Team Secret has taken the Dota 2 scene by storm. Starting out during the summer months of August 2014 as an intriguing presence on the horizon, it gathered force as it progressed through the year, gaining incredible momentum and shattering everything in its path. Most of the people who love Dota have had, over the past few months, what could be called “Team Secret moments”. You don’t have to be a Team Secret fan to appreciate their greatness.
Team Secret brings together five spectacular players, the aristocracy of Dota 2. In point of fact, not many teams have as much individual star potential as Team Secret. It seemed odds-on that they would receive a TI5 direct invite and there is no question that they have become the fan favorites.
Team Secret first traces
Team Secret started out as a blip on the radar. Keeping to their namesake, the team was announced to be participating in various tournaments, but without any official or known roster. It wasn’t until two months later – the morning of the first day of StarLadder StarSeries Season 10 – EU/CIS, that a roster was revealed. The lineup at that time included previous The International champions and internationally acclaimed star players, captained by Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, one of the most prolific and versatile players in the history of Dota. The roster created a swirl of excitement and anticipation from the community.
Team Secret’s debut was impressive but not incontrovertible, as they tied for third-fourth place at ESL One New York. Shortly after topping the Round Robin phase of StarLadder StarSeries Season 10 with a 13:1 record, Team Secret would then take second place in the main event, falling to North American giants, Evil Geniuses.
The touch-and-go move that stirred up the West
In a whirlwind of impressive performances, the quickly rising group would continue to make their presence known, seizing another trio of top three placements in premier tournaments. Then suddenly, as unpredictable as they were, a shocking move would shake the Western region Tier 1 teams. Team Secret changed their roster, plucking both Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg and Artour “Arteezy” Babaev from Evil Geniuses. The ripple effect was tremendous. They had set off a large scale Western reshuffle and spurred heavy judgment from the community. It was just another demonstration of the unconventional modus operandi – the sap that seems to give Team Secret their nearly axiomatic vigor.
Team Secret placed third at the “International of the East”. However, Team Secret’s legacy was just getting started. They faced Evil Geniuses during the DAC playoffs, after their aforementioned acquisition of two of the NA team’s stars. The emotions and tension from all that fresh history created a lot of excitement. Team Secret took over the entire spotlight, despite finishing third.
StarLadder 12 – Team Secret’s all-time low
In April, a poor performance at StarLadder StarSeries Season 12 would result in a tie for seventh-eighth place for Team Secret, after a devastating 0:2 loss to Alliance – a team that had been notably struggling as of late. Many began to wonder if Team Secret had lost the wind in their sails.
There was much speculation whether Team Secret’s approach of defying the traditional organization backing and sponsorship was beginning to take its toll on the team or if the newly appointed Team Director – a lavish Turkish magnate who is in fact believed to be the team’s private investor – was detracting from their focus. They already had a reputation for being rather pretentious and ostentatious from the manner in which they conducted themselves at times, their organizational status and the raw confidence they exuded. An air of extravagance started to swell around them as well.
The sweep of pure dominance: four consecutive LAN titles in six weeks
All misguided impressions would be set straight quickly, as the dynamic bunch of stars gained momentum and a fierceness that would become quite troublesome for other teams. In a sweep of pure dominance, Team Secret stormed forward at an alarming rate to claim four consecutive LAN championship titles in major/premier tournaments, in only six weeks. Starting in early May by defeating Chinese powerhouse Invictus Gaming at Red Bull Battle Grounds in California, Team Secret traveled South in the Golden State to emerge as victors over their nemesis, Evil Geniuses, at the Summit 3.
Team Secret then headed to China for the MarsTV Dota 2 League, where they ended up besting Team Empire in an all-Western Grand Finals. Coming back to European grounds, Team Secret would once again dominate Evil Geniuses in an epic Grand Finals series at ESL One Frankfurt, in June.
Things are relatively quiet and peaceful now, as the teams begin their training and focus on the upcoming TI5. Other teams may quiver at the thought of facing Team Secret’s force at the main event and most likely have their sights set on developing strategies to counter them. However, like zai told us in an interview at ESL One Frankfurt, Team Secret’s strength doesn’t necessarily come from complicated strategies, but from a lot of preparation and team cohesion:
We play our best, we work as a team, we prepare for the other team, that’s how we win. We don’t win because of some strategy that has never been seen before, that’s not how we win games. (…) If you’re the favorites, teams will be looking at you the most, which is quite bad for you as a team. If you’re winning a lot of games and tournaments, people will look at the way you play and they’ll want to counter the way you play. Then you may find yourself not winning any games anymore because every team knows how to play against you. So to go around that, we might see the need to do something entirely new for TI and switch up the game we play. Because if you go in and everyone knows ‘okay they smoke gank top now’ because that’s what we usually do, it could potentially be very destructive for us.
– zai, June 2015
In the wake of The International 2015, the question remains whether Team Secret can be stopped or if they will have gained even more strength and eradicate anything in their path. Regardless of their results, Team Secret may see some changes after TI5.
Even if we play well, we may see some change. I may take a year off after TI.
– zai, June 2015
Team Secret roster: Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, Gustav “s4” Magnusson, Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi
Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
Success seems to come “2ez4rtz”. The young Canadian player quickly grabbed the community’s attention while playing mid-lane in Kaipi alongside players such as Jacky “Eternal Envy” Mao and Armand “bOne7″ Pittner, during the spring and summer of 2013. After leaving Kaipi to focus more on his studies, he stood in for the team re-branded as Speed Gaming, at the MLG Pro League in Columbus, demonstrating exceptional skill and leading the team to victory.
