This is part of “Into the Invitational“, a series about the teams competing at the ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational. In this series, we’ll look at each team’s DPC season, their TI9 campaign, and any subsequent roster changes to see how they match up before they clash on December 20-22 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
After a disappointing 13th-16th place finish at The International 2018 (TI8), TNC started off the 2018-2019 season by adding rising star Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte and veteran Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr., with team stalwarts Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios, Timothy “Tims” Randrup, and Carlo “Kuku” Palad filling out the rest of the all-Filipino squad.
A slow start to the season — which saw them finish at ninth to 12th place at the Chongqing Major and bomb out of the qualifiers for the Stockholm Major — led to ninjaboogie’s departure in February 2019, with Nico “eyyou” Barcelon returning to the team as his replacement.
TNC started to build up steam once TI7-winning coach Lee “Heen” Seung Gon joined the team as their new coach in April. Heen was instrumental in unleashing the lineup’s potential, leading to improved results for the rest of the season — such as a fifth to sixth place finish in ESL One Birmingham and fourth place finishes in ESL One Mumbai and the EPICENTER Major — and a direct invite to TI9.
With an entire season’s worth of momentum on their side, TNC came out of the tournament’s grueling Group Stage with a 9-7 record — which included wins against much stronger teams in PSG.LGD, Team Secret, and Team Liquid — and an Upper Bracket berth at the Main Event.
The team was pit against one of the Chinese favorites, Vici Gaming, in their opening match and were expected to fold against a much stronger opponent and a hostile crowd at the arena. While TNC did ultimately lose the match 2-1, the scrappy squad made Vici work for their victory as two of their three games were 60-plus-minute slugfests.
The Filipino squad next faced off against Team Liquid, who they notably swept 2-0 in the Group Stage, in the Lower Bracket. Despite convincingly winning their previous encounter, TNC ended up as one of Liquid’s victims in their run to a Finals showdown against eventual champions OG and were eliminated at ninth to 12th place.
Shortly after TI9, TNC announced that Kuku, eyyou, and Heen have left the team, with Damien “kpii” Chok and Park “March” Tae-won joining in their stead. The team’s new signings were a seeming throwback to their signing of American veteran Jimmy “Demon” Ho in 2016 that led to the team’s breakout performance in TI6, in the sense that TNC once again looked overseas for players to supplement its talented Filipino core.
TNC Predator’s roster for the ONE Esports Dota 2 Invitational:
- (1) Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte
- (2) Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
- (3) Damien “kpii” Chok
- (4) Timothy “Tims” Randrup
- (5) Park “March” Tae-won
It didn’t take long for March and kpii to show their worth to the team, as they were instrumental in TNC easily qualifying for the MDL Chengdu Major. With kpii remaining one of the most stable and self-sufficient offlaners in the scene, Gabbi and Armel were able to thrive in the hyper-aggressive “cave-man” strategies that March became known for during his time as captain of MVP Phoenix.
Coming off of dominant wins in ESL One Hamburg 2019 and World Electronic Sports Games 2019 Southeast Asia Finals, TNC are looking like the top dogs of the region and a strong contender for the first Major championship of the season in Chengdu this coming November 16.
TNC is the only SEA team participating in the ONE Esports Dota 2 Singapore World Pro Invitational, but their results so far have shown they can definitely take on any team and win. Can they continue their strong start to the season with another championship in Singapore?