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    Dota 2 – Change or Consistency: The Paths Towards Building A Championship Team

    One of the issues of being a fan of a Dota team is because the team is always changing. Are we a fan of the brand or the rotating carousel of players? But from the perspective of the players and organizations, they are just maneuvering themselves into the best situation to win the next TI, and most of the time, it means moving players.

    Shuffling Towards TI

    Dota rosters are in a tenuous state of change, swayed by success and failure, talent and chemistry, and Icefrog’s nerf hammer. Evil Geniuses swapped a player after winning TI5, while Wings Gaming brought all five players back. Everyone questioned EG’s decision, while agreed that Wings Gaming’s commitment to their roster made rational sense. Why fix something that isn’t broken?

    The reality is that it’s difficult for to keep a team together after it’s had some amount of success at TI. And success doesn’t have to be first or bust. Na’Vi should be commended for their consistency in the early years of TI (1st, 2nd, 2nd place finishes). Most recently, Digital Chaos, a team cobbled together last minute, surmounted all expectations by taking 2nd place at TI6.

    The aftermath of placing in the top three of a TI is less like winning a sports event and more like a band making it big. They’ve had a lifetime to make their first album, and now they have a year to put out their second. The jackpot prize pool for TI is so incomparably outsized to every other tournament that it trivializes them. So it makes successful teams less motivated after TI. Newbee, after winning TI4, was known to skip practice for RPGs.

    Every TI winner so far hasn’t been able to replicate that success in the following years. Alliance and Na’vi had two of the most stable rosters in the scene, but their successes declined after their TI wins. Even the most successful teams of Dota haven’t been able to follow up on their wins, so the expectation for every other team shouldn’t be different.

    Change We Can Believe In

    Success or failure doesn’t always lead to consistency or change, because there’s issues of team chemistry and fit. These were the core of the reasons cited for EG removing Aui, or Secret dropping w33ha and Misery.

    This aspect of roster shuffling is often underrated by the community, because the community doesn’t know what’s happening behind the curtain. We can evaluate a team’s roster based on talent and perhaps the expected synergy between playstyles, but we can’t speak for certain about how their personalities will mesh.

    The chemistry between players outside of the game is something that’s significant when it comes to LAN performance. These players live and breathe Dota all day, and then they eat, sleep, and travel together at all other times. Then there’s the fact that they are all Dota professionals, at the height of their skill, and at some point, one person will have to say another person is wrong.

    The Convenience Of Swapping Teams

    It’s easy to switch teams. For esports, it’s just a few mouse clicks away. Yes, there are team houses, but the standard, outside of China, is that people practice remotely. Bootcamps may be held before a major tournament, but largely, everyone is working from home. Compare this to stories of sports players who, upon being traded, have to uproot their lives and their families. It’s difficult to divorce the personal from the professional, but the nature of esports removes many of those barriers.

    Sometimes rosters do need to change, because Dota changes. As a new patch arrives, the field around the players shift underneath them, and it can shift towards the strengths or weaknesses of those players. And it happens every three months or so. Alliance saw the meta drift away from them. Team OG and Liquid were powerhouses through the Majors and benefitted from their team stability, but both underperformed at TI. Roster consistency does have its benefits, but it can also hinder a team’s ability to adapt.

    Another Kind Of Roster Stability

    What has been consistent for some of the top Dota teams is that they’ve maintained an identity through their core players. Team Secret is Puppey’s team. EG is PPD and Fear. OG is Notail and Fly. The rest of the roster may shuffle, but it’s these core players that gives their team its history, its identity, and its leadership.

    For now, Wings Gaming has decided to stick it out. Out of all the past TI champions, Wings Gaming may be in the best position to repeat. They were the most eclectic and versatile team at TI6, even picking Pudge during a Grand Finals match. After the event, Black and Winter agreed that they were perhaps the best Dota team of all time. It may be too early for to give that award out, but if Wings Gaming continues their streak this year, they certainly have a strong case.

    As seen on Dotabuff

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