The Dota Pro Circuit, the Singapore Major, The WePlay Animajor and The International; these five teams were the most dominant this year.
The International 2020 was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fans were eagerly waiting for The Internaional to take place in 2021. And take place it did, although it was not without its fair share of problems. Initially scheduled to take place in Sweden, Valve and PGL had to shift the tournament to Bucharest, Romania. A COVID surge in Romania resulted in Valve closing the doors of the venue to live audiences. But the show must go on and it did.
The International 10 featured the best Dota 2 teams in action and as is the case with the event every year, it did not fail to impress. TI10 saw a miracle run by an underdog team that almost no analyst had any hopes of reaching the Grand finals. Team Spirit's run also put an end to the PSG.LGD and Team Secret dreams of winning their first TI. But the Dota 2 scene is more than just the TI, although it plays a significant part. Here are the top five teams of the 2020-2021 Dota 2 season.
Team Spirit: The surprise victors
Team Spirit has been one of the biggest success stories of 2021. The team had a successful run in the CIS DPC tournaments, but even then it would consistently place behind Virtus.Pro.
Spirit started its TI10 run complaining about their practice rooms. They ultimately got better practice rooms, but still, no one expected them to reach the top two, and definitely not to win the entire tournament.
Team Spirit had finished 4th in the group stage behind others such as PSG.LGD, Team Secret and Vici Gaming. They lost to Invictus Gaming in their opening match of the playoffs. While this result was not a huge surprise, it also marked the start Spirit’s miracle lower bracket run. They won TI10 and are firmly on top of our top five Dota 2 teams of 2021 rankings.
One of the biggest reasons for Team Spirit’s success in the lower bracket has been their players’ synergy and their ability to play different heroes. Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov’s Magnus was responsible for helping Team Spirit turn the outcomes of several matches in the lower bracket. The team took down heavyweights such as Fnatic, Virtus.Pro, Invictus Gaming and Team Secret. Despite having already carved a place for themselves in Dota 2 history, Team Spirit still went into the Grand Finals as the underdogs. PSG.LGD’s gameplay was supposed to be too perfect and streamlined for them to lose to the CIS underdogs. But lose they did. Every member on Team Spirit contributed in his own way in the Grand finals. Be it Collapse’s Magnus or Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk’s hero diversity or just Miposhka’s Bane and his warding, the CIS squad did something right.
They won TI10, the biggest prize pool in esports history. They carved a name for themselves in the history books.
PSG.LGD: The favorites who couldn't close it out
Team Spirit defeated PSG.LGD in the TI10 Grand finals. Despite the Grand Finals loss, PSG.LGD has been the most consistent team throughout the season. In fact, throughout the season, PSG.LGD has not placed outside the top four in any of the tournaments it attended. They came third at the Oneesports Singapore Major, they won the WePlay Animajor and they came second at The International. In between they also won the OGA DotaPIT Invitational and came second in the ESL One Fall Dota 2 tournament.
Before TI10, almost every analyst predicted said this was PSG.LGD’s event to lose. And it was. PSG.LGD’s consistency and excellence helped them throughout the season. Their performance lies in the fact that each player is extremely talented and they had almost every strat perfected. But as is the case with TI, the favorites rarely win. And neither did PSG.LGD.
Invictus Gaming: '?'
The first Dota 2 Major of the season also saw the start of a meme. Down 0-2 in the Grand Finals of the Singapore Major, Zhou "Emo" Yi typed ‘?’ in all-chat against Evil Geniuses. The brazen ‘?’ would see Invictus Gaming follow it up with a reverse sweep Evil Geniuses to win the Major 3-2. The win was sweeter considering Invictus Gaming were one game away from losing the finals.
Invictus Gaming might not have had the same dominance as PSG.LGD throughout the season. In fact, they fell off considerably after the Singapore Major. An early group stage exit at the WePlay Animajor came as a rude shock to iG fans. However, the players picked it up as the season headed to its climax, finishing fourth at the International.
Invictus Gaming dominated the group stage, finishing with six victories and two tied games. After defeating Team Spirit in the opening playoffs match, iG fell to Secret in the upper bracket. They met Team Spirit again in the lower bracket, but this time, Spirit had the momentum going into the series.
Team Secret: Highest TI placement, but still disappointing
Clement "Puppey" Ivanov is the only Dota 2 player to have attended all ten TIs. Often regarded as the best captain in the game, Puppey’s success comes partly due to his ability to draft the best compositions in Dota 2. Allowing his players to play to the best of their abilities, Puppey is an enabler for the squad.
Team Secret dominated 2020 as the Dota 2 esports scene went online. They won eight consecutive tournaments, each with a 3-0 score in the Grand Finals. If there was a TI in 2020, Team Secret was the overwhelming favorite to win it all. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. As we got into the new season, with a new patch and everything, Secret’s dominance started to waver. Despite their struggles, Team Secret is definitely a top-five Dota 2 team in 2021.
Puppey on DPC: “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.”
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.
Despite the slight loss in form, Team Secret was always a contender to win TI10. In fact, the team placed its highest at TIs in the current season. A 3rd place finish at TI is nothing to scoff at (the team won $3,601,600). But there were expectations from the squad, especially against Team Spirit. But Spirit’s miracle run and their exceptional Magnus play meant Team Secret had to contend with a 3rd place finish.
Secret has undergone several changes now with Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg and Lasse Aukusti "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen joining Team Liquid. Replacing them on the roster are Syed Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan and Daryl Koh "iceiceice" Pei Xiang. It’s a new look for the team and one that carries potential going into the new season. With Puppey’s leadership and the experience of every player on the squad, Secret might just be a force to reckon with in 2022.
Virtus Pro: Dominant online, but what happened on LAN?
The team went undefeated through both seasons of the Dota Pro Circuit. But despite their success locally, they did not fare well at international events finishing 7-8th at the Oneesports Singapore Major and 9-12th at the WePlay Animajor
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Lawrence "Malystryx" Phillips
The team shone cause of individual brilliance and deep hero pools. Their strategies, however, often failed against teams from other regions, which is a reason for their poor performance at International tournaments. Virtus.Pro finished 5-6th at the International, losing to Team Spirit in the lower bracket. It was a good run by the squad, which has now lost Egor "Nightfall" Grigorenk to Evil Geniuses while Vitalie "Save-" Melnic goes inactive on the squad.
These were the Top five Dota 2 teams of 2021 ranked for a mix of consistency, results and performance. Some of these teams have already made changes to their roster. You can check out all details of the post-TI roster changes in our Dota 2 roster megathread here.