Some of the biggest dramas in Dota 2 are related to roster changes and as The International prize pool keeps breaking records year after year, the professional players feel almost forced at times to make heartbreaking decisions in order to better their chances at hoisting the precious Aegis of Champions.
This year truly featured the biggest moves the fans have ever witnessed. Some took place in preparation for TI9, but most of them happened in reaction to OG’s back to back TI victories.
Team Liquid were the first to bring surprising news in the months leading to TI9. The first half of the season was mediocre for the roster that made the headlines as the most durable one in Dota 2 history.
After 892 days spent together, Team Liquid announced on June 12 the departure of Lasse Aukusti “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen. The news came as a shock, especially because the decision was made after the team had finally reached a Major grand final which consolidated their spot at TI9. Matumba’s exit from the team had him almost not attending TI as a player at all. In the end, he was recruited by Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen at Chaos Esports club. He got to play at TI9, but the team was eliminated in the group stage. Post TI9, MATUMBAMAN announced a short competitive break. He skipped the first major of the new season and joined Team Secret ahead of the second round of Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) qualifiers. His first LAN appearance in the Secret jersey was made mid-December at ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational Singapore.
Team Liquid’s shuffle pre TI9 was difficult to swallow for the fans, but it didn’t compare to the wrath unleashed by the community against Team Team in April of 2019, when they kicked Nico “Gunnar” Lopez and Jason “Newsham” Newsham.
Paris Major should have marked the debut on a Valve sanctioned tournament for Gunnar and Newsham. The two players qualified for the event alongside Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, Braxton “Brax” Paulson and Michael “ixmike88” Ghannam. But a couple of weeks before heading to Paris, they also got the chance to play at ESL One Mumbai, a non Dota Pro Circuit tournament. Team Team wasn’t on the original team line-up for the tournament in India, but they got invited following a few withdrawals.
The tournament was meant to play a big role in the team’s preparation for the MDL Disneyland® Paris Major, but immediately after they got knocked out, in the 5th-6th place, Gunnar and Newsham were kicked. The tournament was still running in Mumbai when the news broke and Kyle Freedman took the opportunity to paint a villain image for Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, who at that time was believed to have had the most to say in Gunnar’s and Newsham’s kick from Team Team. “It’s about time that a lot of you stop rooting for the villain” is probably the strongest statement made by a Dota 2 personality this year.
Gunnar didn’t join any other squad up until the TI9 open qualifiers, when he teamed up with the three South Korean players Febby, Forev, March and with 23savage under the Jinesbrus tag. They were extremely close to snatch the SEA ticket to the big event. They finished second after getting defeated by Mineski 3-2. However, Gunnar got to attend the biggest tournament of the year as a part of the English broadcast. Post TI9 he joined Ninjas in Pyjamas and he is set to participate next month at the WePlay! Bukovel Minor.
The shuffle drama intensified after The International 2019. OG’s incredible achievement broke many stereotypes and changed mentalities. They claimed the second Aegis in a row this year and they’ve done it on Chinese soil.
Vici Gaming’s Pan “Fade” Yi was this year the centerpiece of the Chinese shuffle. Two days after the event wrapped up, he announced his retirement. On the day of the announcement, Jack “KBBQ” Chen shared a bit of insight into how the player felt. ”Before leaving the hotel, fade’s spirits were obviously really low. He kept talking about how hard it was to keep doing this, how that joy and hope he started with as a player seemed so distant, asked if it’s like this for foreign players too, why everything seems so complicated,” KBBQ posted on Twitter. Fade got involved in somewhat of a player poaching drama, and he was accused of talking to another team even during TI9. Later on it was clarified that nothing of that sort happened. His retirement lasted only a few days, as on September 8 he was officially announced to have joined Team Aster.
Alliance – Team Liquid
Alliance was finally back on The International stage this year after two years of absence. It was a long and emotional road for them. The old Gods have all retired in the process, Jonathan “Loda” Berg fully committed to build a new roster filled with young players, willing to do the hard work. It all paid off when they finally achieved the goal, but all their efforts felt in vain when on the main event a miss click during the draft sealed their fate in the tournament.
Even though they got eliminated over a miss click, Loda, the team co-owner and coach, kept calm and continued to show his unconditional support to his team. After the tournament was over, Alliance even announced that there will be no roster changes. In the meantime, Team Liquid lost their entire squad when the players decided to leave and create an organization of their own.
A few days before the roster lock deadline, the five Alliance players decided to move as a group to Team Liquid, leaving their former organization without a roster quite late in the official shuffle window. Their decision wouldn’t have caused such a backlash from the community if the story had been different at TI9. But given all that happened, the fans stood by Loda’s side, and even to the present days, the former Alliance line-up, now playing under the Team Liquid banner, are not given a break when they lose a match.
Thank You King
Evil Geniuses and Virtus.pro were by far the two teams to make the biggest shuffle moves in the TI9 aftermath. Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan, dubbed “The King”, was benched and listed for transfer from the EG roster on September 16.
At the same time, Virtus.pro announced their prodigy carry to have left the team to join Evil Geniuses. The EG and VP shuffle kept the headlines for days. For Ramzes this marked his first adventure outside of the CIS scene, for SumaiL EG was the only team he played for since he joined the professional scene at just 16 years old, and he is yet to find a new place to call home. He tried to team-up with his brother at the beginning of the new season and even qualified for the first Minor of the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit. However, he wasn’t able to stay on the team due to several contractual issues that couldn’t be resolved. During a stream session from early November, SumaiL let his fans know that he intends to take a break until 2020, but he didn’t give any specific time frame for when he intends to return to competitive play.
Dendi leaves Na’Vi
Danil “Dendi” Ishutin’s official departure from Natus Vincere this year truly marked the end of an era. Through his eight years in the black and yellow colors of Na’Vi, Dendi became an esports Ambassador and the most iconic Dota 2 figure. August 10 marked the contract termination with Na’Vi for him and the start of a new chapter in his career. He didn’t choose to join an already existing team, but rather form an organization of his own. His new project is still in the process of being built.