Puppey vs. N0tail: Who is Dota 2’s greatest player of all time?

Kenneth Williams • June 29, 23:46

Unlike most other esports, Dota 2 has never had a clear best player of all time. There is a shortlist of names however, with the top two being Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and Johan “N0tail” Sundstein.

Dota 2 is an esport ruled by elite players with over a decade of experience. Two Dota 2 veterans have elevated themselves to the very pinnacle of the game, and stand tall at the top of the mountain. Puppey and N0tail have each succeeded in different ways, but which one truly deserves the GOAT title?

N0tail’s argument is simple at face value, captaining the first-ever two-time The International champions. But the full argument is even stronger than that.

OG entered The International 2018 as qualifier underdogs with a mid laner who had never played on LAN. Repeating the feat at The International 2019, and earning a combined $5,370,867 from just two tournaments, cemented N0tail as the immediately recognizable GOAT of Dota 2. It’s easy to overlook N0tail’s other achievements in the wake of such unprecedented success, but those are far from his only Valve trophies. 

But while N0tail’s peaks undoubtedly beat Puppey’s, it’s impossible to overstate the Estonian mastermind’s consistency. The Team Secret captain has played at the very highest level of Dota 2 for the entirety of the game’s existence. 14 years of Dota 2 has produced 55 championships, five majors, and $2,887,274 in prize money. While only N0tail and OG have two The International championships, it’s also important to remember that Puppey captained the first TI-winning team.

 

When it comes to mechanical skills, N0tail wins out due to his earlier tenure as a mid-laner and carry. For years, N0tail’s Meepo was among the scariest heroes in Dota 2. N0tail was also a highly successful carry player, a role he took on when Anathan “ana” Pham first joined the OG roster. N0tail’s micro skills are so godlike that he once piloted both Tiny and Io to a victory after Andreas Franck “Cr1t-” Nielsen disconnected from a 2015 tournament match.

Puppey is no slouch in the micro department, either. While N0tail’s Meepo was the scariest core pick, Puppey’s Chen was the first phase nightmare for anyone drafting against Natus Vincere. He leveraged that skill to create Team Secret, where Chen, Enchantress, and Enigma form the basis of his drafting philosophy.

Speaking of drafting, Puppey is the absolute king of turning the pick screen into a minefield. The Team Secret name was founded on Puppey’s ability to herd the enemy into one strategy, then counter-pick them. This has seen Puppey historically look to play with versatile teammates. At Puppey’s discretion, Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng, Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, and even N0tail himself enjoyed runs at the top with Team Secret.

Then again, N0tail’s off-meta style and willingness to take risks are what earned him two International titles. N0tail is the drunken master of Dota 2, inventing and executing insane strategies to catch opponents off guard. Before the TI victories, OG won four Majors in just two years thanks to daring drafts, clever counter-plays, and meta-shattering tactics. And of course, as OG’s captain, he helped develop the voice line spam that’s become a hallmark of pro Dota 2.   

Let’s look at both player’s trophy cabinets.

Puppey’s Dota 2 achievements

  • 55 tournament championships
  • 30 prize purses over $100,000 
  • $2,889,451 personal earnings
  • 5 Dota Pro Circuit majors
  • 1 Aegis of Champions from The International 1

N0tail’s Dota 2 achievements

  • 22 tournament championships
  • 15 prize purses over $100,000 
  • $6,983,817 personal earnings
  • 4 Dota Pro Circuit majors
  • 2 Aegis of Champions from The Internationals 2018 and 2019

The battle for the title of “Greatest Dota 2 Player of all Time” still isn’t clear. Puppey against N0tail is a battle of consistency versus peak performance. For every second of Dota 2’s release, Puppey has been among Dota 2’s elites. From his early days on Natus Vincere to the modern Team Secret dynasty, few have been able to challenge Puppey’s Dota 2 IQ.  But if greatness is quantified by earnings, N0tail isn’t just the best Dota 2 player of all time. He’s the greatest esports pro who has ever lived across any game. The double-TI-winning OG roster are the five richest esports pros in history, and N0tail leads by $500,000 thanks to four DPC majors. 

Both men still have some competition on their heels, however. Team Nigma captain Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi shares much of Puppey’s resume and boasts an Aegis from The International 2017. Chinese support legend Xu “fy” Linsen on Elephant could make a strong case for himself. Some Dota 2 fans would certainly still make an argument for Danil “Dendi” Ishutin. PSG.LGD’s Zhang “y`” Yiping and Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida could also join the hunt if they become two-time TI champions later this year.

Regardless of the current opinion, both players still have time to add to their claim. Another round of success for OG could push N0tail over the top. One more Aegis would stifle almost any argument against Puppey. Team Secret is already guaranteed to appear at The International 10. OG will have to qualify for TI10 through the Western European qualifier starting on July 7.

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