Defenders of Old

Exploring the most decorated players of Dota 2

Aug 2018

1421 tournaments spanning over 8 years. 727 players having contested for 8 Internationals.

With the eighth annual season of professional Dota 2 reaching its final act, perhaps its due time we look back on this long and arduous journey. This journey doesn’t belong to us of course - but to our beloved professional players.

Nevertheless we, as the audience, have been highly invested in their expeditions. Through the past decade, we’ve had our fair assortment of favorite players or teams. Winners get washed up, and top-tier teams become irrelevant. Cheese strats, hot memes, and one-patch teams come and go, but there are some things that remain. Their names seem to linger on; they’re the ones we christen as the ‘old guard’.

Many may wonder how they seem to prevail over such tumultuous conditions. Across almost a decade, it can’t possibly be a fluke.
But who exactly are these players?

Sure, anyone can recite the usual household names. In this visual essay, we’ll delve into the numbers and records, and let the annals of history speak for itself.

Many thanks to for the tidy compilation of information. This data was scraped off their player web pages.

Defining GOAT

What defines a player’s worth?

To put it bluntly, I would suggest that a player is solely defined by his achievements. As a professional player, it doesn’t matter how high specs you are, if you are incapable of bringing home a trophy with your team.

Hence, what I have at hand are data from years of amassed tournament achievements. And in the sections to come, we’ll be exploring these high points of the players’ careers.

Million Dollar Prize Pool

Probably the obvious metric by which to rank players would be their accumulated tournament winnings. After all, career success is typically determined by the amount of dough you get to bring home.

Furthermore, the chunk of prize money awarded seems like a convenient proxy for performance - achieving 1st place nets you a larger portion of the total prize pool than 2nd place, and so on. The prestigious tournaments also feature outstanding prize pools.

So without further ado, our Top 10:

Top Player Earnings These estimated player earnings are calculated by taking each prize money awarded to the team, and dividing it by 5 - an equal portion to each player on the team.

In millions, with each players' top 3 largest prizes highlighted.

As you might have guessed, all these players are carriers of the Aegis of Champions - in large thanks to the obscene and ever-rising millions of the Internationals’ prize pool. Scoring a single win effectively more than doubles their entire career winnings.

To put this skew in perspective, consider that KuroKy has participated in 117 tournaments, but his win at the International still makes up an impressive 58% of his total earnings.

Indeed, the International carries with it a lot of prestige and high-level competition. But surely the weight that it carries is inflated by the ludicrous prize pool.

Perhaps, to accurately reflect a player’s accomplishments, it might pay off to look at the ebb and flows of one’s career in its entirety.

Footprints of Achievement

So how should we rank players by their tournament achievements? Surely we must take into account the level of competition in the tournament, and not to mention the results they actually attain.

Let’s explore these various metrics step by step.

Player Achievements The tournaments range from the International 2011 to the most recent China Dota2 Supermajor. I’ve also excluded disqualifications, and participation in qualifiers and show matches.
‘Premier’ tournaments are as classified by liquipedia (more recently, this would include the Majors from the DPC, but excluding the Minors).

Ranked by Number of Tournaments Participated.

We’ll visualize and rank the players and their respective achievements through a series of strips.

Each strip represents a single player’s timeline of tournament participations.

Every tournament is represented by a dot, its color indicating the placement earned as follows:

5th - 8th
9th -

And finally, its size corresponds to the prize money awarded. The larger the prize money, the bigger the dot (capped at $1 million).

Here we have players having grinded the greatest number of tournaments. Note however that this includes minor online tournaments, while the top players typically only participate in larger tournaments in the international arena.

Let’s filter only for premier tournaments.

Now, more familiar names climb the list.

What’s interesting to note is that 4 players from this list come from way back - from Dota 2’s inception in the International 2011. These are our tried and tested, and it’s a true testament to their ability how they are still able to remain in the pro scene till this day.

How about we further tighten our criteria, by taking into account our players’ performances.

We’ll rank them by their number of top 4 placements.

Surprisingly, the listing remains the same, save for a few position swaps. These are our decorated veterans. You’ll notice that different players each have their own different success periods.

We also have our two titans, Puppey and KuroKy, cementing their standing in the top 2.

Finally, let’s have a look at our players with the most premier tournament wins.

Arteezy pops out (which is really notable considering his budding career is only about five years old), and so does a reminiscent iteration of the Navi squad. Puppey’s, and the rest of his ex-teammates’ high standing seems to be in large due to their dominance in the early years.

So did any of your favorite old-timers make an appearance? Did the dossier line up with your expectations?

While this has merely been a rather crude analysis, I hope it has provided some interesting tidbits with regards to the ever waxing and waning journeys of our players.

Cover image depicts the International 2015 grand final.
Original source: Zilsonzxc [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons.