| 14. August 2021

Road to The International 10: Team Secret

Team Secret is one of the most reputable competitors in the history of Dota 2. Its captain, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, was part of the Natus Vincere squad that won the first edition of The International and then finished 2nd at the next two editions. In 2014 he left the club to form his own team, and that’s how Team Secret was born.

A Little Bit Of History

The first roster of Team Secret had a lot of formidable players: N0tail, s4, KuroKy, Fly, and Puppey. Nowadays, it would be hard to imagine even two of these players competing for the same organizations. With the exception of s4, who is currently playing for Alliance, each of these legends went on to either form his own team or become the captain of one. How, then, could they have succeeded together? With so many aspiring captains in one crew, it’s hard to agree on drafts and strategies.

However, despite the internal frictions, Team Secret still managed to get a lot of good results in the 2014 – 2015 season. Almost every event they went to, they either won or finished in the top 4. So as you can imagine, when it was time for The International 2015, everyone had high expectations. This edition of TI would start a tradition for Puppey, and unfortunately a bad one. He would go on for 5 consecutive years without getting a single top 3 result. In spite of having an impressive roster each time, Puppey hasn’t yet managed to do on his own the least of what he did with Na’Vi.

2015 – 2019

At TI 5, Team Secret finished 7th – 8th, losing to EHOME and then to in the Lower Bracket. Following this disappointment, Puppey lost his entire roster and was forced to rebuild everything from scratch. But his 2015 – 2016 season was quite good, at least until The Shanghai Major, which he won.

At The International 2016, Puppey would live the biggest disappointment of his career. The result was abysmal: 13th – 16th. Once again, it was time for a new roster. But this new group of players did even worse than the previous ones. Apart from a 9th – 12th place at The International 2017 and a 3rd – 4th place at EPICENTER, Secret achieved nothing major that season.

The 2017 – 2018 season went much better for Secret. The team finished 2nd at ESL One Hamburg, won DreamLeague Season 8, DreamLeague Season 9, and Captains Draft 4.0, and then got decent results at the last two events of the season: China Dota2 Supermajor (4th) and The International 2018 (5th – 6th).

The situation changed dramatically for Team Secret after the return of zai and the signing of a young Polish superstar called Nisha. The Polish player was just 18 at the time and had achieved nothing significant. But Puppey saw his potential and decided to give him the chance of a lifetime.

The 2018 – 2019 season was the second time when Valve decided to introduce big changes to their Dota 2 Professional Circuit. Instead of having a lot of Majors and Minors, the circuit would now have just 4 of each type. Secret’s results at the 4 Majors were spectacular: 2nd, 1st, 1st, and 9th – 12th. Because they failed to finish in the top 3 at EPICENTER Major, everyone assumed that they would fail miserably at The International 2019 as well. But that didn’t happen. In fact, Puppey got his best TI result since leaving Na’Vi: 4th place.

2020 – 2021

2020 and 2021 were messy years, full of online events and very little LAN action. The global crisis caused even The International to be canceled. Team Secret’s results during this time were excellent. The most important ones were the following: 1st place at DreamLeague Season 13, 1st place in DreamLeague Season 14 DPC EU Upper Division, and 4th place at ONE Esports Singapore Major 2021.

Team Secret qualified for The International 10 (2021) from the 8th position of DPC 2021.

Secret’s Current Roster

Puppey has a formidable team right now. His carry is Matumbaman, who won The International 2017 and is known for his exceptional skills. Nisha often plays mid nowadays, but he can play carry as well. So the two of them give their captain a lot of flexibility during the drafting phase.

The offlaner is one of the best in the world: zai. He has been playing this role for a long time and knows everything about it.

The position 4 player is YapzOr. This guy is unbelievably good with many different heroes, including Rubick and Earthshaker. He’s also a veteran, having started to play professionally 10 years ago.

Puppey needs no introduction here. He’s simply one of the best captains in the history of the game.

One person who is worth mentioning though and plays a huge role in Secret’s success is the coach. Heen is a South Korean and the man who helped Team Liquid win their first TI in 2017. He joined Team Secret in November 2019 and his contributions have been significant.

Team Secret’s Current Form

Team Secret’s chances of winning The International 10 are a bit low. And that’s because the tournament features at least 5 other teams that are arguably stronger than them. These teams are Evil Geniuses, PSG.LGD, T1, Quincy Crew, and OG. However, we need to keep in mind that the preparation period for TI 10 is huge. In several months, there’s a lot that can happen.

Months of uninterrupted training naturally favor the strongest captains and Puppey is surely one of them. When you have ample time to analyze and test everything carefully, superior drafting and game knowledge tend to lead to better results. So I think we shouldn’t be surprised if Team Secret finishes in the top 4, even though their most recent results suggest that they are more likely to finish somewhere between 5th – 8th.


Photo credit: Valve