TI8 was one of the best TIs, if not the best TI, the Dota 2 community has had the pleasure of witnessing. Throughout the tournament, there were some hard fought, close games. But the thing the made it most memorable was the most unlikely run by the eventual champions, OG. The team that was written off by most not only won The International 2018, but they did it through the winner’s bracket, without dropping a series on the main stage. As we head into TI9, let us take a look at OG, who like Monkey King, can suddenly jump out of nowhere and leave you wondering what happened!
OG started out as Monkey Business at the start of the 2015-2016 season and evolved to OG a few weeks into the season. Winning four out of the five Valve Majors, they became one of the most successful teams of all time, but never really had a good showing at The International championships, until TI8 when they stunned the world. But even though they will be entering TI9 with the same roster that lifted the Aegis at TI8, OG again find themselves nowhere close to the favorites for the event. It has been a rocky season for the Green Dream, but after last year, you just cannot rule this bunch of players out from doing the unthinkable twice in a row.
OG roster for TI9:
- Anathan ‘ana’ Pham
- Topias ‘Topson’ Taavitsainen
- Sebastian ‘Ceb’ Debs
- Jesse ‘Jerax’ Vainikka
- Johan ‘Notail’ Sundstein
- Titouan ‘Sockshka’ Merloz (coach)
Start of the 2018-2019 season
OG started off the season with an extended break, which is to say they didn’t really start off their season till the qualifiers for the second DPC Major had begun. The team cited spending more time with their families for skipping the first DPC Major and Minor of the 2018-2019 season. When they did come back, it was without their star carry, Ana, who was taking a break. OG recruited Pers Anders ‘Pajkatt’ Plssen Lille to replace him, but things did not really click as the TI8 winners failed to qualify for the Chongqing Major (the second Major of the season). The team did manage to qualify for the Bucharest Minor though, so their DPC season had at least taken off. To end the year, OG went to Ana’s home country, Australia, to play in the AMD Dota 2 Pro Series. Even though they had Ana this time around, Topson didn’t make the trip and QO filled in for him. In an event everyone would have expected them to steamroll through, OG finished third, losing to Mr. Game Boy of China. The TI8 champions were warming up, but they weren’t quite there yet.
Rolling into 2019, OG announced Pajkatt’s departure and the arrival of Igor ‘iLTW’ Filatov. Apparently, Pajkatt and the others could not really converge on a way of playing Dota 2, which meant his stay was short lived. The new position 1, iLTW, seemed to fit in a lot better. His first showing off with OG was in the WePlay! Dota 2 Winter Madness, in which OG finished second to Gambit Esports. Gambit came to haunt OG again in the Bucharest Minor, dropping them down to the lower bracket where Ninjas in Pajamas eliminated them. First DPC event of the season and not really the best showing.
Next up for the Green Dream was Stockholm Major. Different carry, same result. OG couldn’t qualify for the third Major either and now things were starting to get a bit tight for getting a direct invite to TI9. They did manage to qualify for the StarLadder ImbaTV Minor, so all was not lost. ESL One Katowice brought with it better luck for OG, a tournament where they finished third. But besides Team Secret, none of the top teams had travelled to Katowice, so it wasn’t the best gauge how far they had come. The Minor was a disaster for OG, losing to Old But Gold and RNG in the group stages to get knocked out without making it to the playoffs. Even though iLTW fit in better than his predecessor, it was time. Not just time for him to go, but time for OG’s talisman to come back. It took more than half the season, but Ana was finally back!
End of the season
Ana coming back not only gave the team a boost player wise (because let’s face it, he is one of the best carries in the world), but also a mental boost. The five people who had taken TI8 by storm were finally back together, and did it pay off or what! Playing as their full squad, OG finally managed to qualify for the MDL Disneyland Major, which would be their first Major of the year. A good chance to earn some DPC points and move closer to a direct invite to TI9. OG earned a respectable 5th/6th place finish in Paris, beating Virtus Pro 2-0 in the process. They also managed to qualify for the Epicenter Major, the last Major of the season.
Moscow was what it all came down to. OG travelled to the Epicenter Major all confident and prepared, as Notail mentioned in a podcast with JoiDota. But as fate would have it, the position 5 fell ill and had to be admitted just as OG reached Moscow, which meant their coach, Sockshka would be filling in for him. Playing with their coach, OG had a very rough group stage and finished bottom of their group, meaning they would start from the lower bracket in the playoffs. First game: Evil Geniuses! Just like TI8, everyone wrote OG off and it seemed the TI8 champions would have to play through the EU qualifiers to get to Shanghai. Ana though, had different plans. His Slark build of Midas and Diffusal Blade, which got popular after that game, brought OG back into a game which had a farmed Alchemist and Juggernaut fighting for Evil Geniuses and the Green Dream took the best of 1 series! Next up was Secret in a best of 3 series, so the unpredictability factor of a bo1 would not work here. But OG defeated them 2-0! The best team of the season was made to look like kids, and this wasn’t even OG’s full roster. Eventually, they succumbed to PSG.LGD, but the 7th/8th place finish was enough to secure enough points for a top 12 finish in the DPC rankings and a direct invite to TI9. It was a rocky ride, but they had done it.
This team is experienced enough to deal with the pressures involved while playing on the TI mainstage. They are one of the only three teams from TI8 to have the same roster going into TI9 (PSG.LGD and EG are the other two). Notail mentioned in an interview with VPEsports at TI8 that he loved being the underdog. OG will have the underdog status at TI9 as well, so another fairytale run is very much on the cards!
If the last two Majors showed anything, it was the fact that on their day, OG can defeat the top teams. They beat VP, EG and Secret, so the favorites for TI9 better watch out for the upset seeking Green Dream.
Anathan ‘ana’ Pham
All OG players are exceptional, not doubt. But if there’s one that stands out, it is Ana. The effect of Ana’s absence was evident in the first half of the season and with a month to scrim with their full squad, OG can be back to their TI8 form when they reach Shanghai.
Dark Horse factor
The dark horse factor plays an enormous role at The International. When all eyes are on you, there is a good chance you might mess up. Happened to OG at TI6 and TI7 and happens to Virtus Pro every year as well. With expectations from OG being low (although they will be higher than last year), nothing is off limits.