I recently previewed the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) Mettlestate Southern Africa #Dota2 qualifiers being held this weekend. In it we also speak to Kaameel Chicktay and Nicholas “Schlinks” Dammert (you can read it here if you missed it), who make a few predictions about the event. It’s a pretty interesting interview that gives you a glimpse of what people think about the South African Dota2 scene in early 2018. I also recently chatted to Sean “Snare” Rihlamvu about his thoughts on how the teams stacked up. Can anyone really contest White Rabbit Gaming right now? Is Bravado Gaming a worthy challenger? What can other teams hope to achieve in this event? Snare provides some thoughts and deeper analysis of these questions and more, below, based off of his own thoughts and some of our conversation. I really hope to make this a more regular feature, so be sure to head to his Twitter to make him keep writing.
Introducing… Snare’s Corner
2017 proved to be a difficult year for eXdee. They began the year with a lot of promise, a young team with drive and ambition, and the strongest cheerleading possible by their MGO owner. As the year advanced and negative results kept mounting (even though they were making definite progress), the team began to visibly falter. They fell into old habits which had been trained out of them, such as becoming extremely predictable in their drafting, and when they began resorting to Meepo/Arc Warden cheese strats it seemed clear that the team itself was beginning to fall apart. Then they had the debacle where their offlaner, Jappa, publicly quarreled with the owner, which seemed to break the spirit of the team. From then on, it was the beginning of the end for the team and they have yet to truly recover since. The death knell was when TKC (the star player at the time) left the team, more or less consigning the team to a year of rebuilding, so it’s unlikely that will change at this event. They have two new players for the upcoming season, so this is more or less a proving ground for them and nothing more.
Much has been said about the star player on this team, RDK. The primary criticism against this team is the same criticism that’s been plaguing every team that RDK has been on, that the team is too focused around him. The addition of acg deepens the experience and hero pool of this team, but the mere fact that everyone knows how important RDK is to the team tends to hamper the team’s strategic options. It means they will need to spend every game trying to create an atmosphere for him to be able to flourish, which also means that the enemy knows that a disruption of that plan will likely result in a win. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a strong team with a wealth of potential. However, moving into such an important qualifier; the fact that we all know that the team’s win condition necessarily includes a good game happening for RDK, means that in a game of information like Dota2 is, you have given up your strategy right off the bat. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that whilst the difference skillswise between RDK and other top SA carry players is relatively small, the same cannot be said for the rest of the players in LeetPro on other roles. And given how stratified the hierarchy of teams is already, this almost automatically makes it impossible to see LeetPro in the finals unless they can pull out what would be the upset of the (very short) year against Bravado Gaming.
My personal favourite team at this event (due to my unbridled love of the mind and character of their captain, ‘Dota-And-Die’) is a team that was formed with the specific intent to both improve personally and as a unit. This team more than any other on the list really seems to rely upon their entire team playing well together, since there is a relative lack of star power apart from their midlaner Adastam. It’s odd though, since because of the fact that Adastam is consistently their best player, they tend not to prioritize his early game progress in order to facilitate their other cores doing well. A strategy that might hold them back since it tends to delay the timing when the team is able to start utilizing their drafts to try and win objectives across the map, as they need to wait until Adastam has enough farm to join the game again. I don’t think it’s by accident that this team tends to play fewer of the aggressive support heroes and consistently pick defensive supports, and as the pace of this current meta is extremely fast, a change in the game style may be necessary for success. This tournament they are also playing with the aforementioned TKC as a standin for their offlane player Skynet; a move which could end up being the X-Factor that they need to surprise Bravado given how much of an impact TKC tends to have in the games he plays. This is the team that has the greatest chance of upsetting Bravado Gaming and even White Rabbit Gaming, but also the team that would have to go against their own natural playstyle the most in order for that to work. Both Adastam and Dota-And-Die spent 2017 making a name for themselves as being able to challenge White Rabbit Gaming when they had no business doing so, so let’s see if the saiyan blood activates for them again in this event.
