Prelude for a Champion 2018: A TI8 Team Profile – VGJ.Storm

Storm Warning: North American squad VGJ.Storm hopes to ride the momentum of its late-season surge and put together a successful campaign in its first appearance on the TI stage.

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 turn our attention to 1 of the 3 teams in the field representing the North American region, and 1 of the 2 squads playing under the VGJ banner in Vancouver: VGJ.Storm.

 

VGJ.Storm VGJ Storm

Region: North America (NA)

Dota 2 Pro Circuit Rank: 10th (1347 Qualifying Points)

Qualification Method: TI8 North America Qualifier (1st Place)

2017-2018 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 4 (2 Top 4 Finishes)

Previous TI Appearances: 0 (TI Debut)

2017-2018 Season Notable Achievements:
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Majors
2nd – MDL Changsha

Dota 2 Pro Circuit Minors
1st – GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor

 

Team History

VGJ.Storm is a name that had not been around in the Dota 2 scene for all that long, as the team was only founded in the run up to the first Pro Circuit season. However, the team’s parent organization, Team VGJ, has a slightly longer history in the Dota 2 world. The organization originally came into being in September of 2016, when Vici Gaming created an offshoot group to be backed by a major Chinese sponsor and a celebrity endorser in the form of NBA player Jeremy Lin. The new Team VGJ immediately set itself to work building up a reputation within the Chinese region, and by the start of 2017 it had emerged as a legitimate power in regional competitions. 2017 also saw Team VGJ make its first appearances on the international stage, with the team earning the chance to compete in events like the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3, The Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017, The Kiev Major ,and DOTA Summit 7.

However, those appearances didn’t give the team enough momentum to qualify for TI7, and the squad opted for some changes heading into the first Pro Circuit season. While the organization’s Chinese roster underwent roster changes, Team VGJ also decided that the time had come to expand its reach with a second squad. The original Chinese squad was rebranded to VGJ.Thunder, and North American squad is GG was signed by the organization to play under the name VGJ.Storm.

 

Season in Review

Looking at the season as a whole for VGJ.Storm is somewhat difficult, as the organization has fielded two essentially completely different rosters over the course of the season. The former is GG squad that the team began the season with managed to hold its own over the first few months of its campaign, netting 5 Top 4 finishes across its 9 Pro Circuit qualifier runs. 1 of those performances qualified VGJ.Storm for a spot at the MDL Macau Minor in December, but changes to the roster introduced some issues for the North American squad. At the end of November, Ravindu “Ritsu” Kodippili left the team, forcing VGJ.Storm to play with a stand-in at the Minor where it finished at the bottom of the standings in the 5th-9th place position. In January of 2018, the squad lost 2 more players from its roster, and by the start of February the organization opted to drop its lineup entirely.

Around the time that the original VGJ.Storm lineup was beginning to fall apart another squad was on the rise in the North American region in the form of Team IDC. The team had formed to play through Open Qualifiers on the Pro Circuit, and had managed to earn themselves spots in 2 regional qualifiers in 2018. Just 2 weeks after it had dropped its previous lineup, VGJ.Storm signed the member of Team IDC to form a new lineup to carry on the VGJ.Storm name on the Pro Circuit. The new roster was met with near immediate success in North America, as VGJ.Storm found Top 4 finishes in 5 of its 6 qualifier runs in 2018. During that time, the squad went through 1 final change to its roster, as Enzo “Timado” Gianoli as replaced in the lineup by Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok. The squad continued to perform well in its qualifier appearances, 3 of its runs resulting in VGJ.Storm qualifying for Pro Circuit events, beginning with the new lineup’s debut on the Pro Circuit stage at the GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor. The squad put together an impressive display at the event, outperforming fellow TI8 attendees Team Secret, Evil Geniuses, and Fnatic to claim its first Minor Championship of the season. Just a week later, the team would put on an even more incredible show at the MDL Changsha Major by finishing 2nd in its Group and defeating OG, Team Secret, and Vici Gaming to finish 2nd overall in the event standings. The team cooled off a bit in its final Pro Circuit appearance of the season, as VGJ.Storm finished in the 9th-12th place position at the China Dota2 Supermajor. However, the squad had proven itself capable of competing on the international level, and the team managed to dominate the TI8 North America Qualifier to earn itself a place in Vancouver.

