dota 2, talents, bulba, draft, heroes

Three of the most insane talents in DotA

Talent Trees have been the best addition to DotA

The addition of Talent Trees came with the Reborn patch along with a breath of fresh air into hero composition. Allowing for in-game adjustments to core aspects of your hero within each game. Simultaneously removing stat upgrades that were only useful on a handful of heroes. Talent Trees have also pushed the creativity of DotA players to new levels due to the nature of some of the upgrades.

Early, a few heroes became basically broken thanks to their talent trees. Most memorably was Lina’s first talent tree that allowed her a respawn timer reduction. A small oversight on a hero that can easily justify a Bloodstone to further reduce her time off the map. This would spell the end for respawn talents. All of which were patched out a couple months later. Talents have seen a lot of touch-ups since, but a few remain extremely impactful. Not just Puck’s ridiculous Level 25 talent of +420 Gold/Min.

puck, dota 2, gpm, talents

Puck being blessed by IceFrog

Crazy Coconuts and a Scorched Earth campaign

Witch Doctor’s talent choice at level 15 is between +90 Damage and +2 Paralyzing Cask Bounces. Too bad carry Witch Doctor isn’t a thing. But, support Witch Doctor is boosted with another 2 seconds of lockdown and damage. On the surface this may not seem so powerful. A level 4 Paralyzing Cask already bounces 8 times. Though adding another 2 bounces adds another second of stun in a teamfight. The value of this cannot be underestimated. Coupled with Maledict, a Death Ward, or both can provide devastating damage from a support.

Another hero who’s teamfight presence benefits from a Level 15 Talent is Doom. Scorched Earth is already a powerful ability:

doom, scorched earth, dota 2

(Dotabuff)

So let’s add another 15 Damage and Heal per second to that. Doom has largely fallen out of the meta as an offlaner and support. But, this talent turns him into a very tanky frontliner in any teamfight. Think about it in terms of HP alone. With this talent Scorched earth does 640 magic damage over 16 seconds before reductions. in a 600 range area. While also healing Doom for the same amount. If you were to catch two heroes in a gank for seven seconds; that’s an HP swing of 1155 in favor of your team. In the early-mid game this is incredibly annoying to fight into before even taking into account his ultimate.

How much regen is too much regen

The answer is a Timbersaw with max Reactive Armor stacks at Level 15. Because this is when he gains a passive +14 Health Regen. If you haven’t played against this yet, pray you never do. A Timbersaw with no items and max stacks of Reactive Armor at this point would have a cool 46 HP regen/second. Add in another 21 HP regen with a Bloodstone and you have a real problem chaining all over the place. Physical damage becomes almost useless with all Timbersaw’s armor and regen. You would need a ton of magic damage burst just to make a Timbersaw think about leaving a fight.

DotA has always been a game about talent. With MMR dividing up players into skill brackets. A pro scene rich with extremely skilled players who are always pushing the game’s limits. Talent Trees just provide a in-game nuance that further ensures no two DotA games are the same.

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ban

With the upcoming changes in Season 5, should another ban be introduced?

Repetitive drafts

One complaint you get from spectators in Smite is that teams have the same Gods being played over and over again. This is a complaint you get in a lot of MOBAs. You see it frequently in Smite and Hots. The things these MOBAs have in common are a reduced hero pool and less bans compared to the big two Dota and LOL. Smite has a decent hero pool of 91 Gods, while this doesn’t quite match up too LOL and Dota which are in the low 100s. It is not a bad start, maybe going into Season 5 when smite will have a roster of 100 or over is the time to look at adding the extra ban . Adding an extra ban will hopefully increase the amount of Gods that see play, because teams will have more bans to play obviously. The question is would this just mean we would see all the same God’s banned but just more, I think probably not. As once we get into 10 ban territory we start to move out of S+ and S tier gods. Thus allowing for more of the teams own flavour and thought process to be shown.

This would also filter into ranked as most of the time there is a definitive ranked ban meta. We all know the heroes who are going to be banned at the beginning of a draft and the ensuing riots and GG’s in chat that will follow if not banned. At least with three bans at the start, some flavour and thought could go into the bans, instead of the current cookie cutter.

This would also encourage wider God pools from competitive down to ranked. If a player is known to have a weak God pool then it would become much easier to ban them out. Under-performing because you were repeatedly banned out is not something any competitive team would allow for long. It also should reward teams with more strategies and who are fundamentally the better team due to having to be more versatile.

Ban

Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

In ranked, God-spammers would be in a far more precarious situation. The fear of having your favoured God banned in that third spot would be significant. Also a third ban in the first phase would free up the second ban phase a lot more. Roles that haven’t picked could be targeted more because anything particularly powerful that has not been picked would probably already be banned.

Draft theory

Draft theory is something that would only really be noticeable in the competitive scene. Adding another ban just creates more variables and makes the draft a more interesting mini-game to watch. When you take more off the board early it creates interesting situations. One way this interaction works is through teams’ first picks. With first pick only picking one and second pick having two, the question of banning power picks takes real importance.

Is the second pick going to target ban in hopes of leaving multiple strong heroes on the board? How is first pick going to try and get value off that first pick? Is it going to be target banning the other team or trying to remove Gods they consider powerful regardless? While we see some this already, that extra ban just intensifies the game and adds more to depth to it as another phase would have to be added and probably the second ban phase having to come earlier.

It would also allow for much more focused comps, with the ability to ban out 5 Gods teams could really specialise their comp in a draft.  Being able to remove some of the bigger burst and then into anti-heal God’s if you are trying to build a healing comp would be incredibly helpful. Watching this unfold and how teams tried to hide their strategies deep into the draft is something that would be great to develop even further in the SPL.

