MANILA--The past three years including 2021 have seen a significant change in the landscape of the Philippine DOTA 2 scene.
Gone are the days in which only Mineski and TNC Predator were the talks of the town following the emergence of new contenders like Team Adroit, which won the 2019 Southeast Asian Games DOTA 2 event, and the perennial strongholds' former stars now taking charge for other teams even from overseas like Carlo Palad, TNC Predator's former carry who is now the captain for South Korean squad T1.
This year,in particular, saw the rise of Neon Esports, and following a brilliant run in the DOTA Pro Circuit Season 1, Neon soared to number five in the DPC standings, putting them in a good position to lock in an outright spot in The International 10.
TNC Predator, on the other hand, is far behind at 24th, and unless they put up a strong run in Season 2, they may have to go through the qualifiers if they want to book a ticket to Stockholm for TI10.
On Sunday night, however, TNC Predator sort of showed that they remain as the gauge of how Filipinos should succeed in DOTA 2 after sweeping Neon in the grand finals of the Asia Pacific Predator League.
Despite the latest silverware to their collection and what seemed like a statement to Neon, TNC Predator's hard carry Kim Villafuerte said that they have ruled out the thought of regaining their old status as the Philippines' "numbah wan".
"Di namin iniisip yung maging number one sa SEA o sa Pinas," Villafuerte said after the sweep.
He added that merely thinking about becoming the top team in the region will just go down the drain eventually.
New captain Marvin Rushton and longtime midlaner Armel Tabios then uttered two factors that might come along for being the main attraction in a DOTA 2 region.
"May dagdag pressure," Tabios said.
"Parang madi-disappoint ka pag natatalo ka," added Rushton, who was actually Adroit's skipper during their SEA Games championship run in San Juan City two years ago.
Villafuerte further said that the said mentality would always lead to overconfidence that might take a toll if a relatively inferior team pulls off the huge upset, which is why they took out that thought already.
On whether they have indeed conceded the number one spot to Neon remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: TNC Predator is still out there to win especially with the road to TI10 still far from over.
"Gusto lang naming manalo every game. Gusto din naming mag-qualify sa major," Villafuerte further said.
The Predator League gold is just the start.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno