What does it mean to be successful? Is it winning more than anyone else? Is it being the best in the world at something? True success is none of the above; at the end of the day only you can decide if you’ve succeeded. It’s easy for us as viewers to look at OG and say “Well of course they're successful, they've won 4 Majors!” But that is vastly different from how the OG players see things. Sure, OG has won more valve events than anyone else by a large margin, they’ve even done so across two years and two rosters. Even with that, I guarantee you the men in green won’t feel truly successful until they are holding the Aegis.
Since its inception as Monkey Business, OG has been the most consistently successful team in the Dota scene. The brainchild of the dynamic duo Fly and N0tail, OG didn't start out as the legendary team we know today. On the original roster, Fly and N0tail were veterans of the scene, respected enough to become founding members of the original Team Secret. Cr1t and MoonMeander were also in the competitive scene before Monkey Business formed, just not as experienced as Fly and N0tail. This left Miracle, the 8000 MMR pubstar, as their most untested player.
The team started out shakily at their first big event, the Frankfurt Major, but ended up making an incredible lower bracket run to become champions, defeating the likes of EG, CDEC, and Team Secret on the way. This was the beginning of a great year of Dota for OG with further victories at Dreamleague, ESL One Frankfurt, and The Manila Major. OG was happy to win all of these tournaments, but in the world of competitive dota everything else pales in comparison to The International. OG is living proof of this as, after an incredibly successful year of Dota, their underperformance at TI6 still lead to a team breakup.
At the end of the day only Fly and N0tail still stood under the green banner. Where do you go after losing one of the best roaming supports and the best midlaner in Europe? Apparently the answer is easy, you just have two of the best players in the world, Jerax and S4, join your team. Rounding out the roster was a relatively unknown Australian player, Ana. Ana had little professional experience, having only subbed in for Ferrari_430 for a few weeks on IG, but it was enough to catch Fly’s eye. In the beginning many questioned Ana, blaming him for OG’s losses and claiming Fly and N0tail fools for taking on such a green player. It wouldn't be long before Ana helped carry OG to a Major victory and silenced his detractors.
The new OG’s first couple tournaments were less than stellar, losing to EG and Empire without managing the kind of result expected from them. After they failed to secure a top 3 finish at the FaceIt Invitational, things changed. OG strung together 3 finals performances leading up to the Boston Major, with their 2 losses coming from the CIS juggernaut Virtus Pro. At the Boston Major OG would show exactly why they’ve been so successful, with Fly drafting them straight into a first place over the dark horse Ad Finem.
Now that OG’s trend of dominating Majors was thoroughly established, they continued their strong performances in every tournament between the Boston and Kiev Majors. The most important tournament during this time was China’s biggest event of the year, the Dota Asia Championships. OG came to DAC ready to win, topping their group by a large margin. Their road to the finals wasn’t easy either, having to beat Newbee and the reinvigorated IG on the way. Eventually, having to play IG twice came back to bite them as Q, the captain from CDEC’s incredible TI5 run, would learn from his defeat and lead IG to stomp OG 3-0 in the finals. This can hardly be considered a smirch on OG’s record though as IG’s form was nothing short of fantastic.
This leads us to the Kiev Major, the most important non-TI tournament of the year. Besides being a Major and having a large prize pool, this tournament bears the largest weight on TI invites. The winner of this tournament is almost guaranteed an invite to The International, though the guaranteed participation isn't the only benefit. Every team that skips the qualifiers is able to spend that time studying their opponents and preparing more strategies for TI. With TI invites on the line, OG did what they always do at important events: win. OG’s group stage started out shaky, losing a game to the Brazilians, SG Esports, but finished strong with a 3-1 score. Through the main event OG would take down the best teams Dota has to offer, beating Team Random (reigning TI champions), Team Faceless, and two contenders for best team in the world, VP and EG. OG would lose several games along the way, but they always pulled through in their time of need.
With their invite to The International secured, OG have spent the recent months experimenting and preparing for the most important tournament of their lives. They've proven they have what it takes to win big tournaments but that success also lead to their downfall last year. Will they be able to overcome the nerves that struck during their match against TNC? It won't be long before we find out if this year's OG lives up to the hype and finally achieves true success.
This year's OG is a completely different beast from the previous iteration. While before they played almost a 4 protect 1 strategy, eschewing N0tail’s farm in favor of setting up Miracle to have the best game possible. Each of OG’s new players brings great benefits to the team while allowing new styles of play and new strategies to be employed. Ana allows OG to give more farm priority to N0tail (Miracle essentially played position 1 regardless of which lane he occupied) while also bringing significantly less farm heavy mids into OG’s hero pool. S4 is one of the greatest initiators to ever play the game with the offlane suiting him very well. He brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, and predictive ability to the team. Jerax, while playing a very similar role to Cr1t, has been lauded as the best roaming support in the west.