Balance

One possible knock-on interaction this gives is the mid-low tier Gods will be put into focus when it comes to balance. There will be more playtime and demand for the mid tier Gods as the top tier will be banned out. The greater demand should encourage Hi-Rez to look at some of the Gods who are weaker to try and make them viable again. Hi Rez doesn’t want Gods who are never played. We all know the curse of having one of your favourite Gods get buffed too heavily and realising it’s going to be a month or more before you get to play them in ranked again. This would also become more apparent because with five bans a really overpowered God should never make it through the draft. Overall another ban should through necessity, hopefully create a narrowing of disparity in God strength.

Top image courtesy of forums.2p.com

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TI7

The Game Haus’ TI7 Regional Roulette – The Americas

 Welcome to day three of the TI7 regional roulette. Today we are looking at the land of the meme, home of the flame, the Americas.

THE AMERICAS – THE TEAMS

It came as no surprise when Valve announced that fan favorite EG would be receiving a direct invite to the International. What may have come as a surprise, however, was the level of competition in the North American qualifier. For the two North American Qualifier slots Cloud9 and Digital Chaos prevailed over TI6 runner up Planet Odd, and each came close to losing their spot to Team Freedom. On the other hand, Team Infamous stomped all their matches in the South American Qualifier, even against SG Esports who eliminated top seed Team Secret at the Kiev Major. In total, there are three North American teams and one South American team attending and they’re all going to be a pleasure to watch. Let’s take a look at who will be heading to Seattle.

Evil Geniuses – Direct Invite

TI7

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Arteezy

Position 2 (Mid) – SumaiL

Position 3 (Offlane) – UNiVeRsE

Position 4 (Support) – Zai

Position 5 (Support) – Cr1t-

 

This is a team built to win TI7, and we already know more-or-less what to expect from them. Arteezy has successfully adapted to playing carry sans-trilane, Sumail is consistently putting out superstar performances, Zai is perfectly suited to this meta, Universe remains the best offlaner in the world, and Cr1t is proving to be a masterful drafter. The question is, what surprises lay in store for them and will they be able to adapt in time?

One thing that is on EG’s side is history. Irrelevant of the players, in the last seven Valve events, EG have finished top four at six of them. EG are a championship team that show up when they need to. Cr1t- and the boys will be hoping to add another trophy to the cabinet. They have the skill, all they need to do is apply it.

Cloud9 (Formerly Team NP) – North American Qualifier

TI7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – EternaLEnVy

Position 2 (Mid) – FATA-

Position 3 (Offlane) – MSS

Position 4 (Support) – Aui_2000

Position 5 (Support) – pieliedie

If you have been living under a rock in the last month, the above picture will confuse you. Cloud9 have picked up team NP for their trip to The International. In what some are calling the most elaborate kick of all time— Eternal Envy has essentially recreated their 2014 lineup with MSS instead of Bone7. Joining them as a coach will be the brains behind Team Freedom, Stan_King. Hopefully he is able to help them step up their game and keep them in the running as long as possible, because there are few things more entertaining than watching Eternal Envy play.

Since replacing 1437 and SVG the team has been showing decent results, taking 3rd at the Manila Masters, 2nd at ZOTAC, and 4th at The Summit 7. An improvement over the past roster for sure, but not enough to warrant a direct invite— now they have a chance to cement themselves as one of the top teams in North America, deserving of direct invites to future Majors.

Digital Chaos (Formerly Team Onyx) – North American Qualifier

TI7

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Mason

Position 2 (Mid) – Abed

Position 3 (Offlane) – Forev

Position 4 (Support) – Bulba

Position 5 (Support) – DuBu

Team Onyx have now been picked up by Digital Chaos after they beat out Complexity and NP (now Cloud9) in the North American qualifier for the Kiev Major. After a last place finish at Kiev, changes had to be made, Bulba moved to support, Forev joined as offlane, and Demon was let go.

Mason is known for his independent carry play style, well suited to making an impact after being left alone while his team plays around their star-player Abed. Now that the pressure is off of Bulba, with the addition of one of the best offlaners in the world, he is able to focus on finding opportunities and making calls for the team. If they manage not to out-draft themselves we might just see them place better than several established teams and direct invites.

Infamous – South American Qualifier

TI7

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Benjaz

Position 2 (Mid) – Timado

Position 3 (Offlane) – Kingteka

Position 4 (Support) – Matthew

Position 5 (Support) – Accel

After stumbling in the Kiev Major playoffs, Infamous kept their safelane duo of Benjaz and Accel and brought in Timado, Kingteka, and Matthew. Up until their elimination from the Kiev Major qualifier Timado had been playing with Team Freedom and showing a lot of promise as a young and up-and-coming player. Kingteka on the other hand has been around for a while and is known as one of the best offlaners in South America, and for intentionally feeding in pubs.

Infamous are going into TI with a distinct advantage, since they are not seen as a big threat they are a favored practice partner of many top teams and those who don’t scrim them will probably choose to focus their study on teams they deem more dangerous. They are the jewel of the South American scene and as a result of the Valve’s decision to hold a separate SA qualifier have been given a chance to come in as the underdogs and show what the region is capable of.

THE AMERICAS – SUMMARY

Of all the regions, the Americas have the most interesting story-lines heading into Kiev. Firstly, it will be C9 vs Secret. Sure Puppy and EE may have moved on from their past disagreements but in the heart of fans the drama is still alive.

Secondly, EG come into the event with questions about the current roster. Results show they can put up a fight against the best of the best, but even top 6 is not a foregone conclusion. Will Arteezy and Zai get that TI win they missed out on when they left EG? Will Sumail and Universe be the first repeat TI winners? Will Cr1t outperform his former team, OG?

Where do you think the American teams will place when it’s all said and done? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Dotabuff.

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DreamLeague Provides an Interesting Stage Pre-TI7

Eli Sherman

 

DOTA 2 fans everywhere have been caught up in the TI buzz that comes after qualifiers. The usual ritual looks something like this: pouring money into your compendium, praying to GabeN for a rare-drop, ogling over the now record prize pool, pub, and repeat! Qualifiers really delivered this year in both excitement and quality. TI7 looks to be another slugfest of DOTA 2. Complimented with a meta that feels extremely even. There is one more LAN before it: DreamLeague Season 7.

