Saturday’s nail-biter match between MVP Phoenix and Mineski marked only the second time that a team who was down mega creeps rallied back to win a match…by achieving mega creeps of their own.
In a game that lasted over an hour, the Korean squad dispatched their Filipino rivals through their trademark high-octane play making and some interesting tactical choices. Choices that included the Koreans buying multiple Helms of the Dominator in order to dominate and control opposing mega creeps to defend their exposed Ancient as they desperately clawed their way back into the game.
While the win was certainly satisfying and electrifying, MVP were not expected to be placed in that position at all. MVP were touted as one of the top teams in the world in the wake of their perfect group stage run and eventual 4th place finish at Shanghai Major, before winning two LAN events in DotaPit and WePlay. Ever since their surprise run at The International 5, MVP’s streak and good fortune at LANs have been the subject of interest for fans and pundits.
Their middling performance at online qualifiers in the last few weeks have cast some doubt on their ability to perform however. The worry was underscored when the team lost to perennial Southeast Asian challengers, TNC Pro Team, finishing only third at the WCA LAN qualifiers in Shanghai, China at the tail-end of May. In a field comprised of tier 2 teams, the Koreans finished 4th when they were expected to breeze through the competition.
Regardless, MVP did best Mineski and Evil Geniuses on day two of the group stages to advance into the Winner’s bracket for the main event of the major, but not before losing to LGD in the first match of their group. For MVP’s ace carry Kim “QO” Seon-yeob, life would have been easier had they just come together to beat the Chinese.
“After the loss I got very emotional. Normally, I try not to be emotional but the loss really drove me,” said QO. “I felt like we could beat them. We’re normally very good against Chinese teams but when we lost I saw red.”
QO, whose stock rose steadily (despite his penchant for flashy plays that have gotten him killed on occasion) since Shanghai after posting mammoth KDAs (easily the best among carries at the event), is usually boisterous when talking about all things Dota 2. But for our interview, he was equal parts smiling yet contemplative about their loss to LGD.
“We’re good at facing the Chinese teams. Everyone keeps saying that they have very good high ground defense but it’s a style that were good at breaking,” shared QO. “They usually like to punish slow pushes and sieges but our push style has never been slow; we love to dive behind the tower and kill defenders. Chinese teams have a lot of stationary and positioning reliant heroes and those are easy targets.”
But rally they did. After the loss to LGD, MVP tackled the long series with Mineski with a desperate drive that they needed to swing momentum back their way. In true MVP fashion, the team closed out their Mineski series with a Divine Rapier-powered QO, closing out on a 21/3/27 record and a 16.0 KDA ratio.
The win allowed MVP to power through EG, whitewashing the North American squad in two games. The second of which was a 17-minute game — the shortest match of the tournament so far — that highlighted QO’s individual skill.
As Slardar, QO and MVP proved almost immortal in clashes by Armlet toggling in between damage ticks, keeping his Slardar alive in the midst of EG’s Invoker by Sumail and Phoenix by PPD. The EG pair dealt enough damage-over-time that would have killed lesser players.
“We had so much momentum after the Mineski match that we felt confident against EG,” continued QO. “We usually do well against EG. It’s just our play style I think. They’re very reactive and we’re very proactive. We were confident we can beat them. You have to be confident whenever you enter a game.”
And now that the MVP has advanced to Winner’s bracket facing tournament favorites Team Liquid, QO feels that they have only but one obstacle in their path to win the Major.
“If we can beat Liquid, then we can win the entire tournament,” said QO, complete with a cunning smile. “They are really good right now but if we beat them at the Winner’s bracket, we can beat anyone. We do really well with momentum.”
When QO first entered the scene in the 2013-2014 stretch, competing in smaller events such as the IeSF Asian Championships in Cebu, Philippines, he had already made a name for being a high-risk, high-reward player with a propensity for hyper-aggressive carries such as Slark or Templar Assassin. When MVP broke into The International last year, pundits were quick to describe him as a “Feast or Famine” carry.
“I dont know about feast or famine but I really am more of a killer,” answered QO when asked about what he thought of the moniker. “I really love just killing everyone in front of me, but lately my team tells me to slow down.”
“I think I’m a controlled killer now. I like assassinating higher value targets,” QO added, complete with finger guns mimicking an AK-47.
And it shows. MVP’s recent successes have been mostly on the back of playing around QO’s flexible carry picks. The team deftly alternates resource allocation between their two linchpins in Lee “FoRev” Sangdon and Pyo “MP” No-a. Support players Kim “Febby” Yong-min and Kim “DuBu” Doo-young are often seen running tight rotations for QO to get him to level 6 as quickly as possible. The moment QO becomes armed with an ultimate-level ability, he comes alive, ready to teleport aggressively to assassinate opposing carries in the early game to cut down the transition times for the enemy team.
But that is not to say that the MVP that walked in the major have placed all their bets on QO. FoRev, long-time teammate of QO, has become a rising star on his own, owing to his ability to serve as a secondary carry or as a teamfight initiator should the QO train be put on ice.
“I don’t mind playing a sacrifice role on the offlane or a carry on Furion (Nature’s Prophet),” said FoRev. “I have the most fun when we win.”
“Whatever my team needs, I’ll be that (hero) when they need it. We’ve been playing for a long time so we know each other really well. We’re confident about each other,” he added.
Whether momentum, confidence or killer instinct will be enough to push MVP through Liquid as the first match of the Winner’s bracket at the Manila Major this June 7, one thing is for sure: QO, Forev and the rest of MVP will be coming in hot and the rest of MVP will follow.