ESL One Stockholm Major: Another shot in the dark for South America
ESL One Stockholm Major is the first Major of the year and for many of the qualified teams, this will be their first chance to see how they fare against competitors outside their respective regions.
LANs have always been a true challenge for the teams coming from South America. The Dota Pro Circuit, as good as it is in terms of providing sustainability and a shot at truly developing a tier two scene in SA, it also isolated the teams from this region more than ever.
With the DPC running three separate tours, each with a six-week league, tournament organizers have found little to no room to host cross-regional LANs outside the Majors. Of course, the two years of pandemic made everything nearly impossible as well and so, the professional scene was left with just one LAN outside the DPC schedule happening in over two years.
For the past couple of years, the only option for some of the SA teams was to practice with those from North America. Unfortunately, the NA is also bleeding deeply, losing player base, sponsors and overall interest even from the pros.
TI10 is the perfect example to highlight this problem. Two of the three SA teams qualified for the biggest Dota 2 tournament were first to be eliminated, in the 17th/18th places with beyond demoralizing results in the group stage. SG Esports was sent packing with just one series won, while Thunder Predator was the only team to not find even a game victory, going home 0-16. The region's finest team at that moment, beastcoast was eliminated in the first lower bracket round, leaving SA with no teams to fight in the main event.
It became clear that the region was at its lowest point and almost all the teams scrambled in the post-TI10 shuffle to fix the issue through massive roster changes.
Thunder Predator released the entire team and signed the NoPing roster, which in the previous DPC year made it to the WePlay AniMajor, but lost the battle for a ticket to TI.
After changing organizations, the former NoPing players found immediate success in the 2022 Dota Pro Circuit and managed to dethrone beastcoast in both Winter and Spring tours.
But, despite placing first in the Winter tour, with a clean 7-0 series record, they still went for a roster change. David "Oscar" Chavez Jimenez was replaced in the offlane by Rafael "Sacred" Hinostroza Yonatan, thus making the roster a full Peruvian one. In the days leading up to the Spring tour, the origination has also ended its partnership with Acer Predator and returned to its old tag, Thunder Awaken.
Thunder Awaken roster
Thunder Awaken arrives at the ESL One Stockholm Major with the best game record across all regions. They lost just two games through the two regular seasons combined and are the only team to boast a 7-0 score in both tours. Their overall 28-2 game record is better than what arguably the two best teams in the world, PSG.LGD and Team Spirit, managed to accomplish through their regional league seasons.
What made the difference for Thunder Awaken?
Though it might not be obvious, the explanation is quite simple. Switching orgs meant that the players didn’t need to travel back and forth from Peru to Brazil to bootcamp for the league season. Having the comfort of playing from their own country now, it also meant better ping, faster and easier solutions to any logistical problems. On top of that, they also started to work with a coach, which surely improved their preparation for each match.
The roster change in between the Winter and Spring tours has also changed the team dynamic and more importantly, unlocked a new hero for the offlane and some minus armor strategy combos that they utilized a lot through the Spring Tour.
Sacred brought the offlane Spafire option to Thunder Awaken and it became his most picked hero this season, followed by Weaver. Both these heroes have been utilized in minus armor combos with Templar Assassin, run in the carry position, and often times a mid Tiny completed the trio core for monstrous right click damage and lockdown. TA is also the only team that runs a lot of Ogre Magi in the hard support role.
Ogre is always used in combination with one of their heavy right-click damage dealers. Templar Assassin, Medusa, Kunkka, Tiny have all got their Bloodlust buff this season in the Thunder Awaken drafts and pushed the team to new heights. ESL One Stockholm Major will be the second major appearance for the new Thunder Awaken players, who will come to Sweden for the true test of the season.
Time and tide don’t wait
beastcoast is the only team that heads to the Stockholm Major without having changed their roster in nearly three years.
Until this year, beastcoast has always been the top seed from SA. However, for the first in their 3 years together, if the Major had been held at the end of the Winter Tour, beastcoast wouldn’t have even been qualified. They placed third in the first seasonal league, dropping three of the seven league matches.
They took the second chance offered by the regional finals and took revenge over Thunder Awaken and Infamous, who defeated them in the regular season, but then, they struggled against the exact same teams in the Spring Tour league.
beastcoast has doubled down on their aggressive playstyle and this season their drafts featured plenty of burst damage and illusion-based combos.
Shadow Demon has become their go-to support, placed in either 4 or 5 positions, though StingeR had the most success with it, scoring 5 wins and 1 loss. They paired the SD with Chaos Knight, Phantom Lancer and the classic Luna for the illusion overwhelm effect, but they also made sure to have strong team fight combos with it for superior lockdown. Oftentimes, the SD pops up along a Clockwerk or a Sand King.
The heavy burst damage was usually secured by Chris Luck’s Lina, which is his most played hero this season, followed by Storm and Void Spirit.
Interestingly enough, although Chris Luck has a fair amount of Storm games, beastcoast has never paired it with Io or Keeper of the Light, who have become staple combos in other regions. In fact, neither Thunder Awaken nor beastcoast touched these two heroes at all through the whole league play, both going all-in on burst damage and ignoring almost entirely the sustainability. It’s definitely a different approach than the rest of the regions have taken and it remains to be seen if they will change anything in their strategies at the Major or if they will wipe the floor with everyone with their high risk, high reward plays.