This year's annual Dota 2 world championship tournament, is almost upon us, with the 15 October start date coming nearer and nearer (if you don't count the Last Chance Qualifiers).
Our first team preview for The International 11 (TI11) in Singapore was on TI10 champions Team Spirit, so it's only fitting that our next look will be on the other TI10 finalist: PSG.LGD.
China's LGD Gaming are one of the most decorated and iconic organisations in the history of Dota 2. Aside from the inaugural TI back in 2011, LGD has attended every iteration of the game's world championship tournament.
As a powerhouse of the Chinese Dota 2 scene, LGD have almost always been a favourite to claim the Aegis of Champions. To their credit, the organisation has proven itself worthy of being considered a perpetual contender over the years.
Always the favourites, but never the champions
LGD teams have placed third three times at TI2, TI5, and TI9, and second twice at TI8 and TI10.
Those are commendable placements, especially the three-year run from 2018 to 2021 after LGD partnered with French football giants Paris Saint-Germain and rebranded its main squad as PSG.LGD.
Unfortunately, all those second and third-place finishes LGD have accrued hardly matter to most fans.
The 'rangz' culture of sports like basketball also exists in esports, most fans equate a team's greatness by how many championships they have won.
This phenomenon is especially prevalent in Dota 2, where for almost every team in the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), it's TI or bust.
Don't get me wrong, LGD is a premier organisation. The PSG.LGD roster the organisation fielded from 2018 to 2019 as well as the one they're fielding now are both deserving of places in the Dota 2 Hall of Fame, if ever there was one.
But they haven't gotten over that last hurdle yet.
Despite being the favourites to win TI so many times now, the Aegis of Champions remains ever so elusive for LGD. None hurt harder than TI10.
Last year was supposed to be the year that PSG.LGD finally claimed the Aegis. It seemed destined.
Wang "Ame" Chunyu looked like the best carry player in the world, rookie midlaner Cheng "NothingToSay" Jin Xiang was absolutely phenomenal, and Zhao "XinQ" Zixing finally got people to notice he's one of the best position 4 players in the world.
The team had championship pedigree up and down the roster too.
Zhang "Faith_bian" Ruida and Zhang "y`" Yiping were members of the legendary Wings Gaming roster that won TI6, while coach Zhang "xiao8" Ning looked to lead another squad to the Aegis after leading Newbee to the championship at TI4.
Unfortunately, PSG.LGD lost arguably their best chance at capturing the Aegis to Team Spirit's epic Cinderella run.
Almost a year later, it's still almost unbelievable how that happened.
Some Chinese Dota 2 fans probably still have nightmares about PSG.LGD not banning Magnus. And they will have to relive that experience when the TI10 grand finals True Sight finally premieres on 24 September.
The spectre of their heart-breaking loss in TI10 still looms over PSG.LGD ahead of TI11.
There is no doubt that they are one of the best teams in the world and have the talent to win it all.
At this point, PSG.LGD's biggest enemies may not be the other teams at TI11, but instead the overwhelming burden of expectations placed upon them.
PSG.LGD have always been the favourites at TI, but never the champions.
TI11 may be the team's last chance to change that as Faith_bian will be retiring after the tournament. The window is closing, it's now or never.
So, the question begs itself...
Will PSG.LGD finally break through, or will they choke again?
There's a running joke in the Dota 2 community that PSG.LGD are the best team in the world, but only for 364 days every year. That one day, of course, is the finals day of TI.
That proved to be true in 2018, 2019, and 2021 (there was no TI in 2020). This year, that joke got tweaked a bit: PSG.LGD are the best team in the world, but only for 363 days every year.
So, what are their chances this year?
PSG.LGD looked as dominant as ever throughout the 2021-2022 DPC season.
They won the Chinese regional leagues and Regional Finals in both the Winter and Spring Tours. While the team only finished fourth in the Summer Tour regional league, fans said it was only because they were taking it easy after already receiving a direct invite to TI11.
Fans then proclaimed that this was the year PSG.LGD finally claimed the Aegis (for real this time) after the team seemingly avenged their loss in TI10 by beating Team Spirit to win Riyadh Masters 2022, a third-party tournament.
Such celebrations proved to be short-lived, however, as PSG.LGD once again crumbled when it mattered, losing to Team Spirit 3-1 in the grand finals of the PGL Arlington Major.
Game two of the grand finals seemed like a microcosm of PSG.LGD's plight. They looked nigh-unstoppable throughout the Major but folded once the stakes were at their highest.
In that epic game two, PSG.LGD let multiple chances to win the game slip past their fingers, eventually losing after a harrowing 75 minutes.
The team looked broken after that, getting run over by Team Spirit in the next two games.
I don't want to seem like a PSG.LGD hater, but there's no denying they have a tendency to choke when it matters.
It cost them the championships of both TI10 and the Arlington Major.
But that's the thing about being a perpetual favourite, anything less than first place is a massive disappointment.
Just ask the PSG.LGD players themselves and the Chinese Dota 2 community that expect so much from them.
Make no mistake, PSG.LGD can be the absolute best team in the world and raise that elusive Aegis of Champions, depending on the day of the year as the joke goes.
But kidding aside, PSG.LGD have full control of their destiny.
Each member of the roster is among the best players in their respective roles, if not the very best. They are a joy to watch when they're playing their game, whether you're a fan or not.
It takes a truly great team like PSG.LGD to have such lofty expectations thrust upon them, even if they have fallen short multiple times.
The Chinese juggernauts are one of the heavy favourites to win TI11, only behind their rivals Team Spirit.
PSG.LGD are a team you absolutely should be watching, if not for the great Dota then for the chance to see if they can finally overcome their demons and capture that elusive Aegis.
PSG.LGD is 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.
Wang "Ame" Chunyu
Cheng "NothingToSay" Jin Xiang
Zhang "Faith_bian" Ruida
Zhao "XinQ" Zixing
Zhang "y`" Yiping
Zhang "xiao8" Ning (coach)
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