“Have you ever watched the movie ‘300?’ You just go Ah-hoo! Ah-hoo! Ah-hoo!” – Verros “Maybe Next Time” Apostolos
Raw, aggressive, emotional, passionate, exuberant, spontaneous. The play style and personalities of the Ad Finem team swept across the Wang Theater like a spark of fire scorching the plains. Their raw emotions and even more exciting games were a strong drink that went straight to the hearts of the fans. It was made all the more potent for those who had followed them from the humble beginnings to their miracle run through The Boston Major.
There are three paths to the top of Dota 2 competition. The first is to win a massive amount of MMR on the ladder to get noticed by professional teams and given a trial. This was how Anathan “ana” Pham got picked up by IG and later OG. The second is to try to join team after team until you are noticed and hired by a better team or try to get lucky in a roster shuffle. Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho’s entire Dota 2 career is an example of this method. The third is to play against your local teams and players repeatedly and then form a super team. The third is the most common, as the constant competition gives the players the best chance to evaluate each other and form around complimentary play styles and personalities.
But what if you are from a smaller region with fewer players, teams and sponsorships? Not every player who climbs the MMR ladder will be noticed. Not every player who has potential will get a shot to play in a team and travel abroad to test their mettle. Not every player will come from a region large enough to have a deep player pool to form a top tier team. Then you fight. Again and again and again until you can find the right five.
That is the story of Ad Finem’s run at the Major. Their run through Newbee, LGD Forever Young and Digital Chaos in the playoffs and their finals against OG were just the latest chapter. The story started long before the dive formed together, long before the Major system even existed and in some cases all the way back to the original Dota.
The beginning of this team’s story starts with two teams: Extreme PC International and Elysium Gaming. Extreme PC International was the first team Omar “Madara” Dabachach joined. The team had some skills but lacked leadership until discovering Giorgos “SsaSpartan” Giannakopoulos. The partnership between Madara and SsaSpartan goes throughout their careers and is the foundation of the team.
The other core of the team came from Elysium. That is where Maybe Next Time, Kharis “SkyLark” Zafiriou and Dimitris “ThuG” Plivouris started their careers. It didn’t last long, and soon afterward ThuG was just another pub player.
And so the five best eventual best players from Greece remained split. Apart they met with frustration, as their attempts to get onto the world stage were blocked repeatedly. The failures forced another change as London Conspiracy recruited SkyLark. The real glimpse of brilliance was at Joindota MLG Pro League Season 2, where ThuG stood in for the team and they upset Evil Geniuses to reach the playoffs. Although it was only one game, it showed something they had never had before: promise.
Madara then briefly joined Golden Gaming where he played with Maybe Next Time. He then recruited him and ThuG — the final missing pieces of the ultimate Greek team — and formed Ad Finem.
That was just over a year ago on Dec. 4, 2015. The team’s path included plenty of struggle but also fight in showing more and more promise in online games as time progressed. It culminated in victory at the Boston Major qualifiers and a shocking run at The Boston Major.
If you think you’ve heard this story, that’s because you have — or at least a variation of it. CDEC at The International 5. Wings at TI6. WarriorsGaming.Unity at this Boston Major. MVP throughout 2016. TnC at TI6. Even OG themselves. Ad Finem is the latest in a long line of what makes Dota 2 unique: It is a game of renewal. The very way this game is designed and balanced is such that change must and will come. Every patch is a new chance for every player and every team. IceFrog demands change. He demands adaptation. He demands something new.
At the Boston Major, Ad Finem delivered. Their raw aggression, high-paced tempo, emotional outbursts and constant flanks were a sight to behold. They played the tournament of their lives. So it was fitting then that the one player you could say played a better tournament than them was in the finals. If there was one player who understood the pains and struggles that Ad Finem had got to get here, it was Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka.
He, too, struggled and strained from low tier-team to low-tier team for years, and while many of the others on his team were star veterans who already had their wings, JerAx had yet to clinch his first Major victory. Even their play styles were almost complimentary as he answered Ad Finem’s fire with fire, forcing play after play against the aggressive Greeks.
This culminated into the best game of the tournament and one of the best games of the year in Game 3 of the grand finals, where they dragged themselves out of the pits of despair and fought tooth and nail for every inch of that game. It was the most Ad Finem game of the tournament, the apex of who they are and their struggles: Constant aggressive initiations that caught OG on the back foot. The game-ending fight that left the ancient of OG at 300 hp and with Maybe Next Time diving in to kill it to secure the victory.
OG eventually secured the win 3-1, but no one will soon forget Game 3 of the finals. No one will forget how Ad Finem made the crowd pound their chests chanting “Ah-Hoo!” And no one will ever forget this incredible run.
Cover photo: Screenshot