Dota 2

Do you enjoy playing ranked matches in Dota 2? Well, you better have a phone number ready because you're not going to be able to do that for much longer without one. Valve has announced in a blog post that it's now requiring all players to register a unique phone number if they want to play in ranked matches.

Valve is adding this requirement to reduce the number of players who use multiple accounts in ranked, saying it creates "a negative matchmaking experience at all skill brackets." Requiring a unique phone number for each ranked account will ideally prevent a noticeable number of players from doing this, resulting in a positive effect from players using their primary accounts.

If you're upset by this news and refuse to adhere to Valve's new rule, then you have until May 4 to enjoy all the ranked matchmaking you possibly can. After that, accounts without a unique phone number will not be eligible to participate in ranked matches. 

This is similar to what Valve has done with CS:GO's Prime Matchmaking, which offers higher quality matchmaking if you've registered a phone number. However, in that game, regular ranked play is still available without a phone.

Removing a number from your Dota 2 account after registration brings about a couple things. You can add a new number right away, but the number that was removed will not be usable for three months. Valve says this is to prevent someone from removing a number and immediately registering it with their alternate account. On top of that, Valve is not allowing numbers from online services to be registered. That means you likely won't be able to use your Google Voice number.

You can read the full blog post here, which goes into a number of other changes, including party changes, the return of ranked solo queue, and improved handling of nefarious behavior.

Dota 2

Photo credit: Riot Games

It’s another jam-packed weekend in the world of digital sports and lots of tournaments are reaching the finals stages. There’s plenty of action from the League of Legends LCS Spring Split Finals to the CS:GO cs_summit. We even have the Hearthstone Collegiate National Championship to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split Finals

Two-time defending EU LCS champions G2 Esports secured three straight wins against Fnatic in the semifinals last Saturday, winning the series and taking a spot in this weekend’s finals. Fnatic didn’t go down without a fight and they caught G2 off-guard in game one with aggressive roaming and early lane swaps, but G2 played safe and punished Fnatic’s over-aggressive plays. Meanwhile, Unicorns of Love took down Misfits in a tense 3-1 series. The final game saw UOL secure an early lead thanks to an explosive play in the bot lane, which gave them a 3-1 lead. UOL used this power advantage to quickly barrage Misfits’ bot-lane and secure a quick 23-minute victory. This weekend’s final schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split Finals

Team SoloMid made short work of FlyQuest in last weekend’s semifinals with a clean 3-0 sweep. Both teams will play in Vancouver this Saturday and TSM will face Cloud9, while FlyQuest will play in the third place match against Phoenix1 in the finals. The series saw both teams pick strong team fighting compositions, but TSM had a better frontline which they used to tank FlyQuest’s damage and snag objectives for a decisive sweep. The semifinal series for Cloud9 was also a one-sided affair as they dominated Phoenix1 in a quick 3-0 series. Cloud9 matched P1 point for point, but they always had the advantage in every skirmish. Phoenix1 desperately tried to make a comeback, but Cloud9’s superiority was shown in game three when they only gave up one tower and three kills. This weekend’s final schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League Invitational European Qualifier

The European qualifiers for the LAN finals of SL i-League Dota 2 Invitational are under way and eight teams will compete in the final playoffs. Cloud9 is kicking the quarterfinals off today when they face Team Spirit at 08:00 PDT / 17:00 CEST, while Natus Vincere tackle Effect later at 11:00 PDT / 20:00 CEST. The semifinals and finals will be broadcast over the course of the weekend, so make sure you head over to the official Dota 2 StarLadder site to find latest schedule and stream.

CS:GO: cs_summit

Eight teams will clash this weekend in a bid to secure the lion’s share of the $150,000 prize pool. Cs_summit offers an informal, relaxed atmosphere for participating players and is designed as a behind-the-scenes style event. Players will be able to take a more active role in the broadcast than what is normally seen at traditional live events, so expect to hear some top quality pro analysis. The semifinals kick off today at 15:30 PDT / 00:30 CEST, while the finals start same time tomorrow. You can check out the full weekend schedule and stream over on Beyond the Summit.

Overwatch: Rumble

The Spring Overwatch Rumble is back once again and the weekend tournament will see eight of the best North American teams clash. However, the pros will also be will be joined by eight qualifying teams, so anything could happen. The format for the tournament will be a round robin and only the top two teams from each group will advance into Sunday's double elimination bracket. The invited teams for this tournament are: EnVyUs, Immortals, Rogue, LG Evil, Cloud9, Splyce, compLexity, and Selfless Gaming.  You can check out the full schedule and stream by visiting Rivalcade's Overwatch Rumble page.

Hearthstone: Collegiate National Championship

After seven weeks of grueling group play, regional playoffs, and an elimination championship bracket, the Hearthstone Collegiate National Championship is coming to an exciting end this weekend. Live finals will be broadcast from the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, California where the remaining teams will battle it out for the lion’s share of the $160,000 prize pool. The Collegiate National Championship is one of the first Blizzard-sanctioned Hearthstone competitions to use the new standard rotation with Journey to Un’Goro in play, so expect plenty of primordial decks. The event will be kicking off tomorrow at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST and will continue at the same time tomorrow. You can check out the full stream by heading over to Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship

The Heroes of the Storm Global Championship is wrapping up week seven of play this weekend and the tension continues to build up. Teams from around the world will be aiming to continue their journey towards the Mid-Season Brawl and secure a top spot in the regular season. Tempo Storm still remains at the top of leaderboard in North America, while Team Liquid are the team to beat in Europe. You can check out the standings for each region and view the tournament schedule for your area over on the Heroes of the Storm’s official site.

