What obstacles will OG face trying to fill Topson’s role?

Topson is a tricky player to replace.

Photo via EPICENTER

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Back-to-back International winners OG are on top of the Dota 2 world. But after one of their players revealed that they’re taking a break from competing, the team will have some tough decisions to make soon.

Following their win at TI9, Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen said he’s taking an extended holiday from both OG and competitive Dota. Similar to what Anathan “ana” Pham did after TI8 last year, OG will move Topson to the inactive roster until he decides to return. 

But that leaves a massive hole in OG’s lineup, one that Johan “N0tail” Sundstein will have to work around before the next Dota Pro Circuit season begins. That’s still several months away, but whoever they use as a stand-in will also need to get accustomed to playing with the team before they play in a tournament. 

The main problem OG faced last year was their inability to commit to a player long-term. Knowing ana would eventually come back was both a blessing and a curse for the champions because they knew any player they brought in was only temporary. 

And since there’s no bench system that Dota teams can use to have a player stay on their roster as a reserve, at least without incurring a penalty during the event they sub at, there isn’t an easy answer. 

No big-name position one player wanted to join the team because they knew ana would return and eventually take his spot back. That left OG scrambling for a late fit to patch the hole while they tried to compete and buy time. 

Topson is just as important to OG as ana. His extremely odd way of pressuring opponents in the lane and making bold calls provides so much to the team’s strategy. Replacing him might cause OG to face a lot of the same issues again, but they can head them off this time. 

OG knows Topson wants to come back eventually, meaning it should approach its search for a stand-in position two player very openly. The organization won’t be able to convince big names like Abed Yusop to join, but it can offer a younger player like Daniel “Stormstormer” Schoetzau a chance to play for a top team and gain some key experience that he’s never had before. 

OG actually sat out the first Major of the last season after winning TI8, giving its players some extra time to rest while the team tried to figure out how to handle ana’s absence. OG ended up using a stand-in player, knowing that their star carry was going to come back eventually. 

Over the next four months, the team tried out both Per Anders “Pajkatt” Lille and Igor “iLTW” Filatov, but neither really worked out. OG didn’t even make it into a DPC Major until ana came back to the roster in March. But ana eventually helped his squad claim a spot at TI9 during the last two events.

If OG wants to avoid repeating the same issues from the start of the last season, a signing needs to happen before the first Major. Even if the players all agree to skip whatever Valve’s first official event is, they’ll still have time to work with whoever the stand-in is before they compete. 

There are already some good options to fill the roster spot, namely Stormstormer and Anas “MagE-” Hirzallah, who are both in Europe and have yet to play for a tier-one organization. Players like that won’t have much issue playing as a stand-in and trying to prove themselves to earn a long-term spot somewhere else.

All of this could be rendered useless if Topson has already told OG when he wants to come back behind closed doors. But after how poorly OG performed when they came back with stand-in players last year, being cautious about potentially repeating the problem is important.

Who knows, maybe the team will pull the most OG move and just bring Titouan “Sockshka” Merloz out of retirement to add yet another one of their coaches to the roster.