Team OG: A Cinderella Story
In the time of chimpanzees, I was a Monkey Business fan (of course they’re now known as Team OG, but I’ve wanted to make that joke for months and it’s not my fault they got sponsored). Even I however, did not expect them to go as far as they did. Johan “BigDaddy” Sundstein, Amer “Miracle-” al-Barqawi, David “Moonmeander” Tan, Andreas “Cr1t-” Franck Nielsen, and Captain Tal “Fly” Aizek; they’ve only been playing as a team for about three months, and none of them have ever won a LAN, much less a Valve-sponsored premier tournament.
The odds were certainly stacked against Team OG. Indeed, despite taking first seed in the European qualifier tournament, They had struggled in various other tournaments throughout Europe. For example, they managed a 3rd place finish in D2CL Season 6, and barely scraped through The Summit 4 qualifiers, nearly losing the second seed to Team Empire. While they were indisputably one of the best teams playing in Europe (up there with Vega, Virtus.Pro, and Liquid), they still floundered quite a bit against teams they were arguably better than. Analysts pointed out that they had trouble closing out games, dawdling too long and allowing their enemies to eke out advantages.
It was not so in Frankfurt. They got off to a shaky start in the group stages, faltering against rival European prodigies, Vega Squadron, which left them in the bottom half of their group. Despite their lower bracket start, OG had a fire ignited in them. It is rare indeed to see a team truly learn throughout the course of a tournament, but with each victory seeming progressively more impossible, they stepped up. Fnatic, Mineski, Virtus.Pro, CDEC Gaming, EHOME, and TI5 Champions Evil Geniuses; all of them the prelude to the final boss: Team Secret, the winners of the upper bracket. In each series, OG persevered through impeccable rotations and mid-game shotcalling.
Their captain, Fly, went up against some of the best minds in the game in EG’s Peter “PPD” Dager and Secret’s Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and still seemed to get what he needed each game. Namely, priority support picks for him and Cr1t, such as Dazzle, Winter Wyvern, Undying, or Tusk. Using these heroes, they would rotate around the map and snowball their core players, getting their more mid-game oriented drafts going early. When a core started doing well, they, too, would start to roam, finding kills and towers across the map, till their gold/experience lead was essentially impenetrable and they were slowly choking their opponents out. OG deserved every win they got.
The Faltering of Team Secret
This is not to knock Team Secret. They are a team very much like OG, in terms of their formation after TI5. The massive amount of success they’ve found at premier LAN tournaments, given that they have only been playing together about three months, is nothing short of incredible. With a second place finish at ESL One New York, and a first place finish at both MLG and NanYang, another second place finish, especially at a Valve-run event, is nothing to be ashamed of.
Yet, this was the team to beat. Secret, by most measures, was heavily favored coming into the event. I had them pegged as winning the whole thing (but I also had the finals as being Secret/Vici and Vici only placed 5-6th so what do I know). They seemed an unstoppable juggernaut: too versatile to ever be figured out, too professional to ever be tilted, and too proficient to make too many mistakes. I’ve gushed about Secret in previous articles, extolled their virtues to anyone who will listen (read: almost nobody, except my girlfriend. Sorry, honey). Since they as a brand were created last year, I’ve been a big fan.
Something seemed off with them, during their series against OG, a certain indecisiveness in their movements and play. One could see the same sort of discomfort when they played against Vega Squadron during ESL One months ago. Rasmus “Misery” Filipsen, Secret’s offlaner, picked Slardar each game. It was a hero he had earned (well-deserved) praise for in the past, but couldn’t find success on this series, missing stuns he should have hit and getting caught out in places he shouldn’t have been. Aliwi “w33” Omar had similar problems in the past, he had been a true carry for the team, solidly beating his opponents in lane and making plays around the map. That didn’t happen this series, as he was overcome by pressure from OG supports.
Secret fell to OG 1-3. Did the better team win? That’s up for debate. Both have differing strengths and weaknesses. BigDaddy attributed his team’s success to the patch, saying in an interview that it suits them well.
While the last patch, 6.84c, was defined by Leshrac and Lina, the terrors of the flash-farming midlane, this patch has featured a much more even spread of heroes who are worth picking/banning. In many cases, these heroes are not picked or banned because they are broken (as many considered Leshrac and Lina last patch) rather, they are merely the ubiquitous heroes in their respective roles. Tusk, for example, had a 99% P/B rate at the major. Nearly every game saw the snowballing hero as either an offlaner or a 4th position support. Both roles are ones he is equally adept and well-suited for, however, his 50% winrate indicates that while he is good, he isn’t busted.
The same goes for Shadow Fiend. A relatively popular choice last patch, 6.85 saw many of his midlane buddies take heavy nerfs, while he remained entirely untouched. As they fell sharply out of the meta, Nevermore has been on the rise, and is now the standard midlane choice when you want both decent area-of-effect and right-click damage. He boasted a 95% P/B rate at the major, the second highest amongst all heroes.
As the curtains close on Frankfurt, so too do they close on 6.85. It was an exciting patch that brought the viewers incredible games– in terms of excitement, few things top some of the games we saw this major. However, with a new patch slated for sometime in December (with no Pit Lord still, I’m sure), we’ll soon be bidding it adieu. OG can certainly leave with their heads held high, but they shouldn’t rest on their laurels just yet. They still have a lot to prove in the coming month– are they the real deal, or a one-patch wonder? They’ll have till March 2 to figure it out, when they ship out to Shanghai for the second-ever major.