Rocket League: Championship Series

The Rocket League Championship Series returns this weekend and things are heating up at the top of the European and North American brackets. NRG have looked extremely strong so far, but G2 will be looking to secure a lead this weekend when they face their rivals tomorrow at 03:20 PDT / 12:20 CEST. Meanwhile, over in Europe Northern Gaming have taken third place and will be looking to take the top spot from Gale Force when they face Pocket Aces Sunday at 13:30 PDT / 10:30 CEST.  Make sure you check out the full schedule and stream over on the official Rocket League: Championship Series website.

StarCraft 2: GSL Super Tournament 2017

The three Global StarCraft League seasons are the pinnacle of competitive StarCraft II play in the Korean scene. This year’s tournament winner will receive $150,000 and a guaranteed spot at the WCS Global Finals, so the competition is expected to be extremely fierce. GSL matches are the defining journeys in many StarCraft II pro players’ careers and it’s likely that we’ll see some new talent shining through. The full schedule and stream can be found by heading over to the WCS StarCraft 2 site.

Dota 2

A lot of people watch other people play games. According to the industry researchers at SuperData, the "worldwide gaming video content audience" includes 665 million people. And it's growing: The company predicts a 21 percent viewer increase between now and 2021.

According to SuperData, there's now a bigger audience for gaming video than the combined audiences of HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu. For reference, Netflix's subscriber count is somewhere near 100 million, while Hulu maintains about 12 million. For better or for worse, PewDiePie alone has over 54 million YouTube subscribers. 

It's not a shocking conclusion: Netflix, for instance, is not currently available in China, so it's no wonder that it would be dwarfed by a category of typically free, streaming video around the world. But if there was still any doubt that the YouTubes and Twitches of the world have made gaming video as mainstream as any primetime TV show, it ought to have vanished long ago.

The report also concludes that men make up 54 percent of the audience for gaming streams and videos and women account for 46 percent. Additionally, gamers who watch streams and videos have a higher average income than other gamers, and like to spend it. "PC and console players who watch [gaming video content] spend over $70 a month on digital games and in-game content, 56 percent more than their non-viewer counterparts," reads SuperData's press release.

We watched "nearly 100 million hours" of League of Legends in February alone, according to the report, with CS:GO coming in second at 40 million hours on Twitch. Twitch is one of the biggest earners in the scene, despite not holding the majority of the eyeballs. SuperData finds that it only captures 16 percent of the audience, but earns 37 percent of 'gaming video content's' revenue thanks in large part to direct spending through subscriptions.

And through advertising and direct spending (subscriptions and donations), SuperData predicts $4.6 billion in revenue from gaming video and streams this year. That probably has something to do with why over half the audience for livestreams wants to try livestreaming themselves.

SuperData's full report will set interested companies back $2,499. Surely there are some interesting insights inside, but here's the too expensive, didn't read version: a lot of people like to watch videogames on the computer.

Dota 2

The days are numbered before the Dota 2 world converges in Ukraine for the Kiev Major. With a purse of $3 million USD and a first-place prize of $1 million, every one of the sixteen teams competing has a reason to give it their all. Of course, with so much at stake and plenty of time between Valve events, there’s a lot to keep up with.

The first essential bit of knowledge going into the Major is that the format has switched from its usual single-elimination seeding to a Swiss format with single-elimination. This means that during the group stage, teams will face other teams with the same or similar scores, and the groups will be sorted through the course of four rounds by who has performed well or not. The system has been controversially introduced into fellow Valve game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and the Dota 2 community has similarly had questions. Still, with longer, more intense matches and a decidedly single-elimination main stage format, the system should make for an interesting event.

Many of the teams that will be featured in the Kiev Major have already shown their chops at the Dota Asia Championships, and since the invites the potential of the teams has been shaken up by this tournament and their battles in between. Of course, between DAC and Kiev, scrims and internal theorycrafting can radically change the meta and thus how teams stack up. There are still some fairly safe impressions that can help us know which teams to watch, and what to expect.

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

No doubt, Invictus Gaming was the most impressive team throughout DAC, taking the whole event persuasively and bringing down some top teams. Since then, they’ve been doing well through their in-house tournament circuit and qualified for the next season of StarLadder i-League. The Chinese team has even catching Westerners’ eyes as these fans try to catch up with the team’s style. It’s no question, then, who everyone will have their eyes on going into Kiev.They’ve forged a bit of a rivalry with OG, who were swept away 3-0 during the DAC finals. It could have been the home turf advantage, but the European squad did spectacularly leading up to these finals, which made the sweep all the more devastating. What this means is that another team has figured out how to deconstruct OG, and others will be hot on their tails to take down the three-time Major champions. That doesn’t count them out from a solid Major run, of course: second place at the biggest third-party Dota 2 tournament isn’t a small feat, especially one halfway around the world, and they have the ability to go forth and claim their fourth Valve event victory.

Newbee has become a considerable force in the Chinese scene as well. They took third at DAC, where they were crowd and online favorites, and hold the best performance in the current Dota Professional League in China, well over IG and other tier-one teams. Just as notably, they’ve been consistently good, and if they can learn from IG and OG’s games, they have a strong case for a solid run.One final step down the DAC’s placement ladder is IG Vitality, which have been fair competition in the top Chinese circuits. While they lack the strength of their primary sister team or rivals Newbee, the team has been doing fairly okay overall, with mixed but not notably incredible nor terrible results. Once again, it could be the home field advantage, but with enough training, they can certainly make a showing in Ukraine.

Across the globe, we ve seen quite a few swaps in organization names leading up to the Major.

The final chinese team, VG.J, has surprisingly underperformed since their second-place win at February’s StarLadder i-League StarSeries. They fell into the seventh/eighth slot at DAC, and they failed to qualify for the Manila Masters. It’s a rut in the team’s recent hot streak, for sure.

