theScore eSports is taking a look at all of the teams taking part in The International 5, two a day leading up to the beginning of the tournament. Today’s team is Vici Gaming. This will be both a history of the team as well as a look at the individual players that make up the roster headed to Seattle.
Vici Gaming are a powerful Chinese team but have not always been one of the strongest teams in the world, or even in China. The organization formed in October 2012, but the Vici Gaming that we know and love today didn’t begin to emerge until September 2013 when Super joined the team. Today’s roster contains three of the players from that point in time: Lu "Fenrir" Chao, Xu "fy" Linsen and of course Xie "Super" Junhao.
Before the addition of Super, VG had a very rough TI, coming up short at The International 2013 with a loss to RattleSnake in the Loser’s Finals of the Eastern Qualifiers, eliminating them before they could even reach Seattle.
That result was the precursor to a trend towards better performances for Vici Gaming. The roster was given a major overhaul towards the end of 2013 with the addition of Liu "Sylar" Jiajun (carry player for TI3 3rd place LGD.cn, perhaps most famous for losing to Team Liquid) and Bai "rOtK" Fan (a star offlaner who has played for several big Chinese teams like Team DK, Big God and most recently, EHOME).
This lineup did extremely well, taking 1st place at EMS One Fall and 3rd place at The Summit 1. Vici Gaming’s TI redemption came when they took second place at TI4 despite teams like iG and DK having higher projections.
Following the tradition of major roster shuffles post-TI, even the second place Vici could not escape changes. rOtk decided to retire (as with many Dota retirements, it didn’t last) while just a few days later Sylar left to rejoin his old team, LGD. This left Vici with some holes to fill, and they picked a couple of very strong players to do so.
iceiceice and Black^ were announced as the new offlane and carry players, respectively. Daryl "iceiceice" Koh already had the reputation as one of the best in his position in the world, having played for Team DK in their prime.
Dominik "Black^" Reitmeier, on the other hand, came from CIS Game, a team that travelled to Seattle for the equivalent of TI5’s Wild Card matches but were immediately eliminated with a loss to Team Liquid. With the move to VG, Black^ was given the chance to prove that his idolization of famous Chinese carry Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei had turned him into a carry capable of rivaling him.
With the two new players on the Vici roster, the team went on to great things. First place at i-League Season 1, ESL One New York and The Summit 2 are just a few of the impressive results by this team. However, as the Dota 2 Asia Championships rolled around there were rumblings that Vici Gaming were not satisfied with Black^. The rumour was that Black^’s position on the team would come down to their result at the tournament.
However, Black^'s removal from the roster was probably more or less a done deal since a 2nd place DAC finish was not enough to save him. Citing communication issues, Vici Gaming released their carry player in search of someone who was not only a native Chinese speaker, but whose play style would fit the team better.
Enter Hao. He had carried Newbee to their TI4 championship, and though that Grand Finals is known as one of the most disappointing Dota 2 matches ever, his skill cannot be denied. He is very aggressive, which suited Vici’s style much more than Black^’s often passive farming patterns. After this latest roster change, Vici Gaming still looked dominant with a 1st place finish at Starladder Season 12.
Sunset for Sniper
However, major changes to Dota 2 were in store; just one day after the Starladder Season 12 Grand Finals the Dota 2 community was introduced to Patch 6.84. This was a major overhaul to the somewhat stagnant metagame that was predominantly filled with Sniper, Troll Warlord and Juggernaut. With the end of “Ho Ho Ha Ha”, Vici Gaming began to flounder.
Their results were still respectable (3rd at The Summit 3, 2nd at i-League season 3 and 4th at the MarsTV Dota 2 League) but in the last major tournament before TI5, ESL One Frankfurt, Vici Gaming didn’t even place. Despite 6.84 being out for two months now, VG haven’t seemed to be able to get a handle on it.
In an interview with iceiceice at ESL, he stated that the most important tournament for Vici Gaming is The International, and other tournaments are just practice ground for the big one. It seems possible that VG realize that their performance has not been TI winning since the addition of Hao and they need to figure things out quickly.
In the same interview, iceiceice said that Hao was drafting for the team at ESL but it didn’t work out for them. Who knows: maybe VG are playing the long game and iceiceice’s statement “We are just bad. Everyone should just focus on Secret or EG, they are the good teams” is meant to deflect attention?
Vici commanded a considerable amount of hype going into the TI invite season, but upsets from LGD in the i-League Season 3 finals and Empire in the Dota 2 Champions League Season 5 finals have made them look mortal. Unless they've managed to get it together since then, they may finish somewhere near the middle of the pack.
A look at the players
Arguably the only returning champion with a chance of winning a second year in a row, slim though that chance may be. Hao is not like other Chinese carries who are satisfied with hitting creeps for a long time before joining the fight.
Hao loves to dive and Hao loves to get kills. Fortunately for him, he’s found an entire team that loves that aggressive style just as much as he does, making Vici Gaming a force to be reckoned with if you can’t shut them down early.
A versatile midlaner whose favorite heroes are not necessarily the “meta” mids these days, though he can play a mean Storm Spirit or Shadow Fiend when he needs to. Alchemist and Dragon Knight are among his best heroes, though they are both rather situational picks in today’s age of endless Queen of Pain, Leshrac and Shadow Fiends.
If Shadow Fiend does get through the ban phase somehow, it’s worth it to note that Super’s competitive win rate with the hero is an impressive 85%, but most top teams should know this and draft accordingly.
One of the strongest offlaners in the world, iceiceice commands respect even while he trolls every interviewer he meets. Even if he dies once, twice or a few times in his lane, he is almost never truly shut down; his skill with many popular offlane heroes makes him the target of multiple respect bans.
Also important: I have called Vici Gaming a Chinese team many times but iceiceice is the one exception, hailing instead from Singapore.
One of the two supports that have been around since the beginning, Fenrir is often seen playing the part of the “hard support”, though this is not a hard and fast rule as it is on many other teams.
Both Fenrir and fy have been working together for a very long time as a unit, making sure each one is doing what needs to be done to keep the other from falling behind. Likely to be taking up the support Naga Siren role that has recently surged to popularity, fy currently holds an 85.7% win rate on that hero.
The second half of Vici Gaming’s longtime support duo, often the farming or 4 position support, though he sometimes steps into the hard support role if the situation calls for it. fy is also the captain of Vici, though lately he has not been their only drafter as they have been experimenting, allowing Hao to draft at ESL One Frankfurt.
He is known for impressive plays on his favorite hero Rubick, but also boasts a scary roaming Bounty Hunter and a Sand King that will pop out of the jungle before you’re expecting him, Blink Dagger picked up and ready to team fight.
Annabelle "Abelle" Fischer is a writer for theScore eSports with a love for Dota 2, birds and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter.