Categories
BLOG

cinderella og

An OG Cinderella Story

Hazel Southwell
Aug 29, 2018 · 11 min read

No bibbity, bobbity, boo

We talk about Cinderella stories in sport a lot; the way it’s referred to is generally the underdog. Someone who’s really come from behind, with less resources or opportunity or odds stacked against them to an implausible success that leaves them crowned, plucked from obscurity and insolvency to fame and fortune.

It doesn’t have much to do with the actual Ci n derella story. Which, in its original, unsanitised format is a much gorier tale. Grieving Cinderella gets her name sleeping in the ashes she’s forced into when her rightful place is stolen — the ugly stepsisters are instead stunning beauties celebrated on their social scene and rather than a fairy godmother, Cinders’ salvation is some bloodthirsty birds that live in a graveyard.

It is a far cry from pumpkins and sparkles. But then, so are most Cinderella stories.

This one has gods and monsters. And a wildly skewed gender imbalance to the original. But Cinderella never played DOTA 2 — if she had, it might have gone a little like this.

Odds off

This is a story about DOTA 2, the almost mindbendingly complicated MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game purveyed by Valve, evolved from a World of Warcraft offshoot. If you’d like to know a very fractional amount more about Dota then I wrote some crib notes here — but it’s not important to the story to understand the game, except that it’s a complicated team-based fight that’s become a well-monetised sport over the last decade.

This weekend was the culmination of The International, a global esports tournament where the best performers of the Dota professional scene go up against each other. Teams compete all year to try to earn their place — or have to go through gruelling open qualifiers from which few have gone on to success at the event.

Just being a major professional team is no guarantee of qualifying, even a current win isn’t really enough to get you there. Wins in previous seasons, of course, count for nothing — regardless of your reputation. Getting to TI is well over half the battle but when that takes place over a year, the event itself is still a colossal push, some finalists playing thirty top-level pro games there.

It’s a psychological mountain on which plenty have suddenly found themselves struggling. No team — no single player — has ever won it more than once, more rarified than most international sports trophies for simply seeming impossible to replicate the titanic effort it demands from teams well-used to performing at their best.

Strange things happen at TI. The mighty fall, the scrappy underdogs rise for glorious moments, the favourites often succumb to the fourth-favourites. Like any culmination event, it reflects not just the season that just happened in simple numbers of who could win most up until that point but where the teams are by the end of it. If winning left them with nothing extra for TI’s greedy table or if they still have scraps kept back to be chewed up before they are.

No one thought OG were going to win TI. After a DPC season best described as ‘dog-rough’ they were nowhere near the points needed to avoid open qualifiers and even if their lineup had remained stable out of ESL Birmingham, it would have been more honest than kind to say they were by no means guaranteed to take an EU place.

You need a team to compete in Dota, no matter how good you are. Whether that just means finding four other friends to scrap with or the sponsor-laden enterprises of the high-end, this is not a solo sport.

Once you find them, you’ll live with them literally or virtually for the majority of your waking hours — ten hours a day practice, then digestion and revision of what you’ve done. You live and breathe Dota, like any sportsperson with their chosen field, and your teammates’ scent is heavy in that air.

The Dota Pro Circuit is not kind. While casters and commentators at an event aren’t going to give it to you with the toxicity of pub server chat, in a sport where competitions dole out multimillion dollar prize pots a pro player’s job after crashing out of a tournament is about as secure as the England manager’s after yet again getting mullered by Patagonia in a friendly.

The exception being, of course, if you own the team. OG might not have been having their most stellar season but one thing is absolutely certain: Fly and N0tail would still be on the roster, maybe until it fell apart.

Happy ever after

If you’re not familiar with the story — and unless you’re heavily into specific esports there’s no reason you would be — Fly and n0tail have a storied and emotive friendship; they met long ago as teenage Heroes of Newerth players, switched to Dota together and crossed a few teams as partners and occasional rivals before forming OG.

Their concept, which they haven’t entirely held to, was not to fire players at whimsy. That insecurity of position that comes with any significant loss — or even success — would be gone and they’d concentrate on building up a squad they believed in, without endless lineup changes to try to achieve that.

That was the theory, anyway — in reality the roster of OG has undergone quite a few brutal changes aside from the central two founders. They’ve had success, winning four Major tournaments (let’s call it the equivalent of a Premier League) and not disgracing themselves at previous TIs.

Soppy paeans have been written about Fly and n0tail, as irresistible a friend pair-up as the most fondly-conceived double act. Fly is an almost impossibly buff martial arts specialist, n0tail also goes to the gym but is unlikely to ever escape looking like a small, sleepy dormouse. Fly is an even-tempered captain, n0tail is a spicier customer also known as “Big Daddy.” They worked as the blue/green yin-yang that n0tail has tattooed on his forearm, the perfect mix of highly skilled players and genuine best friends.

Externally, we do not know what happened that made Fly leave OG, taking core player S4 with him. What Fly and n0tail — or even Tal and Johan, their real names — said to each other or haven’t said or are never going to say at this point is both not at all the business of the sport and something that we’re all hanging on emotionally morbid tenterhooks to know.

People fell in love with Fly and n0tail’s friendship and like you, three drinks down, on your ex’s Instagram, the fascination persists. Because just after ESL One Birmingham, a tournament OG were knocked out in the quarterfinals of, they announced the split and then went silent.

Fly and S4 left to join Evil Geniuses, a well-franchised esports group whose Dota team had previously won TI. Although neither team was in astonishing shape, EG with Fly and S4 looked like a superstar lineup, whereas OG looked like the quiet moment before an explosion.

If Fly and n0tail made OG to play together, what’s it supposed to be without both of them?

Ashes

There were already some earlier signs that all was a long way from well with OG. After suddenly firing Moon, they’d been forced to draft in Sebastien Debs, their player coach, as an emergency replacement. Consensus was that Ceb shouldn’t be playing, if you asked OG fan or foe alike and that his inclusion was an act of desperation akin to lighting the touchpaper.

This week has involved some extra-large and extremely chewy portions of word-eating across the Dota community but Ceb is also interesting because he’s unusually talkative and keen to write, for a Dota player beyond the text spam of a flame-heavy public game.

He made his own feelings, that Fly and S4’s departure was a betrayal clear in a blog post at the time. Then just days before the TI final he did an interview (published later) with VP Esports where he described that period in more poetic detail:

“The first step is make sure that whoever is still on the boat is not dead. That they’re still alive and have hope.”

Presumably the two remaining members of OG, other than Ceb, were indeed alive. But hope is a different and more fleeting business — Ceb called called success “a very capricious and unpredictable thing” but if it’s possible to architect an emotion then hope can surely be constructed.

Ceb is notoriously mouthy; some of the mockery aimed at him prior to TI was certainly a response to his own harshness in the past. But I’m a gobby twat too, it’s why I’m a journalist and in a lot of ways, especially in a player who’s stepped back into the game from being a coach (as my friend Jim aptly put it, the equivalent of Lineker suddenly getting the call-up from his Match Of The Day sofa — Ceb having segued into commentary by then) then realising you have a role to mouth off is important.

Ceb could write a post. JerAx, closer to S4 and certainly n0tail, so close to Fly, couldn’t. There are pieces of laundry too dirty to air and sometimes you gotta pick your own big, shark week pants to stick on the outdoors line. Not a surrender — not that colour — but a target to let people practice on, unaware of the Agent Provocateur collection waiting their cyclical turn.

I don’t know what the three remaining members of OG’s play squad did — what the entire organisation, including COO Evany Chang — for whom this must have been excruciating (Fly is her boyfriend) or how they finally assembled their team.

It was assumed it was scrambled. A teenager, Ana, who’d previously decided to step back after he found the pressure to intense — or even been pushed, who knows — and a guy JerAx and n0tail found on public servers called Topson, a few thousand in winnings to his name.

Everyone on the ship was alive but that didn’t mean it was afloat.

Pretty dresses

In the original Cinderella, she wants to go to the ball. She pleads and begs and tries to complete challenges to get there, helped by the creepy birds that live on her mother’s grave.

Impossible things, like picking a pan of rice out of the ashes in an hour — then another pan of lentils. But it’s to no effect, despite the fact she aces it. She has no dresses, no decorum. She will not be allowed to the ball and it was all a cruel trial to no end.

Anyway, no one really though OG would qualify for TI. I gotta admit, my heart was a lot on my mouth — what were you supposed to think, they’d put together a world-beating lineup with their ex-coach, some guy who couldn’t hack it and a random dude who’d never even played a Major?

They did. Pretty dominantly. But open qualifiers are kind of beneath most teams that have to participate. Just being in them is a sign of doom once you actually get to the event, let alone if you’ve only just managed to slam together a lineup, missed the final Super Major of the year and the last thing anyone heard from you was your equivalent of an unretired Crisp Man getting philosophical.

The slippers would have to fit oh so well.

Oh, pumpkin

By now you’re probably gathering that OG won. They won not decisively but in a twist-turn way that led them right up to the brink of midnight.

In the original Cinderella, she escapes by feats of implausible daring — jumping into a dovecote and shinning down the other side in a beautiful golden gown, before skidding back home to lie in ashes so that no one suspects.

The ball goes on for three nights, each night her gown gets progressively more beautiful, her daring escapes more elaborate until the prince (a megacreep if there ever was one) puts down pitch to catch her slipper on the way out. Not glass, but spun gold it catches easily as she leaps to the safety of obscurity.

