Dota 2 TI10 Team Profile: Team Secret
If there was ever an attempt to create a European dream team, it would have been Team Secret’s first roster. Composed of players that would later on lead their own successful teams, Team Secret formation sparked a change in how Dota 2 professionals would work and compete, focusing solely on preparing for important tournaments without worrying about contracts that demanded obligations outside of competing.
Clement ‘Puppey’ Ivanov has spent the last seven years experimenting with some of Dota 2’s rising talents to create rosters capable of surprising opponents at LAN competition and demanding the attention of audiences across the globe. The Team Secret roster has been responsible for importing talent from both North America and Southeast Asia and developing players that can compete at the highest level in Europe. The great experiment has succeeded but always seems to fail once TI season rolls around, and with TI10 looming over the horizon, and over ten years of competition on his shoulders, can Puppey lead his team to the final TI win that’s eluded him for so long?
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 and Fnatic. As always, stay on the lookout for more blogs on T10 to come in the future.
Who is Team Secret? The Secret Sauce of Dota 2
After leading NAVI as one of the most dominant teams in Dota 2, Puppey would taste a disappointing defeat at TI4 after NAVI’s loss to former Kaipi squad, Cloud9, composed of European and North American semi-pros who had previously won the Major League Gaming Championship Columbus in 2013, surprising many who expected a NAVI win at the event. Similarly, European team Fnatic would be eliminated from TI4 during the round robin stage, barely making it into the money at 14th place. Puppey and his fellow teammate Kuro ‘KuroKy’ Takhasomi would join Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein and Tal ‘Fly’ Aizik, along with Gustav ‘s4’ Magnusson, to create Team Secret, a team owned by the players that could operate independently of esports’ biggest organizations at the time.
Following TI4, Team Secret would qualify for StarLadder’s StarSeries Season 10. Prior to StarSeries, Team Secret would take fourth place at ESL One New York 2014, losing to the runner-up of 2014’s The International, Vici Gaming. Team Secret would go on to take 2nd place at StarSeries 10 and 3rd at The Summit 2, losing both contests to Evil Geniuses, who were fielding perhaps the best mid laner in the world at that team in Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev.
After a disappointing showing at StarSeries Season 11, both Fly and N0tail would leave the team. Puppey would bring in Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg and Arteezy from Evil Geniuses to create one of the most recognizable Team Secret rosters of that time. The inclusion of Arteezy and Zai brought Team Secret multiple first place wins at events like Red Bull Battle Grounds, The Summit 3, MarsTV Dota 2 League 2015 Spring, and ESL One Frankfurt 2015. By the later half of 2015, it seemed that other teams finally were able to figure out the secret ingredient to Team Secret’s success, and would shut down Team Secret’s TI5 run as Team Secret were eliminated from the event taking 8th place, while Arteezy and zai’s former team, Evil Geniuses, would go on to win TI5 and take home the Aegis of Champions.
Following TI5, Team Secret’s identity was in flux as the European favorite. Team Secret would spend a year dominating international competition only to fall short once they reached The International. New Team Secret rosters would build on the secret formula of combining young talent with some of Dota 2’s most recognizable veterans. The experiment would lead to 1st place wins across a variety of events over the years such as the Nanyang Dota 2 Championships, The Shanghai Major, and DreamLeague Season 8 and 9. However, they would routinely place outside of their expected 1st place finishes at TI.
Team Secret would take 14th at TI6, 9th at TI7, and 6th at TI8. Steadily, Team Secret began improving their results at TI as Puppey and his team began channeling their focus on events throughout the year that would ensure their participation at Dota 2’s greatest event.
In order to improve Team Secret’s chances, Puppey would bring in young, talented players such as Aliwi ‘w33ha’ Omar, Yazied ‘YapzOr’ Jaradat, Pyo ‘MP’ No-a, and Yeik Nai ‘MidOne’ Zheng. Combined with Puppey’s experience and supported by a roster of European veterans, these young talents would flourish on a squad determined to take first place at The International. Over the years, Team Secret’s performance, method, and identity have been finely tuned by Puppey and Team Secret’s management to create highly competitive teams that lead the way in international competition, but will it be enough to win TI10?
Team Secret – Recent Results & Roster Changes
Since 2019, Team Secret’s roster contains a squad entirely composed of new generation players with the exception of Puppey. Zai would return to the roster in 2018, and Team Secret would bring in breakout Polish star Michal ‘Nisha’ Jankowski to round out their roster. Team Secret’s 2019 season would see the team snatching first place wins across a variety of events. At the beginning of the year, Team Secret would take first at The Chonqing Major, followed by a first place finish at ESL One Katowice. May of 2019 would see Team Secret take first place at the MDL Disneyland® Paris Major followed by another win at ESL One Birmingham the following month.
Team Secret’s only disappointing result of the year would be at the EPICENTER Major shortly before TI9 where Team Secret would see a quick elimination by last year’s TI8 champions, OG. Many speculated that Team Secret’s focus was entirely on The International, and as the team was currently leading the world in Dota Pro Circuit points, their results at EPICENTER meant little to them.
TI9 would see Team Secret secure their best result at The International yet, taking fourth place after being unceremoniously eliminated from the upper bracelet by Evil Geniuses. Team Secret would manage to make it to the lower bracket semifinals before being eliminated by a Team Liquid squad led by former teammate KuroKy. The immensely close contest would see Team Liquid utilize a quick-scaling line up focused on w33ha’s flash farming cores to secure a gold advantage against Nisha, preventing him from making an impact in the game.
W33ha’s signature Meepo utterly devastated Team Secret, preventing them from securing anything besides a single tower in their offense. Game 2 would see a slightly more even match-up, but w33ha would once again surge on the carry Alchemist and net a decisive 32k gold lead off of farm and kills to shut down Team Secret. Amer ‘Miracle–’ Al-Barkawi would also make an impressive showing, securing towers and creating space allowing w33ha to secure his farm advantage.
Following TI9, MidOne would step down from active competition and Secret would bring in Lasse ‘MATUMBAMAN’ Urpalainen from Chaos Esports Club, who had previously played on Team Liquid’s TI7 winning squad. With 2020 seeing international LAN competition shut down due to the pandemic, Team Secret’s focus on TI would take the backseat to online events such as DreamLeague Season 13, BEYOND EPIC: Europe/CIS, ESL One Birmingham and OMEGA League, where they would see first place finishes. ESL One Germany 2020 would see Team Secret take 4th place to a new Team Liquid squad composed of former HoN pros, alongside Norwegian rookie Tommy ‘Taiga’ Le and German veteran Max ‘qojqva’ Brocker.
With rumors of The International returning in 2021, Team Secret once again shifted their focus on ensuring they would qualify for TI10 without revealing too much of their hand. Team Secret would take first place during DreamLeague Season 14 DPC EU and 4th at the Singapore Major. Team Secret would take 4th place at the Dota 2 DreamLeague Season 15 to qualify for the Animajor Wild Card, only to be eliminated in the round-robin after tying most of their matches with the exception of a 0-2 loss to Invictus Gaming.
Team Secret would also post a disappointing 11th place finish at ESL One Summer, losing to Team Nigma and withdrawing from the event early. Many Team Secret fans have speculated that their focus on TI10 has led to the team’s recent failures and that Puppey and Team Secret will only perform at TI10. Will their strategy pay off, and will Team Secret be able to tap into their secret sauce once more?
Team Secret – Predictions for TI10
Team Secret seemed to have bucked their trend of first place finishes leading up to TI10. Many speculate that their goal is to keep things under wraps until they debut new strategies and drafts against their opponents, but the reality is that Team Secret’s drafting method and prioritization of flexible picks has already been adapted by other teams competing at TI10. For lack of a better phrasing, the secret’s out on Team Secret.
However, the current Secret roster going into TI10 seems to be the most stable roster the team has fielded since 2015. Puppey seems to be much closer to his teammates now than he has been prior, and the team exudes a closeness and familiarity that many teams cannot match, with the exception of perhaps OG and Team Liquid. It’s this togetherness that really makes them stand out in comparison to other teams at TI10.
Team Secret’s capacity for carrying from either the midlane or the safelane has given the team a considerable edge against opponents, but other teams competing at TI10 have manage to adapt this strategy for themselves or shut it down by drafting aggressive, tanky picks that can group-up and shutdown either Nisha or MATUMBAMAN. Nisha will typically rely on his playmaking skills to make up for deficits in the early game, allowing MATUMBAMAN space to hit his hero’s item timings before he joins fights to secure a mid-game lead for Team Secret. Team Secret also heavily rely on zai to play a sacrificial style of offlaner that can either provide both Nisha and MATUMBAMAN the space they need or give the opponent a lead that turns into mid-game momentum that’s hard for Team Secret to overcome.
What’s probably the weakest link for Team Secret is how predictable Puppey has become in terms of his playstyle and hero pool. Puppey’s penchant for sustain-oriented supports like Winter Wyvern or lane-pushers like Enchantress and Chen limits Puppey’s ability to contribute significantly outside of the laning phase, and while his Chen is legendary and can reliably destroy tier 1 towers on his own, the support meta has prioritized lane dominators with strong, defensive spells such as Bane or Shadow Demon. This predictability allows opponents to draft strong offlane duos that can negate Puppey’s impact and put pressure on MATUMBAMAN, forcing Nisha and Yapzor to make movements on the map to make-up for their safelane deficit.
Overall, the likelihood of Team Secret winning TI10 seems slim. Team Secret will have to contend against the Chinese teams who manage to secure objectives quickly to coincide with their heroes’ power spikes. They’re also not the only unorthodox drafters that they once were with PSG.LGD and OG creating their own idiosyncratic hero drafts that Team Secret have yet to really contend with. Also, in terms of execution, it’s likely that MATUMBAMAN will struggle against other star carry players at TI10, such as OG’s SumaiL, Alliance’s Nikobaby, and T1’s 23savage.
Team Secret remains a fan favorite for a reason: the formula of recognizable, veteran player Puppey and his squad of eager, fresh-faced players shows a vitality that Dota 2 drastically needs. As long as Team Secret continues competing, the future of Dota 2 seems certain as Puppey will likely continue to compete until he finally wins his second Aegis. However, many speculate that this may be the last TI for many veteran players, including Puppey, as the game has drastically departed what it once was ten years ago. Hopefully, TI10 won’t be Puppey’s last.