With millions of eSports fans gaming all over the globe, it’s no surprise that there are competitive leagues and tournaments appearing everywhere. Dota 2, the acronym for the multiplayer game Defense of the Ancients, has enjoyed a simultaneous user stream with a player base of thousands. But, The International global-span competition offers tournament play with prize pools reaching more than $2 million and climbing, and players whose MMR numbers are spectacular (more than 5k MMR) have the chance to become pro players. Valve Corporation, one of the world’s largest game publishers, has consistently pushed for high quality games, and Dota 2 is just one example of what’s possible when game developers are passionate about creating engaging PC games. What’s emerged is the team system with the highest-level players earning far more than enough to make a professional career by gaming with Dota 2. In this rarified world, pro gamers are known to fans by their player IDs. It’s spectacular to see videos of top game moments, with the best players in their winning moments.
The richest eSports gamers are an insular, highly intelligent, sometimes secretive group. Their personal interviews are filled with gaming talk- when they interview at all. They spend their days gaming for hours to hone and perfect their skills. They band together in invitational teams with the goal of winning. They want to win for the amazement of succeeding and for the amazing amount of prize money they earn when they do. Here’s the latest info on twenty pros who’ve risen to the top.
20. Gustav “s4” Magnusson: $1,591,973.48
Magnusson has the distinction of being given two nicknames by the gaming community. There are two reasons: his last name means “Son of Magnus” in his birth country Sweden, and his amazing Magnus play. Son of Magnus along with s4 are his two gaming names. He won The Boston and Kiev Majors and The International Alliance. The only other gamer to do is before Magnusson is Miracle. Magnusson plays Dota 2 professionally and has earned a significant amount of respect for his innovative Puck and Magnus plays. He also devised a unique Roshan bait strategy and instantly became one of the most famous gamers. He was rewarded with the Team Liquid 2012 Biggest Play Award.
19. Clement “Puppey” Ivanov: $1,648,161.43
Clement Ivanov is an Estonian Dota 2 professional gamer. He’s famous in Dota circles for being prolific and fearless when it comes to experimenting. These character traits are true even in the most definitive matches. He’s effective in every role he takes on, but he most often plays Support or Jungler. Ivanov is proficient in English, and this gives him the freedom to play with the top European teams. One significant part of his education is that he studied music and was a choir singer for 12 years. He also plays saxophone, guitar, violin, and clarinet. He began his musical studies when he was just five, and his dream is still to create his own musical group. Ivanov began playing in pub games. In 2007, he started playing professionally with the XeroSkill team, which was made up of skilled, but still unknown players. His big break into the upper levels took place in 2009 where he stood-in for Mouz at the DreamHack Summer. Ultimately, he paired up with Kuroky and became captain. Later in his career, he formed Team Secret, and its failures and ultimate success placed Ivanov in top tier position.
18. Zeng “Faith” Hongda: $1,650,565.73
Zeng Hongda is from Guangdong province in China. He is the second generation of his family to play Dota 2. During his professional Dota 2 career, he had played with several Chinese teams. After a switch-back-and-forth pattern, he finally landed with Newbee, and stayed. Zeng Hongda did well with this powerhouse Chinese team. He took first place for the Dota2 Professional League and then took second place for the ESL One Genting.
17. Chen “Hao” Zhihao: $1,761,647.03
Chen Zhihao is a Dota 2 player from China. He was born in 1990. He reached his $100,000 milestone In July 2014 when he won 1st place at The International 2014. It took him 20 Tournaments to reach that point. He’s ranked #7 in China. He played 59 Tournaments to reach his current prize money earnings status. Chen Zhihao was given the nickname “General Hao”. His reputation has been that of aggressive, fervent, and risky. He plays the carry position and goes in for the kill more times than it is possible to count. His playing style is so aggressive that his team will either reap the rewards of his risk-filled plays or endure a setback when he fails. Other nicknames given to him are “Hao the Hand Cutter” and “Walnut”. The second is due his Chinese DotA players, who referenced Chinese popular culture for it. Many Chinese believe that eating walnuts calms the brain, so his teammates have told him to eat some to get a break from his all-in aggression during gaming.
