Forward or Back?: North American squad Newbee (formerly Forward Gaming) looks to overcome a season of mediocrity on the international level to put together a successful run at TI9
With the conclusion of the second even Dota 2 Pro Circuit campaign, the attention of the Dota 2 world now shifts to the game’s biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season set the stage, but now the time has come for 18 of the world’s best teams to take their shot at earning immortality as they look to cement their place in Dota 2 history with a victorious run at The International 2019 in Shanghai, China. For the first time in its history, TI moves away from the western world into the waiting arms of the Chinese scene, with TI9 set to be hosted in the Mercedes-Benz Arena as the venue will transform into the crucible from which one squad will emerge with the Aegis of Champions in hand. With the even itself fast approaching, this series will serve to highlight each of the 18 participating squads that will be making their way to Shanghai in the hopes of becoming TI9 Champion. Each post will focus upon a specific team in the field for this event, with a small overview of the organization’s history, a review of its 2018-2019 season, a run down of the members of its roster, keys to success entering TI9, and expectations for the squad at the event itself. Whether one is a newcomer to the pro scene or an avid Pro Circuit spectator, these posts will hopefully serve as a useful source of information or a refresher course on the teams that will be battling it out in Shanghai in August. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at 1 of the 2 North American squads in the field for this event, and the winner of the TI9 North America Qualifier: Newbee.
Newbee (Formerly Forward Gaming)
Region: North America
Pro Circuit Rank: 16th (304.88 Pro Circuit Points)
Qualification Method: TI9 North America Qualifier 1st Place
2018-2019 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 5 (0 Top 4 finishes) (All appearances made as Forward Gaming)
Previous TI Appearances: TI4 (1st), TI5 (13th-16th), TI6 (9th-12th), TI7 (2nd), TI8 (13th-16th)
2018-2019 Season Notable Achievements:
Pro Circuit Majors:
9th-12th – The Kuala Lumpur Major
9th-12th – EPICENTER Major
13th-16th – The Chongqing Major
13th-16th – DreamLeague Season 11 Major
Pro Circuit Minors:
5th-6th – OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019
Pro Circuit Qualifiers:
1st – OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 North America Qualifier
1st – EPICENTER Major 2019 North America Closed Qualifier
2nd – The Kuala Lumpur Major North America Qualifier
2nd – The Chongqing Major North America Qualifier
3rd – DreamLeague Season 11 North America Qualifier
4th – MDL Disneyland Paris Major North America Closed Qualifier
Non-Pro Circuit Events:
5th-6th – MegaFon Winter Clash
5th-8th – WePlay! Dota 2 Winter Madness
7th-8th – ESL One Hamburg 2018
7th-8th – LOOT.BET Winter Masters
9th-10th – ESL One Katowice 2019
11th-12th – ESL One Birmingham 2019
1st – King’s Cup 2: North America
1st – Qi Invitational America
Note: This section will cover the history of the team’s former organization (Forward Gaming) rather than Newbee, as Newbee only sponsored the squad after its TI9 qualification
The history of the Forward Gaming organization is a relatively short one, as the North American organization was only formed in the days leading up to the 2018-2019 season and technically no longer exists as it has cased all operations as of July. The organization signed its first and only Dota 2 roster in September of 2018, picking up the former roster of VGJ.Storm after the North America team opted to part ways with the VGJ organization.
Season in Review
Forward Gaming came into the 2018-2019 with some relatively high expectations, as it new roster was just coming off of a 7th-8th place performance at TI8. The team started off the season with some strong performances within its home region, notching 3 straight Top 4 finishes in its first 3 regional appearances. On the international level though, the squad was not nearly as strong, finishing outside of the Top 4 in all 3 of its appearances away from North American, including a 9th-12th place showing at The Kuala Lumpur Major. The start of the 2019 section of the season did not result in much improvement for the squad, as the team finished outside of the Top 4 in its 5 of its first 6 events from January through March and put up back to back 13th-16th place performances at The Chongqing and DreamLeague Season 11 Majors.
