Pro Circuit

DotA Pro Circuit: Balanced or broken?

By now the new DotA 2 Pro Circuit system probably feels familiar, as if it has always been there. Finally though, we have a system that transparently dictates which teams receive invites to The International. Invites in previous years have been met with a wide range of criticism from fans who follow the scene closely. “But what about X team?” they ask. “They’ve won two of the past three tournaments they’ve participated in! Surely they are worthy of an invite.” Conversely, fans have questioned the inclusion of teams they considered unworthy of skipping the highly competitive qualifiers. The question now becomes, is this new Pro Circuit system the final solution? Perhaps it is just a step in the right direction.

Transparency is good

Pro Circuit

Image courtesy of dota2.com

Fans like to be kept in the loop. It is plain and simple. The lack of visibility into Valve’s previous selection criteria was problematic. It put some fans in a sour mood before the opening ceremonies even began. Though they undoubtedly enjoyed some high quality DotA in the end, Valve never wants their 20+ million dollar tournament to start off on the wrong foot. The new system definitely addresses these concerns. By the end of the final tournament before TI8, or maybe even before that for a few teams, the masses will know exactly who has earned those coveted invites to the biggest tournament of the year.

There are other benefits to this new system as well. Because the Qualifying Points are awarded to players and not to organizations, rosters are incentivized to stay together if they are performing well. Too many times in the past have we seen a team win a tournament only to immediately drop players for unknown reasons. Team Secret dropped Aliwi “w33” Omar and Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen after winning the Shanghai Major in 2016. Perhaps the most memorable instance of this behavior is when Evil Geniuses dropped Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling shortly after taking the Aegis at TI5. When points are attached to these winning players, these kinds of changes are far less likely. Hopefully this change will make the competitive scene less volatile, and thus easier to follow.

But there are always problems

Of course there are two sides to every argument. One could easily argue that despite good performance, any player creating friction in a team game can be mentally exhausting for all involved. This will undoubtedly hurt a team in the long run. Peter “PPD” Dager eventually went on to explain that no amount of winning was worth the stress he was going through working with Aui. Now I know that after TI, the point values will reset, but let’s play pretend for a second. If Evil Geniuses had just won a Major with Aui instead, would they have let him go? A DotA 2 Major is worth a whopping 750 points per player on the winning team. A loss of that many points could take a series of wins to make up for. This brings me nicely into my next point.

A victory at a Major is worth a full five times the amount of Qualifying Points as a Minor. This disparity seems incredible, especially considering that points are never awarded below fourth place no matter the event. Any team would have to win five Minor tournaments to even catch up to a team that has won a single Major. This disparity seems a little extreme, especially considering that many of these competitions see the same competitors.

Pro Circuit

Current Qualifying Points standings courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Say that Team Liquid, who has two first place Minor finishes and one third place Major finish, never win a Major this season. They need to win at least two more Minors to even tie Virtus.Pro, who won that first and only Major so far this season. Virtus.Pro is bound to continue participating in tournaments for the rest of the year, and their lead seems difficult to surmount. While a team of Liquid’s caliber might be up to the task, plenty of other great teams may fall short.

A great start

I am certainly not trying to say that this new Pro Circuit system is bad. Far from it! The Qualifying Points system makes seasons easy to follow, and informs viewers of tournament stakes outside of prize pools. However, the point disparity between Majors and Minors is alarming to me. Granted, the season is still young. We still have no idea how the greater part of the season is going to turn out. Everything could turn out fair and balanced, but I worry talented teams that succeed in Minors will find it hard to qualify without a Major win.

At the end of the day though, teams failing to earn Qualifying Points are not completely lost. Even if they do not manage to secure direct invites, they will still be able to work their way up through the Regional Qualifiers, or even the Open Qualifiers. Maybe that will be enough to balance the Pro Circuit. Only time will tell.


Featured Image from blog.dota2.com

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Willow

The many talents of Dark Willow

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Dueling Fates made massive changes to how the game is played, but it will take much more time for players to fully understand the information released in the patch notes. What will not take more time is for players to experience the true headliners of this patch: the new heroes. Dark Willow and Pangolier have invaded pubs the same way every new hero does shortly after launch. I admit partial fault for this, as I’ve been playing the hero extensively in an attempt to understand what makes her click. I will always have more to learn, but I wanted to share what knowledge I’ve gained so far in the hopes that it helps you either play a better Willow, or counter one on the enemy team.

Who likes crowd control?

Willow

Dotabuff.com

I sure love crowd control. It is one of the reasons I was so attracted to this hero in the first place. Let’s start by breaking down some of these crowd control abilities and their uses.

Bramble Patch creates a large maze of thorns that roots enemies that touch the brambles. This skill has many qualities that set it apart from other similar abilities in positive ways. Even at level one, the brambles created by the skill last for a full 15 seconds. If Willow places a Bramble patch behind her team to help them escape, the enemy can’t wait out the duration. They either need a method of ignoring the root, or they have to give up on the chase.

Cursed Crown is a delayed area of effect stun that targets an individual hero. If it hits, this disable will stun all heroes within range of the targeted hero for a full 3.5 seconds at level four. I do use the word “if” for a reason though. Cursed Crown is probably the easiest stun in the game to dodge or disjoint with its 4 second delay. Activating BKB, Aeon Disk, Guardian Greaves or Manta style any time before the stun hits completely removes the effect. When the ability does hit though, it removes at least one hero from the fight for a substantial amount of time. To me, it seems worth casting even if it only baits out a premature item use due to its low cast time.

Terrorize, one of Willow’s two ultimates, forces enemies in a moderate area to flee toward their fountain after a short channeling time. This is a great disengagement tool on its own, but coupled with Bramble Patch it can flip a team fight on its head. If placed correctly, enemies will be unable to dodge the brambles, forcing them to both take damage and be rooted in place for upward of 2.5 seconds. This is definitely a large enough window for the cavalry to arrive and clean up.

