Dota 2 DPC 2023 Tour 1 Team Analysis: China

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Dota 2 DPC 2023 Tour 1 Team Analysis: China

The eastern powerhouses may not have won a TI in quite a while, but they’re always heavyweight contenders


Another year has gone by without a Chinese team winning The International. It gets worse for the region, though, because they made it to the final of a Major and another high-level event and failed to win either before also being unable to register a team into the top 3 of a TI for the first time since the third iteration of the tournament. While some people might assume that this might be because of an inability to handle pressure — which isn’t entirely untrue — we think that a difference in approach might be the main issue. 

To be fair, the region has had to contend with extenuating circumstances. Chinese teams weren’t allowed to participate at the Stockholm Major, and they were plagued by visa issues during the Arlington Major, where Royal Never Give Up had to play with a substitute and Xtreme refused to do so and sat out entirely. Nevertheless, a new year brings new hope to the Dota-loving region.

China DPC Division 1

Following this Aegis and now Major drought, Chinese teams have undergone many sizable changes, and a couple of brand new teams have emerged from the rubble. Luckily for some, they’ve gone directly into Division 1 as quite a few teams have disbanded — including the popular RNG and TI5 runner-up CDEC. As is usual with the Chinese scene, there are a couple of superteams, a few middling squads, and some promising newcomers strewn across the scene. 

Here are all the teams and how they stand ahead of the first DPC tour of the year:

  • Knights
  • Team Aster
  • Xtreme Gaming
  • PSG.LGD
  • Aster.Aries
  • EHOME
  • Dawn Gaming
  • Invictus Gaming

Knights

  • Luo "eGo" Bin
  • Vincent "AlaCrity" Hiew
  • Su "Flyby" Lei
  • Chong “FelixCiaoBa” Wei Lun
  • Xiao "XCJ" Chaojian

The Chinese region is a volatile one, with many players sort of pinballing around a number of big and small organizations. From time to time, new ones pop up to gather rejects or dropouts from other organizations and coalesce them into a team, and that’s precisely what has happened in the case of Knights. Here are five people from four different teams who have been brought together to try and create magic, and somehow they’ve managed to find their way into Division 1. It’ll be interesting to see whether they can make it here or will get knocked down.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVDiGIXQQa8

Many people have been scratching their heads about this team, so here’s where each of the players are from: eGo was a mainstay of EHOME in the latter part of the last decade before stints with Team Serenity and ShenZhen, AlaCrity spent a while in Galaxy Racer well into its NGX.SEA days, Flyby flitted between RNG and Sparking Arrow Gaming for most of the last 5 years, FelixCiaoBa was in RNG between 2020 and 2022, and XCJ spent roughly the same period in the aforementioned SAG until a brief cameo in Team Fusion.

Team Aster

  • Du "Monet" Peng
  • Zhai "Xwy" Jingkai
  • Lin "Xxs" Jing 
  • Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao
  • Yu "皮球" Yajun

Aster undoubtedly had the best year out of all the Chinese teams, which was also the best year in their relatively short history. After starting the year with some silverware from the Intel World Open in Beijing, they went on to claim consistent podium finishes in the DPC tours before taking third place at the Arlington Major and second at ESL One Malaysia. Later, Aster became the first Chinese to beat PSG.LGD on the main stage of a TI since the team was rebranded by the French soccer side, registering a fourth place finish in the competition in the process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjJlZyIGKEU

Aster are also the only side from the region to make so few changes, with the recruitment of former Keen Gaming member Xwy pretty much enforced by the retirement of long-time Mid player Zeng "Ori" Jiaoyang. The team seems to finally have unlocked its incredible potential last year, with consistency, teamwork, and some seriously impressive individual plays. We’re excited to see what they have in store for us in the upcoming season — especially with regional dominators PSG.LGD having scrapped their superteam.

Xtreme Gaming

  • Daniel Chan "Ghost" Kok Hong
  • Zhang "Paparazi灬" Chengjun
  • Thiay Jun "JT-" Wen
  • Xiong "Pyw" Jiahan
  • Ding "Dy" Cong

For any Dota team, falling one step short of reaching TI is perhaps the most agonizing experience of all, and the second most heartbreaking thing is probably to not be able to take part in a Major despite qualifying. Such was the fate of Xtreme Gaming last year, when after a string of decent-to-good results in the local circuits ended in repeated heartbreak as they couldn’t attend the Stockholm Major due to Covid-19 and Arlington Major due to visa issues. This meant that they had to use the Regional or Last Chance qualifiers to enter. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjByIBhz-_k

As we all know, they failed to do either — losing the Regional final to RNG and only finishing 5th-6th in the LCQ — but thankfully most of the team stayed together. Their incoming carry is former RNG Position 1 Ghost, while their new Offlaner is ex-IG JT-. Both have plenty of experience and skill to boot, with JT- even having won a Major with his old team back in 2021. However, things aren’t as peachy or potent for their old Carry Lou “lou” Zhen, who has been demoted to Xtreme’s academy team Ybb Gaming. 

