Dota 2 The International 10 Team Profile: Alliance
As a team, Alliance exists in an odd pocket of time where they can look old and new to those who’ve turned their eyes away from the Dota 2 scene. Created in the fashion of Swedish organization SK Gaming by legendary Dota Allstars player Jonathan ‘Loda’ Berg, Alliance stands as a monument to European Dota and all its innovations and a testament to Sweden’s dedication to esports as an emergent sport and global pastime. Alliance’s presence at TI10 creates a question in the minds of those who have tuned in year after year to watch Dota 2’s greatest event: Was it all a fluke? Alliance’s playstyle at TI3 created an entirely new win condition for the game and introduced the world and several pub games to the concept of late-game rat Dota. Many felt this was their only reason for winning, while Alliance fans were quick to defend the roster’s pedigree, young talent, and varied playstyles.
After many years of decline, Alliance returns to TI10 with a Dota 2 new roster of eager pros, a TI-winning veteran, and hungry international talent that have incorporated discipline, commitment, and hard work into their daily regimen to prepare for the largest prize pool in esports history.
We’ve been doing team profiles on Dota 2 teams participating at TI10. Leading up to the first day of group stages, the goal is to provide detailed team profiles on all teams competing to give new viewers and returning fans improved insight for this year’s event. If you’re curious, check out profiles we’ve published on Team Undying, Elephant, OG, Team Spirit, Beastcoast, SG esports, Evil Geniuses, Team Secret and Fnatic. As always, stay on the lookout for more blogs on T10 to come in the future.
Dota 2’s Alliance – Uniting Dota’s Past and Present in an Alliance for the Future
After struggling to find his place in Dota 2’s nascent professional scene and taking 6th place at The International 2012, Jonathan ‘Loda’ Berg was looking to create something with the resonance of his past that could carry him into the future Dota 2 competition. Regarded by both the Chinese and European scenes as a veritable Dota god, Loda could have easily joined any star-laden roster at the time, like LGD.int. However, Loda would decide to try and create an all-Swedish roster mimicking his prior success on SK Gaming. Alongside his long-time teammate and lane support Akke, Loda would join No Tidehunter, s4, AdmiralBulldog, and EternalEnVy.
No Tidehunter would surprise audiences at 2012’s DreamHack Winter by overcoming North America’s Evil Geniuses, which had Fear and Maelk on their roster. Shortly afterward, EternalEnVy would depart from the team due to internal conflicts as Loda and EnVy would clash in their leadership styles. After EnVy’s departure, Loda realized his vision of a full Swedish squad incorporating QPAD Red Panda’s EGM. No Tidehunter would then sweep EMS One Spring Cup 3, beating out top Russian teams such as Virtus.pro and Team Empire, as well as the inaugural champions of The International, NAVI. No Tidehunter would go on to defeat Fnatic.EU at StarLadder’s StarSeries Season 5, the team’s third LAN win after DreamHack Winter 2012 and the Thor Open 2012. After their win in Kiev, Alliance would be formed after an announcement in April, with Razer stepping in as their first sponsor.
Alliance’s next big Dota 2 LAN win would be at China’s G-1 Champions League Season 5, one of two western teams to qualify for a major Chinese LAN event. Alliance would astonish audiences with their creative and unconventional playstyle, especially against Chinese dream team DK. They brought their level 1 Roshan strat to Chinese audiences after debuting it at the DreamHack Invitational. It would be the first time this strategy would be used against Chinese teams. By killing Roshan before the spawn of creep waves, Alliance secured an early gold and experience lead that they used to crush DK in their best-of-one contest. After going undefeated during the group stages, Alliance beat LGD in the grand finals 2-0 to become the first western team to win a major Chinese LAN event in Dota 2 history.
