5 Formidable Dota 2 Captains and Their Leadership Style
What does it take to be a great Dota 2 captain?
We’ve only had around a dozen of them since the first International, and they’ve all left their mark on how the game is played and how it has evolved. A captain must be so much more than just a simple player and very often, these other qualities overshadow the player qualities. As a result, almost none of the great captains are admired or remembered for their mechanical skills or their ability to play a hero to perfection.
A player such as Miracle may be admired for his godlike skills on Invoker, and we often say after a draft that a team is likely to have a great game because its star player got his signature hero. But for captains, we never use that kind of language. In fact, we never even notice what their preferences are when it comes to their own hero picks and playstyles. When it comes to captains, we only really see one thing: if their team wins or loses. If they dominate their opponents and have a sound strategy, or if they collapse under their pressure. If the draft is good and capable of taking on the adversary’s, or if it’s flawed and completely predictable.
A Dota 2 captain is to his team what an architect is to a group of construction workers. Much of what you see during a game has been planned out in detail during the long hours of practice. When a world class team faces a much weaker team, the fact that they almost always get a huge advantage in gold and map control by the 10-15 minute-mark is not due to chance. It’s a result of excellent planning, drafting, synchronizing and shot-calling. And all of these things rest on the captain’s shoulders.
Of course, the “architect” still needs the “workers” to be able to execute the plan and be skilled enough to adapt to the changing conditions of the match (the general’s battle strategy is only worth as much as the fighting skills of his soldiers), but without this plan to begin with, you’re left with a pub team.
In order to be really good as a captain, a variety of abilities are required, such as understanding the game at a very deep level, devising good drafts, communicating with your team in an effective way and so on. And all great captains have these abilities to a certain extent, but not in equal amounts.
Dota 2 captains, their achievements and what made them great
Here are 5 Dota 2 captains that left their mark on the game:
After a few years of grinding and playing for teams like KingSurf.International and Nirvana.International, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov eventually got to Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), where he qualified to 3 consecutive TI Finals. He won the first of these Finals (although not as the team’s captain) and then became the team’s captain, playing an instrumental role in Na’Vi’s string of successes from early 2012 until early 2014.
After he left Na’Vi in 2014, Puppey joined Team Secret (where he still plays today). With this team, he’s won more than 10 tournaments including two Majors: the Shanghai Major 2016 and, more recently, the DreamLeague Season 8 Major. Right now, Team Secret, with Puppey as captain, is sitting at the top of the Dota Pro Circuit rankings with 4260 points.
The thing that makes Puppey such a great captain is his exceptional understanding of the game combined with his ability to identify the strengths of his teammates. Team Secret’s greatest successes didn’t come at a time when the team had an all-star roster, but rather when it had simple and very talented players who were willing to trust in Puppey’s abilities as a captain. The fewer egos, the better.
Peter “ppd” Dager (aka the Salt Lord) became a great captain by winning The International 2015 with Evil Geniuses. With him at the helm, the team had come close to winning this tournament the year before that, but ultimately lost the lower bracket Finals against Vici Gaming.
ppd’s skill as a captain relies almost exclusively on his ability to oudraft and outplay his opponents. As he admitted himself numerous times, his strong personality often led to conflicts within EG, and, just like Steve Jobs (who got kicked out of his own company Apple at one point), ppd was forced to quit playing for Evil Geniuses just one year after he won The International.
ppd’s exceptional results with Evil Geniuses emphasize the fact that sometimes, raw analytical ability can propel you to the top, even when you don’t excel as a communicator. ppd may not be the most diplomatic captain, but he’s still a TI champion.
Tal “Fly” Aizik is a great motivator and his leadership style mostly relies on helping everyone stay calm and believe in a victory, no matter what happens on the battlefield. As his good friend and teammate Johan “N0tail” Sundstein once said, when things get tough, Fly is the person on the team who keeps everyone calm and focused.
Fly’s understanding of the game is no doubt below Puppey and ppd’s level, yet he still managed to win 4 Majors in 2 years with OG, and with 2 different rosters. At the end of the 2015-2016 season, when 3 OG players, including the best midlaner/carry in the world at the time (Miracle) left the team, everyone assumed that OG was finished and that it would be impossible for them to continue to thrive. But that’s exactly what they did, winning 2 more Majors, thanks to Fly’s exceptional abilities as a captain.
Alexei “Solo” Berezin, the man behind the “322” meme and the captain of Virtus.pro, distinguishes himself through his exceptional drafting knowledge and willingness to sacrifice for his team. You often see him sitting on a 3K networth at minute 30, dying in some part of the map and making space for his cores.
As for his drafting skills, I’m sure every VP fan remembers that performance at DOTA Summit 7, in the Summer of 2017, where the CIS team won in a remarkable way: by not repeating a hero pick until the very last game of the tournament, at the score of 2-2 against Team Secret in the Finals. They picked a staggering number of 81 different heroes and played a total of 17 games at that event.
Virtus.pro won the ESL One Hamburg 2017 Major this season and are currently the 3rd best team in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings. Without a doubt, Solo played a critical role for VP in obtaining that Major title, and as a result he was voted player of the tournament and won the Mercedes-Benz MVP award.
Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi is probably the most complete Dota 2 captain on this list. He’s not necessarily the best in every way, but he has the right mixture of management, drafting and analytical skills to be a truly formidable captain.
His leadership style brought Team Liquid the title at The International 2017, and if you want to learn a lesson or two about what it means to be a great leader, watch the True Sight film that was made about The International 2017 Finals.
This is my list of great Dota 2 captains that have changed the game. Let me know who you think is the greatest Dota 2 captain of all time and also, tell me one name that fully deserves to be included in this top 5 but wasn’t.