2 May, 2017
Yesterday something amazing happened. I’m perhaps guilty of overusing the word but in this case, I feel it’s warranted. OG DOTA2 won their 4th Major Championship Title.
For those that don’t give a shit or are eager to know what that means… Valve (the makers of DOTA2), at of the close of 2015, begun their 3x a year (now 2x a year) Major events. Each of these events has a total prize pool of around $3 Million USD (used to be $3.1 Mil) with the winning team taking home $1 Million between them. The best teams in the world of DOTA2 qualify for the event, then the main event and then.. someone wins.
OG DOTA2 has won four out of five majors. 80% of Valve’s Majors since 2015 have been won by OG DOTA2. Percentages often impress those looking to appear smart in expressing the simplest of things. Guilty.
So why am I telling you this?
As a select few people know, I was involved with co-founding the OG DOTA2 organisation. I take 0% (yes, I used percent again) credit for their successes but am incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved together. As someone involved with the building of the brand (mostly our agency Level99 but I pretend to take credit), creating the logo, investing $’s and watching the team succeed over and over again.. I felt it a worthy time to share some of the things I’ve witnessed over what will soon be around 2 years of OG DOTA2.
I’ll preface this by saying I am guilty of being a r/dota2 lurker. I’ve waded through that welcome swamp over the last 2 years to see people berate and insult players on the team at every opportunity they get. It’s quite mind-blowing to me that after what this group of people has achieved that there still are special people out there so generous with their salt and flame. I sometimes hear similar criticisms from industry colleagues. Believe me, everyone who has installed DOTA2 thinks they know the game inside out. Even that org owner with his 2,3,4K MMR lifetime achievement believes he is God’s gift to DOTA.
All of that aside, what most people often ask me is How is OG DOTA2 so good? How does a team deliver results so inspiring?
I thought that alongside their most recent achievement and at a time when myself (and our agency Level99) are not actively involved with the team, it’d be an opportune moment to share. I’ve been grateful to see behind the scenes how a core group of pretty phenomenal people grew to achieve legendary status in DOTA2 (come on, this can’t be hyperbole).
The full story behind how OG was formed I’ll save for another time. Instead, I have embraced full retard mode and boil down the reasons for why this team is the best I have ever seen.. in bullet points:
- Many aren’t aware that shortly after the formation of Monkey Business, the core of the team Johan and Tal, were offered very competitive salaries at the best esports orgs in the world. Literally, go through a list of names you all admire and I can almost guarantee you there are names on there that offered this group the world. For some of the offers from top tier orgs, Johan and Tal didn’t even ask for salary details because they said to themselves this will be on our terms and we don’t like how you do business. They turned Tier 1 orgs down with no plans for what comes next because they believed in themselves. They decided not to be seen as a short-term gamble by other orgs and took the risk themselves.
- I remember a conversation with Johan very early on after their most recent offer from a North American org. I urged him to take the offer because it was actually pretty decent. Us + Hitbox as a sponsor wouldn’t have been able to match that. Some of the contract clauses were mind bendingly stupid but the overall deal with regards to Salary and conditions were solid for a DOTA2 team that hadn’t yet placed highly at an event (they later placed 2nd at an MLG event). Very few people know this but Johan and Tal actually spent a lot of time discussing contract details and discussing terms themselves. They knew what they didn’t want and weren’t afraid to say so
- You will find few truly selfless players in esports. I can count the names on one hand. Johan is one of those people. I remember his exact words on a call when we discussed not being able to pay as high salaries as what was currently being offered by others. He simply said I just want what’s best for my guys. He was even willing to forego his salary so that other players on the team could get regular monthly pay (and even pay money towards their salaries). Finding a person that cared more for his team mates than himself was a quality I noticed in Johan during the time I spent with him before leaving Fnatic (before and during the TI4 Drama.. if only people knew what actually happened back then). For OG he is the selfless, beating heart of a team that doesn’t just care but prioritises the people around him over himself.
- Work-ethic is under rated and under appreciated by all but the highest achievers. On the business side of OG, we initially held weekly meetings to review the progress behind the scenes, discuss how the brand would grow and figure out how it would expand and find stable footing in comparison to so many flaky orgs. Without fail, come rain, shine, practice time, late night, two people would be on these calls every single week. Tal and Evany. I know many people don’t realise what goes in to building an org from the ground up but let me be the first to tell you, there’s a LOT of things you need to do, on a regular basis. Tal and Evany would show up and discuss OG and the business every single week, without fail. Even if it was a week before a Major. While the majority of players I’ve met seem to always make excuses (or don’t at all) for not doing things like sponsor obligations.. OG was the polar opposite. Tal would attending meetings and lead the team while Evany would actually put the meeting agenda together and map out the discussion points OG needed to be talking about. Doing the things that very few people will do and committing to it. How many people do you know that do this in even their daily lives? I am blessed to know two of them and they are both part of the OG core.
