Team Spirit

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Every year after The International, teams and players must endure the turmoil of the shuffle period. Last year, we witnessed some huge surprises and intense drama associated with the big moves, but the aftermath of The International 2015 offers even more controversial topics to discuss.

photo credits m.vk.com

The recent quarrel between Arteezy and KuroKy, along with the unexpected decision of TI5 Champions Evil Geniuses to release Aui_2000, is bringing the internal issues that professional teams are facing (especially in the Western scene) back into the spotlight.

It is hard to see the truth from an outside perspective in the prominent Arteezy-KuroKy drama (the unfolding events are summerized here), and since no commentator is a Team Secret member, we can't know how things have actually happened in the booth.  All the comments and replies on the web, coming from thousands of different directions, are merely speculation.  All they do is heighten the drama, which at the end of the day is toxic for the scene and does not show e-sports in a favorable light.

At least one thing has become clear in the tense days since TI5: compared with the Asian teams, the majority of the Western squads are lacking cohesion and team spirit.

The fact that most of the Westerners failed to deliver at this TI has nothing to do with player skill, experience or emotional control. CDEC's success story stands as evidence of this. A young team without any previous LAN experience managed to reach the grand finals coming from the Wild Card playoffs, crushing every opponent in their path.

The aforementioned "team spirit" was a common theme brought up by Asian players in interviews.  It is defined by a conscious decision to leave the ego aside and a willingness to follow team discipline. Work ethic is not the only engine that propels the Eastern teams to the highest ranks: what is crucial is the total respect towards their captains, and the unquestioning trust they place in their leaders' ability to make the right calls at the right time.

The wild statements that Arteezy made on his stream regarding Kuro’s attitude and behavior during their second game versus Virtus.Pro can’t be 100% verified.  However, Zai and the team coach, 1437, have corroborated them.  Valid or not, they were another incident in which Kuro appeared to be the protagonist.

image credits u/karlo471

At The International 3 during the first game of the grand finals between Alliance and Na’Vi, KuroKy made a hasty GG call that took XBOCT by complete surprise. Right after the games were over, XBOCT tweeted a bitter comment regarding the grand finals outcome, and much like Arteezy, he pointed fingers in a certain direction. In each situation, the teams in question were considered by most to be the best in the world: NA'VI then and Team Secret now. We can hardly speak seriously of "team spirit" in this context and as a natural consequence both teams were bound to fail.

It seems that the key to success does not reside in putting together five super stars while ignoring the compatibility of those players. Five strong personalities gathered in one team will often struggle to identify clear leadership, which equates to an endless ego war.

Having to work together with stars and strong individuals is not an easy task at all, as demonstrated during Fng's tenure as Na'Vi's captain.

XBOCT admitted in a couple of interviews that he had problems trusting Fng's decisions. The obvious incompatibility proved to be counterproductive and they parted ways. On the other hand, Fng declared in his TI5 player presentation that "Virtus.Pro understands what he is trying to do. "Artsiom, do what you want and we will try to help you as much as possible” are the words he used to describe VP’s team ethos. VP's trust in their captain made them a real threat and as a result, they eclipsed the more famous Na’Vi and Team Empire at TI5.

If we take a quick look at CDEC, LGD, EHOME and MvP.Phoenix, all Asian teams who performed admirably at TI5, we can observe that they each revolve around an exceptional captain, who is not only the drafter, but who also has his teammates' trust and respect.

Q, xiao8, rOtk and March were the strong, reliable pillars that their teams needed, and nobody else felt the urge to prove that they knew better: if they did, at least they didn’t show it during the games. The four teams functioned as well oiled machines and mesmerized the entire audience with their team play prowess.

The only squads from West at this International that seemed to understand the need to leave all friction behind at the stage entrance, and act as professionals, were Evil Geniuses and Virtus.Pro.

The announcement made by EG regarding Aui_2000’s replacement generated an avalanche of disapproving comments and reactions, which at a first glance would dismiss the idea that EG displayed the team spirit we so oftenly invoked here. However, many of the opinions expressed are obviously based on strong emotions. Additionally, we, the spectators, can only make judgements on a public image of the players. We never witnessed their lack of chemistry, or knew for sure that there were any problems at all.  If there was a mismatch between their personalities, the fact that they won the biggest competition of the year only goes to prove that they overlooked it and focused on the common goal. This ultimately can only be described as true professionalism.

The re-shuffle season is now in full swing and Valve's new restrictions demand that teams complete their roster changes before September 1st. This is the perfect moment for players, team captains and managers to sit down and reflect wisely on their decisions. Friendship, respect and trust should represent the foundation for a successful story in the DotA 2 scene.


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