16. Zhang “xiao8” Ning: $1,824,534.96
Zhang Ning is a Chinese Dota 2 player, who was born on November 14, 1989. He began gaming professionally in 2010 in Dream. In 2011, he moved Invictus Gaming along with his teammates, propelled by a deal worth $6,000,000. During 2011 and 2012, he played offland and solo mid role. By 2014, Newbee acquired Zhang. It was his 2014 team which won The International 2014. In 2016 alone, Zhang played in 10 tournaments and won $162,332.23 in prize money. Highlights for Zhang in 2016 included playing Dota 2 in various leagues. A few of Zhang’s prize-winning highlights for 2016 are The Boston Major 2016-winning $25,000, The International 2016: Dota 2 Championships-winning $62,311.40, and The Manila Major 2016-winning $51,000. Zhang is often called “Director 8. At one time, he was married to Jie Zhao, a Chinese model he met on a game show. He chose his gaming name because “xiao1” through “xiao7” were already taken.
15. Zhou “bLink” Yang: $1,955,318.02
Zhou Yang was born in 1992. Though he’s played for Speed Gaming.cn, Wings Gaming and Team Random, he’s currently active with Sun Gaming, playing the Solo Middle Role. When Zhou Yang started gaming professionally, he was part of a team of five completely new players who had never played professionally before. He was just 22 years old, but still the oldest team member. The two youngest were 16, and Zhou Yang noted that all the team members worked together to solve problems and succeed. He said that he suspended his educational studies during the time he was on that first time. He said that it was common in China to train more than 12 hours daily with others, and for him, he would strategize over plans to defeat opponents before he went to sleep each night.
14. Chu “Shadow” Zeyu: $1,955,458.82
Chu Zeyu plays the role of Carry for team Eclipse. He was born in 1997, and his home country is China. Before he played for Eclipse, he played for Green Shoots Gaming, Immortal Magneto Gaming, Kefira United, Wings Gaming, and Team Random. His current team, Eclipse, is a Chinese organization which was created in May 2017. Chu Zeyu reached his $100,000 milestone in August 2016. He earned the most money in a single tournament when he competed in The International 2016, placing 1st and winning $1,827,800.40.
13. Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida: $1,962,687.22
Zhang Ruida is a Dota 2 player from China. Zhang Ruida earned more than $10,000 in cash from 3 tournaments before he was 18 years old. He was born in 1998, and is currently active in Team EHOME, where he fills the role of Offlaner. He’s regarded by many as the most skilled mechanical offlaner in the world. He also played for Speed Gaming.cn, Wings Gaming, and Team Random before he joined EHOME.
12. Zhang “Y.'” Yiping: $1,962,747.64
Zhang Yiping is ranked #2 in his home country of China. He was born in 1998. To earn the current total prize money, he participated in 23 Tournaments. He’s played for teams Speed Gaming.cn, Wings Gaming (where he was the Captain of Team Wings), Team Random, and EHOME. His current roles in team EHOME are Support and Captain. Yiping says that each tournament has been a different experience for him, with many kinds of stresses, excitement and buildup to each event. As the games have been updated and different versions have been created, he and his team members have worked to improve their play. He and his team members enjoy giving various nicknames to their friends and fellow gamers. They once gave another gamer the name of “Fat Headed Fish” because he’d been cranky.
11. Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling: $1,971,548.24
Kurtis Daniel Ling is a Dota 2 player from Canada, where he’s ranked #1. He’s played for 14 different teams, and currently plays for Animal Planet. When he first began playing DotA, he was just nine years old. He eventually became part of the University of British Columbia’s Starcraft club, and that was his first competitive experience. He learned about The International’s $1.6 million prize pool, and that sparked his interest in Dota 2 gaming. Though he was a sociology major at university, he worked two jobs to keep in school. He was a supermarket stocker and a preschool janitor. He’s accomplished a lot during his tenure as professional gamer. Animal Planet was signed by Iceberg Esports in January 2018, and Ling and his teammates are doing well.
