As The International 2019 approaches we think of how old Dota 2 has become, with eight years of competitive play, stretching back even further if you want to include the original Defense of the Ancients mod. It is very rare that one player sparks a revolution in playing style. There have been players who seem transcendent, just as there have been players whose style is revolutionary.
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Once upon a time, Dendi seemed to have been at the forefront of mids who were able to perfectly control their lanes, be incredibly aggressive and flashy, and have the perfect ganking mid-lane play.
Somewhere along the line, things changed - and the change can be traced back to one Canadian player, with notorious taste in music, incidents of severe toxicity, and a lot of doubt initially laden on his shoulders: Artour “Arteezy” Babaev.
The man who revolutionised the mid lane to become farm intensive, hard carry-focused, while still having the skills to pay the bills when he was sent traipsing through other lanes, has since transitioned to being the carry player for Evil Geniuses. What started off from in-house leagues and Twitch streams, ended up being one of the most storied beginnings of recent Dota history.
In what is now one of the most iconic threads you’ll find, Reddit user /u/ArteezyArteezy posted a link on r/dota2, advertising his stream. Downvoted to nothingness, the only comment thread it featured had the words “Streamers need to stop playing their sh##ty music.” In fact, the music he played went on to be iconic to his brand, with notoriety spreading more quickly because of the copy-pastas that were created for him.
Meanwhile, the North American scene - famous in Dota 1 for its in-house leagues - had a new entrant who was all the rage. IXDL - the ixMike Dota League - now had its charts continuously topped by Arteezy, while he streamed and continually astounded people with his play.
Back in the day, Dota’s MMR system wasn’t publicly visible, and IXDL was the only place where all the pros could meet the pubstars. Unlike today’s scouting, where teams commonly recruit based on MMR, this was the primary way to get discovered as an up-and-coming player.
However, Arteezy’s style continued to baffle people. With his incredibly farm-heavy Shadow Fiend being iconic, he primarily played Templar Assassin, Outworld Devourer, and other heroes who would practically never lose their laning match-up should the player be skilled enough. Whether it came down to last hits, denies, finding time to jungle, or giving two week bans to players by beating them in a 1v1, Artour was the best.
However, this was a departure from what was considered the traditional space-making mid lane strategy. Arteezy played one of the most greedy mid lanes Dota had seen at the time, and continued to suck up most of the farm the map had to offer. Despite his mechanics being unquestionable, this still left a sliver of doubt in people’s mind, about whether or not it was something that could truly win games in the pro scene.
The sliver of doubt wasn’t made any better, when you looked at his partner in crime, Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao. Envy and Arteezy together were the incredibly odd streamers with absurd taste in music (anime for Envy and seemingly whatever was close to a meme for Arteezy), bearing the flag for Kaipi.
The early days didn’t bring much success from them, and Arteezy eventually left. However, there was one last opportunity for him to stand in, for what became the first event that truly kicked off a legacy of change.
MLG Columbus - The People’s Choice
With Bone7 unable to get a visa, Arteezy joined what was now Speed Gaming to create the ultimate fan favourite. Singsing, Arteezy, and Envy made this the stream team with all the fans getting behind them.
Speed ended up being down zero for three early on, with the TI finalists from last year Na’Vi, and the Asian superteam DK still to be faced. Had they accrued the fourth loss, it would have guaranteed them to be out of the tournament. Enough was enough, and now Arteezy ascended to the heavens. A sub-20 minute victory over Na’Vi shocked the world, and that shock continued, as Arteezy pulled out signature hero after signature hero. He carried them through five straight games, playing four different heroes, scraping through to the playoffs off the back of a victory over the Chinese superteam: Team DK.
The ring rust was gone and the gloves were off.
Sigma, a new organisation with the first stirrings of success - which featured eventual TI winner CIB - came up against them in the semifinals. While they also had a very successful mid lane player in FATA, Arteezy’s Outworld Devourer was too much to stand. Sigma fell, leaving behind DK.
It has to be understood, that DK was a team unlike any other in Dota’s history. Many experts still maintain to date, that the DK team of that time might be the best to ever play Dota 2 - rivalled only by other anomalies like Wings. Mushi, the Southeast Asian god of mid, who had styled even on Dendi - the greatest mid of all time then - at the previous International, faced up to Arteezy. It was a true clash of eras, old versus new. The true test of a new player. To get through a LAN grand finals with Mushi and the rest of DK in the way, would be the challenge of a lifetime.
Game one went the way of DK in an 85-minute slugfest. The real MVPs of the match seemed to be both initiators, Clockwork and Earthshaker. Arteezy, with a few moments of being caught out, hadn’t seemed like the beast that had been seen in the past. The second game onwards saw a revitalised Speed Gaming. Arteezy ended up on a Timbersaw, and with four kills within the first 10 minutes despite a terrible lane matchup, it seemed like the game had already ended there and then.
Soon, it was all over. Game three saw Envy come through with what was then considered an unorthodox blink and soul ring Clinkz, while Artour was back on his signature Outworld Devourer. There just wasn’t anything that DK could do. Despite a few moments of weakness, Speed Gaming prevailed, and the Chinese superteam had been defeated.
Arteezy, as the ringer for a team who had their regular mid move to offlane, had just won one of the biggest events in the Dota calendar, defeating a Chinese superteam in the process. It was clear that this was a player destined for trophies, greatness, and memes.
The ultimate desire to win
Fast forward five years to today. Arteezy still seems to be the Chosen One, after having changed the game forever. Despite being one of the most proficient mids to play the game, the years saw him go back and forth between EG and Secret, as well as between mid and carry repeatedly. Ultimately, Arteezy ended up settling to play side-by-side with his successor in Evil Geniuses, champion of The International 5, the other NA prodigy: Syed Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan.
Instead of playing the mid role, Arteezy transitioned to being a carry. Despite his skills seemingly having been tailored to be one of the greatest carry players to live, it still is one of the most remarkable switches to come through from a player. Not only that, but to cede your position to the player who inherited your spot on a team, to go on and accomplish what you never could by winning TI, is no mean feat.
But Arteezy did so, and despite success with Evil Geniuses, he never hesitated to switch rosters should the need arise. Even if his forays into Secret never bore the fruit that was expected, the will to be a champion was there.
The 23-year-old has won some of the most iconic tournaments of the calendar, but never even touched the TI Grand finals. If there’s any player who would be willing to give anything up to touch the Aegis, it has to be him. So many of the greatest players Dota has witnessed have not made it. Will he be one of them, or will TI9 finally bear the fruit he most desires?
There are many plays that showcase Artour’s skill to the umpteenth degree. My own personal favorite, is a smaller one, simply because of the connotations involved. Sumail versus Arteezy at DAC 2015, in the first game between Secret and EG to be seen played live. The classic Queen of Pain versus Shadow Fiend matchup, with Twitch chat’s shift in reactions to boot.
Pictures: StarLadder / ESL