ESL One Germany 2020 Playoffs are just around the corner with eight teams setting the stage to claim bragging rights on the coveted trophy and a major chunk of the $400,000 prize pool. The season so far has been quite lopsided with only one team winning back-to-back championships; however, it would be unwise to count the rest of the herd out of the competition.
If you’re looking for a refresher or an opportunity to compare your predictions, this opinion piece attempts to rank the participating teams into four tiers, as well as provide some light analysis.
Teams in this tier have the best prospects at winning the entire event without a shadow of a doubt. This is home to the best of the best.
It’s no secret that Secret is the best team this season and it would be extremely foolish to bet against the bull that has taken the entire scene by its horn. You don’t believe it? Fret not, take a look at the past eight events that Secret has participated in, and you’ll witness the sheer havoc they have reigned over others by winning it all. That’s utter dominance y’all!
This iteration of Secret has broken many records over the past couple of months and with Puppey at the helm, you can expect him to bring the best out of his players. Versatility and playmaking abilities have also played a major role in their success with Nisha and Matumbaman switching between roles at times, thus forcing their opponents to second guess their choices more often.
Similarly, YapzOr is one of the, if not the, best position 4 players in the world and has single-handedly turned Secret’s fortune on numerous occasions with his clutch plays. Then there is Zai, the backbone of the team playing the offlane role that demands patience and sacrifice. He’s always been a selfless player and over the years, he has solidified himself as one of the most prominent and flexible players to have ever graced the game.
Eyeing for The International 2021 trophy next year, Team Secret is THE team to beat. Period.
Arguably the most loved Dota 2 team in history, OG is the apple of everyone’s eye and for good reason -- winning back-to-back TI Championships. Post TI9, the team went through roster changes with Jerax and Ana retiring and Ceb stepping down, eventually making way for Sumail and Midone. Despite looking scary on paper, OG was unable to achieve good results due to a variety of reasons amid the Covid pandemic and had to ultimately let Sumail go.
With Sumail gone, Ceb once again came out of his retirement to fill the offlaner role while Midone switched to the carry role. Surprisingly, the results haven’t been all that bad since the current roster justifies the playstyle OG usually opts for; amping up the pace of the game, creating chaos, and leaving their opponents clueless.
While Notail and Saksa act as the backbone of the team, Ceb acts as the cushion to fall back on. Midone is the stabilizing agent while Topson is tasked with going berserk. A perfect combination! However, they aren’t able to sustain or maintain their aggressive playstyle if their playmakers, Topson or Saksa, are having a bad game and they just collapse. While I expect them to make it to the finals, I’ll still be cautious since they are a high-risk high-reward team.
Teams in this tier comprise of those that have the potential and the talent to clinch a surprise title victory but somehow falter during the last leg.
Nigma has positioned themselves well in previous tournaments and has consistently managed to stay in the upper echelons albeit with a stand-in. Yes, you heard it right. Their charismatic captain, Kuroky, has been out of action for the past couple of months due to an injury, and playing in his stead is Nigma’s coach, rmN-, filling in the void. Even though they have performed admirably under adverse circumstances, there’s a missing spark due to Kuroky’s absence.
The players in Nigma are on par with Secret when it comes to calibre and talent. After all, they are TI Champions -- well only 3 of them to be precise excluding Kuroky but you just cannot ignore the prowess of the Miracle, Mind_Control, and GH trio along with w33’s intense playmaking abilities. They are fully capable of taking the bull by the horns and end up Top 4 at the event.
Alliance is one of the two teams that have impressed me the most this season. Run by Dota legend and TI3 winner, Loda, this org sets the perfect example of raising a team from the ground up. Grooming a team filled with raw and young talent, albeit a few roster changes, Alliance has shown excellent resilience and has proven that on a good day they can be a thorn on anyone’s side.
The roster is composed of an ideal mix of young blood and veterans, and that’s where their real strength lies. The core duo of Nikobaby and Limmp is the most important piece of the puzzle since a bad start to either one of them can result in chaos. While Nikobaby has proven his mettle with his prowess in the carry role and proven time and again of bouncing back, it is Limmp that I’m more concerned about since the latter has been excellent and inconsistent at the same time and it’s extremely difficult for him to bounce back especially after a less than ideal start.
However, this is where the rest of the team comes into the picture with s4 and Fng leading from the front and guiding the rest including Handsken with their experience over the years. Alliance has the means and the potential to stand neck-to-neck against top teams, provided they keep up with their amazing performances and not crumble under pressure.
Now, this is a team that has shown true character development over the season and is slowly solidifying themselves among the elites. By far the most impressive team I’ve seen with a budding storyline that has touched the hearts of many and was extremely pleased to see them make the playoffs, at the last possible opportunity in a 70 minute game against Ninjas in Pyjamas.
There’s a reason why I am ranking Vikin.gg above Team Liquid and it has everything to do with their consistency, something the latter severely lacks. I don’t expect them to win the tournament, but they have the capability to pull an upset and surprise a few people in the process.
ImmortalFaith and Seleri have successfully managed to lead a bunch of rookies and curate a tier-3 team into a top contender. A weaker group of players, not helmed so well by a coach like ImmortanFaith or a captain like Seleri, might have broken apart earlier in this year but the hunger, will power and hard work amid adversity displayed by this young lot has slowly elevated them to a point of being considered as serious contenders.
A team worthy to look out for!
Writing about Team Liquid is bittersweet since they have everything in a team that others can only dream about -- great camaraderie, professional work ethic, and players stacked with ample talent. This is how a team should look like in the truer sense of things.
Micke and Qojqva are two players gifted with insane mechanical prowess and are second to none in terms of skills. Then we have an offlaner in Boxi who is known for his innovative builds and ways of playing the game although the team relies heavily on him to have a good start. If he’s shut down by the opponents, then Team Liquid is in a fix.
Moving on, we have the support duo in Taiga and Insania. While the latter is known to be the sacrificial lamb of the team as he is always on the lookout to save his players and help them settle down, the former is the one that teams just cannot afford to neglect. Taiga is the trump card of Team Liquid and has single-handedly turned games around for his team on numerous occasions.
Despite having a roster brimming with talent, Liquid has failed to perform consistently in tournaments and are highly erratic. They lack a clear directive and this is precisely the reason to rank them in this tier. They are good but are struggling to become great although one shouldn’t underestimate them since they are capable of pulling the carpet from under the feet.
Mudgolems is a team formed by three Dota 2 veterans namely, FATA-, 33, and MILAN, and two fairly new players to the professional scene, Boranija, and Skiter. They managed to place on par with OG and Team Liquid in the group stage although it was against relatively weaker teams, Cyber Legacy and NaVi. Although they won against Nigma, it wasn’t a convincing win and later on, they didn’t fare well against Team Liquid and lost in straight games. Their match against Liquid in the playoffs will be quite interesting to watch although I doubt, they’ll be able to progress any further than they already have.
The team that once dominated during the early years since the inception of Dota 2, is all but a shadow of their former selves. The new trial roster of NaVi consists of well-known CIS players and although they managed to make it to the playoffs, I doubt we’ll see them go through to the next round considering they are up against a formidable foe in OG.
It’s barely been a month since the new roster was recruited on a trial basis and thus it’d be unwise to keep any sort of expectations from them.
Predictions for Round 1 of the Upper Bracket:
Team Secret > Team Nigma
Mudgolems < Team Liquid
OG > Natus Vincere Alliance > Vikin.gg
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