Blazing a trail: Brazilian squad paiN Gaming carries the torch of South American Dota as the region’s lone representative in Vancouver.
Another year of Dota 2 action has come and gone, and the stage is now set for the Dota 2 world to once again come together to enjoy and celebrate the game on the biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. With The International 2018 fast approaching, it seems appropriate to offer fans both new and old some information on the squads that will be fighting in Vancouver for a chance to lay claim to the Aegis of Champions and cement themselves a place in Dota 2 history. Each post in this series will provide a brief profile of one of the 18 teams that have earned a place in the field at TI8, including a small overview of the team/organization’s history, a breakdown of its 2017-2018 season, a look at the players on the team’s roster, and expectations entering TI itself. Whether you’re deep into the pro Dota scene already or just looking to get your feet wet in preparation for TI8, the hope is that these profiles will give you a bit more insight or a refresher course for the teams that will be playing in Vancouver in August. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at the sole South American representative at TI8: Brazilian squad PaiN Gaming.
Region: South America (SA)
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Rank: 16th (504 Qualifying Points)
Qualification Method: TI8 South America Qualifier (1st Place)
2017-2018 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 6 (1 Top 4 Finish)
Previous TI Appearances: 0 (TI Debut)
2017-2018 Season Notable Achievements:
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Majors
3rd – ESL One Birmingham 2018
Non- Pro Circuit Events
1st – WESG 2017 South America Finals
2nd – World Electronic Sports Games 2017
5th-6th – Galaxy Battles II: Emerging Worlds
PaiN Gaming may be a somewhat new face in the wider international scene, but the Brazilian squad’s roots go fairly deep in terms of its history in professional Dota. The earliest iteration of the team dates back to 2010 with an all-Brazilan DotA Allstars squad that competed for nearly 2 years before transitioning the majority of its roster to Dota 2 in April of 2012. The squad started small in the Dota 2 world, making a handful of appearances in regional competitions but failing to make a particularly strong impression. 2013 brought some major changes to the PaiN Gaming organization, as the team formed an all-Argentinian squad in May to play under the name paiN Gaming International (paiN.int). As for the main PaiN Gaming roster, things were not off to a strong start in the new year. The Brazilian squad competed in significantly more events than it had in the previous year, but was struggling to find success across those appearances. The team’s struggles prompted a change from the organization, as its roster was released and the lineup of Meenix eSports was signed to form the backbone of a new paiN Gaming squad. Unfortunately, that new squad didn’t last very long and paiN Gaming officially disbanded its Brazilian roster in September. 3 months later, paiN.int folded as well, and the organization began 2014 without any players signed to its roster.
After a hiatus of nearly 8 months, paiN Gaming returned to the Dota 2 scene by acquiring the lineup of CNB e-Sports Club. The team’s new roster was able to close out 2014 with a solid stretch of play that included 1st place finishes in 3 South American tournaments. In addition to those regional successes, the team was also beginning to move outside of its home region as it participated in a number of mixed North and South American events. That trend continued for paiN Gaming into 2015, as the Brazilian squad continued to impress within its home region while making numerous, though unsuccessful, appearances in NA/SA based events. Those performances gave the team a fair bit of confidence entering the TI5 Open Qualifiers, but unfortunately the squad ended up falling short of the mark to reach the main Regional Qualifiers. The squad continued to play together over the final months of the year, and even manged to earn back to back 1st place finishes in the Xtreme League #1 and Brasil Game Cup 2015. However, those strong results weren’t enough to keep the team’s roster fully stable, as 4 of the team’s 5 players would eventually leave the organization across the final months of 2015. The first half of 2016 did not bring an end to the team’s roster woes, as paiN Gaming cycled through a frankly alarming number of short-term roster members, substitutes, and stand-ins before finally putting together a more stable roster in June. That roster made a run through the TI6 Open Qualifiers, but was ultimately unable to advance to the main Regional Qualifier for the second year in a row. A few months later, the paiN Gaming organization announced that it was dropping its Dota 2 lineup, with its former players continuing on under the name Kingao+4 while paiN Gaming removed itself from the pro Dota scene. Entering the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season, paiN Gaming did not have a team signed and had not been involved in the Dota 2 world for nearly a year.