At the end of March, the organization opted to make a chance, as Forward Gaming announced a new roster. UNiVeRsE, SVG, and Resolut1on were removed from the team’s lineup, with CCnC, Sneyking , and Kitrak being brought to replace them. A month later, Kitrak would be replaced by pieliedie to form its current lineup. The roster changes had a near immediate effect on the squad, as Forward Gaming notched Top 4 finishes in its final 5 regional appearances of the season. Unfortunately, the team’s improvements at home still didn’t translate into success on the international level, as the squad finished in the 5th-6th place position at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019, 11th-12th at ESL One Birmingham 2019, and 9th-12th at the EPICENTER Major. The good news for the squad is that its strong play at home would be what determined whether or not it earned a place at TI9, as the squad tore its way through the TI9 North America Qualifier with a 14-1 record against its regional rivals to secure itself place in Shanghai. The end of the regular season and the TI9 Qualifier wasn’t the end for Forward Gaming though, as the organization announced on July 21that it would be ceasing all operations and released its Dota 2 roster. On July 24, it was announced that the Newbee organization would be sponsoring the squad for its TI9 run, leading to the team player under the Newbee name and banner in Shanghai.
Yawar “YawaR” Hassan (Carry)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 7.87 kills, 9.54 assists, 3.14 deaths per game (128 matches)
As the brother of EG Midlaner SumaiL, YawaR often find himself somewhat overshadowed in the Dota 2 world. However, the Carry’s path to the top tier of competitive play has certainly not been an easy one, as the elder Hassan brother has but in quite a bit of work to reach this stage. After beginning his career back in 2015 with stints on a pair of relatively minor regional squads, YawaR joined Digital Chaos in August of 2015, though the team’s roster would effectively disband by March of 2016. Throughout the rest of 2016 and all of 2017, he would drift between the rosters of a bevy of Tier 2 and 3 squads in North America, struggling to find consistent success with in the region. In February of 2018, YawaR joined the VGJ.Storm roster, helping the squad put together an impressive second half to the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season and claiming a MInor Championship title at the GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor. After a successful run through the TI8 North America Qualifier, YawaR helped VGJ.Storm put together an impressive 7th-8th place performance at TI8 itself, with he and the rest of the VGJ.Storm roster being signed by Forward Gaming soon after. As a member of Forward Gaming, YawaR favored two different styles of play, one focused on high damage and highly maneuverable heroes, and another focused on less maneuverable heroes with more sustained damage. The first group of heroes saw the likes of Mirana, Phantom Assassin, Ember Spirit, Morphling, and Monkey King feature prominently, while the latter included picks like Troll Warlord, Lifestealer and Outworld Devourer. No matter which heroes he ended up being placed on though, YawaR expressed a desire to be active much earlier in matches than many of his peers. The Carry tended to avoid the sort of high-volume hyper carry heroes in favor of those capable of fighting from a relatively early period. With averages of 7.48 kills and 9.24 assists on 3.27 deaths per game, that strategy more often than not helped YawaR and his squad set a pace of play that was the most comfortable for their own game plan.