Across the globe, we’ve seen quite a few swaps in organization names leading up to the Major. Possibly the biggest one is the departure of the scene’s beloved Greek lineup from Ad Finem in favor of Mousesports. While fans have been cautiously optimistic about them due to the core squad’s performance since Boston, the new sponsorship has been a bad omen. This will be Mousesports’s third Dota 2 pickup immediately before a Valve event, with each team disbanding after their losses at The International. Some hope that the third time’s the charm, and that at least the team’s well-known brotherhood will give them a decent run in Kiev.

Onyx and Digital Chaos, both appearing in Kiev, have gone through a similar mix-up in the United States, with Onyx joining the Digital Chaos brand and the former DC squad becoming Thunderbirds. It’s presently not known if this is a temporary name or not, but they have a logo that has been appropriately placed on Valve’s official website. Assumedly, both will keep their following as potential teams to shake up the NA and international scenes.

Photo credit: ESL/Adela Sznajder

Down in South America, SG E-sports has had very little competition to match their own star power as the first team to take this new qualifying category. There’s been the back-and-forth between their squad and regional rivals Infamous, but the latter’s time to qualify is past, and it’s SG that will be carrying the flag across the pond. Their presence on an international stage is new, though, so only time will tell how they’ll do.

EG and Liquid, while keeping a strong presence internationally, couldn’t hold their own. Even though EG has remained the top team from the Americas, their infamous “lower bracket power” didn’t hold up, and they into the fifth/sixth place slot to Newbee. Liquid did a bit better in the group stages, but they met a worse fate after being eliminated day one of the main event.

Meanwhile, Wings has also struggled to perform at the very top of the tier-one teams. They were eliminated quickly in the single-elimination rounds by none other than EG. It’s not clear what this means for any of the three aforementioned teams, but fans are hoping that they have power in reserve for the Major.

Each team will have a lot to prove, though, as the local tier-one competition is already hot

While the Southeast Asian team Faceless went through their regional qualifiers with international attention, their performance has been mixed since then. They fell in seventh/eighth place at DAC, and they failed to qualify for The Summit 7 after losing to Geek Squad. Meanwhile, TNC has had little to show, especially after also missing the mark for The Summit. The region will need to step it up before showing up in Ukraine.

Last, but absolutely not least, are the European qualifier teams, Team Secret and Virtus Pro from Western Europe and CIS respectively. The former is hoping to reclaim glory and reputation after controversy with their captain, and with a veteran lineup, there’s some hope for them yet. Virtus Pro is also hoping to regain similar fame, plus pick up momentum lost at Boston. Each team will have a lot to prove, though, as the local tier-one competition is already hot—and the international rivalry especially so at Kiev. 

Dota 2

Beyond hour-long game sessions of joy and rage, a long-standing community thrives around Dota 2. Creatives put out all sorts of art, from cakes to cosplay and canvas art, with varying degrees of success. More difficult is sustaining that success with quality work in the long run. While the community does appreciate creativity, its attention for these artists and artisans, between constant patches and a thriving esports scene, ebbs and flows.

One of the most notable creators has mastered the golden goose of Dota 2 content: memes. And they express this expertise through silly and/or impressive Dota 2 gameplay, which, in a community full of tryhards, creates a valuable currency of relatability (or, if you will, the work is “#relatable”).

With over 160k subscribers and view counts that prove this number isn’t phony, Midormeepo has climbed a difficult but enjoyable ladder reach their current prestige. The French team, based out of Paris, began as two close friends before YouTube became wildly popular. They decided to make videos one day and advertised everywhere they could.

“We saw there was an opening for us in Dota,” they explain. “We used to post on every forum, even the French one, like, ‘Hey guys, this is me, we’re starting a new channel, you should come check us out.’”

Their big break came during the Google+ days of YouTube, when comments on the video sites were linked to the Google accounts and shared to followers. An established video poster known for sharing replays from streams and tournaments, NoobFromUA, commented on their video, which drew thousands more viewers and helped spike their popularity quickly.

Such fame and infamy doesn’t just come with a good shout-out. Midormeepo’s videos are fluent in Dota 2, stringing together much of the community’s taste in humor and focus. In a community packed with dedicated players with literally thousands of hours poured into the MOBA, well-produced gameplay footage is a form of communication and entertainment. In many cases, other players with less time have their moment of fame sharing jaw-clenching moments from their own game. Midormeepo, meanwhile, can efficiently take whole games, or one player’s time with a single character, and churn out entertaining, digestible, and overall humorous montages that both casuals and veterans can enjoy.

The pair uses everything from French rap to Fatboy Slim to Undertale remixes, which sets the mood outstandingly.

And the style, of course, isn’t simply about sharing a replay. Their videos are narrated visually with a strong dialect of memes and visual humor. In addition to well-timed zooms and video effects, their videos have a smooth mix of brief images, gifs, and phrases to react to the most notable gameplay moments. They’ll occasionally use a clip from a show or movie as well, editing the heads of the related characters to craft a small moment of pop culture crossover.

What usually doesn’t get mentioned about in such videos, though, is the outstanding music curation. The pair uses everything from French rap to Fatboy Slim to Undertale remixes, which sets the mood outstandingly. And they always include a link to the featured songs, so you can build your playlist. One attributes it to their background as a music editorial writer, but they also spend hours going through SoundCloud for the perfect fit each time they work on a video. They emphasize a sharp ear for good tunes: “finding the right track is 50% of the work.” 

With this perfect mix of memes, music, and masterful (or monstrous) gameplay, they’ve been able to quickly expand their channel’s breadth. Now, they even have a sponsorship with a skill improvement site, which they advertise at the beginning and/or end of every video.

It’s certainly the dream for any video maker, especially in what they recognize as a flooded platform. However it’s definitely a hustle, and often, it may not feel like enough to support creators, Meepo included. Especially with YouTube constantly changing its monetization rules and only one opportunity from Valve, with its video contest at The International, it can be difficult to put time in for those who aren’t regularly supported.

In a few words, they’re thankful to YouTube for giving them a community. However, between the sponsorship and working towards YouTube ad revenue, there’s the issue of balancing how to serve that community and how to live off their own work.

