A TI turnaround?: After a season of struggles and inconsistency, Southeast Asian squad Mineski look to bounce back in time to put together a deep 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 3 Southeast Asian squads that will take the TI stage in Shanghai, and the winner of the TI9 Southeast Asia Qualifier: Mineski.
Region: Southeast Asia
Pro Circuit Rank: 18th (236.8 Pro Circuit Points)
Qualification Method: TI9 Southeast Asia Qualifier 1st Place
2018-2019 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 3 (0 Top 4 finishes)
Previous TI Appearances: TI1 (9th-12th), TI8 (9th-12th)
2018-2019 Season Notable Achievements:
Pro Circuit Majors:
9th-12th – DreamLeague Season 11 Major
9th-12th – MDL Disneyland Paris Major
Pro Circuit Minors:
5th-6th – StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2
Pro Circuit Qualifiers:
1st – StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 Southeast Asia Qualifier
2nd – DreamLeague Season 11 Southeast Asia Qualifier
2nd – MDL Disneyland Paris Major Southeast Asia Qualifier
3rd – The Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier
3rd – The Bucharest Minor Southeast Asia Qualifier
5th-6th – The Kuala Lumpur Major Southeast Asia Qualifier
6th-8th – EPICENTER Major 2019 Southeast Asia Closed Qualifier
Non-Pro Circuit Events:
1st – AMD Dota 2 Pro Series 2018
2nd – ESL One Mumbai 2019
5th-6th – ESL One Katowice 2019
11th-12th – ESL One Hamburg 2018
1st – DreamHack Mumbai Invitational 2018
5th-8th – WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire Asia
Mineski stands as one of the longest-lived organizations in the Southeast Asian, and in the Dota 2 world in general. The organization was originally founded in 2004, with the team’s first experience in Dota 2 coming in an appearance at TI1. Over the next 2 years though, the squad would encounter wildly inconsistent results in its home region as it cycled through a number of different iterations of its roster, though by the back end of 2013 the squad appeared to be picking up steam in Southeast Asia. 2014 would see that budding momentum shatter though, as the squad’s results took a nose dive before the team was hit by a match fixing scandal in October. Said scandal caused the team’s roster to effectively fall apart, with Mienski putting together a new lineup in November of 2014.
After continuing to struggle with roster changes over the first few months of 2015, Mineski managed to get things under control starting in April. The squad rattled off seven straight Top 4 finishes within the Southeast Asian region, but ended up failing to qualify for TI5 with a 5th-10th place run in the TI5 Southeast Asia Qualifier. In August, the team registered an updated roster for the first round of Dota 2 Majors, earning a place at The Frankfurt Major 2015 and finishing in the 9th-12th place position at the event itself to close out the year on a relative high note. Unfortunately, the team wouldn’t mange to carry over any momentum into 2016, as the squad earned just 7 Top 4 finishes in 15 total appearances between January of May. One of those Top 4 finishes was a 1st place run in The Manila Major 2016 Southeast Asia Qualifier that earned the squad a spot at the Major itself, but the squad would finish in the 13th-16th place position at the event. That disappointment was followed up just a few weeks later with an unsuccessful run through the TI6 Qualifier, with Mineski’s roster losing 3 of its members soon after.
By the start of 2017 though, Mineski had put together a new lineup consisting of kYxY, Mushi, Bimbo, eyyou, and ninjaboogie. However, that roster would change just 2 months later, with kYxY, Bimbo, and eyyou being replaced by .Ark, Mag~, and ryOyr. While that new roster was able to string together some solid showings within the Southeast Asian region, an unsuccessful run through the TI7 Southeast Asia Qualifier brought an end to the team’s lineup. In August, the trio of .Ark, Mag~, and ryOyr left the team and were replaced by NaNa, iceiceice, and Jabz for the 2017-2018 season. Said new roster managed to remain intact throughout said season, attending 6 Minors and 7 Majors while claiming the first Minor and Major titles in the history of Southeast Asian Dota. Those efforts on the Pro Circuit stage earned Mineski a direct invite to TI8, where the squad put together a 9th-12th place finish at the event itself. In the aftermath of that event, the trio of iceiceice, Jabz, and ninjaboogie left the team, leaving Mineski to once again rebuild its lineup for the upcoming 2018-2019 season.
