When Lebron James entered free-agency earlier this year, the NBA was thrown into a kind of feverish madness. It was bound to happen. When one player is so good they can make an entire team better, you’ll throw everything, even the kitchen sink, to sign them.
The Dota world finds itself in the same position the NBA did back when James announced he was leaving Miami. With Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung leaving Team Malaysia, his prospects, and the rosters of even established organizations, are open for discussion.
But where should Chai go? Furthermore, where is he likely to land? Teams that beat his DK squad, namely Vici Gaming and NewBee, are happy with their current configurations. Southeast Asian teams that have risen above his Team Malaysia squad are unlikely to offer the kind of compensation he deserves.
So where does that leave Chai and his considerable abilities? Here are some options.
Coming to America: Cloud9
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When life hands you lemonade, you drink the damn lemonade.
While Cloud9 has found some form in the past several weeks, finishing second in the World Cyber Arena, qualifying for the DreamLeague round robin, and finishing second in The Summit 2’s European qualifying division, they’ve never quite shaken the perception that one bizarre decision could derail a perfectly good game at any moment.
Adrian “Fata” Trinks has served his new team well in the solo mid position, but Chai remains the favorite in virtually any comparison. Trinks has also failed to rectify the inconsistency that plagued Cloud9 throughout the previous season (though much of that can be attributed to Jacky “EternalEnvy” Mao’s Black King Bar allergy).
On the other hand, Cloud9 are on the uptick. The language barrier is an ever present consideration when looking to the West for opportunities, and Trinks has performed admirably as of late, his experience shining through in many of the team’s close matches.
Overall, the odds of Chai landing with the North American-based organization are slim. But when premium talent comes without a buyout clause, it’s hard to think of a reason not to make an offer.
Money Talks: Invictus Gaming
China appears to be on a mission to make the world’s esports pros filthy rich. Millions are being thrown at top talent, both Chinese and Korean, to help build the country’s already impressive esports scene. Meanwhile, one of the biggest organizations in China, Invictus Gaming, has been quiet.
Maybe even a little too quiet.
Since their International championship in 2012, things have been on the skids for Invictus. The team experienced an impressive run of form at ESL One Frankfurt in June, but the side that showed up to The International this year looked entirely different. Let’s just put it this way: Luo “Luo” Yinqi is good, but Chai is undeniably better.
Of course, the question has to be asked, “is Chinese Dota what it used to be?” Aside from NewBee and Vici Gaming, the country seems to have shifted its attention from Dota to League of Legends in a big way. That alone may keep any big money offers off the table while the organization finds their footing in the Chinese League scene.
The bottom line is this: Chai has played for Chinese organizations before, and the money is there. Language isn’t a problem, compensation isn’t a problem, and despite the shift in focus, talent still isn’t a problem. If you’re a betting individual, bet on a return to Chinese Dota for the carry player; just don’t bet on who until the League of Legends contracts come down the pipe.
Put on your tinfoil hats, folks. It’s time to get wild.
On Nov. 10, Alliance Joakim “Akke” Akterhall published this tweet:
We’ll forfeit our game vs Tinker tonight, pull out from some tournaments and try to rebuild our team. Sorry and thanks for being patient!
— Joakim Akterhall (@FollowAkke) November 10, 2014
This was an unexpected move for the once-great Alliance. But it was justifiable, given their lackluster performances, drafts, and chemistry in the weeks following Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin’s debilitating back injury.
With Blomdin on the sidelines and only three members under contract, a little reorganization made sense. Of course, no one knew who the Swedes had in mind when Akterhall made the announcement.
Now, maybe we do.
Blomdin’s transitioned to Dota 2 from Heroes of Newerth, and that process has been anything but smooth—and that’s not even considering his injury. Everyone knew he might have problems as he learned the ropes—poorly timed ultimates, limited heroes at his disposal, and failure to overcome numerous mid-lane matchups. But when the year-end grand prize can make you an overnight millionaire, gambling on “potential” is an unattractive prospect.
If there’s one oddly specific obstacle that could keep Chai off the team, it’s Alliance’s purported preference for speaking Swedish when communicating as a team. The same requirement allegedly kept now-Cloud9 carry Hao off the team in 2013. Then again, with the loss of two Swedish compatriots, and the indefinite addition of Denmark’s Rasmus “Misery” Filipsen, maybe Swedish is on its way out. And yes, Chai does speak English.
Wild speculation aside, Chai’s addition would be awkward. He plays the carry role exclusively. Blomdin, the mid-carry, was improving quickly when he became injured. Captain Jonathan “Loda” Berg, the safe-lane carry, is unlikely to just give up his spot on the team. The real question is: Do you cough up one of the brightest stars in Heroes of Newerth, who is just beginning to blossom in Dota 2, or do you let guaranteed talent slip through your fingers in the hopes of greener pastures down the line?
Wherever Chai goes, the team who receives him will benefit. There are few guarantees in esports, but this is one of them. Until an announcement is made, redditors and team-owners alike will wait with baited breath. Just don’t expect him to end up in Cleveland any time soon.