Despite her own — and her stepmother and sisters’ — attempts to conceal her, the light of fate awards her …ok, let’s be real, marriage to be prince is not quite as alluring as an international award and millions of dollars in 2018 but sometimes that prize, it dances away from you even as you waltz with it.

Which is schmaltzy. But there was not a single series (the term for ‘best of’ 3 or 5 matches) that it really looked like OG could win, going into this. Their worst scrap, in some ways, was with chancers WinStrike who’d walked over long-former TI champs Na’Vi to take the former Soviet state open entry but been brutally crushed in the group stages of TI itself.

WinStrike knew no one was betting on them either. I haven’t rewatched the matches but I suspect there is an odd moment of OG meeting their own measures — if not their measure — and not knowing what to do with that that lost them the first game. WinStrike are a far inferior team — but no one knew that then, they just thought OG were flailing.

OG’s whole strategy was based on assuming they needed to be home before midnight, playing the ability to recover from being killed in fights as though it was an ability or enhancement, exhausting the enemy with elaborate and implausible plays that defied sense.

In the final match Ana, who had undergone speculation the entire tournament about his ability to hold his nerve under fire from bigger teams, in the process of dying crawled his hero to a shop, sold every item he needed to to have the gold to buy back in and exchanged a rune to optimise the sale in the space of maybe two seconds. It was a losing strategy, in some ways, except that it won them eleven million dollars and the TI title.

Success is indeed a “capricious and unpredictable” thing — Fly and S4 did not win TI. They were knocked out of the upper level by OG, then dispatched by a team OG had beaten and would go on to beat again in the finals. It’s not a sweet thing watching any team drop out, if you’re a fan and certainly the standard of everyone at TI this year has been extraordinary but it is tempting to place all kinds of karmic wards on the facts.

Which is stupid. OG wouldn’t have won if they hadn’t reorganised. They probably wouldn’t have even made the top 3 Evil Geniuses did. Capricious and unpredictable requires a certain element of chaos and there’s endless theorising to be done about where that lies except that OG played exceptional DOTA, in ways no one really had and they won.

“A Cinderella story” is what everyone is calling it. A fairytale ending, a bloody coronation; in the original, Cinderella is married with her cruel stepsisters as bridesmaids, both of their eyes eaten by her loyal grave-birds.

This isn’t a Cinderella story. Which is about reparative, brutal justice and the downtreading of one’s enemies rather than conquering them on a fair field. That’s — at least in theory — not sport.

The magic, the heart-thumping, gut-lurching moments early this Sunday morning when (knowing full well I needed to be up in a few hours) I beat my fists on my knees howling “PUSH THE FUCKING THING” like I was asking n0tail to birth the aegis as much as win it, were very much sport.

Comparatively, returning to my motorsport day job where I could have written the Belgian Grand Prix results the previous night and not been far wrong, was substantially less thrilling. Cinderella was never about the coronation.

Cinderella isn’t about marrying the prince. It’s about taking the opportunity to wear a dress some creepy birds brought you and walking into an event like you are supposed to be there. It’s about bagging the cheese — prince — because only you could quite fit the pattern to do it this year.

OG’s story is extraordinary, bizarre, a true Brothers Grimm tale if ever there was one. They were short on sequels.

The Dota Pro Circuit season starts in just a few weeks…

We talk about Cinderella stories in sport a lot; the way it’s referred to is generally the underdog. Someone who’s really come from behind, with less resources or opportunity or odds stacked against…

Cinderella 99

aka C99, Cindy 99

Cinderella 99, otherwise known as C99, or simply “Cindy,” is a sativa-dominant hybrid bred by Mr. Soul of Brothers Grimm. She’s best known for her potent cerebral high, sweet fruity flavors, and epic yields. According to Mr. Soul, C99 was created using seeds found in a Sensi branded 2 gram package of Jack Herer purchased at an Amsterdam coffee shop. Cinderella 99 is very popular with indoor growers because of its short, bushy stature, high yields, short flowering time, and high THC content. Cindy’s effects are usually described as dreamy, euphoric, and uplifting.

Cinderella 99, otherwise known as C99, or simply “Cindy,” is a sativa-dominant hybrid bred by Mr. Soul of Brothers Grimm. She’s best known for her potent cerebral high, sweet fruity flavors, and epic yields. According to Mr. Soul, C99 was created using seeds found in a Sensi branded 2 gram package of Jack Herer purchased at an Amsterdam coffee shop. Cinderella 99 is very popular with indoor growers because of its short, bushy stature, high yields, short flowering time, and high THC content. Cindy’s effects are usually described as dreamy, euphoric, and uplifting.

Cinderella 99, aka C99, Cindy 99, is a hybrid cannabis strain.