Season in Review
In September of 2018, Mineski announced its new roster, with the trio of JT-, kpii, and febby joining the team. The squad got off to a somewhat slow start to the season though, with Mineski earning just 1 Top 4 finish across its first 3 appearances. In November, the organization opted for a change to its roster in the hopes of turning around its slow start, with Mushi leaving the squad and pieliedie being added to the roster. The change resulted in some significantly improved performances for Mineski, as the team closed out 2018 with 4 straight Top 4 finishes, including 1st place runs at both the AMD Dota 2 Pro Series 2018 and the DreamHack Mumbai Invitational 2018.
At the start of the 2019 section of the season, Mineski made another change to its roster, as JT- was sent to Newbee while Ahjit was brought in to replace him. After a 9th-12th place finish at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major though, the squad opted for more changes. Febby and pieliedie both left the team, with the duo of Bimbo and ninjaboogie being added to the roster. With those chanages made, the squad posted back to back 2nd place finish in its next 2 Pro Circuit qualifiers, as well as another 2nd place finish on the international level at ESL One Mumbai 2019. After another 9th-12th place finish at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major though, the squad’s momentum waned, with the squad posting just 1 more Top 4 finish between May and June while finishing in the 5th-6th place position at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2. Just days after the end of that event, Mineski announced that it was parting ways with Ahjit, with Nikobaby being announced as his replacement a week later. With its roster updated, Mineski managed to put together an 11-6 record in the TI9 Southeast Asia Qualifier, just barely getting past Team Jinesbrus 3-2 in the Grand Finals of the qualifier to secure itself a place in Shanghai for TI9.
Nikolay “Nikobaby” Nikolov (Carry)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events, Closed Qualifiers, and TI9 Qualifiers only): 7.59 kills, 8.00 assists, 1.71 deaths per game (17 matches)
As the most recent addition to the Mineski lineup, Nikobaby comes into TI9 with some rather high expectations. The Carry will be making his first appearance on the TI stage in Shanghai, having spent most of his career to this point in the lower tiers of the European and Southeast Asian scenes. His career began in 2014 as a member of the all-Bulgarian squad Gplay, though he would part ways with the team after just 2 months. Nikobaby would spend all of 2015 drifting between a handful of minor European squads, spending time with Basically Unknown, Balkan Bears, No Logic Gaming, and Monkey Freedom Fighters, finding a bit of success in smaller events and regional qualifiers. Over the next 2 years, Nikobaby would take a step away from the competitive scene, serving as an occasional stand-in or temporary player for squads across the European and CIS regions. In September of 2018, Nikobaby returned to regular play as a member of Clutch Gamers, staying with the squad for just over 4 months before moving on to the WarriorsGaming.Unity roster in January of 2019. After a period of disappointing results, Nikobaby left the team in June to join the roster of Mineski just in time to help the team make a successful run through the TI9 Qualifier. In his 17 matches with Mineski, Nikobaby has shown a preference for high damage farming heroes, with Juggernaut, Wraith King, Slark, and Ember Spirit featuring in his most played. The Bulgarian Carry has proven to be incredibly efficient over those matches, averaging 7.59 kills and 8 assists on just 1.71 deaths per game while also averaging 323 Last Hits per game. That insanely low death per game average is the lowest among all players at TI9, while his 323 Last Hit per game average is the twelfth highest in the field. Considering the small sample size in terms of official matches played, those averages will likely end up changing once Mineski actually reaches the TI stage, but if Nikobaby can come even remotely close to those averages at TI9, then Mineski will have an incredibly formidable force on its roster at the event itself.
Kam “Moon” Boon Seng (Mid)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 6.73 kills, 8.97 assists, 4.04 deaths per game (117 matches)
Moons comes into TI9 as one of the most highly regarded Midlaners in the Southeast Asian region, but that reputation has been one that the Malaysian player has certainly had to build up over time. His career began back in 2014 as a member of GeNySis, with Moon playing for the squad for around 7 months before moving to Invasion e-Sports in March of 2015. After less than a month with the team though, Moon parted ways with Invasion e-Sports, spending around 5 months as a free agent before joining SabunWarrior in September. That stint would prove to be relatively short as well, with Moon leaving the squad in November to join the roster of WarriorsGaming.Unity. Moon would spend the next 2 years of his career with the squad, helping to turn WarriorsGaming.Unity into a significant power within the Southeast Asian region and even attending The Boston Major 2016 with the squad in December of 2012. In August of 2017 though, Moon’s time with the organization came to an end, with the Midlaner moving on to join the Mineski organization, with which he has remained ever since. Over the course of this 2018-2019 season, Moon has preferred to play heroes that emphasize high damage output and burst potential, with the likes of Templar Assassin, Ember Spirit, Tiny, Lina, Outworld Devourer, and Puck being among his most played. Unfortunately, that style has proven to be particularly inconsistent this season, with Moon averaging 6.95 kills and 8.53 assists on 4.16 deaths per game. That assist per game average is lower than all but 5 players in the field for TI9, while his kill average is the thirty second highest among all TI9 players. If Moon is going to continue to play with the style that we’ve seen this season, it is clear that both he and Mineski will have to make some adjustments to make sure they are getting the most of out his high damage heroes and keeping their Midlaner as active as possible.
