MSI: TSM vs. Gigabyte Marines Preview

In the first best of series to determine who gets to enter the next stage of MSI, we have North American favorite, TSM, squaring off against Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines of the GPL. TSM will come in as heavy favorites, but Gigabyte Marines showed some promise in their group. The Gigabyte Marines only dropped one game the entire group stage. TSM will need to not underestimate their opponents if they want to avoid a major upset.

Team SoloMid

TSM comes into MSI after narrowly fending off a reverse sweep by Cloud 9 in the NALCS final. TSM started the spring rather slow, but quickly improved to retake their throne as the kings of North America. Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had his best split yet, just barely missing out on NALCS MVP. Soren “bjergsen” Bjerg is still the “GOAT” mid laner of the NALCS and should take over his lane quite handily. In the bot lane, Jason “Wildturtle” Tran and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang showed a lot of improvement in the NALCS finals. Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen was, in my opinion, the MVP of the final. He had a great showing and will look to take that momentum into MSI.

Courtesy: Riot Esports

How they win

TSM should win based solely on individual skill and macro play. I don’t see any lanes losing heavily unless Gigabyte Marines’ star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh really pops off. If TSM doesn’t play down to the skill of their opponent, they should take this series.

How they lose

If TSM allows Levi to play his signature Lee Sin and he pops off, I could definitely see them losing a game. Levi was an absolute monster during the group stage, but TSM will be a lot stiffer competition for them. TSM is also known to come out slow in the start of their series, usually dropping the first game. If there was a time they could lose, I’d imagine it be the first game.

Player to watch

TSM’s jungler, Svenskeren, will play a major role in shutting down Levi. If he can play more aggressive and track him, Gigabyte Marines don’t have many other options.


Gigabyte Marines

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Gigabyte Marines come into this matchup after winning group B quite handily with a 5-1 record. Most of their games were carried by their jungler, Levi, who has shown tremendous plays on Lee Sin and Elise. He’ll need to pressure the map early if they want to stand a chance against TSM. Notably, support Minh “Archie” Nhựt Trần said that teams were denying them scrims, and therefore used play in stage as “scrims.” We’ve seen how not scrimming certain opponents can lead to upset victories, so maybe they’ll be able to use that to their advantage.


How they win

Levi will need to have another stellar performance against more formidable opponents. If they do pull off a miracle upset, Levi will be a huge part in it. If he can get them a good early game lead, they’ll need to close things out fast.

How they lose

In their matchups, TSM beats them individually and in macro play. Even if TSM falls behind early, I don’t know if Gigabyte Marines can out macro them to finish the game. If Gigabyte Marines don’t make early aggressive plays, I don’t see them taking down TSM.

Player to watch

By now, you’re probably expecting this pick. Levi will need to take command of the early game for his team to have a shot at taking down TSM. If TSM decides to leave Lee Sin or Elise up, I could definitely see Levi carrying his team to an upset victory for a game or two.



If everything goes according to plan, TSM should take the series with a commanding 3-0 sweep. Knowing them though, they could possibly let Levi get Lee Sin game 1 and drop a game.


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Cloud9’s Playoff Profile: The Quest to Body Their Way Back to the Top

Cloud9 finished the season as the second best team to TeamSoloMid, again. Most expected this split to be Cloud9’s with TSM’s starting ADC Yiiang “Doublelift” Peng taking a break from the team. Although Cloud9 surged to a phenomenal 8-0 record, they’ve still struggled to solve their early game issues while other teams have improved. If they want to reclaim the NALCS title, they’ll need to show the ability to make plays in the early game.


Courtesy: Riot Esports

Cloud9 has three extremely strong lanes. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has had an MVP-like split, ending second in KDA and CSD@10 among mids.

The top lane Korean duo of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Jeon “Ray” Ji-won gives them a diverse range of champions. Ray looked iffy in the beginning of the split, but has shown steady improvement towards the end. It will be interesting to see how C9 utilize each of them in a best of five format.

Cloud9 excels in mid game team fighting and shot calling. They’re great at knowing each other’s power spikes and knowing how to capitalize on their enemy’s mistakes. You give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.


It’s no secret Cloud9’s weakness this whole split has been their lackluster early game. They’re not ones to make big plays in the early game despite having some of the most talented players. Jensen is often criticized for his lack of roaming and his selfishness to only gain an advantage in his lane.

Rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia is often used as a tracker for the enemy jungler. It’s worrisome that they usually opt to farm it out till mid game to make plays. Against more aggressive playmaking teams such as TSM, we’ve seen that C9 can be punished for it. Despite Cloud9 being the second best team in the league, they are a mediocre 7th in GD@15.

