Prelude for a Champion 2019: A TI9 Team Profile – Team Secret

An Open Secret: After a season of absolute dominance on the Pro Circuit, Team Secret enters TI9 as the clear favorite to claim the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai

With the conclusion of the second even Dota 2 Pro Circuit campaign, the attention of the Dota 2 world now shifts to the game’s biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season set the stage, but now the time has come for 18 of the world’s best teams to take their shot at earning immortality as they look to cement their place in Dota 2 history with a victorious run at The International 2019 in Shanghai, China. For the first time in its history, TI moves away from the western world into the waiting arms of the Chinese scene, with TI9 set to be hosted in the Mercedes-Benz Arena as the venue will transform into the crucible from which one squad will emerge with the Aegis of Champions in hand. With the even itself fast approaching, this series will serve to highlight each of the 18 participating squads that will be making their way to Shanghai in the hopes of becoming TI9 Champion. Each post will focus upon a specific team in the field for this event, with a small overview of the organization’s history, a review of its 2018-2019 season, a run down of the members of its roster, keys to success entering TI9, and expectations for the squad at the event itself. Whether one is a newcomer to the pro scene or an avid Pro Circuit spectator, these posts will hopefully serve as a useful source of information or a refresher course on the teams that will be battling it out in Shanghai in August. With that in mind, we will look at 1 of the 6 European squads in attendance at TI9, 1 of 2 teams to win multiple Major Championships this season, and the number 1 ranked squad in the Pro Circuit Rankings: Team Secret.

 

Team Secret Team Secret

Region: Europe

Pro Circuit Rank: 1st (14,400 Pro Circuit Points)

Qualification Method: Direct Invite (Pro Circuit Top 12)

2018-2019 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 5 (4 Top 4 Finishes, 2 Major Championship Titles)

Previous TI Appearances: TI5 (7th-8th), TI6 (13th-16th), TI7 (9th-12th), TI8 (5th-6th)

 

2018-2019 Season Notable Achievements:

Pro Circuit Majors:
1st – The Chongqing Major
1st – MDL Disneyland Paris Major
2nd – The Kuala Lumpur Major
4th – DreamLeague Season 11 Major
9th-12th – EPICENTER Major

Pro Circuit Qualifiers:
1st – The Kuala Lumpur Major Europe Qualifier
1st – The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier
1st – EPICENTER Major 2019 Europe Closed Qualifier
1st-2nd – DreamLeague Season 11 Europe Qualifier
1st-2nd – MDL Disneyland Paris Major Europe Closed Qualifier

Non-Pro Circuit Events:
International:
1st – PVP Esports Championship
1st – ESL One Hamburg 2018
1st – ESL One Katowice 2019
1st – ESL One Birmingham 2019
4th – MegaFon Winter Clash
Regional:
5th-8th – Maincast Autumn Brawl

 

Team History

Team Secret’s origins stretch back to one of the infamous post-TI roster shuffles, when the vast majority of the teams and players of the Dota 2 world look to make changes in preparation for a new “season”. In 2014, a group of experienced players left their previous organizations to form the first Team Secret roster, with the team immediately establishing itself as a powerful team with 6 Top 4 finishes in its 7 appearances over the final months of the year. In January of 2016, the team announced changes to its roster with founding members Fly and N0tail leaving the team while newcomers Arteezy and zai were added to the lineup. The change did little to slow the team down though, as Team Secret notched 8 Top 4 finishes in 10 total appearances, including LAN victories at Red Bull Battles Grounds: Dota 2, The Summit 3, the MarsTV Dota 2 League 2015 Spring, and ESL One Frankfurt 2015. Those impressive performances easily earned the squad a direct invite to TI5, where Team Secret put together a 7th-8th place performance in the organization’s TI debut. In the aftermath of TI5 though, the squad’s roster fell apart, with every member other than Captain Puppey parting ways with the team.

