Changes in the Guard; Dota 2’s Power Shift

Jul 4, 2022

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This year’s DPC season and ESL One Stockholm Major 2022 have seen a change of guard, with new teams and players emerging at the top of Dota 2.

At TI2021 in Bucharest, Romania last October, Team Spirit astonished the Dota 2 community by defeating the TI10 tournament favorites, PSG.LGD, 3-2 in the grand finals and taking home the Aegis and $18.21 million.

The adventure of Team Spirit was nothing short of remarkable. This bunch of largely teenagers and 4/5 International debutante displayed incredible poise and mental fortitude.

Those who have read the Dota 2 plot can perceive this as foreshadowing. The turning point when the landscape began to change.

Eight months later, newer teams, younger players, and first-time Major competitors competed in the ESL One Stockholm Major 2022, the first LAN Major of the new season.

The ‘big ones’ in Dota 2 — teams and players — were noticeably absent.

This was also the first Valve-sponsored event in which the upper bracket finals did not include EG, OG, Team Secret, Team Nigma, or Team Liquid, and therefore veteran players like Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi, Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, and Johan “N0tail” Sundstein.

Team Secret and Team Nigma were not even invited to compete in the Major (poor Team Nigma was relegated to Division II in fact). In the group stage, Evil Geniuses were eliminated, and Team Liquid didn’t last long. They were eliminated in the first round of the lower brackets after losing 2:1 to BetBoom Team.

The new guard

TSM FTX and Gaimin Gladiators are two of the teams for whom the ESL One Stockholm Major was not only their first Valve-sanctioned event, but also their first LAN.

Both teams performed admirably to advance to the top six by winning their first series in the upper group.

Gaimin Gladiators crushed their way to the upper bracket playoffs after a successful run in both seasons of the 2022 Dota Pro circuit, finishing first seed in Group B and taking an astounding 4th place finish at the end.

Apart from TSM.FTX captain David “MoonMeander” Tan and Kim “DuBu” Doo-young, who have been in the tier 1 scene since 2014, the rest of the players are still relatively fresh to the game’s upper echelons.

The lineup stayed united throughout the 2021 DPC season, and after relying on fans to fund the TI10 Bootcamp through a GoFundMe campaign, they are now playing under the TSM.FTX banner, Forbes’ most valued esports organization.

TSM came in second place, which was a surprise and incredible achievement considering they didn’t win the championship.

And, of course, there’s OG, who won the ESL One Stockholm Major 2022 championship.

While the organization isn’t new to winning trophies at Majors or elsewhere — they are the only organization in Dota 2 history to win five Major championship titles and the Aegis of Champions twice – this year’s squad is.

Ammar “ATF” Al-Assaf, who was only 15 years old when he made his competitive debut with Creepwave in January 2021, is the youngest player to have ever competed in the DPC. ATF, like his teammate Bozhidar “bzm” Bogdanov, played his first Major at the age of 17, while Artem “Yuragi” Golubiev is only 20 years old.

Possible reasons

While some may shout “Old Man Doto” and the aging process of our experienced and renowned players, we have already tackled this myth with experts in the field of physical performance and health.

It’s impossible to exclude a decline in skills or a shift in priorities as players progress through their lives. However, there are other factors at play.

Tundra Esports’ Martin “Saksa” Sazdov shared his thoughts on why the Dota 2 scene is changing with GosuGamers.

I think it is mostly because of the DPC format. With the current 6-week-long DPC format, the meta changes from week to week and you constantly have to adapt and improve your strategies. Some of the older teams don’t have the energy and focus compared to the younger teams. Going ahead, we are bound to see more young players come to the fore and perhaps, some of the old guards will bring young players to their teams.

He isn’t the only one who believes this.

Gaimin Gladiators’ Miroslav “BOOM” Bian shared the following with us:

I think a lot of the players who are new to tier 1 are extremely hungry to prove themselves, beat everyone, and win each game they play. For the more experienced players, it might be a bit harder to stay motivated all the time [through the six weeks], which this DPC system requires. 

I believe that many new tier 1 players are eager to show themselves, to beat everyone, and to win every game they play. It may be more difficult for more experienced players to stay focused over the six-week period required by the DPC system.

Some have been disappointed by it, while others have blamed it for the absence of third-party events. Now, it appears that it may be the reason for the shift in the Dota 2 landscape, which is perhaps one of the nicest things to come out of league play.

Regardless of the reason, we are witnessing history being made, and it is time to honor the old guard while saluting the new landscape champions.

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