If C9 want to reclaim the North American throne, they’ll need to show that they can make plays in the early game.

Player to Watch: Contractz

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Contractz is a huge X-Factor for this team. As a rookie playing in his first playoffs series, he’ll need to step up big time.

Contractz has shown glimpses of stardom, but he’s also had his share of rookie blunders. Furthermore, when he’s confident and being a nuisance to the enemy jungler, he looks his best. If he gets caught out during crucial objectives and doesn’t have an early game impact, we could see an early upset. With how dominant Phoenix1 looked against Dignitas, it will be a close series.



While Phoenix1 will give Cloud9 a run for their money, I believe C9 will reach the NALCS finals again to face off in a close series against TSM.

Cloud9 3-2 over Phoenix1 in the semifinals

TSM 3-2 over Cloud9 in the Finals

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Terrorblade Counters

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As far as carries go, Terrorblade is perhaps the one that has received the most tweaks and remakes. We’ve seen him rise and fall quite a few times, and now he seems to be at his best. Both in pubs and competitive matches, he’s a pick that won’t be ignored.

Terrorblade is the only ranged-illusion carry in the game, giving him a unique way to dish out tons of damage. Even without having Metamorphosis, his illusions allow him to farm and push really fast, so giving him even a bit of space is not a good idea. Bursting him down in fights can be tricky, since a second of misplaced disables can allow him to Sunder and get back to full HP.

Let’s see a few options to deal with the demon lord:

: Earthshaker combines a lot of AoE disable time and huge burst damage, pretty much what you need to deal with illusions with the old-fashioned, direct approach. Most of the time, Terrorblades will be forced to at least get a BKB against Earthshakers.

: Another one who we’ve seen a lot in the last patches, Sven the Rogue Knight has a built-in cleave skill, an AOE stun and extraordinary right-click damage, enough to kill him before he Sunders. Note that cleave damage is pure, meaning that Terrorblade’s huge base armor will be less relevant. To make things better, Sven’s Warcry will add 20 armor to him and his allies, making Terrorblade hurt a lot less.

: Timbersaw may be lacking disables to deal with Sunder, but he more than makes up for it with tons of AOE pure damage. Illusions will die very quickly. Also, Timber will be a great pain for Terrorblade during the laning stage. Shutting a carry down early on is generally the safest way to go.

: Ember Spirit shines best when there are a lot of units for him to cleave and crit with Sleight of Fist. Not only that, but actually hitting him with Sunder can be extremely difficult. A great choice for stopping Terrorblade pushes.

: Outworld Devourer’s Arcane Orb deals tons of damage to illusions, 1 or 2-shotting them at most. Sanity’s Eclipse is also a good way of bursting the enemy down at about half hp before he can Sunder.

: While obviously not the type to manfight any carry, Lich has an Ice Armor that also works on towers, greatly reducing right-click damage and a Chain Frost that can bounce a lot between illusions. He can also be very annoying during the laning stage, taking away a lot of EXP and gold from the enemy.

: Multiple March of the Machines, bouncing Lasers, permahexes, huge burst. A good Tinker player can make Terrorblade’s life really hard.

As an extra note, keep in mind that illusion carries hold the typical disadvantage that they aren’t the best BKB users. Even if the main Hero is safe from nukes, their damage output is still dependant on those copies of themselves. Any sort of AoE disable or nuke, even when BKB is active, will reduce Terrorblade’s effectiveness a lot.


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New meta or same old Dota mentality?

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“New meta” is one of the most overused expressions in Dota and other games of the genre. Short for “metagame”, it means any sort of information coming from outside the game’s boundaries (mainly people’s observation) that will affect in-game decisions.

Simply put, we pick Hero ‘X’ all the frickin’ time because we ourselves, as external factors, observe they’re broken, and not because the game itself urges us to do so.

Obviously, the meta is something that changes constantly. That much is for certain, since that’s the very purpose of balance patches. How much it changes every time though is a completely different story.

I’ve been playing nine and a half years and I’ve seen Dota evolve so many times, I could hardly say it’s still the same game. There is however a single element that hasn’t changed one bit. That element is the majority of the players’ perception of the meta. We could argue that this isn’t a part of the game per se, but I really believe the community has affected it nearly as much as the developers.

It’s always been the professional teams that decide and set the meta each time. That by itself makes sense; they’re the ones making a living out of the game, so they got plenty of reasons to investigate more than the average player. Although, it’s not right to even say “teams”, since it’s only a handful of people that discover what works best, and the rest just copy them.

