It has been a full five months since the last time I have written an article on DotA 2. I will talk about why I have been dodging (besides 100+ hours of Witcher 3) in an article to come. For now, I would like to discuss the greatest International yet—and I am not even being hyperbolic. TI5 really is the best International thus far!
Remember these guys, Evil Geniuses, the champions of the first DotA 2 Asia Championship? If not, please check out my linked article about them for a bit of backstory on their journey. At the time of that writing, Aui_2000’s status on Cloud 9 was nebulous. Of course since January/February, things are much more clear. I will not sully EG’s success with all of that drama; instead, I will leave this parody video not only because of its humor, but also because it tells the story more effectively:
Aui_2000 and Universe have surely come a long way, but Fear has come even longer by fufilling a livelong dream and promise to his mother, as seen in the documentary Free 2 Play.
I spent a full hour looking for a good enough photo featuring all five of the TI5 champions EG: Aui_2000, Universe, PPD, Fear, and the 15 year-old rock star solo-mid sensation, Suma1L. To secure the victory, Universe and PPD made a play in the Grand Finals that rivals S4’s Million-Dollar Dream Coil….
CDEC barely made it into TI5 after losing the Chinese Qualifiers to EHOME, but recovered by winning the Wild Card round by going 5-1 over Team Archon, MVP Phoenix, and Vega Squadron. After that, the team performed well, earning a 9-5 record during the Group Stage to make the Upper Bracket where they would not drop another game, including sweeping EG 2-0 and sending them to down to play LGD. When EG triumphed to return to the Grand Finals, the squad’s team captain, PPD, had deciphered CDEC’s smoke gank strategies which dumbfounded them in their first battles. The games were much more competitive and entertaining than last year’s 15-minute Newbee stomp of VG, and the teams were evenly matched. In the game-defining moments, CDEC would pick off Suma1L’s Storm Spirit right before attempting to take Roshan, knowing that EG lacked vision there. That was no deterrent, and EG snuffed CDEC out:
Most are crediting Universe alone on his Earthshaker, the “Six-Million Dollar Echo Slam,” however paying closer attention will reveal how well-coordinated this play is between two teammates rather than just one, with Universe blinking in and ulting just before PPD’s Ice Blast (from Ancient Apparition) arrives, resulting in MAXIMUM CARNAGE. By first damaging CDEC’s entire team with the Echo Slam, the Ice Blast was more effective in causing panic—Ice Blast prevents any kind of healing so all CDEC could do is run rather than fight with such low HPs. Of course, EG whipped four of CDEC’s heroes, leaving only Phantom Lancer who would escape, and claim the Aegis. CDEC would not recover from this morale shock, and would call GG after the next big teamfight.
EG’s win is a really big deal in Esports and the gaming world at large. North American DotA has traditionally been known as a punchline over the past ten years while SEA, China and EU have dominated. EG, C9, and to a lesser extent, CompLexity, NAR, and mousesports have been trying hard, but had not succeeded in big and consistent wins until now. I have already mentioned DAC, and now EG can add TI5 to its trophy case…and wallets:
To put things into perspective, Na’Vi, winner if the first International, won one-million dollars as a team. EG, four years later, would take home more than that for each player, thanks to the money raised through the DotA 2 community with the 2015 Compendium. Yeah, everyone wants first place, but sixth place earns today what 1st did in 2011.
I do not want to even think about how much money I have spent in “digital hats” over the years, but at the time of this writing, my Compendium sits at level 162, and I know that will spend at least another $10 before all is said and done to raise its level to 175 for the Enigma World Chasm Immortal Bracers, introduced in the short comic, The Summoning. In terms of Compendium Immortals, I have all but the SF Arms of Desolation, Gyro’s golden Atomic Ray Thrusters, and Luna’s golden Moonfall. I would still like the latter because while I do not play with the other two, but I do play her. I have purchased two chests to get the Compendium points, and I am contemplating buying a few more of the Collector’s Cache because the Doom and DK sets are sweet, and the overall chance of buying a lame set is low, and I can always sell it on the Steam market to save some change. They’re only $2 each…only???
I don’t play Invoker, but I’m pleased to have his SSJ form!
At 24 levels for $9.99, This dude (I’m certain it was a male) spent upwards of $4,000 on his compendium. I mean, I didn’t bother to do the math on my compendium, but….
Ok, I have covered all that casual stuff, and it’s time to roll up the ol’ sleeves and get just a tad more technical. One of the keys to making this year’s International so successful was a great patch. 6.84 is such a balanced patch that only six heroes remained unpicked throughout the entire International series, from the Qualifiers to the Main event, which is similar to TI4 and much better than TI3 when twenty-four heroes were shut out. Among the unpicked heroes this year are Death prophet, Earth Spirit (though he is not in CM), Elder Titan, Necrophos, Oracle, and Terrorblade; four of these heroes are in my regular rotation. [Editor’s Note: Like Earth Spirit, Oracle is disabled in Captain’s Mode, the official mode of competitive DotA, so it is impossible for him to have been picked in TI5.] Well, I no longer play Oracle and fee; that he is beyond redemption right now. The best reason to use him, his False Promise ult, was completely destroyed in 6.84:
False Promise no longer makes the target invisible
False Promise now continuously removes debuffs and disables, instead of only when first cast
False Promise duration from 7/8/9 to 6/7/8
False Promise cooldown from 20 to 80/60/40
It was hard enough to get allies to coordinate well with him because few people play support and even fewer understood what his skills did; at least when False Promise made allies invisible, it would encourage them to play more aggressively. Now no invis and a 4x to 2x the c/d? RIP Oracle.
