In a first of Dota 2 history, OG Dota have become the back-to-back champions of The International—and, once again, bring home the largest prize in competitive video gaming.
An intense best-of-five finals saw the European team persuasively take the series three-to-one for the championship over Euro rivals Team Liquid. Both teams already set the stage for a historic match of Dota 2, as it was the first grand finals of The International to feature solely TI finalists, and nine out of ten players had already won a TI in the past. They met an enthusiastic crowd in Shanghai, China, where TI had been held for the first time off the North American Continent.
Upon victory, OG earned a record-breaking $15,603,133 USD, now the largest first-place prize earned in an esports organization. It’s about 45.5% of a whopping $34,292,599 prize pool, a purse crowd-funded by Dota 2 fans and that breaks its own event’s record of the largest in esports. Team Liquid takes home their own pretty coin, too, winning $4,458,038 as the second-place squad. All nine contenders for a repeat Aegis are now the highest-earning players in esports history, with the OG players topping the list.
Perhaps most importantly to the players of OG, they’ll have their names inscribed on the Aegis of Champions for the second time, a first for any team in Dota 2 history. As Dota itself dates back over 15 years and maintains a reputation as a deep and complex game, The International is likely one of the, if not the, most coveted titles in esports. It’s especially so for Dota 2 players, as the game requires thousands of hours to come close to mastery — and many have been playing for nearly or over a decade, including some of OG’s players.
With both veterans and young legends, OG Dota is a recent team with an intriguing story and penchant for strong, entertaining performances. The organization was created in 2015 as a more formal version of the squad Monkey Business, and the team took plenty of massive tournaments, but never a TI. When their performance faltered in early 2018, three of their players were suddenly poached for a number of other teams, and they were only left with founding members Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka and Johan “N0tail” Sundstein.
As TI is an open event, OG managed to pull together a squad for last year’s TI8 with a mix of veterans and relative newcomers to qualify. They brought back the young Anathan “ana” Pham, a former OG player, and brought on Sébastien "Ceb" Debs, who had been substituting as a temporary player throughout the season. Meanwhile, mid-laner Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen, at that point only a semi-pro, had won less than $17,000 total over his career.
At TI8, OG managed to create what the community and professional scenes agree to be a Cinderella story. Fans didn’t know what to expect, but OG blew even the most optimistic expectations by breezing through the upper bracket of the event in incredible fashion and taking the Aegis. Their performance in the year since has been less persuasive, but through the Dota Pro Circuit, they earned enough points to make their return to this year’s championship event.
A less-than-stellar season was made up for by a dominating performance at this TI. They earned the top seed through the group stages and won their way through the upper bracket to the grand finals. Throughout the event, OG was praised for their innovative drafting and considered an easy favorite pick for such.
Their grand finalist rivals also have quite a history behind them. Comprised of Dota veterans and backed by a famous and wealthy organization, Team Liquid is comprised of four out of their five players that won under the Liquid banner at The International in 2017. At that event, they dropped their first series in the upper bracket and had to make a similar run through the lower bracket to reach the championship title. In a first for TI, they’d won the best-of-five finals without dropping a game.
At this year’s event, Liquid were also considered favorites to win, as they’d performed fairly well during this year’s circuit. They didn’t have a stellar group stage performance during the championship event, but they kept fans’ hopes up by running through the lower bracket with only one game dropped in the lower bracket finals, the same day as grand finals.
Both teams’ skill shone in the grand finals of the event as Team Liquid did their best to keep up with OG’s dominant gameplay. During the grand finals, OG picked 14 unique heroes out of a possible 20 picks, and Liquid picked 16. Team Liquid drafted Meepo in their first game, which was an unusually popular pick (and ban) during the event as it’s considered highly difficult to execute. However, in Liquid’s hands, the hero quickly helped wrap up the game from the brink of defeat.
From there, OG became a much more difficult obstacle to overcome. Liquid struggled to keep up in the middle two games, but the final game of the event was far more tense and close between the two teams. Most notably, OG saw ana playing Io in a non-traditional role for the character, playing the more passive “support” hero instead as a hard-hitting “carry,” which was one of OG’s most popular and innovative strategies during the event. OG eventually saw an opportunity to take the lead and came out on top to take the series and the championship.
The International is over for the year, and both teams at the event and fans watching at home get a few weeks’ respite before the Dota Pro Circuit boots back up for the year—and teams start their year-long quest for the Aegis of Champions once again.
Exact details on the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit are yet to come.