When the old Bravado Gaming team disbanded (Ed: at the end of 2016) it was an end of an era of dominance over the South African scene. This team feels like they have loftier ambitions than simply mastering the local scene. It is very hard to make distinctions in skill between them and White Rabbit Gaming. What it comes down to is mostly going to be how they draft and execute their gameplans against each other. From the Bravado Gaming side, their games tend to revolve around how much space can be created for their carry player Santo, by creating chaos elsewhere across the map. They often utilize the aggression of their star offlaner Doni (whom I think is the best SA player overall) and the natural killing instincts of their midlaner Depi by having FilthyFrank and Habibi rotate. This is in an effort to force the enemy team to have to frantically scramble across the map to try and contain the aggression in the early game. By the time you figure out what’s happening, they tend to have too much of a farm advantage on their carry for the enemy to catch up to and they can comfortably snowball the rest of the game. Of all the teams here, I think they are the best at the early game and tend to play the fastest pace of Dota. Given how much this meta revolves around both of these things, I would place them as my favourite to win the whole event. Moreover, their bracket towards the finals includes all the other top teams mentioned here, which means that they will have practiced their game within a more serious environment than White Rabbit Gaming (whom will presumably not have any struggles until the finals). Given how much this game requires mistakes and failure in order for you to improve, Bravado Gaming will have the greater chance of assessing how viable their strategies are in a tournament setting as the teams they play against will be able to recognize and punish mistakes, which leads to a Bravado Gaming that is constantly getting better as the bracket progresses. A better Bravado Gaming? What could possibly go wrong.
White Rabbit Gaming
The kings of South African Dota2. In the year since claiming that crown, they have only made a single roster change (swapping out Santo for Odu) which means that this is the team with the highest team synergy and understanding. Whilst this is a completely star studded line-up (especially between their carry player Welp who is almost unfairly good, and Chidowi, who is the only player in the country who can be mentioned in the same breath as Bravado Gaming’s Doni regarding skill in the offlane, it is clear that this team is built around Castaway. In the midlane Castaway is probably the player best equipped in the country to completely take over a game almost single handedly. Having been together for so long gives them an extreme strategic depth and they are very versatile in the heroes that they play, so it is often difficult to secure a draft win up against this team given the bevy of responses that they have to many scenarios. Schlinks is often the unsung hero of this team, playing an odd mix of saving support and aggressive rotator in the early to midgame, always positioned to make an impact and increasing his cores’ ability to survive and thrive, often prepared to die in order to allow that. I think that at the end of the day though, it will come down to the captain Chidowi performing well in order to beat Bravado Gaming. For quite some time it felt like he was the weak (relatively speaking) link on the team gameplay wise. Certainly without his drafting and captaining ability White Rabbit Gaming would not be where they are now, but his playstyle became fairly one dimensional in the latter portion of 2017. However, the team has been grinding in Europe tournaments and the man has begun to undergo a reawakening. More and more the enemy team cannot afford to ignore his presence in the early game or risk a guaranteed loss for their safelane and if this White Rabbit Gaming team goes to China, it will probably have a lot to do with Chidowi broadening his frame and allowing his team to stand on the shoulders of a giant.
Naga Siren, Tuskar, Tiny, Bane, Chen, Batrider, Terrorblade, and Phantom Lancer are the heroes we should expect to have the highest contested rate in the drafts and the most impact in the game’s themselves. (Eds: This man left out the balanced Omniknight!)
I feel like Snare has made a lot of really good points about the space these teams are in right now. If nothing else, South African Dota2 is in a really competitive space this early in the year, which can only bode well for everyone in the scene. I really think if you tune into the action over the weekend, you’re going to see some of the highest skilled South African Dota2 ever put on display. Make sure you keep the weekend open – there are going to be some intense matches.