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Vici Gaming started the season with an emphasis on youth. After allowing several veterans to leave, they looked to their own sister teams for talent, recruiting Zhou “Yang” Haiyang, Pan “Fade” Yi, and Ding “Dy” Cong. With their new-look squad, Vici transformed instantly from one of the oldest teams into one of the youngest with no player born before 1995.
But Vici were wise enough to know that while youth and talent win games, experience wins wars. They brought back legendary captain Bai “rOtk” Fan, who was part of the Vici squad that came in second at TI4, to coach and lead the team. ROtk was known for his passionate volatility as a player and he’s retained some of that fire as an outspoken coach. But his brilliant mind for the game has shone through in the coaching hot seat.
While they had mediocre top-eight placings at their first two Majors, Vici’s meteoric rise as a team began with their first true setback. After failing to qualify for the DreamLeague Stockholm Major, their only chance to go to the event was by qualifying for and winning the StarLadder Minor.
At the Minor, Vici showed that they were clearly a caliber above every other team there, winning the tournament and only losing one game against Gambit. They then proceeded to the Major and began a miraculous run, beating Secret, PSG.LGD, Fnatic, and Virtus Pro en route to their first Major of the season. Vici had qualified for TI and stamped their mark as the best team in China.
Fans thought it might be a one-off occurrence and they appeared to be right when Vici went back to their top-eight ways in the following Major that Secret won. But then Vici showed up once again at EPICENTER, slaughtering the competition, ending Liquid’s honeymoon run with Aliwi “w33” Omar and cementing their status as two-time Major winners along with Secret.
Vici’s playstyle unabashedly revolves around their duo-core setup with Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun and Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang taking point. While the rest of their squad causes chaos and destruction all over the map, Vici’s dual blades will grind themselves until they’re ready to slice up their enemies.
But don’t discount the abilities of the other three players. Yang is a fantastic offlaner with a keen eye for initiation and saves on Centaur and Omniknight, boasting ridiculous 75 percent win rates on both heroes. Fade is a sublime roamer on heroes like Earth Spirit and Tusk and he has a clear personal stake on Xu “fy” Linsen’s claim as the god of Rubick. And Dy is a consistent thorn with his obnoxious hero pool like Nyx Assassin and Disruptor.
While Vici aren’t the most explosive team, they’re a consistently effective team that takes the time to chip away at their opponents’ armor, patiently waiting for the killing blow. It’s not a stretch to see all of Vici’s cores getting the best of their opponents in the laning stage and they’ll hold on to that stranglehold for as long as the need to.
Player to watch: Ori
Ori is the longest-serving player on the current Vici squad, having played for them for almost three years. Initially recruited to Vici as a pub star who constantly showed flashes of brilliance, Ori was an inconsistent performer in professional matches. When compared to Paparazi’s reliability, Ori stood out like a sore thumb.
This season, he’s stood out for a completely different reason. Ori has truly tempered his steel, sharpening his skills and awareness. Although he’s still fully capable of explosive plays, especially on his preferred heroes like Templar Assassin, Storm Spirit and Puck, Ori is more than capable of grinding out games on Death Prophet or even Medusa if the game calls for a more late-game presence.
Even though he was originally a pub star with a limited hero pool, Ori has transformed into a consummate professional capable of setting the tempo of any match that he’s in. Many would argue that Paparazi is still the better and more consistent player between the two of them, but Ori has proved that he can step up. Look forward to Ori bringing the heat at TI9.
Straightforward, direct, but tremendously effective, Vici are a young and hungry squad. While several of their players are relatively inexperienced, they’re led by outspoken veteran rOtK, who’s installed himself as the linchpin of the youthful team.
Vici have been perennial bridesmaids since the beginning of their organization, but off the back of two incredible Major championship runs, Vici will enter TI9 as favorites along with Team Secret. With the event in China’s backyard this time around, Vici will want to make history on home soil.