In August of 2015, Team Secret announced a new roster, with Puppey being joined by EternaLEnVy, w33, MiSeRy, and pieliedie. The new lineup closed out 2015 in style, claiming 6 Top 4 finishes in its last 9 appearances, including a 2nd place run at The Frankfurt Major 2015. The team followed up that impressive performance with and even stronger one in March of 2016, winning The Shanghai Major 2016 to claim the organization’s first Major Championship title. That success was not enough to keep the squad intact though, as just weeks after winning the Major, Team Secret replaced w33 and MiSeRy with a pair of former Evil Geniuses players in Arteezy and UNiVeRsE. The changes resulted in some inconsistent performances for Team Secret, as the squad finished outside of the Top 4 in its next 3 appearances and put together a disastrous 13th-16th place showing at The Manila Major 2016. 2 days after the Major, UNiVeRsE opted to return to EG, with BuLba being brought in to replace him just in time for Team Secret to make a successful run through the TI6 Qualifiers. With a 13th-16th place finish on the TI stage though, Team Secret’s roster once again shattered in the post-TI roster shuffle as 3 of its players and the team’s coach parted ways with the organization.

By the end of August though, Team Secret had once again rebuilt its roster, bringing in MP, MidOne, and Forev to join Puppey and pieliedie. The new lineup closed out the year with a solid string of results, earning Top 4 finishes in its final 5 appearances while making a minor roster change as it traded out Forev for KheZu. 2017 would see the squad slow down just a little bit, earning a trio of Top 4 finishes in its first 5 appearances before finishing in the 9th-16th place position at The Kiev Major 2017. That performance prompted a change from the squad, as pieliedie left the roster while YapzOr was brough in to replace him. Following that change, Team Secret began reclaiming some of its former momentum, putting up Top 4 finishes in 7 of its next 8 appearances and making a successful run in the TI7 Europe Qualifier before finishing in the 9th-12th place position at the event itself. In the wake of TI7, Team Secret made changes to its roster once again in preparation for the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season, replacing MP and KheZu with the duo of Ace and Fata. The first half of the season saw the squad jump out to a strong start, as Team Secret dominated the European region with 6 straight Top 4 finishes in regional qualifiers while claiming its second Major Championship title at the DreamLeague Season 8 Major. The team followed up that strong start with a solid second half of the season, earning 2 Minor titles while attending 6 more Majors in the 2019 section of the season. Though the team only earned 1 more Top 4 finishes across those 6 Majors, Team Secret still put together strong enough performances to earn a direct invite to TI8, where the team put together its best TI run yet with a 5th-6th place showing in Vancouver.

 

Season in Review

As has been tradition for the Team Secret organization, the post-TI roster shuffle saw the squad once again make changes to its lineup, as the squad put together an updated squad for the 2018-2019 season. The duo of Ace and Fata left the team to join Ninjas in Pyjamas, and in their place the organization introduced the pair of Nisha and zai as the team’s newest members. Right from the start, the new Team Secret lineup proved itself to be a formidable force both within its home region and on the international level. On the home front, the squad claimed 2 Top 4 finishes in its first 3 regional appearances, and on the international level the team managed to earned itself a pair of LAN victories at the PVP Esports Championship and ESL One Hamburg 2018 to go along with a 2nd place finish at The Kuala Lumpur Major and a 4th place run at the MegaFon Winter Clash.

That string of impressive performances already had Team Secret looking like an elite team in the Dota 2 world, but the 2019 section of the season would further cement the squad’s status. The team began the year with a 1st place showing at The Chongqing Major, claiming the organization’s third Major Championship title. What followed was a string of near unbelievable dominance, as Team Secret put together 7 straight Top 4 finishes between February and June. 6 of those 7 Top 4 finishes were 1st place performances, including a victorious run at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major to claim the organization’s fourth Major Championship title. At the end of June, the team’s run of dominance finally came to an end with a 9th-12th place finish at the EPICENTER Major, but by that point the squad’s place in the field for TI9 had long been secure, as had the team’s status as the number 1 squad in the Pro Circuit Rankings and the leading squad in the Dota 2 world.

