European Dota 2 powerhouse Team Secret announced on Wednesday (3 November) that star offlaner Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg has parted ways with the team "on the best of terms" after three years under the organisation's banner.
Hours later, zai announced that he would be joining Team Liquid, another European esports heavyweight.
Zai's departure follows Secret's third place finish in The International 10 (TI10) in mid-October, which was the organisation's best result in a TI over six appearances in the tournament dating back to 2015.
The offlaner said in a statement that he will "have to say goodbye to Team Secret one more time as I head in a new direction".
Zai first joined Secret back in January 2015, leaving the team only seven months later following a 7th-8th place finish in TI5.
The offlaner then played with Kaipi, Evil Geniuses, The Dire, and OpTic Gaming before rejoining Secret in September 2018.
"[Zai] has been without a doubt one of the most critical elements to our incredible success these past seasons. We will forever be grateful for his positive spirit, constant professionalism, and embodiment of what it means to be a true teammate," said Secret.
Throughout his second stint with Secret, zai was instrumental in fuelling the team's dominance over the past three seasons of the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC).
From 2018 to 2021, zai and Secret won three Majors and finished 3rd in TI10 and 4th in TI9 on top of winning many other tournaments — including an incredible streak of eight-straight online tournament wins from May to September 2020.
Long considered as one of the best offlaners in the world, zai's stellar run in his second stunt with Secret has only cemented his place among the game's greatest players in its history.
"Zai’s relentless control of the offlane made him one of the most-feared position 3 players in the world. His all around skill and wide hero pool are what made it possible for some of the craziest draft concepts the DOTA world has ever seen. Multiple Major wins, multiple third party tournament wins, and strong placements at TI year after year are the hallmarks of his legacy at Team Secret."
"I'd like to thank my teammates and coach for making these past three years some of the best years I've had playing [Dota 2]. I've not only learnt a lot from all the players on this squad, but I've also had a blast interacting with everyone day-to-day. We had some amazing games and tournament runs and I'm very proud of our accomplishments together," said zai.
"It is a sad moment, but I have to accept that all good things come to an end. I have nothing but love for this man, not only is he an amazing and persistent teammate, he is also a great friend. No matter where you go and what you do, I am sure you’ll find success. I wish you nothing but the best," Secret captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov said of zai.
With that said, Liquid still has its five-man roster from the previous DPC season formally registered under its banner. Now that zai has joined the team, Liquid is expected to announce more changes soon.
With zai's departure, Secret is now the first team among those that finished in the Top 8 of TI10 to make changes to its roster in the post-TI10 roster shuffle.
The roster shuffle began in earnest shortly after TI10, with teams that bombed out of the tournament such as Alliance, Fnatic, Thunder Predator, and SG Esports making changes to their rosters.
The post-TI10 roster shuffle
The competitive Dota 2 scene revolves around TI, Dota 2's yearly world championship tournament that has regularly broken the record for the biggest prize pool for a single esports event year after year. TI10 featured a US$40 million prize pool, with the lion's share of US$18.2 million as well as the coveted Aegis of Champions going to champions Team Spirit.
The yearly post-TI roster shuffles came as a result of the importance of TI to the game's competitive scene, with teams that either failed to qualify or placed poorly in the tournament often revamping their rosters in preparation for another run at the Aegis of Champions.
TI's importance in the scene has even manifested itself in how contracts between players and their organisations are structured, with most contracts ending with the conclusion of TI.
This arrangement has allowed both teams and players to explore their options and better prepare for the next iteration of the DPC and TI.
The next DPC is expected to start in December, though Dota 2 developer Valve Software has yet to officially announce its schedule. This year's post-TI shuffle, as a result, is also expected to take place from October until November as rosters become locked shortly before the DPC begins.
Team Secret Dota 2 roster:
Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen
Michal "Nisha" Jankowski
Yazied "YapzOr" Jaradat
Clement "Puppey" Ivanov
Lee "Heen" Seung Gon (coach)