Struggling TNC seeks return to championship form

Nadine Pacis
Struggling TNC seeks return to championship form
Downtime for the Philippines' top Dota 2 team as they fail to qualify in next Major


(Editor’s note: Pao Bago, the resource person for this piece was interviewed on February 8 a few days before the conclusion of the SEA qualifiers for ESL Los Angeles.) 

It seemed TNC was riding a momentous high the season after the game’s biggest tournament, The International (TI) 2019. While they placed 9-12th at the biggest Dota tournament that year, the team came back strong in the tournaments that followed. They placed 1st at the ESL One Hamburg 2019 Major in October, then 1st at the Southeast Asia Finals of the World Electronic Sports Games Minor in November, and then bagged 1st again at the MDL Chengdu Major.

It was a streak that has reinforced TNC as not just a powerhouse in Southeast Asia but also in international Dota.

But that winning streak has stalled after some hard matches that placed the team at 7th-8th at the One Esports Dota 2 Invitational Premiere in December, and DreamLeague Season 13 Premiere in January.

And the latest blow? They are disqualified from the upcoming ESL Los Angeles Major after dropping out at the Southeast Asian qualifiers and the Starladder Minor. Some believe that their performance is due to their inability to adjust to the new meta, while others believe it could be a coordination issue. But there’s plenty of time left in this season for TNC to learn, capitalize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. 

To help us take a closer look at TNC’s chances is Pao Bago, former analyst for Fnatic and coach for Philippine SEA Games eSports team SIBOL. We had a quick chat at a PlayStation and Tier One event, Saturday, February 8 to talk about TNC and where they’re at in this season. 

To him, TNC has a strong roster, with Gabbi, Armel, and Tims showing off the results of their growth these past few years as professionals in the international Dota scene. The 3 mechanically gifted Filipino players are now joined by 2 international players with impressive backgrounds. Kpii, is a well-rounded and capable import from Australia who played primarily with Newbee before moving to Mineski and then to TNC. Meanwhile March, a South Korean player, brings in his extensive playing and coaching experience into the team. 

He also cited that the members of each team seem to work well together and can have a unifying vision of how they can win, which is more important than just having the most skilled players in the game in one roster. “You can have the best players in the world, but if they don’t have the same vision for winning the game, they can just implode,” he cautioned. 

When asked about N0tail’s and Blitz’s recent comments on TNC, Bago agreed but leveled expectations. When two-time International winner N0tail tweeted his opinion on the lack of European slots for the upcoming ESL Los Angeles Major, the player noted that along with four European teams, TNC belonged in the top 5 in the world. For Bago, he feels that while TNC is deserving of being in the top 5, there are other teams that can level with them for their spot. 

Meanwhile, Blitz, coach of Team Liquid, the team that took TNC out of the DreamLeague premiere tournament, shared that TNC was a creative team that was very difficult to draft against.

Flexibility with heroes 

Bago said that TNC’s current hero pool is massive and allows for a lot of flexibility that Blitz mentioned. 

Bago also expressed that at this point, fans and spectators of TNC should recognize and expect that the squad can do so much more than their usual heroes and their usual plays – a mark of a truly good team.

“I think that’s the divide between the audience and the players. They have a simple narrative when watching the game. This guy’s an aggressive player, therefore I expect that he will always play aggressively. They don’t sort of think about the player and his overall package. These players are multidimensional. Bad players can only play one style. I don’t think that I can say that any player in TNC right now is a bad player. Anyone in this team can play multiple styles.”  

“Dota is not like a traditional sport. There are so many factors to adjust to. There’s always a new patch. With all of those random mechanics, if you can still show up consistently, you’re a good team. You might not be the greatest, but that’s a good team,” he added, pointing out that TNC has been consistently part of The International since they first qualified for it in 2016. 

Patch adjustments

All that being said, the team has been in a slump as they struggled in the more recent tournaments. Bago believes that the team now has to focus on a few key areas in order to be the unstoppable force that they were in the beginning of the season. Namely: the team needs to be well-practiced with every new patch in the game. TNC’s earlier achievements this season was due to having more time to practice a patch.

“I would wager that for TNC, their strength is when they have practiced a patch. Because for the 2 majors that they’ve won, the patch at the time was still similar to the TI patch of last season. I think they are a team that if the patch is not so new, you have to be terrified of this team. But if the patch is very new, like this one, where they introduced neutral items, then you’ve got a chance of defeating them.” 

Bago also surmised that the patch during the Dreamleague may not have favored TNC at all as it relied heavily on getting neutral items which which ups the RNG factor. For the uninitiated, RNG stands for random number generator, and refers to the parts of the game that a player has little control of, such as the kind of item dropping from a monster. 

TNC will have to work harder and spend even more time practicing if they want to make it back to the top though. As of writing, they’ve just lost their chance to enter the ESL Los Angeles Major through the SEA qualifiers, and they lost at the Starladder Minor which could have been another route for them to get to the Major. 

But no matter what, TNC must not let their current losses affect them too hard. Before my interview with Bago ended, Bago advised that TNC has to make sure that their morale is not impacted by their results of the Majors. There are about 6 months left until TI10, with 2 Majors and 2 Minors left for TNC to qualify and compete in. Also, they are sitting pretty at the top with the most DPC points, which are required to get a direct invite into TI10. 

Maybe disqualifying from ESL Los Angeles Major was a good thing and will give the team more time to get their bearings without the pressure, and allow them to make a stronger comeback.

Filipino fans will still have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming LA Major in March, however. The tournament includes SEA Games champion Team Adroit, and Geek Fam – 3 players from which used to play for TNC. Other top Filipino players such as DJ Mampusti and Abed Yusop also retain their posts on teams Fnatic and Evil Geniuses, respectively. –


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