How did Team Secret fall from second place at The International 11 to the second division in three months?
During The International 11 (TI11) in Singapore less than three months ago, Team Secret made it from the Last Chance Qualifier to the Grand Finals before losing to Tundra Esports and finishing in an unexpected second place.
On Saturday (28 January), however, Secret finished the Winter Tour of the 2023 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season with the lowest record in the league (1-6) and was demoted to Division II.
What occurred? How did Secret fall from the second-best team in the world to the bottom of Division I? Let’s disassemble it.
A Nisha-shaped void is difficult to fill.
Dota 2 is a team game, as we all know. A team’s success is not only dependent on a single individual; practically every great team in the game’s history has been more than the sum of its parts.
Recent results indicate that the Secret roster that placed second at TI11 may have been an outlier.
The loss of midlaner Micha “Nisha” Jankowski, who continues to build his case as the finest midlaner in the world, is the most obvious reason for Secret’s demise.
During the four years that Nisha played for Secret, it was evident to all that he was a crucial contributor to the team’s success. However, it needed to be clarified how much of Secret’s success was attributable to Nisha alone. Well, we now have an idea.
Team Liquid is the team that Nisha left Secret for.
Liquid completed the Winter Tour of the 2023 DPC season with a perfect 7-0 record, largely due to the midlaner’s continuous success. In seven matches played in the strongest region of the DPC, they only lost twice to Gaimin Gladiators and OG.
Before adding Nisha, Liquid was already a formidable team. They placed third at TI11.
However, they have improved after the retirement of Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen. Many now consider Liquid with Nisha the favorite to win the upcoming TI.
Certainly, it’s too early to make such claims, but it’s reasonable, given how well they’ve performed thus far.
Losing a world-class player like Nisha will make any team poorer. Still, when you consider how Secret’s lineup was and how it functioned, this departure has a considerably greater impact.
Nisha was crucial to Secret’s performance throughout their run at TI11. Either he carried the squad himself or made room for Remco “Crystallis” Arets or Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok to shine.
Nisha is one of the few midlaners capable of single-handedly winning a game, with legends such as Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan and Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi in their primes. It was obvious that Secret’s winning formula was based on him and that his absence caused everything to fall apart.
All of this is said with the highest regard for Nisha’s replacement, Miroslav “BOOM” Bian. He is a competent player but needs to be on par with Nisha and cannot make things work with Secret as effectively as his predecessor.
BOOM is more of a playmaker sort of midlaner, establishing the tempo for his team but requiring another player to push the team to victory.
Crystallis would have to serve as the team’s only carry due to how the Secret organization operated under Nisha’s tenure.
Unfortunately, the team could not adapt to the new environment to remain in Division I.
Secret’s demise is not solely due to losing Nisha and having to replace him with BOOM. Despite the team’s obvious decline, most opponents improved during the offseason.
Western Europe is dominated by Liquid now that they have Nisha.
BOOM’s former squad, the Gaimin Gladiators, has drastically improved under Quinn “Quinn” Callahan and placed second in the league. Dmitry “DM” Dorokhin, a natural offlaner, makes OG more appealing.
Even Nigma Galaxy appears to have sorted things out, with Ammar “ATF” Al-Assaf replacing Miracle and SumaiL regaining the opportunity to demonstrate his strength.
The only way to go is up.
Now that the dust has settled, Secret will need to answer many important issues before moving forward.
They will not only be unable to participate in the next Lima Major but also the Spring Major in Berlin, Germany.
It eliminates their prospects of receiving a straight invitation to the next TI.
So, will they persist with this bunch, endure Division II, and hope to improve sufficiently by the time TI arrives?
As Nisha’s replacement, BOOM stands out like a sore thumb and will likely be the focus of most player movement discussions. But this ensemble deserves at least one more tour to straighten things out before being replaced.
Consequently, they need to implement any win-now initiatives immediately. It may be too late if Secret waits until the Summer Tour or TI qualifications.
BOOM or Crystallis are the most likely players to be transferred should this occur. The club will have to develop around one of the two players and select another player who complements this dynamic. Considering what Crystallis showed at TI11, he is more likely to remain. Still, one never knows.
Regardless of the circumstances, it seems likely that Secret will return to Division I by the Summer Tour. Whether or not they would be able to compete for a seat at TI by then is still being determined.
We are all aware of the capabilities of a team led by Clement “Puppey” Ivanov.
After all, he led this squad from the Last Chance Qualifier of International 11 to the Grand Finals. Defeats such as this will undoubtedly serve as the impetus for further expansion.
The Secret is now performing poorly, but they still need to be finished. Expect them to recover quickly.