Dota 2 The International 10 Team Profile: Elephant
The Chinese Dota 2 scene will often experiment with the concept of the dream team. Teams like 2013’s Team DK and The International 4’s Newbee were stacked rosters of Chinese and Asian Dota legends from annals of DotA Allstars as well as star players coming from established teams like EHOME, Zenith, Invictus Gaming, and TongFu. Chinese Dota 2 roster switch-ups are well-known to be chaotic and disruptive, which is why when players switch teams, it’s worth noticing. Now, the Chinese Dota 2 scene has a new all-star group, Elephant.
Elephant: The Star-Studded Chinese Dream Team Meant to Trample Chinese Dota 2
Back in 2020, the Chinese scene made another attempt at creating a dream time, with 4 Angry Men collaborating with Elephant to bring in Sylar, Somnus (formerly known as Maybe), Yang, fy, and upcoming talent and team captain RedPanda in an attempt to shake up Chinese Dota 2 rosters and undermine top teams like PSG.LGD and EHOME. Unfortunately, not everything has gone to plan for Elephant, and they may go down in recent memory as another failed experiment and an example for why you don’t try to shake the pillars of Chinese Dota 2. Throughout 2020, Elephant saw losses against younger squads and Chinese favorites. They lost to PSG.LGD in the grand finals of CDA-FDC Season 1 and were knocked out of the tournament early by EHOME’s squad of misfits. They only managed to snag top placements after replacing carry player Sylar with Eurus, formerly Paparazi of Vici Gaming.
With invites being sent out for regional qualifiers to The International 10, Elephant wanted to ensure they’d have the best chances to win the qualifiers and secure themselves a slot at The International. RedPanda was booted for Super, a Dota 2 veteran who’s played with the best of the Chinese scene on some of China’s most memorable rosters, such as Team DK, 2013’s Vici Gaming, and The International 2017’s LGD.Forever Young. After securing their spot at The International 2021, they’ve seen disappointing results at i-League 2021 Seasons 1 & 2, where they’ve been shut out by Invictus Gaming. Dota Pit Season 5: China saw them coming second after a loss to PSG.LGD in the grand final.
What could account for the unreliability of Elephant’s roster? On paper, this should be one of the most competitive teams in China, especially if you consider how young and inexperienced other teams in the region are. Their biggest obstacle, Invictus Gaming, fields an incredible young mid laner in Emo, who Maybe seems to struggle against. Despite Somnus’ years of experience, his matchups against Invictus Gaming’s Emo typically result in either an even or lost lane. In all their encounters this year, Somnus has only won the lane 40% of the time.
Somnus’ poor results can come down to how stale the meta has been in the patches leading up to The International qualifiers, and Elephant’s reluctance to draft heroes outside of Somnus’ comfort pool. Somnus excels on heroes like Storm Spirit and Shadow Fiend, but these heroes aren’t exactly in vogue in the current patch. While Somnus excels on these bursty, quick farming heroes or heroes with a lot of ganking impact, the patch has leaned toward stack clearing heroes like Templar Assassin, wave clearing pushers like Leshrac, or classic tempo mids like Queen of Pain and Ember Spirit. Somnus can play these heroes against younger squads, but will typically falter against more experienced teams which Elephant has shown to be weak against.
Eurus is another player on the Elephant squad that simply hasn’t been living up to his prior legacy. Elephant’s carry player should be excelling in the current patch, as tanky cores like Sven and Lifestealer can clear waves and jungle camps quickly and contribute to early team fight should opponents dive out of position against Elephant. However, it seems as though Elephant are relying too much on Eurus’ Medusa and Terrorblade, both heroes that made Eurus shine back during his days of playing for Vici Gaming. While these heroes can still manage to win games super late, they struggle against the recent trends of stack stealing and early teamfighting. Now that stack farming has been nerfed, Eurus may shine again on heroes he’s extremely comfortable with like Weaver. However, recent Elephant drafts show that the team may be in immense need of restructuring their hero priority.
This need for leadership and guidance is why Elephant brought on legendary Chinese player rotk to coach the team. It’s not unusual for coaches to bring the necessary insight to provide teams with a winning edge. Coaches like OG’s seb have helped OG win Internationals, and PSG.LGD’s xiao8 has been both an invaluable coach and substitute player. It’s possible that rotk’s leadership could bring Elephant results similar to Vici Gaming’s back in 2018. The question is whether Elephant are motivated enough to do so under rotk’s leadership. Both Yang and Eurus have worked with rotk in the past, and Super used to play with rotk back in the day. While familiarity is good for building trust, it can also breed discontent.
Besides struggling against regional opponents, Elephant have not played against non-Chinese teams during the entirety of their time together as a team. This complete inexperience against foreign teams could be either a boon or a disadvantage, as we’ve seen teams like CDEC and Wings Gaming completely upend western teams when it comes to the main event of The International. However, the top teams in EU and CIS have plenty of experience against PSG.LGD, a team that Elephant has beaten twice in the seven games they’ve played against PSG.LGD this year.
Russian analyst Evgeniy ‘Sh4ddowehhh’ Alekseev had some keen insight on Elephant as a team in his brief interview with Dota2.ru. “The tendency with dream teams in Dota 2 is thus: the more eminent the team, the more likely for average results at The International,” says Alekseev, “The players can play well, but there needs to be perfect synergy.” With the squad being assembled rather quickly before the formation of The International, a lot of the energy behind Elephant seems to be rather slapdash and desperate, as most qualifier teams tend to be. Whether Elephant will be able to match Newbee’s success at The Dota 2 International seems unlikely, but this Chinese dream team could easily surprise audiences and capitalize on their squad’s potential. Despite the middling successes of star players Eurus and Somnus, the pedigree of this team is unrivaled. It’s only a matter of drawing out that potential.