Damien “kpii” Chok (Offlane)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 3.93 kills, 11.40 assists, 4.37 deaths per game (117 matches)
kpii is certainly no stranger to the TI stage, with the Offlaner having previously attended 4 iterations of the event from 2014 to 2018 with teams from both China and Southeast Asia. His professional career began back in 2012 and 2013 with some minor semi-pro squads, before joining Australian squad Can’t Say Wips in September of 2014. After just 4 months with the squad though, kpii was picked up by MVP Phoenix, helping the squad rack up 8 straight Top 4 finishes and claim a place in the field for TI5. After a 7th-8th place finish at the event itself, kpii caught the attention of EHOME, with the organization picking kpii up to join its secondary squad, EHOME.K, which was later renamed to EHOME.Keen. While kpii found little success with the EHOME organization, he once again attracted attention from other organizations in the region, with Newbee picking the Offlaner up in March of 2016. kpii would spend the next 2 and a half years with Newbee, attending 2 TIs, 12 Majors, and 7 Minors with the squad and famously finishing in 2nd place at TI7. At the start of the 2018-2019 season though, Newbee parted ways with kpii, as the Offlaner joined the roster of Mineski for the Pro Circuit campaign. As a member of Mineski, kpii has shown a preference for a mix of team fight controllers and high damage Offlane heroes, with his most played heroes of the season featuring the likes of Enigma, Brewmaster, Omniknight, Doom, Leshrac, and Slardar. Unfortunately, his results with those heroes have not been fantastic, as his average of 10.89 assists per game is the sixteenth highest average among Offlaners at TI9, with his kill per game average of 3.83 also being the sixteenth highest at his position. If Mineski is going to find success on the TI stage in Shanghai, then it is going to have to rely on kpii to be a consistent play maker either by setting up his squad with favorable fights and pick offs, or by finding those pick offs himself.
Ryan “Bimbo” a.k.a “Raging Potato” Jay Qui (Support)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 3.11 kills, 12.52 assists, 6.14 deaths per game (63 matches)
Raging Potato comes into TI9 as one of the most experienced players in the Southeast Asian region, having spent nearly 8 years at the professional level. Much of his career has been spent with the Mineski organization, with his career actually starting with Mineski back in 2011. He spent the first 3 years of his career with the squad, though Mineski would find limited success during that initial run. In August of 2014, Raging Potato briefly left Mineski to join the roster of Execrataion, but found himself returning to his former organization after a period of just 2 months. After returning to Mineski in November, he would proceed to spent nearly another 3 years with the team, helping to transform Mineski into a leading team in the Southeast Asian region with a pair of Major appearances. In May of 2017 though, Raging Potato once again left Mineski to join the roster of Execration, this time remaining with the squad for a period of around 7 months. During those 7 months, Execration would make an appearance at TI7, and began to emerge as a potential power within the Southeast Asian region. Before the team’s rise to power could be fully completed, Raging Potato left the organization, joining TaskUs Titans in February of 2018 and remaining with the squad for 8 months despite finding extremely limited success. In October though, Raging Potato parted ways with TaskUs Titans, joining up with DeToNator a month later and earning an impressive 14 Top 4 finishes in 18 total appearances with the team. Despite that impressive run, Raging Potato left DeToNator at the end of March to once again rejoin Mineski where he has stayed throughout the rest of the season. As the team’s Position 4 Support, Raging Potato has preferred to play active heroes with high levels of damage and lock down. His most played heroes since rejoining Mineski have included Nyx Assassin, Rubick, Earth Spirit, Shadow Shaman, and Pangolier, with the Support holding a combined 56.25% win rate in 32 matches on those heroes. Though his efforts often lead to his own peril with an average of 6.18 deaths per game, Raging Potato’s style has also led to the creation of opportunities for the rest of the squad to exploit, as the Support leads the team in assists per game at 12.22. That average doesn’t quite put Raging Potato in elite company, as it is just the forty second highest average among TI9 players. However, those opportunities that he has been able to create have certainly proven valuable to Mineski as a whole, and the squad will need to continue to rely upon Raging Potato to be active and aggressive on the TI stage in Shanghai.
Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr. (Support, Captain)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 2.22 kills, 12.06 assists, 5.79 deaths per game (63 matches)
Like fellow Support Raging Potato, ninjaboogie comes into TI9 as one of the most experienced players in the Southeast Asian region, having played as a professional for over 7 years now. His career began back in 2012 and 2013, though he would spent the majority of 2013 shifting between various squads in the region. In December of 2013, ninjaboogie joined his first major organization in Execration, playing with the squad for around 5 months before leaving after an unsuccessful run through the TI4 Qualifiers. In June, he joined the roster of Rave, immediately helping to turn the squad into an emerging power within the Southeast Asian region. The squad closed out 3014 with 8 Top 4 finishes in its last 9 appearances, and shocked the Dota 2 world with a 5th-6th place finish at DAC 2015 to begin the new year. Unfortunately, the squad would fail to qualify for TI5, which would lead to ninjaboogie leaving the roster. By the start of 2016 though, the Support had returned to the organization, but his return did not help the squad regain its former momentum, and by July ninjaboogie had left the roster again to join Mineski. ninjaboogie would remain with the Mineski organization for over 2 years, making 5 Minor and 7 Major appearances while helping the team earn the Southeast Asian region’s first Major Championship title with a victory at DAC 2018. After a 9th-12th place finish at TI8 though, ninjaboogie left Mineski, opting to join regional rival TNC Predator for the 2018-2019 season. After 5 months and 2 Major appearances with the squad though, ninjaboogie once again returned to Mineski for the remainder of the season. In his most recent stint with the team, ninjaboogie has preferred defensive oriented heroes with an emphasis on lock down. His most played heroes this season has featured Winter Wyvern, Lion, Oracle, Grimstroke, Shadow Shaman, and Vengeful Spirit, with the Support often sacrificing his own hero for the sake of his team, resulting in a death per game average of 5.98. Those deaths haven’t come without reward though, as ninjaboogie has averaged 11.94 assists over the course of his time with Mineski. That average comes in fairly low among players at TI9 though, and if Mineski is going to have a shot at finding success in Shanghai, then it will need improved production from both ninjaboogie and the rest of its lineup on the TI stage.
Yap Chee “Kenchi” Loong (Coach)
Mineski’s coach for TI9 is a former player for the organisation, though Kenchi hasn’t played any official matches on the professional level for quite some time. Having retired from professional play in 2009, he has been serving as a member of Mineski’s management ever since. Though he was only moved to the coaching role for Mineski in the latter half of this 2018-2019 season, Kenchi had some coaching experience prior to this point. Back in 2016, he served as a coach for the Fnatic organization, helping the squad earn a 5th-6th place finish at The Shanghai Major 2016 and a 4th place finish at TI6. Since taking over the coaching role for Mineski, the squad has put together some inconsistent results, finishing in the bottom half of the standings at both The Bucharest and DreamLeague Season 11 Majors while posting a 2nd place finish at ESL One Mumbai and winning the TI9 Southeast Asia Qualifie. While the team’s results haven’t always been consistent, having an experience former player in the coaching role will hopefully serve as an advantage for the squad 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.
Take advantage of Nikobaby’s efficiency
Though Nikobaby has only been with the Mineski organization for a couple of months now, he has already displayed his value for the team. The Bulgarian Carry comes into TI9 with the lowest death per game average and the twelfth highest Last Hit per game average among all players at the event, which speaks to an incredibly level of efficiency that the team should seek to exploit as much as possible in Shanghai. Of course, as large part of those impressive averages likely stems from the fact that Nikobaby has only played 17 official matches as a member of Mineski, with it being fully possible and even likely that those averages will significantly changes once the games on the TI stage actually begin. That being said, it doesn’t appear that Nikobaby is going to suddenly change his style of play just before the start of the biggest event of his career, and hopefully a large portion of his impressive statistics comes from his play style instead of the caliber of his opponents. Even if his averages do drop off in the face of TI level opposition, Nikobaby’s overall performance should still be at least somewhat similar to his pre-TI showings, and Mineski will almost certainly plan its strategies around his style of play as it looks to put together a strong showing at TI9.
