The Comeback Kids?: Southeast Asian leader Mineski looks to turn around a rough end to the Pro Circuit season and claim the region’s first TI title 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 will take a look at 1 of the 3 squads representing Southeast Asia and the topped ranked team from that region: Mineski.
Region: Southeast Asia (SEA)
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Rank: 5th (3150 Qualifying Points)
Qualification Method: Direct Invite (DPC Top 8)
2017-2018 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 13 (5 Top 4 Finishes)
Previous TI Appearances: TI1 (9th-12th)
2017-2018 Season Notable Achievements:
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Majors
1st – Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Minors
1st – PGL Open Bucharest
2nd – StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3
3rd-4th – Captains Draft 4.0
3rd-4th – StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4
Mineski is one of the oldest names in esports, with the Southeast Asian organization having been founded in 2004 in an effort to build and promote esports in the Philippines. Over the years, the organization has expanded its reach across Southeast Asia with coverage of events and news within the region via its website, Mineski.net, as well as the creation of the Mineski Infinity chain of internet cafés. In 2011, the organization was invited to the first iteration of The International and officially transitioned its DotA lineup into Dota 2 to compete at the event. Though the team finished in the 9th-12th place position at the event, it had taken its first steps into the Dota 2 world, but it would struggle to find success early on. The team was met with little success in 2012, as it failed to break away from its regional rivals in Southeast Asia. In November, the organization announced the creation of a new, all-Korean roster to play under the name Mineski.Korea, giving it 2 squads in the Dota 2 world. Unfortunately, neither squad got off to a strong start in 2013, and within the first few months of the year the Mineski.Korea roster had folded. The main roster was faring only slightly better, with a string of solid regional performances at the end of the year salvaging what had been a rough stretch for the organization. 2014 brought little improvement for the team, and in October a matchfixing scandal instigated a series of roster changes that left its future uncertain heading into 2015. As it turns out, the new year and new roster proved beneficial for Mineski, as the squad finally began to hit its stride within the Southeast Asian region. While its roster was still subject to period changes throughout the year, Mineski manged to win multiple regional events and qualifiers and earned its first major international appearances in years. An appearance at The Frankfurt Major served as the highlight of the team’s international experience, and served as an encouraging sign that the squad was trending in the right direction.
In 2016, the Mineski organization revisited the idea of fielding multiple rosters with the formation of Mineski-X. However, the organization once again found itself in a scenario in which both its roster struggled heavily over the first half of the year. The main Mineski roster managed to salvage things to a small degree by winning the Southeast Asia Qualifier for The Manila Major, but finished in the 13th-16th place position on home soil. After failing to qualify for TI6, the squad was largely confined to regional event appearances, as the squad went through another series of roster moves and changes in the post-TI shuffle. All the while, the Mineski-X lineup was struggling to find any sort of consistent success and only lasted a few months into 2017 before disbanding. While its sister squad ended up going under, the main Mineski lineup opted for a near complete overhaul of its roster centered around star player Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung. The team’s restructured roster was able to put together a number of quality performances within the Southeast Asian region, but underwent another massive change to its roster in May just a month before the TI7 qualifiers. The changes weren’t enough to earn the team a place in Seattle, and soon after the organization opted for another series of roster changes in order to prepares for the Pro Circuit season. The team absorbed Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang and Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong of the defunct Team Faceless and picked up Kam “Moon” Boon Seng from WarriorsGaming.Unity to form a lineup that it hoped would be able to establish itself as a leading power in the Southeast Asian region.
Season in Review
Mineski quickly got started on setting itself up near the top of the hierarchy within the Southeast Asian region. With expected power houses Fnatic and TNC Pro Team (Now TNC Predator) stumbling out of the gate, the way was essentially clear for Mineski to step into the power vacuum and take a commanding position in its home region. The squad began the season by winning 4 of its first 5 qualifier appearances, securing itself a multitude of opportunities to perform on the Pro Circuit stage. Mineski’s Pro Circuit debut at the StarLadder i-League Invitaional Season 3 proved to be a success, with the Southeast Asian squad claiming a 2nd place finish overall. Just 1 week later, the team claimed its first Minor Championship title with a 1st place finish at the PGL Open Bucharest and appeared to be pulling away from its regional rivals. The team continued to dominate regional qualifiers, finding Top 4 finishes in its final 5 qualifiers of 2017, although 1 of those was the qualifier for the Galaxy Battles II event that later lost its status as a Major. Despite that, the team closed out the year as the top ranked team from its home region by a clear margin, and was holding on to a place in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings.