So how has Fly taken advantage of this roster change? Over the year OG have gained a reputation as the kings of Illusion Dota. They prioritize illusion based heroes more highly than any other team, even after illusions have been nerfed. This leads to other teams being forced to ban heroes like Terrorblade, Alchemist, and Naga Siren against them in the first phase. The beauty of their strength and versatility with most illusion heroes is the draft advantage it gives. They will often brute force an illusion lineup if the other team plays poorly against the strategy, or OG will draft a stronger traditional lineup while letting the fear of illusions cloud the opponent's mind.
OG also favors strong team fight heroes, especially on supports, to help them win midgame teamfights even when they've lost lanes. Look no further than their finals victory over VP at Kiev, over the course of the series their support picks were:
Of all those picks, Dazzle is the only hero without at least one major teamfight spell (and even then he has Weave and Shallow Grave to turn the tides of battle). This series was a perfect example of how OG plays with these lineups. In games 1 and 5 OG were extremely far behind after the laning phase while VP continued to build their lead. OG would distract VP during the mid game with split pushing and superb team movements, but most importantly they would successfully defend their high ground, always keeping games within reach. Eventually OG takes an incredible teamfight, takes multiple objectives, and causes a 10k+ gold swing back in their favor. With the other team on the back foot, it's only a matter of time until OG strangles them from the map and builds an insurmountable advantage.
OG losing the early game then making a comeback is representative of their team as a whole. OG will win events, but usually not in a dominant fashion. Just like how they drop games in almost every series they win (even against huge underdogs like SG Esports). Fly rarely drafts lineups that need to win early game, instead banking on outplaying the enemy team in the mid and late game. The Major Champions rely heavily on two things to carry them through the mid game: their exceptional map movements and their ability to take favorable fights even at huge disadvantages. When ahead their movement is relatively standard, but OG are the best team in the world at playing from behind. They regularly dodge bad fights that would cause them to lose objectives, rarely losing more than one or two heroes to a gank. Even then OG usually has another lane split pushing, guaranteeing some form of trade out of enemy ganks or pushes. This sets up their other game winning trait, exceptional teamfighting. By running the enemy around for so long in the mid game they make their opponents more likely to make mistakes. This is where S4 and Jerax truly shine. OG’s teamfight formula is as follows, Jerax or S4 pounce on a mispositioned core, the other team counter initiates, then the remaining OG heroes counter-counter initiate. S4 and Jerax are both great predictors and initiators on their own, but together they are able to orchestrate the teamfights of their wildest dreams.
S4 and Jerax are great, but Ana, N0tail, and Fly’s contributions shouldn't be understated either. Fly makes the necessary sacrifices for to help Ana and N0tail win lanes while letting Jerax roam. Ana and N0tail are largely responsible for splitting the enemy team and forcing them to spread the map as the other roles on OG are rarely strong farmers or solo pushers. Sometimes N0tail will even go for full space creation plays, baiting the enemy team into ganking him with 4-5 heroes. Sure he will die most of the time, but this play often delays the enemy push by multiple minutes and giving the rest of his team plenty of space to farm.
N0tail, an incredible carry and an even better teammate. He is beloved by the community and many pros thanks to his positive attitude and genuine love of Dota. He is one of the best carries in the world, but decidedly the best sacrificial carry player. It's rare for a carry to be able to forego so much if their own farm for the sake of their other cores and no one does it better than N0tail. He always makes the most of his hero, having a disproportionately large impact when low on farm. He also brings some unique skills to the table as he is one of the best Io players in the world, making N0tail arguably the best carry player to pair with the blue ball.
Ana is the most successful fresh blood to enter the scene since Sumail joined EG. Known particularly for his Alchemist, Ember Spirit, and Invoker, he is known less for his lane domination but more for his exceptional mid game play. He often plays strong farmers and pushers so that he can play well from ahead or behind, splitting or joining the 5-man as needed. Ana’s Alchemist is particularly fearsome, especially considering OG’s propensity towards illusions.
The man, the myth, the legend. What can be said about S4 that hasn't already been said? This venture with OG is his first experience playing a role outside of mid and it may have been the smoothest role transition we've seen in professional Dota. He is a master of prediction and initiation, often explaining how an entire fight will make play out before an enemy smoke breaks. The man that led to the single most dominating performance ever seen at The International, S4 has been nothing short of amazing on OG and very well may be the first player to win 2 TIs.
Jerax made a name for himself originally as an Earth Spirit spammer and quickly went from a 1 hero wonder to the best roaming support in the west. He slotted into OG perfectly, crushing enemy mids, offlanes, and supports wherever he went. His patience and spell timing in teamfights is immaculate having won many fights, and entire games, for OG with crucial ultimates. Jerax also has some of the most impressive mechanical skill of any position 4 players in the world, particularly with Earth Spirit and Tusk.
If N0tail is the heart of the team then Fly is the brain (shout out to 7mad, OG’s indispensable coach as well). The other half of the dynamic duo that have built the two most successful teams over the past 2 years, Fly has been the babysitting, sacrificial support enabling his teammates to utilize their amazing mechanics to outplay enemy teams. Known for his play on heroes such as Dazzle and Keeper of the Light, Fly has been skewing towards heavy team fight supports with Phoenix being a new favorite. Fly’s drafting in the majors has also been fantastic, rarely losing a draft and understanding his own players perfectly.