For American Dota 2, both NA and SA, the history books will read like this: it began with the transfer of world class players from the European teams. Two were acquired by Evil Geniuses – one a TI champion (Gustav “s4” Magnusson) and the other a 4 times Major winner (Tal “Fly” Aizik). One by paiN Gaming – former Major winner and TI finalist (Omar “w33” Aliwi). And one by VGJ.Storm – former TI finalist and winner of many Dota 2 trophies (Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok). And the fate of American Dota would rest upon their shoulders.
The EG – OG drama
Evil Geniuses is a very powerful esports organization with a great history behind it and quite a bit of money to spend. Over the years it’s been the home of many champions from a large variety of esports titles. But since 2015, when EG won The International under the leadership of Peter “ppd” Dager, Evil Geniuses’ Dota 2 team has been in struggle town. And this year in particular, it simply went full Na’Vi mode and just crashed and burned at almost every event, in spite of having a very good roster.
The first attempt to revitalize the team came in December 2017. At that point, the North American organization decided to bring in a new coach, replacing Avery “SVG” Silverman with Sam “BuLba” Sosale. It also decided to let go of one of its best players and also one of the strongest offlaners in the world, Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora, replacing him with Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen, a very experienced captain.
With this new formula, Evil Geniuses had to make some massive playstyle changes and ended up sending its mid player (Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan) offlane. An absolutely shocking decision that was met with great skepticism from the entire community, including myself. For a while it seemed that EG was on the path to success again, but the team quickly hit the wall again and has been on the ropes ever since.
Finally, after a humiliating 10th – 12th place result at ESL One Birmingham 2018, and practically no chance of qualifying for The International 2018 (neither directly nor indirectly, due to poor form and much stronger competition in the NA region) Evil Geniuses decided to do something drastic: let go of Clinton “Fear” Loomis and MISERY and bring in OG’s captain (Fly) and offlaner (s4). In this new formula, SumaiL will likely go back to his mid role and the team as a whole is looking incredibly strong.
Of course, in order for EG to win these two extremely valuable players, OG had to lose them. The “power of friendship” wasn’t meant to last I guess, and the disappointing results throughout this season have ultimately led to the separation between Fly and Johan “N0tail” Sundstein. It was inevitable if you’re asking me and if OG wants to keep its 3 current members and come back to playing top level Dota at some point in the future, N0tail absolutely has to go back to his original support role. If you’ve ever seen him play this role you know what I mean. And if you’ve ever seen him play the mid or carry role you also know know what I mean.
Sebastien “7ckngMad” Debs, OG’s former coach and current player, has already expressed his desire to rebuild the team and continue playing for it. And, of course, he has also stated his disappointment about the whole situation. To some degree it’s understandable, given that OG had started to show clear signs of improvement over the last month or so.
But what’s done is done. We will almost certainly not see OG at this year’s TI, while EG will have to pray that OpTic Gaming gets a top 4 finish at the last Dota Pro Circuit LAN event of the season, China Dota2 Supermajor. Otherwise it’s gonna be nearly impossible for them to beat both OpTic and VGJ.Storm in the regional qualifiers. But only time can tell. With this new roster, the potential is definitely there.
The rise of VGJ.Storm
VGJ.Storm replaced its entire roster in February this year. But even with their new roster, they still struggled to get results. Then, on April 12th, Resolut1on was brought in as the team’s new carry, replacing Enzo “Timado” Gianoli. As soon as this transfer took place, VGJ.Storm’s performance skyrocketed and just one month later, the team won its first important event, GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor. Following that tournament, VGJ.Storm made it all the way to the Grand Final at the MDL Changsha Major, proving that it should now be regarded as one of the main contenders at any event.
As a side note, it’s fascinating to see just how much better a quality player can perform when it has the right team around him. With his former team, OG, Resolut1on didn’t manage to do much. But as soon as his teammates changed, he started winning trophies again. This teaches us a fundamental lesson not just in esports but also in life in general. And that it is this: surroundings matter. The people you surround yourself with can have a huge impact on what you do and your performance level.
In OG, something simply didn’t click. It isn’t necessarily that the players were bad, although you could argue that some of them messed up completely in their given role from time to time. It was mostly a matter of bad synergy and a total lack of momentum.
PaiN Gaming are relieved of their pain
Can you believe it? PaiN Gaming finished 3rd in a Valve Major. At ESL One Birmingham 2018, paiN Gaming surprised everyone with a series of strong performances inspired in part by the team’s latest addition, w33. This player is exceptional, both mechanically and tactically, both in the way he fights as well as in the macro game. And after his transfer to paiN Gaming, the South American team’s strength skyrocketed.
That goes to show you just how much individual skill can change in Dota. Transfers like this one, followed by impressive results by a team that used to be just an after though at the international level, are a reminder that your fate is still very much in your own hands in these team-based strategy games, even though you also depend on what those around you are doing.
w33’s performances for paiN Gaming remind me of Miracle’s performances for OG, back when OG was winning off the back of his Godlike moves on heroes like Invoker and Anti-Mage.
With so many great players joining and transforming American Dota 2 teams for the better, we’ll likely see a much fiercer competition in the future, both in North America and South America. It’s still hard to tell who will qualify for The International 2018 from of these regions and whether or not America has a representative that could actually claim the Aegis of Champions this year, but one thing is certain: these transfers will put in motion massive changes whose consequences will be felt for a long time to come.