But how does she do damage?

I’m glad you asked! Dark Willow’s damage lies primarily in her Shadow Realm nuke and Bedlam, her second ultimate. After taking her +300 Shadow Realm damage at level 20, Shadow Realm becomes a devastating 660 magical nuke. That’s not even the best part. The best part is that Willow becomes untargetable by spells or auto attacks while the nuke is charging. The 600 bonus range granted by the ability ensures that she’ll be able to hit her target, even if the target has turned around and given up chase.

 

Willow

Dotabuff.com

 

Willow

Dotabuff.com

Bedlam, on the other hand, requires Willow to be close to her targets. Once activated, Willow’s faerie companion will circle her while firing magic projectiles at the nearest enemy unit similar to Witch Doctor’s Death Ward. As Willow is not a durable hero, charging in with no plan is ill-advised. When used in tandem with Shadow Realm, Willow can keep herself safe while melting a single hero fairly quickly with Bedlam. It is important to note though that Willow is not completely immune while in the Shadow Realm. Any untargeted AoE abilities will still hurt her, so Willow players should be mindful of their positioning at all times.

So she’s a support, right?

Willow’s strength lies in her ability to disrupt the enemy, making her ideal for a support position. Cursed Crown and Bramble Patch make her incredibly useful for setting up kills and escapes in the laning phase. As Shadow Realm levels up, her increased burst damage and range can help secure kills on more elusive heroes as well. Add that to the fact that her abilities scale well with levels and not items, and you’ve got a solid support on your hands.

One of Willow’s biggest problems in the laning stage comes with her mana pool. Her abilities generally require tons of mana and have long cooldowns to start, making mana boots a must buy. A Kaya purchase in the mid game basically solves her mana problems for the rest of the game. The additional spell amplification also helps her nuke, making it a great item for support Willow. Unfortunately, Willow’s other weakness is that she is still incredibly squishy, even in the late game.

Initially, I thought that Meteor Hammer might be the item to solve this, but I was disappointed with the results. Though the strength gain and regen provided by the hammer seemed great, the active ability left me wanting. Even under the protection of Shadow Realm I frequently found myself unable to channel the hammer for the full duration. If for some reason you’re getting tons of gold as Willow, feel free to give it a try yourself. For those less adventurous, a Glimmer Cape will increase your survivability just fine.

Dark Willow has a lot of freedom in the late game when it comes to items. Rod of Atos can help lock a hero in place while you Bedlam them to death. Shiva’s Guard increases Willow’s tankiness and inhibits right click heavy line-ups well. Purchase a Scythe of Vyse if you absolutely need to lock down that one problem hero. Feel free to go more aggressive with an Orchid into Bloodthorn to increase damage as well. As long as you’re picking intelligence items that are appropriate to your individual game, it’s difficult to make a wrong choice.

But in a game I played…

Yes, I am fully aware of the number of carry Willow builds out in the wild. While I don’t think this is the optimal way to play the character, the concept is not without merit. In fact, Willow’s +200 attack speed perk at level 25 almost single-handedly enables this kind of build. First of all, the character’s attack animation is already solid even at level one, tacking almost two full moonshards for free at level 25 transforms her into a machine gun.

If you’re keen to try this playstyle, I would highly recommend the mid lane for a couple of reasons. First of all, you won’t have to be fighting for farm in another lane where your teammate thinks they’re a better carry than you. Secondly, Willow’s abilities benefit greatly from fast levels, which are inevitable in the mid-lane. Willow’s great attack animation should help secure the CS, and an early bottle will sustain her mana in the early game.

As a carry, the enemy team might try to focus you more than as a support. For this reason, a glimmer cape probably is not going to cut it as a defensive item. I have had some success purchasing a Linken’s Sphere as an alternative. Linken’s coupled with Shadow Realm invulnerability makes Willow maddeningly difficult to lock down, and the extra stats and regen help solve her mana problems further. On the way to level 25, additional intelligence items like Scythe or Atos still help with both her lockdown and attack damage. The magic burst from Mjolnir coupled with even more attack speed makes it a solid pick as well.

If you still have money after all of those purchases, Nullifier is a great addition to a carry Willow’s arsenal. By the time you get a nullifier, machine gun mode should be online. Willow will attack so fast that she’ll be able to keep a Nullified enemy slowed all by herself. Bloodthorn will keep enemies from fighting back while giving her machine gun attacks chances to crit.

What are your closing thoughts then?

I still don’t fully agree with carry Willow, but sometimes it is necessary to adapt to the needs of the team. There are worse heroes than Willow to answer the call for an impromptu mid player. Her world-class crowd control abilities make her relevant in every stage in the game, and her talent choices make her versatile enough to shift roles should the need arise. Though I’m sure we’ll all still be learning where she fits into the competitive scene over the next few months, putting in time on her now is definitely a worthwhile investment.


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ESL One

ESL One Hamburg: the competition

After Star Ladder and PGL Open Bucharest reintroduced competitive DotA in October, it’s finally time for the first Major of the year.  Unlike Minors which only award a total of 300 Qualifying Points, DotA 2 Majors quintuple that number.  The winning team of ESL One will earn more Qualifying Points than the total point pools of both previous Minors combined.  This will be enough to earn them a comfortable lead until the next Major drops in early December.  But this is a conversation for the future.  For now, let us take a look at the teams that will be competing in the highest stakes tournament of the year so far.

INVITED TEAMS

Team Liquid

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen

Position 2 – Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi

Position 3 – Ivan “MinD-ContRoL” Ivanov

Position 4 – Maroun “GH” Merhej

Position 5 – Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

Liquid comes into ESL One on the heels of a victory at Star Ladder. Mineski proved themselves a capable team at the tournament, but not capable enough to triumph over the champions. As it turns out, Liquid hasn’t lost their touch in this patch despite taking a break after TI7. After all, they dropped only a single game in the entire tournament. At this point, Liquid seem to be the indisputable kings of the patch, but teams still have one last chance to change that. Regardless, Liquid are doubtless the favorites to win this tournament, and they seem poised and ready to do so.

