Taking place in Singapore this month, The International 11 (TI11), the annual Dota 2 world championship, will feature the best teams in the world from each of the game's six competitive regions for a share of the massive million-dollar prize pool.
Chinese teams are known for being strong, and Team Aster are no exception.
Created by famed carry player Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei, the team have long played second-fiddle to the more famous PSG.LGD squad.
The 2022 season has seen a string of second and third place finishes, including the regular DPC leagues.
However, the team is not one without potential, and its consistent results only mean it needs just one magical moment to be the ones to lift the Aegis of Champions over its rivals.
"The Tea Masters"
Known fondly by Chinese fans as Tea Masters (by moving the "m"), Aster bombed out of TI10 in the 13th-16th place.
The squad decided to refresh the team by picking up Zeng "Ori" Jiaoyang in mid, and picking up Yu "皮球" Yajun as hard support. Meanwhile, veterans Du "Monet" Peng, Lin "Xxs" Jing, and Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao remained.
BurNing's former teammate from DK, Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng, rejoined the team as a coach, having previously played hard support for the TI10 squad.
Since then, they have shown plenty of confidence and results at the 2021-2022 DPC season, though mostly with second and third place finishes. However, the consistency was enough for them to outright qualify for TI11.
With most Chinese squads being unable to compete overseas in the first half of 2022 due to China's COVID-19 rules, Aster only got their taste of the international competition at the Arlington Major, where they came in third, losing against eventual winners Team Spirit.
At ESL One Malaysia 2022, Aster dominated the competition, but fell to OG, who were riding a strong lower-bracket momentum and swept the Chinese squad 3-0. It was a dis-Aster.
But the result is probably an outlier, given how strong Aster had been all tournament.
But without the ability to finish strong, Aster could be in for some trouble at TI11, where they will face the likes of Team Spirit and OG again, as well as their eternal rivals, PSG.LGD.
A squad of talents
Team Aster are packed full of ridiculous talent, so the fact that they have yet to win a major title is disappointing.
Midlaner Ori is known for his stability even during his Vici Gaming days. He oftens holds up his team with his performance, allowing the rest of the team to find space to farm and win. TI11 will be his fourth TI appearance, and Aster will need his usual high standards if they want to make deep run.
Then you have Monet, who is often regarded as a top Chinese carry. If the team have to do well, then it really boils down to his performance. When he pops off, you'll know. But if he doesn't, well, the team won't fare well. And that's really why some fans have felt disappointed with Aster's performance.
But if there's one player that's known to shine if you give him his favourite hero, then it's BoBoKa and Monkey King.
In his hands, the hero is a terror from the trees, easily able to make plays that will leave your opponents wanting to type "gg". And he plays it as a 4, too.
If there's one hero you don't want BoBoKa to have in a crucial match, it's 100% MK. It's the same as giving Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka Earth Spirit. Don't do that.
Offlaner Xss has played together with BoBoKa in four teams so far.
Their chemistry is solid, but as an offlaner, Xss doesn't really stand out compared to the other big offlaner names. However, he has a large hero pool and is pretty dependable. Don't expect him to be flashy, however. That's reserved for BoBoKa's playmaking position 4 heroes.
Then you have the newest member of the team, 皮球, which means rubber ball in English. TI11 will be his first TI, and he will have lots of pressure to live up to. But he has the talent, and really likes flaming in all chat.
Last, but not least, is Aster's coach LaNm. A legendary player in his own right, LaNm also played in the legendary DK squad that went undefeatable for most of 2013.
While he has mostly retired from professional play, he has been coaching since 2019.
His involvement with Aster has already shown some success, including taking down OG at the PGL Arlington Major, which Monet credits his drafts as the reason for winning.
As one of the 12 direct invites of a total of 30 teams, Aster will have lots to prove. But expect them to shine in the Group Stage as they battle it out against the other directly-invited teams, the six regional qualifier winners, and the two Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) winners.
TI11 will be hosted in Singapore from 8 to 30 October and features a revamped format with the new LCQ and a longer schedule. For everything you need to know about TI11, check here.
Team Aster roster:
Du "Monet" Peng
Zeng "Ori" Jiaoyang
Lin "Xxs" Jing
Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao
Yu "皮球" Yajun
Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng (coach)
Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com
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