Dota 2 Team Secret – The Best to Never Win The International

by Fabio

Competitive Dota 2 has produced a number of notable teams, but only few manage to stay relevant throughout the better half of a decade. Dota 2 Team Secret is one of these select organizations and one of the best (if not the very best) team to never win The International. Ever since their inception, the team and the players have put up insane numbers and have secured numerous tournament victories. Their history began after Natus Vincere and fnatic both underperformed at The International 2014. 

Dota 2 Team Secret: The First Year

Team Secret were founded in 2014 as a project of former Na’Vi and fnatic players. When they announced their squad, several members were still under contract with other organizations. Gradually, these players were relieved from their duties and allowed the Team Secret Dota 2 squad to fully commit to the game. At first, the team consisted of Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi and Clement “Puppey” Ivanov from Natus Vincere, the fnatic players Johan “n0tail” Sundstein and Tal “Fly” Aizik, as well as Gustav “s4” Magnusson from Alliance.

The team's first appearance was at the Starladder Season X Qualifiers against Alliance
The team’s first appearance was at the Starladder Season X Qualifiers against Alliance (via GameSpot)

They managed to pull off some great initial results. At their first offline event, ESL One New York, they entered the Top 4, which was a fantastic achievement for a team this young. In the remaining few months of 2014, they won two high-profile events, XMG Captains Draft and Dota Pit League.

In 2015, they continued right on with their success. Most notably, they had a four-event winning streak. This included ESL One Frankfurt, where they beat Evil Geniuses in the Grand Finals. With all of this momentum heading into The International 2015, they were regarded as potential winners for the mega-event. 

However, things did not go as planned. Despite a convincing showing during the group stage, where they placed second (right after LGD Gaming), they collapsed in the playoffs. Following defeats to EHOME and, they were out of the event. 

Dota 2 Team Secret: Post-TI5 Breakup

After The International 2015, they team fell apart entirely. Only Puppey remained and was tasked with rebuilding the team. The new players were right back on their winning ways. With the MLG World Finals and Nanyang Dota 2 Championships in the bag, their second-place finish at the Frankfurt Major wasn’t too disappointing. In 2016, Secret won Shanghai Major, one of the first Major installations of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. 

Once again, leading up to The International, Dota 2 Team Secret would display relatively great results. They were definitely in contention for the trophy, yet disaster struck the team. Placing outside of the Top 4 during the group stage, they had to start the playoffs in the lower bracket. There, they immediately fell prey to LGD Gaming. Going out in last place at this highly prestigious event was a shock to the fans, the organization, and the players. One more time, the team was rebuilt around Puppey:

“The International 2016 has passed and it has been one hell of a ride for us and our fans. Now it’s time to rebuild and continue on our journey. As such, we are happy to announce new additions to our family. Pyo ‘MP’ No-a, Yeik ‘MidOne’ Nai Zheng and Lee ‘Forev’ Sang-don will be joining our team as Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev, Jacky ‘EternalEnVy’ Mao and Sam ‘Bulba’ Sosale will be departing from the Team Secret Dota 2 roster. We will also be parting our ways with our long term coach Theeban ‘1437’ Siva and Kurtis ‘Aui_2000’ Ling who came on board to help us with TI6 as an additional coach.”

Dota 2 Team Secret: Fighting Their Way to the Top Again

This time, unfortunately, Puppey failed to find the right mix of players. For the remainder of 2016 and a large part of 2017, Secret won no trophies whatsoever. They would stomp all competition in the qualifiers, but fail on offline soil. It took them several roster changes, but finally they managed to build another championship-ready squad. 

This process cost them a lot of time. The International 2017 was once again a lackluster event for Dota 2 Team Secret. At least they fell to the eventual tournament winners, Team Liquid. During ESL One Hamburg 2017, they took revenge on Liquid and narrowly missed out on the Major trophy. Finally, at the last event of the year, DreamLeague Season 8, they made a strong statement. With a 3-0 Grand Finals finish against Team Liquid, they finally proved that they had a fighting spirit in them. But would it carry on to other events?

Unfortunately, not. Throughout 2018, they won minor trophies and had some solid placements at important events. But their showing at The International 2018 was a disappointment once again. For 2019, they switched the roster around and found two solid players in Michał “Nisha” Jankowski and Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg. With this squad, they finally found success. In 2019, they won two important Major events and with a 4th-place finish, they achieved their best ever TI placement. 

At one of the last big events before the corona pandemic, the DreamLeague Season 13 Major, the Team Secret Dota 2 players prevailed in an intense Grand Finals against Evil Geniuses for a 3-2 victory. Since then, they have won most online competitions. Secret can only hope that this will translate to offline success once the venues open up again.

The current Dota 2 Team Secret roster
The current Dota 2 Team Secret roster (via eGamersWorld)

Dota 2 Team Secret: The Current Roster

Ever since the team’s inception, Puppey has held the reins. He has carefully picked some of the best players to create a super-team. Maybe this is finally the roster that will deliver the results he has worked towards for half a decade. The 2018 additions, Nisha and zai, remain on the team and have definitely proven their worth as mid- and offlaner, respectively. The core is complemented by carry player Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen, the former Team Liquid star. Having won TI with his former team already, he is definitely championship material. With Puppey on the hard support position, the team is rounded out by support player Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat, who has been on the roster since 2017. The Team Secret Dota 2 players have some titles to their names and appear hungry for more achievements. 

Dota 2 Team Secret: When Will They Win TI?

So often, Secret have been on the verge of becoming a super-team. Always, their horrible TI performances have held them back and caused them to reorganize entirely. Ironically, their success around these few events has been remarkable for a large part of the organization’s career. They are perhaps the best team to never have won The International. Especially when judging their performance over so many roster iterations, their strength becomes apparent. A lot can be attributed to Puppey, who has led the team for over six years now. 

Read this: Arteezy: The Dota 2 Legend

Still, with all this might, they don’t have a TI trophy to their name. What is holding them back? Are they choking in fear of repeating the same failing pattern every time? Does the pressure of the biggest stage in competitive Dota 2 get to them so much?

We don’t really know. We can only hope that Dota 2 Team Secret get their act together sometime soon. There is way too much talent on this roster to miss out on the most important trophy of Dota 2 esports.

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