In a coincidence punctuating a year of esports drama, Team Secret and Team NP have won the Europe and North American qualifiers for The International 7, respectively. Each team took the top score of their round robin groups to earn the slot for the Seattle main event.
Secret took their region effortlessly, only dropping a match to Mousesports for a nearly-clean 8-1 win. Headed by former Natus Vincere captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, they saw a losing streak after their victory at 2016’s Shanghai Major. Last Fall, Ivanov and the Secret organization also courted controversy when accusations surfaced from multiple former players, including NP captain Jacky "Eternal Envy" Mao, that Secret had paid players late or in some cases failed to fully compensate players. Many of those problems were reportedly resolved.
The team’s structure has changed significantly since then, with their manager departing and a roster overhaul. They have performed exceptionally well at recent tournaments, including second at The Summit 7 and a perfect group stage at the Kiev Major. Because of Ivanov’s long history in Dota 2, have stuck around to see the team’s re-emergence into the highest tier of competition
Meanwhile, NP had a slightly different road to follow for their TI slot. While they also took an 8-1 finish, they shared the score with Team Freedom, the current “Stan Stack” consisting of pub star Stanley “Stan King” Yang and other NA stars. NP overtook Freedom in a tiebreaker match, and Freedom will continue into Phase 2.
NP will certainly have a lot to live up to as an underdog story for the community. NA is seen as weaker compared to other regions, despite the high numbers of US players, plus NA squad Evil Geniuses’s victory at TI5 in 2015. Still, with the founder, streamer and anime connoisseur Mao, or “EE-sama” as fans often call him, NP quickly became a community favorite.
While Secret and NP rarely face each other, the teams are best known for their out-of-game clashes. Mao left Secret after The International 7 in order to found NP, which has done fairly well in NA. He shared a blog outlining the tension in Secret, includig, in addition to the late payments from the org, camera footage of manager and captain Ivanov getting upset and smashing his computer equipment.
Since then, to the amusement of the community, Puppey was seen at the Manila Major judging a “rage” competition, in which fans did their best setup-smashing on stage.
Beyond The Summit also encouraged the captains to get light-hearted about the constant controversies in a parody skit for Dota Summit 7:
The last and only time the two teams faced off was at the Manila Masters in May, where NP took the match 2-0. Now, fans can hope that the brackets of The International finally put them against each other again on the biggest stage in Dota 2.