 

Roster

Michał “Nisha” Jankowski (Carry)

Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 7.54 kills, 9.28 assists, 2.36 deaths per game (109 matches)

Nisha came into this 2018-2019 season with quite a lot to prove, as the 18 year old Polish Carry was somewhat well known, but not an entirely proven commodity when Team Secret picked him up in the preseason. Prior to joining Team Secret, Nisha has spent the entirety of his career with a single team, although that team had repeatedly changed names and organizations. In 2014, Nisha appeared as a member of Let’s Do It, and he remained with the team from its various transitions back and forth between Alternate aTTax, Team Singularity, and Team Kinguin from 2014 to September of 2018 when he was acquired by Team Secret. Despite not having an abundance of experience at what many would consider the top level of competitive play, Nisha stepped up over the course of this 2018-2019 season with an absolutely incredible Pro Circuit campaign. His role as the team’s Carry is one that he has shown an impressive aptitude for, with high volume farming heroes like Morphling, Terrorblade, Phantom Assassin, Anti-Mage, and Phantom Lancer sitting among his most played this season. The young Carry has proven himself to be frighteningly effective with those heroes as well, holding a win rate of at least 50% with his 17 most played heroes across the 2018-2019 season. Also impressive from the Polish Carry has been his ability to find farm without putting himself in danger, with Nisha averaging 338 Last Hits per game while averaging just 2.51 deaths per game. That Last Hit average sits at eighth among all players at TI9, while his death average is the third lowest among all participating players (the two players with lower averages, Nikobaby and VtFaded, have each player less than 20 official matches with the squads that they are attending TI9 with). For such a young and somewhat unproven player to stand among the leaders in the TI9 field in both of the aforementioned categories is a testament to the near unfathomable talent and potential that Nisha possesses. Team Secret come into TI9 with perhaps the best shot of any team to lay claim to the Aegis of Champions, and an incredibly large part of that potential lies in the stellar performances that its newfound star Carry has been able to produce.

 

Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng (Mid)

Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 7.67 kills, 10.07 assists, 3.83 deaths per game (109 matches)

Aside from Puppey himself, MidOne stands as the longest tenured member of the Team Secret roster, having played for the squad for a period of nearly 3 years now. That longevity in the team’s lineup is likely one of the reasons why many forget that MidOne has only been playing at the professional level for around 4 years now. His career began back in December of 2015 as a member of Fnatic, with the Midlaner earning a slew of Top 4 finishes in the Southeast Asian region in 2016 while elevating the team to a position of international prominence with a pair of 5th-6th place finishes at The Shanghai and Manila Majors, along with a 4th place run at TI6. In the post-TI roster shuffle though, MidOne parted ways with the Fnatic organization, moving over to Team Secret where he has remained ever since. With the addition of Nisha as the team’s new Carry, MidOne was left to explore a more active style in the 2018-2019 season, and that new style certainly appeared to pay dividends for the Malaysian Midlaner. With heroes like Monkey King, Ember Spirit, Outworld Devourer, Templar Assassin, and Kunkka among his most played this season, MidOne has emphasized a mix of pick off potential and team fight power that has been incredibly difficult for opponents to deal with. The play style has resulted in some impressive numbers for MidOne on an individual level as well, with the Midlaner averaging 8.07 kills and 10.25 assists per game. That kill average sits at ninth among all players at TI9, and MidOne’s assist average makes him 1 of just 7 Midlaners at TI9 to have averaged double digit assists across the 2018-2019 season. MidOne’s style this season has put an emphasis on making him as active and involved as possible for Team Secret, and the Midlaner will have to continue being that active force for his squad if Team Secret is going to claim the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai.

 

Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg (Offlane)

Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 4.42 kills, 13.45 assists, 4.99 deaths per game (109 matches)

