Dota 2 TI10 Team Profile: Team Aster, Domestic Titans
Team Aster epitomizes what it means to be a big fish in a small pond. Originally created by Chinese legend Xu ‘BurNIng’ Zhilei, Aster was meant to show what player-centric organizations could achieve in the Chinese Dota 2 scene. The philosophy of taking rookie players and enlisting the help of veterans to aid their development isn’t new to the Chinese scene, but Aster have received flak for putting together a team that performs well domestically but will choke at international events, with this reputation going as far back as their formation in 2018. It’s been about three years since then, and Team Aster has yet to shake this reputation. With the ire of Chinese fans at their backs and a scene of tier 1 international talent charging their front, it’s a wonder that Team Aster managed to make it to TI10 in one piece.
We’ve been doing team profiles on Dota 2 teams participating at TI10. Even though we’re already past the first day of group stages, the goal is to provide detailed team profiles on all teams competing to give new viewers and returning fans improved insight for this year’s event. If you’re curious, check out profiles we’ve published on Team Undying, Elephant, OG, Team Spirit, Beastcoast, SG esports, Evil Geniuses, Alliance, Team Secret, and Fnatic. As always, stay on the lookout for more blogs on T10 to come in the future.
Team Aster – Masters of Civil War
Since Team Aster’s formation, the team has conscripted players with immense talent or budding potential. BurNIng’s eyes for talent haven’t darkened as he can still see which players can capably compete, which allowed Team Aster to easily qualify for their first tier 1 event, The Kuala Lumpur Major. Team Aster seemed to be following in the footsteps of other star-studded rosters that came before them, such as 2014’s Team DK or the inaugural Newbee squad, who would also see their first years of competition shooting them past the stratosphere of lower-tier competition and directly into top tier events. The difference between Team Aster and these teams was that Aster would become known as a team of choke artists whenever they attended key LAN events, despite the first Team Aster roster containing players like Sylar and Fenrir who had long histories of competing at the height of international competition.
Team Aster’s performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major saw the team coming second to last in their group, with TNC Predator being last but still managing to go further than Team Aster at the playoffs stage. Team Aster would lose to the 3rd North American seed, J.Storm, in a best of one contest that nearly went to 60 minutes. The match would show Aster’s lack of cohesion and failure to adapt to international styles of play, which would set the tone for Team Aster’s professional career abroad.
Team Aster would follow up their performance with another opportunity at The Chongqing Major in 2019. After taking first place at the Chinese qualifier, Chinese fans felt as though the team would begin a new renaissance for Chinese Dota 2 that would see PSG.LGD dethroned as the top team in the region. However, Team Aster would once again fail to compete against international opponents and would find themselves eliminated in the first round of the lower bracket by TNC Predator, starting a meme of how one of the best teams in domestic Chinese competition would only serve as fodder for SEA teams, a region that could be considered as undeveloped in comparison to the Chinese esports industry.
The bloom on the Team Aster rose would begin to fade, then rot, throughout the rest of 2019 and 2020. With Team Aster repeating the process of dominating at the qualifier only to be eliminated from the event early. Aster would take 9th-12th at the Chengdu Major and DreamLeague Season 13, and only manage a significant win at the StarLadder ImbaTV Minor against Alliance, their first win against a high-profile European team. The rest of 2020 would see middling to low achievement at tier 2 events online, including ESL One Birmingham China, Beyond EPIC: China, and OGA Dota PIT seasons 1 through 4.
Roster changes would see players like Sylar, Fenrir, Mushi, Q, and Fade come in and out, with only Xxs and Borax playing as anchors for the team. Both players had formerly played together on iG Vitality before being upgraded to Invictus Gaming’s main roster, where they had a stellar 2017 year. However, the shine on the stars of both Xxs and Borax faded once they joined the Team Aster roster, and it seemed as though other teams were hesitant to scout them for their rosters. With a struggling team and TI10 on the horizon, BurNIng and Team Aster management needed to come up with a capable team that could qualify for DPC Majors and secure a spot at The International.
Team Aster – Recent Results & Roster Changes
Late 2020 would see Monet and White Album join the squad shortly after LaNm’s arrival a few days prior. The inclusion of LaNm gave Team Aster the guidance and leadership the team needed after the departure of Fade, and who better to lead the team than one of the few Chinese players to have attended all TIs with the exception of The International 2017?
With a full roster of talented pros and two hungry upstarts, it seemed like 2021 would be Aster’s year to shine among the stars of Chinese Dota 2. Unfortunately, old habits die hard.
Team Aster would take 2nd and 1st at DPC 2021 Seasons 1 & 2 for China’s upper-division, netting the team a total of 800 DPC points and spots at the Singapore and AniMajor respectively. Fans already were expecting to see Aster choke at both events, and they, unfortunately, weren’t wrong.
The Singapore Major saw Aster take 6th during the Singapore Major’s round-robin, with the team only managing one won series against Alliance, who many would consider to be in decline. The team would lose to Thunder Predator as they would be unable to handle the non-stop aggressiveness of Thunder Predator’s ganking duo–Tusk and Pangolier. Team Aster also showed inflexibility in their draft, allowing the Peruvian team to easily play around their hero picks for a 2-0 victory and a 9th-12th result for Team Aster.
At the AniMajor, Team Aster directly qualified for the upper bracket of the playoff stages, only to be unceremoniously knocked down to the lower bracket by T1, and then eliminated by their long-standing rivals, TNC Predator. By this point, Aster learned to diversify their drafts, but they would struggle against TNC Predator’s better understanding of the meta and the team’s ability to quickly farm stacks on Templar Assassin, who would run all over Aster’s draft by the late-game. Aster would once again see themselves taking 9th-12th place at The AniMajor.
While Team Aster were taking Ls at international events, they dominated domestically. i-League 2021 seasons 1 and 2 were deftly won by Aster, who would manage against PSG.LGD and Vici Gaming without breaking a sweat. Team Aster’s ability to dominate at home but choke abroad has earned the team the moniker of “The King of Civil War.” Has Aster managed to take their warlike prowess to TI10?
Team Aster – Predictions for TI10
Aster currently sits near the bottom of their group at TI10, having lost to both Team Undying and Evil Geniuses as of the writing of this piece. Their remaining matches include games against opponents like T1, Virtus.Pro, and Invictus Gaming, who currently lead the group.
With their habit of choking against western opponents, and the fact that they lost to possibly the weakest North American team at TI10, it seems unlikely as to whether Team Aster stands a chance of going far at the main event of TI10. Even if the team manages to make the upper bracket, Team Aster have shown that it doesn’t matter which bracket they end up in if they have to play against a non-Chinese opponent.
Team Aster also relies too much on enabling LaNm’s heroes, drafting supports with limited impact such as Lich, Abaddon, and Treant Protector. In order to make up for this handicap, Aster will draft cores such as Huskar, Troll Warlord, or Legion Commander as they can reliably sustain themselves during fights and the laning stage, but will struggle if their lanes get shut-down.
There’s also the matter of Team Aster’s brush with Covid-19. The team benched their mid-laner White Album and are currently playing with a stand-in. It’s possible that the health and circumstances surrounding Team Aster will affect Aster’s performance at the main event of TI10, but even with a stand-in, they aren’t exactly playing any better or worse than they were before.
Overall, it’s unlikely Team Aster will go any further than the results they’ve achieved historically at other LAN events. Unless the entirety of the upper bracket consists of Chinese teams, expect to see Team Aster eliminated early.