The latest roster of European Dota 2 organization Team Secret bagged the ESL One Hamburg 2018 championship last October 28, not only earning them $125,000 but also scoring a 50,000 Mercedes-Benz for its mid player Zheng “MidOne” Yeik Nai as the tournament’s MVP.
Team Secret were already flexing at the start of the tournament with an 8-2 during the group stages, but Virtus.pro dislodged them early in the upper bracket with a 2-1.
However, this ironically and seemingly became favorable for Team Secret, sweeping other teams in the lower bracket, including Virtus.pro, which they knocked out 2-0 in its finals.
Climbing their way back to the top, Team Secret defeated Vici Gaming, which were dominating the upper bracket, in a full five-game series 3-2.
More importantly, Team Secret’s recent achievement shall bring the limelight to the inclusion of a rookie and an old-timer in the latest roster.
In an announcement on Team Secret’s official site last September 11, Swedish player Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg has staged a comeback, “returning home in his natural offlane position,” while Polish “wunderkid” Michal “Nisha” Jankowski was recruited as carry, upon the departure of “two of their stars,” Adrian “Fata” Trinks and Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard Christensen.
See Team Secret’s press release here.
Wahlberg joined Team Secret in 2015 after leaving Evil Geniuses, but has also left the team after a terrible performance at The International that year. He continued his studies upon his departure.
After The International 2015, Walhberg got back to EG as a substitute player, following Valve Corporation’s latest ruling, while part of Kaipi.
He officially reunited with EG as a support player the following year, but has left yet again after another terrible performance at The International 2016.
Meanwhile, the 18-year-old Jankowski is quite a new name in the scene, playing on teams such as Let’s Do It, ALTERNATE aTTaX, Team Singularity, and more prominently, Kinguin.
Jankowski and his Kinguin teammates were able to pique some interest for being in the upper seed of tournaments such as World Cyber Arena 2017 Europe Finals, Perfect World Masters, DOTA Summit 8, and ESL One Katowice 2018.
Team Secret captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov is known for eyeing new carry players ever since, such as Pyo “MP” No-a and Hoelgaard. A few of their stellar performances, however, were not still enough for the team to claim the Aegis at The International 2017 and 2018.
‘Secret’ in becoming champions
Ivanov’s strategy at ESL One Hamburg 2018 relied heavily on drafting Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat’s signature Heroes Enigma, Rubick, and Phoenix, giving a perfect four, six out of seven, and three out of six wins, respectively.
Ivanov experimented with unorthodox supports like Brewmaster, Axe, and Legion Commander, who are all traditionally played as offlaners. They were picked because they are tanky and aggressive early, in conjunction with Wahlberg’s Heroes, to secure Jankowski’s early game.
Each pick gave them five out of seven, two out of three, and one out of two wins, respectively.
He still picked “standard” supports in the metagame such as Crystal Maiden, which earned Team Secret four perfect wins, and Ogre Magi, which gave them five out of seven wins.
“Space creators” and playmaker offlaners were prioritized for Wahlberg, such as Venomancer, Pangolier, and Centaur Warrunner; they were picked five, three, and three times, respectively. They only lost once with each pick.
Yeik Nai’s “comfort picks” in the tournament were Invoker, Monkey King, and Kunkka; four out of five, three out of five, and two out of three games, respectively, were secured with the picks.
Yeik Nai’s Invoker utilized the “Quas-Wex” build which relies on a fast-paced, pickoff playstyle through using Cold Snap, Tornado, EMP, and purchasing Urn of Shadows and the Spirit Vessel upgrade.
His Monkey King is dependent on early aggression in the laning stage, ganking lanes, forcing rotations from enemy supports, and giving space to the team, particularly to Jankowski.
Jankowski preferred farm-reliant carries such as Morphling, earning a hat trick, and Terrorblade, winning five out of six games.
However, Jankowski’s high-level performance on Morphling resulted in continued “respect bans,” preventing him from using the Hero in the finals.
Aside from picking favorable Heroes for the team, Ivanov made sure that Team Secret can play comfortably by banning Heroes that are not only popular in the metagame but also counterpicks Jankowski’s late game carries through early aggression and strong lane presence: Io (16 times), Bane (14), Axe (eight), Tiny (eight), Lina (seven), Phantom Lancer (seven).
Team Secret has picked 43 of 115 Heroes in the tournament.
The most crucial part of Team Secret’s victory over Vici Gaming is their draft on Game 5.
After “respect bans” on Jankowski’s Morphling and Jaradat’s Enigma, Vici Gaming attempted to turn Team Secret’s strategy against themselves by picking their Phoenix and Brewmaster combo, in conjunction with an Ogre Magi and Terrorblade pick.
Tiny, which Team Secret regularly bans, was also taken.
Team Secret responded with Wahlberg’s and Jaradat’s signature Heroes, Magnus and Rubick. Ivanov settled with Silencer.
But a Troll Warlord for Jankowski and a last pick Monkey King for Yeik Nai drew flak among the analysts, noting how they were “outdrafted” by Vici Gaming due to the two pick’s lack of early game strength.
This was somehow proven true six minutes into the game, where Yeik Nai’s Monkey King was struggling against Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang’s Tiny at mid.
Yeik Nai aggravated his situation by diving the Tier 1 tower in mid with a desperate attempt to kill Jiaoyang, He forced a Town Portal Scroll rotation from Pan “Fade” Yi’s Phoenix and Ding “Dy” Cong’s Brewmaster, however. Jaradat’s response was also futile.
Yeik Nai will keep feeding and losing the lane, making him sixth on the net worth chart and only topping the supports of both teams past 10 minutes.
Seventeen minutes into the game, Vici Gaming went for an early four-man Roshan with Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun’s Double Damage-boosted Terrorblade under Metamorphosis.
This is the moment where Vici Gaming will meet their demise, as Wahlberg already got his Blink Dagger on Magnus. A Blink, Reverse Polarity and Skewer combo plus the attacks and spells of other Team Secret Heroes decimated Vici Gaming, which were leading 8-5 prior to the Roshan attempt. To rub salt to the wound, Team Secret took the low-HP Roshan for themselves.
Since Vici Gaming’s mishap, Team Secret recovered on the next few minutes.
At minute 22, Team Secret managed to grab a four for nil against Vici Gaming as they were pushing the Tier 2 Tower at bottom lane, already unstoppable at this point.
Twenty-seven minutes in, another teamfight ensues at the Pit, where Vici Gaming unsuccessfully contested Team Secret’s Roshan attempt.
Vici Gaming were already in shambles at 29 minutes, with Team Secret maintaining a 22-11 and a 14K net worth lead.
What finally sealed the deal was Jaradat’s opportune Telekinesis on Chengjun’s Terrorblade on the low ground before Dire’s Tier 3, who just bought back a few moments before Team Secret’s siege, bashed to death by Jandowski’s well-fed Troll Warlord.
After Chengjun’s Terrorblade “died back,” his other teammates were also taken down by a ravenous Team Secret.
With Jankowski’s inclusion and Wahlberg’s comeback, Team Secret is currently in good shape toward the latest season of the Dota Pro Circuit, already holding two championships: PVP Esports Championship and ESL One Hamburg 2018.
Only time will tell what is in store for them.