Season in Review
As many fans and players of Dota 2 know, the game is a hard one to stay away from for long, and paiN Gaming proved unable to resist the allure of a return to the pro Dota scene. In November of 2017, the organization acquired the lineup of Midas Club and paiN Gaming was reborn. However, old habits die hard, and it was just 3 weeks after the team’s signing that paiN Gaming was forced to make a change to its roster. Leonardo “Mandy” Viana opted to return to the Midas Club organization, and paiN Gaming brought in Fabio “Gambling” Sarellas to replace him as a stand-in. With this roster, the team earned its first success under the paiN Gaming name, winning the South America Qualifier for the Galaxy Battles II Major (later dropped from the Pro Circuit schedule) and the Brazil Qualifier for the World Electronic Sports Games 2017. At the end of the year, the organization announced that Aliwi “w33” Omar would be serving as a stand-in for the team’s run at the Galaxy Battles II tournament, raising some questions regarding potential roster changes for the team.
Heading into the 2018 section of the season, Gambling opted to end his time as a stand-in for the squad, leaving paiN Gaming with just 4 players. The team made use of a couple of stand-ins over the first month or 2 of the season, and even made its Pro Circuit debut at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor with the organization’s founder Arthur “PAADA” Zarzur serving as a temporary member of the roster. Despite its issues with stand-ins, paiN Gaming continued to perform within its home region, winning the South America Qualifier for The Bucharest Major and claiming a 1st place finish in the non-Pro Circuit WESG 2017 South America Finals. In February, paiN Gaming announced that Gabriel “Rayuur” Pinheiro would be joining the team to finally complete its roster. The move brought immediate success to the squad, as paiN Gaming won 3 straight Pro Circuit qualifiers and was quickly becoming a dominant force within the South American region. Unfortunately, that momentum ran dry as Rayuur was unable to attend The Bucharest Major with the team and left paiN Gaming just days after. While w33 was able to once again serve as a stand-in for the team at the event, the team finished near the bottom of the standings, and the organization was once again forced to look for a new addition to the lineup. In March, the organization announced that Danilo “Arms” Silva of Midas Club would replace Rayuur as the team’s new midlaner. With Arms in the lineup, paiN Gaming was able to claim a 2nd place finish at the non-Pro Circuit World Electronic Sports Games 2017, only falling short in the Grand Finals against Team Russia which featured 4 of the 5 members of Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro. The team also made appearances at 2 more Pro Circuit events in the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major, although it was unable to find much success at those events with 2 finishes at the bottom of the standings. At this point, paiN Gaming was standings as a leading team in South America, but the team wasn’t done making changes to its roster just yet. In April, the organization announced that Arms was leaving the team, and that 2 time stand-in w33 would officially be taking his place as the team’s midlaner. The addition of the Romanian midlaner elevated paiN Gaming to a new level both within its home region and in the international scene as well. The team put together a 7th-8th place run at the EPICENTER XL Major in May, and finally broke through on the Pro Circuit stage later that month with an impressive 3rd place finish at the ESL One Birmingham 2018 Major. That successful run allowed paiN Gaming to join Peruvian squad Infamous as the only 2 South American squads to earn Qualifying Points on the Pro Circuit this season. With momentum on its side, paiN Gaming was able to fight its way through both the Open Qualifiers and the TI8 South America Qualifier to secure itself a place in Vancouver.