“Every one of these content creators should be getting rewarded,” Midormeepo says, discussing some common ground they’ve found among other Dota 2 video creators. “You’re able to have millions of people watching your content, and the only thing is, it doesn’t usually provide an opportunity for these people to be rewarded. You have to use other platforms. If you’re only using ad revenue, you’re not getting anywhere.”

They have a number of videos that never make it out because they don t want to let down their viewers.

“I mean, this is some kind of talent you use. And unfortunately, if you’re not getting any money, this kind of thing won’t last. Because, at some point, reality hits back, and real life takes over.”

They’re mostly concerned now about how to balance their rapid success with their community image.

“If you want to last long, the real goal is⸺how do you get money from that community?” they explain. “And it’s good to not rip people off, to not be a sellout. It’s like... how do you find satisfaction for everyone? And when you’re a content maker on YouTube, there’s always the fear of being seen as a sellout.”“For some people, this is their dream⸺you know, to be able to live off their videos… But maybe, because you watch that 30-second ad, this guy’s going to be able to keep living the dream.”

Especially with this in mind, they want their viewers to know that that every work absolute best⸺they want to “break the internet” each time they put out a video⸺and they want their viewers to be with them throughout that evolution. In fact, they have a number of videos that never make it out because they don’t want to let down their viewers.

Further, they feel it’s especially important to continue their work during such a tense period.

“We don’t think people come in here for political teachings,” they mused. “Music, funny stuff⸺that’s the main thing. They want to spend a good moment. We don’t know about people’s life. I don’t want to get too political or social, but our world is sick, and lots of people are getting depressed. So for some people, maybe our videos are some kind of getaway.”

Keeping an eye on the expanding esports scene, which has proven essential to the game’s community, the creator recently began a second channel that focuses on pro players’ top moments. But Dota 2 as a game is growing as well, and with more players come more viewers for creators like Midormeepo. While there’s always more room for such videos, it may be difficult to emulate the multi-faceted success of this creator.

Dota 2

All us casual Dota 2 players know it. The feeling of dread and uncertainty before you jump into a game of solo ranked. At times, it’s like Russian roulette. What am I going to be getting myself into this game? Am I going to be matched with the guy who screeches at me in a language I don’t understand for 60 minutes? Or maybe I’ll be teamed up with the dude who paid £50 for his account, and is way way worse than his visible MMR suggests. Or maybe I’ll be matched into a team full of lovely people who want to enjoy the game as much as I do.

I fully understand why many people stay as far away from Dota 2 as they physically can. The community can, at times, be absolutely disgusting. For some of us with groups of friends this isn’t as much of an issue. However, for those of you who want to improve your solo match making rating. Or if you’re thinking about getting into Dota, but its community is putting you off—these tips for getting more out of solo games are for you.  

The mute button

This tip is an extremely obvious one. The mute button is there for a reason. If someone in your team is being abusive towards you or anyone else, and it’s making you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to mute them. If someone is of the disposition to abuse other people over the internet, you’ll find there’s probably no point arguing with them. The Dota community can be garbage, but you’ll find even if someone is being horrible over voice or text they will still play to win (no one likes losing). So do the obvious thing, just press mute.

Play Custom Games between matches

This one is not so obvious. A year or so ago Valve introduced the Arcade to Dota 2—an addition that isn’t used nearly enough. Say you’ve just finished a game that has gone horribly, some asshole in your team just spent the entire game flaming you. Before queuing again spend 15 minutes in a game of overthrow. It’ll make you forget about the game you just had, and possibly help you remember that Dota 2 is a fun game sometimes. Overthrow is also a great way of practicing different heroes. A lot of professional players use the custom game before big matches, to get themselves warmed up on specific heroes. There are plenty of other custom games that can help you blow off steam as well. Dota Imba is a personal favourite of mine, especially the 10 vs 10 mode. 

Pick one hero and really learn it

Maybe you’ve always wanted to be an amazing Axe player, so pick that hero a few times in a row when you queue solo. Really get to grips with the hero. Some of the best games of Dota I’ve played have been when I’ve decided, ‘you know what, I’ve always wanted to learn to play Arc Warden/Meepo’ and just played them over and over in unranked games. The desire to get good on whatever specific hero you chose will motivate you through difficult solo games. This is also a fantastic way of getting something out of a game that you’ve probably lost. Learning a hero, even in a losing game (as long as it’s close-ish) usually feels like you’ve done something productive—as you learn stuff that’s good against that specific hero. 

Watch Dota

If you’re lacking motivation to play this can be one of the best ways to fall back in love with Dota 2. For me personally watching replays of pro games from an individual player’s perspective is a great motivator and makes me excited to play Dota. It’s like with any sport, watching people at the absolute top of their game is inspiring. As well as this pro players’ streams are especially great. It’s educational to see the ways in which professional players deal with the trials and tribulations of solo queue. Some handle it better than others. 

Be nice to people

In life if you’re nice to people they’re normally nice back. The same is true for Dota. Don’t be a dick. There are so many nice people that play Dota. It’s one of the few games that you can still make friends on. I occasionally chat to and play with people I met in games years ago. Also, it’s worthwhile remembering, even if someone is being a grade-A dick in chat, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad person. Dota is a bloody stressful game at the best of times, and can make people say and do things they usually wouldn’t. Try helping people who are having bad games, and even if you lose they’ll usually be grateful. For example, if you notice someone doing something wrong, give them tips on what they can do to improve. A better alternative to berating them for what they did wrong. If they don’t accept your help well, as I said earlier, the mute button is there for a reason.

Think out loud

If you don’t have the luxury of playing with a group of friends, sometimes saying your game plans and ideas out loud to yourself can be helpful. It can help you catch mistakes before you make them, or coax you out of bad habits. When you think about it, it’s pretty much what streamers do. This is something that works well for me personally. It’s a great in game stress relief to get all your thoughts out and in front of you. Just don’t be surprised when anyone that hears you doing this thinks you’re mad.

