Zhang “xiao8” Ning continues to impress Dota 2 fans even though he’s officially retired from competitive gaming.

The 32-year-old TI4 winner has recently been playing as a stand-in for PSG.LGD, and delivered impressive results.

xiao8’s first full tournament with the current PSG.LGD lineup was during the recent ESL One Fall 2021 where the team made a deep run in the lower bracket and eventually finished second place behind Tundra Esports.

He is currently standing in for the team in the ongoing Sapphire OGA Dota PIT Invitational tournament.

PSG.LGD’s midlaner xiao8 has a unique approach to Dota 2

In Dota 2, the midlaner is typically the player with the highest mechanical skill on the team. The midlane player is expected to have a deep understanding of hero matchups, rotations, lane dominance, last hitting, and denying.

Topias Miikka “Topson” Taavitsainen is a player who consistently showcases this incredible individual skill.

The last time xiao8 played Dota 2 competitively was in August 2016 at TI6, more than five years ago. To step back into Dota 2 in the most demanding role in the game was going to be a challenge.

Instead of competing in the midlane with traditional heroes, xiao8 instead opted to go for mechanically simpler heroes who provided space for the team. His three most picked heroes in the tournament are Pangolier, Spirit Breaker, and Leshrac.

xiao8 can still go toe-to-toe with the best in the Sapphire OGA Dota PIT Invitational

PSG.LGD, WePlay AniMajor
Credit: WePlay! Esports

xiao8 may not always win during the laning stage, but definitely makes up for it by coming back in the midgame with team fight contributions and leadership.

In the Sapphire OGA Dota PIT Invitational, xiao8 reminded opponents and Dota 2 fans alike that he’s still an incredible player with solid skills. In the first round of OGA Dota Pit against Team Undying, he baits Jonathan “Bryle” Santos De Guia to come in close with Storm, and gets a solo kill in the midlane even though it was an unfavorable matchup.

In the semifinals match of the Sapphire OGA Dota PIT Invitational Upper Bracket, PSG.LGD had a tough opponent to beat in T1. The first game in the series was a clean victory for T1, but the Chinese superstars rallied together in game two and three.

A big part of their victory boiled down to how well xiao8’s performed in the series, particularly in game three when he played Lina. He managed to lead in networth, and even secured 14 kills for his team, the highest in the game.

In the final team fight, xiao8 baited Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon‘s Faceless Void to initiate. He then tanked all the damage inside Chronosphere, before turning the tables on T1 for a double kill.

The Sapphire OGA Dota PIT Invitational continues on September 10 with the lower bracket final between Tundra Esports and Team Spirit, broadcasted live on their official Twitch channel.

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