2023 has not been kind to China and its Dota 2 teams. After consistently racking up high placements in major international events, the country has suffered its worst performances in nearly half a decade with its best performing team, Aster, finishing in 7-8th place at both the Lima and Berlin Majors. Gone are the days of teams like PSG.LGD dominating the professional scene in seemingly every facet without so much as breaking a sweat.
A part of this transition and struggle can be attributed to the massive ban wave handed down by Valve that saw more than 40 players banned as a result of "esports integrity violations." This sent shockwaves through the Chinese scene which included EHOME and Knights folding, but it also has allowed some new players to break into the scene like Guo "shiro" Xuanang and Li "niu" Kongbo of PSG.LGD.
However, such talent can’t play without any help surrounding them. That is where veterans like Zhang "y`" Yiping come in. As someone who won The International 6 with Wings Gaming and led PSG.LGD to a runner-up finish in TI10, y` has been tasked with building a new lineup to become a contender for TI12. While the team hasn’t secured a direct invite to the event yet, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them appear in Seattle in a few months’ time.
Before the start of DreamLeague Season 20, BLIX talked to y` about the team’s current state at the end of the DPC, his thoughts on China’s poor form on the international stage this year, the new patch, his individual development throughout his career and more.
This interview was conducted with the help of a translator.
Pedro Romero, BLIX: I want to start by asking what you think the state of PSG.LGD is like right now after qualifying to the Bali Major in Tour 3?
Zhang "y`" Yiping: I think it all depends on our performance in DreamLeague because we have just reached Europe yesterday and were playing pubs while waiting for our last player with a day to spare. About our condition, it all depends on the matches against the good European teams and those from other regions to see our meta versus their meta and how we can learn from it.
BLIX: Looking at the lineup, the team made a change to its roster following the Berlin Major by bringing niu in for zeal. What came about that move and how have you seen niu's performance since joining the team for Tour 3?
y`: I haven't really thought about this question before. I feel it was more about having better communication and better discipline with the team. At this moment, our team is not good enough via DPC points to qualify for TI, and after niu joined us, I think we have had better communication and the team is more disciplined.
BLIX: Does that mean that the team wasn't as disciplined throughout the season up until niu's arrival? Likewise, why do you think the team has not played as well in these Major events compared to the domestic side?
y`: About the first part, it doesn't mean that before niu arrived, the team wasn't that disciplined. Actually, before niu came, it was more of NothingToSay, myself and our coach xiao8's lack of cooperation because niu had been a very old teammate to shiro and planet so it doesn't mean that our team wasn't disciplined before. Talking about niu, his arrival came at a critical point as he's an extremely new player to all of us, and like zeal, he was an old teammate with shiro and planet.
Talking about the time of the stage in the season, it is almost our last chance to qualify to TI so all of these factors made our communication more compact and made us more disciplined. For the second part, I thought that, for the first two DPC tours, we didn't perform that good at all so it's just about evolving step by step because we have many new players joining the roster this year and almost none of them had LAN experience before.
Shiro and planet had their first LAN event in the Lima Major and niu had his first event in the Berlin Major, so the players are gaining experience in the international level versus the other regions so we're all making good progress. That's why we didn't perform as good as in the domestic stage compared to the international stage.
BLIX: This next question is essentially the same as the last one but it concerns China. This year, the country has not performed to the same level it has had in the past in pro Dota. China's highest placement this year has been 7-8th by Team Aster. That begs the question of why do you think China has not played well this year specifically?
y`: I think there is a gap period in China where all the old players are retiring and the new players are coming up to fill the rosters. I can't say on the current situation in China but maybe TI is the best way to see how it is.
BLIX: I want to grab thoughts on the new patch that has been in the game for more than a month now. What are the things that you like the most and the least from this new patch?
y`: There's nothing I don't like a lot. With this new patch, it has brought a fresh feeling that makes me feel everything is very good. My favorite part is the addition of the universal heroes and all the other small updates. As for the new additions to the map, I feel good about it too. The part I hate the most about the new patch is, for the pro players in their pubs, it's the way they pick players in drafts and how the previous Dota Plus blacklist function doesn't work now.
BLIX: Diving into your career specifically, you played a major part for Wings Gaming in TI6 and how that team played so well and had played for other teams such as EHOME and PSG.LGD. What has been the biggest thing that developed for you as an individual throughout your career?
y`: My biggest takeaway from all those years is all the friends I made, regardless if they were teammates, opponents or coaches and all the personalities that I met. Each stint had its different time and a different set of difficulties within the team and the way I solved those problems made my life more exciting.
BLIX: Which person has helped you the most in your development as a player and why?
y`: I'll mention two players. One is the player I spent the most time with, which is Faith_bian and the second is our coach xiao8.