The “Great Western Dota Reshuffle” appears to be gaining momentum as two of the West’s most beloved teams are in talks for some major personnel changes.
Evil Geniuses is in negotiations with Cloud9 to acquire Kurtis “Aui 2000” Ling, a source close to the teams confirmed today. The trade is “still far from finished,” the person said, but Ling’s desire for a change of scenery is certain.
If the deal is finalized, Cloud9 will lose not only a flagship member of their Dota squad, but a support player of considerable merit. Ling’s career in Dota began with PotM Bottom in 2012 where he played carry, popularizing builds that included Maelstrom Nature’s Prophet. PotM Bottom’s success garnered the attention of Team Dignitas in September of the same year.
Playing as Dignitas under manager Charlie Yang (who would later move on to Evil Geniuses), the team debuted at the Esports World Cup in 2012. During their year as a unit, Ling’s side secured four bronze medals and two silvers in premier tournaments but never secured a championship. Over the course of that tenure, Ling played alongside notable North American players, including current Hearthstone player Drew “TidesOfTime” Biessener.
At the same time, a team called Kaipi—comprised of Jacky “EternalEnvy” Mao, Weh “SingSing” Sing Yuen, Pittner “Bone7” Armand, Johan “Pieliedie” Åström, and, at one time, Artour “Arteezy” Babaev—was quickly making a name for itself. Ling joined up with the squad, which would later compete as Speed Gaming, in Sept. 2103. That team, now playing without Babaev, took gold at MLG Columbus in 2013 and silver at the Dota 2 Champions League Season One in 2014.
Shortly thereafter, Cloud9 acquired Ling and his comrades in February 2014. Unfortunately for the promising upstarts, Cloud9 developed a reputation for falling just short of the prize, taking second in seven of eight finals and finishing top eight at The International 2014. It’s likely that history that led Ling to seek a change.
The prospect of trading Ling to Evil Geniuses has greater implications, however. Babaev, now a member of the team, is set to leave the Boys in Blue. But as a support player, Ling is unlikely to be his replacement.
Instead, rumors over the departure of Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg appear to have more than a kernel of truth to them. Evil Geniuses, despite earning titles in seven of 15 premier competitions in 2014, recently fell on hard times, finishing fourth at The Summit 2 and top four at the Dota Pit League finals in December. During these unsuccessful campaigns, the squad demonstrated an uncharacteristic lack of chemistry, leading many observers to suspect trouble in paradise.
Ling has made a name for himself as a support carry, using heroes such as Enigma, Visage, and Chen to lethal ends. This style, of earning kills from an otherwise accessory role, bears a strong resemblance to Wahlberg’s, who is also noted for his Enigma and Visage play, occasionally becoming a weapon in his own right when Evil Geniuses’ original game plan fell short.
Furthermore, Babaev indicated yesterday during his Twitch stream that neither he nor Wahlberg would accompany Evil Geniuses to the upcoming HyperX D2L final in Las Vegas. He went on to note that he and Wahlberg would still be playing together, strongly suggesting that both are leaving the team.
While Wahlberg’s status as a “wunderkind” is well-established, Evil Geniuses can expect to lean on Ling’s experience over two years of professional play should the deal hold. With the team yet to hire Babaev’s replacement, the move looks to be only the beginning in a whirlwind of changes to come.
Photo via Dota 2 The International/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)