We spoke to the Team Secret ahead of their crucial Upper Bracket game against OG. Captain Puppey was keen to share his thoughts on what should change next season, and the team as a whole reflected on the pressure of keeping up the pace in 2020.

TI10 is Ivanov “Puppey” Clements 10th TI. You’d think after over a decade playing Dota 2, and longer in competitive gaming, nerves wouldn’t be an issue. But Puppey himself disagrees: 

“I mean, I think I feel the emotions that every player goes through. Either it’s nervousness or excitement,” said Puppey to the media present in the press conference. “I feel like nothing’s really changed from the first TI to this one. It’s the same stuff over and over again. So yeah, I feel nervous.”

Secret reflect on the burden of success in 2020

Team Secret is a favorite in TI, in part for just how consistent the team has been for going on two years. After a record-breaking 2020 that saw them win eight-straight online tournaments. But the team is the first to admit it took its toll.

“We were definitely burnt out by the end of 2020,” Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat explained.

Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg pushed his support to say more, before jumping in himself. “I mean, 2020, obviously was a great year across in terms of results. But as the question states, it was all online tournaments. So it was a bit different,” said Zai.

“I think we managed to perform under those circumstances, for that time, and that time only. After that it became harder to replicate. “

“I think we came into the leagues, and we did the Singapore qualifier. And we tried quite hard to get it out of the way and say, we tried hard to win our ballpark. Again, once we get to TI, which I think we kind of feared [not doing] during Singapore. So after that, there was definitely a sense of relaxing or getting worked up and thinking it’s a bit more easy.”

zai on resting up before TI

Keeping the team in a competitive state is one of the most difficult things about the new DPC format. Team Secret notably didn’t attend any of the post-Major tournaments, instead opting to rest as much as possible.

Zai had more to say about the break they took: “That was the point [of taking time off] to be honest, I think that was the idea really because once TI started getting cancelled and like things got a bit messy. It was hard to kind of go from vacation-ish to… time off.

“Then there was like the sense of TI’s coming up, we should start playing blah, blah, blah, you need to start playing. But it gets cancelled and we knew we had some more time. During that time it felt kind of weird to play [Dota] and play tournaments,” said Zai.

Preparation is Everything

But the team’s foresight has helped in the past. In an interview last year, Puppey had stated that ahead of the abandoned LA Major, him and Zai were already considering not heading to the US. We asked him whether that foresight helped them keep safe during the pandemic?

“Indeed it did. Indeed it did.” Puppey confirmed.

Zai had a clear memory of the events leading up to the Major: “The LA Major coincided with probably the worst timing that it could have been. And I just remember like, you know, two days before our flight was supposed to leave.

“I was awake during the night because I knew like Trump was gonna have like a press conference or something. I remember just watching the press conference, and he was just like we’re banning all flights from the US. And I’m looking at my flight ticket that’s to LA in like two days, and I’m like what?” 

Puppey didn’t think they’d cut it that close: “I don’t think it was that late?” 

“It was my last day,” Yapzor confirmed. “I was on my way to the Airport” adds Michał “Nisha” Jankowski.

“Yeah I mean like we felt really iffy about it.” Puppey continues. “I really felt iffy about it. I didn’t like any of this situation. “Oh no, no, come, come, come!” everybody was saying “come! Yes, yes! Valve’s saying come, ESL’s saying come, and I was like “That doesn’t make any sense at all.” Like there’s gonna be no tournament, I’m pretty sure.” 

“And so there was no Tournament. And then MidOne keeps whining to me how he was stuck there for like two weeks or something.” (all laugh)

On their TI10 groupstage performance

Secret’s start to TI wasn’t ideal. They suffered two losses against Fnatic and beastcoast. Both these teams would fall to the lower bracket with negative win rates, despite wins over Team Secret. But against Vici Gaming, a seemingly superior opponent, the Secret won easily. Nisha tried to explain the inconsistency.

“We are prepared against Vici Gaming, because we’ve been playing against him for like, two, three years in a row. And their strategy hasn’t changed that much. ”

Puppey on facing Vici Gaming

Puppey agrees: “Yeah, that’s actually a thing. We are prepared against Vici Gaming, because we’ve been playing against him for like, two, three years in a row. And their strategy hasn’t changed that much. When we played against Beastcoast and Fnatic, they kind of surprised us in the draft. So it’s like the more you know about the enemy type of thing in this situation. That’s why it’s inconsistent.”

At this point I tried to coax an answer from the tight-lipped Lasse Aukusti “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen. Earlier questions about Lone Druid or hero picks had resulted in two-word answers. Bringing up the fate of some of his previous teams brought a smile to his face. Team Liquid, and his former teammates on that squad couldn’t make TI. Chaos EC, who he qualified with in 2019, doesn’t even exist anymore.

So what is it about Matumbaman that gets teams ready for TI?

“First and foremost myself, obviously.” “Yeah, and just grumpiness as well. So yeah, myself and some really good carry gameplay.” A short-but-sweet answer.

“I just feel if we sit there for six weeks and [the game is] constantly changing; A nerf here, a buff here, and all that stuff changes… You can be playing in two different patches in the same league which is in my opinion bad. So yeah, make it shorter, make it more direct.”

Puppey on what he hopes changes for the next season of the DPC

Looking forward – Puppey hopes the DPC can be “more direct” next season

But if there’s something the team has plenty of time to talk about it’s the future of the game. Both the format and the game itself. Asked how they like the season just past, Puppey is quick to answer. “I mean, I would like to revert to having more Majors. It was a very stable amount. And I don’t want qualifiers to last for a billion years.”

“I don’t think it’s organic for Dota to be a big, big, big, big league. That doesn’t feel right. I don’t think anybody likes doing it. And it’s just because the game changes so constantly. I feel like if you’re in a good form, you want to show it but the game isn’t stable.” 

“The game changes so frequently that you just kind of lose form after three weeks or something because you know, you got to be hyped up to win tournaments, and to put your energy into it. 

“I just feel if we sit there for six weeks and [the game is] constantly changing; A nerf here, a buff here, and all that stuff changes… You can be playing in two different patches in the same league which is in my opinion bad. So yeah, make it shorter, make it more direct.”

We’ll have to wait and see whether the next season of the DPC changes this opinion. Team Secret face OG on October 12, at 12:30pm EEST. Check out our TI10 playoff bracket here.

Michael Hassall -

Michael Hassall

| Twitter: @hoffasaurusx

Michael is a UK-based content creator who caught the esports bug in 2010, but took eight years to figure out he should write about it. Throwing away a promising career in marketing and PR, he now specialises in MOBAs, covering League of Legends, Dota 2, and esports in general since 2019. When not glued to tournaments taking place on the other side of the globe, he spends time nurturing an unhealthy addiction to MMOs and gacha games.