Nine competing at The International 2022 with Tundra
Image via [Valve](https://flic.kr/p/2nUgSuS)

Nine says Tundra’s Topson signing might not last past Dota 2’s TI 2023

It was more of a last-minute move than anything planned.

Tundra Esports pulled off a surprise move, recruiting the legendary Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen at the eleventh hour in Sept. 2023. But as the team gears up toward The International 2023, questions surround this unexpected alliance and the measures that it brought to the team. Will Topson’s Tundra stint be a brief blaze or a long-standing partnership? Has Tundra found its rhythm with a new player and Nine on position four?

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Winning in Dota 2 comes with its own set of problems. After winning The International 2022, Tundra Esports’ battle with burnout forced the champions into unorthodox approaches like sending all players to their homes while playing in the DPC.

This unconventional approach paid off for Tundra, and after placing third at the Bali Major, many expected Tundra to be back on track to become a top contender at TI 2023. However, the team suffered a setback after having to move a key player, Saksa, to its inactive roster. This move forced mid-laner Leon “Nine” Kirilin out of his comfort zone as two-timer Topson joined the team.

Nine has since shared the finer details of Tundra’s Topson signing with Dot Esports. Though adding Topson to the squad looked like a power move, Nine has revealed the OG legend wasn’t actually Tundra’s first choice.

“Out of all the free agents, we couldn’t find a position for four players that we were happy with,” Nine told Dot Esports. “So we thought maybe we could play with Aui_2000 as we value him highly as a player.”

As a TI winner, Aui_2000 has been coaching Tundra since 2021 and made a lot of sense. However, per Dota 2 competitive rules, Tundra couldn’t sign a player who had played in TI12 qualifiers or was qualified for TI, narrowing options even further.

Aui_2000 coaching Tundra Esports at The International 2022.
Aui_2000 is the only Dota 2 player who won a TI as a player and a coach. Image via Valve

Generally, Dota 2 teams bring in their coach to play when they have no choice. Asking a coach to play sees them leave the coaching position or doubles that coach’s responsibilities, so the whole Tundra group was relieved they didn’t have to go down that path after finding out that Topson was interested in playing with them.

Around Aug. 13, OG greenlit the Topson swap, and Tundra suddenly had a two-time TI winner in its roster. Topson’s arrival meant Tundra had two mid laners on its roster, leaving Nine as the eventual sacrificial lamb.

“I thought I could be a decent position four and make way for Topson.” Nine said. “We were really excited that we could solve this roster problem by leaving time to practice for TI.”

Such a change came with new challenges, but Nine had a personal challenge too; adapting to a new role. Luckily, he had lots of help from Aui_2000 and Saksa.

“When I started playing position four, Aui went over my replays with me and gave me tips.” Nine said. “Both Aui and Saksa coached me during the process, and their help eased the transition.”

Despite finding his new role overwhelming at times, Nine has been getting more comfortable at position four as he plays the role more. The experienced former mid laner also labeled the process “refreshing” as he enjoyed learning something entirely new in Dota 2.

Adding a new player and reshuffling roles inevitably introduces uncertainties. However, Tundra managed to maintain its core identity since Topson has a similar style to Nine in the mid lane. With Nine also coming through with his role transition, Tundra continues to operate on its existing foundational pillars.

Topson in front of the TI12 Aegis of Champions design.
Images via Valve and Tundra Esports

Though Tundra might have figured out its roster problems, Dota 2 fans are already wondering whether Topson will be a permanent team member after TI 2023, and by the sounds of things, there’s nothing set in stone for anyone just yet.

“We didn’t make any long-term plans,” Nine said when asked about if Topson would stay on after TI 2023. “[We’re] just focusing on TI for now, and what comes afterward is anyone’s guess.”

This means Tundra will try to seize the day at TI 2023, but an uncertain future still awaits the team. While the team can always welcome back Saksa to its rank, the org might also go on another player hunt if its former star doesn’t recover fully by then.


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Author
Gökhan Çakır
Gökhan is a Staff Writer and Fortnite Lead at Dot Esports. Gökhan graduated as an industrial engineer in 2020 and has since been with Dot Esports. As a natural-born gamer, he honed his skills to a professional level in Dota 2. Upon giving up on the Aegis of Champions in 2019, Gökhan started his writing career, covering all things gaming, while his heart remains a lifetime defender of the Ancients.