 

“There’s No Good DOTA 2 Before TI”

This is a complaint from fans during this perceived “lull” in the competitive action before Seattle. Luckily this statement is no longer true thanks to this weekend’s DreamLeague! Season 7 is no joke either with its 150,000 USD prize pool, including a grand prize of 80,000 USD. We should be seeing some really good DOTA 2 as well as a peek into the competitive meta on the edge of TI7. On the other hand, some would say the quality of games in this DreamLeague final weekend are meaningless and thus will not be taken seriously from teams with The International to worry about. But of the four teams taking place in the double elimination culmination of Season 7 only two are actually going to TI7 (Team Secret and Team Liquid).

Miracle- zoned in during Liquid’s DreamLeague championship run last year (CyBet.com)

Liquid was a direct invite while Secret won the EU Qualifier. We haven’t really seen much from Secret (qualifiers aside) since The Summit 7 a month ago. The same could be said of Team Liquid who last took home the hardware from Epicenter. Both teams looked quite strong in their respective LANs. Again, Secret dominated the EU qualifiers; while Liquid looked elite against a strong EG team at Epicenter. Now we will get to see how they have grown since then, right before the beginning of TI7.

Can Team Liquid Stay Dominant?

Team Liquid has stuck to their guns and continued to run heroes like Lasse “MATUMBAN” Urpalainen’s Lone Druid and Bristleback; Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov’s Dark Seer; and obviously Amer “Miracle-“ Al-Barkawi’s impeccable Invoker. They beat Evil Geniuses in four games in the Grand Final as well as Virtus.pro and LGD.FY leading up. Liquid looked in control during these series defeating teams that are all considered contenders for TI7 this year making a strong case for a Team Liquid run at the Aegis. In their match for DreamLeague Season 7 they’ll face off against Vega Squadron who would love nothing more than to take down a TI bound opponent while making some serious money to end their season. So they will definitely be bringing their A-game. With players like Bragen “G” Sergey and Shishkin “Afterlife” Visilii, Vega should not be taken lightly.

Is it Finally Team Secret’s Year?

After some impressive work in the EU Qualifiers a lot of people are also excited for Team Secret’s prospects later this August. Secret only lost one map during the qualifiers and seemed very upset they did not

Team Secret’s Support, YapzOr, doing 18k damage in a match during the TI Qualifiers (Dotabuff)

receive a direct invite. They proved to be very versatile in the current meta flashing their new Support player Yazied “YapzOr” Zaradat who plays some unique heroes like the Bounty Hunter and Zeus. His presence can really be felt in the results Team Secret has had since the addition of YapzOr and Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann in the offlane. During the qualifiers Clement “Puppey” Ivanov was picking all sorts of heroes and strategies. With even an Pyo “MP” No-a Huskar making an appearance. This extremely strong showing from them at this stage in the year is a great sign moving into TI7.

They have shown the ability to play multiple strategies, as well as drafting in a way that allows them to role-swap heroes within the draft to confuse their opponents even more. For some reason Team Secret always finds a way to be relevant in the competitive teams this time of the year. Their opponent from DreamLeague is another team looking to make a statement.

Planet Odd is a team that has surprised many this year. After last year, this very similar roster finished second at TI6. The players then left their former organization who still remains invited to TI this year. Odd had a really strong run at the Galaxy LAN and beat TNC in a very impressive three game series. Though they did fall in the NA Qualifiers much earlier than they had hoped. They will also look to play spoiler at DreamLeague to round out their impressive season.

Overall, DreamLeague Season 7 should provide some top-notch competition. Hopefully we will get a glimpse at some of the favorites for TI7. Who knows what strategies teams might test out before the big tournament.

 

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Stoic Dota

Are Dota players in need of Stoicism? 3 Takeaways for Stoic Dota

Recently I was listening to an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, The Kevin Rose Show, and I was surprised by how applicable the several thousand years old philosophy of Stoicism can be to games of Dota being played today.

The episode consisted of an interview with author Ryan Holiday, who has written popular books about contemporary Stoicism like The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy, and The Daily Stoic.

That said, here are my takeaways for us soon-to-be Stoic Dota players:

  1. Distinguish between what is in our control and what is not.

    For example when we’re mad about a teammate’s poor play ask ourselves: is this something I control, is getting mad about this making it better or worse, what could I be expending this energy on instead?

    Chances are that being upset about it isn’t going to improve the situation, and voicing our disappointment is only going to erode cooperation and create resentment on their end.

    We shouldn’t get mad about a missed spell, lost teamfight, or RNG that went against us. To be a good Dota players we have to detach ourselves from the results, focus on what we were supposed to do and whether we did it right.

    “All the information that I have right now says this is a good call, and I know i’m making this call for good reasons, you have to open yourself up to the possibility that you could be completely wrong or that fate could intervene and turn this obvious win into a huge loss and you cant take that home with you and feel like a huge failure.” — Ryan Holiday

  2. Realize the benefit of only focusing energy on those things inside our control.

    Instead of worrying about things outside our control, we can channel this energy into something we do control like our game play or leadership. Speaking of, and this is a bit of an aside, I encourage everyone reading this who wants to be a better in game leader to bind >Sorry to their chat-wheel and when something goes wrong look for a way to take the blame for whatever it is that happened.

    For example, maybe our carry Jugg wasted spin farming and died as a result, we can still apologize for not warning him all missing, apologize for not having placed a a lane ward for him, or apologize for not having TP Scroll ready to try and save him.

    Identifying all these things we could have done better to prevent a bad outcome is useful for improving as a player, and they make for sincere explanations when we take the blame— hopefully protecting our team mates from being flamed in addition to building trust and increasing cooperation.