zai comes into TI9 as one of the more experienced players on this Team Secret roster, with the Swedish veteran having found success in both the North American and European region throughout his career. Said career began back in 2013, when zai moved to Dota 2 from Heroes of Newerth as a member of Stay free of Super Strong Dinosaurs. In January of 2014, he appeared as a member of the S A D B O Y S lineup that would go on to be signed by Evil Geniuses. With the EG organization, zai would emerge as an elite player, helping the squad earned a slew of Top 4 finishes through the year, including a 3rd place finish at TI4. At the start of 2015 though, zai left EG to join Team Secret, remaining with the team for around 7 months and playing in a big role in the squad’s 4 straight LAN wins in May and June as well as the team’s 7th-8th place performance at TI5. In the aftermath of that event, zai returned to EG as a substitute player, remaining largely inactive before officially rejoining the team’s roster in June of 2016. Over the next year, zai helped EG earn a pair of 3rd-4th place finishes at The Boston and Kiev Majors, as well as claiming a 3rd place finish at TI6 and a 9th-12th place finish at TI7 with the squad. With the onset of the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season though, zai once again departed the EG roster, joining the roster of The Dire that would go on to be singed by OpTic Gaming. Over the course of the season, zai helped establish OpTic Gaming as a formidable force in the North American region, while winning his first Minor title and attending 5 Majors with the squad. After making a successful run through the TI8 North America Qualifier, zai and OpTic Gaming put together a 7th-8th place performance at the event itself, only to disband in the post-TI roster shuffle. That shuffle led zai back to the roster of Team Secret for the 2018-2019 season, and the veteran has certainly proven himself valuable in his second stint with the organization. Over the course of this season, zai has drifted back and forth between the traditional team fight oriented Offlane heroes, and more damage oriented cores. In the first group, zai has seen frequent action with the likes of Centaur Warrunner, Sand King, Dark Seer, Tidehunter, Enigma, and Puck, holding a combined win rate of 82.14% in 56 matches on those heroes. Among the latter group, zai has most often played heroes like Pangolier, Leshrac, Doom, Pugna, and Weaver and has posted a combined 78.05% win rate in 41 matches with those picks. No matter what hero or what play style he has employed this season, zai has consistently been able to make plays and set up his teammates with opportunities for success, with the Offlaner averaging an incredible 13.41 assists per game. Not only does that average stand as the second highest among all Offlaners at TI9, it is tied for the twenty second highest assist average among all players in general at the event. For an Offlaner to have an assist average on par with some of the strongest Supports in the field speaks to the effectiveness that zai has shown for this Team Secret squad. If the team is going to contend for the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai, then it will likely need to rely upon zai to continue creating those opportunities for its other cores to get ahead and outpace their opponents.

 

Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat (Support)

Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 4.49 kills, 14.00 assists, 3.65 deaths per game (109 matches)

With Team Secret, YapzOr has emerged as one of the most dynamic and entertaining players in the Position 4 Support role. However, it is only recently that the Jordanian player has begun receiving that recognition, as the vast majority of his career was spent in much less notable circumstances. After coming over from the original DotA in 2012, YapzOr spent the first 2 years of his career with lower tier squads in the European region. In 2015, he took a small step up with a stint on the roster of Balkan Bears, but the squad proved unable to secure much success for itself. In August of 2015, YapzOr moved to the roster of Monkey Freedom Fighters remaining with the team fora a period of around 4 months. In January of 2016, he briefly appeared as a member of the Mamas Boys lineup, but in February moved on to the No Diggity roster that would go on to be signed by Escape Gaming. The No Diggity/Escape Gaming roster would give YapzOr his first experience at what we would consider the Tier 1 level, with the team making a handful of appearances at international events while also attending TI6, though it would finish in the 13th-16th place position overall. By the end of 2016 though, YapzOr has parted ways with Escape Gaming, spending the first first 4 months of 2017 as a member of B)ears before being picked up by Team Secret in May. Since then, YapzOr has proven his worth as an elite play maker for Team Secret, favoring a mix of team fight oriented heroes as well as lock down heavy, aggressive Support picks. His most played heroes across the 2018-2019 season heavily featured Rubick, Enigma, Earthshaker, Lion, and Crystal Maiden, with the Support posting an incredible 80.95% win rate in 105 matches on those heroes. Perhaps even more impressive than his high win rate is just how much YapzOr has managed to create opportunities for the rest of his squad, as he has averaged a team leading 14.47 assists per game this season. That average is the fifth highest among all players at TI9, with YapzOr standing among elite company in terms of his ability to make plays and generate chance for his cores to get ahead. Elite play making ability is never something that can be overvalued in the Dota 2 world, and Team Secret’s position coming into TI9 becomes even more favorable with YapzOr on its side in Shanghai.

