Peter “ppd” Dager is the most important player to ever grace the NA Dota 2 scene. He isn’t the best or the most talented. Those titles go to players like: Artour “Arteezy” Babaeve, Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan, Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora, or Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao. However I have always pointed to ppd as the most important player in NA because he is the only one with the leadership quality needed to make an internationally competitive team. Under his system he was able to to become the figurehead of EG from 2014-2016 and since he has left, the EG roster has slowly melted down and now has more European players than NA players. At the same token, ppd has done something similar in OpTic and has used a similar system with completely different players to once again create an internationally competitive team.
To understand how the ppd system works, we have to go back to his first big team in Dota 2, Evil Geniuses. In a reflections with Duncan “Thorin” Shields, ppd tells him that, “I pitched Artous some unique ideas about how they could utilize his playstyle to make them successful…and people followed us. People tell us we changed the meta.”
PPD as a leader seems to understand that in order to be the best team you need polarizing players and a strong team identity. Think about the original Sadboys/EG and their team composition. They had Clinton “Fear” Loomis, Arteezy, UNiVeRsE, Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg and ppd. The way this team worked out was they prioritized Arteezy’s farm and enabled his superstar ability to carry the game. At the same time they got UNiVeRsE resources to have an impact on team fights later on in the game. Zai was an incredible playmaking support. Then the team was rounded out by the experience and self-sacrifice of Fear and ppd. Fear played whatever hero and role was needed from game to game. PPD became the 6 and made sure he created space and took as little farm as possible to enable his other players.
The formula was wildly successful and the idea of playing through middle and offlane persisted even when Arteezy left and Suma1L came into the lineup. In addition to that, PPD was incredible at adapting throughout a tournament, being able to figure out, decode, and adapt to the tournament’s meta and using his players to take it over. Think about this, in all three of his big TI runs under EG he had a roster crisis. At TI4, Fear was injured and EG had to use Mason “mason” Venne as a standin. At TI5, zai and Arteezy had left the roster and EG brought on both Suma1L and Kurtis “AUI_2000” Ling and used their unique strengths to get them to win the title. At TI6 the entire EG roster was about to break apart, but he was able to keep it together long enough to make another historic run to 3rd place at TI6. When EG went to TI7 without PPD, they were one of the teams people thought were going to be favorites. They crashed and burned out at 9-12th place.
Under OpTic however, the challenge was very different. PPD has been out of the game for an year and that alone meant he had a lot of catching up to do as a player. At the same time he no longer commanded the respect he once did and wasn’t able to get all of the superstar players. The OpTic lineup was still good when it formed as it consisted of: ppd, zai, Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen, Per “Pajkatt” Olson Lille, and Quinn “CC&C” Callahan. Zai reunited with his former in-game leader. MiSeRy had shown strength under DC. Pajkatt was a long time veteran who had shown skills, but never had the right team or leader to make them shine. Roster problems and leadership issues seemed to strangle the life out of nearly every stack Pajkatt had been a part of. CC&C was an up-and-coming mid player from NA. The lineup was okay when it started, but they needed one more piece. That piece came when MiSeRy left the team and OpTic recruited Neta “33” Shapira.
At the time, OpTic had decided to keep zai on the offlane and 33 as the support despite 33 being an offlane player. The gambit didn’t pay off, but ESL One Katowice 2018 became a turning point. They lost early in the tournament to Liquid, but found out that the right configuration was to have zai go back to the 4 support and have 33 became the offlaner. This formula was wildly successful as 33 proved himself to be one of the best offlaners in the world.
In addition to that, PPD enabled Pajkatt to show what kind of player he could be with the right leadership and team. Pajkatt has been an incredibly stable carry player through the season, someone who could be trusted with the resources of the game and could deliver on that by carrying games. With him and 33, OpTic now had the polarizing players they needed to make ppd’s system a success.
On EG, the ppd system was used to enable the mid player to became the superstar of the team. Think upon how incredible both Arteezy and Suma1L looked while under that system. However the players have changed and so ppd was able to shift how the team worked because of that. In the current OpTic lineup, they have two big threats. The first is Pajkatt as an incredible carry player. The second is 33 who is able to play a wildly different offlane game from any we’ve seen. In terms of style, he is able to play equally effective regardless of what resources is given to him so he can play as the 1, 3, or 4.
If 33 becomes the carry of the team, then Pajkatt shows his flexibility as a space creator and can play heroes like Night Stalker to get vision, create ganks, and tank for the team. If Pajkatt is carrying, then 33 can play an excellent archetypal offlane role. He can also play cheese heroes like Broodmother to create a potential threat in the draft. There have been some instance where 33 can play the 4 role from the offlane and this was seen at Dota 2 Asian Championships where Zai needed more farm as the Pangolier so after 33 got enough farm on clockwork, he took on the supportive 4 role while Zai took up the 3 role.
As for CC&C, he has yet to show himself as a world class mid player, but he has found a place within the system as a role player. As he cannot consistently win during the mid lane stage, he has been able to find other ways to contribute either as a stabilizing force with picks like Death Prophet or Dragon Knight. Or he can go for high mobility heroes and play the map well once they get to mid-late game on heroes like Storm Spirit or Ember. While he isn’t the star of the show, he fills in the gaps and can give the odd carry performance every now and then.
The team is rounded out by the support duo of Zai and ppd. It works much in the same way as the EG roster did as Zai goes around getting all the farm so he can help take over and dominate the game while ppd plays the sacrificial 6 role to create space and enable the rest of the team.
Before the 2017-2018 circuit started, it was nearly unthinkable that OpTic could surpass the EG roster. The EG roster on paper has some of the best names to ever play Dota 2, but they don’t have the leader or system to put it all together. OpTic got the right players and under ppd’s system have risen up by the end of the year to be one of the few teams that can challenge the highest tier in Dota 2 in Virtus.Pro, LGD, and Liquid. This is another incredible accomplishment for ppd as a leader when you consider that the only big name player on the team was zai. Pajkatt was a veteran whose biggest achievements were far in the past. 33 and CC&C were up-and-coming players with no big accomplishments to their name. Now they look to be one of the best teams in NA, the favorites to get out of the TI qualifiers, and a real shot to make a deep run at The International.