    “The Duke men’s basketball coach has an expression he uses with his athletes – ‘Next Play’. Whether it’s a bad play or even a great one keep your head in the game and be ready for the next play. Those few moments you spend sulking or celebrating could lead to something worse.” /u/tzussu

  3. See an obstacle as an opportunity to be better, to do more things.

    If we accept that winning or losing shouldn’t be tied to our well being, we can see obstacles as opportunities to bring out the best in our ability— in other words the highest expression of our talent.

    Sometimes we just have to acknowledge that okay I’m in a horrible situation, what can I do for the people around me, what can I do for myself? For example when we’re playing offlane and the early game goes terribly and we have to figure out what we can still do, like standing on a high ground near mid to break smoke, scouting enemy stacks, or ganking before level 6 (with a TP ready in case the lane pushes in to your tower).

    Improving your inner-game takes deliberate practice so it can be very helpful to have a role model. Someone who is overall a good role model of Stoic Dota play and does a great job of focusing on what can still be done in a tough situation is Merlini, so check out his stream and >Don’t Give Up.

    “Ambition is tying your well being to what happens to you, self indulgence is tying your well being to what other people say, sanity is tying your well being to your own actions.” — Marcus Aurelius

Of course there’s a lot more to Stoicism than this, but hopefully it’s enough to help us win more games. Part of what makes Dota interesting is experimenting with different strategies, not just in gameplay, but also in personal mindset and team communications. I find personal development to be a fascinating subject and have thought about writing a series for Dota players where different authors main points are condensed with examples in a Dota setting, so let me know if you like the sound of that.

Featured image courtesy of actionforhappiness.org

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digitalchaos abed PGLesports

Top 5 Things We Learnt from NA Quals

1 0 , 0 0 0 M M R player Abed will be representing NA in Seattle this year, pictured above.

After seventy games of the finest Dota North America has to offer the TI 7 regional qualifier madness is over. To the surprise of many, TI 6 runner up Planet Odd didn’t make it. While dark horse of the qualifier, Team Freedom, nearly made it through and certainly exceeded everyone’s expectations.  When the dust settled two teams remained, NP and Digital Chaos will advance to the main event. With so much on the line its safe to say there was no saving of strats, so what did we learn from NA qualifiers? (note: some of these lessons while learned from the NA qual, apply to all regions)

digital chaos

image courtesy of twitter.com/DIGITALCHAOSgg

1) Digital Chaos able to overcome their ‘history’

Despite having Abed, the highest MMR player in the world, as their mid, DC were not favored to win the qualifier. After winning the Kiev Major NA qualifier under the moniker ‘Team Onyx’ they became known for having difficulty capitalizing on leads and in the lategame, especially in The Summit 7. After a weak 5W – 4L group-stage, Digital Chaos faced elimination in the 4th-5th tiebreaker, but made it to the playoffs and finished strong in the grand finals.

2) Camp mid with a melee pos 4 for the win

With the extra melee creep in mid and the exp given by denies, camping mid is back in style. This time it’s not with Bane or Undying like it was a year ago, and when their lane pressure is no longer needed the heroes being picked/banned are flexible enough to gank sidelanes, transition to a core role, or be given to the offlane player should the need arise for a different position 4 to be picked.

In descending order of North American qualifier win rate/times banned they are: Clockwerk, Nyx, Sand King, Night Stalker
Clockwerk— picked 21 times with a 66.67% win rate and banned 39 times.

Compared to the rest he has several advantages… Hookshot gives huge initiation range without having to farm blink, and a BKB piercing stun.

Rocket Flare allows for risk free lane pushing, vision (especially useful for scouting the Rosh Pit), and blink dagger canceling of enemy initiators ALL from across the map.

At level one he has the flexibility to chose between two viable options, to go for a wrap around kill with Battery Assault or to be annoying with Power Cogs for mana burn.

With all this in a single support pick, who cares if he doesn’t usually survive the Hookshot initiation. He’ll still end up pretty farmed thanks to the insane solo kill potential on other supports when they are isolated going for bounty runes.

Night Stalker— picked 19 times with a 57.89% win rate and banned 37 times.

Like Clockwork, he has the ability to initiate without a blink. The difference however is that Clockwerk has to wrap around or wait until level 6, whereas Night Stalker only needs to wait till night falls at minute 4.

While Night Stalker can cancel a TP with Void, once used he has nothing left to stop one. On the plus side, his long duration silence can prevent the escape of mobile cores in the early game and prevent them from right clicking with a 50% miss chance at night. Once cores have built an item (that he may have forced them into) to remove his silence, he can focus his efforts on the supports.

The vision he provides with Hunter In The Night’s active and with Aghanim’s Scepter is extremely well utilized by professional players and like Clock is crucial for scouting the Rosh Pit. On top of this Darkness reduces the enemy team’s vision, giving his team that much more information compared to the enemy team.

Sand King— picked 34 times with a 50.00% win rate and banned 28 times.

With the most reliable disable of the four, Sand King can sort of initiate without a blink he has a movement speed advantage and the right angle (though buying one is a top priority).

As the game progresses he can quickly push out lanes using Caustic Finale, and get away with it thanks to Sandstorm, Burrowstrike, Blink, and Eul.

Although he isn’t able to provide vision for his team, Sand King is overall a reliable pick that can set up his allies to follow up before an opponent can get anything off… and survive. (note: it could be argued that Sand King indirectly provides vision by pushing lanes)

Nyx Assassin— picked 15 times with a 46.67% win rate and banned 22 times.

At level one Nyx can cripple mids like QoP, Puck, or Lina by spamming mana burn— with no shrine for the first five minutes and without a bottle, their only hope would be to get a regen rune at minute two.

Nyx is quite level dependent for a support, but since he is meant to roam around the map with Vendetta instead of farming it works out. With some successful ganks and/or teamfights Nyx can get the gold and levels to have a huge impact.

Although he can’t scout in obvious sentry areas like the the Rosh Pit without risking death, he can get lots of information running around with Vendetta while finding and setting up for low risk pick-offs.

