We continue delving into the fascinating stories of esports teams. This week, we will take a look at Dota 2's Team Secret and their career achievements. This is the team that fell apart so many times but still managed to come back stronger each and every time. Stay tuned and read about all the controversial topics tied to this team and their way to the top.
Introduction of Dota 2
To fully understand how Team Secret was created, we have to dive deep into the early beginnings of Dota 2 and The International.
- READ MORE: What is Dota?
Although the official release date of Dota 2 was in mid-July 2013, the first Dota 2 tournament actually took place 2 years before that. Valve decided to introduce Dota 2 to the gaming society in a very specific way. They gave the game to the 16 best Dota teams and invited them to dish it out in the biggest esports tournament ever – The International.
With a $1,6 million prize pool, that tournament was something special. Team Na`Vi took the first International trophy and the prize money with it. The next two years were also successful for Na`Vi and they went all the way up to the grand finals in both 2012 and 2013.
But then... 2014 was a disaster for team Na’Vi. They finished as the 7th-8th placed team at The International. Team Alliance who had won the tournament in 2013 also underperformed and finished 11th-12th. Another team that was expected to do more was team Fnatic... and they finished 13th-14th.
The Team Owned by Players
Bad performance of the Top 3 teams at The International 2014 is the main reason Team Secret exists today. Due to bad results, Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi left team Na`Vi and Johan "N0tail" Sundstein left team Fnatic.
That duo had the idea to create a team run by players, a team without an owner. KuroKy invited his former teammate Clement “Puppey” Ivanov while n0tail invited his friend and teammate Tal "Fly" Aizik. The fifth player of their roster was midlaner Gustav “s4” Magnusson from Alliance whose team had also performed badly at TI4.
And that was it, those 5 players created Team Secret and it became one of the first player-owned esports teams.
Team Secret's first roster looked like this:
- Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi
- Johan “BigDaddy” Sundstein (now known as n0tail)
- Tal “Simbaaa” Aizik (now known as Fly)
- Clement “Puppey” Ivanov
- Gustav “s4” Magnusson
The idea of a player-owned team was later highly accepted and some of the most successful esports teams followed that trend. For example, CS:GO team Astralis and Dota 2 team OG were both created on that same idea.
YouPorn as a Possible Sponsor
On July 11 2014, YouPorn posted a funny Tweet about the possibility to sponsor an esports team. No one knew which team they were talking about and there were many speculations. The only newly-formed team on the front was Team Secret. On top of that, after Team Secret was officially created, YouPorn started following all the members except for Puppey. Although it was never confirmed by any player, YouPorn following them was cause for further speculations and everyone talked about it.
Later on, Director of Team Secret Matthew “Cyborgmatt” Bailey commented on Twitter:
However, China's gaming community took this news seriously and gave Team Secret the nickname, "Porn Site Team". Even today, they are still known as “Porn Site Team” in China.
Team Secret – Created to Conquer
Team Secret's roster consisted entirely of five star-players from respected teams, who all wanted more. It was said that this team would rampage through the international scene and they were labeled as the clear favorites to win the next TI. With so much experience, it looked like they would demolish other teams without any problems.
Their first appearance was at the StarLadder StarSeries Season 10 Qualifier. Team Secret won 13 out of 14 played matches and slowly started to gain respect. They looked extremely dangerous and every other team knew exactly what they were up against.
Their first LAN appearance was supposed to be at WEC 2014. Unfortunately, a couple of players had problems with visa applications and couldn’t go to China so the team had to withdraw from the tournament.
Finally, on October 9, 2014, they went to ESL One New York, officially their first LAN event. Secret won the quarterfinals against Na`Vi but lost in the semifinals against Vici Gaming with 0-2, finishing as a 3rd-4th placed team. It wasn’t such a bad result – after all, it was their first event ever.
The next tournament was StarSeries Season 10 and they finished second. They were also third at Summit 2 and won XMG Captains Draft and Dota Pit League Season 2. Overall, it was a successful year for a brand-new team.
The Departure of N0tail and Fly
Before the beginning of the new season, Fly was removed from the team and N0tail decided to follow. Secret were 2 players short and had to look for replacements. In addition to that, team manager Evany Chang also left the team for unknown reasons at the time.
Finally, Secret struck gold: Artour "Arteezy" Babaev and Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg left Evil Geniuses and joined Team Secret. The newly-appointed manager was Matthew Bailey who is still the active manager of this team.
The new roster made their debut at the Dota 2 Asia Championship 2015 that boasted $3 million in prize money in Shanghai, China. Team Secret were one of the top contestants for the trophy. And for a good reason – they swept the Round-Robin Group Stage with 15-0 record.
The Playoffs started well and Secret won 2-0 against Invictus Gaming. However, Vici Gaming were just too strong for them and Secret were knocked down to the lower bracket. Despite that, they managed to get back to the Finals of the Lower Bracket with 3 straight victories... only to lose against Evil Geniuses who later went on to win the tournament.
The International 2015
Whichever TI Team Secret attended, they were almost always considered one of the favorites to win it. Their first International was no different and Valve directly invited them to the main event. Secret came with eyes fixed on the Aegis.
After finishing second in the Group Stage with a 4-3-0 record, Secret went to the Main Event and lost against EHOME. That loss knocked them to the Lower Bracket.
Everything looked good for a while there and Secret were about to face Virtus.pro, a renowned Dota 2 team that seemingly stood no chance against giants like Team Secret. Surprisingly, Virtus.pro won that match and knocked them out of the tournament.
What followed was shocking – Arteezy left the team and went back to rejoin Evil Geniuses, zai went inactive to finish high school, and s4 went back to Alliance. The only player that stayed was team captain and owner – Puppey.
Puppey was left alone and he had to rebuild the team from scratch once again. The Frankfurt Major was just around the corner so he had to act fast and recruit new players. On August 22, the new roster was announced. Other than Puppey himself, Secret also got:
- Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao
- Rasmus "MISERY" Filipsen
- Johan "pieliedie" Åström, and
- Aliwi "w33" Omar.
They got along pretty well and managed to get a couple more trophies before the end of the season – second place at ESL One New York, first place at MLG World Finals and first place at Nanyang Dota 2 Championships.
The Frankfurt Major was the last major tournament of that year and also the first-ever Valve major. The great performance of Team Secret brought many new fans and the hype for this team was at an all-time high. The whole Dota 2 community was wondering whether any team could bring them down at that point. They were becoming better and better with every day, team chemistry was there and it looked like Puppey’s team was finally ready.
They had a great run up until the very grand finals where they faced OG, a team led by 2 former players and founders of Team Secret – n0tail and Fly. OG won the tournament and Secret took the second place. Foiled once again!
But the story of Team Secret isn’t over just yet. If you want to know how the story continues, make sure to come back for the second part of their tale and find out what happened.