Throughout the online era, the Chinese Dota scene prioritized internal development. The Fall shuffle had plenty of time to settle between multiple seasons of CDA-FDC, Pro Cup, and OGA Dota PIT. The pecking order was established well before the start of the Dota Pro Circuit. However, the Upper Division matches on January 24 and 26 were incredibly volatile. Three big upsets have marked the beginning of China’s $205,000 Upper Division.
Invictus was lowkey in the online era, but the return to LAN play has reinvigorated their potent core duo of Zhou "Emo" Yi
and Jin "flyfly" Zhiyi.
The squad clutched a crucial upset over Royal Never Give Up
to earn a spot in the Upper Division via closed qualifier. Their DPC debut on January 24 marked their first win over Xu “fy” Linsen’s
superteam. Although iG was initially expected to blend into the pack next to teams like LBZS
and Team MagMa,
they're now in the upper half of the standings.
Game one was defined by a second phase Puck for Lu "Somnus" Yao,
but a second attempt in game two was foiled by Emo’s flawless performance on mid Morphling. 840 XPM and 14,800 building damage tied the series at 1:1.
In game three, Elephant responded to an Invictus lane swap with an aggressive trilane, giving the superstar stack some early game momentum. iG responded by going full four-protect-one with flyfly’s Wraith King. Thiay "JT-" Jun Wen’s
Bristleback conducted the deathball around the map, forcing rotations away from his 760 GPM carry.
This victory sets the two squads’ all-time record at 3:1 in favor of Elephant, but every series they’ve played has gone to the third game. This loss might be the worst since Elephant’s debut slip-ups against RNG.
The first two games in this series were close battles of attrition with drafts full of Strength cores and illusion heroes, but neither of them compared to the 90-minute fiesta that was the third game. What started as a fairly low kill game turned into a siege slog between two extremely defensive teams. LGD abused Beastmaster and Keeper of the Light to keep waves shoved while Aster sustained the siege with Ye "Borax" Zhibiao’s
(formerly BoBoKa) bloodthirsty Enchantress. The first pair of Divine Rapiers were picked up by Du “Monet” Peng
and Wang “Ame” Chunyu,
but their ownership changed hands several times before the game’s end. Several 50k net worth swings later, a huge Reverse Polarity from Liu "White Album" Yuhao
on both Ame and Cheng "NothingToSay" Jin Xiang
denied LGD’s Mega Creep comeback.
Expectations are high for Aster, and this performance certainly lived up to the hype. Team performed extremely well at the tail end of 7.27, landing upsets over Vici Gaming
and PSG.LGD. This series showed off their flawless transition to the Mistwoods metagame. An ultra-late game victory over A-God is a rare achievement.
Team Aster vs. Elephant
While Aster’s aforementioned win and Elephant’s loss above give this game the smallest underdog factor, the sheer efficiency of Aster’s 2:0 is very important. Game one looked close after the laning stage, but several smoke ganks from Elephant failed to shut down either core before they hit critical mass at 35 minutes. Game two was a stomp at just under half an hour. An uncommon Alchemist pick for White Album led to an 11-minute Radiance timing and a 9-2 scoreline on Monet. Support picks of Oracle, Abaddon, and Winter Wyvern let both farmers heavily push their limits in team fights.
The two games also demonstrated Aster’s versatility. White Album’s Shadow Fiend made a ton of space for carry in game one, but the roles were completely swapped for game two. Monet accomplished both tasks on Troll Warlord, only purchasing a Wraith Band and a Wand to mark the transition. If Aster keeps up this tempo throughout the Upper Division, they will unquestionably join LGD, Elephant, and Vici in the top tier of Chinese Dota.
All three of these matches point to a metagame built around archetypes. Both Aster and Invictus consistently opted to draft budget heroes rather than deviate from their overall gameplan. When Oracle and Wyvern were both banned out in game three against LGD, Aster settled for Abaddon. Elephant taking Lycan and Timbersaw off the table? Aster.JT- 's Bristle will make do. With five more weeks of the Dota Pro Circuit to go, these big upsets are only the start of the action.