In the lead up to Season Two of the DPC, many teams made changes to their rosters. With just one last shot to amass enough DPC points to qualify to The International directly, teams have to lock in the best roster they can muster or face missing out on the biggest event of the year.
The biggest changes of the season were from OG
. OG kicked carry player Yeik "MidOne" Nai Zheng to allow for the return of Anathan “Ana” Pham, who has adopted a new nickname upon his return: “Humblegod.” The news of Ana the Humblegod’s return made quite a splash. This isn’t the first or even second time he has made a dramatic return to both OG and the competitive scene in previous years - both times they have gone on to win TI together. Is three in a row too much to expect?
Nigma’s change was arguably less exciting at first. The kick of W33 was somewhat expected after a long stint of struggling to deliver with the team. Before his replacement was announced rumors flew around of who their new player would be; Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan had been teamless for a long time and surely the best possible option for Nigma. If not him, MidOne was newly teamless and would easily fall into either the mid or carry position for Nigma. The real newcomer for Nigma was Igor “iLTW” Filatov who would be their new carry player, with Amer “Miracle-“ Al-Barkawi returning to the mid lane. ILTW has yet to earn any big titles but Kuro “Kuroky” Salehi Takhasomi is not the first captain to see some serious potential in him, as iLTW played with OG in the past before Ana eventually returned to reclaim his spot.
So how are these new rosters performing so far? We expect big things from these titan teams and both are relying on very strong performances to begin securing the last available DPC points of the season as well as making it to the major. The reality is a bit mixed so far.
OG's early series
OG started with what is arguably a very easy matchup against Brame, one of the two teams to be promoted from the lower division last season. OG swept the series brutally; both games ended with Humblegod relentlessly fountain-farming Brame. Game two only ended when OG’s creeps destroyed the ancient, finally pulling Ana’s Phantom Lancer away from his prey.
While OG looked like they were at their best against Brame, their next matchup was a much tougher opponent, Alliance. At first, it looked like OG were still unstoppable and game one ended with Ana fountain diving once again. However, in game two, Ana was humbled by dominant performances by all three of Alliances cores. His Phantom Assassin was repeatedly torn apart by the burst damage of Alliance’s Tiny and Timbersaw, leaving him unable to get anywhere near the enemy fountain - something we have to assume is a win condition of some sort for OG now.
For game three, Alliance turned the pressure up even further and crushed OG mercilessly thanks to Nikolay "Nikobaby" Nikolov’s godlike, 22-0 Morphling.
So maybe it takes more than the return of Ana for OG to win games. When he is heavily shut down or the team is run-over before heroes like his Spectre can come online, OG were unable to prolong the game and make space out of nowhere like they did in many past games. OG still have a lot of room to improve and if they wish to recreate their TI8-era strategy of winning games anyone else would consider lost, OG’s four protect one execution needs to become much tighter.
Game three against Alliance is a perfect example of this. Ana was having a reasonably good game on his spectre and while the rest of OG struggled, he was barely slowed down as he farmed up through the early midgame. The issue was in how powerful Alliance’s Morphling became thanks to a colossal 22-kill-streak – with the enemy allowed to snowball so out of control, there is no chance of Ana’s ticking time-bomb Spectre coming into play. OG have proved they can play from ahead with no difficulties, what seems to be lacking is their ability to bring out dramatic turnarounds like in the historic TI8 grand finals.
Nigma's early series
Nigma’s first series was a much more challenging matchup against the team nobody wants to face for a warm-up; Team Secret. While Secret didn’t look quite as terrifying at the major as we might have expected, they’re still one of the absolute best teams in the world and one nobody wants to take on without being in full form. Even so, with a brand new player and Miracle- adjusting to playing a new role on a new patch, Nigma absolutely destroyed Secret, in a 2-0 outcome few would expect.
In both games, iLTW delivered a rock-solid carry performance while Miracle returned to his flashy mid-player ways on heroes like Puck and… Sand King? Yep, mid Sand King is a thing now, at least if you’re Miracle.
Mid Sand King is definitely one of the most interesting shake-ups to come from the new patch, even as he has not received any major buffs. His presence as a mid-hero in the pro scene is quite likely as a counter to PL, one of the strongest carries this patch. The ability for SK to farm hard, push waves and take stacks, allows him to acquire a blink dagger at a staggering pace – Miracle had his at 8 minutes into game one against Secret. With huge mobility, long range instant initiation and mountains of AOE damage, Sand King has the perfect skillset to deal with a hero like PL before he can become unstoppable.
Having dispatched the toughest opponent of the season, Nigma’s next matchup looked a bit easier on paper; Team Liquid. Although, while they aren’t the top team in Europe by any means, Liquid have been steadily improving non-stop to the point they are very close to standing shoulder to shoulder with EU’s big three of Secret, OG and Nigma. Liquid proved this once again by toppling Nigma in an extremely close 2-1 victory.
Game three began by going heavily in Liquid’s favour, allowing them to claim huge map control by taking out all of Nigma’s outer towers at 30 minutes. Even with such a suffocating grasp on the game, Nigma managed to hold out longer and longer with clutch saves from Maroun "GH" Merhej’s Tusk and Kuro’s Pugna allowing Nigma to eventually break free of their base and take Roshan. But with two lanes of super creeps to deal with, Nigma were constantly pushed back and unable to make use of their Aegis. One last push, Liquid were able to brute-force their way into Nigma’s base, claiming Mega Creeps and driving Nigma into their fountain while they toppled their ancient.
What do you think?
So what do you think of Nigma and OG’s new line-ups? The results have gone both ways so far, but was OG’s victory a freebie against a freshly promoted team? Maybe Liquid are indeed a seriously tough competitor and Nigma have already shown remarkable performances against the best of the region. DreamLeague are teasing us by leaving an OG vs. Nigma series until the end of the league, but until then we have many more games for both teams to prove their new rosters are the one to take them to TI. Keep up with all those games using our event hub