Mineski began 2018 with a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage, claiming a 3rd-4th place finish at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor. However, the team’s performance took a bit of a hit in the following months. The squad finished in the 9th-12th place position at both the ESL One Genting 2018 Minor and the ESL One Katowice 2018 Major, and followed up those relatively weak performances with a 12th-14th place showing at The Bucharest Major. The team’s play on the international level was slipping, but the good news for Mineski was that it continued to hold on to its position at the top of the hierarchy within the Southeast Asian region. The team earned Top 4 finishes in all 5 of its Pro Circuit qualifier runs in 2018, including 3 first place performances that guaranteed it continued opportunities to play at Pro Circuit events. In April, the team appeared to get itself back into form as it won its first ever Major Championship at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. That victory also marked the first Major Championship for the Southeast Asian region, but unfortunately the region would be able to earn another before the end of the season. Despite the team’s improved performance in the following weeks, Mineski could not replicate its success at DAC 2018 and finished in the 5th-6th place position at 3 straight Majors. Entering the final event of the season at the China Dota2 Supermajor, Mineski was still technically capable of falling out of the Top 8 and missing out on a direct invite to TI8. The team didn’t do itself any favors at the event, finishing in the 9th-12th place position overall with a relatively weak performance. However, the rest of the results from the event led to the Southeast Asian squad holding its spot in the Top 8 and receiving a direct invite to Vancouver. Though it wasn’t the most graceful of finishes to the season, Mineski was able to avoid the drama and stress of the TI8 Qualifiers and focus on getting itself back into top form in time for the start of the main event.
Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung (Carry) – Mushi is one of the most experienced and talented players in all of Southeast Asia, with the Malaysian carry having played at the highest level in the game since the very beginning of Dota 2. He represents the centerpiece of Mineski in the current era of the team’s history, as the organization opted to build its entire roster around him. It’s fairly easy to see why the team would build around him, as Mushi has shown a superb ability to dominate matches both with early fighting heroes and more traditional hard farming carries. Mushi’s skill and adaptability are the result of years of experience in the Dota world, as his career began back in the original DotA. In September of 2011, he transitioned into Dota 2 and joined Southeast Asian squad Orange Esports. The team immediately made a name for itself within its home region, and earned a place at TI2 where it finished in the 7th-8th place position. 1 year later, Mushi helped lead the squad to a 3rd place finish at TI3, tying the TI1 era Scythe Gaming for the best TI finish for a Southeast Asian team. However, the Orange Esports organization announced in September that it was releasing its Dota 2 squad, and Mushi ended up leaving his home region behind in order to join Chinese squad Team DK. That Team DK lineup in 2014 was considered to be one of the first Chinese dream team’s, and the squad immediately set to work proving that fact with a strong series of performances to begin the year. The squad won the 2013 WPC ACE Dota 2 League, claiming a 4-3 victory in one of the only Bo7 series in the history of professional Dota 2. The team followed up that victory with wins at 6 events in the following months, in addition to a slew of other Top 4 finishes that helped establish it as a leading squad on the international level. Those performances earned the team an invite to TI4, where Team DK finished 4th overall. However, the lineup fell apart soon after the event, and Mushi once again found himself looking for a new team. Mushi was briefly a member of the newly formed Team Malaysia near the end of 2014, but began 2015 as a member of the EHOME roster. After just a few months with the team, Mushi opted to return to Team Malaysia and helped the team win 4 straight Southeast Asian events and qualifiers. In June, the team was signed by Fnatic, and managed to make appearances at both TI5 and The Frankfurt Major over the course of the rest of the year. However, the team finished in the 13th-16th place position at both events and were struggling to perform on the international level. 2016 saw Mushi and Fnatic turn things around, as the team claimed 5th-6th place finishes at The Shanghai and Manila Majors before finishing 4th at TI6. In the months that followed though, the team’s roster began to fall apart, and Mushi eventually left the organization in February of 2017 to join Mineski. Mushi’s time with Mineski didn’t exactly begin in spectacular fashion, but the Malaysian veteran has stuck with the squad through its rebuilding process and now leads one of the strongest roster ever fielded in the Southeast Asian region. The team’s players are all talented in their own right, but at the end of the day Mineski is most likely to go as Mushi goes, which puts quite a lot of pressure on the carry player. However, Mushi is not stranger to the spotlight or the pressure of the TI stage, and if anyone is capable of leading Mineski to a successful run in Vancouver, it would be him.
