Arguably, Team Spirit experienced an up-and-down year in the 2023 Dota Pro Circuit. Following a change to their lineup which featured the addition of Denis "Larl" Sigitov, Team Spirit, while remaining at the top of Eastern Europe DPC for all three tours, the team struggled on the international level. Two 9-12th finishes at the Berlin and Bali Major, a 7-8th at the Lima Major and a 5th in DreamLeague Season 20 were the results Team Spirit put up in 2023.
Despite this, the team felt they were improving bit by bit as the year transpired. This upward trend would eventually reach a peak as they ended up winning the Riyadh Masters in late July, capturing their first international crown since the Arlington Major last year.
As such, Spirit arrives at DreamLeague Season 21 in the midst of a resurgence which they hope resembles the form they had from The International 10, where they famously won against all odds.
Before DreamLeague Season 21, BLIX caught up with Team Spirit's Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov to talk about the team's current state ahead of TI12, their last struggles in international events in the 2023 season, their longevity with includes himself, Ilya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk, Myroslav "Mira" Kolpakov and Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov and much more.
Returning from Riyadh Masters success
Pedro Romero, BLIX: With Team Spirit, it is coming off of a very good result in the Riyadh Masters by winning the whole point so how do you view the current state of the team in light of their recent success in Riyadh?
Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov: It's kind of hard to say right now because there is another patch— like we played Riyadh Masters on a different patch— but about our feelings and confidence, we're feeling great. Of course, we won that big tournament so we're feeling great. We're confident in each other, we have confidence in our strategies. We'll see how it will be on DreamLeague, but for now, we're feeling confident and comfortable.
BLIX: You mentioned about the new patch in the game right now so what are the things that you liked and hated the most from this new patch and how are you trying to work around it?
Miposhka: It's hard for me to choose one thing. I will say that I like any changes because I like changes overall. I don't like when it's one big patch per year. I like many patches during some not big periods because I always like something new. I like to find some good strategies like when you're finding a strong hero, learning how it plays, knowing how to build them and everything like this.
I like any patch but I guess the most interesting thing is the new draft order. It's something really new and you need to get used to it now. Some teams don't really understand how they should use their bans in the first phase and we also do not understand exactly how we should do it, but we will see.
As for what I hate the most, I guess it's not about the patch, it's more about Dota. From some moment, you can't hide your game statistics. In some moments, you could hide your pubs [stats] from DOTABUFF or some another site, but after the patch, you can't hide it so everyone know who you're playing, which hero you are trying to practice and also you can't play on another account, so for me, it's kind of stupid.
For example, I'm a pro player and I'm focusing on with tournaments so I want to hide the heroes I'm trying to practice with so it will be harder for the other teams to prepare against me and also for the team, but right now, you don't have any other option like this so I don't like it.
BLIX: About the change in the draft order, do you feel your team is confident when it comes to working around this change in draft order specifically?
Miposhka: It's hard to say. We haven't played it in any official games so we'll see how it will be. We will see how we deal with it in DreamLeague and on TI. Right now, we're finding some ideas, but it's hard to say how it will work on official games because there is always a difference between pubs, between official games and everything else.
Looking back at Team Spirit’s 2023 DPC season
BLIX: Taking a look at Team Spirit's 2023 season. You guys have been able to maintain your position at the top within your region in Eastern Europe, but so far, up until Riyadh, you guys have not been able to find the same level of success on the international level. For example, you finished 9-12th in both the Bali and Berlin Major and then finished 7-8th in Lima. What do you think is the reason the team struggled on the international level compared to the domestic level this year?
Miposhka: I would say that, from the start, we changed the player. We changed mid-laner, so for the start of the season, Larl [Denis Sigitov] needed to adapt to our team because, in his previous team, there was another strategy to play. In that team, he was like the Position 1, I guess, so he was always the one that had the top net worth, but now, he's with Yatoro, and he's usually our number one, so he needed to adapt at the start of the season and that's what we did.
For example, on the Lima Major, I think we were in a really good form. There was a different patch so there were no portals but I remember we were in really good form but we did [sic] some really bad mistakes against Shopify Rebellion in the winner's bracket but we definitely could have won that series.
After that, we lost to Talon, and in our booth after the series, I think we lacked some communication and other things on how we should play so I think there was a period where Larl had to adapt to us.
Our second Major was in Berlin but there was a new patch. Our hero pool was not ready to win the tournament, you know? After that Major, we lost a bit of confidence in each other, but before the DPC league [for Tour 3], we played well but, after the first set of matches, we started playing bad, and from that period, we started growing up. Our coach Silent did big work and we really started to grow up from that period. Everyone worked a lot.
In the Bali Major, we kind of met the same problems. We lacked some good heroes and we didn't find our strategies either. We kind of lost pretty fast so we had two weeks to rest before Riyadh Masters. It was like the holidays and everyone of us took some good rest, and before Riyadh, we had three or four days of practice but it was enough for us because it was the same patch and we knew our problems already so we just took some rest and crushed the tournament.
We also found our strategies and the right heroes. It was enough skill to be able to win the tournament. We lacked some good heroes, but at Riyadh Masters, we found it and we won. Also, we encountered some difficulty because there were some games which were so hard to win. For example, against 9 Pandas, we were against mega creeps, and against BetBoom Team, it was also one of the hardest series that we played but we won and we became so confident in each other and everything like this.
BLIX: Going into how these problems that you mentioned were fixed, exactly what did you do, from your point of view, that helped the team identify the mistakes and fix them?
Miposhka: Actually, it's nothing special. Every one of us knows what we need to do to improve ourselves. For example, from my perspective, I just play some pubs, watch some replays and trying to talk with my teammates as in saying what mistakes we did [sic] which really changed the game so usually, I'm telling them what big mistakes we did [sic] in the game so we try to fix it of course. And also, we have Silent, our coach, who does the same. We just talk with each other when we have problems and just try to help each other and fix it. It's nothing special. It's some basic work but you just need to do it.
BLIX: Looking at your career, you've been a part of a lot of teams throughout your time competing in Dota but it's no doubt that you've been with Spirit for the longest time. For the majority of the team, which includes Mira [Myroslav Kolpakov], Collapse [Magomed Khalilov], Yatoro [Illya Mulyarchuk] and yourself, you guys have been together for around two to three years by this point save for Larl. What do you think is the biggest reason behind the team's longevity?
Miposhka: It's hard to say, actually. We had really bad periods but I think it's because we're just talking a lot with each other and asking what motivates us, what are we focusing on and what do we do. Usually, we're just focusing on the same thing. Every one of us just wants to keep winning and we know that every one of us is a really good player.
If we won TI, then it means that every one of us, at some point, was the best of the best so it just means if we can still find some motivation, it means we can still be the best of the best players of every position. So I think we just believe in each other and that's why we want to keep playing in the same roster.