Don’t get hung up on MMR

You might be 1k MMR, you might be 7k MMR. Whatever. It’s not important to anyone other than yourself. If you play Dota for fun, then remember to have fun. I use my MMR as a personal gauge of how much I’ve improved over the 6 years or so that I’ve played Dota. And guess what, it’s not actually that much, but I don’t care. I play Dota because I love it and because there’s nothing else like it. Unless you’re a pro player, it’s just a game, not a job. 

Learn a lot of Heroes

Players with limited hero pools definitely have less fun in solo games. For example, if you only play carry or mid and those roles get called, you’ll have to play a hero you don’t understand. This won’t be fun for you or any of your team-mates. Either that or you’re going to end up having an argument with someone before the game even starts. Again, not a fun experience. Take time to learn heroes, if you feel comfortable on a large number of heroes in every role you will feel a lot more confident queuing solo. 

Take a Break

If you’re finding yourself getting more and more stressed with each passing game, maybe you’re on a losing streak or something. Just take a few days off Dota. Usually you’ll come back with a new-found desire to play. When solo queue gets a bit too much for me I’ll take two or three days off, usually sit back and play something a lot less stressful. Then when I’m ready to come back I’ve forgotten what put me off in the first place. 

Don’t be afraid to add people

If you have a really great experience playing with a particular stranger in a solo game make sure to add them afterwards. Chances are they probably really enjoyed playing with you as well. After the game finishes ask if they’d like to queue up with you again and play some more games. It’s always worth adding nice people, especially if you have no other friends that play Dota.  

Dota 2

This weekend is absolutely bursting with esports goodness as the LCS heads towards the semifinals stage. There’s plenty of action from the Dota 2 StarLadder i-League Invitational to the CS:GO Championship Series. We even have the Overwatch: PIT Championship to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Last weekend’s quarterfinals of the European League of Legends LCS saw H2K face off against Fnatic. Fnatic shocked viewers around the world when they dominated H2K with their unconventional champion picks. Rekkles’ Twitch was unstoppable and after securing Baron and Elder Dragon buffs, Fnatic stormed into H2K’s base to deliver the final blow to the Nexus. Game two followed a similar pattern as Rekkles found strength in another unorthodox pick. His Vayne plays gave Fnatic a huge power spike in the late-game and they delivered another crushing blow to H2K. In match point for Fnatic, it was Caps' turn to shine and he locked-in Aurelion Sol in the mid-lane.

Meanwhile, Rekkles’ Kennen and Broxah’s Kha'Zix roamed around the map eliminating any signs of life from the H2K roster. Fnatic overcame expectations and they’ll be hoping to deliver another decisive win over G2 Esports in the semifinals. This weekend’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

FlyQuest faced Counter Logic Gaming last weekend in the quarterfinals of the North American LCS. The first game of the series saw CLG mid-laner Huhi lock in Aurelion Sol, which he used to pick off FLY’s support multiple times. His global presence was huge, and CLG were able to grab Baron and quickly push into FLY's base for the first win of the series. Game 2 was a back-and-forth affair with both teams struggling to secure a lead. However, a team fight around Baron pit broke out and CLG managed to take down four members of FlyQuest. This successful engage gave CLG plenty of time to dismantle turrets and apply pressure around the map.

Game three saw FlyQuest obliterate CLG with Hai’s dominating performance on Talon, while game four also went in favour of FLY thanks to Moon’s excellent Rengar plays. However, FLY took the final game by punishing CLG’s over-aggressive skirmishes and baiting out an Elder Dragon fight. This weekend’s quarterfinal schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: Summit 7

Beyond the Summit continues this summer with the Dota 2: Summit 7 LAN event. The main tournament begins June 14th-18th just outside Los Angeles, California, where teams will go head to head to compete for the $100k prize pool.

However, the South East Asia qualifiers are taking place today and Clutch Gamers and WarriorsGaming.Unity are kicking things off at 01:00 PDT / 10:00 CEST, while TNC Pro Team tackle Happy Feet at 04:00 PDT / 13:00 CEST. Clutch Gamers and TNC Pro are currently at the top of the standings, but this could soon change as we enter the semifinals. Be sure to check out all the action over on Twitch.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League Invitational

The Chinese qualifiers for the LAN finals of SL i-League Dota 2 Invitational are under way and last week saw iG.Vitality and CDEC Gaming secure their place in the semifinals. iG.Vitality played against LGD.Forever Young in the quarterfinals and they secured a 7.5k gold lead, which they used to break open the map. LGD.Forever bounced back in game two with a strong defensive strategy that saw only their outer towers fall.

However, iG.Vitality showed their superiority in game three by winning every team fight and killing Roshan multiple times. Meanwhile, CDEC Gaming had a great time against Wings Gaming and they swept them in a clean 2-0 victory. CDEC Gaming was forced to play defensively in the first game, but they took the advantage in the second with constant ganks. Wings Gaming eventually collapsed under the pressure and CDEC closed out the final game in just 26- minutes. This weekend’s schedule and stream can be found over on the official Dota 2 StarLadder site.

CS:GO: Championship Series

Season three of the CS:GO Championship series is taking place today with action from both the European and North American branch. In Europe G2 Esports will take on GODSENT at 10:00 PDT / 19:00 CEST, while over in North America Team Liquid will face OpTic Gaming at 15:00 PDT / 00:00 CEST. G2 Esports were crowned the champions back in season one when they managed to beat Luminosity Gaming in a best of three.

However, the team has struggled to win a premier tournament since, and GODSENT will be hoping to cause an early upset. Meanwhile, Team Liquid found success in season three of the North American i-League closed qualifiers, while their opponents, OpTic Gaming, finished second in season two of the ECS. The full schedule can be found here, while the official stream can be found by heading over to the ECS Youtube channel.

