posted by SmittyW.,
There have been some teams that did great this season. However, none was as dominant as Team Secret. The organisation aims for the perfect ending of their magnificent season and make up for their disappointing performance at EPICENTER Major. Will they overcome the favourite curse at The International 2019? Eight years ago, Clement 'Puppey' Ivanov and his team-mates from Natus Vincere became legends when they won the very first The International 2011 in Cologne, Germany. Puppey and Na'Vi were the powerhouse in Dota 2, making it to the finals three consecutive times, a record that remains unbroken to this day.

Puppey shortly before his first TI championship. This was eight years ago.

While many of his former fellow players have retired from their active pro careers, Puppey has kept playing and found success even after his time with Na'Vi when he joined Team Secret. The organisation is probably the strongest in Dota 2 right now. Yet, Team Secret have still to prove that they are truly the best by claiming the Aegis. And Puppey needs to win TI once more to become GOAT.

Master of puppets

The Estonian player has proven time and time again that he is an absolute genius. Puppey is considered a mastermind and is one of the reasons why any stack he's part of finds success. Besides Kuro S. 'KuroKy' Takhasomi, he is the only player who's attended every single TI which is a strong indicator for his talent at the game and that he pushes any line-up to the top.

No one drafts as smart as Puppey which is one of Team Secret's biggest strengths. There are certainly other masterful drafters and position 5 players in the scene, but the 29-year old thinks ahead of the meta and often makes successful experiments that can take even the most powerful enemies offguard. Making the right decisions in the drafting phase is one thing, but executing the mastermind's plans yet another. However, even in this department, there is hardly a team that can compete with Secret's quality.

The textbook team

Team Secret boasts worldclass players on every single position. Michał 'Nisha' Jankowski, Yazied 'YapzOr' Jaradat, Ludwig 'zai' Wåhlberg, and Yeik Nai 'MidOne' Zheng have displayed their skill at many tournaments this season which resulted in two Major victories and three ESL One championships.

MidOne, for example, is considered the best midlaner in the world by many. With Nisha, he makes for an extremely deadly opponent and there are few teams who don't get overwhelmed by this duo.

zai is a hungry Swedish player who found much success at TIs before. However, due to Evil Geniuses's curse he didn't get past placing third at Dota's world championships. During the season, zai has become the best offlane player in the world, surpassing the likes of Ivan 'MinD_ContRoL' Borislavov and . His plays are very intelligent, he knows exactly when to retreat and when to engage, and his mechanics are simply insane.

Secret's position 4, YapzOr has just like many of his team-mates grown into one of the most promising players in Dota. The blooming of the organisation's players is often attribute to Puppey who not just experiments with heroes and drafts but also with the chemistry between his players as coach Lee 'SunBhie' Jeongjae said in an interview.

Is Secret too much of a favourite?

Despite being so dominant during the season, Team Secret's last appearance at the EPICENTER Major was a disappointment for the organisation and its fans. After a flawless group stage, Secret was defeated by in the Upper Bracket and then eliminated by OG who played with their coach Titouan 'Sockshka' Merloz.

We don't have any other indicators of Team Secret's performance right now, as the season was pretty much over after the event in Moscow. Was the early defeat at EPI just a slip or the heralding of Secret's fall from the top? Has Team Secret been figured out? It is hard to say what went wrong exactly and how their failure in June has affected the team's mentality. However, you cannot become a champion without knowing how to cope with losses.

We will have to wait about two more weeks to find out. Traditionally, the favourite doesn't win TI, but lately it seems the laws of old don't apply anymore.

Will Team Secret become the undisputed champion of this DPC season?

Photo: Adela Snajder, ESL