Competitive Dota has kicked off for the year and the DPC Lower Division and Upper Division games are underway. If you follow the Dota 2 competitive scene, you will likely recognize most of the teams in the Upper Division. Teams like Secret and Nigma in the European division, PSG.LGD in China, and Evil Geniuses in North America.
The Lower Division however, is a lot more enigmatic, with teams like Arkosh Gaming and Hokori having entire teams of players who are seemingly unknown.
Capitalist, while casting Europe’s Lower Division, talked about how team Burjui was a collective of players who weren’t really on the map competitively; none of the players had appeared on his radar as being even adjacent to other European professional players and most of them didn’t have Liquipedia pages.
What this means is that even if you’re a regular viewer of competitive Dota, there are likely a number of teams that are entirely new to you playing in this DPC season. So which teams are actually worth looking out for? Who is actually likely to make it to the Upper Division in their respective region?
Europe’s DPC Lower Division
As is to be expected, Europe is the region with the most recognisable players. There are some tier 2 teams you may know, along with some professional players who have cobbled together stacks, and some well-known pub players joining the fray as well.
Spider Pigz are a strong team on paper, with ex-Na’vi player LeBronDota in a support role and Thug, who is likely still best known for playing safe-lane carry for Ad Finem during their unprecedented run to 2nd place at the 2016 Boston Major.
While Spider Pigz have started fairly poorly in the group stage with a 2-1 loss to Creepwave, it should be noted that they played these matches with their substitute, Lil Pleb. Once they had Thug in-play for their series against Meta4Pro they looked like a much stronger team. I would suggest that despite this initial loss they are still a real contender for an Upper Division slot.
The team you should really be looking out for though, is Hellbear Smashers. Misery is playing under the name rASmus and has brought in two well-known European pub-stars in Stormstormer and Gilgir. On top of that, the team has Ace, who won several Minors and Majors during his stint with Team Secret from 2017-18 and won another 2 Minors with Ninjas in Pyjamas in 2019.
Compared to the rest of the teams in the Lower Division, Hellbear Smashers is certainly stacked with talent. But there are a lot of talented players in Europe. SsaSpartan and W1sh, who both played for the same Ad Finem squad Thug played for back in 2016 are on team Brame. Notable pub-star Zipzaper has also brought his own stack to play in the Lower Division under the name Meta4Pro.
South East Asia’s Lower Division
The DPC Lower Division teams for the SEA region are looking strong overall, with some old names returning and some fresh blood in the mix as well.
KyXy and 343, previously from Fanatic, have put together a team for the qualifiers called Galaxy Racer. KyXy has been a prominent player since placing 3rd at The International 2013, and shouldn’t be underestimated with a strong team behind him.
ZeroTwo is a team composed of old Boom players inYourdreaM and Dreamocel, along with former Team Aster player ChYuan. These are all players with Minor wins under their belts and should be looked at as a definite contender for the SEA regional qualifiers as well.
The main team to watch in the DPC Lower Division is going to be Hoyo. This team has Meracle and Forev leading a team of tier 2 players. They are already looking strong after a convincing 2-0 victory over Yangon Galacticos. While Forev’s strongest Dota year was back in 2016 on MVP Phoenix, he has always been an individually gifted player. Meracle is another player with somewhat middling results but superb individual skill. Bringing the 2 players together could be what they both need to climb to tier 1 status.
It seems reasonable to say that Hoyo, Galaxy Racer and ZeroTwo are the teams to pay closest attention to in the Lower Division. What is also exciting is seeing Yangon Galacticos representing Myanmar and a full Mongolian stack called Lilgun. Seeing underrepresented countries getting their chance at Major Dota 2 tournaments is always incredibly exciting.
South America’s Lower Division
The South American competitive scene in Dota 2 is perhaps the most underdeveloped of any region in the DPC. Having said that, they still play some great Dota and will have a lot of matches you’ll want to check out.
The main team in the SA region worth noting is 0-900. They are: Madara, Kxy, Jericho, Greedy and sl4d1n-. Madara, kxy and Jericho have all been part of the Dota 2 competitive scene for a while and have some tournament wins under their belt. Kxy has a third place at The Summit Online: America’s tourney, Jericho managed 4th at the 2018 Starladder Minor, and Madara has a slew of smaller wins over his career.
The other teams in the Lower Division are mostly unknowns. Arms, a Brazilian player of Pain Gaming fame, has gathered a team of 4 Peruvian players under the name Infinity Esports and could give Madara’s stack a run for their money.
