6 things that made Sumail world champ in Dota 2
Sumail, 15, wins $1.2m Dota 2 Asian Championship and $6.6m TI5. Source: Evil Geniuses
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By Danyal Zahid (aka Danger)
When legendary Arteezy (
@Arteezy) won MLG Columbus in 2013 and later became the 2014 MVP (most valuable player) of Dota 2, I scrambled for insights into his gameplay and what made him stand out, I found very little on the Internet.
Not until I have had a personal Q&A with him in which I asked him how not to choke against big players, and he said: just turn off player names.
This week, Dota 2’s new global star, Sumail (
@SumaaaaiL), a 15-year-old Pakistani-American, broke the internet after winning the $1.2 million DAC2015 Asian Championship for Team Evil Geniuses. Sumail became the 7th Twitter global trend.
Sumail was like my little brother, over all the years we played together which were made up of innovation, sheer joy, fights, countless arguments and whatnot.
I see myself winning in his big win. It feels as if I have achieved it myself. Sumail has given me a whole new perspective and a regained confidence, and for that I would be forever grateful.
I have tried to put together this piece for those who are looking for insight into Sumail’s play and what made him what he is at age 15. These are the six things that created the Sumail storm in Dota 2 DAC15.
1. Global ambition
The first noticeable thing about Sumail was his ambition: to be the best mid player in the world.
When I started all I wanted was to be the best player in the country, which I did achieve by age 13. After that it was only a ritual until I got bored and moved to Canada for my studies.
In Sumail’s case, his first major tournament was against my team and he beat me – the best – at mid. So, in one go he became the best in the country.
Later when we both formed a team and including his elder brother Yawar and Munchy, being the best in Pakistan didn’t mean much to him, his eyes were already on something bigger, perhaps being the best mid player in the world.
Arteezy and Sumail. Source: Conrad Janzen
2. Persistent skill practice
Sumail played 10 to 13 games a day, for four years, in front of my eyes, mastering his game-play, mechanics, game-sense, controlled aggression, item builds, individual hero play styles, and last hitting skills (
@Arteezy won’t like if I don’t mention the last-hitting bit).
The result: where we once were equal in 1×1’s we went to the point where I could not stand in a lane against him! As late Greg Plitt would say, he trained himself mercilessly so he did not have to wake up in the midnight hours wondering “what if!”.
He was super-confident in his game and play style as well as reflective.
For instance, during game if he ever died at mid, he looked at the replay of his death 10 times, asking himself, how could he let that happen. But always telling himself that it was his mistake not the other player’s skill (I will call this ‘champion mindset’).
In some instances of self-doubt, I always told him that Dota is a psychological game. You have to believe you can win before you even set foot in the mid lane, otherwise there’s no point.
This belief was later reinforced when Arteezy said exactly the same thing in his MLG interview and the International: you have to have the winner’s mindset, so I am aiming for first.
Sumail’s confidence reflected in his unique item choices and play style on the world stage.
Our earlier story on Sumail: Pakistani, 15, becomes Dota 2 world champ
4. No fear (pun intended!)
As Al Pacino says in movie The Recruit, I am a scary judge of talent. I immediately recognized this style of Sumail when I played against him that he does not care of who he is facing. Initially, he gave a little respect and at times choked.
As he grew as a person and a player, he stopped caring about the name of the player. He could care less if he was facing one of the best mid’s or just any other.
Team Evil Geniuses that won $1.2 million DAC15. Credit: Korie Yang
His love for the game is unimaginable. He would watch my game with curiosity and sustained interest until 6pm and then had to rush back home to avoid curfew imposed by his parents on the young soul.
He played countless hours without any care in the world, be it being tired or hungry. Speaking of hunger, he once played 24 hours straight without eating anything (source: His brother Yawar). If Internet was disconnected or if the game lagged during important games, tears would come down his eyes.
Dota players are now in for money and fame. Then, Sumail didn’t even know if this game would qualify for a decent international tournament. His love for the game was solely for the game and the passion he brought to it.
So much passion and purpose that these daily discomforts did not even come on his radar of tunnel focus. Sumail sweat, cried, sacrificed for this game knowing one day his passion would pay off.
6. Superior talent
There’s a luck factor in every endeavor. Sumail is gifted with superior talent in Dota; it just comes naturally to him. His success at such an early age put him into the child prodigy category.
There are countless other players who give it their all, day in day out, yet fall short. In addition to being extremely skilled you have to be a little lucky as well.
PS: Sumail: Thank you for the shout-out to me in your 1 February interview. The reality is you are my inspiration now! Good luck in TI5.
Danyal (game name: Danger) has been playing Dota for nine years. He played with Sumail for four years when he was in Karachi, Pakistan. He has seen Sumail grow from Garena Pakistan Room to the MVP Mid Laner of DAC2015. His Facebook & Twitter.
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