Peter “ppd” Dager has seemingly retired from professional Dota 2, as announced last week, a bit more than a month after The International 6. Now, everyone knows that Dota 2 “retirements” are a dime a dozen, and the Chinese scene especially has made a mockery of the notion with constant retirements and returns that it’s hard not to look at any retirement without a healthy dose of skepticism. In the case of ppd, though, an article is worth writing (Clinton “Fear” Loomis as well) because of what he has represented to the entire North American region and Dota 2.
Ppd is the most important player to have come from the NA region. In a sense, you could say he is the NA region.
When people point out how strong the NA region is in Dota2, taking a look at the teams that compete in the region reveals only three teams that have had any success: Cloud 9, Digital Chaos and Evil Geniuses. That distinction is confusing, as Cloud 9 was a mixed NA/EU team and often used that to its advantage to get server advantages in online qualifiers. DC is a team with four EU players and one NA player that happened to live and play in NA for some amount of time before TI6.
I consider both international/mixed teams rather than NA teams. They spent a period of time in NA, but all of their players did the majority of their training in Europe, and all of their skills and the way they formulated the systems to play their game are grounded in those experiences. In a similar example, no one from StarCraft II has ever claimed Greg “idra” fields or Chris “HuK” Loranger were Korean players because they had spent a significant time of their training in Korea.
So after disregarding Cloud 9 and DC, who else is there? The statement that the NA region is strong is a front. There is no NA region because there is only EG. And there is only EG because of ppd.
Before ppd appeared on the scene, the region was in shambles. There were multiple skilled players, but no one could make a coherent whole out of any of it. The region collectively lacked discipline, dedication and a system.
Once ppd entered, the NA scene was still in shambles, but he recognized that you could make an elite level team from the parts that were already around. All you needed was an iron will that forced everyone else to buckle down and work.
Ppd was just that. Even back during his days as a Heroes of Newerth player, his teammates credited his ability to rise to the top because of his dedication. It wasn’t any prodigious talent; it was his willingness to play, to practice, to analyze, to do everything he could to be better at the game.
That same work ethic moved on to Dota 2 and is inherent in every iteration of team he has run. It has become a meme at this point to call ppd a salty player, but I’ve always considered it a praise-worthy title. He gets that angry because he cares about winning more and believes all players should want to win and play the best they can.
That fundamental difference between him and a majority of players is why that rage happens and is why no other NA team is worth talking about in the same space with ppd’s Dota 2 teams.
“Honestly, in my opinion of previous American teams, I don’t think they’ve been hungry enough to compete at the highest level,” ppd said in 2014. “I don’t think any of them have really wanted to win the way I want to win.”
The most valuable player ppd ever recruited was Fear. No one in the NA scene is more respected, experienced and better to handle the interpersonal relationship dynamics that every Dota 2 team suffers. At the same time, Fear has played for so long that there is also no one who has as vast a hero pool as him in the region, which made him the ultimate role player. Although there are many heroes he can’t play at the highest level, he can fulfill their roles and fit the team identity better. He was a key factor in the success of ppd as a drafter.
Ppd needed that veteran savvy. EG from its formation was a cancerous team. Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao believed it to be the most cancerous team in the world. But the team always put its bullshit aside when it came down to it and worked together to achieve victory.
In the Dota 2 scene, that is a feat in and of itself. Teams like OG, which espouse friendship as their motto, were unable to put their differences aside and work together to go deep into this year’s TI. Ppd did it with a fractured team that nearly imploded and left him after the Artour “Arteezy” Babaev trade.
Ppd isn’t only the best captain to have come out of the NA region; he could very well be the greatest in Dota 2 history. The only two other captains in that conversation are Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and Zhang “xiao8” Ning. In pure TI results, ppd is ahead, but both Puppey and xiao8 have ppd beat in the amount of victories, longevity, consistency and the amount of teams and metas they’ve played in.
I don’t have an answer as to who the greatest captain is in Dota 2, as that requires a deep knowledge pool on the teams they played relative to their times, the metas and the strategies they innovated. But what I can say is this: Ppd is the chosen one.
There are many players from NA who are individually superior to him. Many like to point to Arteezy as the best player from the region. They could be right, but ppd is the single most important player to have come out of the region. Multiple high-level MMR players have come out of every region. But in the history of Dota 2 there are only three S-Class Dota 2 leaders — leaders who have achieved so much that they can only be compared to each other.
As ppd finally steps down from his professional playing days, he can rest assured that his legacy is secure. He will go down in history as the most important player to have ever come out of the NA region and one of the best leaders in Dota 2’s history — if not the greatest.
Photos: Robert Paul/ESL, eslgaming.com