PC Gamer

Photo credit: Helena Kristiansson/ESL

As the snow melts in the north, Dota 2 fans’ eyes shift towards western Europe, anxious but excited for Valve’s upcoming Kiev Major—and more importantly for now, for the invites to the LAN that are yet to be sent.

This tournament is one of two events sponsored by Valve in the time between the annual International. These Majors offer $1 million to the winning team and a guaranteed spot at the next event so long as the team’s lineup remains locked in. The Kiev Major is also, notably, the first official event in the CIS region, which is known for its large population of players and fans. 

The invite process for the Major isn’t always clear, but Valve's commitment to including as much talent per region as possible is. The number of direct invites, or teams guaranteed to appear at the LAN event itself, has remained pretty inconsistent - even for their top-level events. For those that aren’t directly invited but worthy of consideration, there are also regional qualifier invites, where invited teams from several regions fight for a spot at the event. Within those are also the open invites in which any team - yes, even you and your recent MOBA converts - may participate for a chance at a spot in the regional qualifiers. Open qualifier teams have certainly gotten far: Peruvian team Unknown.Xiu was present at 2015’s fall Frankfurt Major, and some teams, suffering from shuffle deadlines, have had to fight back to the top - specifically for TI6.  

Much will be settled after StarSeries Season 3 this upcoming weekend, where many of these teams will fight it out.

In part one of this primer, we'll discuss about two of these regions: China and Southeast Asia. Each of these Eastern areas are hotspots for Dota 2 competition, with a large number of in-houses in the Chinese community and a fierce, dedicated circuit of Filipinos, Malaysians, Singaporeans, and more fighting across the isles.

Much will be settled after StarSeries Season 3 this upcoming weekend, where many of these teams will fight it out. The Dota Asian Championships’ recently-finished qualifying rounds may be an indicator for who’s strong at the moment, as only four teams were actually invited, and the rest needed to fight in similar regional qualifiers. Valve is surely keeping their eyes on these results as open and regional qualifiers draw near.

In this first part of two previews, we’ll peek at who in the East to look out for during the Kiev Major’s invite process.  

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL

China

As always, the Chinese Dota 2 scene remains highly competitive. The most recent international showing was at ESL Genting, where Newbee took out TI6 champions Wings. The latter was also knocked out fairly early in the Boston Major, and so Valve may not be keen to give them a direct invite. Meanwhile, Newbee has been giving a strong showing in the scene, and so they may be under consideration. If not Newbee, then perhaps IG.Vitality will have a shot: the team qualified for SL and will show their chops this weekend. 

Also strong in the running at SL is the VG.J team, endorsed by honorary captain Jeremy Lin, which also qualified for DAC and is participating in Starladder this weekend.

Valve likely has at least once source keeping their eye on the in-house and Chinese circuits

IG’s primary team may certainly be under consideration as well, as they won the second Chinese spot in the DAC. While their tournament results aren’t spectacular, their appearances are fairly consistent, and it would only be fair to hand an invite.

Many other teams in the Chinese scene have faced roster swaps and mild performances, including Boston Major teams LGD.Fy and their main LGD squad, and haven’t shown up in international settings. Still, Valve likely has at least once source keeping their eye on the in-house and Chinese circuits, and so the slots will certainly be filled with a tightly-packed open qualifier round.

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Southeast Asia

A label of “underdog” isn’t quite fitting for teams of SEA, but they’re often treated as such. With a bad reputation from public game behavior and connectivity issues, much of the community underestimates the power of this region, despite regularly consistent performances in official and/or major international tournaments.

For instance, Malaysian Warriors Gaming Unity took a 5th-8th place finish in Boston and have showed consistent top results in a number of tier 2 tournaments. However, their local rivals Faceless have been a constant presence in major tournaments, placing among the top international teams, especially impressive for their short existence. The two teams will likely be top contestants for a direct invite, and the other will certainly put up a fight in regionals.