William “hFn” Medeiros (Carry) – PaiN Gaming’s carry player has proven himself to be an incredibly vital part of the team’s revival in the Dota 2 scene, as hFn has provided the squad with a steady presence and relatively consistent production throughout the season. His penchant for playing high volume, hyper carry farming heroes has helped shape the team’s play style, and his ability to perform on those heroes is a skill that the 20 year old Brazilian carry has developed over what has been a fairly busy career within the reason. The career of hFn actually began with the same team that he currently plays for, as he made his debut in professional Dota with paiN Gaming back in 2013. HOwever, that paiN Gaming squad proved fairly unsuccessful, and hFn spent the next year bouncing between a number of squads. The Brazilian carry played for Jungles King, South American Rejects, Keyd Stars, and Rebeldes in 2014, finding success in regional competitions but never staying on a single roster for more than a couple of months. in 2015, hFn made his return to the paiN Gaming organization as a part of the squad that earned back to back 1st place finishes at the Xtreme League #1 and the Brasil Game Cup 2015. Despite that success, hFn and 3 of his teammates opted to jump ship to join T Show at the end of the year, a move that would spark a series of rather interesting events for him in 2016. The year began with hFn on the T Show roster, but in March the carry player left the squad to join Team Archon for all of 4 days before the team disbanded, forcing hFn to return to T Show the next day. 1 month later, hFn once again looked to join a new team, as he appeared on the roster of Dragneel for about a week before that squad folded as well following a failed attempt to qualify for The Manila Major. In May, hFn began his third stint with paiN Gaming, where he helped the squad defend its title at the Brasil Game Cup 2016. In October of 2016, paiN Gaming dropped its Dota 2 roster, leaving hFn and his teammates to continue playing under the name Kingao+4 for around a month before being picked up by SG e-sports. Under the SG e-sports banner, hFn and his teammates flourished, becoming a more formidable force within the South American region and branching out with a number of appearances on the international level. Foremost among these was an appearance at The Kiev Major, where the squad famously defeated Team Secret to knock the European squad out of the tournament in what was one of the largest upsets in recent memory. Despite those strong performances, SG e-sports fell just short of qualifying for TI7, and soon after hFn parted ways with his former teammates to join the newly formed Digital Chaos.SA. However, roster instability once again struck hFn, as DC.SA lasted only a month before disbanding, leading hFn to the roster of Midas Club Elite in October. With his new squad, hFn claimed his third straight title at the Brasil Game Cup 2017, and also qualified for his first Pro Circuit event as the team finished 1st in the Captains Draft 4.0 South America Qualifier. That success attracted the attention of hFn’s former organization, and paiN Gaming picked up the roster of Midas Club Elite to mark hFn’s fourth run with the team. Ever since then, hFn and paiN Gaming has been on a tear in the South American region. The squad stands as one of the most formidable teams in South America, and has been showing significant improvement on the international level as well. Quite a lot of that has come down to hFn’s play, as his hero pool and style of play often makes the team heavily reliant upon him to deliver under pressure. The addition of another star in midlaner w33 takes some of that responsibility off of hFn, but paiN Gaming’s style means that he will still be looked upon to lead the squad in the majority of scenarios in Vancouver. The Brazilian squad may be looked at as an underdog heading into TI8, but if hFn can maintain the level of play that we have seen from him in recent times, then the team has a chance at advancing further than many people likely expect them to.
Aliwi “w33” Omar (Mid) – The story of how w33 made it to the professional level in the Dota 2 world is a rather interesting one, and one that many aspiring Dota players often have aspirations of emulating. W33 began his career as a pubstar, a non-professional player working his way up the MMR (matchmaking rating) leader board in the European region. He famously became the first player to ever reach the 8k MMR mark, and teamed up with a group of other high ranking amateur players to officially begin his pro Dota career in 2014 as a member of Balkan Bears. That squad managed to make a few appearances in regional tournaments, but couldn’t secure itself a place in any international events. At the start of 2015, w33 opted to join a newly formed team of European veterans known as MeePwn’d, though the squad was met with little success in its region. After just 3 months, the team disbanded, and w33 returned to the Balkan Bears lineup for a stint of just 2 months before that team ended up disbanding as well. In June, w33 joined the lineup of 4 Clover & Lepricon, and helped the team claim 1st place finishes at the MSI Dragon Battle #6 and Game Show Invitational. Unfortunately, the team didn’t last much longer after those victories, as the lineup fell apart and w33 announced his departure from the roster. His impressive play with the European squad had attracted some attention though, and the next day w33 was picked up by Team Secret in its post-TI5 roster shuffle. With Team Secret, w33 found his first measure of success on the international level, as the team put together a series of strong performances to close out the year. The squad won the MLG World Finals as well as the Nanyang Dota 2 Championships, and finished in 2nd place at both ESL One New York 2015 and The Frankfurt Major. The start of 2016 brought even more success for w33 and Team Secret, as the European squad claimed a Major Championship title at The Shanghai Major in March. Team Secret looked to be on a path to elite status in the Dota 2 world, but unfortunately w33 would not get the chance to continue on with the team as he was removed from the lineup at the end of the