 

Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Support, Captain)

Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 2.82 kills, 13.67 assists, 5.07 deaths per game (109 matches)

Puppey comes into TI9 as a living legend in the Dota 2 world, as the captain of Team Secret is one of the most well known and well regarded players in the game. He is 1 of just 2 players to attend all 9 iterations of TI, with the other player being another legendary captain in KuroKy of Team Liquid. Puppey’s career in Dota 2 stretches back all the way to the beginnings of the game, with the veteran having come over from DotA in June of 2011 as a member of Na’Vi. From 2011 to 2014, he served as the Captain for that legendary Na’Vi squad, forming a dynasty that dominated the CIS region and cast a shadow that loomed large over the region’s teams even after the break up of that team. In August of 2014, Puppey parted ways with Na’Vi to form his own team, becoming a founding member of Team Secret and remaining as the team’s leader and Captain to this day. As the team’s Position 5 Support, Puppey’s play style has emphasized a mix of lane support and lock down, with his most played heroes in this 2018-2019 season featuring Ogre Magi, Bane, Crystal Maiden, Oracle, and Abaddon. In 63 matches with those 5 heroes, Puppey has posted an absurd win rate of 80.95%, proving himself to be terrifyingly effective in finding and creating opportunities for the rest of his squad to succeed. His average of 13.86 assists per game across this season is tied for the fourteenth highest average among all players in the field at TI9, but something that has separated Puppey from those other players is the efficiency with which he has produced those assists. Among the 14 players in the TI9 field with equal or higher assists per game averages compared to Puppey, Team Secret’s Captain holds a lower death per game average than all but 5 of those players at 5.2. Many Supports with high assist per game averages earn that production through largely sacrificial styles of play, but Puppey has managed to produce comparable results for his squad without having to put himself in danger as often as many of his peers. That efficiency combined with his incredible prowess as a Captain and drafter give Team Secret on the most experienced and reliable leaders to guide it as the squad looks to claim the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai.

 

Lee “SunBhie” Jeong-jae (Coach)

As a player, SunBhie was never quite able to find a squad with which he could find consistent success, with the former Midlaner putting up some solid but varied performances across the Southeast Asian and North American regions in his playing career. Aside from a 13th-16th place finish at TI5 with MVP HOT6ix, SunBhie did not manage to earn much experience at the top level of international play. In 2016, he made the transition from player to Coach, finding his calling as the man behind the scenes. After guiding TNC Pro Team (now TNC Predator) to a 7th-8th place finish at TI6, SunBhie joined up with Team Secret in June of 2017, and has served as the squad’s coach ever since. With SunBhie in the coaching role, Team Secret has emerged as an international powerhouse, claiming 2 Minor and 4 Major Championship titles during his tenure while attending both TI7 and TI8. At the end of the day, Team Secret’s run of success has been dependent upon the players themselves making the right choices and the right plays, but one cannot understate just how much preparation and game-to-game adjustments factor into a squad’s ability to maintain success at the highest level, and that is where SunBhie appears to have had his greatest impact on the team. The ability to have an outside perspective critique and adjust a team’s play has proven to be invaluable for the Dota 2 world’s elite squads, and SunBhie will surely have a sizable role to play if Team Secret wants to finally lay claim to that coveted title of TI Champion in Shanghai.

 

Keys to Success at TI9

Coming into this event, the term “success” has a number different meanings depending on which team one is discussing. Obviously, the ultimate measure of success for any of the squads attending this event would be to walk away from Shanghai with the Aegis of Champions in hand and the title of TI9 Champion. Considering the fact that only 1 of the 18 participants at TI9 will be able to do that though, and also considering that not all of these teams are regarded as being on an equal footing in terms of skill and experience, a “TI Champions or bust” mentality won’t fit for every squad in the field. With that in mind, this section is not a “do these things and win TI” sort of list in terms of keys to success. Instead, success in this section will be marked in a team’s ability to play its best level of Dota and put itself in the best possible position to push as far up the event standings as it reasonably can.

Give Nisha as much room to operate as possible

Nisha has emerged as one of the most exciting Carries in the Dota 2 world, as the young Polish player has stepped up in a massive way to elevate this Team Secret roster with a supremely impressive 2018-2019 season. The young Carry has proven himself to be an elite talent in his role, with his average of 338 Last Hits per game sitting at eighth among all players at TI9 while his 2.51 death per game average is the third lowest among TI9 participants. His ability to find high amounts of farm while largely avoiding putting himself in danger has led to Nisha putting forth a nearly unstoppable level of damage and power in the mid and late-game stages of Team Secret’s matches. When he has been allowed to build himself up in safety, Nisha and Team Secret as a whole have been nearly unstoppable, with the Carry holding a 50% or higher win rate with his 17 most played heroes this season while earning a 74.76% win rate across the season as a whole (210 total matches). It is clear that Nisha’s ability to find farm has played a massive role in Team Secret’s success this season, and as such, the squad should look to protect and facilitate Nisha’s heroos as much as possible on the TI stage in Shanghai. The team has been at its best when it has been able to set its own pace and dictate when and where engagements are fought, involving Nisha when it wants to or needs to while keeping him away from trouble whenever possible. That incredible amount of space that the team creates for him gives Nisha the freedom he needs to find success while avoiding the pressure of putting him on a specific time table. For a younger player like Nisha, that freedom appears to be an invaluable asset that Team Secret will have to continue to create and provide for him if it wants to claim the Aegis of Champions at TI9.