Quinn “CCnC” Callahan (Mid)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 6.22 kills, 10.75 assists, 3.08 deaths per game (64 matches)
Much like the other half of Newbee’s Carry/Mid duo, CCnC has had to work his way up the ranks to earn himself a place at the top level of competition. Originally breaking into the professional scene in 2016 as a member of FDL, CCNC was a relatively unheralded talent through the first year or two of his career. After solid but inconsistent results with a bevy of squads across 2016 and 2017, CCnC got his chance to shine in September of 2017 as he joined the lineup of The Dire that would go on to be signed by OpTic Gaming. As a member of the team, CCnC would get some of his first significant experience on the international levle, attending 2 Minors and 5 Majors with the squad before putting together a 7th-8th place performance at TI8. In the aftermath of TI8 though, OpTic Gaming disbanded, leaving CCnC to begin the 2018-2019 season on the roster of paiN X. Following a controversy regarding alleged region hopping, paiN X and its successor squad, Test123, disbanded, leaving CCnC as a free agent. In March of 2019, he would join up with the roster of Forward Gaming, and would remain with the squad through the end of the season and its acquisition by Newbee. Over the course of this 2018-2019 campaign, CCnC has most often served as the anchor for his team’s lineups, being placed on relatively survivable heroes with an emphasis on team fight damage. His most played heroes include Ember Spirit, Death Prophet, Outworld Devourer, Razor, and Kunkka, with the Midlaner holding a combined win rate of 62% in 50 total matches with those heroes. CCnC’s active style has helped to create opportunities for both himself and his teammates, with the Midlaner being just 1 of 7 TI9 participants to average at least 10 assists per game at his position. Between his own team fight oriented style, and the more active group of heroes used by YawaR, Forward Gaming often found itself with a sizable level of team fight power in the early stages of a match. While it hasn’t always translated into success for the squad, especially on the international level, the ability to potentially control the pace of a match is a valuable asset for the squad as it heads into TI9.
Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu (Offlane)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 4.64 kills, 12.61 assists, 3.44 deaths per game (64 matches)
Sneyking comes into TI9 as one of the most experienced players in the North American region, with the Offlaner’s career stretching back to some of the earliest days of North American Dota 2. His career began as a member of the PotM Bottom squad that went on to be signed by Team Dignitas, with Sneyking playing for the organization for nearly a year before leaving in August of 2013 after a 9th-12th place finish at TI3. He would close out the year on the roster of Super Strong Dinosaurs, before moving over the the roster of North American Rejects in April of 2014. That squad would go on to be signed by the Na’Vi organization as Na’Vi.North America and post a 15th-16th place showing at TI4, but by the end of the year the squad had disbanded. The next 3 years would see Sneyking drift between vaiours minor squads in North America, though none of them would ifnd sustained success within the North American region. In September of 2017, Sneyking joined up with VGJ.Storm for the 2017-2018 season, helping the squad claim a Minor title while attending 2 of the season’s Majors before putting together an impressive 7th-8th place showing at TI8. When the VGJ.Storm roster signed on with Forward Gaming in the post-TI period though, Sneyking did not join his former teammates. He would spend the first half of the 2018-2019 season with a group of squads in North and South America, spending time with Complexity Gaming, Infamous, and Flying Penguins before eventually signing on with Forward Gaming in March of 2019. As the team’s Offlaner, Sneyking has largely kept to the traditional role of his positions, favoring initiating, team fight oriented heroes. His most played heroes in this 2018-2019 season feature the likes of Centaur Warrunner, Dark Seer, and Beastmaster, with the veteran holding a 77.14% win rate in 35 total matches on those heroes. His efforts have proven to be incredibly effective in creating opportunities for his teammates, as Sneyking comes into TI9 averaging 13 assists per game, the fourth highest average among Offlaners at the event. Considering the fact that the team’s Carry/Mid duo has a penchant for getting themselves involved in fights much earlier than most of their peers, having an Offlaner capable of consistently finding opportunities to take those fights will surely be an advantage for Newbee in Shanghai.
