Two years is a long time to miss out on a Major, and a lot has happened since then. Loda, Akke, and AdmiralBulldog have graduated to coaching, management, or hosting positions, and none of the names look familiar to fans from their 2013 TI Championship. 2017 was a year of transition for Alliance as the roster changed completely, yet it seemed as though it would take more time to rebuild after the departure of the Swedish legends. A new foundation for Alliance was established after the last TI, however, in a new Swedish generation. Michael “miCKe” Vu, Samuel “Boxi” Svahn, and Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi.
Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi is the team’s new captain, leading from the support position. Though the 24-year-old has been playing professional Dota for over 2 years, this is his first opportunity to lead a prestigious and high profile organization. This responsibility has broken down many more seasoned leaders before him, yet iNSaNiA has so far proven resilient. His interviews at ESL One Hamburg reveal a level-headed and self-aware player with an eye for improvement, reveling in every opportunity to play against top level competition. The Rubick player admitted that even though ESL One Hamburg didn’t have DPC points, the event allowed them to gain much needed experience — in fact, their first at a top tier LAN as a squad.
In the off-lane, Samuel “Boxi” Svahn has quite the boots (of travel) to live up to. He plays an entirely different role in the team than the Bulldog, preferring scaling carries in the offlane such as Weaver, Monkey King, or even Chaos Knight. Alternatively, he can be found playing initiators like Beastmaster, Brewmaster, and Tiny. His flexibility in role allows the team a lot of freedom in their drafts, and Alliance does possess more than a few pocket picks that might be considered out of the meta. Not a lot of teams run Abaddon in the offlane, and the surprises in Alliance’s picks often come as a result of Boxi’s heroes.
Speaking of flexibility, Michael “miCKe” Vu fits the mold as a modern day carry because of his ability to sit in the mid-lane or farm in the safe lane with equal adeptness. While his Invoker, Ember, and Mirana put him on the map, he also played heroes like Anti-Mage and Luna at ESL One Hamburg. Many successful teams now prioritize role flexibility in order to get advantages in the drafting phase, and miCKe is a credit to his team due to his stable carry play in either position. Though Vietnamese by name, miCKe is a true blue-and-yellow Swedish carry, and the hopes of Alliance will ride on his ability to scale as he gains more experience at international tournaments.
Rounding out their young players is Tommy "Taiga" Le. Just 19 years of age, Taiga has barely been playing professional Dota for a year and finds himself with the opportunity of a lifetime. The Norwegian started his career in Dota 2 in enviable company on SFTe-sports; that team also included Topson and Peksu who have all gone on to big teams. Taiga looks cut from the same cloth, a player of great potential that could turn out to be one of the stars of tomorrow. His Earth Spirit is already beginning to turn heads, and his hero pool looks similar to many of the best position 4 players plying their trades: Io, Chen, and Earth Spirit. The position 4 support has grown in prominence over the past two years, and though Taiga has many great supports to look up to in the scene, it’s his time to go even — or better — against the best in the world.
All of this young talent required experience to temper their raw tendencies, and their squad found a great complement in Maximilian “qojqva” Bröcker. Qojqva has been in the game since 2012 and has been part of big teams, such as Team Liquid. The German is a veteran of the scene and he provides the stability and foundation necessary for the rest of the team to shine. The return of of solo middle lanes has been kind to qojqva, though he has often swapped lanes with miCKe depending on their draft. He has even played a few Alliance-favorite heroes such as Lone Druid and Nature’s Prophet over the past month, much to the Admiral’s pleasure. Berry nice!
On paper, it’s understandable to consider Alliance as one of the biggest underdogs for the Major. The team is largely untested, with a solitary LAN appearance mere weeks ago, where they admitted that the team still required experience in order to put their potential into practice. Their drafts rely on a few unconventional picks, with unpopular heroes like Earth Spirit, Brewmaster, Rubick, and a few more making regular appearances over the past three months. They are certainly the most difficult team to predict, in both play and possible performance. Regardless, it’s definitely an exciting time to be an Alliance fan.
Even though their name carries history, prestige, and silverware, this particular group of players still has much to prove, and this is their chance. Their return to a Major has been received with much fanfare, and they will certainly be one of the teams to follow in Kuala Lumpur for both their play and their story.
For the organization, this is a comeback tale. Alliance have been out of the spotlight for far too long, and this represents their first real chance to reclaim their previous stature. Alliance is one of only 8 teams to have ever won the Aegis, and barring Wings, they had been the only former-TI champion that was not a regular fixture at the Majors recently. This could be the start of a strong year for Alliance, but they must prove that qualification for Kuala Lumpur was not merely good fortune.
For the players, however, this is a brand new adventure. Qojqva aside, the other 4 players are fairly new to the highest echelon of Dota, and have never attended a Major. At times it seemed as if staying true to Alliance’s Swedish core would take too long to pay dividends, but it looks like the youth movement, with a little bit of alchemy, has finally found the right formula.
Whether you’re a fan of Alliance as an organization, or a fan of this up-and-coming quintet, the flag of Alliance represents one of the more compelling storylines as we head to Malaysia. We are welcoming a team that everyone has missed and a group of players here for the very first time. There are two different narratives to follow depending on who you ask, but one thing is certain for Alliance in 2018: Their story has just begun.