Dota 2’s annual showdown of talented wizard duelists has regrettably come to a close, leaving us with a clear view of the now smouldering field. With some players having been in the scene for almost a decade losing out to others who weren’t even old enough to use a computer when their opponents began as pros, the range of ages as well as expertise in Valve’s multi-million dollar pro scene is remarkable.
If you want to end up here one day, try mastering the best Dota 2 heroes for beginners.
But who sits at the top of the player pile, jostling for position and playing their hearts out for their chance at Valve’s gigantic prize pools? With team rosters so volatile in the post-International period, some of these players may be looking to jump ship or get themselves an upgrade, whereas others have seen the successes of OG and Digital Chaos and may look to build from scratch like a Rocky training montage. Here are the best players in Dota 2 to look out for in this year’s roster madness.
Note: the earnings stats below are from esportearnings.com, and are obviously subject to change.
Saahil “Universe” Arora (Evil Geniuses)
Total earnings: $2,606,414.06
Universe is perhaps the most consistently good offlaner of the past two years. It was something of a surprise, then, to see him momentarily jump from defending TI5 champions Evil Geniuses to rivals Team Secret this spring only to make the reverse journey after one failed tournament. Both teams seemed hamstrung with the move, but back once again with familiar team-mates in the same environment he was firing on all cylinders.
Universe’s performance at TI6 was representative of why he is a player to fear. Initiations won games more often than not in the tournament meta, and as Faceless Void was back in fashion EG had a significant advantage. While nothing quite as iconic as the $6million TI5-winning Echo Slam from last year, Universe’s Chronospheres are more often than not tide-turning.
As a chief playmaker for the squad, he knows when and where to corral his opponents so his team can knock them down. And as Dota becomes increasingly dependent on players who can fight as well as be smart about finding farm, his frugality in the offlane and low death count is a huge boon to his team.
Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi (OG)
Total earnings: $619,093.97
From pubstar to superstar, Miracle- is the Cinderella dream for the Dota generation. After topping the MMR boards for EU West and then the world for several months in a row, he began to test his chances at breaking in the pro scene with other high MMR players. Though that team, Balkan Bears, quickly disbanded, the young Jordanian was eventually given his shot at true Dota stardom when Cloud9 collapsed after TI5.
Asked to join what would soon become OG by Johan “notail” Sundstein, his masterful understanding of many mid heroes, and knife-edge aggressive play on glass cannon heroes were enough to land two Valve Majors in their first year. And though they didn't have enough to add TI6 to that list of accolades, OG as a team are considered one of the tightest-knit units in Dota and should prove to be a longstanding threat in global tournaments.
Miracle’s ability to control the mid lane is legendary already, and his frequent ostentatious solo plays are a massive hit with fans. His knowledge and skill make him a formidable match up for any other mid, and always an entertaining watch for the rest of us. And as the first player to hit 9k MMR, the question on everyone’s mind is how long until he hits 10k?
Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok (Digital Chaos)
Total earnings: $875,238.22
A household name in CIS Dota, Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok has now transferred a little further west as a last-minute pick up by DC before this year’s Shanghai Major roster window. It’s a surprise that he was left without a team so shortly before one of the biggest tournaments of the year given how solid he is as a carry. Having played for Virtus.pro and Team Empire before serendipitously joining Digital Chaos this February, Resolut1on has been moved between the mid and carry roles enough to have a strong hero pool and even stronger game sense.
Though no stranger to Invoker, one of his most played heroes in professional matches, of late he has tended more towards melee carries like Slark and Tiny. His win rates on both suggest it’s a good move as throughout this year his Slark has been a thorny shiv in the side of many teams, knowing just when to weave out of the fight and re-engage when his team needs raw damage.
Despite only being with the American DC side for a few months now, their second placing at TI6 has already earned him well over four times what he won with Empire and Virtus.pro. A well deserved result for the talented carry.
Sumail Hassan (Evil Geniuses)
Total earnings: $2,287,216.56
This boy wonder made a massive splash in the scene last year when he joined North America’s strongest side Evil Geniuses without any prior publicity. Thrown in at the deep end, Sumail was an immediate legend, showing skill well beyond his years on high mobility mid heroes like Storm Spirit. A first showing at Dota Asian Championship was the biggest trial by fire any player will have, but after taking the title Sumail was as cocky about his victory as he is on his favoured hero.