10. Li “iceice” Peng: $1,998,867.63
Li Peng was well known as a pubstar before he was invited into professional gaming when xiao8 recruited him to be part of team Big God. He played with Big God for two months and then moved to Wings Gaming. He and the Wings team won The Summit 5, ESL One Manila 2016, and The International 2016. He’s still active professionally with team Sun Gaming, where he fills the role of Support.
9. Clinton “Fear” Loomis: $2,457,351.64
Medford, Oregon is the hometown of Clinton Loomis, but he moved to Orange County, California, to be with his fiancé. He officially retired for a time from playing, but still coached. The American has been seen by many as the one of the best players from North America in the past ten years. Loomis is versatile and therefore able to compete in every position he plays. He’s been part owner and captain of the Evil Geniuses, but players regard him as being a great addition to most other teams. When Loomis first began playing Dota, he was the leader of team “PLuG Pullers Inc. They were sponsored early in 2006-one of the first to be-with compLexity Gaming. At that time, Loomis was seen as the world’s best player, and was a role model for others entering Dota. After a period of retirement, Loomis rejoined the pro circuit in 2017-18. His leadership of Dota teams throughout his career has led to the development of a video series which includes his life and a line of sale apparel dedicated to him by Evil Geniuses.
8. Maroun “GH” Merhej: $2,507,653.78
Maroun Merhej came from Lebanon. There, most players play at internet cafes, and often sponsors pay for the players to play there. The home internet systems are extremely expensive, so most gamers endure several hours drive to get to internet cafes so they can play. He’s somewhat of a celebrity in his home country and known for his amazing gaming skills. He was a law student in school, and gamed because he found it difficult to hold down a stable job. He made his professional name playing with Team Liquid, where 99% of his winnings took place. He was recruited for Team Liquid by veteran gamer KuroKy. His favorite hero to play currently is Shadow Fiend, because of his late game taletns. Merhej is ranked #1 in Lebanon and #8 in the world.
7. Peter “ppd” Dager: $2,646,776.36
Peter Dager is originally from Indiana, but he moved to San Diego, California after winning The International. He’s the new CEO of Evil Geniuses. He left playing Dota professionally, but he still uses the skills he learned as a team captain to facilitate communication and get the team ideas working together as one. When he was actively playing Dota, his goal was always to win. He carries that competitive spirit with him as he coaches his team. He has been playing Dota since he was in his early teens. His parents did not support his gaming, he has made a name for himself in the gaming industry and has made a large amount of money doing it. He believes that eSports is a wonderful and amazing phenomenon. He said that everyone with an interest in gaming can be helpful, even if they aren’t gaming. He said that the companies needs lawyers, accountant, and all sorts of other skills to the team continue its successes.
6. Sumail “SumaiL”Hassan:$2,676,991.94
Sumail Hassan is originally from Pakistan. He lived in a small apartment with eight family members and shares his room with three of them. His family immigrated to the U.S. to further his career in Dota 2. He moved when he was just 15, and he had never played on a professional team when he was first recruited. But, he quickly made a reputation for excellence, establishing himself as a player. He played for EG, and when he started, EG was propelled to the upper tournament levels, and wins. In fact, Sumail became the youngest player to earn $1,000,000 gaming. He was also featured in Time Magazine 2016 as one of the most influential teenagers.
5. Lasse “Matumbaman” Urpalainen: $2,889,227.24
When Lasse Urpalainen first started to game, his family wasn’t kind about it. But it was his passion, and he continued to play, even though they preferred that he study in school. Eventually he moved out of his parent’s house and worked odd jobs to support his gaming career. Urpalainen is Finnish, and he generally plays support roles in Dota 2. He currently handles the carry role for his unit, doing his best work with the signature heroes Gyrocopter, Lycan, and Lone Druid.Lasse Urpalainen is well-known for his extraordinary mechanical skills. His work with heroes Ember Spirit and Tinker was what brought him to favor with many fans of Dota 2. In September 2014, Matumbaman became a part of the all-Finnish team 4 Anchors + Sea Captain, along with Buugi, Trixi, Vaalix, and JerAx. Before the Frankfort Major, KuroKy recruited Matumbaman for 5Jungz. Matumbaman continuously put in high-placing competitions, strongly holding his leadership place until The International 2016. He currently plays professionally with Team Liquid. When he is not gaming, Urpalainen enjoys snowboarding and skiing. When he was younger, he played baseball on the Finnish National team.
4. Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov: $2,889,522.96
Ivan Borislavov Ivanov plays for Team Liquid, specializing in the offlaner position. He’s from Bulgaria, where he started gaming at the age of five, playing on the computer his grandmother bought for him. He’s been playing Dota 2 since 2012. He became a professional gamer in 2014 when he joined Vast Cast. When Ivanov isn’t gaming, he enjoys competing with chess and table tennis. He also likes to spend time with his friends. He has some favorite foods, which include Snickers candy bars and BrewDog beer. He’s participated in 45 Tournaments and is currently ranked #1 in Bulgaria and #4 in the world.
3. Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora: $2,953,956.27
Saahil Arora was born on October 11, 1989. His hometown is Madison, Wisconsin. He’s part of the Fnatic professional eSports team which has its headquarters in London. It’s a team comprised of players from many countries. Arora specializes in the offlaner position in Dota 2 and is considered by many to be one of the best offlaners in the West. He’s best known for Faceless Void and Dark Seer. He’s the only gamer to have been part of every event sponsored by Valve, even though he was a sub for the initial International. He’s ranked #1 in the United States, and #3 in the world. He’s participated in 75 Tournaments, and his career has spanned nine years. His highest winnings came in 2015 when he won $1,730,083.34 from 12 Tournaments. He’s already won $16,8000 in 2018 from 2 Tournaments.
2. Amer “Miracle” Al-Barqawi: $3,128,079.88
Amer Barqawi is from Amman, Jordan. He’s a professional gamer with specific team responsibilities. He handles the mid-laner position, and he can carry in-game as well. He currently competes with Team Liquid Dota 2. Team Liquid’s headquarters are in The Netherlands, and its units are some of the most influential currently playing in eSports. Barqawi has been a significant player for Team Liquid. He won the 2016 Esports Rookie of the Year award. He also reached 9000 MMR and has the title of the first Dota player to do so. He had to pass Aliwi “W33” Omar to do it; which was huge. Barqawi started gaming when he was twelve. He followed his brother’s lead, playing Defense of the Ancients 1. He played so well that he starting to win. His gaming ID came from his friends, who called him “The Miracle Boy”. Together with Team Liquid, Barqawi won the International 7 Dota Championship $10.8 million prize. Barqawi is currently ranked #2 in the world, and #1 in his home country.
1. Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi: $3,549,039.35
Kuro Takhasomi is from Berlin, Germany, and he’s a dedicated Dota 2 player. He was a former DotA: Allstars player. He’s considered by many to be one of the Top 5 Dota players of all time. He began playing competitively when he was young; just four years old. He started out playing Nintendo. Part of his extreme focus began when his legs became disabled. Playing video games extremely well was something he enjoyed. His love of playing evolved into his professional passion, and he has created an extensive earnings record which encompasses more than a decade. He has steadily increased his winnings each year that he has played. He was not yet 18 years old in 2008, but he won his first cash prizes from a single tournament. From 2008, when he earned $123.34 until 2017, when he earned $2,436,667.40, his playing career has been stellar. He’s been the Champion in 36 Tournaments, a Runner-up in 12 Tournaments, and 3rd Place/Semis in 16 Tournaments. He’s currently the highest earning player from Germany and ranked #1 in highest overall earnings. Kuroky is also part of Team Liquid, which is an organization of nine teams specializing in different games. Team Liquid is comprised of professional players known for their “silent and deadly” team playing style. Kuroky reached his gaming goal of winning The International Dota 2 Championships in 2017.
Written by Garrett Parker
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