The Secret is Out: European squad Team Secret looks to follow up an impressive Pro Circuit campaign and return to the elite of the Dota 2 world with a run at the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver.
Another year of Dota 2 action has come and gone, and the stage is now set for the Dota 2 world to once again come together to enjoy and celebrate the game on the biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. With The International 2018 fast approaching, it seems appropriate to offer fans both new and old some information on the squads that will be fighting in Vancouver for a chance to lay claim to the Aegis of Champions and cement themselves a place in Dota 2 history. Each post in this series will provide a brief profile of one of the 18 teams that have earned a place in the field at TI8, including a small overview of the team/organization’s history, a breakdown of its 2017-2018 season, a look at the players on the team’s roster, and expectations entering TI itself. Whether you’re deep into the pro Dota scene already or just looking to get your feet wet in preparation for TI8, the hope is that these profiles will give you a bit more insight or a refresher course for the teams that will be playing in Vancouver in August. With that in mind, we shift our attention to 1 of the 3 squads representing the European region in Vancouver, and one of the most accomplished squads on the Pro Circuit this season: Team Secret.
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (5136 Qualifying Points)
Qualification Method: Direct Invite (DPC Top 8)
2017-2018 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 15 (8 Top 4 Finishes)
Previous TI Appearances: TI5 (7th-8th), TI6 (13th-16th), TI7 (9th-12th)
2017-2018 Season Notable Achievements:
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Majors
1st – DreamLeague Season 8
2nd – ESL One Hamburg 2017
4th – China Dota2 Supermajor
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Minors
1st – Captains Draft 4.0
1st – DreamLeague Season 9
3rd-4th – StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3
3rd-4th – ESL One Genting 2018
3rd-4th – GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor
Team Secret may not be an organization with the same level of history as some of the other participants at TI8, but the European team has already established itself as a notable name within the esports scene. Originally founded in 2014 with its Dota 2 division, the organization has grown significantly over the last few years and now fields lineups across games like CS:GO, Rocket League, PUBG, and Fortnite. While that expansion has been incredibly impressive, the Dota 2 team remains the heart of the organization, with the original Team Secret squad having come into existence in August of 2014 in the aftermath of TI4. That initial squad met with near immediate success to close out the year, making appearances at 5 notable international events and earning TOp 4 finishes in all of them, including back to back wins at XMG Captains Draft 2.0 and Dota Pit League Season 2. The team went through some roster changes on both sides of the new year, as 2 of its members left the team in December and January. The squad participated in the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2015 with stand-ins, though those players were quickly added to the roster officially following the team’s 3rd place finish at the event. Team Secret went on to dominate the Dota 2 scene in the months that followed, putting together a stretch of 4 straight LAN victories in May and June. Those performances made the team a lock for a direct invite to TI5, where the European squad ended up finishing in the top half of the standings with a 7th-8th place run in Seattle. The post-TI shuffle brought another round of roster changes for the squad, but the organization continued to be a dominant presence on the international level with its new lineup. The team closed out the year with victories at the MLG World Finals and the Nanyang Dota 2 Champions, as well as 2nd place runs at ESL One New York 2015 and The Frankfurt Major.
The beginning of 2016 was an interesting time for Team Secret in terms of its performance on the international level. In March, the squad claimed its first ever Major Championship with a 1st place finish at The Shanghai Major. However, that win was the team’s only success over the first half of the year, as it struggled in all of its other appearances, including a 13th-16th place finish at The Manila Major in June. Throughout this period, the team was also undergoing some significant changes to its roster, with 3 of its players leaving the team between March and June. Despite those changes, Team Secret managed to qualify for TI6, but the event itself proved less than ideal for the European squad. A 13th-16th place finish in Seattle prompted significant changes for the team, as 3 of its active players and both of its registered substitute players left the organization in the post-TI roster shuffle. Despite the disappointing finish at TI6, Team Secret managed to rebuild its roster and put together an impressive stretch of play to close out the year that included 3 straight Top 4 finishes at LAN events with 2 victories among them. Once again though, the team’s strong run to finish a year didn’t seem to carry over into the new one, as Team Secret faced near immediate difficulties in 2017. The team’s first 2 events of the season were not particularly impressive, and the following 9th-16th place finish at The Kiev Major in April did little to increase confidence in the squad. However, the team was able to turn things around in the following months, putting together a handful of Top 4 finishes on LAN and winning the TI7 Europe Qualifier to earn itself a place in Seattle. Once again though, the TI stage proved to be too daunting a challenge for Team Secret, as the team finished in the 9th-12th place position overall. With the Pro Circuit season looming, the organization opted for another change to its roster, replacing 2 of its players and entering the season with somewhat uncertain expectations.
