2018 was a special one for many of the Dota 2 professional players. Some made their break-out this year, some won their first-ever international LAN trophies, some made it to TI for the first time and five of them actually lifted the Aegis of Champions above their head.
For Aliwi “w33” Omar none of the above stands true. He’s far from being a newcomer, he’s been to TI before, he even reached the grand finals back in 2016 and he already has several trophies under his belt. But, even so, 2018 brought something new for him, and I dare to say that w33’s decisions throughout this year have a huge potential to change a whole region for the better. The end of 2017 found Omar in a bit of a slump. That year started amazingly for him and Digital Chaos (DC). First place at ESL One Genting, a 2-0 over Virtus.pro, and a hard-fought grand finals series won against Newbee didn’t foretell at all the abrupt ending of Digital Chaos from a few months later, and they couldn’t have hinted that w33 was about to struggle for the rest of the year.
2017 was filled with attempts at rebuilding that something special that propelled him in the 2016 TI grand finals. From Thunderbirds, Planet Odd, to even starting a team of his own, hosting teammates at his home and going full YOLO with a line-up where three of the players were mid laners, learning to play in new roles, w33 did all he could to keep himself active in the scene. But, all his efforts didn’t yield any results. The best he got was a fourth place at the Midas Mode Minor towards the end of the year and without any real offer from a top-tier team, the start of 2018 was looking grim as well. This is when the fate played its part.
January 4, 2018 – Valve rescinded the Major status of Galaxy Battles Season II. Teams started to withdraw from the event, some of the few ones still willing to compete, decided to come with stand-ins. paiN Gaming were the South American qualifiers winners but, by the time the event was about to kick off, the Brazilian team was in need of a mid laner and they looked for a free agent who would be willing to travel to the Philippines on short notice. paiN asking w33 to stand in for them was perhaps the most inspired move of the entire year, not only for them as a team, but for the region as a whole. W33 likes challenges, he lives with the sole big goal of making to TI and not qualifying for it in 2017 was one of the “most heartbreaking moments” in his entire life, as he confessed to Cybersport.com in May this year. So, a call to make it to an event where regardless of the circumstances, there were still the likes of OG, TNC and Evil Geniuses competing, looked extremely appealing. paiN finished only top 6, but what mattered the most wasn’t the result, it was what w33 learnt about the four Brazilians he played with.
Fast forward to two months later, paiN were still not settled with a mid laner. They rotated a few tryouts but in the end, they came to w33’s hometown, at The Bucharest Major, and invited him to stand-in once again. The Major result was even worse than Galaxy Battles however, W33 took everything as a new challenge in his life and despite the language barrier, the change of continents and all the other difficulties that came with the offer to move to Brazil, he gladly accepted it.
Welcome, @w33haa 🔥
— paiN Gaming (@paiNGamingBR) April 14, 2018
In May 2018, w33 was already calling his teammates his brothers, he was extremely happy to play with four guys who would not rest until they reached the highest peaks. Moved to Brazil, w33 discovered a new world where people are playing the game out of pure passion, where of course the money and the shiny trophies are the objectives, but they are still somewhere far in the distance, somewhat blurred by how underdeveloped the SA scene still is. South America had already delivered a few surprises along the years before w33 moved there. However, inconsistency is what characterizes this scene the best. The ridiculous high latency when playing on NA servers (160 ping on US East and around 300 ping on US West) prevents the teams from South America from practicing with anyone else outside their region. “There’s still not a lot of room for improvement. You’re just playing the same teams over and over again at the same level. There’s no Team Liquid where you can get beaten 10 times until you learn something. You just play Infamous every day,” said w33 in an interview this year when he was explaining why the SA teams that clearly have a lot of talent aren’t consistent in their results. Ahead of TI8 w33 declared that one of his goals is to help the region become stronger, to be recognized, even feared.
“I want people to start respecting South American teams. When they see Infamous or paiN, I don’t want them to think, “That’s random games, we’re going to win them”. I want them to be like, “Oh shit man. I’m playing paiN. It’s going to be a rough game,” he said at the beginning of May at EPICENTER XL. His words might sound bold to some of the Dota 2 fans but, w33 is a person who fights fiercely for whatever target he sets in front of him. He knew right from the get-go that paiN wasn’t the organization that would pay him an obscene salary, not even a decent one for a player with a fan base like his and for a TI runner-up status. He knew that he might lose stream viewers in the process, he knew that it’s a lot of work to be done and precisely all these things kept him determined.
A few months before TI8, w33 was already starting to harvest the first big rewards. paiN Gaming finished third at ESL One Birmingham at the end of May 2018. Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen, w33’s captain from TI6 joined the crew as coach. However, the TI result wasn’t flattering, reminding us once again about how inconsistent a team from the SA region can be. Yet, the two Europeans decided to stay with the team. MISERY even stepped in and became the team captain, replacing Heitor “Duster” Pereira. With w33 and MISERY reunited, paiN finished fourth at ESL One Hamburg at the end of September. The good result was again followed by a sub-par performance at the first event that mattered the most in this Dota Pro Circuit Season, The Kuala Lumpur Major.
W33, and paiN Gaming are set to start 2019 with the Chongqing Major, where hopefully, the one-year hard work will make the difference not only for them but for the South American scene as a whole.