Of course, most people won’t understand what and why exactly they’re copying. That, too, makes sense, since Dota is a very complicated game. It’s extremely difficult to break it all down into numbers and decide why X in case A has a 2.3% chance more to win than Y in the same case.

What I’ve noticed though, and this is the real issue I want to address, is the complete lack of originality for most people. Observing and learning from good players is one thing, but this community takes it a step (or 100) further.

I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve seen it. Every Hero in the game is average, until some Dota celebrity uses them with a bit of success. The first time I noticed was back when Crystal Maiden’s aura became a global effect for the first time. She was still ignored until a pro team (I believe it was Meet Your Makers) started using her.

All of that wouldn’t be such a big deal, but as I said before, I think the community’s reactions really affect the developers’ decisions. Icefrog tends to buff underpicked Heroes and nerf overpicked ones, which at first glance makes sense. However, this whole mentality has a major flaw, and that is the comparison between pub games and pro games.

courtesy of

The in-game experience changes A LOT between these two cases. Things just don’t work the same, which is why we get a 39% win rate Wisp in pubs, while the Hero is one of the most preffered in pro matches.

Naturally, this leaves certain Heroes with good potential in the “underpicked” pool for way too long, which causes Icefrog to keep buffing them, which in turn causes them to be overpowered.

Timbersaw is a good example of this. I don’t want to call him overpowered, not yet at least, but we have to admit he’s been quite scary lately. In 6.87, he received a + 0.2/0.4/0.6 Armor/Regen bonus in his Reactive Armour and the indirect +4 starting Bloodstone charges. They’re decent buffs, but nothing too extraordinary. Why did they affect him so much you ask? Well, they didn’t. Timbersaw still had great potential as a Hero. He could still deal his insane amounts of pure damage while jumping around like a maniac.

The Hero was fine. It’s just that no pro team had paid any attention to him for quite some time. Naturally, we didn’t see him as much in pubs, either.

Another example is Sven. He kept receiving buff after buff, the moment he still had the potential to cleave through an ancient stack, get items quickly and burst people down. Echo Sabre sealed the deal, and now he’s a monster.

I won’t argue that it makes sense for pro teams to only go for what they consider “overpowered”. If victory equals getting paid more, of course they will. For pubbers however, to keep picking Leshrac over and over and over again, it’s a whole different story. There have always been tons of other option, but they were always ignored.

Trying something alternative or half-way innovative will at best earn you some good flames,mainly by great players with very deep knowledge of the game, because “it’s out of meta”. This mentality, the good old Dota mentality, hasn’t changed one bit.

Sven and his Counters

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Sven the Rogue Knight currently is a typical case of overbuffing; a Hero with great, unrecognised potential he was. After a series of various buffs, he’s now a crazy flash-farmer that three-shots enemies while granting +20 armor to his allies. Sven doesn’t care too much about tactics. Given a little space, he can just stomp on anything blocking his way to the enemy throne.

His playstyle consists of these few simple steps:

  1. Get Helm of the Dominator.
  2. Stack Ancients and kill them for their gold.
  3. Buy items.
  4. Kill enemies and their base.

Not only can he make the best of relatively cheap items, he can also farm them very quickly. The addition of Echo Sabre has completed the set and Sven is now a favoured pick in both pubs and competitive matches.

Today we’re going look at how to put a cage around a (full armor, sword wielding) beast like that.

To start off, I believe people don’t respect him as a carry too much. In the previous patch, if someone picked Spectre, the enemy would start discussing a strong dual or maybe triple offlane to deal with her. Sven arguably deserves the same amount of attention. He’s not one to let being underestimated go unpunished.

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Also, it’s really worth it to bother blocking his ancient camps, much like we used to do with Tinker a few patches ago. While a deward isn’t that hard, causing him to miss one or two stacks is definitely worth it.

An exploitable weakness of his is that he’s a bad aegis carrier, since he won’t respawn with his ult on. This hurts his mid-late game fights a lot, and it’s actually one of the main reasons he wasn’t picked so much before now, despite having so much potential.

Now, let’s look at some counterpicks:

: Slark is perhaps the only Hero that can attack someone without being attacked himself. Sven is the type that won’t stand for someone manning up to him and fighting head on, but Slark’s ult allows a few seconds of right-clicks. Also, his Essence Shift will take away two Strength from Strength Heroes each hit, which is another 40 HP, and Sven’s Warcry won’t do anything for it.

: Medusa won’t get bursted down by Sven unless she’s completely underfarmed. Her Stone Gaze can stop Sven’s onslaught even through his BKB. And in late game, she’s more likely a scarier carry than him.

: Troll Warlord works really well against Heroes that need to stand in the middle of the fight and right-click. His insane attack speed combined with his bash allows him to lock them down completely. The miss chance from his Whirling Axes won’t go to waste, either.