Kam “Moon” Boon Seng (Mid) – When Moon was announced as an addition to the Mineski roster in the run up to the Pro Circuit season, expectations were already fairly high for the Malaysian midlaner. Mineski was in the midst of attempting to rebuild its roster into a competitive force, and though Moon was incredibly talented, he also had relatively limited experience outside of the region. He has quickly proven himself to be a fast learner, as Moon has become a vital part in the team’s play style with a mix of tanky team fight controlling heroes and more agile and aggressive roaming cores. By the time Mineski got around to signing him, his talent had already been on display in major competitions, but the Malaysian midlaner certainly didn’t start out his career in the spotlight. Moon’s career in Dota 2 began under the name NaNa back in 2014 with GeNySis, although that squad saw little action outside of small time, local events. In March of 2015, he joined Invasion e-Sports and got his first taste of competitive play within the Southeast Asian region. After just 1 month with the team, NaNa left Invasion e-Sports, going inactive for 5 months before winding up on the roster of SabunWarrior. That ended up being a rather short stop for the midlaner as well, as he was picked up by WarriorsGaming.Unity just 2 months later. His presence on the roster played a large part in WarriorsGaming.Unity rising to prominence within Southeast Asia, as he helped the squad put together a number of strong qualifier performances. Though the team ended up falling short of qualifying for TI6, it did manage to claim wins in the ProDotA Cup Southeast Asia #1 and #2, as well as the joinDOTA League Season 10 Asia. In December of 2016, the team made its first major international appearance at The Boston Major, where it managed to finish in the top half of the standings with a 5th-8th place position overall. The team continued its impressive play through the end of 2016 and into 2017, but couldn’t quite qualify for any significant international events and missed the mark for a spot in the field at TI7. In August, NaNa officially made the move to join the Mineski roster for the Pro Circuit season, eventually changing his in-game name to Moon at the start of 2018. Though his name changed, the level of play remained just as impressive with Mineski as it had been with WarriorsGaming.Unity, as the Southeast Asian squad has elevated itself to stand with the elite of the Dota 2 world on the Pro Circuit. Moon’s skill set has allowed him to serve as both an anchor in the squad’s team fight strategies and an instigator in more mobile and aggressive drafts, and that flexibility will be key if Mineski wants to have a shot at success at TI8.
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang (Offlane) – Of all the offlaners in the Dota 2 world, iceiceice stands as one of the most talented and experienced that the game has ever seen. His incredible skill combined with a famously humorous or otherwise nonchalant personality on-camera has made him a favorite among fans of the game. As a veteran of the Dota world, iceiceice has served as a prime example of the ability for an offlane player to contribute to and control a match. His play on Timbersaw, and more recently Pangolier, have made him a pioneer at the position and one of the most feared and respected offlaners in the game today. Iceiceice has been involved in the professional Dota scene for over a decade, with the Singaporean offlaner getting his start back in 2005 in the original DotA. After 4 years at the professional level, iceiceice briefly pursued a career as a professional Starcraft 2 player before transitioning into Dota 2 in August of 2011 with Scythe Gaming as a hybrid mid/carry player. His squad earned a 3rd place finish at TI1, and soon after was signed by Meet Your Makers to form MYM.sg. After just over 3 months with that squad, disputes between the team and the MYM organization led to the disbanding of the roster. Rather than scatter to the winds, the team’s players opted to continue playing together as Team Zenith. That Team Zenith roster manged to help iceiceice return to the stage with an invite to TI2, but fell short of his previous mark with a 5th-6th place run at the event. At the start of 2013, roster changes for the squad pushed iceiceice out of his position as a midlaner and into the role of offlaner for Team Zenith. Those moves helped the squad earn an invite to TI3, but the team couldn’t break into the top half of the standings and finished in the 9th-12th place position overall. Following that performance, iceiceice joined Team DK, and played a large role in elevating the team to a position at the top of the Chinese region in 2014. However, a 4th place finish at TI4 wasn’t enough to keep the squad together, and the Singoporean offlaner moved to the roster of Vici Gaming to close out the year. Iceiceice spent around a year and a half with Vici Gaming, earning a litany of accolades within the Chinese region and helping the team finish 4th at TI5 and make appearances at both The Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors. In March of 2016, he left Vici Gaming to join the roster of EHOMe, but left the organization just 5 months later after a 5th-6th place finish with the team at TI6. In September of 2016, iceiceice announced his return to the Southeast Asian region with Team Faceless, with the squad becoming a leader in its home region and making appearances at 2 Majors across 2016 and 2017. After falling short in the TI7 Southeast Asia Qualifier, Team Faceless disbanded, and iceiceice found himself transitioning to the lineup of Mineski as a part of its rebuild in preparation for the Pro Circuit season. Since joining the team, iceiceice has helped elevate Mineski to a position as one of the leading teams both in Southeast Asia and the Pro Circuit. The team closed out the season in somewhat weaker fashion than it may have been hoping for, but iceiceice’s performance has continued to be relatively reliable and consistent for the team. If the team wants to have a shot at claiming the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver, then iceiceice will need to display his ability to dominate matches from the offlane position on the TI stage.
