This week, theScore esports' Dota 2 team takes a look at each of the four teams that qualified for The Manila Major through the regional preliminaries. Yesterday we looked at Team Empire; today in part 2, we focus on the new lineup for Newbee.
Before The Shanghai Major even ended this spring, the Chinese Dota landscape was already tectonically reshaping itself. Every top team in China dropped and traded players to try and revitalize its roster after the disaster that was Shanghai. And now that the dust has settled, a clear winner has emerged: Newbee.
Like Empire, Newbee have been stuck in a rut ever since their horrible finish at The International 5. They've disappointed at home and abroad, qualifying for both the Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors, but finishing in the Bottom 8 both times. Even the addition of former Invictus Gaming support ChuaN in December did little to help the beleaguered team.
Come shuffle season, Newbee switched out Xiao2lei and Le for former EHOME support KaKa and EHOME.Keen offlaner kpii. The new roster, consisting of Hao, Mu, kpii, ChuaN and KaKa as captain, was easily missed in the mess of swaps and departures. But it turned out to be the best decision Newbee could have made, as they now head into The Manila Major looking as strong as any of the invited teams.
Compared to the other qualifying teams on their way to The Manila Major, Newbee are riding high on a slew of successes. Other teams fought tooth and nail for qualification, but Newbee didn’t drop a single game through the entire Chinese Qualifier. Their win streak carried through to EPICENTER: Moscow, where they would go on to break the world record for most consecutive pro games won, set three years earlier. They won an astounding 29 games in a row before OG finally put a stop to that nonsense. And even despite that speedbump, Newbee came back to 2-1 OG in the Loser's Finals and make it to the Grand Finals, where they ultimately lost to Team Liquid in a tense 3-2 series.
Domestically, Newbee have dominated their rivals — and former teammates — at H-Cup, winning Seasons 5 and 6 in April. When the invites for Manila were announced, it was telling that the most questionable invite was LGD Gaming, considering that Newbee saw far more success in their home region after Shanghai. Regardless, Newbee’s dominant run through the Major qualifier is extremely strong evidence that they deserve to be factored into any prediction about what will happen at the Major.
It’s tempting to argue that one or two players have been responsible for Newbee's ascendance, but the truth is the whole team is firing on all cylinders. Hao and Mu are both consistently strong core players, boasting large hero pools that make them difficult to ban out. The support duo of ChuaN and KaKa routinely puts up insane damage and healing. And kpii, who hasn't had a chance to shine since he left MVP Phoenix after TI5 to join EHOME.Keen, is stepping up to the challenge of bringing Newbee back from the brink.
The best evidence of Newbee’s team dynamic has been their matches at EPICENTER. Because of the way that EPICENTER was structured, Newbee had to play through a Wild Card stage that would determine which two of the four qualifying teams would advance to the main event. Though it looked like Newbee handily outclassed compLexity Gaming and No Diggity in both matches, one of the keys to their sweep was that they prevented their opponents from securing a gold lead greater than 3k at any point across their matches. Newbee is strong in the early game, either exploding out of the gate or matching their opponents move for move, and they know how to hold on to their lead as long as it takes.
The group stage looked a lot like the Wild Card, with Newbee destroying Team Secret and Evil Geniuses in short order. That’s not as big of an accomplishment as it once was, but it certainly sounds impressive to a Western audience, and it's a clearer signal of Newbee’s return to top-tier Dota than any other metric. Although Newbee didn't ultimately win the tournament, they took two games off of Team Liquid in the Grand Finals, and only narrowly lost Games 4 and 5.
Based on the games they played in the EPICENTER Loser’s Bracket after they were knocked down by OG, it was clear Newbee's greatest strength lies in their non core players: kpii, ChuaN and KaKa. In their match against Alliance, it was kpii who played a pivotal role in Newbee’s 2-1 victory. In Game 1, as Newbee were looking to assault Alliance’s Tier 3 towers, kpii’s Batrider used Flaming Lasso upgraded with Aghanim’s Sceptre to drag both Loda and EGM outside of their base to cleanly pick them off without buyback, closing out the game in Newbee’s favor.
Facing off against compLexity Gaming in the next round, KaKa’s Phoenix and ChuaN’s Enchantress combined for nearly 40 percent of Newbee’s total damage in Game 1. This is far from the norm for supports, yet without this damage and harass, Newbee would have had far greater difficulty defeating compLexity.
With EPICENTER finished, Newbee have just over two weeks to practice and prepare for the Major. The only event of note beforehand will be the DreamLeague Season 5 LAN Finals, where they can watch and see how Natus Vincere plays, considering that Newbee are well versed in dismantling OG at this point. And unlike the Shanghai Major, there’s no holiday that can possibly disrupt any plans of practice before Manila. Newbee are already one of the best teams currently playing in China. At Manila, Newbee should not be underestimated — they are prepared to knock down anyone who tries to stop them from reaching the top.
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.