3) Use Lycan Howl bonus hp to counter Night Stalker ganks

Lycan was only picked four times in the NA qualifier, and won all three of the times it was picked in response to Night Stalker (the fourth game it was picked as a combo rather than a counter). Howl gives 50/100/150/200 bonus hp to all allied heroes, and has double the effect during the night. If Lycan maxes it first and keeps it ready to use, it becomes much harder for Night Stalker to gain momentum in the first two nights. Not to mention that Night Stalker’s Darkness makes it night more often, which Lycan doesn’t mind thanks to the double effect on Howl and being able to scout with Summon Wolves.

4) Team Freedom is the 4th strongest team in NA

dota team freedom

image courtesy of /u/non_clever_name

Team Freedom came extremely close to taking one of the two North American qualifier spots. Beating the eventual winners NP and DC in the group-stage, an unlikely loss to Team Red forced a bo1 1st place tiebreaker vs Team NP.

The second time these two teams faced off, team NP redeemed themselves and secured the first TI slot. Then in the playoffs Team Freedom beat DC in the winner bracket finals only to lose to them in the Grand Finals.

If anything, Freedom demonstrated that they can beat any other team in NA (aside from direct invite EG). While they may not have made it to TI they certainly won some fans, and hopefully they stay together and next time we get to see Yawar playing against his brother Sumail.

5) Team NP’s greedy passive style wins games

image courtesy of PGLesports

While not the most entertaining to watch, NP seems to have mastered a passive style where they pick multiple farming cores and sit back building a gold lead. The fact they had the lowest average player deaths (2.92 per player per game) of all regions reflects this. With few clashes and often ending the game building a massive lead then getting a crucial pickoff— its not the most flashy, but they have plenty of fans already.

For more stats check out /u/coronaria’s NA Competitive Meta Trends reddit thread. And for some cool infographics check out PohkaDota’s tweet. That about wraps it up, feel free to share what you learned from the NA Quals in the comments.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of PGLesports

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The Rise of Crystal Maiden

The Rise of Crystal Maiden: Why cm has become popular and some tips

After a long history of buffs, Rylai the Crystal Maiden (aka CM) has finally become popular and the nerfs have begun. Having reached ‘peak CM’, it feels like a good time to look back and see just how we got here, why she’s so popular, and what to do to play her like the pros.

Crystal Maiden: The ‘how’

If we had to narrow down the emergence of Crystal Maiden to one thing, it would be the change to root mechanics. Making her effective against 17 heroes with mobility spells that were formerly not prevented by Frostbite took her from situational to first pick material. However, even before then she was already becoming quite strong against the rest of the hero pool with constant buffs, most notably:

6.87 Reduced Crystal Nova cooldown to 12/11/10/9. (was 15 seconds three patches prior).
6.84 Reduced Frostbite cooldown to 9/8/7/6. (was 10 seconds two patches prior).
6.82 Frostbite total damage to 150/200/250/300 (was 70/140/140/210).

For level 4 Crystal Nova and Frostbite, dividing the duration by the cooldown before and after the buffs reveals a greatly improved uptime on Crystal Nova and Frostbite from 30% to 50% each (calculations shown below). Another way to see the cooldown buffs is as a 67% increase in the uptime of Crystal Nova AND a 67% increase in the uptime of Frostbite.

uptime maths

Cooldown changes aside, the 6.82 Frostbite level 1 damage increase from 70 to 150 went a long way towards allowing CM to zone offlane heroes despite her slow ms and weak right click. This is right where the recent nerf hit:

7.06d * Crystal Maiden: Frostbite manacost increased from 115/125/140/150 to 140/145/150/155

Increasing the mana cost of Frostbite at level one from 115 to 140 weakened the hero in an area she probably wasn’t meant to excel in while maintaining her strengths. So far drafts at ‘The Summit 7’ have shown this to be a fair nerf, sometimes being picked in the first or second phase and at other times being ignored. The 25 mana increase can be thought of as 6.6 seconds of clarity regen, 13% of the 190 mana provided for 50 gold. In other words each cast of frostbite costs ~7 extra seconds and ~7 extra gold (a grand total of ~37 seconds and ~37 gold worth of clarity regeneration per cast). However since patch 7.06 changed the shrines to start on cooldown, the 25 mana increase is more than mitigated by the reduced regeneration available to the offlane hero being harassed.

Crystal Maiden: The ‘why’

Aside from these buffs, why has Crystal Maiden become so popular? Perhaps it has something to do with a shift in playstyle— from position 4 to position 5.

Crystal Maiden DPS vs important targets

image courtesy of /u/phoenixfire2001

While it’s fairly common knowledge that it can be advantageous for her to pop into the jungle to get a quick level 2 before helping out in lane, people have been getting carried away and trying to play her as a full-time jungle/roam position 4 for years.

It is easy to end up quite farmed, have one’s judgment clouded by some glorious freezing fields, and then become convinced CM is ill-suited to position 5. Not that she isn’t strong with farm, it’s just that in the late game CM isn’t able to do any damage until BKBs wear off regardless of farm. While as a position 5— CM stands a cut above the rest of the options and makes for a remarkably stable and flexible pick that can be taken early in the draft.

Despite her offensive power, it seems she is too immobile to roam effectively as a position 4 without an ability to gap close. Farming alone in the jungle can leave her vulnerable and she is often too squishy to be one of the primary initiators. Instead, professional players have been drafting tanky position 4 heroes that can go in and get things started with a hard stun like Sand King, Earth Spirit, Tusk, etc.

