theScore eSports is taking a look at all 16 teams taking part in The International 5, one a day leading up to the beginning of the tournament on July 26. Today’s team is Team Secret. This will be both a history of the team as well as a look at the individual players that make up the roster headed to Seattle.
Team Secret is without a doubt the strongest team going into The International 5 with four recent back-to-back major LAN victories to prove it. The team was formed during the post-TI4 shuffle and consisted of an all-star line-up including Alliance’s s4, and Na’Vi’s Puppey and KuroKy.
Before the Dota 2 Asia Championships in February 2015, the team replaced MiSeRy and BigDaddy (who are currently on Cloud9), and picked up former Evil Geniuses Arteezy and zai to complete their current roster.
Artour "Arteezy" Babaev is the “rock star” of the Dota 2 community. The Canadian mid laner made his name by playing for the biggest North American team, Evil Geniuses. His trademark mid hero is Shadow Fiend; however, in the current patch he has moved towards playing safelane carries such as Leshrac, Gyrocopter and even sometimes Bloodseeker. He is an entertaining player to watch when he plays casually, as he likes to joke around a lot; when there is money and fame on the line, he is extremely focused and professional.
Gustav “s4“ Magnusson has been with Team Secret since its inception in August 2014. He is the team captain and the brains behind their strategies. Along with being an extremely intelligent drafter, s4 is also regarded as one of the best mid laners in the world. Although he is known for his incredible Magnus and Puck performances, he has been dominating as of late with his Queen of Pain. The Swedish player is no stranger to success either, as he won The International 3 with his previous team Alliance.
Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg is Team Secret’s offlaner. Back when he was on Evil Geniuses he played the support role which didn’t provide him with many opportunities to show off his technical prowess due to his low farm priority. Now on Team Secret, he has proven that he is one of the most technically skilled players in the world. During The Summit 3 he played an awe-inspiring Clockwerk and more recently he has been outplaying his opponents with Tusk. At only 17 years of age, he is the youngest player on the team.
Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi is officially Team Secret’s position four support although he always leaves the jungle for his teammate Puppey. The German player is known for his Rubick as he has a 65.12% win rate with a 3.04 KDA over 172 professional matches. He has also been causing quite the ruckus lately with his Naga Siren support and even his explosive Techies play in combination with zai’s Tusk. He previously played for Natus Vincere during their run in The International 4 where they placed 7th-8th.
Clement "Puppey" Ivanov is Team Secret’s jungler and support player. His trademark heroes are Chen, Enigma and Enchantress. His great multi-tasking shines here as those heroes require you to control multiple units. More recently however he has been seen to play Keeper of the Light and sometimes even Crystal Maiden. The 25 year old veteran played for Na’Vi for over three years before joining Team Secret and won the very first International back in 2011.
If Team Secret win The International 5, both Puppey and s4 will be the first players in the world to win two Internationals.
Although Team Secret has always been considered one of Europe's top tier teams, it was when Patch 6.84 came out that the team starting to show their absolute dominance. The patch nerfed the comeback/rubber band mechanics slightly which forced teams to prioritize their early laning phase and become less reliant upon traditional late game carries. With the buffs towards Gyrocopter and Leshrac, these two mid-game oriented carries became extremely popular and Team Secret were quick to adapt.
Additionally, after an early exit from Starladder XII, Alliance’s former captain and drafter, s4, took over drafting from Puppey. With these two changes along with the acquiring of Arteezy and zai, the stars had aligned for Team Secret to take control and become the strongest Dota 2 team in the world.
They went on to win Red Bull Battle Grounds 2015, The Summit 3, MarsTV Dota 2 League and ESL One Frankfurt. Although each tournament had impressive prize pools (some over $100,000), Team Secret’s main focus was The International 5 due to its extremely large prize pool. Team Secret even withdrew from Dota Pit League Season 3 in order to focus solely on their performance in Seattle.
Team Secret have three main strengths:
The first is their raw skill. Although Dota 2 is becoming more and more of a game of strategy, the reason Team Secret are so popular among fans is their amazing plays that they are able to execute based off of pure mechanics. Even when they find themselves at a draft or strategical disadvantage, they always manage to find a way to outplay their opponent’s whether that’s in the laning phase or all the way into the late game.
Dota’s meta and strategies are constantly changing whether due to a player’s hero preference or the way the game is balanced. Team Secret have more than demonstrated their commitment to the game and their understanding of the current patch especially their team captain, s4. The veteran mid laner and strategist uses his vast game knowledge to help his team gain an edge before the game even starts by drafting unique and effective strategies.
Team Secret’s games leading up to The International have been almost a series of controlled experiments with s4 selecting hero combinations and strategies that were once considered not competitively viable. Take for example how they run Techies and Tusk in the offlane. This strategy was left untouched by all teams except Team Secret and now this innovation has caught those teams completely off guard.
Team Secret has had a significant amount of time to prepare even more creative strategies as their last competitive game was at ESL One Frankfurt 2015. If s4 continues to innovate the current meta of Dota, who knows what exciting strategies and drafts he may bring to The International 5. Team Secret don’t care about the current meta, they create their own.
The third strength of Team Secret is their ever expanding hero diversity. With such a large pool of heroes to choose from, opposing teams are finding it difficult to ban out certain strategies.
Opposing team’s have always feared Puppey’s Enchantress and Chen, Zai’s Clockwerk, Arteezy’s Shadow Fiend, s4’s Queen of Pain and Kuroky’s Rubick but with the latest patch and the team’s recent dominant performances they have a whole new pool of heroes to worry about including Puppey’s Keeper of the Light, zai’s Tusk, Arteezy’s Leshrac and Bloodseeker and Kuroky’s Naga Siren and Techies.
With the team playing such high profile games, other teams will have plenty of opportunities to study Team Secret and maybe find a weakness. It’s hard to imagine that happening however as Team Secret have been unbeatable.
I predict Team Secret to take first place at The International 5. No team in Dota 2 history has shown such a dominant performance before except for maybe Alliance before their International 3 victory but things are different now with the quality of play being exponentially higher. The International 5 is going to be the biggest tournament in all of esports and Team Secret will not be satisfied with anything less than first place.
Connor Dunn is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.