Chaos is a fitting namesake for a Dota 2 team, because at large tournaments like The International, chaos is king.
It's well established that TI projections have low statistical confidence, even when put together by experts with complex models. There are too many variables in the system to reliably predict the outcome. The team expected to win TI based on recent performances and rankings never does.
That makes The International the dark horse tournament of the year. Every team is close, and players I spoke to from every region said that anybody could win this year if the cards deal out just right. Anybody.
Even players can be caught off-guard, as Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok told me after the TI6 Group Stage. "I don't know what to say," he said. "We did so well, I didn't expect such a result from us."
Despite having yet to win a major international LAN, DC swept through their Group, finishing second with an 11-3 scoreline that matched OG's first-place record in Group A. "It's not about teams playing bad against us, but us playing well," Resolut1on said of the result.
It's fitting that Resolut1on's name is tagged with Chaos, because his life has been a struggle to fight entropy all year.
Kurtis "Aui_2000" Ling believed Digital Chaos was on the rise, even as he decided to abandon it for Evil Geniuses. Back in the spring, the fuse lit by EG's rivalry with Team Secret led to a sudden explosion of roster changes in Western Dota, and Digital Chaos was one of the teams blown apart. Nearly every member headed to EG or Secret.
It looked like Resolut1on would end up deserted on the side of the road, not two months after moving from Eastern Europe to the United States to play with the team. If he wanted to survive, he would have to find a way to push his broken-down junker uphill to The International.
But the thing about chaos is, it can give as much as it takes. The expelled members of Team Secret, Rasmus "MiSeRy" Filipsen and Aliwi "w33" Omar, were likewise left out in the dust, and they banded together with Resolut1on. David "Moo" Hull, a world-class player stuck on a regional-class team, needed a new home when teammate Jesus "ztok" Carhuaricra was banned from tournaments by Valve. Martin "saksa" Sazdov had been kicking a can of inactivity down the road, coming across the team in need just before the spring roster lock slammed shut.
This was not a team designed for success. It was a team designed from necessity.
"We did a lot of hard work together as a team," Resolut1on told Sir Action Slacks upon reaching the Upper Bracket at The Manila Major. "It's kind of better when no one believes in you, and you don't feel pressured to do well in tournaments. That's better for me, personally."
Digital Chaos seemed poised to surge at Manila. They'd not had many official matches against top-tier international opponents ahead of the event, but against compLexity in their own region, they had four back-to-back victories. Their style showed startling similarities to Team Liquid: game-winning net-worth spikes around 18 minutes, faster-than-average wins and similar KDA patterns and distributions.
Their Manila run was ill-fated, though. Because of the Group Stage design, they only needed to beat one team, Wings Gaming, in order to reach the Upper Bracket. In the end, that was the only team they beat at the tournament; they finished in 9th-12th place.
That's when the going really got hard for Resolut1on's new family. They had few valuable scrim partners, as EG and compLexity had both crashed and burned. They had a common goal, but uncommon cultures, languages and personalities. "We had some really serious [conflicts] before," Resolut1on recalled in an interview with RU Hub this week. After three consecutive 5th-6th place finishes at Nanyang, The Summit and StarSeries, it looked like they might stall out.
Enter a Samaritan: Chase "Loomdun" Stearns, a former coach for Cloud9 and Shazam. Resolut1on says Loomdun originally joined in an auxiliary role, providing research help to the team, but eventually became a full second coach, working alongside Per Anders Olsson "Pajkatt" Lille. According to Resolut1on, Loomdun's influence turned the team around, by smoothing out squabbles and helping them speak the same language.
"Loomdun [is] helping us a lot with our communication problems. He hears how we talk in games and afterwards he might say, 'Here, you should say this instead of this,' and it helps us a lot," Resolut1on explained to me. "I guess we found some language between us. Because we have five different countries, so we had to find how to speak to people, and I guess we found it."
For many teams, coaches are invaluable additions. For Digital Chaos, Loomdun's influence may have been the single most important factor in the team's recovery. Thanks to the new communication patterns the team developed with Loomdun's help, and Pajkatt's morale-boosting efforts, everyone on DC began to push in the same direction. "If I had to dedicate it to anyone it would be my coaches," Moo said in an interview with Slingshot's Cameron "Turbo" Regan at TI6 this weekend.
You can see this influence in their results. After The Summit, DC's average team GPM spiked from 1887 to 2043. Their draft diversity increased, even as teams began paying more attention to them and used targeted bans in a way the team had never faced before.
"We were kind of a new team, so any tournament is great experience for any team like us," Resolut1on said. "I guess it helped us a lot to find our strategies, find our style, how to play and how to do well."
Now that they've reached The International, DC have rolled through the Group Stage, besting Fnatic and Team Liquid despite having played and lost to each of them at recent events. They beat Secret, against whom captain MiSeRy still holds a grudge, and the entire squad fed off the energy and excitement he drew from that moment. "I've never seen someone try so hard to win the game," Resolut1on told me with a smile.
Other players I spoke to this weekend pointed to Digital Chaos as a priority scrim choice before the main event. They were slated to scrim with Newbee, the team that knocked them out of the Upper Bracket and back into reality at Manila, shortly after my interview with Resolut1on.
DC's success has partly come from a rapid shift in priorities. They've put much more emphasis on Resolut1on himself; his Morphling is now among the most honor-banned heroes against his squad. He's run it with a 75% win rate at The International, despite having only three ticketed matches with it prior to last week.
They're adapting to the chaos. Maybe even harnessing it. And they're determined not to fall into the pattern that led to a disappointing Manila showing.
Resolut1on recognizes the threat. "[So far] we're only Top 12 and nothing more, so we have to look forward," he said.
Yet the brackets may be tilting in their favor this time. The one team they beat at Manila was Wings Gaming, who will be their first-round opponents at The International. In the Slingshot interview, Moo noted that DC haven't yet lost to Wings. "I’m kind of happy we got them," he said.
The team wants Top 6, but Resolut1on will be happy as long as they compete as best as they can. "I guess if we win this game against Wings, I'll feel like we kinda did great," he said. "But I still feel like we can do even better, so, we'll see."
It's easy to imagine a post-TI future where Digital Chaos go their separate ways to find more tailored teams. They were thrown together in the most desperate of situations, and nobody could blame them for wanting more of a say in the company they keep.
When I asked Resolut1on about the looming specter of roster changes, he said he wasn't sure if DC will stick together after The International. He is feeling good about his team for now, though. "I really like this team right now and I feel really good about our guys."
For the time being, the team is riding high, fighting alongside one another. But in the end, their fates will be decided by Chaos.
Ryan "Gorgon the Wonder Cow" Jurado writes about Dota 2 and freelances for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.