After two major fall shuffles, Execration, hailing from fan-packed Philippines, seems to be doing well after recently curing three out of their five TI squad members. Showing consistent strength, TNC most recently won WESG and qualified for the upcoming SL tournament, and so they’ll more likely than not fight for a Kiev spot too.

Normally, at least one iteration of Korean org MVP is given an invite, considering the respect shown for the country s esports history and the consistent showing of the org at Valve events.

Execration had been a regional powerhouse and received a direct invite to Boston, though they were tragically unable to participate due to visa issues. However, they won’t be appearing in Starladder nor DAC, and thus they won’t be able to show their strength. There’s a good chance Valve will give them another chance through the regional qualifiers, given their stellar reputation and massive Filipino fan base. 

Also from the Philippines is esports organization Mineski, which has two squads, GG and X. Mineski.GG has had consistent top results in regional tournaments, and the latter has certainly been training. If Valve had to choose between the two, GG would certainly make the cut, though there may be room for both. 

Normally, at least one iteration of Korean org MVP is given an invite, considering the respect shown for the country’s esports history and the consistent showing of the org at Valve events. However, their more renown Dota 2 team, MVP.Phoenix, split after Boston, and MVP.Hot6 hasn’t been given a chance to shine yet. Depending on whether Valve has their eye on other regional teams, they may have to fight through open qualifiers, but there’s no doubt that there’s potential in this team, given the mix of experience present.

If nothing else, these open qualifiers will certainly be entertaining.

The region’s most famous team, Fnatic, has had some rocky times lately. After failing to qualify for Boston, which was captured in Valve’s True Sight documentary, captain Mushi left, as did many of their other members. It’s unknown if the org will pick up another group before at least the open qualifiers, but it leaves fans both local and international shaken for now. 

Fortunately for Valve and regional fans, SEA has no shortage of teams aiming for the win. In other words, even if any of the above teams don’t make it, there are squads such as Geek Fam, Clutch Gamers and HappyFeet with extremely limited experience but solid potential to keep an eye on. If nothing else, these open qualifiers will certainly be entertaining. 

PC Gamer

The DreamHack Masters CS:GO tournament in Las Vegas came to an exciting conclusion last weekend, which saw Virtus.pro defeat SK Gaming 2-1 in a nail-biting final. League of Legends’ LCS continues to dominate the headlines, but there’s plenty of action to be had elsewhere. There’s drama from the Dota 2: StarLadder i-League to the Hearthstone: Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs. We even have the Smite SPL to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

In week five of the EU LCS we saw the leaders of both group A and B, G2 Esports and Unicorns of Love face off against each other. G2 took both games after they starved UoL of objectives and gold in the first game, while the second game was won thanks to Zven’s quadra kill in the mid-lane. Meanwhile, Splyce has improved tremendously and Kobbe’s Jhin managed to secure the team’s victory against Fnatic going 8/1/9. The competition is heating up and Misfits are still looking to rival G2 for first place. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Team SoloMid have had another great week and their early game has improved considerably since the start of the LCS. In the third game in their series against Cloud9, Bjergsen’s Zed and Hauntzer’s Shen showed excellent control and synergy, which gave TSM an early advantage that allowed them to apply pressure all over the map. FlyQuest suffered an unexpected defeat against Dignitas when Hai picked Jarvan mid, while Team Liquid followed their same pattern of winning one game and losing the next two. Team Liquid may have been defeated by Counter Logic gaming, but they still have a chance to show improvements as we head into week six. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League Season 3

The Dota 2 StarLadder i-League is kicking off this weekend and only the best teams will advance to the playoffs. The finals of the upper part of group А's bracket, OG faced off against Team Secret. In the first game both teams were extremely close but, OG began to snowball a lead and won more team fights. The second round of the series followed a similar pattern and OG took complete control once again. You can check out the full schedule here, while the stream can be watched over on Twitch.