 

Roster

Yawar “YawaR” Hassan (Carry) – When your brother is a member of a well known orgnaization like Evil Geniuses and is already famous in the Dota 2 world as a TI Champion, it can be a little difficult to slip out from under the title of the “other brother”. That is the situation that YawaR has been in for most of his career as the brother of TI5 Champion Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan, but YawaR has shown that he is no slouch in the Dota 2 scene. Playing as a hybrid carry and midlaner for VGJ.Storm, he has shown a high level of reliability with a mix of high damage, lane dominant heroes and more sturdy team fight anchoring cores. Though he has begun playing in the middle lane more often than not, the carry position is where YawaR spent the majority of his career, beginning in 2015 when his time as a professional began. YawaR bounded around a bit at the start of his career, spending parts of 2015 on the rosters of both eHug and Champions of Summer’s Rift before settling with Digital Chaos in August. With Digital Chaos, he was able to find a degree of stability, and helped the team find Top 4 finishes in a slew of regional qualifiers and events over the final months of 2015. However, the start of 2016 introduced some roster issues for the team, and by March the Digital Chaos roster had been effectively disbanded. YawaR spent the rest of the year moving between minor squads in the region, playing for teams like EverNovaS, Views 6, and an Open Qualifier squad named EG BULBA. 2017 would bring more success for YawaR, but unfortunately it did not bring much more stability in terms of the teams that he played for. He won the KOD League Season IV with Doo Wop in January, but left the team soon after in order to join the roster of is GG. With the is GG squad, YawaR managed to put together a solid string of qualifier performances, and the team was signed by Team Freedom in May of 2017. Under the Team Freedom banner, YawaR won the DOta 2 BEAT Invitational – Season 8, but fell short of the mark to qualify for TI7. Soon after that, the team disbanded, and YawaR spent the next several months as a stand-in and temporary roster member for a handful of teams in the North American region before joining the Team IDC roster that was picked up by VGJ.Storm in February of 2018. His stint with VGJ.Storm over the second half of the Pro Circuit season has put his skills on display at the international level. If the North American squad wants to prove that its run of success in the last few months was more than a flash in the pan, then YawaR is going to have to contribute in a major way and help lead his team to success in Vancouver.

Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok (Mid) –  Resolut1on is a name that very few people in the Dota 2 world will be unfamiliar with, as the Ukrainian player has been in the spotlight for several years now playing at the highest level in the professional scene. Resolut1on has proven himself to be one of the most talented players in the Dota 2 world, but he has never quite been able to collect the international results needed to fully substantiate that claim. Despite that, he has built up a solid reputation and has earned himself experience across a variety of different teams and even different regions, playing for CIS, North American, and European squads throughout his career. That career began when Resolut1on was just 17 years old, as he got his start int he professional scene in 2013 as the midlaner of the CIS squad ICCup. That team was able to find some early success in the CIS and European regions, winning the StarLadder ProSeries Season 5 and placing 2nd in the StarLadder StarSeries Season 6. In August of 2013, the ICCup lineup was picked up by Terrible Terrible Damage, but Resolut1on was acquired by Virtus.pro just 2 weeks later. His stint with VP didn’t last long though, as Resolut1on left the team in October to join the roster of RoX.KIS, though he was there for just 1 month before signing with Team Empire in November. It was with Team Empire that Resolut1on truly emerged as a talent in the CIS region and on the international stage as a whole. He led the team to a litany of successes in the first half of 2014, including wins in the Excellent Moscow Cup and the Dota 2 Champions League Season 3. Those performances earned Team Empire its first ever appearance on the TI stage at TI4, though it finished in the 13th-14th place position at the event. With Resolut1on in the lineup, Team Empire continued to be a leading team in the CIS region, racking up more and more success in 2015 and making a return to the TI stage at TI5. Resolut1on opened 2016 on the Team Empire roster, but left the team in February after over 2 years with the squad to move to the North American region with Digital Chaos. Digital Chaos became an immediate force within North America, contending with the region’s more established squads and even putting together a stretch of 4 straight qualifier wins in May of 2016. With Digital Chaos, Resolut1on made his third straight TI appearance, as the North American squad finished 2nd at TI6 after losing 1-3 in the Grand Finals to Wings Gaming. The squad closed out 2016 with a 3rd-4th place finish at The Boston Major, and looked to be one of the strongest squads in the Dota 2 world entering 2017. However, it wasn’t meant to be for the squad, as Digital Chaos dropped its roster in April, leading to the team playing under the name Thunderbirds for a period of about a month before being signed by Planet Odd. Despite continuing to perform admirably, the team disbanded in August, and Resolut1on himself ended up playing at TI7 as a stand-in for his old squad, Team Empire. Though he began the Pro Circuit season on the roster of European squad OG, Resolut1on was removed from the team in March of 2018, which led him to return to North America by joining VGJ.Storm in April. Resolut1on brings a degree of star power to the VGJ.Storm lineup that it may very well come to depend on in Vancouver. Successful teams on the TI stage are always strong as a unit, but the very best squads often have 1 or 2 players that it knows it can count on for truly inspiring performances. Resolut1on will have to be that player for VGJ.Storm if it wants to pose a legitimate threat to the favorites in the field at TI8.

Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu (Offlane) – Sneyking is not a player that has earned himself a particularly high level of fame within the international scene, but VGJ.Storm’s offlaner has certainly built himself up as a veteran of the North American region. Over the course of the first half of his career, Sneyking played as a midlaner, with occasional shifts into the carry position mixed in. However, in recent years he has shifted into the offlane role, where his experience as a team fight controller and play maker from his time as a midlaner has appeared to translate well. Sneyking’s position may have changed over the years, but his style has remained somewhat more consistent, going back all the way to 2012 when his Dota 2 career began with North American squad PotM Bottom. The team burst onto the scene in North America, and by September the roster had been picked up by UK organization Team Dignitas. Sneyking continued to find success with the team through the end of 2012 and over the first half of 2013, but after that, things began to go bad for the squad. It’s performance started to decline a bit, and while Team Dignitas was able to earn a place at TI3, it finished in the 9th-12th place position at the event and disbanded soon after. SneyKing finished 2013 on the roster of Super Strong Dinosaurs, winning both the Fourth and Fifth Cup of the Netolic Pro League #4 West before the team disbanded in December. Sneyking began 2014 without a team, and remained inactive for a few months before joining the roster of North American Rejects at the end of April. That squad was able to win the TI4 Americas Qualifier, and in June of 2014 was signed by the Na’Vi organization to form Na’Vi North America. The new partnership did not last long though, as the team finished in the 15th-16th place position at TI4 and disbanded in December. After a hiatus of over 8 months, Sneyking returned to the Dota 2 world in August of 2015 as a member of the Void Boys roster, where he remained for just 3 months before moving to Power of Friendship in December. While Sneyking began 2016 with Power of Friendship, he would do quite a bit of moving before the end of the year. In March, he left Power of Friendship, joining the roster of Dragneel 1 month later in April of 2016. While that squad managed to perform fairly well in regional qualifiers, it failed to reach any significant events and disbanded in May, which led Sneyking to move to the roster of Void Boys once again. That stint would prove to be relatively short as well, as Sneyking failed to qualify for TI6 with Void Boys and left in September to join Doo Wop. 2017 ended up being another busy year for Sneyking in terms of roster moves, as the offlaner left Doo Wop fairly early in the year to join is GG. In May of 2017, is GG was signed by Team Freedom, but failed to qualify for TI7 and broke up soon after. Sneyking and about half of the Team Freedom lineup reformed is GG in August of 2017 to compete on the Pro Circuit, and that squad was picked up by Team VGJ in September to form the original VGJ.Storm lineup. Though that lineup was dropped by the organization in January of 2018, Sneyking ended up as a member of the Team IDC squad that would be signed as the new VGJ.Storm in February, putting him back on his former team. Sneyking has earned an extensive level of experience within the North American region, but his record of success on the international level is not quite up to that same level. Either way, the VGJ.Storm lineup will likely look to him as a source of leadership that will be absolutely vital if the squad wants to find success in Vancouver.

