Team Secret strengthened their case as the best team in the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) when they utterly dominated rivals Team Nigma in the third week of competition at the upper division of the DPC’s European regional league.
Both teams entered the series as the last two undefeated teams in the upper division of the European regional league. In the first two weeks of the league, Secret defeated Tundra Esports (then known as mudgolems) and High Coast Esports while Nigma defeated Alliance and Team Liquid.
While Secret was favoured to win the matchup, no one really expected them to make such short work of Nigma, a team that many consider to be among the three best teams in Europe, and arguably the rest of the world.
Both games of the series ended in 43 minutes and with Secret holding an overwhelming kill lead, 36-6 in game one and 41-15 in game two.
In the post-match interview on the official DPC stream for the European regional league, Team Secret captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov credited his team’s focus on having a strong early game as the reason behind their victory.
“I think our early game is just better than theirs. We have set up [the laning phase] for both games — where both scenarios were very similar — where our lanes were just better than theirs,” said Puppey.
Secret’s early game dominance started from the draft, where the team focused on shutting down the enemy’s win condition while ensuring they would have the stronger laning stage.
In game one, Nigma’s win condition was the tried-and-tested Phantom Lancer for their carry player Amer “Miracle” Al-Barkawi. To counter that, Puppey picked Slark for his own carry, Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen, and surrounded him with heroes that could single out and lock down the enemy Phantom Lancer, such as Kunkka, Pangolier, and Dark Willow.
Aside from their strong draft, Secret’s masterful in-game execution was another key to their victory. In the clip below, Secret essentially won the early game from just one perfectly-executed rotation from the team.
Follow Matumbaman as he arrives to the top lane to assist Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg’s Pangolier and Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat’s Dark Willow in taking down Miracle’s Phantom Lancer and Kuro “Kuroky” Takhasomi’s Grimstroke, then teleport back to the mid lane afterwards.
Matumbaman’s rotation forced Aliwi “w33” Omar’s Batrider to also go to the top lane to try and get a retaliatory kill, however, w33 himself was killed once Puppey’s Enchantress reinforced zai and YapzOr.
As that was happening, Matumbaman and Michal “Nisha” Jankowski on Kunkka got two additional kills at the mid and bottom lanes.
In less than a minute of action, Secret scored five kills and shut down the entire enemy team. Such surgical strikes put a lot of pressure on the opponent, though it’s admittedly hard for them to come up with an adequate response once they’re on the back foot.
When describing what Secret’s early game dominance forces their opponents to do, Puppey succinctly said “they just have to kinda outlive our aggression from all the lanes”.
You can see more of such play from Secret in the clips below, as they shut down all of Nigma’s moves in the early and mid game then cruised to an easy victory in game one.
Game two was a closer affair compared to game one, as Nigma pinned their hopes on the Morphling-Earthshaker combo to tie up the series. Secret countered by picking Ursa — one of the few heroes that can take down Morphling in all stages of the game — and surrounded him with heroes that have a lot of disables in Void Spirit, Elder Titan, Rubick, and Puck.
Nigma had a much better time in the laning phase compared to game one, but they still fell victim to Secret’s quick rotations (as seen in the clip below) and essentially got run over during the early game.
Despite Secret’s massive advantage, Miracle’s Morphling remained dangerous due to how innately powerful the hero is once he gets Aghanim’s Scepter and starts morphing into Earthshaker.
In the clip below, Secret respond to Nisha’s Void Spirit getting picked off and end up giving a Triple Kill to Miracle.
Miracle’s Morphling was the only hero on his team strong enough to make plays around the map, something which Secret exploited to shut him down and get further ahead.
Puppey’s Puck baited Miracle’s Morphling and Maroun “GH” Merhej’s Earthshaker into killing him near Secret’s bottom tier two tower.
While Miracle and GH were successfully able to kill Puppey, they were forced to tread into dangerous territory and were quickly mowed down once Matumbaman and the rest of Secret responded.
“I was in the trees and I was safe, but I knew they were there. Matumbaman says something along the lines of ‘Let’s f*** those guys up!’”, Puppey described the team’s communications during that play.
“I was like, ‘Alright, Matu, here I go. The little pawn of a chess piece, gonna go and do my thing.’ Then they all die.”
Such interactions provide a peek into the impeccable chemistry Puppey established within his team. As evident in that bait play above and in so many other plays, Secret is ready to always ready to respond to a teammate getting ganked or the enemy making a manoeuvre.
If one of them is getting jumped by the enemy team, as Puppey was in the play above, they trust that their teammates are already teleporting in to either save them or get a retaliatory kill.
“I’m all in favour of a guy wanting to f*** the enemy team. He doesn’t need no thanks, I don’t need no thanks. I’m like, “Just keep doing it, Matu, you’re the best,” said Puppey.
Despite Secret’s overwhelming advantage in both games, Puppey also credited their opponents’ resilience to draw them both out past 40 minutes. Lesser teams would have folded much earlier, but Nigma are a team with championship aspirations — much like Secret themselves — and will fight to the bitter end.
“Destroying the base of Nigma is the hard part. We never actually got to do it in a very confident way. It took a long while to actually catch them off-guard and kill them,” said Puppey.
Still, Secret sealed their victory in game two by outmanoeuvring their opponents and picking their cores off one by one, as seen in the two clips below:
“It just fell apart so quickly for Nigma in this game. When we look back in the early stages, it was close. But when it fell apart, it really just fell apart in that whole period when they were losing core after core in these different situations,” said caster Owen “ODPixel” Davies as he commentated on the match.
With Secret’s victory, they improve to a clean 3-0 record and cement their hold on the top spot of the upper division of the DPC’s European regional league. As early as now, Secret are looking like a lock to make it to the first Major of the season and win it.
Meanwhile, Nigma now hold a 2-1 record and are locked into a three-way tie with Alliance and OG. Three more spots in the Major are up for grabs in Europe.
While we are still in the middle of the first season of the DPC, it is clear that Secret are currently the best team in the world. As ODPixel said of the series between them and Nigma, “Secret in both of these games are just looking like they are on a whole different level.”
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