PSG.LGD

  • Guo "shiro" Xuanang
  • Cheng "NothingToSay" Jin Xiang
  • Li "项羽" Longwu
  • Lin "planet" Hao
  • Zhang "y`" Yiping

Aah PSG.LGD. What can we say about them that hasn’t been said already? One of the most illustrious organizations in TI history, they have been to almost every iteration of the tournament and have had five podium finishes despite never having won the competition. They have also won countless tournaments including two Majors. Last year, despite being a dominant force in almost every event they took part in and winning the $1.5m first prize at the Riyadh Masters tournament, they ended up having a disappointing TI.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noZdd4doCLc

Since then, the look of the team has changed drastically, with three players brought in after two members retired and one left following a contract expiration. PSG.LGD seem to have foregone their usual tendency to recruit only the highest level players, with two of the newcomers being recruited from an underperforming EHOME, and the last one coming from within their own academy, the now-inactive CDEC. This will undoubtedly test the organization’s capabilities, but it seems that they’re ready to risk going in a new direction following years of near misses.

Aster.Aries

  • Ru "RedPanda" Zhihao
  • He "TK" Boyi
  • Xiao "生死" Yihu
  • Liu "White丶Album" Yuhao
  • Wang "Ulu" Jiakai

Despite having been around since the end of 2019, Aster.Aries didn’t achieve much more than the odd upset against a bigger team for a while. However, they finally managed to break their curse in the middle of 2022 by placing second in the Chinese DPC Division 2, and stayed alive in the rat race in the third tour by beating the likes of XG, VG, EHOME, and the now-defunct Dandelion Esports Club. Afterwards, they beat VG once again in the regional qualifiers before getting knocked out by IG.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tWnF2g2krA

Aster Aries’ Mid player White丶Album is remembered by many as a part of Aster’s main team that floundered in the first round of the Lower Bracket of TI10’s Main Stage, but Carry Ulu and Support TK are home-grown talents who have recently come into their own. Meanwhile, Support player Redpanda joined after turns with Elephant and RNG didn’t work out, and Offlaner 生死, pronounced shēng sǐ, is also an Aster.Aries talent, but has spent some time in other teams.

EHOME

  • Wong "mks" Sim An
  • Pan "yChen" Shuaifang
  • Lee "X1aOyU" Qian Yu
  • Tang "Salad" Xiaolei
  • Liu "Lww" Weiwei

It’s hard to imagine EHOME as one of the superpowers of the Dota world, but there was a time when the runner-ups of the first TI were a formidable presence in any tournament. Consistently middling in Division 1, EHOME have managed to stay alive and keep competing with the big guns by the skin of their teeth a ridiculous four times in the last couple of years. In that same time, their only real triumph came in the shape of winning the final of a small local tournament against PSG.LGD and qualifying to the Asian edition of Gamers Without Borders 2022. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vScz_bw6JI4

Arguably their biggest achievement in a while has been almost making it to TI10 when they lost the Grand Final of the Chinese regional qualifier 3-1 against Elephant, but following a number of transfers, they’re looking to make a splash with a fresh squad of talents of varying ages. These players are mostly from lesser known or lower tier teams, but EHOME clearly lacks the budget and/or the kind of pull bigger teams have.

Dawn Gaming

  • Hou "idc" Xiaomeng
  • Liu "ex" Shaojun
  • Lin "Son Goku" Shiyang
  • He "Docres" Ercong
  • Yang "Ms" Yongjie

China has arguably the largest overall talent pool in Dota, and the number of teams that have come out of it over the years proves this. Enter Dawn Gaming, who have made it into Tier 1 after CDEC went inactive and their slot was up for grabs. As fresh as they come, Dawn Gaming has literally played eight Bo2 matches so far according to records, all at the Tier 3 tournament Moon Studio Campfire, and have a record of 2-3-2 at the time of writing. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfuiDro18Tg

Their players mostly hail from lower tier teams, with most having been in and around Tier 2 and 3 for quite a few years. The only player with any real top-level tournament experience is Son Goku, who played for Newbee at TI5 as “June.” He will provide some much-needed experience to this team, but whether they’ll be able to go toe to toe against Tier 1 teams remains to be seen. If they do, it’ll be quite the underdog story.

Invictus Gaming

  • Cui "qyqx" Chenyang
  • Wilson Koh "poloson" Chin Wei
  • Li "Irving" Jian
  • Zhou "Dust" Shiyuan
  • Zhou "Emo" Yi

The TI2-winning side has had its moments in the Dota 2 limelight, but the last year hasn’t been kind to them. They were relegated to Division 2 after placing 7th in Division 1 in the first tour despite having most of the components of an all-star Major-winning team that placed fourth at TI10, and they followed this up by failing to climb out of Division 2 in the second tour. After bringing in big guns in the form of Chinese legend Xu “fy” Linsen, they finally qualified for Division 1 again, but failure to qualify for TI saw almost their entire team leave.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22kNqz_WAkY

Now Emo is the only remnant of that Major-winning TI-stomping side (they were the only team to beat Spirit on the Main Stage, although they lost later on). They have since recruited three ex-Team Magma players along with a South-East Asian talent. The talent is definitely there, but whether they can induce a chemistry between three long-term teammates and two players they haven’t played with before will be the focal point of their journey henceforth.

With many underdogs and a couple of completely unknown quantities around, the Chinese DPC promises to be incendiary. Join us for regular recaps and analyses once the matches begin on January 5, and feel free to indulge in our extensive range of Dota articles in the meantime.