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Team Secret has always been one of the big teams on the scene ever since it came into existence in 2014. However, the roster post The International 6, though promising, did not really make much of a splash and Secret went an entire season without winning a premier Dota 2 tournament.

Although Yapzor’s arrival in the May of 2017 had made the team seem a bit more formidable, there were still weaknesses that had to be dealt with and a change was inevitable. When the change did come through, there were quite a few eyebrows raised. Adrian ‘Fata’ Trinks, a player know for his exploits in the mid lane was recruited as the offlaner while Marcus ‘Ace’ Hoelgaard was the replacement for Pyo ‘MP’ Noa in the safe lane. Ace had been in and around the scene for a while, playing with the likes of Danish Bears or Imperial, but he didn’t really have the experience of competing on the big stage. We’ve seen gambles like these go either ways and as it turns out, this was a very good one by captain Clement ‘Puppey’ Ivanov!

Ace at Dream League Season 6, photo by DreamLeague

As the new season took off after TI 7, Team Secret wasted no time in asserting their dominance over all European qualifiers in sight and made it through to the first three minors and the ESL One Hamburg Major with as much ease as killing off ancient stacks with Medusa! The new team had bonded! But when it came to the LAN events, it was evident that they still had some work to be done. The first major breakthrough on LAN came at the ESL One Hamburg Major when they came back from a game down to beat Team Liquid 2-1 in the semi-finals but lost 2-0 to in the finals. The hard work finally paid off as Secret won two tournaments in the space of six weeks, with the DreamLeague Season 8 Major and Captain’s Draft 4.0 Minor trophies ending up in their cabinet. Both the finals were eventful ones with 3-0 and 3-2 wins over Team Liquid and Vici Gaming in DreamLeague and Captain’s Draft respectively. Even though it was a clean win against Liquid, the series witnessed two of the best games post TI 7 and MidOne made it even more so by playing a mid Kunkka in game one!

The question is, what has brought about this change in Team Secret’s fortunes? Let’s see if we can take a crack at it:

Adrian ‘Fata’ Trinks’ adjustment to the offlane

Although Fata has been a mid laner in his recent years, he has taken to the offlane like a fish to water or in Dota 2 terms, like Nightstalker to the darkness. If he was a good mid player, he’s an outstanding offlaner. Because of his aggressive style of play, many times you will see Secret start with a trilane in the offlane with Fata to secure the First Blood or disrupt the enemy carry’s laning stage. Tidehunter with Gush at level one? Even Amer ‘Miracle’ Barqawi couldn’t predict that! The guy has certainly been an important piece in Secret’s puzzle.

Team Secret’s distribution of farm with Ace and MidOne

It seems Ace was just the carry Team Secret needed. Not that MP was a bad player, but he probably didn’t fit into Secret’s play style as well as Ace does. Secret usually played completely around MidOne with him being the position one player while MP, though in the safe lane, didn’t get a lot of support and played the position two hero. The new dynamics seem to be a lot more balanced. Depending on the hero and strategy, the right amount of farm priority is given to either of the two which clearly shows in the statistics.

Average GPM and last hits for Team Secret’s position one and two players before and after TI 7 (stats taken from datdota)

MidOne’s Average GPM and Average last hits have gone down (though not by much) as compared to earlier, but the combined stats of the two cores have improved. This makes it a lot less of an ‘all eggs in one basket’ approach and gives a bit more stability to the ship.

Team Secret’s versatility as a whole

Something that is necessary for a team to succeed is players being comfortable with a multitude of heroes and that is something team Secret are showcasing. From the mid Kunkka and Arc Warden to the offlane Ogre Magi, they aren’t afraid to try out something different than the rest. They’ll go with the occasional Slark for Ace, which is not a meta hero and they were also not afraid to gamble and go for the Meepo in game five of the Captain’s Draft 4.0 final against Vici Gaming!

Number of unique heroes played by every player of the eight teams above from October 2017 to January 2018 (stats taken from dotabuff)

*Evil Geniuses were not considered as they underwent a roster change as well as internal changes in positions

The eight teams above are the ones that are in the top eight with respect to Dota 2 Pro Circuit points as of 9th January 2018, which is why they have been chosen for comparison. With respect to versatility, three of Secret’s five players (Ace, MidOne and Puppey) have the second most picked heroes picked for their position while Yapzor has the third most unique heroes in his role (position four). It is a clear indication of the different heroes Secret are capable of playing and not afraid to try which not only makes it hard to draft against them (remember Wings Gaming? They were a TI winning team once) but also gives them more options. On a side note, Na’Vi and OG need to pick up a bit on their versatility.

Besides these factors, the continues good form of Yapzor and Puppey’s experience are a bonus which gives the team an edge over most teams. Team Secret are sitting pretty at the top of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit points table with 4140 qualifying points, quite a bit ahead of Team Liquid and, both second with 2700 qualifying points.

All in all, it is a culmination of a number of factors that have brought Team Secret back to where they once were. Have they peaked a bit early? Maybe. It’s in their hands to keep the momentum building. The next event where they will be seen competing is the ESL One Genting Minor, which starts off on the 23rd of January.

headline picture courtesy of PGL 

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