The all-Filipino professional Dota 2 team, TNC Predator, were the last Dota 2 team standing at the WESG 2018 Finals in Chongqing as they defeated the heavy favourites, the all-Russian White-Off, in the semifinals before finishing off the hometown heroes, the all-Chinese Keen Gaming, in the Grand Finals 2-0.
It was a relatively quick affair for the Philippines’ representatives, who were playing without Carlo ‘Kuku‘ Palad after the local government recently issued a ban against the controversial player. In his stead was a familiar face in Marco Polo Luis ‘Raven‘ Fausto, playing in an unfamiliar position as the team’s offlaner. Raven was part of TNC Predator when they won WESG 2016, also as the Philippines’ representatives.
Another familiar face who stood in for TNC Predator was Nico ‘eyyou‘ Barcelon, who played for TNC Predator when they famously pulled off the upset against OG at The International 2016.
For their efforts, TNC Predator will take home the lion’s share of the $890,000 prize pool, set at $500,000. The runner-ups, Keen Gaming, will pocket a nice sum of money themselves at $200,000. Meanwhile, the third-place finishers, White-Off, will go home $100,000 richer. Finally, Team Ukraine will round out the tournament’s top 4 teams and will receive $50,000 in prize money.
Virtus.Pro vs Virtus.Pro — A Family Affair
After losing in the semifinals against Keen Gaming and TNC Predator, respectively, Team Ukraine and White-Off faced off in the third-place deciders matchup.
Both teams entered the tournament as some of the heavy favourites to win it all. This is especially true for White-Off. Even if they did not manage to retain their previous lineup, they still are the defending champions as Russia’s representatives. Instead, however, the all-Russian lineup encountered a huge setback in the form of TNC Predator. The lone non Virtus Pro player, Andrey ‘Afoninje‘ Afonin, was particularly underwhelming against TNC Predator as he posted far more deaths than kills.
The only non-Russian player on Virtus.Pro, Vladimir ‘No[o]ne‘ Minenko was also in the tournament and was playing for Team Ukraine.
As Team Ukraine’s star player, No[o]ne tried his best to will his team to victory against his official squad. However, it was all for naught. Team Ukraine simply lacked the firepower to keep up with White-Off. Although Team Ukraine were able to steal Game 1 of the series, the victory was hard-fought and required White-Off to make a series of uncharacteristic mistakes. In Games 2 and 3, White-Off played more like their usual selves and were able to secure the win quite easily.
While White-Off definitely would have loved to have successfully defended their title at the WESG 2018 Finals, a third-place finish is nothing to scoff at.
TNC Predator Makes the Philippines Proud
Advancing into the ultimate round of the WESG 2018 Finals, TNC Predator faced off against Keen Gaming.
These two Dota 2 teams never got a chance to meet in the regular season. China’s representatives, Keen Gaming, have struggled to qualify for both non-DPC and DPC tournaments this season. It was only recently that their performance started picking up. On the other hand, TNC Predator managed to retain their status as one of SEA’s best teams this season. Although, they are far from without fault. The controversy surrounding Kuku, for one, has put the team under the microscope this season. Not to mention, after failing to post anything significant halfway through the competitive year, the team decided to part ways with one of their off season acquisitions, Michael ‘ninjaboogie‘ Ross Jr.
Playing with two stand-ins, things weren’t looking good for TNC Predator. However, instead of struggling, they shrugged off Keen Gaming quite easily; the entire grand finals lasted for less than an hour as TNC Predator swept their opponents. TNC Predator’s signature aggression were simply too much for Keen Gaming to handle. Their young cores, Kim ‘Gabbi‘ Villafuerte and Armel Paul ‘Armel‘ Tabios, paved the way for TNC Predator as they combined for a total of 40 kills in two games.
Can Afoninje Bounce Back?
WESG 2018 Finals provided a lot of entertainment for Dota 2 fans. However, in the grand scheme of things, it is a non-bearing tournament. Teams arguably only play here for exposure and for the prize money. Their focus is still on the Dota Pro Circuit and ultimately, qualifying for The International 2019.
With that said, Afoninje will need to find a way to put his performance at the WESG 2018 Finals behind him.
Playing in a stacked White-Off lineup, Afoninje was expected to explode and take over. Instead, what happened was that he took the backseat quite often and looked lost more often than not. Normally an aggressive player when playing for Gambit Esports, the 22-year-old had relatively little impact for White-Off.
Even if it is possible that he may just have had a bad tournament, his performance is still worrying. Gambit Essports will need Afoninje to do better in his return if they are to build up on their success in recent weeks. The CIS-based team are currently competing at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor, where they may just qualify for DreamLeague Season 11 with Rostislav ‘fn‘ Lozovo standing in for Afoninje.
Afoninje will have to prove soon that this was just a fluke. Otherwise, he might just find himself without team in the middle of the season.
There’s very little in the way of non-DPC tournaments for March.
Outside of the currently ongoing StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 minor and the upcoming Stockholm Major, there are no big events slated for March as of yet. April, however, will see multiple big events hosted. This includes ESL One Mumbai 2019, as well as the AMD SAPPHIRE Dota Pit Minor.
For the winners, TNC Predator, the WESG 2018 Finals will serve as a nice consolation prize; the Philippines-based team failed to qualify for the current set of DPC tournaments. They can use this downtime to reassess what they need to do to prepare for the last two sets of DPC tournaments this season.
What do you think was the biggest surprise of the WESG 2018 Finals? Do you think Afoninje can recover from his bad showing once he’s back with Gambit Esports? What will TNC Predator do with their roster after the current iteration with two stand-ins saw a lot of success? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.