Dota 2 DPC 2023 Tour 1 Team Analysis: SEA Division 1

| Tags:
Dota 2 DPC 2023 Tour 1 Team Analysis: SEA Division 1

After covering the Chinese scene, we go south to find more pro Dota


Despite the stupendous amount of toxicity that the place is most famous for, the South-East Asian region of the Dota world has produced some fine teams over the years. There has never been a TI-winner from SEA, but they came mighty close with Orange Esports at TI3 — which may very easily have gone differently and changed the Dota landscape of the region forever had a certain Aegis not been denied. Regardless of the past, SEA Dota is still very much alive and thoroughly exciting, and we’re taking a look at the region’s teams ahead of the DPC season.

South-East Asia Division 1

In any given timeframe of 2-3 years, South-East Asia has a few well-known teams that return every year with a couple of new players, with the ex-players of that team either joining another organization or forming a new team together. It's rare for SEA squads to stick together for too long (even by esports standards). This year's shuffle is a stark example of that, with not even a single squad from last year surviving intact or even close to that. Still, some of the new lineups have plenty of potential and will be teams to be feared. Here they are:

  • BOOM Esports
  • Talon Esports
  • Fnatic
  • Blacklist International
  • Bleed Esports
  • Team SMG
  • Execration
  • Geek Slate

BOOM Esports 

  • Yap Jian "xNova" Wei
  • Kenny "Xepher" Deo
  • Saieful "Fbz" Ilham
  • Erin Jasper "Yopaj-" Ferrer
  • John Anthony "Natsumi" Vargas

It’s rare to see a team rise up as much and as quickly as BOOM did between late 2021 and now. They went from being knocked down into Division 2 (then the Lower Division) — which they were saved from having to play in because some other former Tier 1 teams left the scene — to absolutely dominating last year’s DPC tours. Finishing at the top of the table twice and in second place once, they even dominated several local tournaments to become the most feared team in the region.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWRyo3aPlJo

Despite being on such an incredible run at home, BOOM sadly couldn’t translate that form into decent results at Valve-sponsored tournaments, and have thus made a few changes that might turn their fortunes. They’ve brought in Natsumi from Polaris Esports, Xepher from the now-defunct T1, and xNova from Royal Never Give Up to spice the team up. After frustratingly placing 9th-12th at the Stockholm Major, 7th-8th at the Arlington Major, and 9th-12th at The International 11, these changes might be what elevates them to greatness.

Talon Esports

  • Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon
  • Rafli Fathur "Mikoto" Rahman
  • Anucha "Jabz" Jirawong
  • Worawit "Q" Mekchai
  • Chan Chon "Oli" Kien

If BOOM had a meteoric rise last year, Talon’s climb was also commendable. They began the year by placing fifth in Division 2 during DPC Tour 1, but won promotion to the upper level next time around, and even managed to place second there in the final tour of the season. Following such exploits, they sealed the greatest prize of all by winning the TI qualifiers for the SEA region. However, Talon’s performances at events involving other regions have been dreadful — much like BOOM, but worse by an order of magnitude.

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

Their peak may not have been anywhere near as dominant or promising, but they are undoubtedly laden with talent. It’s no secret that 23savage is one of the best Carry players in the region, and it is generally agreed that Talon’s 2 replacements this post-TI shuffle have all been upgrades. Neither Brizio Adi “ Hyde” Putra Budiana nor Damien “kpii” Chok have been in the best of form lately, and former Fnatic offlaner Jabz and Major-winning IG support Oli are all much more promising, established players.

Fnatic

  • Kim Villafuerte "Gabbi" Santos
  • Armel Paul "Armel" Tabios
  • Damien "kpii" Chok
  • Djardel "DJ" Mampusti 
  • Jaunuel "Jaunuel" Arcilla

Despite being one of the most respected, storied, and successful esports organizations in the history of the trade, Fnatic haven’t quite experienced the same success in Dota as they have in many, many other games. They’ve essentially been to every TI since 2013, but other than a miraculous run to earn 4th place at TI6, have usually floundered in the early stages of the Main Stage part of the tournament. They have also not won a single Tier 1 tournament since 2012, and not placed second since 2014.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxFlvelOCF4

That is a pretty damning series of results for a team that has been active for so long, but Fnatic has been trying and still is. Their current squad includes three of the players from last season in the form of Armel, DJ and Jaunuel. In a bit of a surprise move, Fnatic swapped kpii in from Talon Esports with Jabz while Gabbi, who hadn’t joined a team since being released by T1 back in August of last year, has been brought in to complete the squad. Although the team will need to be tested for any determination of its strength to be established, on paper it looks solid.

Blacklist International

  • Nico "eyyou" Barcelon
  • Timothy "TIMS" Randrup
  • Carlo "Kuku" Palad
  • Karl "Karl" Baldovino
  • Marc Polo "Raven" Luis Fausto

This new apparition in the SEA scene has been stitched together with players from some of the top teams of the region from last year. Members Kuku and Karl were decent at T1, where they managed to place third at the WePlay Animajor in 2021 before a 7-8th place finish at TI10, Raven was a part of a Fnatic squad that found a good amount of success in their home region, TIMS came from BOOM and is widely known to be one of the greatest Position 4 players in the world, and 31-year-old eyyou has had a famously long career.

https://twitter.com/BLACKLISTINTL/status/1595730245373476864

While they are yet to play a competitive match, one gets the feeling from this lineup that it’ll either be hit or miss — and in a big way. While TIMS is extremely consistent, the same can’t be said about Kuku, Karl or Raven. The two ex-T1 Core players are notorious for their erratic plays and numerous misplays at the top level (despite being highly talented players in general), and Raven just hasn’t had the same impact since moving to Fnatic as he used to back in TNC. On the other hand, many people will be relieved that TIMS will lead the team instead of Kuku.