Arif “MSS” Anwar (Support)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 3.95 kills, 14.29 assists, 3.76 deaths per game (128 matches)
Like teammate Sneyking, MSS also stands as one of the more experienced players in the North American Dota scene and enters TI9 as one of the veterans on this Newbee roster. His career began back in 2013 as a member of the relatively short lived Fnatic.NA squad, spending a period of around 3 months with the squad before leaving the team. In September, MSS joined up with Evil Geniuses, though he would stay with the squad for only around 5 months before leaving. In March of 2014, he would join the Team Dog roster that would go on to be signed by the mousesports organization, making his TI debut with the squad in the form of an 11th-12th place showing at TI4. in the aftermath of that event, MSS announced a hiatus from Dota 2, taking a step away from the team for around 6 months. When he returned, MSS would begin a section of his career that would see him shift between a number of squads, as the veteran found himself playing for 6 different teams between 2015 and 2016. The final squad among those 6, Team NP, would finally provide MSS with some stability, as he would remain with the team for nearly a year and attend both The Boston major and TI7 with the squad (under the Cloud 9 name at TI7). In the aftermath of TI7 though, the team disbanded, with MSS starting out the 2017-2018 season on the roster of Digital Chaos before that squad would also disband in December of 2017. In February of 2018, MSS would join up with VGJ.Storm attending 2 Majors with the team and winning his first Minor title before helping the squad post an impressive 7th-8th place performance at TI8. When VGJ.Storm was signed by Forward Gaming in the 2018-2019 preseason, MSS went with it, remaining with Forward Gaming until the organization’s collapse and the roster’s sponsorship by Newbee. As the team’s Position 4 Support, MSS has emphasized heroes with heavy amounts of lock down, with this most played heroes of season featuring Rubick, Grimstroke, Earth Spirit, Shadow Shaman, Phoenix, and Earthshaker. Those control oriented heroes have given MSS ample opportunities to create plays for the rest of his team, with the Support averaging 13.80 assists per game. Though that average is not quite at the level of some of the elite play makers in the field for TI9 (Eighteenth highest average among all TI9 players), the efforts of MSS have certainly seemed to complement the more active and aggressive style of the team’s cores. Whether that is enough to find success on the TI stage remains to be seen, but any strong run for Newbee in Shanghai will almost certainly require the squad to lean upon MSS to create opportunities for the rest of the lineup.
Johan “pieliedie” Åström (Support, Captain)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 2.00 kills, 15.67 assists, 3.90 deaths per game (30 matches)
Though he was the most recent addition to the team’s roster, pieliedie will come into TI9 as one of the most experienced players in the field, as the veteran has found success at the highest level across both Europe and Southeast Asia. After coming over to Dota 2 from DotA in 2012, pieliedie joined up with RSnake.int in September of 2013, remaining with the squad through its rebranding and transition to Speed Gaming.int and later Cloud9, earning a 5th-6th place finish at TI4 with the latter. By the start of 2015 though, pieliedie’s time with Cloud9 had come to an end, with the Support parting ways with the organization. He would spend the majority of 2015 with Team Tinker and mousesports, before joining up with Team Secret in August of 2015. He would remain with the Team Secret organization for nearly 2 years, attending 4 Majors and 1 TI with the squad and winning 1 of those Majors with a 1st place performance at The Shanghai Major 2016. In May of 2017 though, pieliedie would leave the Team Secret roster joining up with Team NP only to have the roster be signed by Cloud9 for his second TI appearance with the organization. After a 13th-16th place finish at TI7, pieliedie opted for a move to Southeast Asia, joining the roster of Fnatic at the start of the 2017-2018 season. He would attend 4 Majors and 6 Minors with the squad, only to wind up with another disappointing TI performance with a 13th-16th place finish at TI8. In the aftermath of that event, pieliedie left Fnatic, spending the first half of the 2018-2019 season with Mineski before moving to North America in April of 2019 as a member of Forward Gaming. With the Forward Gaming/Newbee roster, pieliedie has focused his game upon his usual style of defensive lock down and team fight power. Heroes like Jakiro, Warlock, Chen, Oracle, Grimstroke, and Abaddon are among his most played with the squad, although with just 40 official matches played as a member of Forward Gaming/Newbee, the sample size is not quite as large as it could be. Across that small group of matches though, we have already seen just how much pieliedie manages to contribute to his team, with the veteran Support averaging and incredible 14.97 assists per game. That average is the highest among all players at TI9, although it likely has something to do with his aforementioned smaller number of matches played. Even so, pieliedie has made a career of setting his teammates up for success, and if he can continue to do so for Newbee, then it will assuredly be in a much stronger position at it takes the TI stage in Shanghai.
Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling (Coach)
Aui_2000 has quite a bit of experience as a player in his own right, having played professionally from 2012 to 2018 and earning himself the coveted title of TI winner from his TI5 victory as a member of Evil Geniuses. Over the past few years though, Aui_2000 has shifted his considerable talent and insight into the coaching role, serviong as a coach for teams like Team Secret, Fnatic, Quincy Crew, Forward Gaming, and now Newbee. As a coach, his results have been somewhat mixed, with almost all of his squads seeming to struggle to put up strong results on the international level. Across 14 non-qualifier events as a coach, Aui_2000’s teams have only ever finished in the Top 4 2 times, with Fnatic earning a 4th place finish at the ESL One Birmingham 2018 Major and a 2nd place finish at DOTA Summit 9. So, the veteran player and coach has something of a reputation to work against coming into this event, but the coach has to be hoping that this Newbee squad will finally be able to break his string of disappointing results on the international level. Of course, the fact that the team (as Forward Gaming) also struggled on the international level throughout the entirety of the 2018-2019 season is certainly not the most encouraging of factors, but Aui_2000 has to have confidence that his experience, combined with the extensive experience of the players on his roster, will be able to band together to put together a strong showing on the TI stage in Shanghai.
Keys to Success at TI9
Coming into this event, the term “success” has a number different meanings depending on which team one is discussing. Obviously, the ultimate measure of success for any of the squads attending this event would be to walk away from Shanghai with the Aegis of Champions in hand and the title of TI9 Champion. Considering the fact that only 1 of the 18 participants at TI9 will be able to do that though, and also considering that not all of these teams are regarded as being on an equal footing in terms of skill and experience, a “TI Champions or bust” mentality won’t fit for every squad in the field. With that in mind, this section is not a “do these things and win TI” sort of list in terms of keys to success. Instead, success in this section will be marked in a team’s ability to play its best level of Dota and put itself in the best possible position to push as far up the event standings as it reasonably can.
Let YawaR and CCnC be active, but not at the expense of their own advancement
As previously mentioned, the duo of YawaR and CCnC has shown a propensity for playing a more active style that emphasizes significantly more involvement in team fight and pick offs than many of the other players at their positions. Under normal circumstances, having a Carry/Mid duo that is willing to be active earlier in a match can be viewed as a potential advantage, as it would allow the team in question to dictate the pace of play and potential force their opponent into more defensive postures. That outcome is certainly a possibility for Newbee, and it is one that the team should not be afraid to pursue against its opponents in Shanghai. However, the squad must make sure that its faster tempo and pace does not come at the expense of its potential power in the late-game stage. For all of their active play, the duo of YawaR and CCnC come into TI9 averaging a combined 13.91 kills per game, and average that sits at sixteenth among Carry/Mid duos at the event. Also concerning are the average Gold per Minute of those 2 players, with YawaR averaging 558 GPM and CCnC averaging 540. Those averages sit at twenty third and a tie for thirtieth among TI9 participants, respectively, and speak to a dangerous drawback to their style of play. Should the team’s faster pace fail to generate a large enough lead for the team, Newbee’s late-game power effectively falls off of a cliff, with the team often failing to transition in time to reestablish control. If Newbee wants to find success in Shanghai, then it is going to have to find a way to balance the early activity and aggression of its cores with a more measured approach that will still give the squad flexibility in the later stages of a match. Pure speed and aggression can only get a team so far, and Newbee has to be careful that it doesn’t end up hurting itself in its attempts to out pace its opponents.