Many South American Dota fans were upset that One Million, a far more established team, were not given a direct invite to the closed qualifiers. The all-Brazilian team, comprised of hFn, leo, tavo, Morais and Bob, ended up losing out on a Lower Division spot after a loss to 0-900 in the region’s open qualifiers.
North America’s DPC Lower Division
North America is another region with a reasonably underdeveloped competitive scene. While there are a lot of talented players in the region, their ability to get together and form cohesive teams seems to be lacking.
Team Dogchamp’s two best known players are BloodyNine and Rylalisa. Nine has played for Black Sheep in the past, but is perhaps best known as an NA pub-star, while Rylalisa played for POTM Bottom when they won the World Electronic Sports Games Canada in 2018.
If you’re familiar with the NA scene at all then you will likely be aware of MonkeysForever. He’s a fairly popular streamer and a high MMR player in the region. He has also played for Complexity and was part of the old 4Zoomers lineup —a team that received a direct invite for the Upper Division. Monkeys is playing alongside Zfreek (who you may know from Complexity or OG.Seed) empyreaN and two Canadian players known as Boris, and iAnnihilate.
Just looking at the other teams in the division, the players on this team are certainly the standouts, and with Dogchamp losing their first series and sT winning theirs, Monkeys’ squad is off to the better start.
China’s DPC Lower Division
China is always a difficult region to gauge. Teams will often have stable results throughout the year and then suddenly, a relatively inconsistent Chinese team will turn into a monster just in time for The International. Wings Gaming’s TI6 run is a perfect example of this. Another would be a relatively unknown team like CDEC Gaming making it to TI5 as a wildcard and taking 2nd place.
Royal Never Give Up
As for the DPC Lower Division, things aren’t exactly cut and dry. Royal Never Give Up are a safe choice in that they’ve been together since around TI9 where they placed 7th. They also won the Huya Winter Invitational, a recent Chinese tournament where a lot of the Lower Division and even some Upper Division teams played. RNG defeated Aster in the finals and went through Phoenix, IG.Vitality and CDEC on the way. The team also has Super, who has a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place at The International among his many tournament wins.
Sparking Arrow Gaming
Sparking Arrow Gaming won Artisan Dota League in December of last year, beating out teams like IG.Vitality and Phoenix Gaming who are also in the Lower Division. They beat Royal Never Give Up 2-0 in their first matchup in the Lower Division round robin and looked pretty convincing doing it. Game 1 of the series was particularly one-side. RNG looked completely outmatched from the early laning stage until the end.
This first matchup is going to make SAG the favourite going into the rest of the group stage, but it is early days and RNG has plenty of time to turn it around.
Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) Lower Division
The CIS region is always tumultuous. Throughout the years there have been more teams in CIS that looked good on paper and then proceeded to implode than in any other region. This often makes gauging the strength of CIS teams difficult and the Lower Division is no exception.
Frankly it was a surprise to me to see Hell Raisers bumped down to the Lower Division after a 2-0 loss to Ghostik’s team, No Pangolier. There is a lot of talent here. Resolut1on, Lil and Cooman are incredibly solid players in their respective roles and while Nix is less known he has had some decent results on HellRaisers in the last year. Vanskor is an older player, that’s for certain, but often that is exactly what a team of star players needs to reign them in —look at the leadership of veterans like Puppey and Kuroky.
Perhaps their swift ejection from the Decider Tournament was an eye-opener and we can expect some better results from them in the Lower Division. With the players they have you can only expect good things.
Gambit, like many CIS teams, has had sporadic results. Sometimes they will use their highly aggressive playstyle to take down tier 1 teams. They did this to OG at ESL One Katowice in 2019. Other times, like in this year’s DPC season, they’re getting knocked down to the Lower Division by Winstrike Team. Despite this, I think Gambit are certainly a team that should be considered a contender in the CIS region.
Ex-Na’vi players Magical and Funn1k have built a decent squad for the DPC and could look to take the top spot. While none of the players have had many impressive tournament wins lately, KingR, Nofear and Lightless are incredibly talented CIS players and will no doubt be a strong contender among the Lower Division teams.
Dendi’s team B8 is still in the qualifier despite losing 5up during the tournament and Winstrike team could be a strong contender also. With so many strong players in the region, the CIS division is likely the most difficult to predict next to China.
Nothing is Set in stone
You can’t go wrong watching any of the DPC Lower Division regions at the moment, not only due to the quality of the teams participating, but also to see how the meta is evolving after the massive Mistwoods update Valve released in December of 2020.
Nothing in competitive Dota is set in stone. A random stack can always take a game off a European powerhouse –Mudgolems did this very thing against Secret during the Upper Division qualifiers– which is one of the things that makes Dota 2 such a great Esport to watch.