Team Faceless: The new SEA powerhouse
Team Faceless is one of the infant teams a the Boston Major, born after the Fall Shuffle, with the man behind the team none other than Daryl Koh 'iceiceice' Pei Xiang. He had long featured on the rosters of some of the most impressive Chinese teams, but called it quits this summer right after the International 2016 and formed a team of his own based in Singapore. To assemble the lineup, iceiceice dusted off his contact book and called some half-forgotten names such as Toh 'xy-' Wai Hong, trusted former teammate Dominik 'Black^' Reitmeier, and Wong 'NutZ' Jeng Yih, as well as the talented youngster Anucha 'Jabz' Jirawong from the Thai team Signature.Trust.
First steps of dominance
Despite starting off on the wrong foot by losing to Mineski in the season opener at the ROG Masters Qualifier, Faceless pulled themselves together and stormed the SEA by winning every major qualifier that they participated in – The Summit 6, Dota Pit League Season 5 and of course, the Boston Major. The run in the Boston Major Qualifier was particularly impressive – 12 wins and not a single game lost. Their performance in the Dota Pit League Season 5 qualifiers and The Summit 6 qualifiers was equally remarkable. Coming to the Boston Major, Faceless have played and beaten every top team in the SEA scene including Fnatic, MVP, Mineski, Execration, WarriorsGaming.Unity, TnC and Power Gaming across various SEA qualifiers and tournaments.
The Summit 6
The team made its first international debut less than two weeks ago in the Summit 6 and entered the tournament on a winning streak of 23 consecutive games. In their first encounter with the big boys, however, Faceless did not perform as well they wish they had and finished 7-8th, losing both matches in the process. They did not go down without a fight and took a game off both opponents EG (3rd at TI6) and DC (2nd at TI 6) before going home with plenty food for thought.
Black^ joined Faceless after several short stints with small teams during 2016. He was also an analyst at the Manila Major and the International 2016. As a player, the carry has been on the stage of two Internationals so far - TI 2 and TI 3, and this will be the second Major he will take part in, after playing in the Frankfurt Major for Fnatic (13-16th spot) last year. Black^ is a hard carry for Faceless - a position he has played throughout most of his career.
Jabz is a relatively new name at the top of the Dota 2 scene and he will make his Valve-event debut at the major. Playing as a mid, Jabz was part of Signature.Trust’s roster for more than a year and a half before he was invited to play for Faceless. He might not have the experience of his teammates, but his knowledge about the game is enough for him to be the drafter of the team.
iceiceice - perhaps the most renowned name on the roster, is a Dota 2 household name. He rose to prominence on the SEA scene with Zenith and Orange Esports, before playing several years in China for DK, Vici Gaming and EHOME. He has been a part of every International (one 3rd with Scythe Gaming and two 4th places with Vici Gaming and DK). In terms of Majors, iceiceice attended the Frankfurt Major (5-6th) and Shanghai (13-16th) with Vici Gaming.
xy is one of the support duo of Faceless. After a withdrawal from the pro scene for three years, xy is looking for a resurgence to his Dota 2 career with Faceless. Alongside iceiceice, xy took part in the International 2012 with Team Zenith and reached 5-6th place. Team Zenith was the last team xy played for before his three year hiatus.
NutZ plays a support role in Faceless. He is known to the majority of Dota fans from his period in MVP Phoenix in 2015, when he finished in 7-8th in the International with the South Korean team. Although he left the team as a player, he was also their coach during the International 2016, before joining the roster of Faceless in September this year.
Overall: 80% (44 wins, 11 losses)
Radiant winrate: 69.23% in 13 matches
Dire winrate: 83.33% in 42 matches
Most picked heroes
Top 5 hero picks (from 55 games):
A general trend is that Faceless, like many teams, prefer to use a number of heroes and try to pick them in almost every game. Three of their most picked heroes are quite popular in the current meta, while the other two not as much. Out of the total hero pool, there are 44 heroes that Faceless have never picked and 27 other heroes that are picked either once or twice in the 55 games they have played.
Warlock is the most popular hero and all of the 22 times that he was picked (almost half of their games) it was to be played by NutZ. It is one of the most popular supports in the current meta and is generally one of the top choices for every team. This is because the hero provides a strong sustain in the laning phase, which makes it great for a position 5 support. His ultimate and Fatal Bonds are an excellent team fight spells, while the ultimate gives him solid pushing power.
Ogre Magi is another hero Faceless favours that thrives in the current meta – his tankiness and spells make him a great lane bully, as well as quite useful in aggressive rotations. xy is the player that almost always commands the hero (20 out of 22 picks) in the position 4 role.
While rather a situational pick for quite a few of the teams currently, Nyx Assassin is the third favourite hero for Faceless, and is mostly played by iceiceice in the offlane role (12 out of 16 picks). The hero is best utilized in ganking and preying upon enemy supports.