Arif “MSS” Anwar (Support) – MSS is a player that has seen more than his fair share of action within the North American region, as the offlaner turned support player stands as a veteran of the scene. While he has never been able to find high level success like some of the more famous players in North America, MSS has proven himself to be a talented player and has handled the switch to the support role with little difficulties. As a former midlaner and offlaner, he has taken a shine to the aggressive, roaming tendencies of the position 4 support, and can be relied upon to create opportunities for the team’s core players. As previously mentioned, MSS has spent almost all of career prior to this point in a core position, beginning in 2013 as the midlaner for Fnatic.NA. His stay with the squad was short, as Fnatic.NA disbanded in May of 2013 and MSS was forced to spend a few months as a free agent before joining Evil Geniuses in September. Unfortunately, MSS found little success with EG, and by February of 2014 he was on the move once again. In March of 2014, he became a member of the Team Dog lineup that was picked up by the mousesports organization in May. Under the mousesports name, MSS qualified for TI4, but finished in the 11th-12th place position at the event and announced a hiatus from professional Dota soon after. Though he returned to the Dota 2 world in 2015, the year would see him jump between a number of different squads and organizations, including North American Rejects, Team Archon, Dark Horse, Cloud9, and Shazam. That last squad proved to be a bit more stable than the others, as MSS joined the roster in December of 2015 and remained with the squad for over 8 months. During that time, the team emerged as a relatively consistent competitor within the North American region, but failed to reach the TI8 North America Qualifier and fell apart in the post-TI shuffle. In September of 2016, MSS joined the roster of Team NP, and helped the squad make appearances at the Northern Arena BEAT Invitational, The Summit 6, and The Boston Major before the end of the year. The team continued its run of success in 2017, and even won the TI7 North America Qualifier to earn a place in Seattle at TI7, though under the Cloud9 name after the organization acquired its roster. Unfortunately, a 13th-16th place finish at the event spelled the end of Cloud9, which led MSS to seek out a new team for the Pro Circuit season. He began the season on the roster of Digital Chaos, but found himself a free agent following the squad’s disbanding in November. After sitting out the final month of the year, MSS returned to active play in January of 2018 as a member of Immortals, though he would spent less than a month on the roster. He was replaced in the lineup at the end of January, moving to the roster of Team IDC and being signed by VGJ.Storm in February. The TI stage has never been particularly kind to MSS in his career, but with a new set of teammates and a new position for himself, the hope is that the North American veteran can finally put himself in a position to succeed with this campaign in Vancouver.

Avery “SVG” Silverman (Support, Captain) – SVG is a name that very few outside of the North American region has likely heard of, but VGJ.Storm’s support player and captain has built up a reputation as a highly skilled and knowledgeable player within the region. He has served as both a coach and a player throughout the course of his career, and with VGJ.Storm he has played a style that emphasizes both single target controlling supports and more team fight based picks as well. His time as a professional player began in August of 2015 with the roster of Dark Horse, though he played under that name for just 1 month before the squad was signed by Cloud9 in September. That squad was able to put together a somewhat impressive stretch in North America, but a 13th-16th place finish at The Frankfurt Major in November led to the squad being released by Cloud9. In December, SVG joined the roster of Shazam, helping to guide the squad to a string of 7 straight Top 2 finishes in regional events and qualifiers in 2016. Unfortunately, that string of performances did not include a run at the TI6 North America Qualifier, as the team did not reach the regional stage and SVG left the team soon after to serve as a coach for Evil Geniuses. After coaching the squad to a 3rd place finish at TI6, SVG returned to active play in September of 2016 with Team NP and guided the team to Top 2 finishes in its first 5 regional qualifiers. One of those qualifier runs earned the team a place at The Boston Major in December, where the squad finished in the 5th-8th place position and began to look like a leading force in the North American region. SVG remained with Team NP through the start of 2017, but in April he was kicked from the team and returned to Evil Geniuses to reclaim his former coaching position. He was EG’s coach during its 9th-12th place run at TI7, and continued to serve as coach for the squad through the first half of the Pro Circuit season before leaving in December of 2017. In January of 2018, he appeared as a member of the Team World roster, but when the squad moved to Echo International name in February, SVG did not go with them and became a free agent once again. Just days later, he was seen playing with the lineup of Team IDC, and was signed by VGJ.Storm later that month. With experience playing and coaching at the highest level, SVG sits in a strong position to help VGJ.Storm find success on the TI stage. The team has talent and experience on its side, but the team will need strong drafting and tactical thinking from its captain if it wants to take down some of the titans of the Dota 2 world that are in the field at TI8.