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong (Support) – On a team with a number of famous names from both regional veterans and up-and-coming talent, Jabz often gets lost in the mix a bit when discussing Mineski’s roster. The Thai support has shown himself to be a valuable asset for the team though, fitting perfectly into the mold of the current 4 position or “roaming” support. Equal parts lane controller and initiator, Jabz’s hero pool gives Mineski the ability to shift between team fight, pushing, and aggressively oriented draft strategies without putting its players into uncomfortable or weak positions. It’s a skillset that the support player has been developing and improving since his Dota 2 career began back in 2014 with Thai squad Everlast.GameFilling. Though that squad never met with much success in his brief time on the roster, the experience was enough for Jabz to get his foot in the door, as he joined the MITH.Trust squad that would later sign with Signature at the start of 2015 to become Signature.Trust. Though Jabz spent nearly 2 years with the team, Signature.Trust never advanced beyond the status of a background team within the Southeast Asian region. However, Jabz’s impressive support play with the team opened up an opportunity for him when current teammate Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang began recruiting Southeast Asian players for the roster of Team Faceless. Jabz transitioned from the support role to the midlaner position upon joining Team Faceless, and the team quickly established itself as a leader in the Southeast Asian region. The squad qualified for both The Boston and Kiev Majors in 2016 and 2017, earning a 9th-16th place finish in the former but an impressive 5th-8th place finish in the latter. However, a stretch of difficulties in the months that followed those performances led the team to make a few positional changes, among them being a return to the support position for Jabz. Despite those changes, Team Faceless failed to earn a spot at TI7 with a disappointing 6th-10th place finish in the TI7 Southeast Asia Qualifier. Soon after that failed run, the team disbanded, and Jabz opted to follow iceiceice to the roster of Mineski in the roster shuffles that preceded the start of the Pro Circuit season. Since his addition to the roster, Mineski has pushed itself into a position as the leading team in the Southeast Asian region and a contender on the Pro Circuit. Jabz may not be a player that will be able to single handedly take over a match, but he won’t have to in Vancouver. One of the keys to success for the team at TI8 will be for Jabz to continue to serve as a facilitator for his teammates, and his support style makes him especially equipped to do just that.
Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr. (Support, Captain) – Mineski’s support player and captain is a man who has been a member of the organization’s lineup longer than any other player on the roster. Ninjaboogie has been a constant of the Mineski organization for almost 2 years now, having remained with the squad through its various rebuilds and roster shuffles. This season, the support player has also taken on the responsibility of serving as the team’s captain, handling the drafting for the squad alongside coach Tang “71” Wenyi. Ninjaboogie’s career in professional Dota 2 began in April of 2012, when he transferred from Duskbin’s Heroes of Newerth team in order to take the helm of its first Dota 2 roster. Aside from a 4th place finish in the TI2 East Qualifier, that squad found little success, and in January of 2013 Ninjaboogie left the team to become the captain of Neolution.int. His time with the squad was abruptly cut short in May, when he was removed from the lineup just prior to the start of the TI3 Qualifiers. After spending the final months of the year on the roster of Team Impervious, Ninjaboogie moved to Execraction in December and began 2014 as the team’s midlaner. The team managed to finish in the 3rd-4th place position at The Inaugural in April, but didn’t accomplish much aside from that and disbanded in late May. Ninjaboogie found himself joined the roster of Rave just 2 weeks later, and helped the squad rise to a relatively prominent position within the Southeast Asian scene. The team got its first shot to play in a significant international event in 2015 with a 5th-6th place finish at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2015, but Rave proved unable to build upon that performance and failed to qualify for TI5. Following that qualifier run, the team announced that Ninjaboogie was retiring from Dota 2, although that retirement didn’t last very long. After making several appearances on the roster of Banaaaanas and Mineski-X towards the end of 2015 and early 2016, Ninjaboogie returned to the Rave roster in February. His return did little to improve the team’s fortunes, as Rave was unable to regain the form that it had in his last stint with the team. Facing a series of poor performances, Ninjaboogie left Rave in July of 2016 to join the Mineski organization, where he has remained for nearly 2 years. Ninjaboogie has seen both the highs and the lows of Mineski over the course of its rebuilding process, and as such should have a solid handle of what strategies and tactics work and have worked for the roster as it currently stands. That level of insight into the strengths of his teammates, as well as his own impressive play at the support position, will be absolutely critical if Mineski wants to put itself in the best position to succeed in Vancouver.