Be active and aggressive with everyone not named Nisha

While Nisha’s play style has often focused around a slower, more methodical build up of power, the rest of the team has appeared to have its greatest success when it is more active and involved. Part of that stems from the fact that Nisha has needed his team to be more aggressive in order to buy time and create the space needed to facilitate his high levels of farm, and Team Secret will have to continue that active and aggressive style on the TI stage in Shanghai. Coming into this event, Team Secret is 1 of just 7 teams in the field to have at least 4 members of its roster average double digit assists per game, as the team has gotten everyone other than Nisha involved in fights and pick offs as quickly as possible in order to establish a favorable pace of play as early as it can. That strategy has proven to be incredibly effective for the squad, with all of its members other than Nisha posting assist per game averages that are among the best at their respective positions in the TI9 field. MidOne’s 10.25 assist per game average is the third highest among Midlaners, zai’s 13.41 average comes in at second among Offlaners, and the combined average of 28.33 assists per game from Puppey and YapzOr is the fourth highest from any Support duo at TI9. The squad’s roster has proven itself to be extremely talented at spreading out and sharing the responsibility for setting up fights and finding opportunities to put itself ahead of its opponents. So long as the team continues to do that at TI9, it will be incredibly difficult for an opponent to get any sort of edge on the Pro Circuit leader.

 

Expectations at TI9

Team Secret comes into TI9 off the back of an extraordinary season on the Pro Circuit. The squad began the year with a fair bit of uncertainty, as its pick up of the relatively unproven Nisha was considered by many to be a significant risk. However, the rewards from that decision have long since buried those initial doubts, as Nisha has emerged as a Star for this Team Secret lineup while the squad itself put together an astounding level of success over the course of the season. After establishing itself as a dominant force both within its home region and on the international level, the only thing left for Team Secret to accomplish now is to lay claim to the coveted title of TI Champion in Shanghai, as the European powerhouse and Pro Circuit leader looks to claim its place in history as the winner of TI9.

Team Secret’s incredible success over the course of 2018-2019 season make it hard to view this squad as anything other than an elite force in the Dota 2 world, as the team displayed a level of confidence, consistency, and dominance that few teams have been able to match through the game’s history. On the home front, Team Secret finished 1st in 5 of its 6 regional appearances, with that lone outlier being a 5th-8th place finish at the mixed Europe and CIS Maincast Autumn Brawl back in October. On the international level, the squad was able to put together 10 Top 4 finishes out of 11 total appearances, including a ridiculous 6 LAN victories that were capped off by 2 Major Championship titles. The team posted an absurd 108-52 record against its fellow TI9 participants over the course of the 2018-2019 season, which included a staggering 42-9 mark against its the other European representatives in Shanghai. With its exceptional play this season, Team Secret has proven that it is one of, if not the strongest team in the Dota 2 world heading into TI9.

With that in mind, it’s pretty easy to give Team Secret the title of favorite to claim the Aegis of Champions at TI9, as the European juggernaut has simply been playing on a higher level than any other squad in the world coming into this event. Of course, no amount of success in the regular season can guarantee a team a smooth path on the TI stage, and we’ve seen many instances of the favorites in a TI field falling short of expectations. However, Team Secret’s skill, experience, leadership, and exceptionally impressive success on the Pro Circuit has it sitting in a stronger position than any other team in the field for TI9, and no team should enter the event with higher expectations than it. Even if the team doesn’t mange to lay claim to the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai, expect Team Secret to find itself somewhere around the Top 4 range at TI9. Anything lower than that would come as an extreme shock for a team that just got through proving itself to be one of the most dominant forces in the Dota 2 world.

 

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