- Sacrifice is something we often talk about but rarely do. After the mutual parting of ways between OG and Hitbox.tv, the players were left without a salary. Other than prize money, there just wasn’t sponsor income that would make up for the loss in that money. I discussed this with Tal, Johan and Evany. The answer from them was simple and unified: We won’t take a salary but let’s work on getting some new money in and make sure we pay back the other players in the team asap. To this day, they haven’t claimed the 2/3 months of salary from back then (and I doubt ever will). The core team members were willing to take on the risk of being majority owners in every sense of the word. All the upside and all the downside. This happened a little while before the Manilla Major so yes, they all went into that event dealing with this first-hand (as owners), having this on their minds and still.. won the event.
- The trust between this core group is a bond I’ve not seen in nearly any trio. Ever. Not even just when talking about esports people. What may come as a shock to many that weren’t aware is that for nearly 6-9 months into the forming of OG, the players were not under any binding contract. None. There were contract drafts and some argued these were binding as they were signed but they were linked to a company that was never officially formed on paper (prior to the formation of OG). After winning nearly every event they attended, including the Frankfurt Major then the Manilla Major.. there were never even discussions between the core trio (Johan, Tal and Evany) about leaving to go elsewhere. Not for any offer. They were free to do as they pleased and they chose loyalty to one another. I find it challenging myself to name one trio as loyal to one another as they are.
- When shit hits the fan… they supported each other instead of seeking out comforting offers from other teams players and org owners offering an easy ‘disband and join us’ solution. This is something I will never forget. When it was clear that Crit was heading to EG, Moon was leaving the team and Miracle was off to Liquid, the group panicked. They’d built something special in the last year and they now had to replace 3 players on their roster and continue what they’d started. Tal was very stressed during this time (we didn’t talk except for whatsapp messages during that phase), Evany was disappointed with certain things that were happening while Johan was frustrated. They were also worried that the soon to be RedBull sponsorship would be impacted by all of this. Knowing the information from the bullet points previous to this one, I think many would have said the same thing I did to everyone that dared ask me about the status of OG (even partners of the brand although RedBull always stood strong): Johan, Tal and Evany will stay together and OG will continue to win. Even though this transition was by far the most challenging experience any of them had faced together, they stuck together. No one could break them apart. No money, no promises, no deals would make them part ways with one another. They stood by one another even when the world they knew begun to crack.
- Lastly, they deal with criticism constructively instead of personally. There are so many examples of this but I will cite two. 1) After not winning the Shanghai Major then later the TI results, the armchair analysts on the subreddit and other social media platforms made it known that they felt Johan (alongside other players) was making key mistakes as a carry player. They said this in droves. I’ve seen other players deal with that type of criticism and wallow in self-pity. What did Johan do? He jokingly referred to himself as Nobrain in some Skype conversations and with every moment of each day, he was playing more and practising more DOTA. He just focused on what he wanted to achieve regardless of what people said. He went on to win 2x more Majors after that. 2) The OG core was criticised heavily after the departure of Crit, Miracle and Moon. Tal had later discovered Ana and Jerax/S4 were talking to the both him and Johan. Ana eventually went to Israel to stay with Tal because Tal cared for the success of his new team mate so deeply! With the criticism still so prevalent, the trio (Tal, Evany, Johan) just became closer to one another.. a more cohesive, hard-working and empathetic unit of people than any other team out there. By all accounts, this worked well for them.
There was a vocal minority fan-base that knew nothing about what made OG what it was but were happy to hop on the bandwagon when the team were winning events. To those people: Tal, Johan and Evany made this. There are qualities in people you just don’t see when you watch a game of DOTA2. There’s more to their success than in-game prowess, leadership and coaching. Their attitude, devotion and commitment to achieve something great is something you just can’t easily find elsewhere.
Behind the legendary victories are outstanding human beings. I could have written a 100+ page book about the last 2 years and the OG core trio but this is all I’ve got in me for now luckily for the 10 people (I love you Mum) that read my blog!
Perhaps this is the secret that separates a team of ultra-highly skilled players from OG. Humble in Victory, Gracious in Defeat. They have always placed their values first, no matter what happened.