The International 11 (TI11), this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, marks the first time that the event will be held in Southeast Asia, and presents an opportunity for SEA Dota teams to put up a show in front of their regional home crowd.
Over the years, the Aegis of Champions have been claimed by teams from Europe, China, and North America. Now that the battle for the Aegis will be held in Singapore, is it finally time for a Southeast Asian team to be crowned as Dota 2's world champions?
Among the Southeast Asian teams that have qualified for TI11, one stands out for their performances over the year — BOOM Esports.
The most unexpected promotion of the season
For a team that dominated the region in the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season, BOOM Esports didn't technically start the first tour in Division I, or at least they weren't promoted into Division I.
Omega Esports were originally part of the eight teams to begin Southeast Asia's Winter Tour regional league in Division I, but Omega received a ban due to match-fixing allegations, leaving BOOM Esports as their replacement.
BOOM were underestimated when the season started, as many assumed that a Division II team couldn't take games off the best teams in SEA.
But it turned out the squad was more than a match for them, as BOOM won both the Winter Tour regional league and Regional Finals to establish themselves as the dominant force in the region.
BOOM only got stronger after they replaced Justine "Tino" Grimaldo with Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong.
Tino was good a fit for BOOM but JaCkky was a clear upgrade and the team immediately reaped the rewards of the swap, winning GAMERS GALAXY: Invitational Series Dubai 2022.
The next challenge for BOOM were to prove themselves at the ESL One Stockholm Major but unfortunately for them, they were beset with multiple issues.
The team had difficulty securing visas early and only managed to get the full squad at Stockholm the day of the tournament. BOOM scrapped by in the group stage, but were one of the first to be eliminated during the playoffs.
Nonetheless, the "Boys Out Of Manila" ended the season strong, winning the Summer Tour as well as the second GAMERS GALAXY tournament.
The team's second Major appearance this season at the PGL Arlington Major was more successful as well, as they managed to arrive early and placed a respectable 7th-8th in the tournament.
How will BOOM fare at Singapore?
There's a certain magic to TI that makes it impossible to predict who will win the tournament.
Nobody expected OG to come out of nowhere in TI8 and win the competition with a last-minute roster made up of the team's coach and a random pub star who hadn't played a single LAN tournament before. Nobody expected OG to become the first-ever back-to-back TI champions at TI9 either.
With that being said, Southeast Asian teams in general have had lacklustre showings at recent iterations of TI. At TI10, T1 were the highest-ranked Southeast Asian team and placed 7th-8th. In TI9, it was TNC and Mineski who both finished 9th-12th.
The region's best performance was a decade ago, when Orange Esports placed third at TI3.
Southeast Asia is incredibly competitive yet somehow the teams that make it through the regional gauntlet stumble on the big stage and rarely showcase their full potential.
Do BOOM have what it takes to break that cycle? I think they do.
BOOM's biggest asset is that they have a member of that Orange squad on the team, and it's none other than the legend Chai "Mushi" Yee Fung himself.
Mushi has placed fourth at TI twice and made it all the way to third place.
There is no better person in the world to guide a Southeast Asian team at TI than Mushi, he's done the trek himself multiple times and his experience is invaluable.
The team have also shown impressive growth during their DPC journey.
In Dubai, they were able to eliminate powerhouses such as Team Secret, Tundra Esports, and the TI10 champions themselves, Team Spirit.
At ESL One Malaysia 2022, BOOM took down the eventual winners OG 2-0 at the group stage, proving they have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the best teams from Europe.
That said, while I believe in BOOM, it's still important to remember the level of competition at TI and the nerves that plague teams at the event.
While the team has a lot going on for them, I imagine that in the end BOOM will place 5th-6th, any lower and I'd be disappointed while any higher will be a pleasant surprise.
BOOM's lineup features some of SEA's best
The lineup for BOOM Esports is composed of some of the best players for each position in Southeast Asia.
JaCkky is a flexible carry player who shines as the game goes longer and longer. Practically unbeatable when playing heroes such as Medusa and Faceless Void, if JaCkky gets to the late game with enough farm, it's near impossible to take down BOOM.
BOOM's midlaner is not only an incredible player, but he is also one of the most creative out there.
Erin Jasper "Yopaj" Ferrer pushes the envelope for the heroes he plays without giving the enemy anything back, often having the lowest deaths per game compared to other mid laners. Yopaj also brought Snapfire to the mid lane, proving his creativity to the world.
Saieful "Fbz" Ilham is the longest-tenured player on BOOM, having joined the team four years ago. Fbz has gotten more comfortable over time and it shows in the way he approaches the game. His offlane hero pool focuses on making space for the team with heroes such as Pangolier, Mars, and Beastmaster.
Scaling heroes aren't Fbz's strong suit though and with the game going longer in the current metagame, it will be interesting to see how the BOOM offlaner will adjust to the new meta.
The other half of the offlane duo is Filipino star support player Timothy "Tims" Randrup. Tims is the most experienced player on the team, having attended TI thrice with TNC. He is a remarkably creative player, unafraid to try unorthodox support heroes such as Monkey King.
When Fbz struggles in the late game, Tims is always there to pick up the slack, scaling well as the game progresses and transitioning to a fourth core for his team.
Andrei "skem" Ong is another Filipino Dota 2 veteran.
Originally a carry player, skem transitioned into playing support because he found the role more fun, and let's be honest, it is.
Whether it's Winter Wyvern, Bane, or Clockwork, Skem loves playing supports who can control magic immune targets and he's proven himself a nightmare for the enemy cores.
An aggressive team with a lot of creativity in their players and strong late-game scaling, aided by the best coach in Southeast Asia, BOOM Esports is a hungry beast at TI11. But will they feast on the other teams and take the Aegis, or will the starve and end up as another middle of the pack team?
BOOM Esports are one of the 12 teams to receive a direct invite to TI11 out of a total of 30 participants. They will be one of the 20 teams to start in the Group Stage alongside the other directly-invited teams, the six winners of the regional qualifiers, and the two winners of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).
TI11 will be hosted in Singapore from 8 to 30 October and features a revamped format with the new LCQ and a longer schedule. For everything you need to know about TI11, check here.
BOOM Esports roster:
Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong
Erin Jasper "Yopaj" Ferrer
Saieful "Fbz" Ilham
Timothy "Tims" Randrup
Andrei "skem" Ong
Chai "Mushi" Yee Fung (coach)
Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.
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