Aaron “Clairvoyance” Kim (Coach) – Clairvoyance is a player that never really found much success for himself as a player in the Dota 2 world, but the Canadian player has been able to contribute significantly to teams from the coaching position. His time as both a player and coach has been confined to the North American region, and he has seen action in both positions with minor squads and major organizations alike. His career began back in 2013 as a member of a semi-pro squad called To Inphinity and Beyond, though he played for the team for only around a month. After serving as a stand-in within the region for a while, Clairvoyance found his way to Evil Geniuses, where he earned his first experience as a coach on a somewhat intermittent basis. After serving as an on-and-off coach for the squad, Clairvoyance left Evil Geniuses in April of 2014, but opted to not to return to active play. Instead, be joined Cloud9 in May as a coach, and helped guide the team to its 5th-6th place finish at TI4. Before the end of the year, Clairvoyance would leave the Cloud9 organization, and in February of 2015 he returned to active play with the roster of North American squad Monib Baray. His time with that squad lasted just under a month though, with the team disbanding in March and Clairvoyance going without a team for nearly 6 months. In September, he joined the roster of High Council of Qizards&Priests in the post-TI shuffle, but stayed with the squad for just 2 weeks before leaving to become a free agent once again. In 2016, he would once again attempt to find a team, but he would end up bouncing between a few teams that year. He joined the roster of Dragneel in May, but stayed with the team for a little over a month before leaving to join Void Boys in June just in time to make an unsuccessful run in the TI6 Americans Qualifiers. In September, he left the Void Boys roster and served as a member of the Doo Wop lineup for around 2 months before opting to step down from an active position. In November of 2017, he returned to the coaching role and joined the VGJ.Storm squad, where he has remained ever since. It’s hard to tell exactly how much Clairvoyance has contributed to VGJ.Storm’s recent run of success, as the coach does the majority of his work for a team behind the scenes. However, the thing that one can be sure of is that the squad is going to need every bit of his experience and guidance if it wants to have the best shot at finding success in Vancouver.

 

Expectations at TI8

VGJ.Storm’s late-season run has it sitting in a relatively strong position as it prepares for TI8. The team did not have quite as many opportunities on the Pro Circuit stage as some of the other squads in the field, but the North American team made sure to make the most of the ones that it earned in 2018. Even with its impressive run over the final half of the season, VGJ.Storm is far from a favorite to claim the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver, as it still sits quite a ways below leading squads like Virtus.pro, Team Liquid, PSG.LGD, and Team Secret. However, the team’s recent play does suggest that the North American squad could be one of the more formidable teams in the field at TI8, and could potentially rise up to challenge some of the more established leaders on the TI stage. The team’s lineup has skilled and experienced players, with the majority of its roster having previous experience on the TI stage. Of course, that kind of projection is something of an optimistic speculation, as the VGJ.Storm lineup still has a few minor concerns heading into the event. The first concern for the team is the fact that its experience on the Pro Circuit this season wasn’t exactly extensive. The goods news for the team is that most of what we saw from it on the Pro Circuit stage was incredibly impressive. However, all of its Pro Circuit appearances came within a span of about 1 month, which opens the door to questions regarding whether it can consistently play at that level. The team’s recent run through the TI8 Open Qualifier and the TI8 North America Qualifier showed us that the team is still looking solid, but the difference in skill between North American squads and the field in Vancouver is significant. As it stands now, VGJ.Storm looks like a team sitting right in the middle of the field in terms of expectations at TI8. If the squad falters and cannot regain that form that helped it emerge on the Pro Circuit, then it will fall into the lower half of the standings rather easily. However, should the team show that its late-season surge was something that it can consistently produce, then the North American squad should finish in the top half of the standings and could put together a run to push deep into the bracket on the TI stage.

 

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