In the following January, he started a new team called SADBOYS along with legendary NA Dota players Clinton “Fear” Loomis and Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora, and HoN players Peter “ppd” Dager and Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg. The squad would go on to be picked up by Evil Geniuses only one month later. Artour would dominate the mid-lane and create an indisputable reputation for himself as one of the top players in the role. The team moved forward, establishing itself as a first-rate team in the world, eventually placing third at The International 4.
Fast forward through a few more championship titles and top finishes, in January it was announced that Arteezy and current teammate, zai, would be leaving Evil Geniuses to join Team Secret. The transfer caused a major reshuffle in the Western region and was flavored with controversy regarding players and contracts.
In order to become a part of Team Secret, Arteezy had to switch roles from mid-lane to carry. With relative ease and much success, Arteezy adapted to his new role as he was most notably known for a mid-lane style that was farm based. With the same, if not more, sensational plays Artour has already created a name for himself as one of the best carry players in the world.
Gustav “s4” Magnusson
Rather successful as a Heroes of Newerth professional player, Gustav made the switch to Dota 2 in 2012. His transition was seamless with successful performances in each trial team he participated in over the course of the first few months. In the early fall of 2012, the new Swedish mid-laner formed No Tidehunter, a team which included players such as Jacky “Eternal Envy” Mao and Henrik “AdmiralBulldog” Ahnberg. s4 would shortly be joined by his former HoN teammates Jonathan “Loda” Berg and Joakim “Akke” Akterhall.
After No Tidehunter became a full-Swedish roster in February and was picked up by GoodGame Agency under the division name Alliance, Gustav had an incredible year, seizing victories in merely every tournament he participated in, including the most prestigious one, The International 3. s4’s “million dollar dream coil” essentially won Alliance the TI3 Grand Finals. s4 was on fire and became one of the quintessential names for the mid-lane role.
The season leading to The International 4 would prove to be somewhat less successful for the Swedish champions. After an eleventh-twelfth place finish at TI4, the famed mid-lane player would depart from the team, embarking on the new journey of Team Secret.
Following Team Secret’s disappointing performance at StarLadder Season 12, s4 took on the role of captain and drafter, leading the team to four consecutive LAN wins.
Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg
At the tender age of 14, Ludwig won DreamHoN 2012. The Swede made the transition to Dota 2 in 2013 alongside fellow HoN professional ppd and quickly found himself as part of team SADBOYS, which was later picked up by Evil Geniuses.
Although zai is now one of the most revered offlaners in the world, while he was a part of Evil Geniuses he played the support role with the same level of expertise and skill.
Although he admits he probably has the least impact on Team Secret’s draft, zai is extremely mature for his young age and has a high understanding of the game. During an interview conducted at ESL One Frankfurt, zai told DotaBlast that he “can play pretty much everything” and that, regardless of Team Secret’s results, he might take a year off after TI5, to focus on his studies.
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov
Clement is an incredibly versatile player who has been known to knock any labeling role of players stating that professionals should be able to play in any role and all heroes when necessary. Most often, he plays on the support role.
One of the most successful players in the Dota 2 scene, Puppey’s first four years of gaming were mainly playing in various teams and compositions with some accomplishments. It wasn’t until June of 2011 that Clement would find himself a home on Na’Vi, where he would be a stable and prominent key-player for the next three years.
Only two months after joining Na’Vi with Ivan “ArtStyle” Antonov, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Oleksandr “XBOCT” Dashkevych, and Dmitriy “LighTofHeaveN” Kupriyanov, The International 1 was at hand and the team got an invite, after having received the beta keys to play the game only three weeks before. Na’Vi went undefeated throughout the whole tournament, winning the unprecedented $1,000,000 grand prize. Puppey’s professionalism and talent landed him the captain role for the team after the departure of ArtStyle post-TI1. Under Clement’s leadership, Na’Vi would accumulate innumerable championship titles through the remainder of his tenure with them, including second place at TI2 and TI3.
Following the unsatisfying results at TI4, Puppey and teammate Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi parted ways with the Ukrainian organization and formed Team Secret.
Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi
KuroKy started his career playing DotA 1 and made his first appearance in Dota 2 at The International 1, playing for GosuGamers.net. His first run was unsuccessful. His team was eliminated from the tournament in the first round of the Lower Brackets. He continued playing in various teams with poor results and in May of 2012 he joined Virtus.Pro with the hopes to attend The International once again. In a serendipitous string of events, Kuro would get the chance to participate in the tournament with Mousesports as a stand-in, when Alexandru “ComeWithMe” Crăciunescu ran into visa issues. Unfortunately, KuroKy made no improvements on the final results of his placement at the event.
KuroKy joined Na’Vi in February 2013 when LightofHeaven went inactive, becoming a part of the most successful and celebrated organization in Dota 2 history to date. He placed second at The International 2013 with the team, and slipped to eighth place at TI4. Kuro departed Na’Vi together with Puppey to create Team Secret.
The synergy and cohesion between him and Puppey make for an incredibly strong support duo, rivaled by no others. Armed with his lightening fast reflexes, KuroKy’s most feared hero is Rubick, as he is capable of stealing a hero’s most powerful spells and using any spell at unparalleled speed and skill.
Team Secret – odds-on favorites to win TI5
The odds on betting sites across the web favor Team Secret to win TI5 by a large margin. As odds favorites, fan favorites, and every analyst’s sweetheart, Team Secret is mandated to deliver and take home the Aegis this year. Nothing short of the championship would be a good result for them.