When news broke that carry John Anthony “Natsumi-“ Vargas won’t be able to fly with the team for the ONE Esports Singapore Major, the rest of the OB Esports x Neon squad had to fight against time to find a replacement.
But after much deliberation, the team agreed in unison that they want to bring in another Filipino to play as stand-in for Natsumi – who was deemed ‘unfit to travel’ at the time.
Speaking at Tieberker Vodcasts’ Beyond the Meta, presented by SMART Sports, OB.Neon members revealed that they initially wanted TNC carry and The International veteran Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte to play with them in the first Dota Pro Circuit Major of the year.
“Si Gabbi [talaga].
“Actually pare-parehas lang kami kasi napagkasunduan talaga namin na si Gabbi talaga yung first option namin tapos may ibang option din na Pinoy pero si Gabbi talaga,” said Neon support Jaunuel “Jaunuel” Arcilla.
Considered one of the best carry players in Southeast Asia, the 22-year-old Gabbi boasts a lot of experience playing on the big stage.
Aside from participating in TI9 and multiple ESL ONE titles, Gabbi and TNC were the last squad to win a Dota Pro Circuit Major before the season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic as they topped the MDL Chengdu Major back in 2019.
“Kung kailangan namin as a carry, sa akin si Gabbi kasi siya yung fit na carry din sa a min eh tapos mag o-offlane si Skem para same pa rin kami ng strategy,” explained support Prieme Ejay “PlayHard” Maque.
The team, however, could not bring in Gabbi as there were reports that teams are not allowed to recruit players to stand in from any other Division One teams.
“Bukod kay Natsumi ha, sa akin din si Gabbi kasi gusto lang din namin ng all-Pinoy na lineup doon sa Major.
“Saka first option namin siya nung nalaman namin na di makakalro si Natsumi kaso parang bawal sa management nila,” said Neon carry Erin “Yopaj” Ferrer.
Neon then brought in former offlaner Rafael “Rappy” Sicat, but sent home was immediately sent home after a day playing for the team.
Yang “Deth” Wu Heng came in for Neon Esports and that’s when the magic began to happen.
After losing three of their four assignments in the group stage, Neon Esports was able to force a draw against South American and European powerhouses Thunder Predator and Alliance, respectively, and take down Team Liquid to punch a ticket to the playoffs.
There, they booted out top-ranked Southeast Asian squad Fnatic and Chinese behemoth Vici Gaming to advance to the third round of the lower bracket.
The team also came a play short from pulling the upset rug on Team Secret, who was then the favorites to win the entire Major.
OB.Neon ended the tournament at fifth-sixth place and took home a total of $25,000 along with 300 Dota Pro Circuit points with Deth in the roster.