Winning the biggest prize in esports back-to-back should probably count for something, and since OG took down Team Liquid in an anticlimactic final at The International 9 there have been a lot of nice words written about them. At this point in Dota’s short history, it is pretty fair to call them the greatest team of all time, but for this writer they are also just the ultimate Dota team, with a story that perfectly encapsulates the overall history of the greatest MOBA ever made.
Flash back a little over twelve months ago, to the first occasion that NoTail, ana, Ceb, Topson and Jerax happened to find themselves with millions of new dollars suddenly appearing in their bank accounts. The team had not been in great form coming into the event, but it seemed as though something clicked for them, and their performance showed how comfortable they were in their skins. The PSG.LGD team they faced down that day is one of the greatest in Chinese Dota history, but OG outlasted them at TI8.
When TI9 came around, OG looked perhaps even better than they had at the previous iteration, taking down Newbee, PSG, Evil Geniuses and then Team Liquid in the final, never dropping a series to send them to the lower bracket. As fans will know though, the time between those two moments of gold was a difficult one for the team, and the way they reformed like Voltron to take down the Dota world both highlights the brilliance of the scene, and the way OG have exposed the fundamental flaw in Dota’s season.
Or, to put it another way, it is the only thing that matters. As the experts on Twitter watched the TI9 final, there was a flurry of speculation, noise and exposition on what was the crucial factor. People trying to be intelligent rejected the obvious – that ana was the difference –, but even that obvious answer might have a more complicated genesis, as ana is to OG what OG are to Dota. In short, he, and maybe OG now, only really seem to play the game for The International.
This might seem odd to an outsider, but there is a good reason to live this way if you are a top Dota player, and it seems like OG know that. For the vast majority of the season, Team Secret were the best team in the world, revolutionising the meta and dominating in a way no other team could, picking up a lot of plaudits along the way. However, the moment OG took the Aegis, the formerly great Secret were forgotten, and NoTail and co. instantly became the best team over the previous year.
This is the problem with Dota in a teacup, and also the single factor that makes OG the greatest Dota team in the same way Astralis are the greatest CS:GO has ever seen. Both the Danish FPS gods and NoTail’s crew honed in on the most important aspects of greatness, but in very different ways, with Astralis solving the CS meta through the power of team play, and OG solving the problem of getting to basically only play for a few months, but being the best team for an entire year.
The epitome of this is, of course, ana, a man who is $500 short of a the $6m mark for career earnings and yet missed four months of the season in the wake of the TI8 victory. At 19 years old, the life of a pro player can’t be easy, and there are a lot of reasons for anyone to take a break, but few are ever brave enough to risk their careers for the time off, or admit that they only play for the biggest prize.
To his credit, ana hasn’t even said he plays for TI alone – and probably never will –, but he is the ultimate Dota player playing for the ultimate Dota team. For years critics have pointed out that the scene is too centralised around one event, and TI9 was the perfect example to prove what makes OG tick. It’s not Ceb, or NoTail, but TI they need most, as we saw when the greatest Dota team came alive for the biggest show in esports, and won the only prize that really matters, having nearly thrown away their place at the event with their apathy towards the other eleven months of the Dota year. Say what you will about their strategy, but it got them almost 27 million dollars.