month. Luckily, w33 was able to find a new squad in the form of Digital Chaos, helping the team’s newly formed lineup earn an appearance at The Manila Major and a spot at TI6. The squad put together an impressive run at the event, making it all the way to the Grand Finals before losing to Wings Gaming for a 2nd place finish. The team closed out the year with a 3rd-4th place finish at The Boston Major, but soon ran into issues in 2017. Just 3 months into the new year, Digital Chaos announced that it was dropping its Dota 2 roster, leaving w33 and his teammates to play on without a sponsor as Thunderbirds. After a lackluster performance at The Kiev Major, the team was picked up by Planet Odd in June as it prepared for a run through the TI7 North America Qualifier. Unfortunately, that run was unsuccessful, and Planet Odd parted ways with its lineup in August. The start of the Pro Circuit season saw w33 playing for European squad MidOrFeed, but the team was unable to secure itself a place at a Pro Circuit event and disbanded in November. W33 spent the next few months as a stand-in for various teams, before officially joining the roster of PENTA Sports in February. The team put together a few strong performance in Pro Circuit qualifiers, but never managed to earn itself a spot at an event with w33 in the lineup, and PENTA Sports opted to drop the lineup from its organization in March. W33 and the other former members of PENTA Sports continued playing together under the name Going In for another month or so, before the Romanian midlaner left the squad to take up his current position in the roster of paiN Gaming. Since his addition to the Brazilian squad, w33 has helped paiN Gaming ascend to a position as one of South America’s most accomplished and formidable squads. While w33 has been most well known for his expertise with somewhat niche heroes like Meepo and Invoker, his time with paiN Gaming has shown a remarkable level of flexibility and comfort with more “meta” heroes in the mid lane. Adding a veteran presence from outside of its local region has done wonders for paiN Gaming, and w33 will be a huge factor in the team’s attempts to fully establish itself as an international power at TI8.
Otávio “Tavo” Gabriel (Offlane) – In the Dota 2 world, a team’s offlaner is often called upon to act as a playmaker and take an active role in-game. In that regard, Tavo has proven himself to be a valuable and steady asset for the Brazilian squad with a hero pool comprising both strong solo initiators and team fight controllers. Tavo’s comfort and flexibility in the offlane role have been traits that he has developed over the course of multiple stints with teams across the South American region, as the Brazilian player has seen his fair share of action with numerous different squads. Tavo’s career officially began back in 2013 as a member of Keyd Stars, although he only played in 1 event with the squad before it was dropped by the organization. Tavo and the majority of his teammates were then picked up by Swagenteiger, and closed out 2013 with a 1st place finish in Season 2 of the Dota 2 Canada Cup. In March of 2014, Tavo and the rest of the Swagenteiger lineup was signed by CNB e-Sports Club, but struggled to distinguish itself across a handful of lackluster tournament appearances. In August, Tavo announed his departure from the team in order to return to the Keyd Stars organization as a part of its new roster. That roster put together a 2nd place run at the X5 Mega Arena 2014 event, as well as a 3rd place finish at the Brasil Game Cup 2014, but the success of the squad proved insufficient to keep it together in the long run. Citing behavioral issues and internal conflicts, Keyd Starts dropped its Dota 2 lineup in November. Now teamless, Tavo and 2 of his former teammates opted to sign with paiN Gaming, which marked the start of his longest stretch with a single team to that point in his career. Tavo remained with paiN Gaming for a year and helped the squad built up a modest level of success within the South American region. However, the team failed to find the same level of success outside of its home region, and in December of 2015, Tavo joined 3 of his teammates and left the paiN Gaming organization to form the new T Show lineup. 2016 saw Tavo and the rest of T Show struggle to overcome its regional rivals, and after around 6 months with the organization, Tavo jumped ship to go back to paiN Gaming. Though the new paiN Gaming roster performed well within the South American region, the organization dropped its roster in October of 2016, leaving the door open for SG e-sports to move in and sign Tavo and his teammates in December. Tavo’s stint with SG e-sports provided him with considerable experience on the international level, as the team made multiple appearances outside of its home region including a 5th-8th place run at The Kiev Major in April. Unfortunately, the team fell just short of the mark to qualify for TI7, and soon after the squad disbanded to seek out other opportunities with the first Pro Circuit season fast approaching. Tavo began the season back on the roster of T Show, but was benched by the team just 1 month into the season. While inactive on the T Show roster, Tavo began playing with rival squad Midas Club Elite, helping the team win the Brasil Game Cup 2017 and earn a spot at its first Pro Circuit event by winning the Captains Draft 4.0 South America Qualifier. Just weeks later, the Midas Club Elite lineup was acquired by paiN Gaming, and Tavo spent the remainder of the Pro Circuit season with the Brazilian squad. With Tavo in the lineup, paiN Gaming has established itself as one of the most formidable squads within the South American region, and has shown growth and development on the international level that few other squads in the region have been able to match. Tavo’s ability to contribute as both an individual play maker and a team fight initiator has given paiN Gaming an impressive level of flexibility in terms of its play style and drafting. If the Brazilian squad want to put together a strong showing at TI8 and continue its development on the international level, Tavo will need to continue being a steady and reliable presence within the team’s game plan.