Newbee

Dota 2 Power rankings Newbee, i-league, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Xu “Moogy” Han

Position 2 – Song “Sccc” Chun

Position 3 – Damien “kpii” Chok

Position 4 – Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi

Position 5 – Zheng “Faith” Hongda

Newbee had a rough tournament at Star Ladder after being knocked out in the group stage by CompLexity and Secret. Though the team is comprised of great talent, Newbee seems to have lost their edge since TI7. Their second place finish there is doubtless what earned them their invite to ESL One, but after their showing at Star Ladder they are the team with the most to prove.

QUALIFIED TEAMS

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Position 2 – Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Position 3 – Adrian “Fata” Trinks

Position 4 – Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Position 5 – Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

Though Secret managed third place at Star Ladder, they were eliminated in the group stage of PGL Open Bucharest. Their losses in the latter were to The Immortals and Infamous, South Korean and South American teams respectively.  Perhaps one can contribute their losses there to unfamiliarity with those two region’s playstyles. Regardless, they’re going to have to adapt if they hope to earn the lion’s share of the Qualifying Points from ESL One.

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Position 2 – Sumail “Suma1l” Hassan

Position 3 – Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Aurora

Position 4 – Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Position 5 – Clinton “Fear” Loomis

Evil Genius showed us a mixed performance at PGL Open Bucharest. They made it to the playoffs, but proceeded to lose to LGD Gaming without taking a single game. More importantly though, EG showed us that they’re not willing to take some risks in the draft to earn a win. In their final game with VGJ.Thunder, an unorthodox offlane Bane pick coupled with a Drow Ranger strategy enabled them to dominate the laning stage.  Once the snowball started down the hill there was no stopping it. VGJ found themselves defeated after just over 20 minutes.

While EG finds wins with these “cute” strategies, they will need consistency to survive in this single elimination tournament.

Fnatic

ESL One

Roster:

Position 1 – Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao

Position 2 – Steve “Xcalibur” Ye

Position 3 – Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin

Position 4 – Djardel “DJ” Mampusti

Position 5 – Johan “pieliedie” Åström

Fnatic is a very different team than they were a few months ago. The departure of Mushi in February of this year lead to a volatile time for the team. After a series of additions and departures, this new roster sees EternaLEnVy taking the Captain’s help from DJ. Depending on how this succession of power occurred, this could be either a good thing or a bad thing for the team cohesion.

Say what you want about Jacky Mao, but he is an experienced player who knows his way around a game of DotA. His aggressive style could be the edge his team needs at ESL One. It could also lead to ill-advised team fights that turn into team wipes.

Keen Gaming

ESL One

Roster:

Position 1 – Jin “zhizhizhi” Zhiyi

Position 2 – Zhai “” Jingkai

Position 3 – Song “dark” Runxi

Position 4 – Jiang “佞臣” An

Position 5 – Chen “Rong” Jingwu

Keen Gaming may seem like an unknown brand, but they are originally an offshoot of the EHOME brand. This isn’t to say that the EHOME.Keen brand was especially popular or successful though. Nevertheless in September of this year the current roster of EHOME.Keen chose to part ways with the organization.

The truth is that some of the players on this team have been playing DotA 2 professionally for less than a year. Most would use that as an excuse to call their talent into question. One has to remember that they earned their spot in this major through the Chinese qualifiers. Now they just have to prove themselves on the world stage.

Virtus.Pro

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Roman “RAMZES666” Kuchnarev

Position 2 – Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Position 3 – Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Position 4 – Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk

Position 5 – Alexei “Solo” Berezin

Virtus.pro made a surprising announcement that they would not be changing their roster after TI7. Don’t get me wrong, their team is talented, but teams that have actually won major tournaments have dropped players in the past. Their decision to maintain the same roster shows their confidence, and to be fair they had a great showing at TI7.

The key to Virtus.Pros victory at ESL One is going to be young RAMZES. Not since SumaiL have we seen such a mix of youth and execution. While he can be overly optimistic in team fights, he has a tendency to get just the right kills to turn the tide.  He is definitely one to look out for in this tournament.

SG e-sports

ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile

Position 2 – Adriano “4dr” Machado

Position 3 – Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos

Position 4 – Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro

Position 5 – Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa

SG e-sports managed to defeat Vici Gaming 2-0 at Star Ladder before being swept by both Mineski and Liquid. It’s hard to fault SG for those losses though, since Liquid and Mineski look like the two strongest teams so far this season.  While their win’s against Vici were far from one sided, they showed solid teamwork throughout the series.  It seems like they can compete with some of the big players in the scene. Hopefully they’ve been studying their defeats leading up to the biggest tournament of the season so far.

ESL One Hamburg will run from Oct 26th – Oct 29th.


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i-League, Star Ladder, Dota 2, The Aftermath

Star Ladder: The Aftermath

Two months passed between the end of TI7 and the start of the TI8 competitive season. Some teams took well deserved breaks, some doubled down on their practice, and some teams broke apart entirely.  More important is how these players and teams adapted to the game of DotA during the break. With the completion of Star Ladder, it’s a good time to take a look at some data from the aftermath, and try to answer this question!

Most Picked Heroes

 The International 7

  • Earthshaker – 71
  • Sand King – 69
  • Batrider – 63
  • Puck – 61
  • Nightstalker – 51

 Star Ladder

  • Earthshaker – 12
  • Venomancer – 12
  • Pugna – 11
  • Earth Spirit – 11
  • Puck – 11

It probably isn’t too surprising that we see some similarities between these lists. After all, Star Ladder and TI7 were both played on the same patch. The reason teams favor these heroes is also fairly apparent.  An Earthshaker with a blink dagger is hands down the best team fight initiator in the game. Puck on the other hand is notoriously difficult to kill due to his elusive abilities. His ultimate and AoE silence make him a great team fighter and initiator as well. But everyone knows this. It is probably more productive to talk about the differences between these lists than the similarities, so lets start with Venomancer.