That self-confidence shines through in his play, as he will often attempt to evade ganks on mid just enough that he can turn them into kills himself. Sometimes this over-eagerness to outplay opponents can get his team into trouble, but when it works out there is no-one on the server that can touch him.
After winning TI5 last year, Sumail’s form seemed to dip along with EG’s as a unit, but this year’s International had some stand-out moments from the young prodigy proving he’s got a lot more to give. Either Storm Spirit receives a buff or Sumail is forced to keep trying new heroes in the meta, the outcome is still the same: Soon he’ll be proficient on every hero or no hero will stand a chance against him 1v1 mid.
Clement "Puppey" Ivanov (Team Secret)
Total earnings: $1,327,071.54
One of the founding members of Team Secret, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov is one of the old gods when it comes to Dota 2. As part of the original The International winning Na`Vi team (having received beta codes for the then-new Dota 2 only three weeks before the tournament), Puppey has captained some of the best teams the game has ever produced. Striking off on his own to set up Team Secret, an organisation that works for itself, he continued to find success before reinventing the team after a disappointing TI5 performance.
Secret have placed highly at most tournaments, taking the Shanghai Major earlier this year, but have yet to find the perfect mix of players and thus they constantly reinvent their roster. Though this affects team cohesion, it has little effect on Puppey’s play as he is still regarded one of the strongest supports in the game. One of few players still capable of taking a Chen into the jungle and emerging for early ganks, he is most effective in early rotations, knowing when to disrupt a key player’s farm to delay important items.
If Puppey gets a chance to mold his team around his captaining style in the post-TI shuffle, and enough time to pull them together, he could see many more victories to come.
Kim "QO" Seon-yeop (MVP)
Total earnings: $550,111.32
South Korea’s apparent lack of interest in the eSports world of Dota 2 has failed to click with Kim "QO" Seon-yeop, as he and his team MVP continue to impress on the global stage. Known as one of the most fearsome Invokers in South-East Asia, he also possesses the aggressive playstyle MVP are well known for, making for a potent and terrifying mix. The letters typed on a Korean keyboard represent “don’t back”, advice he and his team-mates follow in every single game.
Aside from an aggressive tendency, QO’s understanding of when to push his opponents to the limit and when he can get away with turning on them is rooted in an intimate understanding of his own skill. This was most prominently displayed in MVP’s TI5 elimination match against Team Empire, then an almost unheard of team outside of the south-east Asian region, when he emerged victorious from a 1v3 engagement on Templar Assassin.
Since then QO has worked hard to bring his team to parity with the world outside of South Korea and, despite joining late, succeeded in earning consistent top 6 placings. If things continue for him and his team, a Valve Major will soon be in Korean hands.
Rasmus "Misery" Filipsen (Digital Chaos)
Total earnings: $1,252,190.46
Misery has been at every single International, though never made as big an impact as he has with Digital Chaos this year. Starting in 2011 with Meet Your Makers, the genesis of several of Dota’s biggest names through the years, then a stint on Evil Geniuses before moving to China for LGD and then Cloud9 and Team Secret. Every year has been the same story, a promising start with a new team, some good performances on LAN and then a complete collapse when it comes to the tournament that matters.
Most recently his hard work saw him finally get a good team going, winning the Shanghai Major with Team Secret after previously standing in for them and winning more prestigious titles, only to be dropped from the team. Along with w33, as a last-minute free agent, he joined the one team with places open for the upcoming International.
The result is a second place at the biggest eSports event of all time. Misery’s support play, having been moved around everywhere from carry to mid to offlane, is that of a man who has seen everything Dota can produce. Years of knowledge feed into his leadership to make the most persistent player in Dota a global power at last.
Abed Yusop (Execration)
Total earnings: $605.34
One of the biggest surprises at this year’s International was the performance of wildcard team Execration from the Phillipines, and their 16-year-old sensation Abed. The region itself is becoming a hotbed for new talent as two events in Manila this year have spurred on the community. Though not making it to the main stage itself, Execration pulled out a huge upset in the wildcards to put home favourites Complexity on the sidelines. The deciding match was all down to Abed’s Meepo, a hero he has a phenomenal affinity for, going 18/0/9 in a 26-minute stomp.
Abed’s Meepo is terrifying, and in just ten professional games on the micro-heavy hero he has a 90% win rate with an average of more than 1000xpm. His strategy of farming fast, ganking early and building as many stat-efficient items as possible leads to some really weird builds, but trust us, four Hurricane Pikes on a Meepo is legit.
