Dota 2 The International 10 Team Profile: Team Undying
NA Dota was the center of the universe before the 2010s. Despite how undeveloped professional Dota was during the Dota Allstars era, North American players like Fear, hit0mi, DeMoN, and Merlini were mainstays at many MYM Stand Your Ground events players from around the world would compete against the legendary MeetYourMakers squad.
By the time Dota 2 came around, North America was already entering its twilight years. Now, in 2021, NA Dota may as well be dead, but that doesn’t stop the scene from attracting new players from abroad with the hopes of somehow managing to get to The International. Team Undying is one such team, built from the fragments of various hopeful squads that never managed to break through into the upper echelons of NA Dota and challenge the only decent team around.
Team Undying’s name suits both the teams’ players and the North American Dota 2 scene quite well, as both manage to stick around despite the dwindling popularity of Dota 2 and North America’s increasing disinterest in one of esports’ oldest games.
Team Undying: Dota 2 Players Who Just Won’t Quit
To understand Team Undying, you have to understand the NA Dota 2 scene. At the top, NA Dota consists of Skype groups, Teamspeaks, and half-dead forums where the same people have been playing together and yelling at each other for over ten years. The introduction of Dota 2’s ranked queue has helped the scene find new talent, but younger hopefuls need the acknowledgment of veterans to stand any chance of improving or finding teams.
The idea of surrounding veterans with young talent isn’t unique to North America. Still, NA Dota’s propensity for toxicity, favoritism, and callousness that started back in the Dota Allstars days makes the organized play in North America increasingly difficult. Yesterday, veteran NA Dota players like ixmike, Ryoya, and Brax played against Furia Jovem, a Brazilian squad. Their first game would drag on for an hour due to disruptive behavior coming from Furia Jovem’s Mandy, who constantly typed in all chat and forced game pauses. At the end of the second game, ixmike responded in a manner that’s quite reserved considering what he’s done in the past.
This environment undoubtedly terrifies organizations and sponsors who want to attach their brands to teams and somewhat media-friendly players. Evil Geniuses, the only North American team with an organization behind it, typically avoids competing in NA events unless necessary. It’s this environment that Team Undying has stitched together a competitive edge in, having to rely on fans to fund their boot camp for The International because no organizations see North American Dota as a worthwhile investment or because they fear NA Dota will reflect poorly on them and generate public outcry. These are norms that Team Undying has either helped create or unconsciously uphold as they try to make their way to The International.
Although he’s mellowed out, Moonmeander was an outspoken, braggadocious, yet a skilled player in Heroes of Newerth. He was probably the first Dota pubstar to succeed on Twitch during the website’s early days, back when he was also known as Peachymoonz. He’s engaged in outrageous behavior both in competition and outside of it.
Now, at age 29, he’s looking to return to The International after four years standing outside its gates. Formerly known for his flashy plays in the mid lane, Moonmeander occupies the support role, bringing ten years of experience across Heroes of Newerth and Dota 2. Moon’s experience has led to him occupying some of Dota’s most iconic teams, like OG and Digital Chaos. Still, he’s routinely been considered the weaker link on these rosters, unable to deliver when the pressure’s on. Discarded and left waiting for his career to die, he’s joined Undying for the chance to prove he genuinely has what it takes.
Timado has been competing since he was 14, playing in both IXDL and the North American Elite League, which are in-house leagues organized by the infamous NADota forums where high MMR players could rub elbows with NA Dota veterans and pro players. Since those days, he’s been jumping in-between the NA scene and the South American scene, where he was able to get his first taste of the International with Peruvian team Infamous.
Since then, Timado has faced frustration, team issues, and hopelessness stemming from the Peruvian scene’s lack of structure and the North American scene’s lack of self-control. Caught between two worlds and an exceptionally talented safelaner must be frustrating for the young player, who has shown an eagerness to grow and learn but has absorbed the toxicity of upper-level North American Dota and accepted it as a norm.
Timado’s carry play shines like a diamond in the rough on Team Undying, with mechanics that put him among some of the best carry players in NA. He plays an excellent Morphling and Juggernaut, both heroes that respond to what’s happening at the game at whatever point in time thanks to their versatile kits and different item builds. Timado’s incredibly reactive, excelling on heroes that either allow him to start fights or give him multiple options in terms of approaching and retreating. However, it seems both his forward-thinking and reaction time may not be as sharp as his contemporaries, which may put him at a disadvantage at The International.
