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Even though OG skipped the first two Majors of the 2019-20 Dota Pro Circuit, they comfortably completed the ESL One Los Angeles Major qualifiers. With so many top-tier teams electing to take a break at the beginning of the season, it’s shocking to see just how varied the outcomes have been.
Team Secret debuted at the DreamLeague Leipzig Major and won the whole thing. Nigma are still in the process of regaining their form after a long, exhausting journey through multiple tournaments that culminated in extreme outcomes, like a reverse sweep against Secret at WePlay! Mad Moon and throwing a critical elimination game against Alliance. PSG.LGD have yet to even make it out of the Chinese open qualifiers.
Even Topson was surprised with just how quickly OG managed to get back to their winning ways. The team lost just one, ultimately meaningless game against Team Liquid, demolishing the rest of the field in its way.
“I thought it would take much more time for us to gel together as a team,” Topson told Dot Esports. “But I feel like we connected quite easily and had no major issues at all.”
OG’s recruits weren’t the only new additions. Topson embraced Dota 2’s latest hero in Void Spirit and proved to be a fearsome force with it, sitting at a 100 percent win rate after the ESL One Los Angeles Major qualifiers. The only other hero that Topson played multiple times was Ember Spirit, who he used in two losses.
Void Spirit and freedom of choice
Topson acknowledged that Void Spirit was ”too powerful” and that it “fits [OG’s] playstyle.” The star mid laner also confirmed that OG’s emphasis on first-picking the hero was his idea, believing and valuing Void Spirit over his spirit brethren because he has “less weaknesses during the laning stage and it’s harder to punish.”
Roster revamps and retiring players have seen the best team in the world take on a new look, but their highly aggressive and entertaining playstyle remains enabled by one of their remaining players: Topson.
It wouldn’t have been possible without OG’s merry band of beaming positivity, however.
“One of my big worries when I was joining OG was that I couldn’t express myself and I would be forced to play in a way that I don’t believe in,” Topson said. “I was so happy when we got together and started talking about the game and I realized they really wanted to know how I view Dota.”
That attitude has continued to affect the new roster. OG trusted Topson enough to continuously prioritize the hero and allowed him to play it in his own brilliant, unique way.
Aggression honed to a keen edge
Aggression always has a place in Dota 2. The mid lane used to be a battleground of foremost belligerence, reserved for the most mechanically skilled players who could turn the tides of other lanes with ganks. Recent years have seen the greedy mid lane core increasing in popularity, while players with lesser farm priority, like the offlane and soft support, amp up the aggression.
It makes sense. Why put a hero with the highest chance of getting gold and levels in dangerous situations? Hostile invasions with the mid laner means that the team has a higher chance of success, but stand to lose so much more should he die. In any case, it’s a high-risk playstyle, but one that Topson has adopted and perfected.
Topson’s play is entertaining, but just as brilliant is the way he uses the game’s various taunts to maximum efficiency. Whether it’s irreverent chat wheel lines or loser sprays, the contrast between his usually quiet demeanor and in-game monkey business couldn’t be more stark. It’s led fans to christen their own varying nicknames for the mid laner.
Thankfully, the mid laner likes them. “I’m just enjoying [the nicknames],” Topson said. “They are just funny memes and it’s always nice when fans care.”
In a sense, Topson is perhaps the true bastion of traditionality here. Why does he do it now, when so many in modern Dota 2 left it behind?
“I believe that making the first move is always better than reacting on what your enemy does,” Topson said. “That way, they are out of their comfort zone… almost all mid players are way too selfish and they don’t understand how Dota is really meant to be played. It’s a team game and no matter what role you play, you always have to think [about] what’s best for your team.”
The mid laner admitted that “sometimes, it is farming your items,” but he reiterated that what makes Dota 2 “beautiful is that it always gives you more options.”
The old days
Topson splashed onto the scene with his TI8 win, but it wasn’t the first time he stood on top of the world. Six years ago, Topson spammed Earth Spirit and became the player with the highest MMR.
When Earth Spirit was released in 2013, the hero was outrageously broken. While former teammate JerAx might be the more famous Earth Spirit lover, Topson and his affinity with Spirit heroes went way back.
Unlike the convenient leaderboards and flashing numbers that signify a player’s rank we have now, Topson’s achievement then was just a blip on the radar. No one, not even him, could have predicted the success that would follow him.
“I remember the Earth Spirit days,” he reminisced. “Back then, I had no intentions to even go pro, because I thought it was just an unrealistic dream.”
Topson loved the game and continued playing it regardless. If it was not for his brothers, we might not have had the pleasure of seeing him play on the biggest stage
“My brothers thought that I had the skill to try to go pro,” Topson said. “I loved playing Dota more than doing anything else so it was a pretty easy choice in the end.”
What’s next after TI10?
Yet his love for Dota 2 isn’t undying. In an interview segment with Red Bull, Topson mentioned that he felt demotivated after TI9. He isn’t the first player to feel so after lifting the greatest achievement for a Dota 2 pro and he likely won’t be the last.
Nevertheless, after the long break, he made the decision to come back and try for the three-peat. While the old cliche usually goes “third time’s the charm,” Topson’s third International will do little to diminish the extraordinary journey that he has. If he wins, his legend will continue to grow.
Will demotivation rear its head after TI10? Even Topson can’t see that far into the future.
“Right now, it’s just time to focus on Dota,” Topson said. “Once all that is done, then it’s time to make plans.”
Focus on Dota 2 indeed. After all, it’s Topson’s prodigal skill that keeps fans coming back for now. You can watch Topson and OG at the ESL One Los Angeles Major beginning March 15.