Everyone hates seeing a support Pudge in their ranked games, but Aster’s soft support made it look like a decent idea.
In the opening round of The International 2021, Team Aster went for an experimental pick against Evil Geniuses. In the second phase, Aster captain Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng drafted Pudge for Ye “Borax” Zhibiao, previously known as “BoBoKa.” While it wasn’t enough to defeat the North American titan, it definitely contributed to Pudge’s reputation as a must-watch hero for The International.
The Pudge pick immediately baffled the commentary desk. Pudge is an extremely rare sight in professional Dota 2 since he’s easy to play around and requires the opponents to make mistakes. Aster drafted a complementary support in Lich for LaNm, who used Sinister Gaze to set up several Meat Hooks in Aster’s safe lane.
In between rotations, Borax kept his experience up with the newest change to Meat Hook. It now instantly kills non-ancient neutral creeps similar to Mirana’s Sacred Arrow. In addition to pestering EG carry Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, Borax was able to preemptively ruin his jungle by taking all the valuable creeps.
Despite Borax’s massive contribution, Aster was unable to win either game in the best-of-two. Evil Geniuses’ prolonged high-ground sieges in game two eventually led to two sets of barracks and a GG call from Team Aster. It’s not an ideal start for the afflicted team, but such a strong showing against EG could hint towards future success.
Pudge has a very decorated history at The International. During The International 2016 grand finals, dark horse champion Wings Gaming picked Pudge against Digital Chaos in the grand finals of The International 2016. Similar to Team Aster, Wings lost that match with style. Danil “Dendi” Ishutin and Clement “Puppey” Ivanov abused fountain-hooking with Pudge and Chen at The International 2013. Pudge isn’t always successful at TI, but he’s guaranteed to put on a good show.
Sharp-eyed fans noticed an unfamiliar name on Aster’s side of the river. Regular mid-laner Liu “WhiteAlbum” Yuhao announced he was suffering from health issues just one day before the start of the group stage. He’s been temporarily replaced by Chen “86” Yuxuan, Aster’s assistant coach. His TI10 stand-in tag “Aries” is a reference to the organization’s junior team, Aster.Aries.
86 has previously played for EHOME.Keen and ForTheDream Club C. He most recently played mid for WeAreYoung, an unsponsored group of rising Chinese talent. He has also coached Keen Gaming and its junior team, Luminous. 86’s signature hero is Invoker, which he got to show off in game two of Aster’s series against Evil Geniuses.