Showstoppers

At TI7, the venomous tower pusher didn’t even break the top 20 most picked heroes. As a matter of fact, he even received a minor nerf post TI7 when Valve lowered his daytime ward vision. Perhaps teams are just making better use of his versatility. Not only do his plague wards allow him to put pressure on towers early, but they also enable him to farm multiple jungle camps if his lane goes poorly. Poison Nova is a deceptively powerful teamfight ultimate that can deal 1360 magical damage to all heroes hit at level 3. Tools like these allow Venomaner to fill many roles on the team, making him a great comfort pick.

Pugna had some impressive showings as well at Star Ladder, though his win rate was only around 54%. In the matches he DID win, he was a terror. His ability to disarm enemy right click carries with Decrepify should not be underestimated. If he has allied stuns to back him up, Decrepify paired with Life Drain seals the fate of about any hero in the game. Similar to Venomancer, Pugna is also a great pusher thanks to his Nether Blast ability. We can see here again that it’s the hero’s ability to fill multiple roles that makes him so appealing when locking in a draft.

The Aftermath

Image courtesy of dotafire.com

If there was one show stopping hero at Starladder though, it would have to be Earth Spirit. Earth Spirit lost only a single game that he was picked in at the tournament, giving him a 91% win rate. Earth Spirit’s major selling point is his wide array of disables. He does not scale as well into the late game as Pugna or Venomancer, but his group stuns and silences keep him a credible threat through all phases of the game.

But what happened to the heroes that were dethroned from the list since TI7? Well despite the fact that Sand King and Bat Rider were among the most picked heroes, their win rate left something to be desired. Batrider won 48% of his 63 games, while Sand King only won a disappointing 35% of his 69 games at TI7. On the other hand, Nightstalker didn’t make the Star Ladder top 5 because he is still being banned in a large percentage of drafts.

The Aftermath: Conclusion

Though DotA 2 has not seen a new patch in nearly half a year, seeing these lists change somewhat is a small comfort. Even within the same patch, portions of the meta will still shift as heroes fall our of favor.  These microshifts help keep the game feel somewhat fresh, but a new patch is incoming on Nov 1st.  It will be exciting to see how the meta shifts with another round of major changes.  Needless to say, we’ll all be playing a very different game of DotA after that.


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PGL Open

PGL Open Bucharest: The competition

It has begun. Starting with the Star Ladder i-League Invitational this weekend, there is a ranking tournament for the next three weekends straight.  The DotA 2 competitive dry spell is finally over.

The PGL Open Bucharest tournament is yet another Valve Minor, meaning 300 Qualifying Points will be up for grabs.  While they are not weighed as heavily as Valve Majors, these early points can be very important for players to establish their position on the leaderboards.  Very few teams from Star Ladder will make an appearance at PGL, so we have a lot to talk about.  Let’s get started.

Invited Teams

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Position 2 – Sumail “Suma1l” Hassan

Position 3 – Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Aurora

Position 4 – Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Position 5 – Clinton “Fear” Loomis

The TI5 Champions have played less than 20 games since TI7, but their performance has been healthy. It is hard not to contribute at least a portion of this success to the return of Fear as 5 position support and captain.  Zai’s departure surely dealt a blow to team morale, but Cr1t- is perfectly capable of stepping up to that 4th position in his stead. Now freed from the stress and responsibility of captaining, Cr1t- can focus more on being the playmaker he needs to be. Other than a surprise loss to Leviathan during the i-League Invitational Qualifiers, EG has been proving that they’re as strong as ever coming into this season.

LGD Gaming  

PGL Open

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Wang “Ame” Chunyu

Position 2 – Lu “Maybe” Yao

Position 3 – Xu “fy” Linsen

Position 4 – Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng

Position 5 – Chen “Victoria” Guanhong

LGD’s performance has been a little more shaky since TI7 than our previously mentioned direct invitee. Thanks to their participation in a few extra Chinese tournaments, we have a pool of nearly 50 games played since TI to base this assertion off of. Nevertheless, this lineup contains some of China’s best talent, and it would be a mistake to underestimate them. After all, this is more or less the lineup that placed 4th at TI7.  You don’t achieve that kind of accolade by being a second rate team.

Qualified Teams

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Position 2 – Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Position 3 – Adrian “Fata” Trinks

Position 4 – Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Position 5 – Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

There isn’t much to say about Team Secret that wasn’t already said in my StarLadder competition analysis. They have not had the chance to play enough since then to trigger a change of opinion. After qualifying for three minors back to back they’re still in a great position to get a head start in Qualifying Points this season.

Na’Vi

Na'Vi, i-League

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek

Position 2 – Danil “Dendi” Ishutin

Position 3 – Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini

Position 4 – Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan

Position 5 – Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev

Na’vi’s performance at StarLadder so far has been defined by solid team play and unpredictable picks. Unfortunately for Na’vi, their odd drafting picks have been met with mixed success. During their first game against Team Secret, Secret punished Na’Vi’s first pick Tiny hard. This effectively rendered the hero useless during the mid game where he needs to snowball into the late game. The third game was where things got really interesting, as Na’vi last picked an Ancient Apparition for Dendi to take mid. Ancient Apparition mid has not been seen in the meta for years, but it turned out to be exactly what their draft needed to counter Secret’s Timbersaw and Alchemist duo.

Regardless of the results of their erratic drafts, it makes for an incredible DotA watching experience. As long as the fans get good DotA to watch, isn’t that what is really important?

