Changing of the guard; Dota 2's shift in dominance
This year's DPC season and ESL One Stockholm Major 2022 have been characterized by a changing of the guard, a shift in teams and players at the top of Dota 2.
Team Spirit stunned the Dota 2 community by defeating the TI10 tournament favorites, PSG.LGD, 3-2 in the grand finals and took home the Aegis and $18.21 million at TI2021 in Bucharest, Romania last October.
Team Spirit's journey was nothing short of spectacular. This team of mostly youngsters and 4/5 The International debutants played with unbelievable composure and presence of mind.
- Read about the thrilling grand finals in Team Spirit are the champions of The International 2021 (TI10)
Those reading the Dota 2 story look back and see this as foreshadowing. The pivotal moment in which the landscape began to shift.
Eight months later ESL One Stockholm Major 2022, the first LAN Major of the new season, saw newer teams, younger players, and first-time Major competitors take the main stage.
There was a noticeable absence of the Dota 2 'big ones' —teams and players.
Incidentally, this was the first Valve-sponsored event where upper bracket finals did not include either EG, OG, Team Secret, Team Nigma, or Team Liquid, and therefore veteran players such as Clement "Puppey" Ivanov, Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi, Artour "Arteezy" Babaev, and Johan "N0tail" Sundstein.
Team Secret and Team Nigma didn't even qualify for the Major (poor Team Nigma was relegated to Division II in fact). Evil Geniuses were knocked out in the group stage and Team Liquid didn't last much longer. They were knocked out in the first round of the lower brackets when BetBoom Team bested them 2:1.
The new guard
Both teams managed to put up a stellar performance to make it to the top 6 by winning their first series in the upper bracket.
Coming to the Major after a dominant run in both seasons of the 2022 Dota Pro circuit, Gaimin Gladiators stomped their way to the upper bracket playoffs, finishing top seed in Group B. Gaimin Gladiators took an impressive 4th place finish at the end.
Apart from TSM.FTX captain, David "MoonMeander" Tan, and Kim "DuBu" Doo-young, who made a name for themselves in the tier 1 scene since 2014, the rest of the players can still be regarded as rather new in the higher echelons of Dota 2.
The line-up stuck together through the 2021 DPC year and from having to rely on fans through a GoFundMe campaign for the TI10 Bootcamp, they are now playing under the TSM.FTX banner, the most valuable esports company, according to Forbes.
Although they didn't manage to take the championship title, TSM did take an unexpected and remarkable 2nd place finish.
And of course, there is OG, who took the championship title at ESL One Stockholm Major 2022.
While the organization is nothing new to the scene or taking titles at Majors or beyond — they are the only organization in the history of Dota 2 to have won five Major championship titles and claim the Aegis of Champions twice — this year's roster IS.
Their line-up features the youngest player to have ever competed in the DPC, namely Ammar "ATF" Al-Assaf, who was just 15 years old when he made his competitive debut with Creepwave in January 2021. ATF played his first-ever Major at 17 years old, the same as his teammate, Bozhidar "bzm" Bogdanov, and Artem "Yuragi" Golubiev is only 20 years old.
While some might like to scream "Old Man Doto" and the aging process of our veteran and legendary players, we have already discussed with experts in the physical performance and health field this myth.
It isn't entirely possible to rule out some decline in skills or changes in priorities as players pass through life phases. But there are other reasons for the shift.
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.
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And he isn't the only one that thinks this way.
Miroslav “BOOM” Bičan of Gaimin Gladiators shared 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.
Some have been disappointed with it, others blame it for the lack of third-party events, and now it seems it may very well be the reason we are seeing the shift in the Dota 2 landscape -- perhaps one of the best things to come out of the league play.
Either way, whatever the reason, we are witnessing history in the making and it is time to pay tribute to the old guard and salute the new champions of the landscape.