Season in Review
Team Secret came into the 2017-2018 season with a roster that had not played any official matches together, and many were unsure of exactly where the team’s place was in the Dota 2 world. The team was quick to show that it was ready to continue performing at the highest level on the Pro Circuit, as Team Secret dominated the European region and opened the season with 3 straight qualifier victories. In October, the team made its debut on the Pro Circuit stage with a 3rd-4th place finish at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3, and followed up that performance with a 2nd place run at the ESL One Hamburg 2017 Major just 2 weeks later. In November, the team qualified for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major, placing 1st overall in the combined Europe & CIS Qualifier for the event. A month later at the event itself, Team Secret claimed its first Major Championship of the season, and its second in the history of the organization. That performance pushed the team into the number 1 ranking in the Pro Circuit standings, and allowed the European squad to close out 2017 on a high note as it definitively claimed its place among the elite teams of the Dota 2 world.
The team started the 2018 section of the Pro Circuit season exactly where it had left off in the previous year, as the team claimed its first Minor Championship in January at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor. Later that month, the squad continued its pattern of success with a 3rd-4th place run at the ESL One Genting 2018 Minor that increased its hold over the number 1 ranking in the Pro Circuit standings. In the coming months, Team Secret would see its first significant setbacks of the season, as the team just barely missed the mark for Top 4 finishes at both the ESL One Katowice 2018 Major and The Bucharest Major. In the aftermath of those events, Team Secret ended up losing its top ranking in the Pro Circuit standings, dropping down to 3rd overall. At the end of March, the team was able to briefly put an end to its recent slide with another victory at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor, but that success would prove to be somewhat fleeting. In April and May, the team once again put together less than ideal performances on the Pro Circuit stage, with a 9th-12th place finish at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major and a 7th-8th place run at the EPICENTER XL Major. Despite these stumbles on the Pro Circuit stage, the European squad had still earned itself enough qualifying points where a fall out of the Top 8 in the standings was nearly impossible. That theory was proven true just 1 week after the EPICENTER XL Major when Team Secret earned a 3rd-4th place finish at the GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor that statistically guaranteed the team a Top 8 finish on the Pro Circuit and a direct invite to TI8. In addition to its direct invite status, the team also managed to put together an encouraging end to its Pro Circuit campaign, earning a 5th-6th place finish at the MDL Changsha Major in May along with a 4th place run at the China Dota2 Supermajor in June. With those performances, the squad entered the pre-TI period with more confidence as it looked to get itself back into top form in time to take the stage in Vancouver.
Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard (Carry) – When Ace was announced as a new member of the Team Secret roster at the start of the season, there were questions about how well he would respond to his first stint with a top level team. The Danish carry has proven himself more than capable of playing effectively at the highest level, with Ace filling the role of the traditional hard farming carry for the European squad. Ace’s transition to the Team Secret roster has been impressive, but not necessarily surprising considering the fact that he has already built up a sizable level of experience in the Dota 2 world prior to joining the team. His career began in June of 2012 as a hybrid carry and offlaner with an all-Danish Gamer University squad that notably won Season 3 of StarLadder ProSeries. Just 1 month after that victory though, Ace left the team to join 3DMAX for a period of around 5 months before the squad disbanded in April of 2013. After a small hiatus, Ace returned to the Dota 2 world in August by joining the roster of Team Life, and remained with the squad for around 2 months before being picked up by mousesports in October. In January of 2014, mousesports released its roster, which led Ace and nearly all of his teammates to reform Team Life for all of 2 weeks before being picked up by Meet Your Makers in February. That squad was able to earn appearances in a couple of international events, but fell short of ever finding any significant success together, which led to Ace leaving the team in September. After a period as a stand-in and substitute, he officially joined the roster of Lianghao in January of 2015 as its offlaner. 2 months later, the squad was signed by Flipsid3 Tactics, though that partnership would last for just over a month before the squad parted ways with the organization. By August of 2015, Ace had found his way to the roster of Danish Bears, where he spent over a year helping the squad elevate itself into a position as a tier 2 team in the European region. In June of 2016, the Danish Bears lineup was signed by The Imperial, and the Danish squad soon after put together an impressive stretch of performances over the final months of the year. Among those performances were some of the team’s first international appearances together, headlined by a 4th place finish at DreamLeague Season 6 and a 1st place run at The Dota 2 Champions League Season 9. However, the team’s partnership with The Imperial ended in December, with the squad briefly returning to the Danish Bears name before signing with Cloud 9 in January of 2017. After 4 months and only middling success in the European region, Cloud 9 disbanded, with the team once again returning to the name Danish Bears. After failing to qualify for TI7, the roster fell apart, with Ace being picked up by Team Secret as a part of its Pro Circuit roster. Ace has become an incredibly important part of Team Secret’s game plan this season, with his steady play at the carry position serving as an anchor that often gives the European squad a reliable source of power in the mid and late-game. That reliability will play a massive role for the team, and will be critical if Team Secret wants to have a chance at claiming the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver.
Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng (Mid) – The Southeast Asian region has a long and proud history of producing talented and well known stars, and Midone has taken quite a few steps towards adding his name to that history despite still being relatively new to the professional scene. Just 1 year ago, he became the first player to ever reach 10,000 MMR on the Southeast Asian servers, and his rise on the professional level has mirrored his success on the ranked leaderboards. The Malaysian midlaner has been a dominant force so far in his career, and has worked his way into the conversation of the strongest midlaners with a sense of confidence that had become a calling card for him. Favoring lane dominant and aggressive heroes, he has played a large role in helping his team establish a favorable pace of play across its matches. While MidOne has spent many years playing both DotA and Dota 2, his career as a full professional player is still in its early stages. The Malaysian midlaner first entered the professional scene in December of 2015 when he joined the roster of Fnatic. Days after his addition to the team, Fnatic qualified for The Shanghai Major, and MidOne was thrown straight into the fire at the international level at the event itself in March. MidOne managed to hold his own on the big stage, helping Fnatic earn a 5th-6th place finish that sparked a stretch of dominant play within the Southeast Asian region in the following months. In June, the team earned yet another 5th-6th place finish at The Manila Major, and followed up that performance just a few weeks later by qualifying for TI6. A 4th place finish in Seattle definitively announced MidOne’s arrival as a major player in the Dota 2 world, though the next step in his career would involve him leaving the Fnatic organization that had given him his start in the professional scene. In August of 2016, MidOne joined Team Secret, where he has remained to this day. He has become one of the central pieces of the team’s lineup and a vital part of the team’s play style. In many cases, Team Secret goes as MidOne goes, with his laning experience largely dictating the pace that the team plays at through the mid and late-game stages. If Team Secret wants to be a legitimate contender for the Aegis of Champions, then MidOne will have to lead from the front for the European squad at TI8.
Adrian “Fata” Trinks (Offlane) – For the majority of his career, Fata has been known for his play as a midlaner, but his move to the roster of Team Secret prompted the German player to shift into the offlane role this season. The change in position has done little to alter his play style though, as Fata still shows a preference for play making, team fight oriented heroes in the offlane. His skill on those heroes serves as a powerful tool for Team Secret, and he can simultaneously support a more aggressive style of play and make space and buy time for a more methodical pace should the team need it. Fata’s ability to serve as a steady, play making presence has been cultivated across what has been a fairly long career in the Dota 2 world, dating back as far as 2012 with squads like We haz Asian, Kaipi, and Zero. While those squads got him his start on the professional level, it wasn’t until November of 2012 and his joining of the mousesports roster that Fata began to emerge on the international level. Despite some struggles early on in his time with the team, mousesports managed to qualify for TI3, though Fata left soon after the squad’s 13th-16th place finish at the event. In September of 2013, he joined the DD.Dota squad that would be signed by Sigma.int, remaining with the squad for around 6 months but finding limited success. In April of 2014, he left Sigma.int to join the roster of Team Dog, and just 1 month later he found himself back with mousesports as the organization signed the Team Dog roster in May. Unfortunately, his second stint with mousesports proved no less impressive than the original, as the team finished in the 11th-12th place position at TI4. In the post-TI roster shuffle, Fata found himself once again leaving mousesports, this time to join the roster of Cloud 9. He would spend around a year with the Cloud 9 roster, helping the team build itself up on the international level with a multitude of appearances at premier events and a direct invite to TI5. Once again though, the TI stage would prove to be the death of Fata’s squad, as Cloud 9 finished in the 9th-12th place position in Seattle and its roster was released by the organization soon after. Fata would end up joining the roster of 5Jungz, and was with the team when it was signed by Team Liquid in October. Under the Team Liquid banner, Fata finally found consistent success on the international level, with the team claiming a number of LAN victories alongside 2nd place finishes at The Shanghai and The Manila Majors. After nearly a year with the team, Fata left the roster of Team Liquid after its 7th-8th place run at TI6, spending some time on semi-pro squad B)ears before joining the roster of Team NP in May of 2017. Team NP was able to put together a string of impressive results in the build up to TI7, and ended up winning the TI7 North America Qualifier to earn a place in Seattle. However, the team stumbled at the event itself, finishing in the 13th-16th place position and disbanding in the days that followed. In the post-TI shuffle, Fata returned to the European region, accepting a position with Team Secret in its roster rebuild for the Pro Circuit season. Fata may not command the spotlight in the offlane the way he did as a midlaner for most of his career, but his ability to make plays for his team and control the pace of play will be unbelievably important for the team as it hopes to keep a hold of its status as an elite team with a strong performance in Vancouver.
Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat (Support) – On a team with both young stars and veteran experience, YapzOr has managed to consistently be in the spotlight, which is not an easy task for a support player at the professional level. His penchant for playing highly active, roaming supports has led to an incredibly high rate of kill participation for him, and consistently creates opportunities for his teammates to establish early leads and control the pace of their matches. He has earned himself a reputation as one of the strongest position 4 supports in the world, but his path to that position has been anything but straightforward. YapzOr’s career officially began back in 2011 in the original DotA, but he made the transition to Dota 2 in 2012. For the first few years of his career, YapzOr was a member of various semi-professional teams, and remained at the fringe of the competitive seen in Europe and the Middle East. In 2014, he took a step towards becoming a more notable figure in the Dota 2 world by joining the roster of Balkan Bears. In his 8 months with the team, Balkan Bears found little success, but the experience did help YapzOr get his foot in the door in the European scene. He closed out the season on the roster of relatively minor squads Monkey Freedom Fighters and NO-VASELINE, before joining up with Mamas Boys in January of 2016. His time with that squad was short, but his play did get him noticed, and in February YapzOr was offered a spot in the No Diggity squad that would go on to be signed by Escape Gaming. It was with that squad that YapzOr made his first appearance on the TI stage, as the team managed to fight its way to a place in the field at TI6. Unfortunately, the team did not perform particularly well in Seattle, with a 13th-16th place finish overall. However, the experience was a valuable asset for YapzOr and helped him gain further notoriety in the Dota 2 scene. When Escape Gaming disbanded in December, YapZor found himself moving to the roster of European squad B)ears. When the team failed to qualify for any events, the roster disbanded, which left YapzOr free to be acquired by Team Secret. With Team Secret, YapzOr has finally found significant success on the international level, and he has played a large role in helping the team earn its current position as a leader on the Pro Circuit. His aggressive play at the support position will be incredibly important for the team to potentially keep it out of situations in which it will need to play from behind in its matches at TI8.
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Support, Captain) – Of all the names in the Dota 2 world, Puppey is a player that has perhaps established himself as one of hte most legendary in the history of the game. As one of the members of the first ever TI Champion Na’Vi, he has been involved in the Dota 2 scene since the very beginning and is one of the handful of players to have attended every iteration of TI. His prowess and experience as a captain is nearly unmatched, and his list of accomplishments dwarfs those of all but the greatest legends of the game. His time as a professional began well before the dawn of the Dota 2 era, as Puppey spent years playing the original DotA at the professional level before making the transition to Dota 2 in 2011 with Na’Vi. That squad was one of the most dominant to ever play the game, as Na’Vi won TI1, placed 2nd at TI2 and TI3, and won 21 LAN events between 2011 and the end of 2013. In 2014, the first cracks in the armor began to appear for the legendary team, as the squads performance began to decline in the monts before TI4. At the event itself, the squad finished in the 7th-8th place position, and soon after Puppey left the organization that he had helped build into one of the strongest in the Dota 2 world. In August of 2014, he founded the first Team Secret roster, and has remained the captain of the organization’s various lineup over the past 4 years. Puppey is a player that has accomplished just about everything that has ever been done in the history of Dota 2. He has inscribed his name on the Aegis of Champions, he has attended every single iteration of TI, and has won multiple Major Championships in his storied career. He is considered to be one of, if not the, best captains to ever play the game, and at this stage there is little that he should need to prove to the Dota 2 world. That being said, someone as competitive and successful as Puppey would never be one to simply fade away into the background, and the legendary captain will be determined to set yet another record as the only player to have ever won multiple TIs. The task will be far from easy, but if anyone could lead Team Secret to success in Vancouver, if would be a captain with a pedigree and history of success like Puppey.
Lee “SunBhie” Jeong-jae (Coach) – Within the Dota 2 world, the coaching position is one that does the majority of its work behind the scenes, with results that aren’t always apparent at first glance. As Team Secret’s coach, SunBhie’s impact has been a bit easier to notice, as he has helped the squad work through it preseason roster rebuild and establish itself as a leading team in the Dota 2 world once again. Prior to his time as a coach, SunBhie had put together a respectable, though not particularly successful, career as a player. His time as a professional began in 2013 with MVP HOT6ix as the team’s midlaner. In his nearly 2 years with the team, he helped establish MVP HOT6ix as a power in the Southeast Asian region and led it to its first international appearance at TI5. After a 13th-16th place finish at the event, SunBhie left the organization and moved to the North American region, spending a few months as a temporary roster member for a couple of squads before joining Team Freedom officially in December of 2015. Aside from a victory in the ProDotA Cup Americas #4 , Team Freedom found little success in the region and effectively disbanded in July of 2016. At that point, SunBhie opted to step down from a role as an active player and try his hand at coaching, beginning with an 11 day long stint with TNC Pro Team in August of 2016. After a hiatus of around 10 months, SunBhie returned to the Dota 2 world as the coach of Team Secret in June of 2017. With him at the coaching position, the team has flourished on the Pro Circuit stage and has reemerged as one of the most formidable teams in the Dota 2 world. Team Secret’s success coincides almost perfectly with its roster changes and the addition of SunBhie as coach, and the hope for the team is that he can continue being a positive force for the squad as it looks to complete its ascension in to the Dota 2 elite with a strong performance on the TI stage in Vancouver.
Expectations at TI8
Team Secret’s Pro Circuit season was vastly more successful than many may have been anticipating at the beginning of the team’s campaign, and the team now stands as one of the strongest and most accomplished on the Pro Circuit this season. With that in mind, the team enters TI8 with some rather significant expectations in light of its success on the international level. The team may not quite be on the same level as squads like Virtus.pro, Team Liquid, and PSG.LGD, but the margin between the European squad and those teams has to be considered relatively small, if not nonexistent. The team proved itself to be a dominant force within its home region this season, winning all 5 of the qualifiers that it participated in in 2017 and not needing to play in any in the 2018 section of the season. The team’s 8 Top 4 finishes on the Pro Circuit stage speaks to its ability to compete and win on the international level as well, with Team Secret claiming 2 Minor Championships and 1 Major Championship this season. That list of achivements would have any team sitting near the top in terms of expected contenders in Vancouver, but Team Secret does have something of an Achilles’s heel that is cause for some concern heading into TI8. The team had a somewhat rough stretch of play between the end of February and May in which its performance became a bit inconsistent. The good news for the team was that its inconsistent play still produced some solid results like the team’s 1st place finish at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. However, that same stretch saw the squad miss the mark in back to back Majors, and put together an out of character 9th-12th place run at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in April. Now, the team did managed to close out the season with a more encouraging series of performances, but the specter of inconsistency hasn’t fully dissipated for the squad heading into TI8. The hope is that the team has put those difficulties behind it and will be back in top form in Vancouver, but the possibility of another stumble could be the one thing that keeps Team Secret out of the realm of being a favorite on the TI stage. Either way, the team appears to be a safe bet to finish in the top half of the standings at TI8 barring some sort of catastrophic meltdown. However, the difference between a top half finish and a legitimate shot at claiming the Aegis of Champions may just come down to how well the squad has recovered from its mid-season issues.