Danylo “Kingrd” Nascimento (Support, Captain) – As the oldest member of the paiN Gaming roster and the team’s captain, Kingrd serves as a veteran presence and provides it with a sense of strong leadership. Considering Kingrd’s ability with and penchant for playing aggressive, roaming support heroes, the Brazilian captain is often leading from the front in paiN Gaming’s matches. That style and understanding of the game stems from a long career in which Kingrd earned first hand experience across multiple positions and roles within the South American region. Kingrd’s Dota 2 career began in August of 2011, with the transition of paiN Gaming’s Dota Allstars roster. Kingrd played with paiN Gaming for nearly 2 years, drifting between the support and offlane positions as needed based on the rest of the team’s lineup before leaving the team in March of 2013. 4 months later, Kingrd joined the roster of the Keyd Stars organization as a midlaner, but left the team in December to enter 2014 as a free agent in the South American region. In April of 2014, Kingrd joined the CNB e-Sports Club roster back in the offlane position and quickly helped the team claim a 1st place finish at the Zotac Starleague later that month. After failing to qualify for TI4, the team was acquired by paiN Gaming in September, marking Kingrd’s second run with the organization. That run proved to be fairly successful, as Kingrd was shifted back to the middle lane and helped the team secure 4 1st place finishes in South American tournaments. However, after an unsuccessful run in the TI5 Open Qualifiers, Kingrd opted to leave his team to join the roster of INTZ eSports and make a transition into the carry role. However, his time at both the new position and his new team would be short lived, as Kingrd left INTZ eSports after just 2 months to join the lineup of T Show and shift back into the support role. Kingrd and the T Show lineup managed to put together an impressive string of performances within its home region, but failed to qualify for The Shanghai Major at the start of 2016 and disbanded soon after. Just weeks later, Kingrd was once again a member of the paiN Gaming roster, where he would remain for the majority of the year until the organization announced in October that it was dropping its Dota 2 lineup. 2 months later, Kingrd and the former paiN Gaming roster were picked up by SG e-sports, and the squad quickly began putting together an impressive resume of results both within its home region and on the international level. Kingrd and his teammates took some of the earliest and most significant steps to put their home region on the map in the wider Dota 2 world with an appearance at The Kiev Major that saw it bring down European power house Team Secret in the Main Event of the Major. Despite those accomplishments, SG e-sports failed to qualify for TI7 and disbanded soon after, forcing Kingrd to look for a new team heading into the Pro Circuit season. That squad ended up being Digital Chaos.SA, and Kingrd helped the team put together an impressive series of runs through Pro Circuit qualifiers that included a 1st place finish in the qualifier for the PGL Open Bucharest Minor. Unfortunately, the team disbanded before it could make that debut on the Pro Circuit stage, and Kingrd found himself joining the Midas Club Elite roster just 2 weeks before it was signed by paiN Gaming. Kingrd was now playing for the paiN Gaming organization for the fourth time in his career, this time as the team’s captain on the Pro Circuit stage. Kingrd has proven himself to be a steady leader for this most recent iteration of the paiN Gaming roster, guiding the team to multiple Pro Circuit appearances and even a Top 4 finish at the ESL One Birmingham 2018 Major. The Brazilian captain’s extensive experience within the South American region across a variety of roles and positions gives him the ability to better understand how best to put his teammates in positions to succeed. Smart drafting and even smarter play will be the key for paiN Gaming as it looks to play the part of the dark horse and potentially shock the Dota 2 world heading into TI8.
