OG’s reign is over, but it seems there’s a new Cinderella in town. It’s just a shame we never got to see the last dance of the back-to-back-winning squad.

Theseus’s ship and Dota 2 squads

There’s this thought experiment about what esports teams truly are. Well, this may not exactly have been what Plato and Heraclitus had in mind in Ancient Greece when they originally discussed it, but it’s quite pertinent to our little corner of the world nevertheless. Suppose you’ve changed every part of a ship, one by one, over the course of a long voyage: is it truly the same ship as the one you’ve set sail with?

This question also seems to crop up often regarding sports teams, that intangible idea of team culture and veterancy and institutional memory propping up an organization long beyond the time that their roster’s expected to perform at the highest level. When we talk about “the United way”, “the Fnatic style” or any other such pompous idea, this is what we have in mind.

Whether it makes any sense in traditional sports with large rosters and decades-long histories with many ebbs and flows of success is a much chunkier discussion altogether: it is, however, not a particularly contentious point that esports fans generally gravitate towards players and cores rather than orgs, and full-scale swaps generally mean that the fans follow along the pros’ journey rather than their old paymasters’. This is especially true in Dota, where it is often said that you can never be sure about the prospects of a roster move before it actually happens, simply because of the myriad interpersonal and communication-related elements that you can’t factor into the equation before trying out your new team composition.

All this serves as a rather long-winded introduction to the hypothesis that the all-conquering OG squad didn’t really get eliminated today by Team Spirit, simply because they haven’t made it to TI to begin with. Whatever the merits of this squad may be, the ship of OGeus capsized on the shore earlier this year. You can’t blame ana or JerAx for hanging up their mice: they did the impossible job and rode off to the sunset. It just makes little sense to suggest a sort of real continuity between the squads as too many elements have been changed. Had they made it all the way again (against all odds) at TI10, it would have been a stretch to call it a three-peat.

It looks like Ceb and Topson may be calling it quits as well after picking up their share of another cool million. However, just as one magical story has ended, it seems like we’re getting a worthwhile replacement in its wake.

A new Cinderella in town

Even if this is as far as they get, the young Team Spirit squad already made a name for themselves by ending the OG story, continuing exactly the sort of incredible upset-ridden comeback as OG themselves have made at TI9 and beyond. It’s safe to say no one would have expected this outcome between the two teams based on how the early portion of the group stage shook out, and there’s really no better confidence-booster than this result, even once you factor in how dominant Secret were against OG as well in the upper bracket match. There can be only one team responsible for eliminating the back-to-back winners.

A young and fearless squad with no doubt more to come, Team Spirit have shown that they are more than able to face their demons and emerge victorious, tearing a 1-29 record to shreds against regional nemeses Virtus.pro when it mattered the most. There was also the tactical EZ GAME in the middle of the decisive encounter against OG for some added flair, and one has to wonder just how Riot would have reacted when it comes to similar cheekiness over at Worlds. Heyo!

The last dance that never was

The documentary series titled The Last Dance was one of the big sensations of 2020, telling the tale of the final season of the all-conquering Chicago Bulls team of Michael Jordan and company. The realistic expectation of one big run instead of the lack of understanding that the sun is setting is a big part of what made the story so tantalizing to follow.

Many such stories were crushed by the pandemic, especially so in the esports scene. We never got to see the TI-double-winning OG side itself go for the three-peat, and the legendary Astralis side in CS:GO also didn’t make it through the grinder of the online era in one piece. It is, without a doubt, one of the saddest developments in competitive gaming that it was a scuffed OG side that tried to reclaim the Aegis this time around.

Still, it’s worth keeping perspective: at the end of the day, the loss of an esports storyline is one of the smallest and least significant casualties of the last two years on Planet Earth. For Dota 2 fans though, the eternal question mark will remain: just what could have that team done at that anniversary TI in the 2020 that never was? We will never know for sure, but we’ve still got some of the year’s most important Dota 2 matches to follow to answer some other questions.