The SEA of potential

By ElevatedJanuary 15, 2021
For Dota fans outside of the region, it seems like Southeast Asia has never really gotten the recognition it deserves. Perhaps this is because a SEA team has never won The International and thus been excluded from the East (China) versus West (North America/Europe/CIS) rivalry that has been a major storyline. The truth is, SEA is a region that has consistently sent teams to good placements at The International since the beginning of professional Dota 2. It is also one of the most avid and diverse fan bases in the game and a region where upcoming talent is developing at an impressive rate.
Outside of some of the storied matchups, we will get to see in Europe and China, think Secret vs. Nigma or LGD vs. Vici Gaming, the SEA DPC should be some of the most exciting Dota to watch in 2021. This is due to the highly aggressive playstyle and a robust roster of established and up and coming teams in the region. SEA players and fans absolutely love SEA Dota. After watching their games, we think you will too.
Here is a quick power ranking and primer on the teams in the upcoming Dota Pro Circuit season. Be sure to let us know if you agree or disagree with the rankings!

Upper Division Power Rankings

1) TNC Predator

TNC Predator looked ready to take over the Dota world in 2020 before COVID-19 shut everything down. They began the season by winning the Chengdu Major 3-1 over Chinese favorites Vici Gaming. For an SEA team, securing their spot at The International this early in the season was a huge step for the entire region. TNC’s performance lagged for the next few months, and people speculated that they were having motivation issues after such a strong showing.
Post-lockdown, TNC has been hit-or-miss in the online tournaments, in part due to offlaner Damien "kpii" Chok having to play on ping from Australia. However, leading into the DPC, it seems like TNC has ratcheted their focus back up. They were able to top a strong field in the latest BTS Pro Series tournament after moving Kim "Febby" Yong-min from coach to active player in the hard support role. According to analysts in the region, TNC appears to be both the most stable team and the most likely to win season one of the DPC.

2) T1

Compared to their resume in League of Legends, T1 Dota has always been a bit of a joke. This new iteration of the roster has gotten a lot of people excited for their prospects in 2021. A strong mix of veteran experience and upcoming superstar talent, T1 is basically the rebirth of last year’s Geek Fam team. The addition of Laotian carry player Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong makes this roster one of the most skilled core trios in the region and a serious threat to TNC’s crown.
The key to T1’s success will be to mesh three very different cultures as they blend players from Laos, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This task will be partially on the shoulders of Park "March" Tae-won, Korea’s Dota elder statesmen and one of the most prolific captains in SEA history.

3) Fnatic

Fnatic’s story in SEA has always been a roller coaster. From roster switches and disappointment to top tier international performances, you never quite know what to expect from this team. The end of 2020 was not a smooth one for the storied organization as they dropped long-time support player Anucha "Jabz" Jirawong only to lose their veteran offlaner, Daryl Koh "iceiceice" Pei Xiang, to Evil Geniuses a week later. Fnatic decided to bring Jabz back to the team but swapped his role with their other support and SEA superstar, Djardel "DJ" Mampusti. Ever since Fnatic signed both Jabz and DJ, both aggressive position 4 players, the players have struggled to mesh in the supportive role.
With top tier talent in every position, it seems like Fnatic mostly rely on skill to get by. This is a formula that has worked overstretches in the past. The more consistent schedule and structure of the DPC could be a blessing for a team that needs to develop an identity. At the same time, needing to show up and perform at a high level consistently has never really been Fnatic’s strong suit. Fnatic can beat anyone in the league and have enough experience to ride out rocky patches better than some of the newer challengers in SEA. Still, it remains to be seen on any given day which version of the team shows up.

4) BOOM Esports

The all-Indonesian BOOM Esports had a quietly excellent end to 2020. BOOM is a team that has been in contention for SEA’s Major qualifier slots for a while now. Though the team has never quite gotten over that hurdle into true tier-one status, their performances to close out 2020 secured them a direct invite to the Upper Division in season one of the DPC.
In a move that surprised many, the team released carry player Randy Muhammad "Dreamocel" Sapoetra after nearly four years on the squad. His replacement, Andrew "Drew" Halim, is a solid player but not one who has taken the region by storm. There are definitely some questions going into the first season of the DPC for BOOM, but they have a strong core of players and a dedicated organization behind them. BOOM is a dangerous opponent for anyone in the Upper Division but likely to fall short of the top spot.

5) Neon Esports

Neon is a bit of an up-and-coming team that made a few waves during the online tournament grind to close out 2020. Comprised of several SEA pubstars, Neon is a team that has consistently placed reasonably over the last year. It is a team that should continue to develop and may challenge some of the top teams in SEA but is unlikely to perform well enough to enter the top three consistently. For a team like Neon, the DPC structure should provide a training ground and stage to showcase the talent on their roster.

6) 496 Gaming

The pride of Vietnam joined the Upper Division through a strong closed qualifier run. This wildly aggressive group is one of the best at pulling opponents out of their comfort zone and into a game spanning brawl. 496 is another one of those smaller SEA organizations that has consistently battled for scraps in the SEA qualifiers and now has a chance to show their stuff on a bigger stage. While the team is unlikely to really make a run to a Major spot, they could certainly take games off of anyone in the division on a good day and are sure to make it entertaining along the way.

7) Vice Esports

One of the newest Filipino organizations to join the fray in Southeast Asia, Vice Esports has quickly climbed the ladder to relevancy in the region. Outside of Joshua "Samael"/"Owa" Dela Serna, the roster is relatively inexperienced in competitive Dota, which makes their rise to the Upper Division all the more impressive. Vice is a team that is still building momentum, and the league format should benefit their development in a big way. Due to the highly competitive nature of the Upper Division, Vice is one of the more likely teams to be relegated to the Lower Division at the end of the season.

8) Execration

Execration rounds out our Upper Division in SEA. One of the longstanding Filipino organizations, the team has struggled to hold onto talent and put together a consistent level of play. Much like Vice, this is a roster that is still quite unproven, with even a couple of players on their very first official team. Led by veteran RR, Execration has a lot of growing to do if they want to stay in the Upper Division. However, like most SEA teams, Execration can be dangerous on the right day, and will look to make the most of their opportunity to gain regular exposure.
The Lower Division in SEA is surprisingly stacked with interesting rosters due to the DPC's awkward qualification system. There are stacks with long-time veterans, TI attendees, and quite a few household names who were simply unable to even try to make the Upper Division. As a result, there should be quite a bit of turnover in these first couple of seasons in SEA, and squads like HOYO, ZeroTwo, Omega Esports, Galaxy Racer, and Cignal Ultra all have a very good shot of winning the Lower Division. It might even be fair to say that at least a couple of these teams could be in the top five up the Upper Division.
The amount of talent in the SEA region is immense, and even the Lower Division here looks to be hotly contested. There is a lot that can be said about personality and style of play in Dota 2. When you have so many different cultures mixing and matching, you get some very interesting ideas. Between the Upper and Lower Divisions, you see player representation from the Philippines, Australia, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Mongolia. They say variety is the spice of life, and the SEA region should definitely be a spicy one. Chef’s kiss.
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