Currently ranked as the number one Meepo in the world on Dotabuff, it’s pretty safe to say he knows what he’s doing. And though it’s a bit of a niche pick, even against heroes that specifically counter the geomancer he manages to duck and weave low-health units out of the thick of things while still netting from the periphery and diving in with full-health Meepos.
The only thing holding him back from true greatness now is sustained success with his team, which means a wider variety of drafts. But you bet if Abed develops his hero pool as well as his Meepo game, this kid is one to watch.
Chu "Shadow" Zeyu (Wings Gaming)
Total earnings: $1,888,752.23
Undoubtedly the MVP of TI6, Chu "Shadow" Zeyu was the backbone of a young team that many doubted – despite months of posting tournament wins against the best in the world. While team-mate Faith_bian filled the offlane more often, Shadow proved the more capable playmaker with crushing performances on Faceless Void, going a perfect 20 and 0 against their next closest competition in the grand final no less.
First gaining international acclaim by defeating Team Liquid to win ESL One Manila, Wings failed to repeat the task just a month later against all the same teams at Valve’s Manila Major. Shadow showed some of the same inconsistency issues at The International in the early stages, but as Wings took one upper bracket match after another, it seemed Shadow’s ability had matured with his team.
As at home with playmaking offlaners as hyper-farmed carries, Shadow represents a strange hybrid of professional Dota player. Whereas most are happy to straddle the line between mid and carry or farming and warding supports, few have the skills to dodge death in the hard lane and maximise farm in safe. Perhaps this is a new breed of Dota we are seeing with Wings and Shadow rising to the top.
Aliwi "w33" Omar (Digital Chaos)
Total earnings: $1,077,781.67
Another pubstar success story, w33 rose alongside Miracle- to become the most talked about unsigned players in Europe. Having tried their luck together, they each found their own way to the top echelons of Dota eSports with w33 being picked up by Team Secret. As part of the second generation of Secret, w33 attained dominance with several signature heroes on the mid lane, some more conventional than others.
Along with Abed, w33 is one of the few pros to succeed with a Meepo pick against the world’s best players. When he isn’t running over teams with five fast-farming molemen, other high-utility mids are his calling. With Windranger and Invoker, w33 makes regular crowd-pleasing plays with perfect Sunstrike prediction and Shackleshot angles.
His gamesense is also almost unrivalled, and like Miracle-, he is prone to thinking outside of the box to gain an advantage. One such occasion, against MVP at this year’s International, saw him save a creep from death using his E-blade to ensure his team-mate, Resolut1on, could complete his TP and secure a kill on the carry Lifestealer. Other w33 specials have seen him use illusions on patrol to detect smoke ganks and sunstriking opponents the second they complete a TP back to the fountain.
Sadly, after winning Shanghai for Team Secret, they decided to let him go along with Misery practically forcing them both to join Digital Chaos. It doesn’t look like it worked out too badly for them in the end, though.
Xu "Fy" Linsen (Vici Gaming Reborn)
Total earnings: $953,809.18
One of the most legendary supports in the Chinese Dota scene, Xu “Fy” Linsen is a cornerstone of Vici Gaming. Alongside former team-mate Lu “Fenrir” Chao, the two were the most fearsome support duo in the world, with an unprecedented success rate on roaming ganks. This was partially responsible for the team’s deep TI4 run in 2014, making it to the grand finals only to lose to fellow countrymen Newbee.
As a support, Fy’s Rubick is widely considered the best in the world, capable of turning an entire fight against his opponents. On multiple occasions during TI5, despite only reaching fourth place, Fy kept his team in the running with consecutive perfect spellsteals. Needless to say, knowing which spells will help and when is an extremely high order skill, but that doesn’t come at the expense of all the other duties a support fulfills.
Gaining every advantage for his team, Fy is the support we should all aspire to and though in the more recent iteration of Vici Gaming Reborn he has branched into harder carries and farmers, he is still 100% team-oriented. Though the reign of Fy and Fenrir may be over, Fy continues the legacy for VG.
Obviously there are a lot of incredibly talented Dota players so, good news: this is your cue to tell us which pros we’ve clearly missed out on mentioning! There’s even a box below for you to write them in, and bonus points for the best memory you have of them doing something amazing!