With his two Aegis of Champions, claimed back to back, Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen is the only player to have graced the Dota 2 scene and host a 100% win rate on The International stage. It’s a feast that will probably not be matched for a long time and his career story will most likely remain unique as well.
In an interview with the Russian outlet Cybersport.ru, Topson spoke about how the lockdown impacted his practice, but how it might have also prolonged his competitive career. He talked about the current OG line-up and what are the differences when playing alongside experienced players, what it takes to become a professional player and how to stay at the top of your game.
Lockdown in Malaysia, missing home and the competitive break
Three of the OG Champions put a halt on their careers, leaving only Topson and Johan “N0tail” Sundstein to carry the OG flag in official matches. However, when the organization was finally ready to start the grind towards TI10, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles Major should have been the OG roster debut. The tournament had great importance for them, thus they were one of the first teams to arrive in the town to get rid of the jet lag and get accommodated to the place. Unfortunately, the Major got canceled, and as many around the world were still unsure about how the whole situation would escalate, Topias says to cybersport:
“Understanding the seriousness of the situation, everybody immediately went home in case borders get closed indeed, but I’ve decided to stop by Malaysia to see my girlfriend… And two days after my arrival, the country cancelled all the international flights […] we really have been sitting at home and haven’t gone anywhere. There was a small restaurant in front of our house where we could go or order food from, that was all the entertainment. After living this way for some time, we started to look for any way to get back to Finland together. It turned out not to be so simple: we had to consider a lot of things to make such a flight safe for us and for everyone around us, but in the end we managed, and we’re very happy now!”
Topson was located in a city near Kuala Lumpur, which he deems as a nice and very alive place where he got to clear his mind a bit, but at the same time he explains that he prefers the more secluded places. “ I like the local atmosphere, and I’d prefer this place to any other city on the planet,” Topson says about his home town from Finland, Oulu. “Can it really be better somewhere else?”, he rhetorically asks while explaining that he loves to get out of the house. “Not to the clubs,” he points out, “but somewhere outside, to nature, where you can breathe fresh air, walk around the forest.”
Asked about his practice time and the public matchmaking experience in Southeast Asia, Topson doesn’t have much to share as he explains why he actually didn’t even open Steam for a couple of weeks.
“I played SEA pubs, and it was very… (laughs) I can’t say it was a positive experience, so I didn’t spend much time in game. I have tried to kill time playing Dota at first, but at some point, I stopped trying and didn’t open Steam at all for like three weeks. Because of that, I felt like I lost touch with the game right after I came back to Finland. […] I almost didn’t turn on the streams. To be honest, I can hardly watch tournaments that I don’t play on. I think that’s quite useless. Maybe that’s why the game seems so fresh to me: I’ve only managed to play two tournaments after coming back, and I like studying heroes and items. But some are playing this Dota 2 for quite a long time already, so I can understand the discontent.”
Spending some time away from the game and the competitive scene entirely can come with a great cost for the professional players. However, for Topson, the break might have been exactly what he needed in order to postpone his plans for retirement. He asked himself if he should retire right after TI9, Topson says, but the passion for the game and the competitive nature prevailed over any other thoughts. He gave himself another season, which should have been this 2019-2020 Dota Pro circuit culminating with TI10. However, the new situation the world is in made him change his mind:
“I would have finished my career indeed the very next season if I kept going to all the tournaments and living with only Dota. That’s how it was before, and it was a hard time for me. Now I have other things in my life that don’t let me get stuck in esports routine, and this, in turn, allows me to still be passionate about the game.
I found some sort of balance in life, and I enjoy it. I plunged head-first in Dota 2 in the previous seasons, and that’s why I burnt out quickly. I felt like something’s lacking in life.”
Sacrifices and the drive to continue even after winning The International twice
To make it to the top of the competitive scene you have to give up on everything in your life, Topson bluntly says. The question is how you stay there and how are the long years of sacrifices looking like.
“To become a professional esports player you’ll have to forget about going out with friends, studies, or any other pursuits in life. But the problem is that once you get into esports, you can’t just praise yourself and relax: you will have to work even harder to stay competitive.
Most often, in-game success is related to how much time you spend practicing. People are different, of course, but most need to spend at least 8 hours a day in Dota 2 to stay in shape. I loved the game very much, but it somewhat lost its charm when it became a job that I kind of have to do.
You’ll say, you can just take a break in this case, and that’s true. When I’m resting, I’m slowly going crazy thinking that somebody’s practicing while I’m chilling away from the computer. I get choked on guilt, stress level goes up… So I come back to the game, start spending more time in it, and the cycle begins again… The biggest downside in the life of a professional player is the need to spend that much time in game. You will have to spend 8-10 hours a day every day in Dota 2, and that’s not that easy.”
So, what keeps Topson motivated? The love for the game comes first, then the excitement of discovering new strategies, the competitive fire that is still burning inside him and the desire of proving himself time and times again. “I tried to analyze what my life is going to be if I quit everything here and now,“ Topson says referring to the time right after TI9. “Little did I realize that I still love Dota 2, the game itself. I like analyzing it, finding new builds, testing out heroes… And I like competing too, and Dota allows me to do it at the highest level. So I decided to keep going. Yeah, just because I love playing Dota.
I will quit when the game stops bringing me pleasure or if we’ll get problems in the team: if some discord happens, we won’t be able to find common ground with the teammates, or if I lose the passion for the competition. But right now I feel I am ready to keep fighting.”
The new OG
When talking about what changed with the arrival of SumaiL, Saksa and Midone, Topsosn says: First of all, they helped us to look at the game in a new light. We have been playing with the same roster for a couple of years, so we’ve been perceiving Dota somewhat one-sided […] Midone, SumaiL, and Saksa, are all very experienced players, who have seen a lot on the esports scene. With them we got an opportunity to see how other teams view Dota 2 and this is, of course, a very useful experience. Roughly speaking, now we have more in-game tools. What needs to be done is to incorporate them in our playstyle.”