The Journey of Team Liquid Dota’s Newest Captain: Neta “33” Shapira

Published On: 4/24/2024

At the end of the International 2023, Team Liquid, and Dota as a whole, lost one of its greatest players. While Zai was a legend, 33 is on similar footing.

At the end of the International 2023, Team Liquid, and Dota as a whole, lost one of its greatest players. Following a loss against Gaimin Gladiators, Team Liquid’s Zai announced his retirement from professional Dota. He had served as the de facto captain of Team Liquid through the 2023 season, along with their coach, William “Blitz” Lee. With his departure, Team Liquid had to find a replacement for a crucial role — and they eventually found their answer in Neta “33” Shapria.

While Zai was a legend, 33 is on similar footing. The new TL offlaner is a previous TI winner, one of the best offlaners of all time, and one of the most innovative minds in all of Dota. We had the opportunity to talk to both Blitz and 33 to discuss the new offlaner’s entry into the team, his role as captain, and their thoughts on how to manage a Dota team.


Zai had always been more macro focused in his ideas about the game. Neta, on the other hand, seems to be a lot more focused on the micro. How do you guys enable 33 differently to Zai?


Blitz: I mean, he's our captain, so for the most part, we're gonna ride or die with him. Zai is a very general kind of player. His understanding was really high, and he expected everybody on the team to have equal understanding, so he didn't really like going into smaller details. I love my boy, but for Zai, your responsibility was your responsibility. I think 33 is much more active about trying to push everybody forward individually.

Zai was much more about the overall picture of the game and I feel like 33 is focused on how we get better individually so that our group can be better. Laning is one of the best examples. When I first talked to 33, he said that laning is just something he's really good at. I felt like that was something that he was going to help with when he joined and our laning has improved dramatically. Our safe lane's gotten like 10 times better.

33: I just always like talking about the game. [...] If I get some new idea, or I see something cool in the game, or if I watch our lanes and I have some idea, I always try to bring it up. All these little things, they really add up. Every small thing can snowball into a larger impact.


One aspect of Team Liquid I find really interesting is that we've rarely seen squads that stick together [as long as Liquid’s core has]. Do you feel like that longevity brings any advantage when bringing in any new players to the team? Do they adapt easier?


33: I got used to being in the same team every year with Tundra. So the move to Liquid was a new experience for me. Suddenly I'm like the new kid in school.

It was a little bit weird at first, especially because we played together, but we didn't boot camp for the first two months because we were playing online qualifiers, and I wasn’t able to go to the bootcamp. Eventually I came to the boot camp but I wasn't playing. I think the moment we started playing and I met the guys in real life, everything felt very natural.

Blitz: From my perspective, it's really easy to bring people onto our team just because we've had so much chemistry for such a long time. I’ve been with Team Liquid for about four to five years and Insania, Boxi and Micke have been together [for] five years. The three of them have had the most games together in Dota history. Nisha is pretty easy going so he gets

along with most people. I feel like when you bring people into this team, they’re gonna have an easy time adjusting because the other guys will make sure that your time here is good. Everyone here is good people. There are definitely a couple of hurdles along the way but everyone is actively trying to be a good teammate.


Did you have conversations with [TL’s players] before then at other events? Or was this the first time that you guys had a good chance to speak?


33: I've met all of them a bunch of times before the bootcamp. So it wasn't anything exciting. We've met each other and talked many times before. The first boot camp of the year, I was standing in as coach because William (Blitz) was still on vacation. The team was still playing with Saberlight, and I was doing my best coaching impression, which was maybe not the greatest, but I was trying.

I want to ask you about another aspect of this transition — the fact that you are now a captain. As far as I know, you didn't take on that role when you were Tundra. Was it something that you guys thought about beforehand?

33: During my time in Tundra I was not really the captain in the official sense because I wasn't drafting and I wasn’t really taking the lead. But I was the captain in the social aspects of the team.

I was vocal about how we do practice and how we managed the team. So I was giving my ideas and suggestions in the draft. But I was also letting other people have the final say. In Liquid, it’s the other way around, because I am the one who does the drafting and I have a larger responsibility within the game. However, in terms of leading the team from outside of the game, that is more of Blitz’s responsibility because he's been with the guys for so long.


Blitz, did you guys ever have a formal discussion about Neta being captain? When he first came on, was it something that came along naturally or was it planned?


Blitz: So a year, maybe two years ago, we had MATUMBAMAN work with me to captain the team. Neither of us had ever really been captain. We both learned how to draft and lead together and that felt natural. As we entered the new season, we didn't really have a meeting about it, I just decided it [would] be Zai.

For various reasons, I felt like it made the most sense for him to captain, and that I would be able to draft with him. When Zai told me he was going to retire, the first person I floated was Nisha but he didn't sound that enthusiastic about it. [I do] try and get him a little bit more involved, and he's been really good about that recently.

When me and Zai were drafting we were very open-ended about things and I figured if 33 was an open-minded person who’d never drafted before and he wasn't super stubborn, it'd be a really easy transition, and so far that's been the case.

He has ideas about the game, but it's really easy for me to also get in my ideas. There's very little disagreement and argument. [...] I feel like if [we had] somebody that's been drafting for a while and we tried to bring them in, it would have been really tough.


How important do you both feel it is to have a captain? Does it change the way you guys draft or play the game?


33: In my experience the captain is not a guy who has absolute last say in everything and his word is law. In every other team I've been in it is a democracy. However, at some point, somebody has to have the last say. [...] I think it's important to have someone who is designated to have the last say, but it doesn't even necessarily have to be the same person all the time.

When we have disagreements on macro we will listen to boxi for example, and I will let him have the last call because we play on his vision a lot more. The most important thing is that we respect someone to have the last word on certain topics.

Blitz: I have the same perspective. I think DOTA teams are like fake democracies. That's what me and MATUMBAMAN used to call it. People have their opinions, and they deserve to obviously because they're working towards the same goal that you are. [...]

If you let DOTA players keep discussing things, you can get into an endless circle really easily. So you need a leader to determine what needs to be done. The skill of it is to make sure that everyone feels heard.


Liquid has had inconsistency in terms of results this year. How do you guys feel about peaking at the correct time for the season to be at the best position for The International?


Blitz: For the most part, I am a pretty good judge of people's motivations and how they feel about things. Obviously our objective and goal is to win at all times, but at the same time it's not realistic to expect people to put in maximum effort at every point of the year. [...]

We're a veteran group of guys. 33 has won a TI. So for us it's trying to prioritize the important moments and, more importantly, making sure that we're not burnt out. Getting people to mentally focus on Dota 24/7 is not realistic. [...] I know if you're reading this as a fan, that's disappointing, but there's not any team that can keep it going close to the entire year.

I told 33 too when he joined that I don't think losses are the worst thing in the world. I view them as a wakeup call. A reminder that we aren't as good as we are. It's nice to be reminded that you have to still put an effort and still try to win these games.