Has the Time Come for Zhou to Part With Dota 2?
In the wake of TongFu’s humiliation against LGD-Gaming in the World E-sports Professional
Classic, the team’s carry, Chen “Zhou”
Yao, took the community by surprise by announcing that he is considering
retiring from Dota 2. But has the time come for one of the most successful
carry players to have ever played this game to throw his mouse and keyboard
into the storage room?
After their crushing defeat to LGD-Gaming in the play-offs of China’s most prestigious competition, the former Invictus Gaming carry, Chen “Zhou” Yao, 23, was left devastated by the result to the point that he is willing to put an end to a long and successful career. Was it a carefully thought through decision or was he just upset to have lost yet another important match, a few days after their defeat 0-2 to Team DK in the semi-finals of G-League?
“I am in bad form today, and I felt it when I was playing. If I can't adjust better, I will retire. Thanks to all my fans, I let you guys down”
His Tweet triggered a strong reaction from the community but also from his close relations, professional players and various personalities, who showed their support for The International 2012 champion. Those who have never played DotA or been interested in the Chinese scene may be indifferent to his possible departure. Truth be told, he is a fantastic player — you have to be a fantastic player in order to win The International — but it is also true that his recent years in Dota 2 have not been the most memorable part of his career.
Zhou-Shen (Zhou-God) came to prominence in 2009 when Comme Dieu reached the grand final of the SMM Grand National DotA Tournament falling to For The Dream, later known as LGD.sGty. This performance earned him and his teammates a sponsorship with Nirvana, the club that made their participation at SMM possible. When Comme Dieu was acquired by the cash-rich Chinese owner, Zhou was already considered one of the best carry players in the country, if not the best. Of course, Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei was not the superstar that he is today, but Zhou still had strong competition with Zou “820” Yitian and Gong “ZSMJ” Jian, to name a few. With Nirvana, Zhou played alongside some of the most prolific players in the history of the game such as He "insence" Bin, Yang “seaking” Tao, Chen “Dgc” Xu or even Bu “YaphetS” Yan Jun. Unfortunately, he placed second in most of the tournaments he attended with this team until WCG China, G-League Season 5 and more importantly, the World DotA Championship, the tournament that confirmed that Nirvana was one the strongest teams in the world.
During the Great Chinese Reshuffle in 2011, he was bought by Catastrophic Cruel Memories for 50,000 RMB. 50,000 RMB may be very little considering that Jiao “Banana” Wang and Chen “Hao” Zhihao were bought last year by Invictus Gaming for 100,000 and 110,000 RMB, respectively. However, at that time, 50,000 RMB was an important sum. In comparison, BurNIng and KingJ, who had an amazing year with EHOME, were bought for 40,000 and 30,000 RMB by Team DK. Even though these two players won more titles than Zhou in 2010, CCM still wanted to acquire the services of the latter at any price.
His first year in Dota 2 was also unbelievable. With only a few online tournaments under their belt, Invictus Gaming were not necessarily the favorites to win The International 2012. However, an almost-flawless run in the group stage followed by a series of fantastic performances in the play-offs crowned the Chinese powerhouse the best team in the world, and Zhou played a major role in his team’s victory. Although the other Chinese carry players showed their prowess with Anti-Mage and Morphling, Zhou excelled with Luna, a hero barely played at the time.
This was a fairy tale he wishes had never ended. They were arguably the best team in the world, but this also made them the team to beat. Their fourth place finish in the fourth edition of the G-1 Champions League was attributed to a lack of research, and thus understanding, on the new patch. After their “early” elimination, Jiang “YYF” Cen said in an interview with 2P.com:
“It’s because there was a version update at the time, and we didn’t do any research on the newly available Magnus, and that’s how we lost.”
Despite this misstep in this tournament, the former Nirvana.cn superstar was still named “Best Carry of the Year” by Team Liquid, and nobody contested this decision for obvious reasons.
G-League was their next target, and as expected, they did not disappoint. They played 13 games in the competition, winning 12 of them to become their own successor. However, one of the support players of the team, Wong “ChuaN” Hock Chuan, knew that something was wrong. Even though they clinched yet another victory, he could see that the team was regressing, and he was right. During the fifth edition of the G-1 Champions League, they finished last in the tournament with only a win over Team DK. Zhou was stunned by this early elimination and blamed himself for the poor performances of the team.
“Recently iG has been in poor form, and I must bear a large part of the responsibility. Thank you to all the fans who continue supporting us through our poor form, we will not fall like this. Even if we have to fight back from the bottom, we will be back one step at a time!”
Maybe his performances were not up to par, but the heavy defeats 43-3 and 31-4 to LGD-Gaming and Team Liquid, respectively, were certainly not only his fault. Truth be told, Zhou did not play a great tournament, but neither did the rest of the team, especially Zeng “Faith” Hongda who, despite being one of the best support players in the world, failed in this tournament as a drafter and player. After the completion of the tournament, it was rumored that the team had several fights and requested to have some roster changes. However, it is said that it never happened due to the controversies surrounding LGD-Gaming who lost their invitation after re-integrating Xie “DD” Bin to the squad.
The next tournaments leading to The International 2013 were also catastrophic. The team barely qualified for the play-offs of the Dota 2 Super League, the then biggest tournament in the country, to then fall to the international squad of LGD-Gaming in the first round. The same happened in the RedBull ECL where they lost to the modest team of RisingStars in the first round of the play-offs.
They were definitely not one of the favorites to win last year’s International, but to everyone’s surprise, they still managed to finish the tournament on the fifth place, alongside Team DK, to become the second best Chinese team at the event. Luo “Ferrari_430” Feichi impressed while Zhou disappointed. On September 2nd, ChuaN confirmed that there were indeed issues within the team after tweeting:
TongFu was probably the best team that he could have ended with. He re-united once again with Zhaohui “SanSheng” Wang, his former teammate at CCM. In this team, he also had the chance to play alongside world-class players such as Zhang “Mu” Pan and Gong “ZSMJ” Jian. Not only was he playing alongside remarkable players, he was also the leader. He could have been a leader with Invictus Gaming, but there were probably too many dominant personalities. TongFu’s new team did not impress as much as the previous squad, but Zhou was showing promise. He did not always shine in the games he played, but his performances were distinctly better. He managed to impose his style by drafting heroes that were never picked in his former team. On the 6.79 version, he was the first to introduce the Necronomicon book “abuse”, and this achieved great results for a while.
With TongFu, he was slowly coming back to his best, but the rest of the team usually had problems. Mu often underperformed on his lane whereas SanSheng was no longer the support he used to be. The absence of Hao and Banana may have been the reason for their instability. However, this did not stop the team from placing in the top 3 of the National Electronic Sports Tournament as well as G-League. But this was apparently not enough for the DotA veteran who is now considering retiring.
With the imminent departure of Mu to the
so-called Dream Team, it will be very difficult for TongFu to find a
replacement of the same caliber. They may promote Xun “uuu9” Han from their academy team or buy a mid-player from another
club. Be that as it may, Zhou has had his ups and downs, but he remains a
remarkable player that the Chinese scene needs. He has the experience and
talent to lead this team with or without Mu. Team DK’s own BurNIng considered
retiring from the competitive scene after failing to win a major event on
several occasions. He proved that determination and hard-work can lead to
success. Some may say that he was lucky enough to find the right teammates.
Find a team, work hard and make it successful, because this is definitely not
your time to retire.