RodjER‘ Nikogosyan could make them even better.
RodjER may not necessarily be a better player than the guy he’s replacing — Ilya ‘Lil‘ Ilyuk has the second most wins as a player for Virtus Pro with 471 wins in 760 games — but he could be a better fit with the team (as we briefly discussed here). He’s flashier, greedier and is arguably better at making the necessary early-game plays for Virtus Pro’s core players to secure their lanes and get ahead, which could be the key to unlocking the full potential of their signature aggressive playstyle.
Virtus Pro Roster:
Roman ‘RAMZES666‘ Kushnarev
Vladimir ‘No[o]ne‘ Minenko
Pavel ‘9pasha‘ Khvastunov
Vladimir ‘RodjER‘ Nikogosyan
Alexei ‘Solo‘ Berezin
VGJ Thunder Roster Announcement! @Team_VGJ welcome veteran support player DDC to the roster!
We appreciate and thank Ayo for his time with us! pic.twitter.com/qafN7wmoZm
— Team VGJ (@Team_VGJ) February 3, 2018
Arguably one of the most underrated Dota 2 teams today, VGJ.Thunder have slowly emerged as yet another legitimate contender from China. Though they stumbled out of the gates at the PGL Open Bucharest, finishing in 5th-6th place among the eight participating teams, and did not qualify for another Pro Circuit LAN until a few months later, they have since rebounded.
VGJ.Thunder may have only made one roster move during the 2018 Winter Shuffle, but it was a big one. Now, they have a LAN title under their belt, a humbling defeat at the hands of ViCi Gaming at ESL One Genting 2018 to serve as further motivation, a battle-hardened coach in Bai ‘rOtK‘ Fan and a veteran — and a former teammate of Liu ‘Sylar’ Jiajun — in Leong ‘ddc‘ Fat-meng to help steady the ship when things get rough.
With their spots already secured for two Pro Circuit Majors in 2018, VGJ.Thunder are one to watch out for.
Liu ‘Sylar‘ Jiajun
Liu ‘Kamma‘ Chang
Zhou ‘Yang‘ Haiyang
Pan ‘Fade‘ Yi
Leong ‘ddc‘ Fat-meng
The 2018 Winter Shuffle saw a lot of good Dota 2 teams form in hopes of making a run at a direct invite for The International 2018. However, the others, though capable, don’t boast nearly as much talent, skill and potential as the Dota 2 teams that we rounded up above.
Which Dota 2 teams do you think came away with the best possible roster after the 2018 Winter Shuffle? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.