 

Immortals

PGL Open

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Kim “QO” Seon-yeob

Position 2 – Pyo “MP” No-a

Position 3 – Lee “Forev” Sang-don

Position 4 – Kim “Febby” Yong-min

Position 5 – Kim “DuBu” Doo-young

My familiarity with this roster as MVP.Phoenix makes it strange to call them The Immortals. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see the Korean powerhouse make its return no matter what form it takes. Their return to DotA 2 has not been easy either. Qualifying for this PGL Open required The Immortals to beat teams like OpTic Gaming and Digital Chaos, which is no simple task.

After the original MVP.Phoenix disbanded in January of 2017, the players went their separate ways and played on other teams. Ironically enough, each player still participated in TI7 on teams like Fnatic, Secret and Digital Chaos. After gaining experience on those teams, they decided it was time to get the gang back together. The results will be exciting to watch.

Infamous

PGL Open

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Alonso “Kotaro Hayama” León

Position 2 – Mariano “Papita” Caneda

Position 3 – Steven “StingeR” Vargas

Position 4 – Elvis “Scofield” De la Cruz Peña

Position 5 – Christian “Accel” Cruz

Other than 5 position support “Accel”, this is not the same Infamous that attended TI7. With the departure of most of their TI7 roster, Infamous absorbed most of the roster of Elite Wolves in early September.

It is interesting to note that Infamous did not originally qualify for PGL Open Bucharest. Digital Chaos.SA originally held that spot. However, thanks to the disbandment of most of DC.SA’s roster after winning the South American qualifiers, Infamous took their spot after beating SG Esports in a replacements finals match 3-1.

It would be great to see a South American Dota team start to make it in the big leagues, but whether Infamous is that team remains to be seen.

VGJ.Thunder

PGL Open

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Liu “Sylar” Jiajun

Position 2 – Liu “Freeze” Chang

Position 3 – Zhou “Yang” Haiyang

Position 4 – Pan “Fade” Yi

Position 5 – Fan “Ayo” Tianyou

I don’t profess to be an expert on Chinese DotA, but to me, this team seems built around Sylar. He is the most experienced member of this team, as well as the one that has seen the most professional success. At the end of the day though, DotA is a team sport, and the rest of the team are no slouches. After all, VGJ.Thunder had to beat teams like Invictus Gaming and LGD Forever Young to make it to PGL Open. If the team can continue to give Sylar the space he needs to do his thing, this team could go far in this tournament.

Mineski

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng

Position 2 – Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung

Position 3 – Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang

Position 4 – Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

Position 5 – Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Mineski is the final team that is playing in both the current StarLadder tournament as well as the PGL Open. They got off to a bit of a rough start after losing to Team Liquid 0-2  at StarLadder. This result was almost expected though, as Liquid is still playing like the TI Champions that they are. Whatever ends up happening at StarLadder, Mineski can take comfort in knowing they’ll have another opportunity for Qualifying points right around the corner!

PGL Open Bucharest will be held in Bucharest, Romania from October 19th – October 22nd.


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i-League, Star Ladder, Dota 2, The Aftermath

SL i-League Invitational: The Competition

After a two month lull in competitive DotA 2, the first ranked tournament of the season is now only a week away.  While qualifier games have been plentiful lately, victories there do not translate into TI8 Qualifying Points.  The Star Ladder i-League Invitational will put the first of these points on the board for the competitive season, and set the tone moving forward.  What teams are going to be lucky enough to participate in this tournament you ask?  Well lets take a look.

Invited Teams

Team Liquid

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen

Position 2 – Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi

Position 3 – Ivan “MinD-ContRoL” Ivanov

Position 4 – Maroun “GH” Merhej

Position 5 – Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

It comes as no surprise that the previous winners of The International received a direct invite.  Even before they claimed the Aegis this year, Liquid was taking first place at tournaments like EPICENTER and DreamLeague.  Their roster has also maintained impressive stability over the last year, with GH being the latest edition in January of this year.  This stability means these players are well practiced when it comes to playing with each other.

Unfortunately, Liquid’s upcoming direct invites mean that the rest of us have not seen them play since August.  What they have been doing since then is anyone’s guess.  Hopefully they’ve been practicing, because the rest of the competition is bound to be fierce.

Newbee

Dota 2 Power rankings Newbee, i-league

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Xu “Moogy” Han

Position 2 – Song “Sccc” Chun

Position 3 – Damien “kpii” Chok

Position 4 – Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi

Position 5 – Zheng “Faith” Hongda

Newbee had a similar run to Liquid leading up to The International this year.  In the span of just a couple of weeks they took first place at ZOTAC Cup Masters and Galaxy Battles.  But there is only room for one at the top, and Liquid forced Newbee to take second place at TI7 after defeating them in a 3-0 sweep.

Since then Newbee has been just as quiet as Liquid themselves.  We’ll have to wait until the opening games to see if this storied team has stayed fresh after a competitive hiatus.

Qualified Teams

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Position 2 – Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Position 3 – Adrian “Fata” Trinks

Position 4 – Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Position 5 – Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

Team Secret is on a tear that hasn’t been seen since their glory days in 2015.  So far they have taken first place at all three qualifiers they have participated in, guaranteeing themselves a chance at each tournament’s pool of Qualifying Points.  If they can maintain this level of performance through the actual tournament brackets, the points they earn could kick start their competitive season in a big way.

It is possible the performance increase is due to recent roster changes within Secret.  After TI7, Team Secret promptly parted ways with Pyo “MP” No-a and Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann.  Replacing them were Ace and FaTa, and it seems they were the final pieces in a winning combination.

Na’Vi

Na'Vi, i-League

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek

Position 2 – Danil “Dendi” Ishutin

Position 3 – Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini

Position 4 – Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan

Position 5 – Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev

Na’Vi is in the middle of a resurgence of it’s own this season.  The past few competitive seasons for the first ever TI champions have been rough.  After being eliminated in the first round of both TI5 and TI6, Na’Vi failed to even qualify for the main event at TI7.  A string of disappointing performances and a few roster shuffles later, we have the lineup you see before you.  A lineup that has qualified not only for Star Ladder i-League, but also the PGL Open Bucharest Minor tournament as well.