Alliance would follow up their Chinese Dota 2 LAN win with DreamHack Summer and StarLadder Season 6. After these wins, Alliance would retreat into bootcamps to prepare for TI3. Their showing at TI3 would see the team go undefeated in the group stage, utilizing a mix of playstyles ranging from aggressive, gank centric lineups utilizing heroes like Bounty Hunter, Timbersaw, and Naga Siren to split-push, late-game farming lineups consisting of heroes like Nature’s Prophet, Lone Druid, and Phantom Lancer.
Alliance would become notoriously known for a cheese strat that many fans and commentators would accuse them of as “rat dota,” which was Alliance’s backup plan when games took unexpected turns against them. They needed more time to ensure that Loda and s4 could farm enough to contribute to late-game team fights. Most of the pressure fell on Alliance’s star offlane player Henrik ‘AdmiralBulldog’ Ahnberg. Using his trademark Nature’s Prophet and Lone Druid, AdmiralBulldog would ease pressure opponents exerted on Alliance by pushing lanes and destroying towers, forcing opponents to respond and defend their structures. Even if opponents eliminated most of Alliance’s heroes and were knocking on the doors of their base, AdmiralBulldog could be seen doing the same and forcing heroes to teleport back to protect their base from his methodical, demolition-oriented style of play.
S4 would be the team’s key playmaker alongside roaming support player Jerry ‘EGM’ Lundkvist. On heroes like Magnus, Puck, and Timbersaw, s4 could make tons of space for Loda and AdmiralBulldog and lead team fights for Alliance. EGM’s support pool was perhaps limited at TI3. He made a significant impact on heroes like Naga Siren, Io, and Windranger, playing a steady and consistent style that would rarely be shaken up by sudden deficits or lost team fights.
Alliance would win TI3 in a heated contest against NAVI. Their match would go to a full five games played as they both traded games off each other in quick, action-packed games. Perhaps the most memorable moment of TI3 came from the final game between Alliance and NAVI, where s4 would use Puck’s Dream Coil to prevent three NAVI heroes from teleporting to their base to prevent an Alliance counter push that would see their top and bottom barracks destroyed. S4 would follow up this initial Dream Coil with another one later in the game to prevent NAVI’s Dendi and Puppey from teleporting back to their base to defend against Alliance’s final push. S4’s play would go down in Dota 2 history as “The Million Dollar Dream Coil,” as Alliance would win over $1,000,000 after their unstoppable run at TI3.
After TI3, Alliance would descend into a decline they’ve struggled to recover from. Alliance’s TI3 winning roster would part ways and reunite over the years, attempting to replicate the success of their initial year of competition. As Akke, s4, EGM, and AdmiralBulldog either left to play for other teams or retired from professional Dota 2 in general, Loda has remained a constant for the team, either competing as a part of the team’s revival rosters or acting as a coach for newer rosters. Since TI3, Alliance would see wins at events such as World Cyber Arena 2015 and the inaugural season of the StarLadder i-League StarSeries in 2016. At other TI events, Alliance would either struggle to qualify or place outside of top 8.
Now, with a new roster and another opportunity to compete at The International after a disappointing 13th place finish at TI9, TI10 may be the event to turn Alliance’s story around and be the first step up after a long and tiring descent.
Alliance – Recent Results & Roster Changes
In 2019, Alliance would see the departure of a rookie squad who had mainly been playing in tier 2 competition and had failed to secure a substantive result at TI9 despite qualifying for both the Chongqing and EPICENTER Major and managing at first place at Dota Summit 10. Alliance would bring in Limmp and Handsken, two players who had played for Alliance previously in 2016 and had played with Alliance’s S4 back in Heroes of Newerth. Alliance would also bring in German legend Fata, who would bring in Romanian rookie carry Nikolay ‘Nikobaby’ Nikolov and offlaner 33, who is now playing for Tundra Esports.
March of 2020 would see 33 and Fata depart for what would now be the Tundra Esports squad, which led to the return of s4 to the Alliance roster to captain the team in Fata’s absence. Alliance would round out their roster with seasoned Belarussian player Artsiom ‘fng’ Barshak, whose career in Dota 2 saw him captaining teams such as NAVI, Virtus.Pro and Gambit Esports. With this new roster, Alliance hopes to make a comeback in Dota 2 competition and has their eyes set on TI10.
