Certain teams become victims of their own success, and certain players fall prey to being declared insufficient. It is difficult to imagine being cut from a team which has won The International only to step into the next year and place top four again. Lasse Aukusti "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen, however, fell victim to the success of Team Liquid and will no longer be sporting the white and blue heading into TI9.
While they enjoyed a lineup that most would still consider world-class, Liquid’s expectations saw them set sights higher. Despite a top-two finish at the MDL Disneyland Major, Liquid considered themselves lagging behind where they wanted to be: favorites to win TI. The year had not bore the same fruits as past, and even though it seemed as if they would make TI, their likelihood of being considered more than a dark horse seemed very low.
Live Dota 2: Find all TI9 live streams and bet on the matches at Luckbox.
In the midst of the lows, a player had to be cut. When June had already encroached, the time to TI was too low to have leisure with your choice of players to bring to the table. A hasty decision preempted the major, and Liquid brought the axe down on MATUMBAMAN to buff the middle lane with Aliwi "w33" Omar.
The Early Days - Matumbawoman
Matu’s popularity reached across the world in ways that few other rookies managed. Not only was he incredibly skilled at the game, he was also someone who obviously liked to have some fun, mess around, and provide a personality on stream. In very strong contrast to people like Arteezy, Miracle, or any of the other prodigal rookies that had come through in the 2014-16 years, Matu tried hard to have a personality and have fun on stream.
Back then, Twitch had already started to have the uprising of female streamers who, rather than focusing on high level gameplay, provided a more relaxed experience to people who were fine with a lower tier gameplay stream that was made enjoyable by appearances, personality, and a relaxed stream environment. The Dota community, which has always been infamously purists about viewing high levels of gameplay, had shown no small amount of outrage at the changing tides initially.
Whether it was to capitalise on the outrage, genius marketing ploy, or (more likely than not) just to mess around on stream, the legend of Matumbawoman came to be. Clickbait titles like “Sexy Hot Russian High MMR Blond Playing Dota” and the ilk. Reddit threads like “7.2k girl streamer?” catapulted him even further along as people saw him making a parody of what were the more new age streamers.
Leading up to TI5, where he’d already gained some notoriety with placing third in the European qualifiers with his stack - losing to Na'Vi and a Vega Squadron which sported three members of today’s Virtus.pro - this was the big gamechanger. It was the perfect storm, where content from tournaments wasn’t as high as it would have been pre-TI qualifiers, and the public was hungry for entertaining high-level gameplay. A Finnish lad cross-dressing and doing a parody, while simultaneously being one of the highest ranked players in the European scene? This was something the Dota community would gladly get behind.
Soon after, he was recruited to KuroKy’s 5Jungz roster - much to the glee of the community - and went on to eventually be part of the longest lasting five-man roster in Dota 2 ever. Their dominance is something all are already aware of, but eventually it had to end, and he found his way into a new home.
Now, 24, MATUMBAMAN finds himself in a team that has a little bit of a history of picking up lost souls en route to TI.
Chaos Esports Club
There are surely those who either are not aware of Chaos’ history, or, if they’re older souls who dipped out of Dota for a while only to come back for their annual TI run, might not recognise the brand.
In 2016, Digital Chaos - a brand created by the highly popular DOTACinema YouTube channel owner, SUNSFan - found themselves torn apart without a roster to sport anymore. A particularly brutal second year of Dota saw Evil Geniuses sniping out two of the players from their American roster.
This came a day after the announcement that 1437 would be departing to join Puppey’s Secret as a coach. With the roster in shambles, they decided to rebuild, keeping only CIS superstar Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok on the squad.
As luck would have it, close to the roster lock, the Team Secret roster who had recently won a major ended up removing Misery and W33ha (now W33) from the team. With not enough time left to assess all offers, the two ended up coming under the umbrella of Digital Chaos to play with Saksa - another European player of some repute - and American offlaner Moo. This rag-tag lineup looked as if it wouldn’t really accomplish much and was just a quick paycheck for most of the players, and a shot at keeping their brand relevant for Digital Chaos.
Breaking all expectations in one of the most satisfying qualifier team runs, DC ended up making it all the way to the finals with the roster, outplacing Secret, and beating Evil Geniuses in the process. In 2018, Digital Chaos rebranded to Chaos Eesports Club.
Now, we find ourselves in a somewhat similar circumstance. Our hero, MATUMBAMAN, has found his ways into Chaos.
The narratives are nothing if not similar. Misery, the very same captain that took DC to second place in TI6 is playing next to him. Former Secret player who hasn’t had success in a long time Maurice "KheZu" Gutmann will be taking up the offlane - providing the potential pop-off offlane charm that Moo ended up having.
Then we have Milan, who, similarly to Saksa, is a highly rated European player at the tier-two level. Despite never having had success at a Valve event, he’s been around the scene for a long time and has his mind for the game praised by many. VTFaded is the only player who we haven’t seen as much of, as he’s been shipped over from SEA to see what he can do.
Finally, MATUMBAMAN, a legendary player removed from a team that was formerly incredibly successful at an inopportune time. Despite not leaving the same bad taste in people’s mouths as W33’s departure from Secret that close to a roster lock, no one can deny that he’s a player who looks like he could take control of a game - no matter how high level it is. He’s a TI-winning, highly skilled player, who's going to have a lineup built to allow him to succeed and take control once again.
All of these combine underneath the banner of Chaos again. MATUMBAMAN has his shot at the crown, and even if he misses, we’re going to see him take some scalps with him in his fall. Their performance at the European qualifier gives people heart. If ever there has been a redemption arc, this would be it.
The stage is set, the actors are in play. Now, we wait for the show.
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Pictures: StarLadder / ESL