The Na’Vi brand is legendary in professional DotA 2, and it’s high time their luck turned around for the better.

compLexity

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin

Position 2 – Linus “Limmp” Blomdin

Position 3 – David “Moo” Hull

Position 4 – Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman

Position 5 – Kyle “melonzz” Freedman

2017 was a turbulent year for compLexity.  Numerous roster changes plagued the organization throughout the year, including the departure of Chessie back in January.  Now, for the first time since August of 2016, the brothers Blomdin are playing together again.  The team states in an announcement on their website that these two players helped them achieve some of their best results in 2016.  However, while compLexity placed well at the Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors that year, the rest of their tournaments that season were middling at best.

That being said, the team looked strong in the North American qualifier.  The team looked so strong in fact they beat out teams like Evil Geniuses and OpTic Gaming.  Doing well at this i-League Invitational could give compLexity some much needed momentum this season.  On the other hand, a poor showing could very well do the opposite for the team’s morale.

SG e-sports

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile

Position 2 – Adriano “4dr” Machado

Position 3 – Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos

Position 4 – Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro

Position 5 – Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa

SG e-sports hails from Brazil in South America, which is arguably one of the most underrepresented regions in DotA 2.  Even so, this fledgling team’s recent results speak for themselves.  In the past few weeks, SG e-sports has qualified for three Minors and ESL One Hamburg, the first Dota 2 Major of the year.

One could of course argue that the players are simply big fish in their small pond of a region.  Can their apparent dominance over their fellow South American teams translate into winning tournament performances?  Right now it is difficult to say with any certainty, as this roster is barely even a month old.  Regardless, this new squad is hungry to prove themselves, and they could be the underdogs to root for at i-League.

Vici Gaming

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun

Position 2 – Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang

Position 3 – Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei

Position 4 – Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng

Position 5 – Lu “Fenrir” Chao

Vici Gaming’s roster is completely different from the team we grew accustomed to last year.  However, that doesn’t mean you haven’t seen these players before.  eLeVeN, LaNm, and Fenrir are seasoned vets that once played together on EHOME’s roster in 2016.  At the time they went from the Wild Card team to placing 5-6th at TI6.

During the Chinese Qualifier they got off to a shaky start by losing to LGD Gaming 0-2.  Despite being immediately pushed to the losers bracket, they fought on, eventually winning their runback against LGD 2-0.  The talent on this team can’t be disputed, but will it be enough to overcome the rest of the competition?

Mineski

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng

Position 2 – Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung

Position 3 – Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang

Position 4 – Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

Position 5 – Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Personally, I was excited back in March of this year when Mineski announced they would be building a brand new team with Mushi as the centerpiece.  As a player Mushi has played in five of the seven Internationals, and has placed in the top four in three of them.  Before making his move to Mineski, Mushi captained Fnatic for nearly two years, and had some success.  The announcement that iceiceice would be joining the team in the offlane was just icing on the cake.

Mineski proved that they are a force to be reckoned with by going undefeated in their qualifier for SL i-League.  We’ll see if they accidentally used up all their luck before the true battles begin.

Star Ladder i-League Invitational Season 3 will be held in Kiev, Ukraine from October 12th – October 15th.


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Team

Analyzing 2018’s new teams

It has been almost two months since Team Liquid claimed the Aegis at TI7, and since then roster shuffles have been in full swing. Though parting ways with an old team can be difficult, it also opens up new opportunities. During these shuffles, many players understandably choose to accept offers from other well established teams. However, some times these players decide to form completely new teams from a large pool of free agents. The latter of these choices is incredibly exciting. While often composed of well-known players within the DotA scene, it is impossible to guess how well teams work together until they play. This uncertainty makes watching tournaments much more exciting whenever one of these wildcards is thrown into the bracket. The TI8 season has already seen its fair share of these new rosters, and here are just a few worth keeping an eye on.

Optic Gaming

Shortly after confirming their departure from Evil Geniuses, Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg and Peter “PPD” Dager announced the formation of a new team with this tweet.

Teams, DotA, Optic, PPD, Zai, Misery, Pajkatt, CCnC

From left to right, Pajkatt, MiSeRy, CCnC, PPD, Zai. Photo by Optic Gaming

Briefly named “The Dire”, the team was recently picked up by Optic Gaming due to their remarkable talent. As “The Dire”, they qualified for the Dota 2 Minor Beyond the Summit 8 after winning King’s Cup America. The team also placed second in both the PGL North American Qualifier and the Star Ladder i-League Invitational qualifier.

Most of the players on this team require little to no introduction. Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille has played MOBAs professionally since the original DotA. Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen and PPD have proven their drafting talents during their time as captains of Digital Chaos and Evil Geniuses respectively. As these two begin to learn from each other, drafting against Optic Gaming will surely be nightmarish. Interestingly enough, this team composition shows Zai stepping back into the offlane position for the first time since his Team Secret days in early 2015. His performance during that time on heroes such as Broodmother and Dark Seer was impressive, and I am glad we get to see more of it.

Quinn “CCnC Callahan is the wildcard on the team. Most recently CCnC played for Team Freedom and narrowly missed appearing in TI7 after finishing third in the NA Qualifiers. Despite playing the game professionally since late 2015, he has few notable tournament results. Formulating an opinion on the young mid-laner is difficult with so little base material, but his teammates clearly see potential. Regardless, CCnC now finds himself in a position to learn from the wealth of experience around him, and that journey is going to be something worth watching.

mID OR fEED

Another new team captained by ex-Digital Chaos vet Martin “Saksa” Sazdov was announced via twitter.

