Although DreamLeague made its return as a Minor this time, the prospect of securing more DPC points and winning a slice of the $300,000 prize pool attracted some of the top Dota 2 teams.
In the end, as much as there was competition, one side stood out and that was Team Secret. The Puppey-lead gang stomped over all who opposed them, securing a perfect record (nine wins and no defeats) in the four matches they played on their way to the trophy.
Team Secret defended their title from the previous season in the same manner too, with a clean 3-0 sweep in the Grand Finals.
Road to the trophy
The invincible Secret overcame four different teams to win the trophy. The tournament did not have a group stage so Secret faced Empire in the quarter-finals. The result was a 2-0 win, with the first game ending up as the quickest victory in the tournament at a little over 17 minutes.
Secret then met Chinese powerhouse Newbee, a team lacking in consistency right now, and prevailed with another 2-0 win.
In the Winners’ Bracket Finals, they clashed against Team Liquid, who even without their most talented player Miracle- were still a formidable opponent. However, they demolished the TI 7 champions 2-0 and thus it was not much of a surprise that Secret then defeated Fnatic in the Grand Finals with a clean 3-0 sweep.
The Grand Finals were rather one-sided and Team Secret were in control throughout. Fnatic stood firm for the first 10 minutes in the opening match, before Secret started prevailing in every skirmish and finished the game with only four deaths in total.
It seemed that the second game might go Fnatic’s way, but Ace’s Bristleback became too tanky to be killed in the mid game. This turned everything around and allowed Secret to triumph again.
The last game was yet again controlled by Secret, despite Fnatic providing some resistance during the laning stage. Secret, however, started building gradual gold advantage by having a Bounty Hunter and, by getting more kills on the board, were able to close the series comfortably.
The Secret formula to success
Puppey’s boys clearly dominated their opponents in both in-game execution and strategy. The team started their domination from the laning stage and placed a lot of emphasis upon it, enabling them to forge swift victories. Team Secret came on top in the laning stage by either countering with better suited heroes in the lane or by securing kills through ganks coming from roamers.
What sets Secret apart from other teams is that they tend to play de facto with two position 4 players – YapzOr, who is the official position 4 player, and Puppey, who does more than just stay in lane to protect the carry. Both of them move around the map and both finished the tournament at the top of the assists chart – Puppey with 16.89 and YapzOr with 14.78.
These tactics can also be seen in the team’s top three hero picks – Rubick (6 picks), Sand King (6 picks) and Witch Doctor (5 picks). Apart from having good disables, these heroes are handy in team fights. Building on their early advantage, Secret usually snowballs into the mid game to decide the outcome in their favour.
The team’s captain, Puppey, is the man behind the drafting. Often outpicking opponents, his primary motive is for his team to have a strong laning stage, but he also ensures they can have a solid mid and late game if necessary. Although formally a position 5 player, he effectively plays in position 4. He likes to gank and move around the map, while he also farms more than a classic position 5 hero, not playing the sacrificial role typical for the position. Warding is a big part of his game and he often secures vision for his team.
The other support is YapzOr, who is undoubtedly the flashiest player on the team. Utilised mostly on aggressive playmaking heroes, he tends to have a huge impact on the game. However, the opposite was seen when he played as Io against Fnatic – as a sustain support he struggled to make his mark here. YapzOr is quite versatile – he even played Terrorblade, who is traditionally a carry hero, versus Newbee. In general, the team demonstrate inventiveness and brought in several new heroes currently not popular in the meta such as Bristleback, Kunkka and even a core Phoenix in the mid lane.
The trio of cores is composed of Fata, MidOne and the latest addition to the team, Ace. Fata is the player who has developed the most while with Secret. Switching from the mid position to offlaner upon joining the outfit, he appears even more effective in his new role. On the stage of DreamLeague, he played an important role as initiator and his aggressive style secured many kills for the team. As Batrider in particular, he was prowling constantly in enemy territory, looking for kills.
MidOne is the player who has been on the team longest after Puppey. Highly talented, the Malaysian quickly adapted under Puppey’s guidance and turned into one of the best mid players around. In the past, his performances varied depending on how comfortable he was with the hero, but recently MidOne has demonstrated an improvement in this aspect and gave top performances with heroes who are not so typical in the mid role, such as Visage (vs Fnatic) and Phoenix (vs Empire).
Last but not least, Ace is the hard carry. He is an excellent farmer, who joins the fight early in the game. Since becoming a member of the team, he has added stability as well as providing consistent high-level performances. Unlike the traditional hard carries that need to be watched over in the laning stage, Ace can manage a lane on his own, which comes in especially handy with Puppey and YapzOr constantly on the move. Ace finished at the top of the KDA rankings in the tournament with 13.00.
What’s next on the agenda?
The team is now third and are catching up with Team Liquid in the global Dota Pro Circuit rankings. This puts them in a great position for qualifying for The International 2018. Over the course of the season, Team Secret have established themselves as one of the strongest teams and their DreamLeague Season 9 display is their peak thus far. The other Dota 2 juggernaut, Virtus.pro, did not take part in the tournament, but the battle between the two arguably strongest teams this season is already being talked about in the community.