Bleed Esports

  • Kim "DuBu" Doo-young
  • Prieme Ejay "PlayHard-" Maque
  • Natthaphon "Masaros" Ouanphakdee
  • Teng "Kordan" Tjin Yao
  • Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong

Little can be guessed about how this team may perform due to how small the likelihood for this assortment of players to band together was. It’s extremely rare to see an SEA squad with five different nationalities — something exceedingly common in Europe and even North America — but Bleed has Laotian JaCkky, Singaporean Kordan, Thai Masaros, Filipino PlayHard- and Korean DuBu. It’s not just nationality that divides them, because they all have very different play styles developed from years of playing with other teams.

https://twitter.com/ggbleed/status/1600822542796627974?lang=en

That’s not the end of the only issue either. There’s a reason why such teams rarely form in the region, and that is the language barrier. Every country these players are from speaks a different language, and it’s not very common for most South-East to speak fluent English — especially regarding a topic with as complex a jargon as Dota. It will be very interesting to see how they circumvent this issue. Lastly, there’s also the case of the unproven Kordan, who doesn’t so much have a Liquipedia page. It’ll be interesting to see how this team works together.

Team SMG

  • Marvin Salvador "Xavius" Rushton
  • Tue Soon "ah fu" Chuan
  • Yeik Nai "MidOne" Zheng
  • Kam Boon "MooN" Seng
  • Lee Jia "CDR" He

After last year’s TI 11 Southeast Asia Qualifier debacle, during which an SMG player simply failed to show up on time for the match, SMG have learned a lesson or two and replaced any players they deemed to be less than focused. They retained a three-player core, but moved MidOne to the Off Lane from Mid and imported Xavius — whom many of you may remember as Boomy — from Polaris and CDR from Division 2’s Eternity, which no longer exists. The latter is very new to the pro scene, though, and will have to make his bones on the hardest of stages.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxOB4uaQm7Y

After forming a Dota team in early 2021, the team made a steady climb into Tier 1. While they weren’t exactly owning tournaments, they were surprisingly consistent in picking up podium positions at lower-tier local events. They started 2022 well with a decent showing in the first tour of the local DPC season, but could barely cling on to the division in the next couple of tours. That being said, their attempts at hiring formerly great players seems to have subsided, and perhaps this new mix of young and old can do better than their predecessors.

Execration

  • Juan Carlo "BDz" Manalo
  • Mark Jubert "Shanks" Redira
  • Justine Ryan "Tino" Evangelista Grimaldo
  • Mark Anthony "Bob" A. Urbina
  • Jinn Marrey "Palos" P. Lamatao

Once a powerful team that was elevated to stardom by a certain Abed “Abed” Yusop, Execration have spent some time in Division 2 but are finally back for some (hopefully prolonged) Division 1 action. After a reasonably successful 2021, they started 2022 by barely staying in the running for the top division, but couldn’t prevent demotion the next time around. However, they immediately bounced back and have been looking like an improved side since. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72KPkCrVWRs

Execration’s squad has remained pretty much the same since last year’s campaign but with only one change, making it the only team in this season’s SEA DPC Division 1 to have made so few changes. Ralph Richard “RR” A. Peñano, long-term Position 5 player and captain of the team, left the team — and indeed the pro gamer life — after over a decade of shuffling around the SEA scene. With BDz, who left the team to join TNC Predator at the start of 2022, coming back to assume the position of leader, things might get spicy between him and his former teammates.

Geek Slate

  • Roger Tan "Roddgeee" Boon Thye
  • Ravdan "NARMAN" Narmandakh
  • Nikko "Force" Bilocura
  • Joshua "Kokz" H. Maraño
  • Rolen Andrei "skem" Gabriel Ong

After 2 years away from the scene, Geek Fam is finally back under the name Geek Slate. Last time around, they had T1’s former squad which placed third at the Animajor, and while at the time they weren’t the superstars that they later became, they were much better known — and tested — than the team’s new recruits seem to be. This doesn’t mean they can’t form an excellent partnership and improve together, but only that they’re undoubtedly starting out as one of the underdogs.

https://twitter.com/TeamGeekFam/status/1601064092009013248

The only player who’ll be immediately recognizable to casual followers of the pro Dota scene is their Carry skem, who was last seen playing Position 5 with BOOM. This role reversal will add to the already considerable weight of having to acclimatize two relatively inexperienced players with top-level play. Thankfully for him, Roddgeee has far more games under his belt and will probably take most of that particular responsibility. 

Only time will tell how this season's SEA squads will fare on the local and subsequently international stages, and if last year is something to go by, some might not even make it to the end of the season without changes. Stay tuned for insight into the NA and SA scenes.