Hearthstone: 2017 HCT Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs

Last weekend the Americas branch of the Hearthstone Championship determined which four players (DrJikininki, DocPwn, Tarei and Fr0zen) will be competing at the Hearthstone Winter Championship in the Bahamas. This weekend we’ll see which players have what it takes to represent Asia and be crowned the HCT Asia-Pacific Winter Champion. The matches kick off today at 18:00 PST / 03:00 CET, and continue the same time Sunday. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

Smite: SPL 2017

The second week of the SPL will continue this Saturday where Elevate and NRG eSports will clash. Obey Alliance delivered a shocking blow to NRG when they beat them 2-0, but NRG will be hoping to put this loss behind them and beat Elevate this weekend. The last time NRG lost a set was to Paradigm at the Super Regionals in 2015, so the upcoming clash will certainly be interesting and could go either way. Make sure you tune into action at 10:00 PST / 19:00 CET. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

PC Gamer

The League of Legends LCS continues to dominate the headlines at the moment, but there are actually a fair few other events taking place this weekend. There’s plenty of action from the CS:GO: DreamHack Masters to the Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship. We even have the Hearthstone Winter Playoffs to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

H2K Gaming bounced back from their tough loss against G2 by beating Team ROCCAT, while G2 Esports earned its sixth straight series win after sweeping Origen 2-0. The Giants and ROCCAT are still the underdogs of the tournament, but both teams are determined to improve their scores this weekend where they’ll face H2K and Splyce. The competition’s looking extremely fierce and we can expect to see some exciting games as we go into week five. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Echo Fox had another fantastic week as jungler Akaadian snowballed his team with an early advantage that allowed him to apply pressure all other the map. Team Dignitas even managed to secure their second win when they defeated in EnVy 2-0. Meanwhile, Team Liquid narrowly lost their match against Cloud9, but Piglet and Reignover showed great potential with their jungle and AD carry plays. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

CS:GO: DreamHack Masters Las Vegas 2017

Following the success of the first ever DreamHack Masters in Malmö, DreamHack has taken their explosive CS:GO tournament to Las Vegas. The World’s best CS:GO teams have been busy battling it out at the iconic MGM Grand and Garden Arena for their chance to win the $450,000 prize pool. The competition is set to be fierce and we will find out whether anyone has what it takes to beat the current titleholders Ninjas in Pyjamas. The full schedule can be found here, while the stream can be found by heading over to Twitch.

Hearthstone: 2017 HCT Americas Winter Playoffs

Last weekend the European branch of the Hearthstone Championship Tour kicked off and determined which four players (Pavel, Neirea, GreenSheep, and ShtanUdachi) would be competing at the Hearthstone Winter Championship in the Bahamas, as well as crowning Pavel the HCT EU Winter Champion. This weekend we’ll see which players have what it takes to represent the Americas and be crowned the HCT Americas Winter Champion. The matches kick off on Saturday at 08:00 PST / 17:00 CET, and continue Sunday at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

Heroes of the Storm: Global ChampionshipSeven teams have booked their ticket to the Western Clash at IEM Katowice. Tempo Storm, Team 8, and Gale Force eSports from North America made the cut during week four of play. Misfits secured their spot after defeating Team expert 3-0, while fellow European teams Fnatic and Team Dignitas will also be joining them. Both NA and EU schedules can be found here, while the stream can be viewed by heading over to Twitch

PC Gamer

Photo credit: ESL/Adela Sznajder

It’s no secret that the esports industry has exploded in the last several years, and with fresh investors and sponsors rolling in, established professional organizations have more room to grow than ever. Throughout this expansion, Dota 2 has proved to be a staying force in competitive gaming, and now some brands that once pursued failed ventures in the scene are giving it a second thought.

