Are T1 and Forev about to do something big in Dota 2?

Steven R. July 22, 2020

There aren't many esports organizations that have a truly reputable and global brand, but T1 is definitely one of them.

The SK Telecom T1 League of Legends team achieved a level of success that few have been able to come close to, dominating the international scene for years. Alongside that was SKT sponsoring top StarCraft 2 players such as Park "Dark" Ryung-woo, Lee "INnoVation" Shin Hyung, and Eo "soO" Yun-su, who brought home a slew of titles. This followed a succesful history in StarCraft: Brood War, where SK Telecom T1 was the premier name in Korea's burgeoning esports scene.

In the years since, the organization has rebranded, expanded, and positioned itself for success in a number of different games.

Something that initially looked like it was going to undermine that success was T1’s Dota 2 team. The team looked to enter the game by signing former MVP Phoenix and Team Secret player Lee “Forev” Sang-don, but struggled mightily to find a winning combination of players around him. This resulted in a steady rotation of players ranging from European journeymen such as Dominik "Black^" Reitmeier and Johan "pieliedie" Åström, to largely unknown League of Legends converts.

It wasn’t until May, almost nine months after Forev’s original signing, that T1 settled on a roster largely comprised of Southeast Asian veterans:

  1. Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen
  2. Muhammad “inYourdreaM” Rizky
  3. Lee “Forev” Sang-don
  4. Tri “Jhocam” Kuncoro
  5. Wilson “Poloson” Koh Chin Wei

Though this iteration of T1 hasn’t found instant success in the way some other new teams have, the team has looked good enough of late that it’s worth giving the side a closer look.

T1 and Forev have turned things around... at least a little

Since completing its roster, T1 has posted generally strong results. 

After an inauspicious debut in the qualifiers to ESL One Birmingham 2020 and an early exit from Cyber.bet Cup: Spring Series, T1 scored a huge first-place finish in the Hephaestus Cup by going 7-2 at the expense of a number of more established SEA teams. T1 repeated that performance at the SEA Dota Invitational 2020, taking first place with a 3-0 grand finals victory over Cignal Ultra. Most recently, T1 took a respectable fourth-place finish in the ONE Esports Dota 2 SEA League.

There’s a large enough sample size with T1 now to get a read on how the team stacks up within the Southeast Asian Dota 2 scene and by extension, the game's international scene.

T1 has shown itself to be as good, if not better, than many of the teams that have impressed throughout 2020, names such as Team Adroit and Reality Rift.

The trouble is that T1’s also shown that it remains a cut below the most talented teams in the region. After several months of active competition, T1 has consistently come up short against Fnatic, TNC Predator, and Geek Fam. That trio of teams has firmly established itself as the region’s best, which leaves T1 and other similar squads fighting for fourth place.

If the Dota Pro Circuit was operating normally, that would open the door for T1 to compete at majors and would likely see the team competing in some of the circuit's minors. Success on those stages would seem unlikely given current form, but a top-eight finish certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.

As for the future, squads like Team Liquid have shown that teams that aren’t instantly successful can make steady progress with time and patience, and that a lack of immediate success doesn’t mean that a team can’t do big things down the road. This version of T1 still has a lot of work to do, but success may be still come with time.