Use Sneyking as an initiator and team fight controller, rather than a third farmer
Coming into TI9, we’ve seen quite a few teams utilize their Offlaners as more of a true third core than the traditional team fight controlling, initiating role. While Sneyking has manged to put up respectable numbers among his fellow Offlaners in terms of average kills per game (4.6) and Last Hits per game (205), his greatest strength this season was as a facilitator rather than a primary threat. His most played heroes shows a preference for heroes with initiating potential and team fight power with heroes like Centaur Warrunner, Dark Seer, Beastmaster, Axe, and Sand King. The results that Sneyking has been able to produce with those heroes stands as testament to just how effective he can be in that role, as the Offlaner has averaged 13 assists per game for Newbee. That average sits at fourth among all Offlaners at TI9, putting Sneyking in some elite company in terms of his ability to generate opportunities for his squad to find kills and favorable team fights. While putting Sneyking on more damage and farming oriented heroes would certainly make the squad more formidable in terms of its overall power, sacrificing his play making abilities to get that extra damage doesn’t quite seem like a worthwhile trade for Newbee heading into TI9.
Take advantage of MSS and pieliedie’s play making abilities
Though Sneyking has proven himself to be an incredibly talented play maker at the Offlane position, he is far from the only player that has made a habit of generating openings for the rest of the squad to exploit. The Support duo of MSS and pieliedie have consistently manged to create opportunities for their teammates, and said duo will have to continue that trend in Shanghai if Newbee is going to have any real shot at success on the TI stage. The good news for the team coming into this event is that its Support duo stand among elite company in terms of their ability to make plays for their team, with MSS and pieliedie combining to average 28.77 assists per game over the time with the squad this season. That average is the third highest combined assist per game average of any Support duo in the field for TI9, as few teams have enjoyed the level of consistent production from its Supports that Newbee has. Considering the fact that the Carry/Mid duo of YawaR and CCnC has shown a preference for more active and aggressive play, having a Support duo that has proven itself capable of frequently racking up assists and finding team fight and pick off opportunities will certainly come as a valuable advantage for the sqaud as it looks to put together a strong showing on the TI stage in Shanghai.
Expectations at TI9
Coming into TI9, this Newbee roster has some relatively mixed expectations in terms of where it should be placed among the teams in the field. On the one hand, the team does have a high level of experience on its roster, with the majority of its lineup being comprised of veteran players from the North American and European regions. Additionally, the team will likely enter this event having maintained some degree of the confidence that came out of its absolutely dominant showing in the TI9 North America Qualifier, in which the squad dropped just a single match en route to earning its place in the field for TI9. However, the team also comes into this event with some serious concerns regarding its ability to perform on the international level, as Newbee, and Forward Gaming before it, struggled to find much success outside of its home region.
Looking at the team’s performance over the course of the 2018-2019 season, it’s hard to look at Newbee as a legitimate threat among the teams in the field for this event. Yes, the team has quite a bit of experience on its roster, but that experience didn’t do much for the team during the regular season. While the squad was able to put together some relatively solid and consistent results within its home region, none of regional success ever seemed to carry over onto the international level. Across 11 different appearances outside of the North American region, the Newbee/Forward Gaming lineup failed to record a single Top 4 finish, with its best performances in those events being a pair of 5th-6th place finishes at the MegaFon Winter Clash in December and the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 in April. The squad simply hasn’t been able to get much done away from home, and there is relatively little reason to believe that that situation will suddenly change on the TI stage.
With that in mind, Newbee comes into this event as one of the weaker squads in the field, with some relatively low expectations as it makes its way to Shanghai. The sizable levels of experience that the team has on its roster does leave open a small possibility for some sort of miracle run for the squad at TI9, but such an occurrence would come as just that: a miracle. This squad was given an incredible number of opportunities to find success on the international level during the regular season, and it failed to truly take advantage of any of those chances. With the squad set to face off against an even higher caliber of opponent on the TI stage, there appears to be little hope for this Forward Gaming/Newbee roster. Coming into this event, the squad seemed destined for a finish in the lower half of the event standings, with anything higher than that likely to come as an incredibly shocking turn of events in Shanghai.