PPD’s decision is a loss to fans of great Dota 2

Photo taken from the Dota 2 Flickr stream. All right belong to its owner.

Peter “PPD” Dager’s decision to step away from professional Dota 2 in favor of an administrative role might be smart move for his long-term, personal growth, but it’s a great loss for fans of competition.

As part of the team’s new roster announcement the morning of September 15, PPD will be stepping away from Dota 2 as a player and will instead transition into, “the business management role offered to him by Twitch.”

While no details of the new role have been shared so far, two things are clear: First, that his decision will undoubtedly secure his future, in a capacity that can be both lucrative and fulfilling for a person who loves the industry as a whole such as PPD and that second: it is a shame to lose a fierce competitor who probably still has a few good years to demonstrate the qualities that gave him such success.

The Peter Effect

Without PPD, EG would have sputtered out long before they even got within striking distance of the Aegis.
 Here’s a brief look at PPD’s contribution to EG and NA Dota:

After teaming up with Clinton “Fear” Loomis, Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Sahil “UNiVeRSe” Aarora to form S A D B O Y S in 2013, the team went on a 19-game winning streak on the back of PPD’s innovative drafting skills that took advantage of UNiVeRSe and Arteezy’s unconventional yet powerful hero picks over the metagame at the time.

In 2014, after S A D B O Y S was signed onto Evil Geniuses brand, EG became one of the most dominating teams and a front-runner to win that year’s The International. EG would go on to finish in the Top 3 of four LAN tournaments on the road to TI, including a win over the best team at the time, Team DK at the first The Summit tournament. They ended their TI run at 3rd place, eliminating Team DK but losing to Newbee and Vici Gaming.

By the time 2015 began, EG would have bagged 7 championship titles in 15 major events, including wins at the ASUS ROG DreamLeague Season 2 where they completely outdrafted Cloud 9.

The team’s biggest win prior to winning TI5 came at the Dota Asian Championships. Despite losing Arteezy and Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg in the great player shuffle just months before the tournament. By drafting reactive heroes for supports and focusing pick priorities for their new midlaner, Syed Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan, EG won through sweeping Team Secret and Vici Gaming.

Their DAC victory was especially important in the history of PPD’s EG. The North American squad was basically written off in favor of Team Secret because of Arteezy and Zai’s nebulous influence in the scene. In the eyes of the public, EG had lost their crown jewels; winning affirmed that the heart and soul of EG was always PPD, Fear and UNiVeRSe.

Then of course there’s The International 5. The new “rubber-banding” mechanics forced teams to adapt or die and in that chaos an upstart team from China, CDEC Gaming, tore through the flat-footed and were on the verge of a dominating victory.

Through taking advantage of the come-back mechanics however and drafting strategies that allowed EG to evade fights while their supports built key items even as they lost the laning stage, EG were able to halt the advance of CDEC in a 3–1 victory to claim that year’s Aegis of the Immortal.

In summary, PPD’s strategic mind and penchant to draft the correct strategies against the correct opponents and the correct environment led the way for North America to claim its first world title in Dota. In the last three years, EG finished in the Top 3 of The International, with one win. They have figured in some of the most important player and talent trades.

What made him a great strategist was that he mastered a brilliant tension between action and reaction. In a competitive scene that rewards teams that found a particular drafting style and stuck to it, PPD was nearly immovable in his desire to be the reactive drafter. He had the most variable starts in the pick and ban phase and always drafted differently based on his opponents.

That is not to say that he chose line-ups whose execution relied on reactive or play-from-behind heroes. To the contrary, when the enemy was more passive than EG, PPD was more than happy to equip Suma1L with a Storm Spirit or Fear with an early fighting core like Juggernaut.

PPD was constantly pushing and testing new theories on how the game should be played around patches. It wasn’t uncommon for EG to lose out on a few LANs at the start of a new patch, only to dominate at important Tier 1 events. PPD reintroduced Treant Protector and Abaddon picks to the metagame in a time when such heroes were unpopular in competitive play.

Losing a competitor

Photo taken from the Dota 2 Flickr stream. All right belong to its owner.

As a personal decision, PPD’s move away from the competition and into the board room is a smart choice. ESports careers are notoriously short, and Dota 2 is in a spot in the cycle when new games will rise up and send older games out into the ice to die — including its players. Clearly, PPD wants to get ahead start and establish himself in another field of competition.

At 24-years old, PPD still has at least one or two The International runs left in him, with or without Fear to serve as the spiritual heart of EG.

Fear’s retirement might have signaled to Peter Dager that there would be no one else to rein in a team of four other players where he could express his tactical brilliance. Maybe that is the underlying reason outside of the press releases; that for all the genius of PPD, he does not have the confidence to lead players into his vision…even when his vision has proven correct time and time again.

But his legacy will be such that with talents such as Arteezy, Zai, Fear, UNiVeRSe and Suma1L, it took a supremely unique drafter to bring out their potential and give them the biggest successes of their careers: an Aegis win, a Western win at a Chinese LAN. Compliments of Peter Dager.

With new talent emerging and older teams restructuring in NA, it will take some time to find another PPD. A player who can reignite a scene not through technical play, but through rethinking how the game of Dota is played.

PPD’s departure from the scene and into the shadows might be the smart move, but it’s a shame for lovers of great Dota 2.

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