Tang “71” Wenyi (Coach) – In the majority of cases in the Dota 2 world, a team’s coach is either a former player or a player that is between teams and waiting for the offseason to join a new team. However, Mineski is in a somewhat different situation as 71 is essentially a professional coach rather than a former player. The Chinese coach has been involved in the esports scene as far back as 2003, and has coached Chinese squads in Counter-Strike, DotA, and Dota 2 over the years. His time in Dota 2 began in 2011, when he coached EHOME to its 2nd place finish at the first iteration of The International. When EHOME disbanded its roster in November of 2012, 71 found himself taking a step back from the game for a few months before returning to the scene in 2013 as the coach of Team DK. Under 71’s guidance, Team DK rose to be one of the most formidable teams in the Chinese scene, and claimed a 4th place finish at TI4. Unfortunately, that TI4 roster ended up leaving the organization by the end of the year, and 71 ended up leaving Team DK as well to return to a coaching position with EHOME at the start of 2015. He served as EHOME’s coach at its runs at both TI5 and TI6, helping the team earn 5th-6th place finishes in both events. Following the team’s TI6 run, 71 stepped down from coaching once again, but requests from former Team DK member Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung helped convince him to make a move to the Southeast Asian region to serve as the coach for Mineski in 2018. With 71 serving as the team’s coach, Mineski earned the first ever Major Championship for the Southeast Asian region, but the squad ended its Pro Circuit campaign looking a bit weaker than it may have liked. With insight and guidance from the veteran coach, the squad is hoping that it can address its various late-season issues and enter TI8 back in its Major-winning form. In 71’s history as a coach, he has never had a team finish lower than 6th on the TI stage, and Mineski will look to keep that record intact as it makes its way to Vancouver.
Expectations at TI8
Mineski enters TI8 in a somewhat uncomfortable position after a weaker than expected end to its Pro Circuit campaign. While the Southeast Asian squad did end the regular season in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings and secured a direct invite to TI8, it finished outside of the Top 4 in its final 4 Pro Circuit appearances and in 7 of its 10 event appearances in 2018. Under normal circumstances, those kinds of results would imply that a team is on the decline in the Dota 2 world, but Mineski present a somewhat different case. Right in the middle of that stretch of misses on the Pro Circuit stage sits the team’s first and only Major Championship title at DAC 2018. No team wins a Major on accident or through a fluke, and Mineski has shown itself to be more than capable of finding success on the international level. In fact, a look at the team’s final performances of the season do quite a bit to soften the narrative of a slumping squad limping its way to the end of the season. Yes, Mineski missed out on Top 4 finishes in its last 4 Major appearances, but at 3 of those 4 events the team finished in the 5th-6th place position. The Southeast Asian squad had 3 straight instances where it stood just 1 series, or even 1 game, away from cracking the Top 4. Of course, one would like for a leading team in the Pro Circuit standings to be more consistent in reaching that mark, but there is an important distinction from being 1 step away from success as opposed to a more serious slide. Make no mistake, Mineski had some issues with its play over the second half of the season that it will need to address if it wants to have a legitimate shot at success in Vancouver. However, the team has proven that it has the talent and experience it needs to find success, and time will tell if the Southeast Asian leader can return to top form in time to make a run at TI8.