This is a story about friendship. Johan Sundstein and Tal Aizik (Notail and Fly) are two of the most prominent players in the very popular Esport, Defense of the Ancients (DotA 2). They were the best sportsman, as well as the best of partners. With such an inseparable friendship, they pioneered forming a DotA 2 team, eventually becoming one of the best teams to play in ‘The International (TI), the ultimate championship game for DotA 2 players. They entered the competetion believing their friendship would inevitably bring them success. Or at least one of them thought so.
DotA 2 is a game of high skill and high focus, but it is mainly a game that should be played with genuine loyalty to your team. And Notail and Fly had no difficulty leveraging their friendship to form a team called Fnatic and enter for the first time into TI in 2013. As a team, they were unbeatable in the preliminary games, but unfortunately, they lost the 2013 championship. But their determination to win does not stop them, and they continue competing in the game and enter TI in 2015. They lose again, and Notail goes to an all-time low this time. The pressure of wanting to win under such high stress, and the inevitable failures, push them to call it quits. They break up as a team, but Notail and Fly keep their tightly-knit friendship intact. After finding encouragement in each other, they decide to compete once again.
Since they needed a team to enter TI in 2016, they found amateur players to join them. But this time, they also knew they needed a coach. And it is here that Sebastian Debs enters the scene. Known as Effing Mad, he was one of the players of public DotA games who was passionate about the game and had the brains to play it well. So, he joins Notail’s and Fly’s teams as a coach, and team OG enters the Manila Major, a preliminary competition that would soon launch them into TI 2016. With Sebastian’s ability to predict their opponent’s strategy, OG enters TI 2016. They were pitted to take the championship home. But sadly, they lose again.
By this time, Notail completely loses confidence in winning the championship. No matter how they tried as a team, it felt as if winning the game was like climbing a high mountain with a highly tricky pathway. Their team breaks up again, but the Notail-Fly duo does not. With Sebastian as their coach, they recruit two new players, JarAx and Ana, and they set themselves up to retake the championship. They get ready to win and enter TI again in 2017, but as usual, they lose.
They return to their hotel and gather in a room to process their failure. And with an utterly unprepared heart, Notail hears the gut-wrenching news that his best friend is leaving. It shocks him that Fly is leaving the team, but what truly perplexes him is that the person he trusted the most betrayed him, both as a partner and a friend. It was one of the most challenging moments for Notail that even his failures didn’t seem to match what Fly chose to do.
Yet Notail does not back out from winning the championship. With Sebastian’s help, he forms another team. They recruit a player who goes by the name, Topson, who is one of the best players outside of pro gaming. There remains another spot, and they wonder who could fill it. Notail takes no time to decide that it should go to Sebastian. With this new team, they entered the International in 2018. They beat every opponent until they compete with a team called Evil Geniuses (EG). And in the most dramatic turn of events, Notail’s primary opponent from EG was his ex-best friend, Fly. OG doesn’t give them the slightest chance of winning, and they beat EG by 2-1.
Notail remembers winning against the person who betrayed him and his team. He remembers experiencing mixed emotions until he felt he wasn’t in control. The past comes back to him with feelings of revenge and anger. But as he walks off the stage, Sebastian helps him quickly snap out of these feelings, and they celebrate their unprecedented victory. They enter the grand finals, and with Sebastian’s leadership, encouragement, and impeccable strategizing as a team, they win the 2018 championship.
As the story unfolds, it is not hard to see Notail’s determination to win, his trust in his teammates, and his conviction that winning is not at the expense of a genuine commitment to his team. But even more evident is his perseverance and trust amid failure and even in the face of blatant betrayal. Moreover, his anger, revenge, and selfish joy at his opponent’s defeat were authentic and honest. But it is noteworthy that the one who brought him out of such hostile emotions to experience the pure joy of a hard-earned victory was Sebastian Debs, a friend who stuck by him through doubt, demotivation, and even the harshest failures.
Fly was a good friend too. But when life allowed him to choose between friendship and victory, Fly chose victory. It wasn’t until he came to terms with failure, not once, but four times, that his personal dispositions and real intentions were laid bare. Did he not share Notail’s conviction that friendship will win? Clearly not. Notail did not naively believe that trust and loyalty between friends would assuredly bring victory, regardless of hard work, skill, and team effort. But he trusted that the people he committed to would last a lifetime, even if he lost everything. His success in DotA was undoubtedly a great accomplishment, but it never matched the incredible bond he established with his teammates, especially with Sebastian, a genuinely loyal friend.
Notail’s journey in DotA showcases his incredible skill and determination as a gamer and his unwavering belief in the power of trust, loyalty, and friendship. His perseverance through failure and betrayal and his ultimate triumph with his team underscore the importance of surrounding oneself with people who will support and uplift him in both good times and bad. Notail’s bond with Sebastian is a testament to the lasting impact of true friendship, which can weather any storm and emerge stronger than ever. While victory may be sweet, the relationships we build and cherish truly define our lives and bring us lasting satisfaction.
Written by Roselina Vundi