China's strongest cores had a very wonky showdown

By Kenneth WilliamsFebruary 9, 2021
One of the most anticipated matchups of the Dota Pro Circuit concluded on the 7th. Streaky superteam Elephant overcame the highly decorated PSG.LGD in a razor-sharp 2:1 series. The hour-long final game featured a very spicy mid lane matchup between Lu "Somnus" Yao and Wang "Ame" Chunyu. The two teams are now at an all-time 4:3 record in favor of Elephant.
While both teams were expected to dominate the first 2021 season, LGD and Elephant are currently in the middle of the pack. PSG.LGD is still right above Elephant on the scoreboard, but both sit well below breakouts Team Aster and Invictus Gaming. The stakes couldn’t be higher, especially in a series tied at 1:1. This game also marked the final CN DPC match before the Lunar New Year break.
Though they opposed each other in this series, Somnus and Ame were teammates just a few years ago. The two piloted PSG.LGD to three consecutive podium finishes at The International 7, 8, and 9. Along with Elephant captain Xu “fy” Linsen, they’re the highest-earning players in Chinese Dota.
In 2015, Somnus was poached from Vici Gaming to replace legendary captain Zhang "xiao8" Ning. Ame was brought on in 2017 to play mid for the team, a position he held until an unexpected swap for Lai "AhJit" Jay Son last February. Then known as “Maybe,” Somnus was forced to greatly alter his playstyle to accommodate Ame’s greed. His usual late-game prowess was converted to tempo mastery, a role he still leans toward today.
While certainly successful, there was an acknowledged tension between the two players throughout their incredible TI runs. They are indisputably the most successful cores in the history of Chinese Dota, but they’re not afraid to step on each other’s toes. While the previous games showed off their skills, the final match put their rivalry font and center.

Wraith King vs. Batrider — a matchup of champions

The draft started plainly enough. Elephant’s cores represented an even power curve throughout the game. Zhou "Yang" Haiyang’s Lycan would pressure objectives in the midgame and set up Troll Warlord. The ninth-pick Batrider for Somnus represented an early game threat.
LGD’s picks were much less conventional. With perfect information, the team opted to lastpick Wraith King to compliment an offlane Death Prophet with mid Ember, or so it seemed. Infamously tricky support Zhao "XinQ" Zixing’s Ember Spirit pickup confused the casters, but not as much as Cheng "NothingToSay" Jin Xiang safelane Death Prophet. The King’s starting item build indicated that Ame would face Somnus’s Batrider in the midlane.
Batrider’s kit is almost designed to counter Wraith King, especially in a one-on-one situation. It’s not entirely clear why LGD arranged their lanes the way they did, though it was likely to avoid playing Ember into Bat. Still, Wraith King into Batrider is a suicide lane at best.

Not quite impossible, but close

While Somnus definitely abused Batrider’s advantages to flash farm and help other lanes, Ame’s Wraith King did much better than initially expected. A gank at four minutes from fy set Ame even further behind, but clever farming patterns and creep aggro mastery earned a nine-minute Hand of Midas and 17-minute Radiance. The sheer length of the game allowed him to rack up 44,236 gold in total. 810 XPM is equally impressive given the matchup, especially in a losing game. WK is known for amassing farms quickly, but farm god Ame pushed the hero to his limits.
Somnus quickly went to work on the side lanes, picking off supports and Towers with early Boots of Travels. Synergy with Lycan allowed him to instantly teleport almost anywhere on the map, forcing LGD to retreat under defensive vision. Recognizing the lockdown of the enemy draft, he opted for Black King Bar immediately after Eul’s Scepter. Flaming Lasso stayed a problem in later engagements; many fights started without an Ancient Apparition or Ember Spirit, and Ame’s prized Skeletons became basically useless.
A constantly-growing Radiant gold advantage eventually put Elephant over the top. Lycan’s new Aghanim’s Scepter combined with Zhang "Eurus" Chengjun’s wealthy Warlord melted objectives too quickly for a stacked Wraith King to stop. While the draft indicated a very lopsided game in favor of Elephant, LGD put up a very strong fight that almost resulted in victory.
For fans, this match showed what the best cores in China can do when their entire team backs them up. Even in a wacky matchup that’ll hopefully never happen again, Ame’s team trusted him to bounce back. While Elephant triumphed this time, PSG.LGD will be back with a vengeance after the Lunar New Year break.
The Chinese Dota Pro Circuit will resume on February 23 with Team Aster vs. LBZS.
*Header image courtesy of EPICENTER.
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