It is no secret that the defending TI champions OG have struggled this year in many of their matches. SumaiL’s return to the lineup could help them clinch a spot at TI10.
The end of an era
Plagued by roster changes, a failure to adapt to several strong metas and the sudden retirement of the carry player Anathan “ana” Pham, OG suddenly finds themselves in a do-or-die situation this coming July. The team will battle it out with powerhouses like Team Liquid and Team Nigma for a single slot at the upcoming TI 10.
And yet, the stars may have aligned for the desperate team, as captain Johan “N0tail” Sundstein put it. Following his removal from the team July 25th last year, Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan comes back to fill in the large gap of position 1. While primarily known as a feared mid laner, SumaiL is still recognized as one of the greatest cores of his time, earning him the moniker of “King.” SumaiL joining OG is the second significant roster change from the once-dominant team, following the retirement of support player Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka and Martin “Saksa” Sazdov coming in as his replacement.
OG’s woes before SumaiL
The defending two-time TI champions performed under par during the DPC Season 14 Qualifiers, finishing with a 3-4 record and barely hanging onto their Division 1 status at 5th place overall. During this period, the team played with Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng as their carry, as ana took an extended break.
A few weeks before DPC Season 15 began, MidOne left the team, and many took it as a sign of ana’s return to the competitive scene. The news was confirmed on April 11th, two days before the team’s first match against Brame in the Upper Division of Western European Dota 2.
OG fared well during this first match, taking the series two to nil against Brame. However, the team only showed flashes of their former brilliance in three of their seven games, once again finishing with the same record as they did during the last season. The team’s overall performance and reputation began to tank as a result.
The team also barely managed once again to retain their Upper Division status during the tiebreakers, winning against Brame once again but losing in a rather disappointing fashion against Tundra. Perhaps most telling is ana’s absence from these two tiebreaker games. Following the team’s last match of the season against Liquid (a 2-0 loss for OG), ana was replaced by Omar Mohammad “Madara” Dabachach, who took the role of carry in a bid to keep the team in Division 1.
Finally, two days before the team’s first match against AS Monaco Gambit in the ESL One Summer 2021 tournament, OG announces the retirement of ana from competitive play. N0tail himself confirmed via an interview after their 2-0 victory against AS Monaco Gambit that the legendary carry has “burned out” and “lost the motivation to play.”
Looking to the future with the King
Later in the same interview, N0tail also talks about the motivation of the team in their current state, and how they studied the meta meticulously while OG were out of the WePlay Animajor. A lot, though, seems to be riding on SumaiL’s shoulders. It should be noted that this is not the King’s first rodeo with OG, as he has played with them before during a brief stint last year, though this first pairing did not work out for very long at first.
As COVID restrictions prevented SumaiL from going on bootcamps with the European team, they ultimately decided to go in a different direction at the time. While there, though, SumaiL helped deliver some decent performances in six months. The most notable of these is their 2nd-place finish at ESL One Los Angeles 2020 and their 3rd-place finish at OGA Dota PIT Season 1.
While only time will tell if SumaiL can live up to the legacy that ana created, things are looking better for OG, even if just for the moment. The victory against AS Monaco Gambit was followed by a swift defeat from East Europe’s top team Virtus.pro that knocked them down to the lower brackets. OG performed admirably against the team SumaiL previously played on as a stand-in, Team Liquid, beating the squad 2-0.
This amazing run continued well into their match with Team Nigma, as the two TI9 finalists battled it out in three amazing games. OG narrowly won 2-1 thanks to some very important playmaking from Sébastien “Ceb” Debs’ off lane Axe in the second game and Martin “Saksa” Sazdov’s Shadow Demon in the third. Ceb’s Axe in particular was reminiscent of his performance in TI8, where the French player pulled off a game-winning Berserker’s Call to save ana’s Phantom Lancer.
Their next match against North America’s Quincy Crew pit SumaiL against his older brother, Yawar “YawaR” Hassan in a pretty one-sided matchup. OG flexed their diverse hero pool with SumaiL playing Naga Siren in the first game and Ceb playing Dark Seer in the second, winning the series 2-0 against the NA powerhouse. However, their fantastic run ended when they met Alliance, the top team in their region. Even though they fought and resisted to make the games very competitive, it ultimately ended in a 2-0 series for their opponents. In the end, OG managed to make it far into the ESL One Summer 2021 tournament with SumaiL, taking fourth place overall.
All of this said, the true test still lies on the horizon, roughly three weeks from now. OG will compete with thirteen other teams from Western Europe for just one spot at TI 10 – in other words, go big or go home. Will OG defy all odds to take home the Aegis for the third consecutive time or will they fall early, to be recognized as once-greats of the game? Everything will come to a head on July 7, as the Western European Qualifiers for The International 10 begin.