: Even with his boar’s slow not going through spell immunity anymore, Beastmaster still has a reliable ult that can stop Heroes like sven on their tracks.

: Dragon Knight possesses high armor, a long stun and a ranged slowing attack on his Frost Dragon Form that will go through BKB.

: Since Sven isn’t much of a Diffusal Blade guy, Omniknight’s Guardian Angel can do some serious work.

: Lich will both hinder the enemy carry’s farm through Sacrifice, and buff his allies with Ice Armour.

: Centaur Warruner’s Aghanim’s reduces incoming damage by 60% for four seconds while giving full movement speed; perfect way to kite a Sven.

: Dazzle needs to be careful to net get focused down, but if he doesn’t, he can really be a pain; his Weave will turn Sven’s armor advantage upside down, and a well timed Shallow Grave doesn’t allow for quick bursts.

The Frog’s sense of Humour

This is so wrong. (Courtesy of

Every Hero in Dota 2 is usually known through a single title, which is either their name or a description of the Hero. This came as a bit unusual for us older players, as back in DotA 1, every character would have both their name and description shown in-game. As in, Traxex the Drow Ranger, Shendelzare Silkwood the Vengeful Spirit, Viper the Netherdrake, etc.

Occasionally, some would show special names instead of their originals, and that was mostly a way for our buddy Icefrog to troll us, or even to give credit to certain players for their gameplay with a specific Hero.

Here’s some of those: (Well it’s actually most of them)

-Anti-mage: BurNing. I think it was love at first sight. They’ve killed so many innocent creatures for their bounties together. (original name: Magina)

-Axe: Mogul Khant Touch This. Obvious joke (OK, joke ATTEMPT) with his original name, Mogul Khan.

-Mirana: Jumong. A legendary Korean archer. I believe there’s been a TV series about this guy.

-Shadow Fiend: YaphetS. ‘Nough said. (Original name: Nevermore)

-Puck: Kupu-Kupu. Means “butterfly” in Indonesian and Malay.

-Razor: Gilette. Yeah…

-Vengeful Spirit: 820. A retired Chinese pro player, arguably the best Shendelzare player ever.

-Zeus: Merlini. ‘Nough said!!

-Kunkka: Captain Obvious. Doh.

-Witch Doctor: Moose. Taken from LD.Moose and his video about Witch Doctor (original name: Vol’jin)

-Riki: Riki Martin. I kid you not. (Original name was actually Rikimaru)

-Sniper: Vasilij Zajcev. The well-known Soviet Union hero and sniper during World War 2.

-Necrophos: A Phoe Gyi. In Myanmar/Burmese, this means An Old Man, or so the legends say.

-Faceless Void: Gorzerk. A guy that used to make some tools for DotA, and was using Void as his profile picture. (Original name: Darkterror)

-Dragon Knight: Trogdor. A mini game where you control a dragon, stepping on innocent villagers while avoiding the city guard. Or something.

-Lifestealer: Gollum. Yup. (Original name: N’aix)

-Clinkz: Clinkz Eastwood. Clint Eastwood. Flint Beastwood.

-Enchantress: Bambi. Freaking. Bambi. (Original name: Aiushtha)

-Keeper of the Light: Gandalf. Well, I wouldn’t have been able to resist, either. (Original name: Ezalor)

-Chen: Jackie Chen. Fair enough.

-Spectre: qwerty- . Ready for some feels? -Qwerty was a player who had become famous for a specific Spectre instance, this one here:

He died quite young, in December 5th, 2010. After that, Icefrog gave his nickname to Spectre. People still call him King of Dispersion and the such.

-Ursa: Fuzzy Wuzzy. Because of all the free hugs. (Original name: Ulfsaar)

-Spirit Breaker: Roadrunner. Beep-beep. (Original name: Barathrum)

-Invoker: Kal-El. Besides him being as powerful as Superman, it sounds similar with his original name, Kael (from Warcraft 3’s Kael).

-Shadow Demon: Giblet. This one’s a bit of a mystery. Rumours say it’s because SD’s original model was a gnoll, which resembled Overlord’s Giblet. . . somewhat. . . maybe.

-Nyx Assassin: A’noob Arak. Original name Anub’arak (Warcraft 3).

-Io: Santelmo and Weird Ball. The former is a fireball-like mythological creature, and the latter is self-explanatory.

-Meepo: MeePwn. MeePwn was a Meepo player known for his Meepo plays with Meepo. I believe he still Meepos around sometimes.

SPECIAL MENTION: Sven was actually named Arnold Schwarzenegger for one patch.