There really is nothing quite like competing in front of a hometown crowd.
Die-hard local fans are loyal to the end, cheering for their teams and players in the hopes that they'll be the ones to bring the championship home—no matter the odds against them.
It's in those moments, when local fans are hoping for a miracle, that truly inspired plays can take form. For the crowd at the sold out Mall of Asia Arena at The Manila Major 2016, Djardel Jicko B. "DJ" Mampusti delivered on those hopes.
Fnatic entered the Major as one of two Southeast Asian teams, quickly becoming the only SEA squad left after hometown favorites Mineski lost to Alliance in the Lower Bracket. Most of Fnatic hailed from Malaysia, with the exception of DJ, who was the sole remaining Filipino player left in the tournament.
Fnatic were set to play LGD Gaming, who placed first in their group and had only lost one game at the tournament to that point.
The series started poorly for Fnatic, as LGD tore through their defenses and closed the first game in a quick 31 minutes. Not going down without a fight, Fnatic came back in Game 2 to shut down LGD's attempts at aggression, thanks in part to the efforts of their rookie midlaner Zheng "MidOne" Yeik Nai. The stage was set for the deciding match, with the loser heading to the dangerous lower bracket and potentially facing elimination.
Fortunately for the hometown crowd in Manila, Fnatic drafted Enigma for DJ, and everything changed.
DJ got to work early, cutting down an LGD 4-1 lead with an impressive three-man Black Hole from the lower ground that trapped Agressif, September and MMY in a vortex that would end in their deaths. Yet LGD persisted, securing kills where they could and eventually building a 10k net worth lead at 45 minutes. For Fnatic, who had yet to see their late game heroes reach their full potential, it was a dangerous situation.
But in what would prove to be the game-defining fight outside Roshan's pit, LGD turned away from Rosh to prevent Fnatic from attempting an Aegis steal, initiating a fight. Ohaiyo's Beastmaster lost most of his health in the blink of an eye, and would have lost his life, were it not for what DJ did next.
Rather than retreat, DJ counter-initiated with a beautiful Black Hole that captured all of LGD's cores, which consisted of Maybe's Dragon Knight, Agressif's Lifestealer and xiao8's Tidehunter, in a trap from which they could not escape. Formerly in the lead, LGD's players were caught on the back foot and fell one by one as the rest of Fnatic poured everything they had into that swirling vortex of death.
Despite the spectacular Black Hole from DJ, LGD were still in the game and were more than capable of putting up a fight, spending their buybacks on the base defense to come. Fnatic had acquired the Aegis in the meantime, and were perfectly set up for an assault that could turn the tide and allow them to continue their run through the upper bracket.
With the resources available to them, including ultimates and the Aegis, Fnatic had a strong start to their final assault, killing MMY as LGD threw everything they had at the SEA team to stem the tide. As fate would have it, DJ unleashed the collapsed star one last time with a final Black Hole that isolated Maybe, Agressif and xiao8 at the doorstep of their base. With no buybacks left, LGD called 'GG' and the crowd promptly lost their collective minds.
Though Fnatic would go on to lose to both Newbee and Team Liquid to finish 5th-6th at the Major, DJ's impressive Black Holes would secure his place in Dota history, and earn him the adoration of a hometown crowd that needed a hero.
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.