These re-established teams must now work to not only live up to the orgs’ powerful reputations in esports in general, from FPS legacies to investments from NBA teams, but also distinguish themselves from their banner’s Dota 2 history. Here, we take a brief look at three of these well-known organizations’ past and present in the game.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

Originally founded as a Counter-Strike team in the early 2000s, and with a focus on Swedish players and tournaments, Ninjas in Pyjamas was a forerunner in the blooming days of the modern esports scene. After a hiatus, in the early 2010s, the organization returned to CS and re-established its brand with a legendary roster, cementing their status as a regular name in the CS:GO circuit.In January 2015, they drove forward with this momentum from their reformed FPS legacy and picked up the Swedish Dota 2 squad LAJONS, with The International 5 as their likely end goal. The team notably contained Era, the former Fnatic player, along with current CompLexity player Limmp. NiP teammates Apemother and Chessie also worked in the Swedish scene as stand-ins to Alliance at different times when the TI3-winning squad was undergoing drastic changes. Unfortunately, NiP underperformed and were dropped after the 2015 Frankfurt Major qualifiers.

NiP picked up three former members of the recently-disbanded Escape Gaming late this past December. Instead of matching the org’s purely-Swedish past in this game, there is now a mix of representation: German members qojqva and Khezu, Era from Sweden, Trixi from Finland, and captain-support Synderen hailing from Denmark. So far, the team has only played in the Dota Asian Championship qualifiers, which they lost, and Moonduck’s Elimination Mode 3.0 (ongoing as of writing). However, as there are solid reputations for these players in the Dota 2 scene and the NiP name across esports fans are keeping their fingers crossed.

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

Cloud 9

Esports organization Cloud 9, which is relatively young compared to the other organizations discussed here, has its roots in League of Legends after a rocky team faced a number of brand changes. It formed in 2012 from the remnants of Quantic Gaming and saw a rapid rise to fame, soon branching out into other esports. Its LoL team is a major part of the League Championship Series, and it has a team or player in almost every notable active esport, including star Melee player Mang0.

Perhaps just as interesting, though, is the drama behind C9’s first Dota 2 squad in 2014, formerly Speed Gaming. Speed was formed in 2013 as an international iteration of Chinese org Rattlesnake, but complaints quickly arose about the manager, Marco Fernandez, from the team’s players. Each member—Singsing, EternalEnvy, Aui_2000, pieliedie, and bOne7—is at least a minor celebrity in the Dota 2 community, and so their accusations were not taken lightly. It culminated at the MLG Anaheim 2013 event, when their manager badly scheduled a flight that left the team with little time to rest before the tournament began. At this point, other accusations came out of the woodwork, including Marco having called himself a “babysitter,” a massive, demoralizing pre-finals rant by Marco himself, and issues with team salaries. After sharing their cautionary tale, the team quickly left Speed and re-formed in early 2014 under the C9 banner.

Past the initial drama, C9 itself was a fairly successful venture, though jokes quickly emerged from their consistent second place losses in major tournaments. The team’s playstyle and reputation at that point were largely defined by EternalEnvy, who would often make risky moves with varying degrees of success. After a devastating 9-12th place loss at TI5, the team split up, though the umbrella C9 org was quick to invest in a new NA squad. Unfortunately, it was plagued by regional drama with controversial player Ritsu at the forefront, including accusations of harassment and leaking scrim data, and after they released him from the team, they were never able to recover.

In the final days of 2016, tier 2 Danish squad The Imperials left their organization and returned to their old name Danish Bears, sparking rumors that they would be signed to C9, and in early January, the team’s new organization was announced. C9’s faith likely isn’t misplaced, as under the new banner, they have already won 2nd at WESG, losing to Filipino TI6 underdogs TNC Pro Team, though they failed to qualify for DAC and Starladder.

Liquid's TI3 roster.

Team Liquid

It’s hard to understate European organization Liquid’s presence in the esports scene. Team Liquid itself began with Starcraft: Brood War in 2000 and soon rose to the top of the emerging competitive community by representing high-level, well-performing SC pros. With the introduction of their website and forum in 2001, when forums were the primary social outlets of the internet, TL’s user base quickly sprawled across the young competitive gaming fandom.