Overwatch: PIT Championship

The Overwatch PIT Championship grand finals will be broadcast this weekend and every team has been busy fighting it out for their chance to claim the PIT title and their share of a $15,000 prize pool. After two weeks of gruelling group stages and intense playoff matches we will finally get to see Europe and North America crown their PIT champions. The European grand finals are kicking off today at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST, while the North American finals start 18:00 PDT / 03:00 CEST. Both the European and North American schedule can be found here, while the stream can be found over on Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship

The Heroes of the Storm Global Championship resumes its regular season in North America and Europe this weekend. During the Western Clash at IEM Katowice, Team Dignitas crushed their regional rivals, while over at the Eastern Clash in Shanghai, MVP Black took the crown, winning the grand finals against Autumn Championship winners L5. Now it’s back to normality as teams continue their journey towards the Mid-Season Brawl and the conclusion of the regular season. You can check out the standings for each region and view the tournament schedule for your area over on the Heroes of the Storm’s official site.

Rocket League: Championship Series

The Rocket League Championship Series returns from its Midseason Mayhem event and G2 remains the top team in North America. G2 looked extremely strong in week three when they managed to sweep Selfless 3-0, but their matchup against NRG this weekend will be the decider. Meanwhile, over in Europe Northern Gaming took down Mock-it Esports 3-1 in what was a very clean win, but they’ve got some catching up to do if they wish to rival The Leftovers for top spot. G2 will be kicking off this weekend’s action when they face SETTODESTROYX at 00:00 PDT / 09:00 CEST. Make sure you check out the full schedule and stream over on the official Rocket League: Championship Series website.

Hearthstone: Red Bull Team Brawl

The Red Bull Team Brawl event is back! One of our favorite Hearthstone formats, teams of three compete in a sealed draft. Each team is given a random pool of 240 cards and must make three decks, one for each player. Then those teams go head to head to see who's deck building skills reign supreme. The tournament starts on Saturday at 12:00 PDT / 21:00 CEST on the Red Bull Esports Twitch channel, and you can find more information here.

Dota 2

The Dota Asian Championships was held this past weekend as a display of the best international Dota 2 talent. With a special focus on Chinese teams, it was not to be missed by any fan of the game. If you did miss out, however, here’s what you need to know.

DAC, in both of its iterations, has been among the largest non-Valve tournaments. This year’s event, including a crowd-funded portion of the prize, has only been outdone by Valve events and the previous DAC in 2015. It’s no surprise at all as the tournament is hosted by Perfect World, the Chinese game publisher that handles Dota 2 in the internet-restricted country. Here, both the original Warcraft 3 DotA mod and Valve’s version remain a highly-respected game and competitive community, to the point where mainstream television and pop stars often have cameos in related media.

With both a massive prize pool and the attention of the Chinese Dota 2 community, the top teams in the world brought their A-game from all corners of the world and helped make a week to remember for the Dota 2 scene.

Such large events more often than not end with a bang. This time it came in the form of a clean grand finals executed by Invictus Gaming, with a 3-0 win over European favorites and three-time Valve Major champions OG. 

IG brought pride and excitement to their home country’s arena by displaying brilliant mechanical ability and controlling teamfights to break apart their opponents. Plus, while each team’s drafts punished the tournament’s greedy and aggressive meta, IG played the style much more tightly and quickly to take the trophy.

After the match, the community’s prized “f**kin flower,” OG.N0tail, reviewed a few comments from reddit: 

Besides the finals, there was plenty of action throughout the event, and with much of that came dramatic moments. For instance, in the lower brackets, all series were a best of one—meaning that teams had to bring 100% in order to stay in the tournament. 

This is where Evil Geniuses and Wings met in battle for the first time since November’s The Summit event. The game was tense and tight as the two teams tactically crept towards teamfights, opting for a slower burn instead of an off-the-bat aggressive strategy. However, the pace picked up, and the match ended in a long, back-and-forth battle at Wings’s exposed Ancient. At an hour and five minutes, with a 45-31 kill score, the game went to Evil Geniuses in a truly unforgettable battle.

Similarly, the battle between Southeast Asian Team Faceless and Team Liquid’s European squad went on for a while, but was an engaging battle to stay in the league. In a slower, steadier approach, Faceless picked Liquid apart hero by hero. Liquid had chosen a lineup more for teamfight setup with a number of reliable AoE lockdowns, but Faceless played well around these potential weaknesses, taking the game methodologically.

Every fan knows that esports can never have enough All Star matches, and DAC fulfilled the fan’s wishes with not only an All Star match, but a solo mid competition too. 

DAC hosted a Reverse Captain’s Mode game, meaning that the teams had to draft a lineup that the other team would be playing. In other words, captains were encouraged to pick the worst possible heroes. ‘Team World’ consisting of EternalEnvy, Suma1L, iceiceice, JerAx, and Miracle- faced off against ‘Team China’ with BurNIng, Sccc, rOtk, fy and Faith_bian.

The hosts accompanied the teams to their booths to ‘coach’ (with some scathing words about their comfortable-looking Monkey King pillows) and the game was on. In the end, Team World were triumphant.

The 1v1 Solo match was heated as well, with eight players being nominated by Compendium buyers: Yuno-Paparazi, Sccc, Blink and BurNIng from China, and EternalEnvy, Miracle-, Suma1l, and Arteezy from elsewhere. At the end, Yuno-Paparazi won against Miracle-, and Sccc picked up Yuno in a pretty friendly hug: 

Then came the inevitable photoshop. Speaking of Chinese humor, just as memorable as the myriad battles at DAC was the spectrum of memes and humor that came out of the event. Players, social media managers, and production crew alike found time and to goof around between games.

