What do you get when you take an American, a Ukrainian, a Romanian, a Dane, and a player from Macedonia, a country with a population less than the city of Los Angeles, and put them all together on an American-owned team training in North America?
An American team?
A European team?
No, you get a team that will be at least two million dollars richer after this weekend is done. Digital Chaos, a team of rejects and misfits, has fought its way to the final day of The International 2016. It'll face regional rivals Evil Geniuses in the lower bracket finals to see which team will play Wings Gaming for the Aegis. After a year of turmoil and strife, Digital Chaos stands among the three best teams in the world, and only one perfect day of games away from taking home the grandest prize in all of Dota, and the nine million dollars that comes with it.
When founder Shannon "Sunsfan" Scotten announced the team through a YouTube introduction almost a year ago to this day, I laughed. I won't lie, I thought the debut of Digital Chaos was one of the worst entrances in the history of esports. The video that accompanied the team's reveal was more about Sunsfan than the team itself, and it felt like it'd not be too long until the team ultimately failed to gain traction in North America before folding in a hilariously anticlimactic fashion.
For the first eight months, that looked to be the road Sunsfan and Digital Chaos were heading down. The team seemingly only qualified for tournaments when other North American teams canceled their participation, and Digital Chaos' biggest tournament result in the first eight months was a 7th-8th place finish at The Summit 4 where it lost both of its matches at the main event to Evil Geniuses, then EHOME. The team's winnings were minimal, and with Complexity's second-place consistency in NA, Digital Chaos were the third best team in a region that regularly only sent two teams, if that many at all, to major tournaments.
It wasn't until the first misfit of the current squad, Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok, joined the team in February where Digital Chaos started to show some life for the first time as an organization. The team in Resoluti1on's first month playing won twice the amount of prize money Digital Chaos had accrued the eight months prior. With the Ukrainian carry on the roster, the team finally had a player that could be a legitimate game changer on the map with valued experience behind his play.
What happened next you can consider fate, destiny or just plain dumb luck on Digital Chaos' part. Team Secret, the Shanghai Major champions, decided it didn't want to keep the starting five that just won one of the biggest tournaments of the year, and it went out to sign Evil Geniuses' Saahil "Universe" Arora and Artour "Arteezy" Babaev. In the process of bringing the two star players over before the rosters locked, Team Secret dropped two of its starters in Aliwi "w33" Omar, a seemingly upward trending rookie, and grizzled veteran Rasmus "Misery" Filipsen.
This started a domino effect where Digital Chaos' Theeban "1437" Siva rejoined Team Secret to be its head coach, and then Evil Geniuses swooped in to sign Kanishka "Bulba" Sosale and Kurtis "Aui_2000" Ling from DC as well. The team, picked dry of almost all of its talent except for recently signed Resolut1on, decided to go for an entire rebuild.
w33 and Misery, the rejects of Team Secret, rushed against the clock to find a new team after being dropped from the team they just helped win a Majors title. In the end, the two teammates signed together with Digital Chaos, a move that seemed great for Digital Chaos but a bit desperate for the players. From Secret, a team that had been winning titles since it was formed, to Digital Chaos, a team whose defining moment was a YouTube video of its founder over anything on the field of play.
Joining the three other starters on the new Digital Chaos was Martin "Saksa" Sazdov, a European player who'd bounced around amateur teams and tier two squads before finally being picked up by DC, and David "Moo" Hull, a promising American rookie from the Team Archon squad that qualified for the Shanghai Major.
An American organization playing in the North American region with its star players primarily made up of Europeans it looks like on the surface. But, if you really look at Digital Chaos, the team is so much more than just simple country and continent divides. These are five players that at one time or another were overlooked, misplaced, or in the case of w33 and Misery, outright thrown away. Even the team itself and its founder, Sunsfan, were outcasts when it came to the professional Dota 2 scene; a flashy, colorful organization with nothing to back it up with.
Digital Chaos surprised in the group stages when it flew out of the gates with a tie against one of the tournament favorites in MVP Phoenix. DC, in the first game, was all but out of it, yet never surrendered, eventually turning the tables to take the all-important opening map of the tournament. Although it would end in a 1-1 draw instead of a 2-0 sweep, it was the confidence DC needed to fight through the rest of the group.
Before you knew it, the three day group stage was over and there Digital Chaos stood, second-place in the group only after failing to 2-0 EHOME for the top spot in Group B. At a record of 11-3, DC surpassed all expectations, and walked into the main event as a legitimate threat to go far in the tournament.
Then, like Sunsfan's chariot had finally turned back into a pumpkin, DC lost in twenty-five minutes to Wings Game in the third game of their upper bracket series to send them down to the bottom once again. It was a nice ride for Digital Chaos. It didn't finish last in the tournament, and the players, having started to gel, looked like the experience from TI would help them as they went forward. Losing in the lower bracket would be no disgrace, and the $300k prize money would eclipse anything the team had ever won before.
Digital Chaos wouldn't die, though. It beat LGD Gaming in straight sets. It followed that performance up with a tight 2-1 series win over fellow surprise team TNC Gaming after dropping the first game. In its fourth match of the lower bracket against EHOME, this felt like the anticipated resting place for DC, needing to beat a team that just had one of the best games of all time against Evil Geniuses in the upper bracket. But DC persevered, and the misfits in their bright purple and orange jerseys moved on in a convincing 2-0 match victory.
The lower bracket semifinals were more of the same. Fnatic came off a blistering victory over Southeast Asian rivals MVP Phoenix, and yet it couldn't do anything to Digital Chaos. DC took another series 2-0 and set up a lower bracket finals against Evil Geniuses, one of the teams that started this whole chain reaction of roster moves to begin with.
Today, DC will play Evil Geniuses in a match that would have never happened in a world where Team Secret decided to keep w33 and Misery or Arteezy along with Universe declined joining Secret. Those decisions at the very end of the roster deadlock following the Shanghai Major shaped the entire International and how it's unraveled.
Team Secret and its super team never came to fruition, with Universe eventually leaving the team to rejoin Evil Geniuses. Misery and w33, the ones that were discarded for prettier parts, now stand at the peak of the mountain, able to see the glory beyond it.
Chant "USA!" Chant "EU!" Chant either or both or whatever you like. Digital Chaos, at its core, is a story of a group, a team, and an organization as a whole that never fit. You'll cheer, they'll play, and at the end, if the unlikeliest of unlikely can hoist the Aegis, DC won't be the champions from America or Europe.
Digital Chaos will be the champions of the people.