She was the most popular position 5 hero at the Epicenter LAN, and tied for most popular with AA and Dazzle at The Summit 7 LAN despite the nerf. Here are just some of the reasons why:

  • Decent ability to secure a lane by wearing an enemy down with Frostbite and some clarity potions, even though the level 1 mana cost was increased by 25, as discussed earlier.

    image courtesy of /u/dragon_atf

  • Can get vision on highground with Crystal Nova, allowing for more effective dewarding with sentries. At higher levels of play some of the most common observer ward placements are just outside the radius of a sentry placed on a ward cliff, but easily dewarded by a sentry placed on lowground. When it comes to playing the vision game, not being able to easily check high grounds is like playing with one hand tied behind your back.
  • Well suited to playing reactionary because she can secure the lane, then farm pulls while keeping mana up to react with a TP instead of walking around with 275 base movement speed.
  • CM is never in a situation where she NEEDS to leech lane experience, since she can always fall back to the jungle when she is not needed, when it’s not possible to pull, or when its not possible to help the carry. This flexibility makes her a stable pick, and in a stagnant game she can even farm for a midas and turn into a serious lategame threat.
  • Since CM can always pop into the jungle for some quick gold, she is able to buy all the support items without completely halting item progression or worse having to ask for help with obs/sents (this enables your pos 4 to become a core, especially when you consider that Arcane Aura allows the pos 4 to forgo mana regen items and being able to stay on the map/ save on clarities).
  • She compares favorably to other popular pos 5 options: more damage than Treant, shorter cds than Warlock, more reliable than Rubick, doesn’t require +1 to be a threat like Disruptor, harder to counter than dazzle, etc.

Crystal Maiden: The ‘what’

So now that we know how and why Crystal Maiden became so popular, heres what you need to know to play her like a pro:

  1. Freezing Field’s 30% move speed slow is applied regardless of the ice explosions and can enable your team to chase, which is great in those situations where just a little slow makes it possible for your team to catch up in the nick of time.
  2. Wand is invaluable for mana in team fights where you otherwise wouldn’t be able to cast multiple spells. Out of mana mid-fight? Hp getting dangerously low? Wand is your panic button:
    CM 7.03 Patch Notes

    image courtesy of twitter.com

  3. While leveling Frostbite for the insane 3-second duration 6-second cd at level 4 is great when you don’t need wave clear, consider picking up the 2nd point in Frost Nova first since it increases the slow by 50% of the level 1 values.
  4. Speaking of skill builds, remember not to skill level 2 Freezing Field until you have a mana item! Also remember that even though you aren’t going to be right clicking much in fights, the level 10 +60 damage talent is great for farming and dewarding.
  5. DEFINITELY get urn if you want to end early, it can be the difference between your team having to back after fights or taking objectives. Also, the armor is nice and the buildup is convenient, though it’s fine if someone else on the team wants to get it instead.
  6. If your allies already have invis you’re probably better off with Solar Crest or Eul. Solar Crest is a borderline OP item that gives you the tankability to transition into a Blink BKB build. While Eul is great for precasting in fights, buying time when you get jumped, and even though it costs a decent chunk of mana it increases your mana pool which is more than can be said of Glimmer.
  7. When you’re not sure what to get, you can’t go wrong with Force Staff / Blink Dagger though there is probably a slightly better choice that depends on the game at hand.
  8. Freezing field does slightly more damage at the very center and is roughly constant up to a radius of 485, falling off after that. (see image, note this is before magic resistance, top line is old aghs)
    Freezing Field average DPS graph

    image courtesy of /u/currentscurrents

     

  9. If you are a pulling support you can get an extra 66-70 exp by landing the deny last hit on your pulled creep wave, if you’re lazy just make sure you deny the ranged for 30 easy experience.
  10. For some extra coin, stack ancients to spawn the easily killed prowler camps and small dragons, then stand around a corner about 500 range from the camp and cast Freezing Field.
  11. For an ideal start buy tango, 1 obs, 1 sentry, courier, 3 clarities, and a tp scroll — then use the tp to get a quick lane ward down so you can see where they place their obs for an easy deward. After that try to have your carry push every other wave so you can pull the hard camp at 0:53 as much as possible, all the while chugging clarities and spamming Frostbite on the offlaner. Eventually he runs out of regen and goes away, leaving you with a huge hard camp stack to farm.
  12. Watch out for an opposing support with gap close ability jumping when you come up to harass with Frostbite (think Earth Spirit/ Treant/ Bounty/ Riki/ Monkey King).
  13. Consider picking a different hero or jungling against offlane heroes with high base region like Nyx/ Nightstalker/ Batrider who can go even without help.

That about wraps it up peeps, drop your CM tips in the comments below!


Featured image courtesy of entroz.deviantart.com

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What we learned from The Kiev Major

The 16 best teams in the world fought it out over a week to take home the Mystic Staff from what will be widely considered the best major so far. With The Kiev Major in the books, it’s time to look at what we learned from the event.

The Kiev Major Final Placings

Place $ USD Percent Team
1st $1,000,000  33.33% OG OG
2nd $500,000  16.67% Virtus.pro/Virtus.pro Virtus.pro
3rd-4th $250,000  8.33% Invictus Gaming/Invictus Gaming Invictus Gaming
Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses
5th-8th $125,000  4.17% Team Liquid Team Liquid
Team Faceless Team Faceless
Vici Gaming/Team VGJ Team VGJ
SG e-sports SG e-sports
9th-16th $62,500  2.08% Mousesports mousesports
Newbee/Newbee Newbee
Digital Chaos Digital Chaos
Invictus Gaming/iG Vitality iG Vitality
TNC Pro Team TNC Pro Team
Team Random Team Random
Thunderbirds Thunderbirds
Team Secret Team Secret

Table courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2/Kiev_Major/2017

OG prove once again they are the best in the world

Heading into Kiev, OG looked shaky. They were stomped by IG at DAC and had not won an event since The Boston Major. They were still a top four team, but many questioned whether they could take the Kiev crown. This fear was confirmed when they dropped their first game of group stages against underdogs SG esports.

Groups were worth forgetting for OG. Yes, they finished with a 3-1 record, but they did not look confident and also suffered again at the hands of IG.