The first was the ongoing friendly Twitter war between Newbee and Team Empire. Notably, Team Empire took a shot at Newbee after a solid group stage run:

The accounts joked about boy bands together: 

And, before the playoffs started, the Empire team took a visit to Newbee’s room:

When Empire was eliminated, Newbee took a second to pay their respects:  

...but not before returning to the savagery.  

Meanwhile, after Liquid didn’t do as well as they hoped in the group stages, the team posted this video of their player Matumbaman doing a fairly good impression of their run:  

Then, famed Dota 2 community mem(e)ber Tsunami took it to a whole new level: 

 ...and that is all you need to know about DAC 2017.

Dota 2

Photo credit: Riot Games

The 2017 Hearthstone Winter Championship concluded in the Bahamas this week, with ShtanUdachi defeating Fr0zen to take home the winner's slice of the $250,000 prize pool. Meanwhile, the League of Legends LCS is heating up as we near the final stages of the tournament. There’s plenty to watch from the Dota 2 Asia Championships to the Overwatch: PIT Championship. We even have the Rocket League Championship Series to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

The Giants had another tough week and they desperately tried to climb up from the bottom rankings, but G2 and Fnatic crushed their hopes of making it to this year’s playoffs. Meanwhile, Roccat managed to surprise everyone with their 2-0 victory over Misfits, which has given the team a chance to rival Fnatic for third place. Vitality on the other hand continued to prove that they are one of the most inconsistent teams in the EU LCS. They played extremely passive against Splyce, which resulted in two games with a lot of one-sided action. Vitality looked like a completely different team when they played their second series against H2k. Game one went in H2K’s favour, but Vitality’s managed to come back in game two by creating pressure around the map. However, a Baron throw saw H2K steal away game three and they broke open Vitality’s Nexus after a very close performance. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Cloud9’s series against Dignitas was a close one, but a clutch teamfight and major plays from Jensen’s Orianna gave C9 the power they need to dominate Dignitas. Phoenix1 were next on C9’s hit list and they proved critics wrong when they beat P1 2-0, which landed them with a place in this year’s playoffs. Meanwhile, Dignitas managed grab their playoff spot by eliminating Immortals, and they’ll be looking to secure another decisive win against Phoenix1.

Meanwhile, Team Liquid tried to avoid relegation in week nine by picking up two victories against TSM and FlyQuest. Team Liquid’s managed to beat TSM after DoubleLift’s Ezreal obliterated TSM’s bot-lane and carried his team to victory. However, FlyQuest’s Hai managed to stop them dead in their tracks with his Talon plays, and he secured a playoffs spot for FlyQuest and a promotion tournament spot for Team Liquid. The summer promotion starts today and the full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: Asia Championships

The Dota 2 Asia Championships group stage finished with Empire and OG taking the helm for the western teams entering the upper bracket, while Newbee and Invictus Gaming are the two Chinese representatives. The main event will feature a double elimination bracket, and the winners of each group will battle it out for a chance to land a place at the lan finals. OG and Newbee are kicking things off in the upper bracket today at 18:00 PDT / 03:00 CEST, while LGD.Forever Young will tackle iG Vitality in the lower bracket tomorrow at 02:00 PDT / 11:00 CEST. The full weekend schedule and stream can be found by heading over to the official championship site.

Overwatch: APEX Season 2

Lunatic-Hai faced Meta Athena on Tuesday during a tense semifinal match which saw the previous runner-up’s take Athena down for their third chance to win a major championship. Lunatic-Hai obliterated Athena on both Nepal and Eichenwalde, and they continuously punished their over-aggressive plays with decisive payload pushes. Lunatic-Hai will now face RunAway in the APEX finals on April 8th, but the APEX action doesn’t stop there as Meta Athena will take on LW Blue to contest the bronze title. The match begins today at 03:00 PDT / 12:00 CEST and you can catch all the action over on Twitch.

Overwatch: PIT Championship

The best Overwatch teams from Europe and North America have been busy fighting it out for their chance to claim the PIT title and their share of a $15,000 prize pool. Ninja’s in Pyjamas and Misfits are currently at the top of the European bracket, but this could soon change. SNG Ninjas and Movistar Riders are kicking this weekend’s action off today at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST, while the North American branch will see Rise take on LG Evil later at 16:00 PDT / 01:00 CEST. Both the European and North American schedule can be found here, while the stream can be found over on Twitch.

Rocket League: Championship Series

Week three of the Rocket League Championship: Series is underway this weekend when NRG take on Denial Esports this Saturday at 12:00 PDT / 21:00 CEST. So far Selfless look to be the team to beat as they recently qualified for the playoffs with four wins. If Selfless can beat Atelier and G2 Esports this weekend, they can easily hang on to the top spot in North America. Meanwhile, European team Pocket Aces now sit at the top of the leaderboard after beating both Penta and Cow Nose in week two. The previous European leaders The Leftovers will be looking for a decisive win when they tackle Penta this Sunday. Make sure you check out out the full schedule and stream over on the official Rocket League: Championship Series website.

Dota 2

In a month, the top Dota 2 teams will descend upon Kiev, Ukraine, for the next in Valve’s series of official tournaments, the Majors. Modeled after the system introduced to CS:GO in 2013, these events began after The International 5 in 2015, each providing a $3 million prize pool and a $1 million grand prize. The event also introduced roster locks, preventing teams from changing rosters mid-season if they wanted to be given an invite to an event or its qualifiers.But the Majors also came with its own set of controversies and legitimate concerns. Namely, there are questions about how these Valve tournaments, regarded by the community as extremely important, have interfered with third-party events. 

For one, the roster lock was presumably intended to prevent organizations from abusing their positions and to protect players. Namely, roster locks reinforce the perception that “Valve invites players,” meaning that a banner doesn’t matter as much as the people who make up the squad. Stronger teams are more likely to stay together, giving players more stability. It was also a solution to the last-second shuffling of teams before The International or other large events, with the knowledge that banners were more likely to be invited to TI anyway. (For instance, Evil Geniuses, TI5 winners, were not directly invited to TI6 due to their frequent team changes; in previous years, the winner would be invited regardless of changes.)

