Secret - Always All-stars
What would happen if you handpicked the best of the best from around the world and put them into a single team? This was the project that became Team Secret. Consisting of some of the most influential and loved players, the team started out with Puppey and Kuroky, the dynamic support duo from the Na’Vi that we once knew. They managed to get the legendary s4 from Alliance, the at the time reigning mid champion after winning the TI4 solo mid competition, and one of the few western players outside of Puppey’s old team to win a TI. Lastly from a failing Fnatic.EU they took in the ultimate Dota bromance: N0tail and Fly (Bigdaddy and Simbaaa). The team’s fan base quickly grew after their announcement. With a roster like that, any person interested in professional dota had a player on the team they already loved. With that Dota 2’s first All Star team was born.
However only a few months after forming, the team released Fly from their roster, and only a couple of weeks later N0tail left the as well. So what do you do when your stars have left? You get new ones. Team Secret took in two very successful players from Evil Geniuses: Arteezy and Zai. And for a few years the team was identified by their rapidly changing roster, replacing leaving star players with new ones, which has resulted in one of the most impressive histories of past players on the team, sporting names such as Misery, EternalEnVy, Pieliedie, and w33.
The latest iteration before the current one ended abruptly when most of the squad left to form Team NP, Arteezy went back to EG once again and Bulba was picked up by Liquid. Only pieliedie and Puppey remained on the team, and for the first time ever the team went outside of the western scene to pick up new players, instead looking to SEA for new talent. From MVP.Phoenix they took in Forev and MP, and from Fnatic they brought in MidOne. However after failing to qualify for the Boston Major, Forev left to rejoin his old team. To fill in the gap on the offlane, they found a great player from Synderen’s Escape Gaming, namely KheZu. While he might have been new to the Dota scene at the time, he had much experience coming from HoN. In anticipation and to prepare for the next Major the team laid low, only competing in a small handful of tournaments.
When the Kiev Major finally came around, Team Secret qualified with ease, only dropping one game in the entire qualifier out of 15 games played. In an interview at Kiev, pieliedie was asked “What makes it that you stick around for so long with one team”. His response was “It might be that I’m not looking enough, maybe I should have left” and that he might have a tendency to ignore problems, which might be a mistake in hindsight. After getting knocked out in the first round of playoffs, by the definite underdog of the tournament SG.Esports, pieliedie finally left Secret. To replace him, KheZu’s old teammate from Escape Gaming, YapzOr, was invited to join the team. The current roster might just be the strongest we’ve seen from Secret since they won the Shanghai Major, only time will tell, but it is the first time this iteration will be playing at a valve event.
The team has always revolved around Puppey, and with good reason. He is renowned as one of the best captains and drafters throughout Dota 2 history, using his experience to draft strong and often unorthodox lineups at the same time. Although Puppey has been a deciding factor in many of Team Secrets highs, he has also been part of their lows. Last year controversy was raised about Team Secret, after notorious blogger EternalEnVy published a piece concerning the lack of payments to the team's players, as well as the organisation taking a 10% cut of the prize winnings, which was until then unknown by all players except Puppey. This of course resulted in a lashout from the public, and the public opinion of Puppey and Secret drastically decreased, and the team went into hiding for a while.
But with a combination of letting the attention die down and Puppey being able to make fun of himself at the Manila Masters “Battle of the Rages” competition seemed to work in favor of the team, as some of the fans have pardoned the team for their mistakes and are now looking past it. These days fans are divided into two camps, either you love the team or you love to hate them.
This year the meta has been very supportive of each individual teams identity, allowing teams to run their own strategies with great success. There still are teams that get by with generic lineups but Secret is not one of them. From an outside perspective their picks and the position they play some heroes in might seem questionable, but if you go one layer deeper it all starts to come together. Their game plan usually revolves around having three very strong and independent laners, and then having two very strong roamers. This is why we’ve seen picks such as carry Underlord from them, since having MP be able to go toe-to-toe with the enemy offlaner frees up a lot of space for YapzOr and Puppey to repair lanes going bad and overwhelm the lanes that are already going great.
A consequence of having MP playing a durable safe laner is that they rarely scale well into the lategame. To accommodate this they often try to draft around the enemy offlaner with their safelane pick, so that it is not only a strong laner, but also a favored match up. They also almost always have a strong scaling core in the middle lane for MidOne to play. It might sometimes seem like Secret want to play their early game with two offlaners and a carry mid.
Having two supports focusing on roaming and disrupting the opponent's’ lanes often makes for very entertaining games. Fights break out shortly after the horn has sounded, and they rarely stop until one team’s ancient is destroyed. These high paced games should always be a decent watch, if you are looking to check out only a few games.
A trick that Secret masters is flex-picking, which has been a favoured maneuver from top teams for quite a while. Flex-picking is drafting a hero early with the intention of being able to run it in multiple positions. If Secret picks Zeus up early, you can’t necessarily just assume that YapzOr will be playing it. The limiting factor to this strategy is having players being able to play the same hero under different circumstances, and is usually only seen done by teams who have practiced heroes for that specific goal. A strong example of this has been Evil Geniuses and Puck, which they run as mid, offlane and even support. Secret has their own arsenal of flexible heroes, just to name a few: Zeus, Visage, Earthshaker, Sand King, Night Stalker and the list goes on. This should give them a small one-up when going head to head in the draft with the other teams.
With this said the team has also proven to be reliably unreliable. They are more than fully capable of running a more standard game plan, and it will most likely happen if the opponent tries to draft around their strong lanes. This ends up giving Secret another draft advantage as they simply just harder to predict.
As the Carry, MP plays a different role in most of Team Secret’s draft compared to other teams. He’s often left to his own devices against the enemy offlaner, since Secret mostly prefers to play aggressive with dual roamers. To make this possible he will mostly be seen playing very durable or elusive heroes on the safelane, increasing his odds of winning the lane without requiring outside help. MP's journey outside of Korea has been full of ups and downs but a solid finish at TI7 could turn a mediocre year into a great one.
MidOne can be often be regarded as Team Secret’s true position 1. While MP will often play strong laners in the safelane, MidOne will mostly be playing a strong scaling core to ensure that the team have some late game to fall back on. Heroes such as Invoker, Ember, OD and TA are among his staples. With the way Puppey and YapzOr like to try to control the map in the early game it can often give MidOne an edge in lane which is all he needs to shut down his opponents completely.
The lineups that Secret prefer often open up a slew of interesting offlane heroes to run. This allows KheZu to play fighting offlaners that require some help to get started, and in turn be able to amp up the aggression very early in the game. KheZu's synergy with the other players on Secret stands out when they are confronted with disjointed team fights where communication can sometimes break down. He always seems to know where to be to help turn the fight in their favor.
YapzOr is the newest addition to the team, but has proven himself a great asset already. He’s made a name for himself with his incredible Rubick performances, and of course the odd Zeus as a roaming support. YapzOr is similar to Lil in the way that he always manages to find his items in a timely manner. Be it through farming the jungle or taking over one of his cores lanes when they leave to farm elsewhere or gank.
There are only a very few players in the world with as much experience in captaining a team as Puppey. This man has been a captain and support in his entire dota 2 career, and indeed as long as Dota2 has existed. Outside that, he’s currently one of only 2 people to win both a Major and a TI, alongside s4. Being one of the 6 players at TI7 with a chance to win their 2nd TI it would be most fitting for Puppey to set yet another record in Dota 2.