When NutZ is not playing Warlock, he is most likely given the Crystal Maiden. CM has rather average to low popularity on the pro scene right now, but is favoured among some teams, such as Faceless. Her squishiness and immobility are her vulnerabilities, but the hero is good as lane support and her team fight presence is also formidable.
Timbersaw is the fifth most popular pick and it is one of iceiceice’s signature heroes, who is one of the pro players that popularized the hero in general. Timbersaw is popular pick in the current meta for his burst damage, tankiness and holding up well in the offlane against duo lanes.
Generally, the team prefers to play on the Dire side – 42 out of the 55 games. In terms of lineup:
Faceless are a team that prefers an aggressive approach, placing importance on winning lanes and getting advantage from the early game. In terms of laning distribution, Faceless’ most popular choices are 2 safe, 1 mid, 2 offlane and 2 safe, 1 mid, 1 offlane, 1 roamer. Occasionally, they go for aggressive trilanes (1 safe, 1 mid, 3 offlane) or leave their carry to farm solo and contest the other two lanes (1 safe, 2 mid, 2 offlane). As part of winning the lanes, Faceless aims to secure farming advantage for their hard carry from the start by contesting the opposition safe lane with two heroes – usually played by iceiceice (the offlaner), most often accompanied by xy-, who has spent 36% of the games on the offlane (usually with Ogre Magi or Undying). When not in the offlane, xy- is most likely roaming – 34% of time spent doing so.
The team relies on iceiceice to serve as a playmaker and to provide space for the other cores, rather than farm himself. Apart from Timbersaw, Nyx and Slardar are the other two most popular choices – both heroes are better in fighting the enemy than farming and are good initiators and gankers. Popular offlaners with team fight abilities that require a farming approach to the offlane (apart from Sand King) such as Dark Seer or Faceless Void are rarely picked (Void – 3 picks, Sand King – 1 pick, Dark Seer – 1 pick).
Renowned as a skilled farmer, Black^ occasionally is provided with space to free farm, but a big chunk of his time is spent on the battle affairs of his team. The hero that he has been given the most is Morphling (a heavy farm focused hero), which is usually complemented with a core that is viable in the mid game played by Jabz. On rare occasions, Faceless goes for two greedy cores, which puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the team to provide space.
As part of their aggressive play, the team relies a lot on rotations from the supports. xy- is the roamer in the team and when on the Ogre Magi he is either in the offlane, helping mid or looking for a gank. When he is part of a duo offlane and the Ogre is banned, he is compensating with the lane presence of the Undying, but slightly less effective as a ganker. Similarly, Nutz gets Crystal Maiden when he is denied the Warlock.
A typical trait of Faceless is that they prefer not to take advantage of farming in their jungle, since putting a hero in the jungle would considerably weaken their presence in one of the lanes. Although not at its peak, the Shadow Demon illusion spam strategy is not used by Faceless – the Luna and Shadow Demon combo was picked only in one of their matches (ProDotA Cup Series vs Power Gaming).
When do Faceless lose?
Team has lost just 11 games and it would be a stretch to talk about habits. Given that some of those are due to outdrafting, outplaying (valid ways to lose for any team) or both, the most obvious 'flaw' would be that team has lost games when they have given up the initiative and gone for conservative farming game – a good example would be game one vs DC at the Summit 6 when Faceless when for Alchemist and Morphling cores only to be decimated in less than twenty minutes. The other way that they have lost games is when they have played out of their comfort zone picks (e.g. a pushing lineup in game 2 vs Power Gaming in the Summit 6 qualifiers).
In some of the games, the team also left us with the impression that they are not very solid in the comeback department.
Faceless’ strongest weapon is also a drawback that makes them vulnerable – they feel most comfortable when they are playing their preferred heroes and their winning record is solid proof of how they have mastered them. They know what they are looking to pick, they know what they want from the game and how to achieve it. On the other hand, having a rather small hero pool makes the team’s play predictable and vulnerable to outdrafting.
The team deals with the latter by having a second best spare version of their most beloved heroes – Crystal Maiden instead of Warlock, Undying instead of Ogre Magi and so on. Their opponents are very well aware of that and it is no surprise that Nyx Assassin, Timbersaw and Undying are among the top banned heroes against Faceless (respectively 32, 24 and 18 bans). In all of their last six games against top opposition such as DC and EG, the first two bans were either Nyx, Warlock, Undying, Timbersaw or Ogre Magi.
Given their achievements on the SEA scene and the dominant manner in which they earned their spot in Boston (and not only), it would not be an overstatement to say that Faceless are arguably the best that SEA can offer. There is no harder test in Dota than a Valve event, but Faceless will surely arrive prepared and confident to face what lies ahead.