Competition. Competition can make the easiest of tasks seem difficult. Something you may have practiced numerous times can seem impossible. Speaking from personal experience in the great game of Dota 2, a hero which is imbibed in my blood can feel like a stranger when playing a measly Battlecup final. Why? Because there is something at stake, even though that something is as trivial as 20000 Battle Shards. Any professional sport or esport is just as much about the mental game as the skill, if not more. But just the way competition can bestow an unseen weight on the shoulders of certain individuals, it can summon a leader in others. Of those who thrive in the wake of competition, there is none more mentally stronger than OG’s offlaner and two time TI winner, Sebastian ‘Ceb’ Debs.
Before we go ahead, if you haven’t seen ‘True Sight: The International 2019 Finals’, you need to go and watch it first.
Imagine you are fighting to be the first team to win the Aegis in Dota 2, against a team who is figthting for the same exact thing with $15 million on the line. The first game in a best of five series starts as a disaster, you fall 20k behind in net worth, but then, your Spectre comes online, you turn the game around to crush their spirits, one bad fight and…and you lose! Imagine the fluctuation of emotions going through the minds of OG the moment the throne went down, because of a sligtht error on the part of Anathan ‘ana’ Pham on when to buyback. It would have been soul crushing for any team and could have potentially affected their performance in the entire series. But what is the first thing Ceb says to the team?
“All good. It’s five games, we’re allowed to throw one. It’s part of the fun. Don’t let it get to you.”
The rest of the OG team is quiet. They know they should be leading 1-0, but instead, it is Team Liquid who get to hold that lead. Ceb knows that Ana is probably blaming himself and walks up to him as they leave the booth…
“You promise me you don’t feel bad about this, okay? It doesn’t matter man, it happens.”
All this while having a smile, might be a forced smile, but nevertheless a smile on his face. When the team heads out for a quick smoke and discussion about the game, Ceb considers the game as a win! I cannot imagine anyone, however postive, going out there and saying “It’s a win in my book”. The surge of positivity those words and that body language can bring in a team – seeing your teammate confident about the team’s abilities after a lost game – is immense. And the ability to do that for your team, that’s just priceless. It could very easily have turned into a mild blame game and discussions about how they messed up. But the post game talk was all about Ceb mentioning how OG came back against a cheese Meepo strat and the rest of the team just smiled and agreed.
Now, everyone including me love Kuro ‘Kuroky’ Salehi Takhasomi and he is no doubt one of the greatest captains the game of Dota 2 has seen. But see the difference in conversations after the first game. Even when Liquid unexpectedly won game 1 and went in with a 1-0 lead, there was an unseen panic lurking just beneath the surface for the entire squad, knowing OG had nearly snatched victory from them in a game they should have won easily. And, forgive me if you feel I am wrong, but Kuroky didn’t give the best pep talk to take his warriors out in the best shape for game 2.
“I don’t need you guys to talk so much. I can do all the talking. I need you to focus more, focus more. F*ck it, I can do all the talking”.
Again, Kuroky is a legend who has won the Aegis and he knows what he is doing. But compared to the way Ceb addressed the team, this team talk was not the best motivator for a team in the grand finals of The International.
And this was not just the case after game 1. It was the case throughout the series. Ceb was the morale booster who made sure everyone was mentally in the right place. Now some might argue that because OG had been there and done that once before, the pressure was a lot lesser. But if you go back and check ‘True Sight: The International 2018 Finals’, you’ll find that Ceb had the vibe of positivity from the onset and kept the team pumped up.
As Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein said at the start of last year’s True Sight (it was a much older clip): “Dota is a sick metal game. It brings out the best and worst in you.” Not only does it bring out the best in Ceb, it empowers him to bring out the best in his team mates as well. In my opinion, Sebastian ‘Ceb’ Debs is the best mental warrior the game of Dota 2 has seen.