This is Pro Breakdown, a series by Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia where we talk with pro players, coaches, experts, and other personalities about anything and everything in the region's esports scene.
The ESL One Dota 2 Stockholm Major concluded last week, with OG defeating TSM FTX in the grand finals to claim their fifth Major championship.
OG's incredible run to the Stockholm Major title was made even more remarkable by the fact that they won with Sébastien "Ceb" Debs and Johan "N0tail" Sundstein as stand-ins after Mikhail "Misha" Agatov and Evgenii "Chuvash" Makarov encountered visa issues.
We sat down with Singaporean Dota 2 veteran and Nigma Galaxy SEA coach Nicholas "xFreedom" Kelvin Ileto Lim (@xfreedom on Twitter) to break down all that happened during the Major.
For this installment, we'll be breaking down OG's victory in Stockholm.
After they won the Stockholm Major championship, do you think OG are the best team in the world? Or is it more like OG are the best in the world if we don't count Chinese teams, since they were unable to participate in the Major?
xFreedom: I'll say OG are the best team in the world currently if we don't count China. I think PSG.LGD might stand a chance against OG. Teams would then adapt to what the Chinese teams bring to the metagame. Because in the Stockholm Major it was purely a Western European meta and everyone else was trying to follow what OG and Tundra Esports were playing with heroes like Chaos Knight, Visage, and Doom.
If you compare it to what some of the teams were playing in their own region, it was very different compared to what they played in the Major.
Why do you think OG was the best team at the Major? What separated them from the rest of the competition?
xFreedom: In my opinion, OG had a complete idea of what they wanted to do from the start of the draft, regardless of their playstyle or picks for a specific game. From what I observed, they use their position 3 as a 'shield' and their positions 1 and 2 as the 'sword'.
Most Dota 2 players would think that the supports are the team's shield, protecting their cores so that they can farm and carry the team to victory. With that in mind, why do you think OG used their position 3 as their shield instead of their supports?
xFreedom: I think it's due to the comfort heroes that [OG position 3 player Ammar "ATF" Al-Assaf] plays. You see him play Timbersaw, Underlord, and all these tanky heroes in most of their games. And the way he plays, he doesn't build to initiate and he doesn't build to look for kills. It's more like he builds to be a human shield for his other two cores while at the same time scaling into the late game.
Other teams build their position 3 as the team's sole initiator and shield at the same time. So I'd say ATF is showcasing a new way to play the offlane and OG is sort of abusing what he does best.
With that said, do you consider ATF as the MVP for OG during the Stockholm Major? Or is it Ceb for his excellent plays on Windranger while standing-in as the team's position 5?
xFreedom: I don't really have an MVP, but if I had to pick it would be any of the three cores of OG [ATF, Artiem "Yuragi" Golubiev, and Bozhidar "bzm" Bogdanov] who deserved it. They all compliment each other on how they play, like you can't just pluck one of them out and plug in another player and expect the same results.
For sure Ceb contributed to the success of the team, but I think the new OG had a good system created with Misha and their coach Chuvash.
But if I had to pick just one person, then it's definitely ATF. When you see him playing, OG always first picks his hero. It's so hard to shut him down. I also have to give some credit to Tommy "Taiga" Le. He knows what ATF wants to do both in the laning phase and after it so he goes through this checklist of "What do I have to do to enable this guy?"
ATF as a player knows himself and his limitations, he knows exactly what he can and cannot do. For him, it's probably something like "I shove lane, I build tanky items, I am the frontline for my team". ATF makes sure OG has a formation where if the enemy wants to get through the rest of the team, they have to go through him first.
What do you think was OG's biggest strength that really helped them win the Stockholm Major?
xFreedom: I think they are really calm when they play, and you can really tell it from the third game of their elimination match against Fnatic. They had a poor laning stage but it didn't feel like they were behind at all. They knew their timings and they knew how to hold off pressure against Fnatic.
They remained calm, and I think Ceb had a part to play in that. You can see it from their expressions like they're saying, "Yeah we still got this, we know we can win this".
Do you think OG's match against Fnatic was their best performance of the Major or would you pick another game?
xFreedom: I wouldn't say the Fnatic game was all on OG. I'd say it was more on Fnatic's execution, they didn't close the game. I'd say OG's best performances were in the grand finals, game two and onwards.
Before that, they never had to ban Enigma cause no other team than TSM FTX played it. And then they were sort of forced to ban one of their own heroes, but then they also realized they could pick one of their own heroes in the second game.
I think that's what led to their success in the grand finals. They had to ban Storm Spirit in game one but then they realized they can just ban Enigma. TSM always first picked Enigma so OG realized they can snatch Storm Spirit for themselves, so why ban it?
We've seen a lot of these 'power of friendship' teams, like OG and Team Spirit, do really well recently. Is that something necessary to win or is it just a helpful thing to have?
xFreedom: I think it's something that really helps. The game is ever-changing and people always go for the next best offer. So when switching from one roster to the next, they have to create a whole new team identity and start from scratch.
It's also a consequence of the pro system in Dota 2, we only get paid through our salary and tournament winnings. That's why people always go for the best offer. You see good teams get torn apart or not stick together to fix their issues. Everyone is playing for TI and if it doesn't work, it's "Bye-bye, I'm going to a new ship."
How do you feel about this new generation of players, like ATF, Yuragi, bzm, and SabeRLight-, among others, that have taken the spotlight during the Stockholm Major?
xFreedom: I think it's nice to see new faces in Dota. They bring new drama and people love drama. There's also a saying that there is always someone better than you. You can't help it, that's life.
Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.