In recent times, BOOM Esports have emerged as not only the strongest Dota 2 team in Southeast Asia, but one of the very best squads in the whole world as well.
After a lucky break that allowed saw them start the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season in Division I instead of Division II, BOOM proved their strength by winning both the Winter Tour regional league and Winter Tour Regional Finals for Southeast Asia.
BOOM turned up against international competition as well, taking the championship of the GAMERS GALAXY: Invitational Series Dubai 2022 while toppling the likes of Tundra Esports, Team Secret, Nigma Galaxy, and The International 10 winners Team Spirit.
BOOM's meteoric rise to the top of the Dota 2 world has largely been driven by their midaner Erin Jasper "Yopaj" Ferrer, who is arguably the best player in his position in the world right now.
Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia recently spoke with Yopaj to get his thoughts on playing as the midlaner and why he's so good at it:
Yopaj has an active playstyle
Yopaj is often BOOM's primary playmaker, setting the tone for his team by setting up ganks and being the focal point in teamfights.
The Filipino Dota 2 professional said that he viewed the midlaner’s job as mainly to create space.
“It depends on the player on how you use the role in the mid. Because for me I really like to kill the enemy and give space for my carry,” he told Yahoo Esports SEA.
This active playstyle allows Yopaj to slow down the enemy team and let BOOM dictate the pace of the game.
During their group stage match against OG in the GAMERS GALAXY Invitational, Yopaj knew that the enemy team was taking a stack and decided to poke at them, getting a kill on Evgenii "Chuvash" Makarov and disrupting Bozhidar "bzm" Bogdanov’s farm on Storm Spirit.
It’s plays like these that make Yopaj an incredible midlaner.
Instead of allowing his enemy to farm in peace or worrying about counter plays, he instantly goes for a quick kill on the OG support and leaves their midlaner running away with no mana.
Yopaj has the fewest deaths of all midlaners
While Yopaj's active playstyle nets BOOM a lot of kills, it can also make him vulnerable to getting killed himself.
But somehow, he has been able to escape in-game death time after time, making aggressive plays but rarely overextending or risking his life.
Among all the midlaners at the GAMER'S GALAXY Invitational, Yopaj only averaged 2.4 deaths per game — lowest among all players in the tournament.
The only other midlaner who averaged less than three deaths average per game was Team Spirit’s Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO" Khertek.
In BOOM's three-game romp through the GAMERS GALAXY group stage, Yopaj notched 42 kills and 34 assists against just two deaths. You read that right, only two deaths across three games.
We asked Yopaj how he manages to maintain such a low death rate, and he credited it to the teaching of BOOM coach and Southeast Asian Dota legend Chai "Mushi" Yee Fung.
“Because that’s what Mushi taught me in the game. Like, don’t give [a] free kill [to] the enemy, because before I [would] keep rushing in, and I don’t care if I die cause I just want to give space for my carry. I now realize there are better ways to do things. Like, don’t give nonsense deaths,” said Yopaj.
Yopaj can take over as the carry
Yopaj isn’t just a space-making monster during the midgame, he is also amazing at scaling into the late game.
Incredibly, Yopaj often keeps pace and even occasionally outfarms his own carry, Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong.
This was most apparent in game one of BOOM's lower bracket match against Team Secret, where Yopaj on Kunkka had a 15,000 gold advantage over all the other cores in the game.
Yopaj’s ability to farm makes it difficult for enemies to take on BOOM in the late game, as they are essentially fighting against two carries in most situations.
It also allows BOOM to draft more flexibly by picking heroes like Templar Assassin for Yopaj, with whom he can either act as the team's secondary carry, or take over as the hard carry himself.
When asked how he balanced making space and farming, the Filipino explained that it was all about efficiency.
“For me, you need to be efficient, and don’t waste even just a couple of seconds. And you need to think first if there’s a chance of a kill or to move the map,” Yopaj said.
Yopaj has an unorthodox hero pool
Another skill that has impressed Dota 2 fans is Yopaj's deep hero pool. This includes typical midlane heroes such as Ember Spirit and Templar Assassin, Yopaj’s most-played competitive heroes with a 65% win rate each.
But that’s not all he has in his pocket. One of the oddest heroes to see in the midlane is Snapfire, a hero almost exclusively played as a support. Snapfire can scale, but her scaling talents only come online at levels 20 and 25, making her a risky pick.
But in Yopaj’s more than capable hands, Snapfire is an absolute monster, as he proved with this Ultra Kill against Fnatic in the upper bracket semis of the SEA DPC Regional Finals.
Yopaj explained why he saw Snapfire as an ideal mid hero, saying, “I consider Snapfire a flashy hero, and I really like it cause she can buy Boots of Travel, Eul's Scepter of Divinity, and Blink Dagger that make you very mobile. And she can deal magical and physical damage at the same time."
Yopaj spends a lot of time analyzing matches to improve
The midlane in Dota 2 is often seen as the “one-versus-one” lane, where the two most mechanically gifted players for each team pit their skills against each other with minimal support from the rest of the team.
Even in a competitive setting, midlaners will spend most of the laning stage by themselves.
Because the midlane is seen as a duel between two players, a lot of midlaners will spend their time practicing their mechanics in pubs and grinding MMR.
Yopaj is no exception to this rule, but he noted that nowadays, he spends less time playing and more time improving his skills in other ways.
“When it’s training time only, I only play 10 games a day. And now I don’t really play pub that much. I spend more time watching replays,” Yopaj revealed.
Watching replays is one of the most common pieces of advice given to players to improve in Dota 2, and Yopaj's performances prove the value of age-old wisdom — spending an equal amount of time watching replays to improve as one does playing the game.
With his aggressive playstyle, ability to scale throughout the game, and an unorthodox hero pool, Yopaj truly is the best midlaner in Dota 2 right now.
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.