Of all the names in DOTA 2, there are those which you hear all the time. Dendi. Navi. Evil Geniuses. Fnatic. These are some household names which are constantly repeated. However, there are always those names which stand silently in the background.
Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi is one such name. This year, he led Team Liquid’s young team all the way to becoming this year’s The International champions with just three things: Consistency, Legacy, and Creativity.
Every star in DOTA 2 has a storied past. Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao posted on the Team Liquid forums that he was going to quit Engineering Science before beginning his pro gaming journey with Cloud9. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev’s first ever stream post can still be found on Reddit.
KuroKy is no different. His turn towards leadership could be seen in his blog on Gosugamers, made back in June 2011. In the blog, he details his current esports career in Dota, how he nearly gave it all up, as well as what turned him from quitting.
One particular quote stands out from the entire blog:
Team Liquid’s playstyle throughout 2017 reflected the same stubborn tendency that KuroKy expressed and subsequently demonstrated in persisting with his esports career. The team gravitated towards pushing strategies which many perceived was a weakness – similar to OG’s constant reliance on split push strategies.
Liquid’s strategy involves them building up map advantages and teamfighting items through the laning stage and immediately transitioning into the doom push. Lone Druid, Nature’s Prophet, Lycan, and Necrophos enabled such strategies, as they provided the additional health needed to sustain the push.
To explain this briefly, Lone Druid’s Spirit Bear, Nature’s Prophet Treants, Lycan’s Howl, and Dire Wolves as well as Necrophos’ Death Pulse provides either healing or summons to tank tower hits so that the team can outlast the enemy in extended fights around towers or other objectives.
Combine this with a great laning stage secured by lane dominating cores and supports, and you have an unstoppable push.
Team Liquid was perfecting this strategy since the start of the year, and, similar to Alliance at TI3, they were nearly unstoppable in their journey towards 1st place at The International. Having a strong team identity gave each player the confidence to play out every game to their best ability, and it showed as Liquid recovered after being upset by Invictus Gaming in the Upper Bracket.
KuroKy showed his own confidence in his strategy, not swaying to the tournament meta. If we compare the top 10 picks by Liquid to the overall top 10 picks at TI7, the stark difference tells the whole story.
Earthshaker aside, Liquid’s top 5 core picks are midgame teamfight dominators, which is the timing which Liquid wants to win by. The low deviation (8-12) of picks from Liquid across these cores shows both preparedness (in the case of bans on their ideal picks) as well as an uncommon belief that their singular game plan will work.
6 out of the 10 Dota 2 veterans who had previously attended every TI missed this year’s TI. The four players that remain are Leong “DDC” Fat-meng, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora and KuroKy. This gives him a level of respect other leaders might not automatically enjoy; you simply do not doubt the words of a 9-year pro veteran.
In an interview at Summit 3 with Ken “Hot_Bid” Chen, KuroKy said, “I learn [something] every day.” Compared to his teammates, KuroKy is a weathered veteran who had a lifetime of lessons to learn from. In an Interview with Cybersport.ru, KuroKy expressed that he learns a lot from his losses, with his most memorable loss being TI3’s loss against Alliance.
The lessons from losing gave KuroKy a unique confidence as a leader which was borne from experience. Being able to say, “I’ve been here before” with teammates Lasse “MANTUMBAMAN” Urpalainen and Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Borislavov also creates this mutually reinforcing environment of confidence – one that new teammates Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and Maroun “GH” Merhej will be positively influenced by.
At TI7, in the winner’s interview after facing Team Secret, KuroKy told Kaci that “In the third game [against secret] we were like, should we do it again? we wanted to … or at least I wanted to show some sort of confidence in our strategy and we have GH who is arguably one of the best players on [Keeper of the Light].”
Even though Team Liquid’s current roster is still relatively fresh, KuroKy’s faith in his Team’s short legacy gives rise to each player becoming more confident in each other’s, as well as their own, gameplay. This was a mainstay in Liquid’s successful all-in style pushes as each Team Liquid member was on the same exact page on how they wanted to win the game.
Even though Liquid’s main event drafts had very little variance, their gameplay was far from dull. Liquid displayed mastery over their heroes with incredible decision making in their item builds as well as ganking patterns.
In the TI7 semi-final game against LFY, MATUMBAMAN showed why he was infamous for his Lone Druid throughout Liquid’s dominant run from DreamLeague Season 6 and 7, EPICENTER and StarLadder i-League. By picking up Aghanim’s Scepter when he realized they could not win straight up teamfights, he actually gave his team a chance to win even from a 28 – 8 scoreline.
Each Liquid team member reacts incredibly well to the game state despite their adherence to the overarching push strategy, proving that their MMR is more than just a number with great predictive plays and solo calls. Given how complex DOTA 2 is, most movement calls and item purchases are not made by the captain, but by the player who is most suitable to do it.
For example, MATUMBAMAN might be the person who decides when the team is able to teamfight (as he will be the one dealing the damage) alongside Miracle-, and GH or MinD_ContRoL might be the one to call out early game ganks so that MATUMBAMAN can farm safely.
A team that can think on their own for the micro plays is much more able to accommodate strategy and higher-level stuff, as revealed by Kips through her workshop. We believe that Liquid had a leg up on everyone regarding strategy except VP, LFY, and Newbee, but even they were eventually overwhelmed.
For Team Liquid and KuroKy, all eyes will be on them to do well in the next season of DOTA 2. However, with MATUMBAMAN rumoured to be due for military service, the TI curse might not be the only wrench in the works that they will have to deal with.