Heitor “Duster” Pereira (Support) – PaiN Gaming’s other support player will enter TI8 at just 18 years of age, making Duster one of the youngest players in the field when the event gets underway in August. The young Brazilian has taken to the role of the hard support, receiving the lowest priority on the team in terms of gold and items whilst being expected to contribute heavily to the team fight power of the roster. Duster’s ability to succeed in this role with paiN Gaming has been impressive and somewhat surprising, as the young support player is still relatively new to the professional level of Dota 2. His career began in September of 2016 when Duster appeared on the roster of Encore e-Sports, though both himself and his teammates were soon after signed by VINCE TE IPSUM. The squad made one appearance at the World Cyber Arena 2016, but disbanded at the start of 2017 after a less than impressive performance at the event. Duster spent the majority of 2017 bouncing between a handful of squads as the Pro Circuit season got underway, including Prelude, Ode, Midas Club Victory, and Midas Club Elite. It was with that final squad that Duster and his teammates finally found success by qualifying for the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor. That performance got the squad noticed by the paiN Gaming organization, with Duster and his teammates being picked up by by the team in October. Since joining paiN Gaming, Duster has been put in the spotlight in a way that he had never previously experienced in his Dota 2 career. However, Duster has proven himself capable of handling that considerable pressure despite both his youth and relatively short professional career. His ability to significantly contribute to his squad with the lowest possible use of resources on heroes like Disruptor, Ancient Apparition, and Bane has become a vital part of paiN Gaming’s play style. The position 5 support is often a role that is glossed over and given less attention in the professional Dota 2 world, but Duster has managed to make his presence felt in the majority of the team’s matches. If paiN Gaming wants to have a chance at finding success in Vancouver later this summer, Duster will have to continue being a consistent and steady contributor and make the most of limited resources against some of the best teams in the Dota 2 world.
Expectations at TI8
PaiN Gaming enters The International 2018 as the only representative of South America in Vancouver, serving as the flag bearer for a region still looking to establish itself in the wider international scene of the Dota 2 world. Despite some impressive growth and strong performances on the Pro Circuit stage this season, the Brazilian squad will take its place in August on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage with only modest expectations of success. The team has been a dominant force in its home region throughout the Pro Circuit season, which was a significant factor in the team’s claiming of the sole South American slot at TI8. However, the team found difficulties translating that regional success into positive results on the Pro Circuit stage, often finding itself finishing near the bottom of the standings in its handful of appearances at Pro Circuit events. The final month of the season saw the team put together its first successful run with a 3rd place finish at the ESL One Birmingham Major, but there are still a number of questions surrounding the Brazilian squad in the run up to TI8. The team has shown itself capable of competing at the Pro Circuit level, but it’s hard to say whether paiN Gaming can manage to play at that level on a consistent basis. As it stands, paiN Gaming’s ability to succeed at TI8 is based largely upon the team’s recent results and the belief in the squad’s potential. However, there is a fine line between potential and expectations that must be acknowledged when analyzing where the Brazilian squad might end up in the standings in Vancouver. PaiN Gaming certainly has the ability to win a match up against most of the squads in the field for TI8, but it will likely be considered an underdog against all but 1 or 2 of its opponents at the event. To be frank, paiN Gaming does not pose a serious threat to lay claim to the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver, but that is not necessarily a realistic goal for the team anyway. Of course, the Brazilian squad would love to bring South America its first ever TI title, but as just the second squad from the region to ever participate in The International, paiN Gaming will be looked at as a torch bearer for the entire region. If the squad can advance past the 13th-16th place position that Peruvian team Infamous managed to reach at TI7, then it would be seen as a significant step forward for a team and a region looking to make its mark in the Dota 2 world.