The Top 10 Dota 2 Players of 2021
A noticeable trend that emerged in Dota 2 in the year 2021 was the rise of young players who went toe to toe with their veteran counterparts to rise to prominence. Most regions had young players whose individual performances made waves, or who had teams of young players who performed well at various tournaments. It was not that all veterans were subdued as some of them still shone through despite all odds. They were just as good as ever, indicating that there is still much to say about them.
Among all these old and young players we saw in the two Divisions of the six regions in 2021, there were ten that stood out. Here are our top ten picks for the best Dota 2 players based on individual performances as well as their team impact.
In order to create an exhaustive list, we have decided to only include two players from one team. So if you're wondering why this list isn't just bursting with Team Spirit and PSG.LGD players, well there you go.
The Best Dota 2 Players of 2021
Malaysian Dota 2 was able to bolster its standing in 2021, thanks to the top players it produced, including Invictus Gaming's Thiay "JT-" Jun Wen. JT- stayed under the radar and was not among the most talked about players, but he was certainly one of the most consistent.
It would be hard to point out a game when Invictus Gaming's offlane played badly as he knew exactly how to play the lanes and extract as much as possible. The man knew all the tricks of pulling creeps, soaking experience if the matchup was tough, and if it was even or in his favor, he ensured he came out on top.
Mars and Centaur Warrunner were two offlane heroes that JT- starred on throughout 2021, and being able to play both the greedier and the sacrificial role, he remained effective throughout games, never letting his impact wain.
Andreas Franck "Cr1t-" Nielsen has been among the most consistent position four players for a very long time. It's normal for Cr1t- to be overshadowed by his teammates playing core roles like Artour "Arteezy" Babaev and Abed "Abed" Azel L. Yusop. However, when looking back, Cr1t- emerged as Evil Geniuses' best player in 2021. The other players on Evil Geniuses genuinely excelled at times, but they also stumbled and made mistakes. But Cr1t- was a rock solid player all the way through, helping the team have the most consistent results in the DPC 2021 except for TI10 where it had a disappointing 9th-12th place finish.
He had been praised for his ability to make successful moves around the map and produce some jaw-dropping moments with his spellcasting. Moreover, with all the experience he has soaked up, he is also a great voice in the game, and is now using it to help the new Evil Geniuses team.
Post-TI10 EG has been dire, but it is its success prior to the DPC 2021-22 and Cr1t's crucial performances that have secured him a spot on this list.
Team Secret's linchpin, Clement "Puppey" Ivanov, has proven at 31 years old that the game still holds a great appeal to him. At a time when many other Dota 2 pros have begun to drift away from actively competing and their motivations have dried up, Puppey has maintained a great enthusiasm for the game. As an accomplished Dota 2 player, he has also demonstrated an inscrutable grasp of the game with this passion.
In most cases, captains aren't considered to be the best players but Puppey's impact on Team Secret is a major reason why the team continued to succeed in 2021. He is also the only remaining TI all-timer as he played at his 10th TI this year.
His drafting powers carried his team to victory in many games, especially in regional leagues where he knew his rivals well. He is arguably the best drafter in Dota 2 history. Further, Puppey's ability to be flexible adds an additional dimension that few other Pos 5 players possess. Whether he needs to fully commit to the supporting cause or whether his hero requires more farm than Yazied "YapzOr" Jaradat to have a greater impact, he always seems to know what is best and adapts.
Though there are some position five players who are faster at pressing their buttons than Puppey, he offers a lot more overall impact, both within and outside the game.
Zhou "Emo" Yi, who plays for Invictus Gaming, was a new name in the top-tier Dota 2 competitive scene up until his boisterous '?' all-chat during the grand final of the Singapore Major against Evil Geniuses in 2021. 2-0 up and close to winning in the third game, Evil Geniuses lead the grand final by a massive margin. As such, a lost teamfight meant a turnaround for Invictus Gaming, and just before Evil Geniuses GGed out, Emo dropped a '?.' As absurd as it may sound, this event led to the demise of Evil Geniuses and the triumph of Emo in the grand final.
It was absolutely amazing how well Emo played in the last two games as Invictus Gaming reverse swept Evil Geniuses 3-2 to win the Major. And Emo did not stop there. He became known as one of the difficult players to play against because of his proactive play style. As the season progressed, he began delivering consistent dominating performances, primarily on the Spirits, solo carrying the game on his back. Although he was aggressive, he had a great understanding of what he was aiming for. Emo would also provide Invictus Gaming with great versatility, allowing them to draft with ease.
In 2021, Emo was a fierce midlaner, his prowess as a player only increasing over the course of the year, it will be interesting to see if he continues to perform at such a high level in the future.
Danil "gpk" Skutin, is a master of his trade. Notorious in pubs for buying Shadow Amulets, gpk brings on his monstrous side during official games in the midlane for Virtus.pro to absolutely destroy his opponents. Due in part to the fact that he plays a lot of pubs that have helped him unravel the nuances of the matchup, he has displayed a deep understanding of how to play the midlane.