Get Moon active and build momentum early
Moon’s hero pool across the 2018-2019 season has featured a lot of high damage heroes. However, most of those heroes have focused more upon expending all of that damage in short bursts rather than being sustained across a longer engagement. That focus on burst damage had not always been a reliable option for the team, with Moon’s averages of 6.95 kills and 8.53 assists per game being among the lowest at his position coming into TI9. It doesn’t seem fully reasonable to ask a player to completely alter their play style just before an event as big as TI, which means that Mineski will have make adjustment to its strategies in order to get the most out of its Midlaner. The simplest potential solution would appear to be to get Moon active earlier in a match, in the hopes of building up some momentum for the Midlaner with early ganks and pick offs. Considering the caliber of opponents that Mineski is set to face in Shanghai, this will obviously be easier said than done, but Mineski does have a veteran Support duo in Raging Potato and ninjaboogie, and more frequent rotations and gank attempts from said duo could potential create more opportunities for Moon to get ahead early and play out the rest of the match from a more favorable position. If the team can get Moon off to a strong start with any sense of consistency, then his aggressive style and high damage heroes are sure to cause problems for its opponents at TI9.
Get more production out of your Support duo
As we mentioned in the previous point, one of the keys for Mineski to find success in Shanghai will be for the team’s Support duo to make efforts to facilitate stronger starts for Moon. As a whole, the duo of Raging Potato and ninjaboogie will need to step things up if Mineski wants to have a real shot at being a contender on the TI stage in Shanghai. Coming into this event, the two Supports are averaging a combined 24.16 assists per game, with that average being the sixteenth lowest among the 18 teams in the field for TI9. Combine that low assist per game average with the duo’s average deaths per game of 12.16, and it’s hard to see this squad lasting very long against some of the elite teams of the Dota 2 world on the TI stage. The duo of Raging Potato and ninjaboogie is going to have to dramatically improve its production at TI9 if Mineski is going to have any chance of contending, but doing so will not be as straightforward as simply throwing themselves at the enemy. While that strategy may end up securing the duo more assists and more opportunities for the rest of the squad, it will almost certainly result in a higher death per game average for the squad as well, mitigating the potential benefits for the team as a whole. The key for Raging Potato and ninjaboogie will be to avoid danger while also generating more openings for pick offs and favorable team fights for the squad. Doing that is effectively the Holy Grail for Supports, and there is not easy answer for how the duo of Raging Potato and ninjeboogie would actually accomplish this feat. If they can though, then Mineski will stand in a much more favorable position on the TI stage in Shanghai. Otherwise, the team will almost certainly be in for an uphill battle throughout the event.
Expectations at TI9
Mineski comes into TI9 as a rather interesting squad, as the team itself entered this 2018-2019 as a potential leader within the Southeast Asian region but quickly found itself struggling to keep up with its regional rivals. Though the team remained relatively stable within its home region, the international level appeared to be where Mienski encountered the most trouble. While the team did manage to put together some impressive performances on the international level, it could not seem to replicate that success on the Pro Circuit stage. Even so, the squad was able to fall back on its regional strength with a successful run through the TI9 Qualifiers, and now it has one last chance to prove its strength way from home with this appearance on the TI stage in Shanghai.
As previously mentioned, Mineski was able to put together a handful of impressive performances on the international level in third party events, with the squad claiming Top 4 finishes at the AMD Dota 2 Pro Series 2018 and ESL One Mumbai 2019. Outside of those performances though, the squad struggled to find success away from home, with Mineski finishing outside of the Top 4 in all 3 of its Pro Circuit appearances across the 2018-2019 season, while also failing to crack the Top 4 at ESL One Hamburg 2018 and ESL One Katowice 2019. Against non-Southeast Asian participants at TI9, Mineski holds a record of just 7-28, which does not bode well for the squad’s chances of finding success in Shanghai. Granted, those results all came before the addition of Nikobaby to the team’s lineup, but it doesn’t seem as though the change of a single member of its lineup will really be enough to turn around a record that is that poor. Even on the home front, Mineski’s record against TI9 opponents is not fantastic, with the squad holding a 7-21 record against Fnatic and TNC Predator this season.
With all of that in mind, Mineski comes into TI9 with very low expectations, as the squad doesn’t seem to have the strength to contend with the elite teams in the Dota 2 world at this event. The squad has struggled on the international level throughout this season, and even its relative success at home has come at the hands of teams that it has often been heavily favored against. When put up against the top squads both within its home region and on the international level, the squad has proven to be dangerously inconsistent. While the odds don’t look good for the team coming into this event, there is some small degree of hope for the team. The addition of Nikobaby could potentially serve as a catalyst for the team, helping improve the team’s production across the board and perhaps elevating the team to the point where it can contend with the other squads in the field for TI9. That kind of run from this Mineski roster though would certainly come as a shock, and until we see for certain that this updated version of the team’s roster can match up with the elite teams of the Dota 2 world, the expectations will remain low for Mineski, with the squad incredibly unlikely to push itself out of the lower half of the event standings in Shanghai.