It’s August 25, 2018; the crowd cheers and confetti falls at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada when Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, Sébastien “Ceb” Debs and the rest of OG Esports first raise the Aegis of Champions.
OG’s win at The International 8 at the time was the biggest underdog run in Dota 2 history. After so many failed attempts, they finally owned a championship that N0tail and Ceb had been chasing for a decade.
A player-run organization had never won an international match before. OG had always put the player first to create an environment where they could feel comfortable and reach their full potential. For OG, comfort was just as important as the meticulous details of the tournament meta. Winning The International 8 proved that their values mattered to the player first – values that would eventually become the building blocks of OG as an organization.
“I would say that we made a difference in terms of dynamics because we stuck to our own value system, such as treating people correctly,” said Ceb. “No matter how badly you want something, there is a limit we would never cross.”
Birth of the OG culture
It all started with the destruction of a partnership in 2018. Earlier iterations of OG have always focused on two people: Tal “Fly” Aizik and n0tail. Together, N0tail and Fly had 905 career wins; the second closest duo held 200 wins less.
In mid-2018, Fly decided to leave the team for Evil Geniuses a month before The International 8. According to the rules of the Dota Pro Circuit, teams with the originally registered members were invited directly. Fly’s departure voided any Dota Pro Circuit points that OG had accumulated that year and, as a result, lost their invitation to The International 8.
Fly’s decision destroyed a decade-long friendship. Fly took Gustav “s4” Magnusson with him, and OG’s carry player Roman “Resolut1on” Fomynok left the team in the midst of the chaos.
“We have just been called into the room,” said n0tail im “Against all odds” Documentary, “and I learned that two players are leaving and one of them is my best friend.”
The only chance OG had to make it back to The International 8 was through open qualification. That meant OG had to recruit three new players in less than a month to fill in the gaps from their former teammates. You would then have to fight your way through a number of teams in excess of a thousand just to receive an invite some of them technically already deserved.
“One of us could have just finished it on the spot, and it would have brought the other two (Ceb and Jesse” JerAx “Vainikka) with us,” said n0tail in the “Against all odds” Documentary. “I’ve always believed that the toughest decisions in life are the right ones; the simple ones are usually the wrong ones. And in this case there was only one right choice, and it was by far the most difficult – rebuilding. “
Ceb and n0tail have rebuilt a team with potential. Ceb moved from coach to off-lane and OG added two new players: Anathan “Ana” Pham and Topias “Topson” Miikka Taavitsainen.
OG took a risk on two unknown rookies because they had no other choice. At this point each free agent was already on a team and had a small pool of players to choose from. But they saw potential in these players and were correct in their assessment. In addition to their underdog win, Topson and Ana OG helped win the next International in 2019.
Nobody had won consecutive international matches before.
Ceb and n0tail knew that Ana, Topson, and even Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi all had potential and raw talent in the first iteration of OG. They just needed an environment in which to grow. Dota offseasons are usually the same group of seasoned players moving to different teams. What sets OG apart is their consistent willingness to risk new talent when the rest of the field doesn’t.
To really understand how successful OG are at talent development, take a look at the titles Ana, Topson, and Miracle have amassed. Ana and Topson eventually became two-time international champions. Ana also has two majors under his belt. Miracle itself has won an international with Team Liquid. Over time, OG has shown that they didn’t take short cuts in building a winning culture. Even after winning two international matches, they did not rest on their laurels.
Instead, OG looked for three pits during this year’s International 10. But their hopes for a third straight title were dashed, and with another pivotal era coming to an end for OG, it was time to build all over again.
Beyond a new building
The team decided again to invest in a young core, with two 16-year-olds taking the lead: Bozhidar “bzm” Bogdanov and Ammar “ATF” Al-Assaf. They had last played for Creepwave, a lower division team in Western Europe, before moving to one of the most traditional organizations in Dota. The new OG squad will be led by Captain Mikhail “Misha” Agatov, the OG coach at The International 10.
“We don’t want the next version of OG to be a copy of the current one,” said n0tail, “but we believe that if we can transfer and add our knowledge, the upper limit will be high, and we can help them to get there faster. Hopefully save them from some of our mistakes. “
Although OG is one of the youngest roster at the Dota Pro Circuit in Western Europe, OG’s new team debuted against Team Secret, the finalists in The International 10’s lower bracket group, and the youngsters have already swept one of the best teams in the league. The win showed bzm’s Ember Spirit walking around during the grand finale of The International 2019 against Team Liquid like it was Ana. Bzm finished the game with a 7/1/22 KDA (kills / deaths / assists).
A completely new roster? An unprecedented win against one of the strongest teams in the region? It seems to be typically OG at this point.
Development is one of the most important aspects of the OG formula. In order to win externally, it is necessary to create an environment around players and support staff internally. The OG culture had to permeate an entire organization so they brought in current CEO JMR Luna, someone who has known Ceb and n0tail since his time at Evil Geniuses in 2017-18.
It’s Luna’s job to keep growing the OG culture, and for him the way to move it forward is to refresh the OG brand beyond Dota.
Be it the expansion of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the new suite of documentary content that OG brought out, or even the peripherals they worked on with SteelSeries, OG continues to find alternative ways to invest in players. and fans, across multiple esports.
“We want to show through these values that winning is a consequence, not a goal,” said Luna. “That means that if you do things right, you empower each other and everyone sacrifices. Then you just win. “
This year a chapter of the OG book was closed. But even the players who leave the roster never really leave. N0tail and Ceb stay with the organization to help her claim the third international title despite retiring from competitive play.
These conversions take time; Luna and the rest of the OG contingent know this. But success should still be built on the foundation of one of the greatest player-run organizations of all time.