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TNC Predator have done it. For two times in a row, they took down Chinese teams in front of their home crowds and won an international Dota 2 LAN tournament. With today’s win at the MDL Chengdu Major, they’ve put themselves in pole position in the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit and have all but guaranteed their attendance at The International 2020.
TNC matched up against crowd favorites Vici Gaming in the grand final of the MDL Chengdu Major. The SEA squad emerged victorious with a 3-1 series and was the more convincing and consistent team throughout.
The first two games contained masterclass performances from TNC and their two core players, Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte and Armel Paul Tabios. The two Filipino players put their skill and versatility on display. The first game was the Armel show on Outworld Devourer, while Gabbi created space with his Chaos Knight.
The second game was a classic Morphling performance by Gabbi, along with his trusty partner Earthshaker, and an atypical Armel Viper that served mostly as a counter pick to VG’s Phantom Assassin. In both games, TNC worked in tandem, putting on mesmerizing performances that sent them to an early 2-0 lead against the Chinese favorites.
In the third game, TNC placed their faith in yet another cheesy combo, Chen and Alchemist, while VG drafted a different flavor in Keeper of the Light and Night Stalker. For the first time in the series, it was VG that raced out to a hot start, making rapid rotations around the map with the power of the mobile Pangolier and long-range initiation of Kunkka. Finally, it looked like the Chinese giants have awoken from their slumber, preventing a clean sweep and sending the series to a fourth game.
The fourth match would prove to be the only close game of the series, a back-and-forth struggle from which TNC prevailed. TNC’s captain Park “March” Tae-won placed his faith in Morphling and Earthshaker once again for all the marbles, while Vici believed in high-voltage cores Templar Assassin and Leshrac.
TNC raced out to an early kill lead, but VG were able to stabilize the game off the back of their dynamic duo. Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang’s Templar was an instrumental part of the team’s mid-game success, assassinating TNC’s backline and securing multiple Roshans for the team.
Yet, they were all too wary of the ticking time bomb on TNC’s side and tried their hardest to take down Gabbi’s Morphling. They were successful a few times, but it was to little avail.
While Gabbi was undoubtedly the lead actor with his flashy Morphling plays, each TNC player played their part in the ensemble cast. Multiple key pick-offs were set up by the Naga’s Song of the Siren into Disruptor’s upgraded Static Storm, leaving the trapped cores hapless and easily slaughtered by Gabbi.
Earthshaker and Morphling were definitely powerful, but it would be a discredit to how well TNC played to bring it back from the brink. Gabbi toed the line between offense and over-aggression near perfectly and fully deserved his MVP award, while Armel played his role as a damage sponge, diving headfirst into VG to allow his team more room to breathe.
The best part about TNC’s victory was how unapologetically TNC they were. For much of the tournament, teams were desperately trying to copy their style, even in this very series. They established much of this tournament’s meta with picks such as Night Stalker carry, the Morphling and Earthshaker combo, Venomancer offlane, and Disruptor as a counter to highly-mobile lineups. They barely touched Gyrcopter and Faceless Void, two of the most commonly picked up carry heroes in the game and were confident in their approach.
As OG and so many other teams proved at TI9, having fun and playing your personal brand of Dota is the way to win. Evidently, TNC were not afraid to do so and have now been rewarded with two straight championships in ESL One Hamburg and the MDL Chengdu Major.
At the conclusion of the first Major, TNC have already had unprecedented success as an organization this season. On behalf of the Southeast Asian region, TNC have proved they are no longer just perennial dark horses. They achieved glory against one of the best teams in China on their home ground in dominant fashion.