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Forward and Aster, Potential Yet Unrealised – Part 1: Forward

Mythos 2019-02-10 11:06:21
  When The International 2018 concluded, the annual post-TI shuffle brought with it promising new lineups. Among these were Forward Gaming and Team Aster — two hopefuls that looked to stand out amidst regions that fell flat at the International. Since then, neither team has managed to achieve the success that one would expect when looking at the lineups. Click here for Part 2 Starting with Forward, their roster remained mostly unchanged from the old VGJ.Storm team featuring Resolut1on, YawaR, MSS, and SVG. The only player moved was offlaner Sneyking, for Universe. On paper, this seemed like a flat upgrade. It's no secret that Universe's career is far more decorated and that he's widely regarded as North America's all-time great offlaner. Importantly, his style seemed like a good fit for the team. Universe could play the initiation role to a very high level and thrived in teams that afforded him space to farm. With YawaR's more sacrificial style of carry and a support duo that loved to open up the map, Forward Gaming may have been the offlaner's best option for the season. Early domestic success showed a lot of positives. Although not yet at EG's level, the match up was at least competitive and no one else came close within their region. A little more time and perhaps Forward could finally snatch that coveted “best in NA” title from the boys in blue. This was a team that looked to embody what could be called a great system in Dota. Universe was drafted initiators and tanky team fighters that could endure tough early games. SVG and MSS created strong lanes through support play. YawaR firmly planted his feet in the position 2 role, soaking up some resources, but still providing room for his team. Lastly of course was Resolution, whom operated excellently as the centrepiece carry for this system. forward A strong “system” has not existed in North America perhaps since TI5. While EG tend to rely on Arteezy to carry the late game, Suma1L and S4's roles are usually less rigid, relying more on what they feel makes sense for the game at hand and letting talent take over from there. A system like Forward's breaks down of course when it can't be adapted either to the meta or its members’ playstyles, or when a critical part of their system fails to execute consistently. Fortunately, during this period, it all seemed to be firing the way you'd hope. YawaR was hitting career-high form, transitioning strong laning phases into high-tempo mid games, but also carrying from time to time. The presence of an experienced offlaner and strong supports not only gave breathing room for Resolution, but for the first time, this group didn't have to rely on their carry to completely take over every game. A previously unsustainable formula, the team finally had a roster that possessed contingency. Sadly, although these principles carry over, the results have not. Forward's first international tournament was ESL One Hamburg and it saw them start the event of with a rocky group stage and end with a swift 2-0 exit in the first round of lower bracket. While disappointing, keep in mind visa issues had them playing with a standin for the midlane. As such, you could excuse their first international LAN as one of poor circumstance. Going into the Kuala Lumpur major, the full roster was together for the first time. A shame that they couldn’t have that valuable prior experience, but any less than top 8 would be disappointing for the trajectory this team had. Of course, it didn’t pan out that way at all and Forward once again found themselves in the lower bracket. Dispatching Gambit at first, they had the misfortune of running into domestic rival and eventual 3rd place finisher, Evil Geniuses. Though they put up a fight, it was ultimately a 2-1 loss that had Forward looking outclassed. Okay, sure, they didn’t make it far, but this also feels like an understandable loss. The month that followed presented opportunities for redemption, with two online events and one fairly prestigious LAN. None of these improved the situation — a series of flops threw shades of doubt at Forward. With losses to the likes of Gambit, Pavaga, and Nemiga, the CIS region seemingly had their number. Yet there was no evidence to indicate the North American squad could take a meaningful series off any top 10 team. When the Chonqing major qualifiers rolled around, it was J.Storm that had found momentum. Once a punching bag for SVG's squad, now a legitimate threat. Still, a second place finish had them attending the event (and a win over EG, though the match was merely for seeding). At the event, Forward found themselves in a group with PSG.LGD and Secret. A rough ask for any team and certainly not a winnable situation for this roster. The playoffs were once again tragic, as a best of one against J.Storm saw Forward finishing last. Much of this team's LAN experience so far has felt riddled with misfortune. Constantly running into top 4 teams and domestic rivals has set them back multiple times. Luck makes for a flimsy excuse though. This was a team destined to threaten EG's spot as undisputed best North American squad, but no such notion has come close to attainable for Forward. The Stockholm major brings with it another wealth of opportunity. Perhaps with little pressure on them to perform, Forward will find a groove. For now, this team has yet to show any of what its elements are capable of achieving. 
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