Death Prophet never fully recovered from a series of nerfs in consecutive patches resulting in the increase of her Exorcism ult from a 100s c/d to 145s. After all, that is almost a full minute added in addition to the original c/d—that is a lot of downtime compared to heroes like Lina with ults that c/d in less than a minute. Likewise, Terrorblade suffered from a series of nerfs before he could even become a force in CM mode like DP was during the deathball era: lower movespeed, increased damage intake to his illusions, and said illusions overall doing reduced damaged to buildings.
Elder Titan follows the pattern of getting hit with the nerfbat so hard, that he was never able to recover:
Reduced Astral Spirit damage from 120/160/200/240 to 80/120/160/200.
Reduced Astral Spirit damage from 60/100/140/180 to 60/90/120/150.
RIP…ET used to be a staple in the offlane, able to harass forever with a Soul Ring (and later, the Tranq boot). Now there are simply much better heroes to place in that position, from Queen of Pain to Skywrath Mage. These days, one can even run a carry like Faceless Void, Sniper, or Phantom Assassin in the offlane. Why deny a core with a utility hero?
Shifting the focus, am honestly dumbfounded, saddened, and insulted that one of my best cores at a 60% winrate in 222 games was completely shut out. All I can conjecture about Necrophos is that like ET, the pros would prefer stronger, more mobile cores than what he is capable, or the fact that pros have a tendency to build BKBs on the important heroes that Necro would “delete” with his agh (and refresher) upgrade negates his strongest ability.
Poor heroes! Maybe IF will find a way to buff them to bring them on par with heroes like Gondar, who was frequently picked because of his Track Gold buffs, or Tuskarr, who received a series of buffs that make him a strong utility/support/initiator. To be honest, the diversity in picks during TI5 was so various that it would be neigh impossible to fully capture the experience.
Instead, I will hit up a few highlights.
Most Picked Hero
I told all my friends that Queen of Pain wasn’t back from irrelevance until Mushi played with her in a competitive match.
Welp, that settles that! Indeed, QoP was picked 197 times and banned 188 times for a whopping combined total of 385 picks and bans. Put another way, in 94% of all 400+ games that were played through the TI5 season, QoP was accounted for. And this is after dwelling in complete irrelevance for the past year or two! One could go back as far as 6.52 when QoP received some nerfs, though I feel that it was really the arrival of Skywrath Mage combined with the reduction of deathbll effectiveness which sidelined for a few years. Then 6.83 arrived:
Increased max blink distance from 700/850/1000/1150 to 1300 on each level.
Increased cooldown from 12/10/8/6 to 15/12/9/6.
A 1300-range blink at level one is a big deal (like Pudge’s 1000-range lv 1 hook), but Sonic Wave doing BKB-penetrating damage won her over in the hearts of dota players everywhere, from pros to amateurs. I am sure that Mushi is glad that she’s back. I kinda am too; I think she has some of the best voicework in the game.
I should probably give EG’s PPD the nod for giving Aui_2000 Techies in game 2 of the semifinal against EHOME. The latter essentially surrendered bottom lane to the Techies, not wanting to invest resources in purchasing sentries or gems to deal with the mines. I do not recall ever seeing a team straight up give away a lane for free like that in a professional game, however I also had yet to see Techies picked and taken seriously. He’s annoying enough to deal with in a pub; the pros didn’t even try!
…but he’s friggin Techies. Eff that hero.
Instead, I’m going to select Virtus.Pro’s selection of Drow Ranger as a last pick in their upset of Team Secret, this year’s all-star team of Arteezy, s4, zai, KuroKy, and Puppey. Full disclosure: Drow is my most-picked hero with 384 picks, and after she was among the host of heroes unpicked/banned in TI4, I cannot get enough of her in competitive play—it’s a validation thing.
She’s squishy, lacks a reliable escape, has zero stun, and features no fancy spells that would make her a popular pick. Yet she is the OG glass cannon. <3. Credit to DotaCouch not only for this artwork, but his/her determination to retain Valve’s vision of the hero with large nose, lips, and elongated face while other artists strive to mute those features.
Granted, s4 played poorly on QoP, though zai played out of his mind with Dark Seer. I give credit to VP: many thought that Secret would make it to the Grand Finals, but they get caught off guard with a good old-fashioned Drow Aura strat, enhancing the right click damage of their Storm, but most importantly, Lina (with Firey Soul skill) and Visage (with Familiars skill). In the end, Illidan Stormrage’s Drow would suicide solo push the bottom melee rax to secure the mega creeps and Secret had to tap out.
(However, VP would would be straight up embarrassed for using this strat in the next round against LGD, with Illidan Stormrage going 0-11-1 with Drow. Eew.)
It is obviously Universe’s Echo Slam combined with PPD Ice Blast for the EG teamwhipe against CDEC!
FY, member of team VG gaming, is by far and wide the reason why his team made it as far as they did. The man’s Rubick is probably the most formidable player/hero combination in the entire tournament, earning Rubick in a few “respect bans” along the way, making sure that FY does not get his hands on that hero. I was able to see him play live, and I felt like I was at the Key Arena myself! Behold the mastery of FY on that hero:
Now I will not go as far as to call him “FY God” like others do, but watching him made me realize that I have no business raging at a game of dota by talking about how bad my teammates are, because I, too, suck compared to these guys. In short, I have a lot to learn, so swallowing my pride should be a habit.
With all of that said, I will now close as abruptly and awkwardly as TI5 did with some seizure-inducing deadmau5.