PSG.LGD came into MDL Changsha 2018 as heavy favourites and emerged as history makers. Although their journey there could’ve been a bit smoother — certain members of the team were sick during the tournament, which led to their rather lacklustre performance and forced them to start in the lower brackets come the playoffs — the end result, nevertheless, remained the same.
So, without further delay, let’s go on a quick retelling of the many storylines that emerged from MDL Changsha 2018.
The TI Cycle Must Not Be Broken
So much for the TI cycle eventually being broken by Team Liquid or Virtus.Pro, eh? While The International 2018 isn’t over yet, PSG.LGD are already looking like the Chinese Dota 2 team that’s set to fulfil the so-called prophecy.
In case you’re new to the scene, there’s been sort of a running gag when it comes to the TI winning teams and the East-West alternating every year. Natus Vincere (CIS-West) won the first International, Invictus Gaming (China-East) won the second, Alliance (Europe-West) won the next one, and then Newbee (China-East),then Evil Geniuses (North America-West), followed by Wings Gaming (China-East), and finally, the most recent winners, Team Liquid (Europe-West).
According to the pattern, a Chinese Dota 2 team will win The International 2018. However, until the rise of PSG.LGD that started at the Dota 2 Asia Championships — one could argue that it started with their second-place finish at Starladder i-League Invitational Season 4 — not a single Dota 2 team from China really stood out. Sure, there was Newbee and ViCi Gaming, but they weren’t really considered on the same level as Team Liquid, Team Secret, or Virtus.Pro.
With the rise of PSG.LGD, it’s certainly looking like Team Liquid and Virtus.Pro finally have some legit competition. Unfortunately, the recently-crowned MDL Changsha 2018 champions won’t be playing at ESL One Birmingham. But, don’t worry, it won’t be long before we see a clash of the titans at the China SuperMajor just right after the UK Major.
The Top Eight Are Pretty Much Set
We’ve still got two tournaments to go and only four direct TI invites are set, but it feels like the top eight is already fixed as it is. The only team in danger is VGJ.Thunder and arguably, Newbee, but we all know those two Dota 2 teams have what it takes to make deep runs among the world’s best Dota 2 teams. Meanwhile, those who are on the outside looking in aren’t exactly world beaters.
Evil Geniuses are the best bet to squeak into the Top 8 and their recent performances don’t exactly scream Tier 1 material. The same goes for Fnatic. Although their Southeast Asian neighbours TNC Pro Team are legitimate dark horse candidates who could literally take a game off of anyone — they’re the only ones who took a game off of PSG.LGD at the main stage of MDL Changsha 2018 — they’re far too inconsistent and lack the discipline to take a best-of-three against the world’s best Dota 2 teams. You could also throw in OpTic Gaming there too since they did win a Minor.
Unfortunately, for any of those teams to make it into the Top 8, they’d have to either win the remaining tournaments or place second, while both of Newbee or VGJ.Thunder must not make it to the Top 4 at the same time.
Considering Newbee and VGJ.Thunder both have far more trustworthy bodies of work, it’s looking like we’re going to see four Dota 2 teams from China getting a direct invite to TI this year.
A Storm is Brewing in North America
Even if Evil Geniuses are not in the tournament, there’s always a way to circle things back to them. Case in point, how much danger Evil Geniuses are in right now. Although PSG.LGD did end up sweeping VGJ.Storm in the Grand Finals of MDL Changsha 2018, the fact that they made it there is a troubling sign for the boys in blue. Besides, it wasn’t that they performed badly — they made a few costly misplays, it happens — but more like PSG.LGD playing on a whole other level.
If Evil Geniuses don’t play well enough at the remaining Majors to secure a direct invite to TI8, the possibility of the former TI5 champions missing out on The International for the first time in years is very real.
If that happens, we’ll probably see them try and change their roster in an attempt to salvage an otherwise disappointing season, similar to what they did before TI6.
Roster Lock Penalty Needs a Rework
With rosters locked as early as February — more than six months before the start of TI — we’re already seeing the effect of teams playing in tournaments just solely for experience and money. Of course, every bit of money and experience counts, especially for smaller organizations. The likes of paiN Gaming, Infamous, SG-esports, Vega Squadron, Team Empire, FlyToMoon, and others, would benefit a lot from the opportunity to get paid to play and practice against some of the top Dota 2 teams in the world. But, they’re not the ones we’re talking about here. Instead, we’re talking about the likes of OG, Natus Vincere, and the North American Dota 2 team on the up-and-up VGJ.Storm.
With a direct invite already out of the question, they’re now playing only for money and to build up team chemistry. That’s good and all, considering how good the teams on the remaining Majors are. But, what happens once the Open Qualifiers start?
According to Valve’s rules, teams who break up their roster after the roster lock will have to go through the Open Qualifier. In years past, the Open Qualifiers was an opportunity to band together and come out literally out of nowhere to qualify for TI. Judging by how things will likely play out in a couple of months, we probably won’t see any Dota 2 team make such a run this year.
Hopefully, Valve recognizes this as a potential threat to the sustainability of the competitive scene and decides to rework the roster lock for next year.
Position 4 Players Are Still Just As Important
I don’t what it is with IceFrog and position 4 playmakers. It seems that he’s really keen on nerfing their playstyles and force a 2-1-2 lane set-up. For the most part, the recent changes have made this happen. At least, early on. However, if you look at the two teams who made it to the Grand Finals of MDL Changsha 2018, it was their position 4 supports that made most of the plays that put them in the position to succeed.
For VGJ.Thunder, it was the former mid and offlaner Arif ‘MSS‘ Anwar. Meanwhile, for PSG.LGD, it was Xu ‘fy’ Linsen, who had a bit of a down year last season after making a name for himself as one of the best position 4 support players in the world in the years prior, doing both the little things and the flashy plays. Case in point, this snowball play from Fy on Tusk that allowed PSG.LGD to turn a possibly game-losing teamfight in their favour. Here’s another play from Fy, this time a cheeky setup on Naga Siren by baiting VGJ.Storm into thinking he’s an illusion and using Song of the Siren to catch all of them.
Greedy, roaming position 4 supports may no longer make as much of an impact these days, but as from what we’ve seen so far, position 4 players are still crucial to their team’s success.
It’s clear that the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit is purely experimental. Given the feedback from the Dota 2 community, it’s highly likely that we’ll see a lot of changes next season. Until then, we’ve got two more Majors, the TI Qualifiers, and The International 2018 to look forward to.
That’s still a lot of Dota 2 to go and that means anything can still literally happen as far as the four remaining open TI invite slots. Who knows? A patch change just right before the China SuperMajor might play into the hands of the teams outside of the top 8 and they might just end up coming out of nowhere to win the whole thing.
Either way, we can only expect things to get even more intense after MDL Changsha 2018, and we just can’t wait to see what kind of storylines will emerge at ESL One Birmingham 2018.
What do you think was the biggest takeaway from MDL Changsha 2018? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.