The final player on our journey is Saahil ‘Universe’ Arora, but the story of his 8 TI appearances is a little different from the rest. Playing through some of the biggest teams and amongst well-known names, Universe has reached the top.
Lets start this off with a disclaimer: Universe WAS at The International 2011, he, however, did NOT play a single game but was rather a sub for Online Kingdom.Nirvana.International.
Dota 2 – Universe’s Beginnings
As mentioned previously, Saahil was present at the initial TI event held in Cologne, Germany at Gamescom in 2011. He featured alongside Clinton ‘Fear’ Loomis but while attending the event, Universe did not play a single game as he was a substitute. All things aside, Online Kingdom’s International squad finished in 7th/8th place and the player would have his first experience at the event. Following this would be Universe’s climb to the top as he joined Fear once again on Evil Geniuses for his first stint with the team. This EG squad would also take him forward to compete in his first TI event but ultimately, even after a great run through the Group Stages, EG were dropped to the lower bracket and eliminated very early on.
Following TI2’s disappointment, Saahil decided to take a brief break from Dota 2 to focus his time on studies and with this EG parted ways for the first time. A few months later we would see him returning to Dota 2 when he joined Dignitas and was quickly heralded as the reason for the team’s success. However, even though they prospered, Dignitas would succumb to a 9th-12th finish at TI3 and soon after the event the team would disband – but Universe’s story would only just be beginning.
Evil Geniuses – Part Two – The First Return
With Dignitas now dissolved, Universe found his way back to EG, rejoining Fear. The squad battle through poor performances for some time and this lead to another reshuffle in the ranks, this time leaving just Fear and Universe as EG. But this may have been just what the 2 needed as they went forward under the name ‘S A D B O Y S’, playing alongside Arteezy, ppd, and zai. This squad would quickly make their way to the top and before long they were the face of EG. Saahil’s offlane endeavors we definitely one of the major aspects of what got EG to the top and TI4 awaited them. The team managed an amazing 3rd place finish, being stopped by the team who would go on to win, Newbee and Vici Gaming. Even with their 3rd place finish, Saahil made his mark and would quickly become known for his absolutely breathtaking Faceless Void Chronosphere’s which almost took EG to the grand finals of TI4.
After their impressive display at TI4, EG went from strength to strength, with Saahil playing no small part in the matter. 2015 would see the team dominate at DAC before having an absolutely amazing showing at The International. Saahil himself was crowned the MVP of the entire tournament as the team picked up the Aegis of Champions, victorious on the biggest stage of them all.
Team Secret? Nah – EG Please!
Early in 2016 Universe decided that he would be leaving EG, joining Team Secret with his ex-teammate, Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev which seemed to blindside the Dota 2 community, especially after EG had continued to dominate. But the Secret love story did not last at all and both EG and Secret were left to Open Qualifiers for TI6 after Saahil returned to Evil Geniuses once again. With Saahil back, EG prospered again, claiming their spot at The International and looking to be the first team to win the illustrious tournament twice.
But it wasn’t to be as EG would perform brilliantly but were only able to claim 3rd place again – which was still promising for the team. With this though, came another shuffle for the EG roster and while the team still found themselves present at TI7, with Universe having another shot at becoming a 2-time winner of the Aegis, it was not enough and they fell to a 9th-12th place finish. Things did not improve for EG following TI7 and ultimately by the end of that year, Universe would take his leave from the team once more.
Following his departure from EG, Universe would rejoin Jacky ‘EternalEnvy’ Mao, this time on Fnatic, in Malaysia. Still considered one of the best offlaners in the world, Universe helped his new squad to a 4th place finish at their second LAN event together before they would also find themselves qualified for TI8 through regional qualifiers.
Universe performances at The International by year:
The International 2011: Seventh-Eight Place (Online Kingdom – Substitute)
The International 2012: Ninth-Twelfth Place (Evil Geniuses)
The International 2013: Ninth-Twelfth Place (Team Diginitas)
The International 2014: Third Place (Evil Geniuses)
The International 2015: First Place (Evil Geniuses)
The International 2016: Third Place (Evil Geniuses)
The International 2017: Ninth-Twelfth Place (Evil Geniuses)
Known for some of the most amazing Faceless Void plays as well as one of the most memorable moments in Dota 2 TI history when he Echo Slammed EG to victory at TI5. The moment that broke Tobiwan as much as many others have over the years as CDEC’s “disaster” will be remembered for a long time by the Dota 2 community.
Saahil’s Dota 2 journey has been extremely entertaining and his constant return to Evil Geniuses has definitely shown how valued he is to the team. But with Fnatic now having the ex-TI winner on their squad, it will be interesting to see if the SEA giants can make their way through the ranks and guide Universe to a second Aegis of Champions. His brilliance throughout his time in Dota 2 will not be forgotten and even though he did not actually play at TI1, he gets an honorary mention in our books as one of the 4 players who will be in their 8th International tournament.