The DOTA world got another taste of what’s to come in Manila over the weekend in Moscow, Russia. The Epicenter LAN was the new kid on the big tournament block and they did not disappoint. From the insane Roshan stage -
to the roof showing spell casts, not to mention the high level of play and excellent games all around.
Newbee, in their first matchup against Western scenes since the Chinese shuffle, started off the weekend by winning the wildcard qualifiers going 2-0 against Complexity and No Diggity. CoL took the second wildcard spot against No Diggity and the groups were set. Newbee continued their amazing run through the group stages, extending their incredible winstreak to 29 straight games and 14 straight matches by beating Team Secret and Evil Geniuses 2-0 and looking like the best team on the planet while doing so. Team Liquid would take Group A over OG, with EG and OG advancing second out of their respective groups.
The playoffs would be a different story for Newbee. Both their game and match win streaks came to an end against a suddenly revitalized OG in the first round of the upper bracket. Liquid beat EG in the other UB matchup and beat OG for the second time of the tournament in the upper bracket finals to secure their Grand Finals slot.
The lower bracket was filled with upsets. Alliance knocked Secret out in the first round, and CoL took down EG 2-0 in the second. Newbee was having none of it, however, and beat both Alliance and CoL on their way to a rematch with OG in the lower bracket finals for the other Grand Finals slot. This time they would not be denied, losing game one but taking games two and three on the backs of Kpii’s Dark Seer and Hau’s Spectre in both matches.
The Grand Finals were everything a DOTA fan could have hoped for. Both teams seemed evenly matched and both teams brought out their pocket picks and crazy strats. Game 1 was going Newbee’s way but Liquid’s Beastmaster/Lycan zoo strat (plus pocket Riki pick!) proved too strong as the mass necrobooks tore through Newbee’s lineup in the midgame and pushed down towers insanely fast. Game 2 saw Newbee get their hands on Mu’s signature Alchemist along with Phoenix and Doom, using easy farm and mass AOE damage to break through Liquid’s tanky lineup. Series tied at 1-1.
Game 3 showcased another one of Mu’s standout heroes, the Death Prophet. Thanks to some huge Tidehunter Ravages from Kpii and big Roars from the 4 position Beastmaster Kaka, Mu was able to stay alive with his ult up through most of the major teamfights and tear through Liquid’s lineup. Newbee goes up 2-1
Liquid, not wanting to finish second at yet ANOTHER big tournament (ESL One Manila and the Shanghai Major), played their hearts out in Game 4. They took the Alchemist away from Mu, banned out the Death Prophet, Spectre, and Weaver, and picked up Jerax’s signature Earth Spirit. The Earth Spirit proved to be the pick of the game, getting early kills all over the map and creating loads of space for FATA’s Alchemist. Newbee would keep it fairly close but the amount of farm on Alchemist would prove to be too much in the end. Liquid evens it out at 2-2, setting up for a winner take all Game 5.
Game 5 started off with some interesting picks, Newbee picking up a safe lane Venomancer and Liquid taking a second pick support Ancient Apparition to counter the healing of Doom and Alchemist. The early star was once again Jerax’s Earth Spirit, picking up exactly where he left off in the previous game by rolling everywhere and securing multiple early kills on Mu’s Alchemist. Newbee brought the game back to even and even built up a lead, but the AA, Earth Spirit, and Beastmaster ultimate combos proved to be too strong, ensuring the death of the super farmed Alchemist in every fight and securing every major teamfight after the AA hit level 6. After some cautious play by both squads, Liquid managed to kill the Alchemist and Venomancer after buybacks and end the game, ending their streak of second place finishes and taking home the $250,000 first prize. What a tournament! Jerax was the MVP of the finals for me, with his Earth Spirit plays in games 4 and 5 being the standout performances of the entire tournament.
The International 2016 Battle Pass (and Compendium)!
By this date last year the TI5 compendium had already been out for over two weeks, with a total prize pool of over $8,000,000, so many fans were wondering when the TI6/Manila Major compendium would be released. Valve did not disappoint and fully justified the delay, releasing the TI6 Battle Pass and Compendium yesterday chock full of goodies and sick Immortals. Instead of Stretch Goals of last two years like loading screens, Courier unlocks, music packs, announcer packs, and map skins, Valve actually already has all of those finished and is giving them all to everyone who buys the compendium! The first Immortal chest has great looking items with animation changes, the Battle Pass quests are awesome, and there’s a community quest to cut down TWENTY BILLION TREES. As of the moment I type this the TI6 prize pool is already up to $5,250,000 and is $800,000 ahead of the pace set last year. With the multitude of already finished bonus unlocks and even higher quality immortal items it looks like TI will once again break its own record for largest prize pool in eSports history.
In addition to the Battle Pass quests, the TI6 compendium is adding an additional wrinkle in the International Ranked Queue, a ranked queue using the same MMR system that is wholly separate from the standard Ranked MMR queue. Each player will have to re-calibrate based on their hidden MMR, using the current ranked MMR calibration rules that limit max calibration to 4,999. The International Ranked queue will have seasons as well, resetting after a certain time period with the first period starting in June and awarding players with trophies based on their highest max MMR during the season. This new system more closely matches that used by other competitive eSports like Starcraft, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm.
Players who play more than 40 games of International Ranked MMR will also have the option to replace their standard MMR with their International MMR at the end of the season, allowing players who calibrated at low MMRs and are now stuck in the much ballyhooed “MMR/ELO Hell”, but have perhaps improved their non-ranked hidden MMR in the meantime, to get a reset of sorts. The overall impact of this will be overstated, as most players who similarly have tried to “reset” their MMR by creating smurf accounts and gaming the calibration system usually find themselves slowly but steadily gravitating back to their previous MMR. Personally I’m fine with the change as it will give the “Ranked MMR deniers”, as I like to call them, even less reason to complain about the ranked system while probably having minimal overall impact on the skill brackets.
This is clearly an exciting time for DOTA. This new patch is so far one of the most balance and varied metas we have seen, the new Battlepass/Compendium have gone above and beyond expectations, and the pro scene has been incredibly exciting, with one more major tournament in DreamLeague between us and the Manila Major on June 7th. DOTA players are more engaged than ever before, not seeing any dip in playtime during the Overwatch open beta a couple weeks ago, and with the recent additions to the game DOTA will only continue to grow.