2020 is drawing to a close, and what a tumultuous year it was for all of us. For the Southeast Asian Dota 2 competitive scene, not only did the coronavirus pandemic grind the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) to a halt, it also shifted the balance of power in the region multiple times.
Such challenging circumstances saw most teams tread water and others fold, but there were some that excelled and stand in good shape ahead of the return of the DPC in January next year.
Read on to find out who are our picks for the best Dota 2 teams in Southeast Asia in 2020, based on their prize money and performance during the year:
#5 - Motivate.Trust Gaming
Thailand-based squad Motivate.Trust Gaming entered the Dota 2 scene by picking up the roster of RRQ.Trust at the end of 2019. While its initial roster barely made a splash in the scene, their ascent began with their acquisitions of carry player Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong and offlaner Natthaphon "Masaros" Ouanphakdee in February this year.
Thanks in large part to those two rising stars, Motivate.Trust was able to rapidly improve and break into the top tier of the Dota 2 scene in Southeast Asia, culminating in championships at BTS Pro Series: SEA Season 3 in September and the DOTA Summit 13 Online: SEA in early November. With Motivate.Trust’s success, Thailand has also proven itself as another hotbed for talent in the region.
However, Motivate.Trust’s rapid ascent may have very well closed its window for sustained success early. Due to JaCkky and Masaros’ standout performances that put their team in the spotlight, they were scouted and invited to join more established teams in the region. Both players left Motivate.Trust on 24 November, with JaCkky joining T1 and Masaros joining Fnatic.
Despite losing their two best players, Motivate.Trust are still in a good enough position ahead of the DPC restart. If they can get the right replacements at the vital carry and offlaner positions, they should remain among the top tier of teams in Southeast Asia.
Total prize money for 2020: US$70,500
#4 - BOOM Esports
The all-Indonesian squad of BOOM Esports was never able to outright win a tournament this year, only managing second place finishes in ESL One Birmingham 2020 Online: SEA, ESL One Thailand: Asia, and BTS Pro Series: SEA Seasons 2 and 3. However, they have been undeniably solid and consistent, placing out of the Top 4 in only two of the 16 tournaments they attended throughout the year.
There’s a pretty good argument that such steady results are better than one or two championships against lacklustre finishes throughout the year. It’s one of the reasons why you can easily count BOOM Esports among the four best teams in Southeast Asia, with even a top three ranking not sounding too far-fetched.
One of the big reasons behind BOOM’s sustained success has been their roster continuity, with two of their players having been on the team since 2017 while another joined in late 2018. That continuity has taken a hit, however, as the team parted ways with longtime carry player Randy “Dreamocel” Sapoetra earlier this month.
Losing Dreamocel hurts and finding a suitable replacement for him can be a challenge, especially if BOOM wishes to remain an all-Indonesian squad. With that said, the continuity and chemistry of the team’s remaining core roster guarantees that they will be among the very best teams in the region. The only question, however, is whether they can still improve once the DPC restarts.
Total prize money: US$130,813
#3 - Geek Fam
Under the leadership of former TNC Predator stalwart and Filipino veteran Carlo “Kuku” Palad, Geek Fam became the undisputed best team in the region from June to July, when they won back-to-back titles at BTS Pro Series: SEA Season 2 and the ONE Esports Dota 2 SEA League. Unfortunately, Geek Fam’s time atop the scene, and as a team, didn’t last very long.
Shortly after winning the ONE Esports SEA League, the scene was rocked when Geek Fam’s star carry player, Marc Polo “Raven” Fausto, left his team to sign with Fnatic. With the loss of Raven and the lingering uncertainty over the then-unknown restart date for the DPC, Geek Fam was forced to disband its Dota 2 squad.
Had things gone differently, Geek Fam could have reigned over SEA Dota much like Fnatic or TNC have done multiple times in the past. Raven was making his case for being the best carry player in the region, midlaner Karl “Karl” Jayme proved to be one of the most dynamic players in his position, Kuku fared well in his shift to the offlaner position all while being team captain, while Kenny “Xepher” Deo and Matthew “Whitemon” Filemon showed they could be a formidable support duo.
Luckily for fans of that Geek Fam squad, Karl, Kuku, Xepher, and Whitemon have reunited in T1. With Motivate.Trust standout JaCkky as their carry, the squad will have its chance to continue their short-lived reign as one of the three best teams in SEA ahead of the return of the DPC, albeit under a different banner.
Total prize money: US$132,500
#2 - TNC Predator
TNC Predator came into the year as the best team in SEA, having won the first Major of the 2019-2020 DPC season, the MDL Chengdu Major, in November 2019. However, once the season was brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic in March this year, they began struggling with inconsistency.
All throughout the year, TNC would sometimes look like the team that many think they are, a team that could win Majors and be in the conversation for ranking among the best squads in the world. But then, there were other times when they would lose unexpectedly to lesser-known teams.
With all that said, TNC will still end the year with two championships — ESL One Thailand: Asia in September and BTS Pro Series: SEA Season 4 earlier this month — and are looking like the best team in SEA ahead of the DPC restart.
Despite the departure of team captain Park “March” Tae-won in September, TNC’s core Filipino trio of Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte, Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios, and Timothy “TIMS” Randrup remains one of the most talented trio of players in the world. Offlaner Damien “kpii” Chok seems to have finally gotten his groove back in the most recent patch. TNC can also still retain roster continuity heading into next year by having coach Kim “Febby” Yong-min return to playing to fill in the gap at position 5, where he notably performed well in their most recent win at BTS Pro Series: SEA Season 4.
Time and again, TNC has proven that they have the talent and the chemistry to become the best team in SEA and stand among the best in the world. Their one glaring problem has always been inconsistency, as they showed all throughout the year. But they are in looking in form heading into the DPC restart, and if they can remain even-keeled or even improve, the sky is the limit.
Total prize money: US$153,500
#1 - Fnatic
Fnatic was the best team in SEA and utterly dominated the region for most of the year, as exemplified by their streak of five-straight tournament wins from March to June. While the team did that with Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon as their carry, audaciously signing Raven to replace him would have made what was already a regional juggernaut into a potential world-beating superteam.
However, as we all know by now, that was far from what happened. Fnatic started to unravel after Raven’s acquisition, which culminated with the departure of star offlaner Daryl “iceiceice” Koh to North America to join Evil Geniuses in September. While they did get a capable replacement in Masaros, there’s no denying that Fnatic got worse after they lost one of the two most important players in their team.
Even if their roster still retained three of the players it started the year with, Fnatic should be looked at as a work in progress. Not only does the team have to adjust to Masaros as their new offlaner, having Djardel “DJ” Mampusti move from his tried-and-true role as the star position 4 support to position 5 creates an entirely different team dynamic. Building chemistry after such drastic changes to your lineup is no easy task, even for one of the most stacked teams in the region.
While Fnatic should still be among the top three teams in SEA heading into next season, they still have a lot of work to do. To be sure, they were the best team this year. However, next year will be a very different story. Whether or not they will be able to reach the same heights they did this year, never mind exceed them, remains to be seen.
Total prize money: US$199,266
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