Alliance’s results during the 2020-2021 season have been rather inconsistent but do show promise. In 2020, WePlay’s Pushka League saw Alliance take 6th place over the rest of the CIS and European scene. The team would also take 2nd at ESL One Birmingham and OGA Dota Pit Season 2. Near the tail end of 2020, Alliance would take 6th at ESL One Germany and 3rd and 4th at OGA Dota Pit seasons 3 and 4, respectively.
With a new DPC season set in place for 2021, Alliance would fare quite well during league play, taking second and first at DreamLeague Seasons 14 and 15 to qualify for the Singapore Major and the Animajor. Alliance would come last in their group during the round-robin of the Singapore major, losing to teams that they had little experience against, such as Team Aster, PSG.LGD, and Thunder Predator, resulting in 13th place. The Animajor would see slight improvement with Alliance managing to avoid group stage elimination but struggle in the playoffs after losing to Team Spirit in the first round of the lower bracket.
Both ESL One Summer and Fall would see Alliance place well above their expected results, with Alliance taking 4th at ESL One Summer and 8th at ESL One Fall after losing to T1 at both events in the playoffs stage.
Alliance’s 2020 results show a competitive edge while competing among their peers in Europe but struggling against teams they have yet to play from other regions. Alliance can typically create upset wins against teams like OG and Team Liquid, who should manage well against Alliance because of Alliance’s relatively new and fresh roster versus their more established, cohesive rosters. However, Alliance remains incredibly unpredictable, making them a wild card choice for TI10.
Alliance – Predictions for TI10
There’s little doubt of the talent Nikobaby brings to Alliance’s roster. The carry player has shown impressive growth throughout his career and has drawn comparisons to Arteezy as the European scene’s closest approximation. However, the Arteezy comparisons don’t account for Nikobaby’s flair for impressive, mid-game plays. S4 and Limmp drive the team’s momentum as playmakers, with LIMMP typically playing mid laners that bring utility to Alliance’s draft either through strong, sustainable cores that can soak front-line damage or impactful tower-pushers like Death Prophet. S4 has done well in the offlane role, utilizing his years of experience playing tanky initiators such as Magnus, Centaur Warrunner, or Kunkka.
Perhaps what makes Alliance inconsistent is how easy it is to exert pressure on Limmp and S4. If S4’s lane sees him unable to secure farm or levels, it can be difficult for him to catch up and play comfortably. S4’s playstyle is built on him being able to make space for his team and lead fights, and if he has a poor laning phase, it takes him a while to make a comeback, leading to games where he cracks under pressure.
Limmp excels as a duelist in the midlane, but he struggles with his map rotations and tempo during team fights. He’s also not well-known for being one of the more stable farmers in the game, which means that a lot of his best plays come from having solid momentum early that he can turn into a gold and item lead.
Handsken and Limmp show great chemistry in-game and will often partner up to make impactful plays early in the game, but they seem to lack an edge in their skill that makes them stand out compared to other mid laners and position 4s. If I had to hazard the weakest link in Alliance’s roster, it would probably be these two for their inconsistency.
If Alliance can buckle down and improve their ability to recover in lanes outside of the safelane, they could easily win TI10. The skill gap between Alliance and other teams shows that Alliance is trying to rely too much on a rather predictable playstyle that relies too much on explosive playmaking to make space for a fully stacked Nikobaby in the late game. I’d also argue that S4’s hero pool this season shows a lack of variety and too much reliance on the signature Magnus when Sand King has shown better results across the current patch cycle.
This current Alliance roster certainly shows the potential to provide Alliance with their best showing at TI since TI3. TI10 will no doubt agitate Alliance during the group stages as they face international Dota 2 teams from unfamiliar regions. If Alliance withstand these initial growing pains, they could easily adapt and become a dark horse during the tournament, but this is if they can address some of the issues they experience in the mid lane and offlane.