I haven’t written a blogpost in a while, and I for sure did not foresee myself write one in such conditions…
Where to start really?
I just managed to take a week off, trying to force myself to realize what just happened, but I am quite certain I was not successful in doing so.
We won TI again.
We broke yet another curse, and this time it was one that I also believed was nearly impossible to break, at least certainly not in the way we did.
There are so many things that make this whole achievement quite unreal and at this point it is almost as if people were talking about someone else, about another team.
There is so much that I want to share with you guys, and it will probably require several blogposts. I want to tackle the 8/9 season, TI9 itself, the future, and many more things. One step at a time though, and in this one I will probably stick to the hottest topic : our TI9 back-to-back title.
Let me start off by saying that for this year’s TI, there was a lot of attention and content being created around our team, therefore I am sure you guys will be able to, throughout the year, get a very precise understanding of how we ended up winning TI9. I’m also very excited to go through it again, later this year. This experience is so intense that you barely get time to really understand what is going on, you just go with the flow and wake up once it is all over.
TI9 was completely different from TI8, that’s for sure. The overall level of competition was much higher, just like every year. The fact that it happened in Shanghai also brought a new factor to the equation : having the crowd cheer against you is a very special experience obviously. The way the metagame developed ( or should I say refused to develop ) was quite unique this time around. And the list goes on…
There is only so much I am allowed to publicly share, so I’ll have to double check what I write. For those who follow me since the beginning of my career, you know how much this frustrates me. One day, I’ll be able to give back as much as I want to. But as for now, I’ll just stick to whatever does not give my competitors a better chance of beating us!
TI9 teams :
Generally speaking though, TI9 was incredibly competitive. I truly think that there was no team, out of the 18, that couldn’t compete for a high-end finish. Back in my days, you always had a decent number of teams that clearly had no chance of threatening the top contenders. These days are long gone. It’s great for the scene but quite scary for the participants.
This brings me to tackle a topic that is very important to me. Competition is cruel, and TI being the most competitive tournament of the season makes it also the cruelest. Every year, you get 85 losers ( 17×5, spared you coaches and staff that also get heavily affected ), and only 5 champions. Society happens to give winners all the attention and credit whereas losers basically disappear, back to the shadow. Now that I am on the winning side of things, it’s easier for me to say that I find it quite unfair. Basically all the teams that attended TI9 have sequences they can be proud of, sequences that should be talked about post-event. You could even extend that to teams that were on the edge of making it to TI. So much hard work, dedication and time investment. It’s easier to grind when you know your chances of getting something in return are high. As far as I am concerned, my real heroes are the ones that dedicate all their time and efforts to their dream of winning TI, without knowing if they will ever get close. All they have is faith.
I often hear/read things like : « the level of a team is the level of their weakest link », when in fact I look at it very differently. To me, the level of a team is the level of their best showing. I would also suggest you guys apply that philosophy to how you see yourselves as players. Your potential equals the best DotA game you ever played, and that means you are surely much more talented than you actually realize.
Shanghai, and the TI9 crowd:
I would like to say a few words about the crowd, and the way the teams were treated in the arena. I know that a lot of online fans were quite offended by the crowds approach to the games in the arena. People went under the assumption that the fans in the stadium blindly cheered for Chinese teams instead of cheering for good DotA. My experience was actually quite different, even though I understand where that impression came from ( after watching twitch clips of the games ).
DotA is absolutely huge in China, it’s been huge there for more than a decade. Fans share history with their teams, it’s much more than just casual support, at this point, it’s personal. They assimilate the success of the team they root for to their own success. Just like in traditional sports, it is a very common thing. Therefore, they try to help their team in whatever way they can. Even though I personally do not look at it this way, I do understand where they are coming from.
For instance during our series vs LGD, we even got booed while exiting the arena, right after we’d just lose game 1. This was the first time I’ve experienced it, and to be honest, it was quite rough. At the same time, after we won the series, hundreds of Chinese fans were waiting for us backstage to congratulate us and show great sportsmanship. A lot of them even had LGD outfits. This goes to show that it isn’t about trying to hurt or disrespect the team they don’t support, but rather trying to help their team in any way they can. Without entering the debate about whether or not this is a good way of doing it, I just wanted to share that experience to give you guys a wider perspective of what the experience was like over there in Shanghai.
OG as back to back TI champions:
I now want to take a closer look at what this TI9 title truly means to us.
Ever since I started playing, I always looked at winning TI as the ultimate goal. We reached that one last year, and it was absolutely amazing. Back then we had already proven ourselves we could become the best team in the world. Nevertheless, there was always a challenge above the TI title. A challenge that was so far up that even thinking about reaching it felt delusional : winning TI twice, back to back.
Becoming the best team in the world is hard, but what is even harder is to maintain yourself in that dominant position. In DotA, it has never really been achieved. Every time a team entered TI as clear favorites, they always ended up crumbling to the pressure. The only exception to that might have been Alliance in TI3. When it comes to defending champions trying to double their achievement, no one ever got close enough.
I think this has a lot to do with the lack of psychological preparation in DotA, and I even want to say esports in general. When you study the greatest athletes in sports, the ones that were able to maintain themselves on the top of their fields, all they really talk about is the mental part of what they do. Being able to reinvent yourself, to keep challenging your habits even though you are already the best at what you do. Being able to rebuild the same fire you had when you went for it the first time, dealing with the public pressure and the expectations everyone around you have for your team. All these things put together ( and much more actually ) make the task very hard to fulfill.
I can only assume that in traditional sports, athletes have an entire staff helping them out with that. They also have the previous generations of champions helping them understand the challenges and traps that lie ahead of them. In DotA and esports, we have to write that book ourselves. We basically have to figure it all out on the spot, by ourselves. As for the past champions, the first generation of dominant players is still actively competing, and if they aren’t, they are still thinking about building their own paths and careers.
I am not even mentioning the part where you actually have to keep being the best team in the world, above all sorts of competition, while having every single one of your moves gets dissected and studied by the opposition.
Despite all that, we did it.
I read some crazy statistic about us not having lost a single series on TI main stage in two years, and it sounds insane.
I’m at a point where I can’t even think of a harder challenge. It almost feels like we’ve finished DotA. I am sure that feeling is temporary, and it will sooner or later get pushed away by new goals. Nevertheless, I am happy to enjoy it while it lasts.
Words cannot describe how proud I am of my team. We had to overcome so much together, and we grew a ton. I had dreams of the perfect roster, a line-up that would have all the skill, game understanding and camaraderie you could ever ask for. We’re even better than what I pictured, and we’ve proven it once again. Most importantly, we did not lose our connection to DotA along the way. We are true DotA lovers, and we are still able to enjoy the game as much as we need to, in order to give it all our time and energy. This game taught me so much about myself and about the world. This game got me to meet and connect with incredible people from all around the globe. I am so incredibly grateful for all of that.
Now is time to enjoy the fruits of our hard work. I want to thank everyone at OG who made this crazy achievement possible. Every single one of you was essential in this success. I want to thank my five teammates for being the best companions I could ever ask for. I want to thank my friends and family for believing and supporting us, through highs and lows.
Last, but surely not least, I want to thank OG fans for being the backbone of our story. You made all of this possible because you believed in our vision. We are grateful for the way you treat us. We know we have your support no matter what, and it makes us invincible.
This is your win as much as it is ours, so once again, thank you.