OG The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/saadsarwar

Bracket play also started shakily as they eeked out 2-1 victories over Team Randon and Team Faceless. OG did, however, come into their own on the final day. They took a close 2-0 against EG, with both games going over 50 minutes. The grand finals proved to be one of the best series in recent Dota history. OG showed determination to come back from 2-1 down to take the series 3-2.

OG showed once again that you can have the biggest names in the scene, but if you cannot get them to work as a unit they will never win. EG finished top four at another major but couldn’t overcome the teamwork of OG. The star-studded Liquid roster failed again at a major event, raising more questions for the roster. The one consistency in the scene is OG. They have finished in the top four in the last nine events they have competed in. Of those nine, they have finished first in four of them and second in four. The consistency OG has shown has not been seen since Ehome during the Dota 1 era.

However, the only Valve trophy to add to the trophy cabinet is the Aegis of Champions, which OG will be looking to capture at The International 2017.

Let’s talk about Liquid

 

Team Liquid The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of reddit.com

Let’s rewind back to the end of February. Liquid had just won StarLadder and everything looked on the up for the roster. Many people, myself included, had Liquid ranked as one of the top five teams in the world. However, after a joint last place finish at DAC and a top eight finish at The Kiev Major, things look rough for the roster heading into The International.

During group stages, the team seemed to be falling apart. With constant role swaps between Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and Maroun “GH” Merhej, things look rough for the squad. They could only secure victories against SG esports and Team Faceless, two of the weaker teams in the tournament. The two games that Liquid lost during groups were against Thunderbirds and DC, both teams Liquid should be defeating.

When the heat was on, Liquid evaporated out of the tournament and severely damaged their chances of receiving a direct invite to The International. Liquid need to take the time from Kiev to July to fix the obvious issues on the roster. Liquid is a team known for persevering with a roster, so a change seems unlikely. Fans will have faith that Liquid can sort the issues out and bounce back at the next event.

Brazillian DOTO best doto

SG esports at The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of br.ign.com

Heading into Kiev, I was unsure about what SG was going to provide to the event. I can happily say that I may have underestimated them a bit. They showed during the main event that they can hang with the best of them. In fact, they did hang with the best coming out of groups, Team Secret. Heading into the series, the majority of fans were predicting an easy victory for Team Secret. Instead, SG showed an amazing heart and managed to defeat Secret and take on EG for a spot in the top four.

The series against EG was one of the best, if not the best, series of the whole event. All of the games in the series went over 50 minutes and were back and forth battles. Even in defeat, SG fought to the last moments and was within inches of placing top four at the event.

The next couple of months will be important for SG as they need to build on the momentum gained from Kiev. In the same way that TNC did at TI6 and Ad Finem did at The Boston Major, SG captured the hearts and minds of fans and the community will be hoping that SG shows up to some more events.

Virtus pro put it all together-ish

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Different major, same story. Virtus Pro came into Kiev as a favourite for the event, in the same way as they were heading into Boston. Boston didn’t exactly work out, however, on their home turf, something was different. VP stormed through the swiss format winning all three of their games only dropping one game. VP played a high tempo game with the team fight and skill that they are famed for.

Bracket play was very similar to groups as VP amassed a 6-1 record on their way to the finals. Along the way, VP even took down DAC winners and favourites IG in a 2-0 sweep. The finals against OG was one of the best series in major history as they would eventually fall 3-2 to OG. VP came within inches of lifting the trophy and finally winning an elusive major title. VP showed that they are the real deal and the favourite tag they often receive was warranted.

With this strong performance at Kiev, VP will have likely secured an invite to The International where they can compete for The Aegis of Champions.

The Kiev Major Final Thoughts

This event was arguably the best major that has taken place so far. From the panel to the production, everything was top notch. The event had some of the best content of any so far, including this amazing gem.

Team Slacks Kiev Major

This is why Slacks shouldn’t be allowed near the production equipment.

The games were some of the closest in recent history, with 10 of the 15 main event matches going to three or more games. In terms of series to check out, the EG v SG quarter-final was absolutely amazing. All three games were back and forth with some amazing plays including a five-man dream coil. The Kiev Major has set the bar so high and fans should be excited for the next future of Dota 2 esports.


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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Pokésports Pokemon esports logo

Pokésports IV: Pokémon Can Put The Everyone In eSports

The eSport For Everyone

Pokémon 20th anniversary logo

With the wide reach of its 20 year old brand, Pokémon not only attracts young and old alike, it gives them all places to play competitively. Currently, officially sanctioned Tournaments are divided into three groupings based on age. Due to this, all ages can compete against like minded fans for glory. Being able to entertain the entire family unit is very important. Just like kids have their favorite Quarterback or Goalie, kids being able to cling to a Pokémon or Trainer is crucial for future widespread success as an eSport.

Other eSports have also tried to reach out to a wider audience. League of Legends, most notably, is being played competitively in High School and College circuits. This type of forward thinking is fantastic! eSports are much more cost effective to pick up for a school then traditional sports. Building a venue and buying equipment can be very costly endeavors. However, eSports provide the same type of team building and competition, but in a much more feasible package. This can especially become appealing for schools such as charter schools and other private schools.

 

Accessible But Not Accessible

Pokémon finds itself in a unique position to exploit these facets of the new and emerging eSports market. One fatal flaw really stands in its way, accessibility. While the Pokémon franchise is totally accessible from a gameplay standpoint, it has a long way to go from a hardware standpoint.

Diagram showing steps to install a capture card into a 3DS

Image courtesy of 3DSHACKS

Fact is, the main series of Pokémon games can only be played on a 3DS, or one of the DS spinoff consoles. This alone means that anyone who is interested in playing Pokémon competitively must invest in a 3DS, even if they have no interest in any other game on the console. Furthermore, the 3DS prevents Trainers from being able to stream or compile otherwise interesting content related to the games without hacking or modding their console. Such restrictions really put a stranglehold on the competitive community.