Bryle also began competing when he was young, moving to Canada from the Philippines and befriending high-ranked NA Dota players. Bryle’s also been a victim of the general instability of NA Dota. His talent for the mid lane shows when he’s on heroes like Invoker and Templar Assassin, which he uses to dominate lanes and teamfights when opponents collapse on his lane to deny him farm advantage.
In 2018, Iceberg Esports signed the Animal Planet roster only to drop them three months after the organization failed to pay both its Dota 2 and CSGO rosters. According to a report by Flurry Sports, Iceberg Esports stated that “after a long analysis of the Canadian esports industry, it simply isn’t a viable investment to operate esports teams in Canada until there is wider acceptance of esports on the corporate level,” which rings true considering what happened to Team Reciprocity in early 2020.
After getting dropped by Iceberg Esports, Bryle and the Animal Planet squad would get picked up by Chaos Esports Club (then Digital Chaos), partnering with CEO Greg Laird. He got his start in esports organizing Dota 2’s Canada Cup back in 2013. Unfortunately, the Digital Chaos squad would see little results, and Bryle would be separated from Moonmeander as he drifted from org to org. Ultimately, Bryle would once again reunite with Moonmeander on Team Undying.
Bryle doesn’t exactly exude the same toxicity as Moonmeander or Timado, but he’s a reject like them all the same. He’s been caught in the same situation as Timado, where he has talent, but the environment he finds himself in won’t allow that talent to grow. Perhaps that is what brings Undying together: the fact that players are attempting to compete at the highest level of Dota despite their skills being honed and developed in a dying region. At least one Undying player understands what it’s like to see a scene completely die, which must give the Team Undying squad some comfort somehow.
South Korea never got into Dota 2. Valve partnered with Nexon to localize Dota 2 for the South Korean market and ensure it could compete with League of Legends in the arena that mattered the most: PC bangs. Nexon included Korean-exclusive items for South Korean players. Still, Nexon couldn’t compete with the precedent created by League of Legends, which had faster gameplay, cuter characters, and simplified mechanics, leading to more games in an hour in comparison to Dota 2. Nexon also took too many cues from Valve, which meant the game got little promotion in South Korea compared to League of Legends.
After two years, Nexon shut down their Dota 2 servers, thus killing any grassroots efforts for a South Korean Dota 2 scene. While Nexon did create a Korean Dota League that lasted a year, it failed to capture interest in the region. Support player DuBu comes from this dead South Korean Dota 2 scene.
Originally, he played for MVP Phoenix, an entirely Korean Dota 2 squad that managed to make it to the International back in 2016, surprising Dota fans worldwide. After MVP Phoenix broke up, Dubu would cycle between NA and SEA teams to find a good fit. His MVP Phoenix teammates now coach some of the best teams internationally, and he’s reunited with Febby, who now acts as Team Undying’s coach. DuBu excels in playing defensive supports that can safely influence fights from afar, but he isn’t afraid to play aggressively as long as players like Timado or SabeRLight- are the ones to lead the charge.
SabeRLight- may be the one anomaly on Team Undying. While he’s also bounced between Europe and North America in terms of teams, he isn’t exactly a fixture of NA Dota like Bryle, Timado, and MoonMeander have been. Even DuBu has some NA Dota cred due to the NADota forums’ uncharacteristic support and endorsement of Korean Dota back when the Korean Dota League saw imports of NA Dota players.
SabeRLight- is a talented offlaner from the Czech Republic, considered a smaller region for Dota 2. His plays on Timbersaw during the North American qualifiers for this year’s International showed his quick and aggressive playstyle that NA Dota 2 has yet to adopt. SabeRLight-‘s aggressive playstyle doesn’t imply that he’s reckless and doesn’t prioritize farm, but that he would rather enable his teammates and make space for them so they can reliably farm items with little interruption.
In an interview on Dota 2 podcast Position Six, SabeRLight- acknowledged that expectations for Team Undying were low. “If people look at us, they would most likely assume that we would be in last place. So, we can only do better than that. That’s the approach we have,” says SabeRLight–.
Being the third North American team to participate at The International and only competing due to winning a regional qualifier for a region many consider dead doesn’t paint Team Undying as the likely winners for The International 10. However, the story behind these players and how they come from different corners of the world to represent a dying, fractured scene resembles the image of an America where immigrants came to try and find their fortune.
While many of Team Undying’s players aren’t American, they genuinely embody the American spirit of charging forward into adversity in the hopes of finding something better. Team Undying are genuine underdogs. They’re hungry players with storied, complicated pasts that compel you to look at them and acknowledge their talent, even if that talent resides in caustic personalities and off-putting.
No one may expect Team Undying to win, but they shouldn’t expect Team Undying to say die.