Gpk's performance in the midlane is not only what makes him a top midlaner in the world; it is also his ability to continue to perform flawlessly throughout the match that sets him apart. Some midlaners get swept away by the pace of the game and fail to make enough impact even with a solid start, but gpk is highly efficient. He stays at the top of the networth chart throughout the game.
Gpk’s mechanical abilities are no doubt among the best in the game and he has been a sought-after midlaner for many teams in the last couple of years, but going forward, it will be interesting to see if he can balance those skills with his newly assumed captaincy role for Virtus.pro. Captaining and playing a one, two, or three position is not the ideal combination in competitive Dota 2 so the 20-year-old is in for a challenge.
Michał "Nisha" Jankowski, a modern-day great of the Dota 2 competitive circuit, continued to excel in 2021 with Team Secret. In 2020, he won the Best Esports Player award, but that did not seem to be enough as he went on to deliver more top performances in 2021 as well.
As far as Nisha's style of play is concerned, it is hard to narrow it down to just a couple of aspects, as he is very good at all of them. It has never been an issue for him to deliver on whatever the team has asked from him, whether it be playing Spirits in midlane, greedier heroes such as Templar Assassin, or dynamic heroes such as Kunkka. His hero was usually selected late in the draft due to his versatility, and Puppey always selected the best available hero, while Nisha always made sure that he won. He was a beast at TI10, and arguably the best midlaner in the playoffs when he dominated nearly all of his midlane matches.
Additionally, since returning to the safelane after TI10, he has continued to be a consistent performer for the side even though the new roster hasn't been performing well so far. Farming patterns were remarkably good, and it never seemed as if he had been away from this role for a while.
Zhao "XinQ" Zixing, who spent years working his way up Chinese Dota 2, got his big break when he played for PSG.LGD in 2021. In his role as a position four player, XinQ consistently delivered strong performances, and when a position four player is as active and efficient as XinQ, kills will come from all over the map. XinQ was so effective with his gameplay that he looked omnipresent, always in the right place at the right time, not just helping his offlaner win the lanes but also helping the other lanes as well.
XinQ's spellcasting was another area of distinction in 2021. On the numerous position four players he played, the Chinese player knew who to target and how to prioritize his spells. A testament to how well the player has performed is the results he had with PSG.LGD. XinQ, as a roaming support, was a thorn in the side of his enemy, but a boon to his own.
It was a well-known fact that Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk was a talented carry player before TI10, who maintained a very high MMR in pubs, but there was little evidence in competitive Dota 2 to back that up. However, when TI10 came, he went bonkers. At first, it looked like he could only excel on farm-centric heroes, but as he played, he continued to grow his list of heroes. A young player who has played in numerous tournaments and pubs leading up to TI10, this certainly gave him an edge as he displayed a great deal of versatility, playing 14 heroes in the 20 games Team Spirit played at the Main Event.
It is safe to say that Yatoro played mostly by the book. He knew each and every nuance of his role, so until his enemy pulled off something out of the left field, he would continue what was best for him and his team. His ability to judge enemy moments was especially impressive and as can be seen in various of his gameplay clips, he had a knack for knowing when he was going to be ganked, always managing to avoid them.
A series of plays on a single hero will rarely propel you to the top of the world's best players, but Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov's performances on heroes such as Magnus, Mars, and Tidehunter at TI10 were nothing short of remarkable. Of these three, it is important to underline Collapse's performance on Magnus. He exploited the hero's abilities to the point that it was impossible to compete against him.
In addition to producing such godly plays, Collapse was also a great laner. He often did well in matchups one would expect him to lose. It was especially impressive how he itemized throughout the year, regardless of what hero he was playing. If he felt an item was necessary, he would go for it.
During the DPC 2021-22 thus far, Collapse has continued to deliver top performances even on heroes other than those mentioned above, so a lot of the player's magic may still remain veiled.
When Wang "Ame" Chunyu plays Dota 2, it is like watching an artist at work. In his work, he starts with an assessment of what and how he wants to produce, follows his perfect starting strokes in the laning, moves across the map delicately to find objectives, farm and kills, and once done, his work flourishes into a masterpiece.
Despite being an elite Dota 2 player for years now, there was always this feeling that he would struggle on important occasions or make moves that were uncharacteristic of him. But in 2021, he arguably played his best Dota 2 game to date. He played all sorts of carries, he followed some mind-boggling farming strategies, and he knew when to continue pushing his networth ahead or to assist his team in teamfights or in securing objectives. It was very rare that Ame struggled against his carry counterpart.
Similar to Yatoro, he gave very few chances to his enemies and was even better than him in this respect. In fact, the enemies had to struggle a great deal to even keep him in check, let alone kill him.
Even though he did not win the coveted TI10 Aegis, Ame's performances in 2021 were a sight to behold. Additionally, there is so much to learn from his gameplays for any Dota 2 player. He ticked all the boxes constantly making him the best Dota 2 player in 2021.