Contrast that with the ease and openness of most of the popular eSports out there currently. DOTA and LOL both provide play with a free to play PC client, with modest minimum requirements. Pair that with the ease of streaming gameplay and hosting content such as Let’s Plays. Letting passionate fans share their experiences helps to spread the energy of the competitive community. This usually results in new people chasing a dream of playing in the top tier.

 

It All Comes Back To Money

Pokémon tournament trophies.

Image courtesy of Nintendo Life

Promoting a successful sport comes down to one thing, money. Providing enticing rewards provokes competition. This draws competitors, which can bring in viewership, which can then be marketed. Pokémon fails utterly and completely on this point, compared to DOTA’s million dollar prize pools. Such as the DOTA International 2016 where the winning team took home a prize of over nine million dollars. While Miguel Marti de la Torre, who took place at Pokémon’s European International, won a measly five thousand dollars.

That disparity in winnings just cannot stand if Pokémon is to be taken seriously as an eSport. There is no doubt that Pokémon is a lucrative brand, TPCI should open it up and share it with the fans. Maybe turn the World Champion into a figurehead of the Pokémon brand for a year. Let Trainers share their passion with their friends, and just make loving competitive Pokémon easier all around.

In the age of viral marketing, Pokémon’s place on such a restricted console really hurts it. Couple that with a lack of substantial rewards for the work it takes to compete and it is not hard to see why so many shun competitive Pokémon.

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Pokémon Squirtle giving a thumbs up

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pokésports pokemon sports crest

Pokésports III: Pokémon Look to Sports, Turn to Teams

Pikachu and The Patriots

Pikachu and other Pokémon huddle during sports.

Everybody has heard of Pokémon. This single fact cannot be understated. Creating a cultural brand is something that requires time, hard work, and a lot of luck. Once a brand becomes a part of a culture though, its impact can be hard to measure. Think Coca-Cola, Google, and the major sports leagues. One thing these brands have in common is they all command tremendous strength in their respective markets.

The NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues are so successful due to the fact that they have managed to become ingrained into society. Kids play sports for their schools team, get scholarships to go to college, and eventually go to the pros. Billions of dollars in TV contracts and merchandising, as well as fans young and old chanting the names of local teams. This is the phenomenon of a cultural brand, and this is the exact thing Pokémon has at its disposal.

 

Money Money Money

Team Rocket's James pets a Persian while sitting surrounded by money.Sports are serious business. Year after year, the NFL Super Bowl brings in over 100,000 viewers, counting only home viewership, and in 2016 charged $5,000,000 per 30 second ad. In addition, the NFL’s 2015 revenue was 11.8 billion dollars, while the NBA’s was 4.7 billion dollars. Compare that to Pokémon’s 2015 revenue of 2.1 billion dollars. Using the sport model, TPCI could supercharge their money making potential and change generations to come.

A majority of sports revenue comes from TV contracts. Just look at the NFL, it is by far the most lucrative sports league in the world. Almost two thirds of its over 10 billion dollar income comes from TV revenue. That is around seven billion dollars from TV alone. Earning the rest from a variety of things, such as merchandising, ticket sales, and sponsorship deals. Pokémon’s TV show, on the other hand, has been falling in popularity. Like all markets, competition eventually comes along, and in the case of Pokémon, Yokai Watch has begun to slowly unravel its brand.

Unlike Pokémon, Yokai Watch has not established itself as a cultural brand. Pokémon can use this advantage. If it can pivot into eSports, TPCI could aim to achieve monetization similar to the NFL. Though unlike the NFL, Pokémon would be able to work on a global scale. Assuming Pokémon could achieve success as an eSport, it is safe to assume TV revenue alone would surpass anything TPCI has ever seen. Just imagine families across the world sitting down throughout the week to watch their favorite Trainers battle it out.

 

Generation Game

Think about it, a child throwing a baseball with their father, and that same family playing Pokémon GO together are practically interchangeable today. This is why Pokémon’s transition into a major eSport is a serious proposition. Just like traditional sports, parents are passing down a passion for Pokémon to their children. Due to the multi-generational connection of the brand, there are plenty of potential fans worldwide. A proverbial fire is ready to be started.

The spark that sets the blaze just needs to be created by TPCI. Between changes to gameplay and tournament structure, along with rethinking broadcasting and viewability, TPCI has some work to do in order to make Pokémon a successful eSport. However, Pokémon could achieve unparalleled competitive market advantage if they are up to the challenge. Memorable Pokémon and awesome Trainers won’t be enough though, one key component is needed to help turn Pokémon into an eSports success: Teams.

Pokémon Team Skull posing together

Pokémon could benefit from teams in a plethora of ways. Teams offer better opportunities for sponsorships, and visibility at professional events. Teams can also practice together and help each other get stronger. When 5 people enter a tournament as a team, if one of them wins, the team wins. This mentality could change the scope of competitive Pokémon. More buy-in could be expected from both players and sponsors. Hobby shops could set up competitive teams and act as local anchors of fandom. Maybe one day even schools and universities could employ their own competitive Pokémon Trainers.

There Can Only Be One

Pokémon Machoke and his Trainer practice together.

At the end of the day, as the eSports market grows, one or two brands will stand above the rest. Pokémon could be that brand. TPCI just needs to refine Pokémon’s model, while at the same time exploiting its place as a cultural brand. Many of the eSports brands, such as League, DOTA, and CS:GO, have a lot brand awareness building to do, but they are growing fast. TPCI does not have forever to act. Should Pokémon not make the move, it may slowly start to cede its market share to competitors such as Yokai Watch.

Pokémon could potentially become not only the most successful eSport, but the most successful sport in the world. Many of the factors needed for such a success are in Pokémon’s favor. The eSports market has many new brands blooming and Pokémon must be poised for battle, or be prepared for mediocrity.

 

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Team Rocket blasting off again.

All images courtesy of Game Freak