For the first time in two years, TNC will be looking to qualify for The International with a fully Filipino roster, as Armel joins TNC. TNC has a history of relying on western captains to guide their rosters into the months leading up the The International.
They first experimented with western players when Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho joined the roster for The International 6 qualifiers as their fifth position and Captain. Under his leadership, the underdog squad not only qualified for TI6, they finished in 7th-8th place, taking tournament favorites OG out along the way. He didn’t stay long, departing to Fnatic shortly after TI6 and taking other TNC players Nico “eyyou” Barcelon and Marc “Raven” Fausto along with him. TNC’s next western captain, Theeban “1437” Siva, would have more longevity with the team despite worse results at The International 7 (9th-12th). He joined the team in May of 2017 shortly after the Kiev Major, relieving mid player Kuku of the captain and drafting responsibilities. He helped lead the team to several top three finishes over his eight month tenure before announcing that he would be leaving the team after they had a disappointing performance at ESL One Genting.
The team recently announced that Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios would be joining the team as their mid laner, with Carlo “Kuku” Palad moving to support and taking over the captain and drafting position once again.
Kuku became iconic for his daring (and maybe crazy) Huskar that was the key to demolishing OG at TI6. Since then, he has demonstrated strong performances from the mid lane on his Queen of Pain, Tinker, and Lina. While his transition to support may seem out of character, long standing fans know that he began on TNC as one of their supports. He showed promise playing heroes like Witch Doctor, Lion, and Winter Wyvern with standout performances on roaming junglers Chen and Enchantress.
Kuku will also be reclaiming the captain role, a position he held before 1437 joined the team. Kuku originally captained from the mid role, and the team only made it through a handful of qualifiers with middling results at LANs. The transition to support should allow Kuku to focus on directing his team without having to worry about the mechanical and farming pressure that comes with the mid role. While it isn’t impossible to captain from core positions, such as Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao on Team NP and Fnatic, it is much more common for captains to direct their team from support roles. Supports have the flexibility to survey the map and the state of the game without the same level of pressure on farming and tempo control.
Armel broke into the scene with Clutch Gamers, the gatekeepers of the SEA region for the first half of 2017. He showed impressive performances with heroes like Invoker, Shadowfiend, and Outworld Devourer. He has demonstrated flexibility, playing a diverse cast of heroes that should give Kuku plenty of drafting freedom. While his history shows that he dominates on traditional mid heroes, it will be up to Kuku if we see Armel in control on a Queen of Pain, or playing the less traditional Weaver or Slark to round out the draft.
Kuku and Armel have similar statistics across their 7.00 matches, and both exhibit aggressive mid-laner styles that make use of support rotations early and tempo control throughout the game. TNC will gain a drafting advantage and they may not have to adjust playstyle very drastically to fit him into their line up.
TNC has been on the brink of becoming a powerful force in the international scene, and the additional of Armel in the place of 1437 might be what the team needs to charge into The International 8 as a force to be reckoned with. TNC will attend their first LAN with the new roster in March, having previously qualified for the PGL Bucharest Major.
Although Armel was only recently announced as part of the roster, he has a history of playing with TNC during the WESG qualifiers. TNC.Philippines dominated their qualifier without dropping a single game. Kuku reminded us how strong he is on the Winter Wyvern while Armel proved himself on Shadow Fiend, Dragon Knight, and Invoker. Although WESG is composed of national teams, rather than professional rosters, these matches show promise for team synergy. If Kuku can adjust to the support role and take advantage of creative drafting and aggressive play styles, they can look to accumulate qualifying points and head into The International 8 as a serious contender.