Valve s lack of communication about large events has put many third-party tournaments on thin ice, particularly this year

A major side effect was how this weakened the post-event tournament circuit after each Major or International. These events were expected to be affected if they were too close to The International, but now they need to think about whether they want to risk being the first event after the Major. Massive tournaments now have to make the call about whether or not a squad should be allowed to play if a team locks in a different roster than its original. Plus, many players focus on Majors, and some may come to these other events exhausted or not at their 100% for other reasons.

Speaking of weakened tournament circuits, Valve’s lack of communication about large events has put many third-party tournaments on thin ice, particularly this year. The Boston Major was announced with just two month’s notice, notably affecting DreamLeague and almost affecting The Summit, a fan-favorite tournament. They did announce Kiev Major dates at Boston itself, but then they chose to change them, likely due to a mixture of factors: the stadium was being used for other sporting-related events, and the Dota Asian Championships were too close. DAC is hosted by Perfect World, which publishes Dota 2 in China, and it’s unlikely Valve would want to weaken relations.

Do the Majors affect tournament numbers? Two years in, it’s hard to tell quantitatively. Up until the “seasons” were implemented, there were more and more tournaments every year. In the 2014-2015 season, excluding Valve events there were 24 ‘premier’ and 38 ‘professional’ events, per Valve’s ticketing system, for a total of 62. The year before, 2013-2014, there were 20 and 48 respectively, for 68 total.

At a glance something has certainly happened, as in 2015-2016 there were 17 ‘premier’ and 22 ‘professional’ events for a total of 39. This year the scene is on track to reach similar numbers, though the elimination of a Major seems to have helped a bit. At this time last year, 11 premier and 14 professional tournaments had taken place since The International. The year before saw 11 and 14, and 2014-2015 saw 14 and 27 respectively. Still, as the Major system continues to settle in, we’ll see how it affects tournament production timeline-wise. There’s also the chance that outside investors don’t want to commit to Dota, given the increasing pool of esports that tournaments organizers can choose from.

Another tier down, meanwhile, smaller tournaments are affected by Valve’s lack of attention to unofficial events. While Dota 2 was originally acclaimed for hosting and being supportive of in-game tournaments of all levels, including during its beta years, in the past year or two several complaints had arisen from tournament organizers. The Reddit Dota 2 League, which has hosted many pros, including CompLexity’s Moo (and even professional actor Asa Butterfield) claimed that Valve had been ignoring its routine requests for in-game tournament hosting. Around the same time, other organizers reported similar issues, including UK’s BGL and a small university cup, and there have been other such complaints throughout the past few years.

If it s a change on Valve s side, one could speculate that they re trying to avoid too much money being drained from their own tournaments profitability

The issue likely began over two years ago, when the Dota 2 Canada Cup was informed by Valve that there were several changes to how tournaments were permitted to run. Namely, while tournaments ticketed as ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ were given similar permissions, Valve chose to restrict in-game item distribution to premier tournaments only. The Canada Cup wished to distribute a courier named Bearzky, stating “we felt this was the proper way to attract viewers, get sponsors, pay teams a fair prize pool in the North American scene and pay designers and casters, put the profits towards larger prize pools.” In this original PSA, some players did comment that they didn’t necessarily want to pay larger amounts to get the cosmetic, which was a trend among these tournaments.

In hindsight, meanwhile, there’s the chance that Valve also had an extra motive for slowing the distribution of in-game items: the Compendium system. Valve supposedly allows Compendiums for Premier tournaments that can boost the tournament’s prize pool, including DAC 2015, but the DAC 2017 Compendium has been the first since the DotaCinema Captain’s Draft in January 2016. (In 2014, when the system was introduced, there were five third-party tournament compendiums, and in 2015, when the seasonal Compendium by Valve was introduced, there were three.) Either Valve has been reprioritizing which tournaments should receive one, or tournaments aren’t focusing on the Compendium as a prize incentive.

If it’s a change on Valve’s side, one could speculate that they’re trying to avoid too much money being drained from their own tournaments’ profitability. And, if that’s the case, it likely affects the prize pool of these premier tournaments, as Compendiums alone raised hundreds of thousands of dollars—sometimes into the millions—for these events.

Of course, the Majors circuit can’t entirely be just about Valve putting out cash cows. Otherwise, Dota 2’s infamously vocal pros and fans alike would be more critical (though they certainly were after teams were given only three weeks for the first roster lock). Valve clearly wanted to make a tournament system that added longevity to the core professional scene, and it has largely accomplished that task.

The roster lock system, especially with this year’s new “drop/add dates,” has been increasingly praised for protecting its players. For its all its flaws, as mentioned, it succeeds in making orgs and players less casual about shuffling and dropping its players mid-season. 

The presence of multiple Majors distributes the pressure of professional play more evenly throughout the year. Teams would arguably prepare for The International alone (for instance, Newbee streamed RPGs for several months after their TI4 win), but now they’re given motivation to work year-round towards each Valve event. 

Similarly, fans may be more likely to understand what’s going on throughout the year when they’re given a consolidated, official series of events to follow, allowing for greater scene loyalty. This is likely enhanced by Valve’s in-game advertising and the Compendium’s promotion of the Majors, including the True Sight documentary. (And speaking of Compendium, workshop artists’ creations are pooled into the Treasures within the Compendiums.) 

All in all, for players and Valve itself, the Majors system is a mostly win-win situation: players are given a reliable tournament circuit with good cash and more predictable stability, while Valve is profiting off the Compendiums and tournaments. Of course, there’s no denying that the system must affect other parties, but it has yet to be seen how the dust will settle. After all, a system that spans a year may take several years to show its true impact on everybody involved.

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