Aliwi “w33” Omar is a world class mid-laner best known for his Invoker, Wind Ranger and Meepo play. It’s interesting then that he is giving up mid to play a four position support role in this line-up. The remaining three members of Mid or Feed have a fair bit of history themselves. KheZu has played in two Internationals, though his teams failed to place well in either. Cancel spent most of his competitive career with Complexity before leaving following a string of poor team performances. Timado recently left the South American team Infamous in August, who he played with in TI7. While these players don’t have many major LAN victories yet, they have the individual talent to make waves.

Since this announcement was made, Saksa has removed himself from the roster after saying he felt “burned out” on his twitter. This is a shame since w33 and Saksa would have been a great foundation to build a team around. Fortunately they have already found a replacement.  After the recent disbandment of his own squad “No Diggity”, Troels “syndereN” Nielsen will captain Mid or Feed moving forward.  SyndereN is a 4 time TI competitor himself, though most of his notable tournament placements occurred before 2013.  However, his time as a caster and analyst demonstrated his deep knowledge of the game, and that is an invaluable tool in today’s competitive space.

Spartak Esports

Russian esports organization Spartak Esports makes its debut in the DotA 2 circuit with the following roster.

It is not surprising if these names seem unfamiliar. For starters, Egor “.Ark” Zhabotinskii and Evgeniy “Chuvash” Makarov have each been active competitors for less than two years. Also, while Maxim “yoky-” Kim and Stanislav “633” Glushan have histories with teams like Virtus.Pro and Empire, the remaining members have played mostly on minor league teams.

But Spartak Esports does have a few things going for them. .Ark, Chuvash and team captain Mihail “Misha” Agatov have all played together at length on the Russian team Commanche. As any DotA player knows, competing with people you enjoy playing with has a profound effect on mindset and morale. DotA players also know that a solid mindset and good moral will not win games without technical skills to back them up. Will this team allow Spartak Esports to compete with top tier teams like Evil Geniuses, Virtus.Pro and Digital Chaos?  Only time can tell us the answer.


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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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Wild shows why we need Standard

We’re coming up on 18 months since the announcement of Standard. It’s taken that long for the first “official” Blizzard-organised Wild tournament to take place. This Open, which finished yesterday with a close-fought final between two skilled players intimately familiar with the format, is well worth watching, so I won’t spoil the victor. But don’t just watch it for the exciting games; watch it because it’s a perfect example of why the controversial and difficult cleaving of Hearthstone’s Constructed format into two separate game-modes was ultimately necessary.

Standard was vital not just to keep players buying new packs; it was needed to keep Hearthstone as we know it intact.

Set Theory

Looking back, standard seems an inevitable consequence of the development of Hearthstone; but it wasn’t always that way. Diverging away from the idea of all cards being eternal and together in a single constructed mode took courage, vision and a fair amount of ruthlessness. This meant radically altering the pool of cards in a way more extreme than had ever been attempted before, with all the inherent balancing issues that could arise. Not only that, but dealing with the fallout of a financially and emotionally invested player-base would prove difficult to navigate.

The reasoning, expressed in the relentlessly upbeat PR-speak that lacks some of the frankness and honesty of the less meticulously scripted balance discussions, was succinctly expressed in the title of the announcement: “A New Way to Play”. The implication, of course, that Standard would be “New” as Wild would be “Old”. Standard, with its ever changing cluster of sets, held together by the glue of Basic and Classic was to be “fresh, exciting, and accessible”.

Expensive Antiques

Artist: Jesper Ejsing. Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard doesn’t trust new players to navigate more than nine deckslots – they can’t demand they learn five expansions

When listing the advantages of splitting Standard and Wild, that “accessible” part is worth considering. For every veteran who lost their precious collection of Legendaries to a far less forgiving format, there would likely be a newer player who without Standard would be forced to buy a confusing array of Adventures and packs from multiple expansions simply to compete. If Adventure dependent, class defining powerhouses that dominate Wild like Haunted Creeper, Reno Jackson or Flamewaker were forever locked behind paywalls of thousands of gold or scores of dollars, it would be nigh impossible to build a collection without going through months of grind or shelling out an unreasonable amount of money.

This, of course, does not cover the added cost of having multiple legendaries that would likely be eternal in Wild due to their sheer efficiency in certain types of deck. Standard is necessary for new players to be able to play the game to a tolerable extent.

Synergy-Powered Aggro

Nine health on turn four isn’t normal: but on Wild it is

Aggro used to be relatively straightforward. Efficient early minions and burn were the two ingredients, and the rest wrote itself. Classic examples included old Face Hunter and Aggro Shaman, both of which simply jammed in whatever card was good, cheap or could point face. However, this old philosophy is being supplanted. As the Wild card pool expands, Aggro decks can tightly refine their lists around a bevy of dominating synergies. Pirate Warrior in Wild gains incredible synergistic power that supplements the potent Weapons and Pirates combination simply through the addition of Ship’s Cannon. Tempo Mage can curve lower and more aggressively with the added synergistic burn power of Flamewaker.

Ever traditional sedate Priest with “slow” cards like Zombie Chow and Deathlord can become a deadly aggressive deck with the right synergistic tools, in decks like Control’s recent tournament entry.

The Old Way to Play?

Ironically, Standard’s success is in how little it changes rather than how much. Games of Hearthstone in Standard are still fundamentally similar to games from one, two or even three years ago. There are midrange, aggro and control decks; there are no insane sources of healing or easy overwhelming early-game burst combos. Minions die when you kill them, and there are no huge spikes of power at any given mana cost. Synergies are potent, but not overwhelming.

Wild on the other hand is mutating into something far different. Fun and exciting, with huge room for innovation and skill; but also unforgiving, aggressive and revolving around increasingly interwoven webs of synergistic power. Reynad’s infamous prediction that even the maligned Dr. Boom could be too slow for Wild someday soon is already coming true.

Simply put, Standard’s great success has been rotating old cards in order to keep things the same. Wild will use the same cards forever, but will change Hearthstone beyond recognition. Luckily, both experiences are fun, exciting and well-supported. We should all watch the development of Wild with interest; even if we have to retreat to the sensible safety of Standard.

Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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OWL Contenders Week 5: Finals preview

The finality of finals finally. We made it. Back to the bracket (no more group stages!), eyes on the prize, $25,000 to first place plus an invitation to Season One of Contenders, $10,000 to second and so on. But we don’t know who’s going to be featured on the weekend streams and there are only three matches to be shown nightly. The catch? They’ll be the best teams in those games so it’ll be a good series regardless. Capping it off, every match is a best of five which gives teams a lot more time to feel each other out.

Who’s ready?!

Europe Predictions

Eight teams are ready to annihilate one another for the top spot. Forged in the fire of groups, these eight are eUnited, Movistar Riders, Singulairty, Laser Kittenz, 123, Rest in Pyjamas (NiP), Misfits and Bazooka Puppiez.

eUnited vs Movistar Riders and 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas would be my two must see matches. eUnited has been a force of nature within the European portion of the tournament but Movistar Riders has been resilient, to say the least. Their records combined are nearly identical in groups with only Movistars sporting a loss. Add in that they supplemented their team with Destro and replaced Finnsi, and this would be a show match for sure. At the same time, eUnited losing seems farfetched but they had a rather easy group stage.

eUnited beats Movistar but it will go the distance. Five matches played out to the tune a jumping Winston slamming carts, points, backlines, jams, hoops. Counting out Logix, Cwoosh and Destro for Movistar is harsh but seeing Vallutaja’s Tracer chew up teams match after match begs to temper such enthusiasm.

As for the 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas match, it may be upset city. Pyjamas have been on the major stage a long time. High-risk games where mistakes cost matches, they’ve shown their composure. Remember they were a pro-team until a week ago. They gutted out their matches and fought through groups despite the possible blow to their confidence. The problem is that 123 makes matches look as easy as their name. They play aggressive but have their hand on the shifter, knowing when to reverse when necessary. In the matches that were streamed they showed incredible poise in group fights, a mastery of good dive mechanics. The match may go in 123’s favor but Pyjamas likely wins out in a best of five. For 123 to win out over Pyjamas it will hinge on if Pyjamas runs out of steam. They went the distance getting into the final bracket but maintaining such a push? That’ll be harder than getting there. Sprinting is difficult but there’s a reason tournaments can be called marathons. Well managed tempo for Pyjamas and stifling 123’s Snillo and Mistakes will be the keys to the match.

Laser Kittenz takes out Singularity in a roll because they want to rematch with Misfits. Destiny and magnets are the two strongest forces in the universe and that will win out eventually. Singularity is an amazing team and their matches deserve a real look into.

Misfits handles Bazooka Puppiez and this one is not going to be close by any means. Puppiez is staring down the barrel of Misfits who only want to fight Laser Kittens to the death. Puppiez tied eUnited but ultimately had to make a tiebreaker to win out over Team expert.

That leaves us with eUnited vs Laser Kittens and 123 vs Misfits. That’ll be a hell of a lot of good matches till the end of the evening for the Euro crowd. Everyone gets to see eUnited (with Boombox playing out of his mind hopefully) going ham against the rest of the bracket. 123 surprising the world with their out of the woodwork storyline. I’m sure deep down a rematch between Misfits vs Laser Kittens would arguably be the best possible outcome for their fanbases.

North America Predictions

(Quietly hopes the matches don’t go late. Yep, WOOO!)

Half the teams are breathing a silent relieving sigh. Immortals aren’t in their bracket. FaZe will likely fall to Immortals in a rout but discounting ShaDowBurn, the best Genji in the tournament, seems cruel. FaZe clutched out wins in a ridiculous stacked group. The thing is that meta feels a bit tilted after the Reaper buff and Sombra has been rearing her head in the matches, especially on defensive holds. If FaZe play smart they may take a match off Immortals but their chances are slim.

In the meantime, LG Evil with (Big) Jake who’s Soldier is the stuff of true fear, is matched against Kungarna. You’ll remember Kungarna for robbing every one of their good night’s rest and flipping the table against Cloud9 in the wee hours of a Monday morning street fight. Are upsets on the horizon for Kungarna? LG Evil is an amazing team and deserves their credit but Kungarna showed they talk smack and back it up, which means they deserve the respect as well.

I’d take FNRGFE over Renegades simply over the fact that they survived a group of death for two weeks. They lost three games in a group with Immortals who were nearly perfect. They beat Arc 6 (Yikes) so handily Twitch might have to submit the VOD to the police for abuse. Renegades post a similar record as Immortals but lack the same fatalistic feeling. This would be the match of the day for sure with upsets as a high serving.

Team Liquid vs Envision may not look like much on paper and to be fair, it may be the best match. These two teams will take it to overtime in a battle but I feel Liquid got a pass. They’re not as great as their record and Envision’s isn’t much better in the scope of things. Their group performances look eerily the same, winning close to the same number of maps. The difference is that Envision dealt with LG Evil and Liquid dealt with FaZe who’s not in the same bracket as far as teams go. Liquid wins but it’ll be a coin flip.

That leaves the winners with Immortals, LG Evil (despite Kungarna putting up a hell of a fight), FNRGFE and Liquid. Immortals for LG Evil becomes a ridiculous topic of discussion which deserves an article better written than this author can produce. FNRGFE may well cruise into the finals and get routed but it falls essentially on their ability to beat Renegades and maintain momentum in the win.

Conclusion

This should make for a great weekend of European and North American Overwatch. The tournament thus far faced criticism for some of the wild things that have occurred but has shown tremendous potential to highlight the non-Korean scene. This may be in part to Alex “Gillfrost” Gill and the Carbon series he ran months prior that featured many of these teams. All the same, it’s about the games and the players more than anything. A tournament is just a marquee hanging over a bunch of people doing their best to be the best


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