OG’s brand-new mid-laner, the 20-year old Finnish Topias ‘Topson’ Taavitsainen, has spent less than a year in the pro Dota 2 scene – but he’s been playing MOBAs since he was just eight years old.
His 12 years of practice and love for the game are about to culminate in his first appearance at this year’s The International, the biggest Dota event of the year, and the goal of any aspiring Dota 2 pro. Just how did he get to this point in such a short time? We run through his short and storied career, and hear from the star himself.
Topson’s breakout moment came less than one year ago today. He had joined the up-and-coming Russian organisation SFTe-sports, where they had decided to pick up an entirely new roster, captained by veteran Russian carry Ilya ‘Illidan’ Pivcaev. Besides their captain, there wasn’t much else Russian about this team. In fact, three of the players (including Topson, of course) were Finnish, and support player, Tommy ‘Taiga’ Anh Le, was Norwegian.
It was the first time that Topson had played for a high-tier team, but he’d been grinding his way towards the professional scene for some time before that. He made appearances on lower-level squads in events like the ProDota Cup or joinDOTA League for a few years before his big break. While none of these teams made an impact, they got Topson noticed.
Right out of the gate, Topson’s SFT took a win. At the end of August 2017, they defeated Double Dimension 3-0 in the ProDota Cup Europe #21 Grand Final, winning the event. Just a couple of weeks later, they beat MidOrFeed in the StarLadder i-League Invitational #3 open qualifier final with an upset, securing themselves a spot in the regional qualifier. The result was a surprise at the time. MidOrFeed was a much more well-known roster, featuring the likes of Maurice ‘KheZu’ Gutmann and Aliwi ‘w33’ Omar.
The crowning achievement during Topson’s short time with SFTe-sports was against what would become Topson’s future team. In the ESL One Hamburg regional qualifier, SFT defeated OG 2-0, knocking them out of the running. Topson’s crew went on to face Team Secret in the qualifier final, but lost three straight games and missed their chance at a DPC LAN – but still, they'd managed to fell OG, and clearly left a mark.
However, it wasn’t long before drama struck. On October 17, the former SFTe-sports roster played a joinDOTA League Season 11 match under a new name: No Rats. Lengthy posts on both Illidan and SFTe-sports’ VK pages pointed fingers in both directions, with claims ranging from communication issues between the org and players, to plain old mutiny. Whatever the case was, the five players set out on their own, but No Rats played just a couple of qualifiers and a couple of cups for about a month before going their separate ways.
Topson was then recruited to join four fellow Finns to play in the WESG 2017 national team-based event. The squad had originally qualified with Joni ‘Buugi’ Fält, but needed a replacement: Topson took the call and joined up, heading to the European final in Barcelona. There, they managed a record of three wins and three losses, which was enough to qualify them for the Global Final in China.
The experience together in Barcelona inspired the formation of a new team: 5 Anchors No Captain. The name was inspired by a Finnish team that existed between 2014 and 2015 called 4 Anchors + Sea Captain, who were partially responsible for introducing two legendary Finnish players to the world at large: Jesse ‘JerAx’ Vainikka and Lasse ‘MATUMBAMAN’ Urpalainen.
5 Anchors stuck together for the next three months, growing and improving. They played a fair number of Major and Minor qualifiers, but the closest they came to a DPC LAN was fourth place in the DreamLeague Season 9 EU regional qualifier. Still, they had WESG to play in China, but sadly they were eliminated in the group stage.
Shortly after this disappointing result, the team announced that they had disbanded. They played out their final joinDOTA League Season 12 matches in April, then parted ways. Topson announced that he planned to stream full-time, and started his grind on the road to becoming the number-one ranked player on European servers. It was a lofty goal, but Topson had the skills to get there – and not long after, on April 4, he'd reached the top.
The next couple of months were quiet ones but, even though he wasn’t even there, events at ESL One Birmingham would change Topson’s Dota career. Following the first Major on British soil, OG lost both Gustav ‘s4’ Magnusson and Tal ‘Fly’ Aizik, and were on the hunt for new talent. Just one week after announcing the loss of two of their players, OG introduced the world to their new roster, consisting of Sébastian ‘7ckngMad’ Debs, Jesse ‘JerAx’ Vainikka, Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein, bringing back Ananth ‘ana’ Pham, and their newest recruit, Topias ‘Topson’ Taavitsainen.
“We spent quite some time watching him play before we reached out. His approach to the game inspired us immensely,” former coach and now offlaner for the team, 7ckngMad tells us. “He seemed to have a unique way of looking at the game, and pushes whatever he works on to the limits. It was easy for me to foresee how much trouble he would give other teams. All of this got quickly confirmed as soon as we started playing competitively together.”
It seems Mad’s intuition was correct, because Topson’s first event with OG was the biggest event of his life: the open qualifier for The International. Throughout his years with various stacks and teams, he’d never even tried his luck at a TI qualifier, but now here he was with one of Europe’s strongest teams – and he shone like a star.
They made it through on the first try with just a single slip-up. Their only loss came in the Round of Eight against Unchained Esports, but the squad bounced back to take that series 2-1. They finished off Elements Pro Gaming in a very dominant 2-0 in the Round of Four to qualify for regionals.
Unlike some other regional qualifiers for TI8, just one team could make it through in Europe – and OG managed to secure their slot. They went undefeated in the group stage, beating every single one of their opponents in single-game series. In the play-off round, they sailed through two best-of-three matches in the upper bracket, dropping one game to Wind and Rain before landing in the Grand Final. That final was a rematch against Wind and Rain, but the European mix weren’t able to take more than one win against OG the second time around, and OG secured their spot in Vancouver with a 3-1 win.
Now, Topson is heading to his first International with one heck of an experienced team surrounding him. So far, things are looking very good for this brand-new OG roster. “Playing with OG has been very rewarding,” Topson tells us. “I think we have very good team synergy and everyone enjoys playing with each other.”
TI8 may be the biggest challenge Topson has ever faced, but he’s got a great attitude about it: “I haven’t set any goals for TI8 except to play my best and hope it’s gonna be enough!” Could this be OG’s best TI yet? We’ll have to wait and see.