Their site, including the forums and “wiki” Liquidpedia, remains an essential site for aggregation of esports information across a large number of esports-heavy video games, and TL is still a force in a number of major esports. In September 2016, they were the prize investment of Axiomatic, a new esports investment group founded by basketball team-runners Pete Guber and Ted Leonsis, with investor names including Magic Johnson.

Their first roster was announced at the end of 2012, consisting of mostly North American players. The fanbase was a strong contrast to Dota 2’s “bandwagon” culture. It was a North American squad when very few formidable ones existed, and the Liquid brand carried over well from the Brood War and recent Starcraft 2 scenes. Its most notable players during this era were BuLba, a mainstay in the NA Dota 2 community, and DeMoN, who has since moved on to help the Southeast Asian region’s teams. To the disappointment of many fans, this iteration was shaken after losing at TI3. After a number of roster changes over its active years, the team disbanded in 2014 when their performance faltered.

TL re-established a team in 2015, this time changing things up with a decidedly European squad. While many rooted for the renewed team, the European scene at that time was described as a “bloodbath,” with each team needing to fight through a slew of well-performing teams to win European qualifiers for many events. Since then, for as strong as the organization itself has been, its Dota 2 history could be described as “grass in a storm”: rarely stable, but persistent and consistent. Though TL wasn’t present at the Boston Major after losing in the highly competitive EU environment, they most recently qualified for DAC and the next Starladder season.

PC Gamer

The Rainbow Six Siege: Invitational came to a thrilling conclusion last weekend with Continuum outgunning eRa Eternity in the final. This weekend, there’s action from the League of Legends EU and NA Spring split to the Dota 2 Asia Championships. We even have the latest drama from the Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017: Europe qualifier

So far the B)ears and Team Liquid have been the teams to beat as they claimed the first two spots in the playoffs from the European DAC qualifier. Ad Finem and NiP were the first two teams to be eliminated and so far the competition has been extremely fierce. The loser’s finals start today at 06:00 PST / 15:00 CET, while the grand finals kick off at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET. Make sure you head over to Twitch to catch all the latest action.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Misfits have improved a lot in their past few games as they managed to secure a win against Fnatic, proving that they are a top contender in their group. Meanwhile, G2 had their first perfect game of the split when they took on the Giants. G2 kept all their members alive and didn't lose a single tower in their first game, while their late-game aggression secured them the victory. However, Vitality are still having a rough time as they lost their series against H2K. Origen have also not shown any real progress and both teams will need to improve their performance if they want to secure a victory this weekend. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Team Liquid had a rough start in week three when EnVy used their superior macro play to devastating effect. However, Liquid managed to dust themselves off and defeat Echo Fox after a series of back and forth games. Phoenix 1 tried to desperately hold off Team Solo Mid, but Inori failed to stop a Svenskeren Kha’zix from decimating his squishy team. We enter week four of play this weekend and Cloud9 are still undefeated, so it will be interesting to see if anyone can topple their reign. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship

We’re now less than a month away until the Western Clash at IEM Katowice and last weekend we saw a few upsets in North America and Europe. Both No Tomorrow and BeGenius had their hopes of attending the Clash crushed as they lost their games. Meanwhile, there was significant shakeup in the leaderboards as Tempo Storm overtook Team 8 in North America, while Misfits replaced Team expert in Europe. Both NA and EU schedules can be found here, while the stream can be viewed by heading over to Twitch.

Hearthstone: 2017 HCT Europe Winter Playoffs

The European branch of the Hearthstone Championship Tour kicks off this weekend with 72 participants being narrowed down to just four. It will be a Swiss Format for the first part, before the top eight players go head-to-head to see which four will get a trip to the Bahamas for the Winter finals in March. The matches kick off on Saturday, Feb 11 at 11:30 CET (2:30am PST), and Sunday, Feb 12 at 12:30 CET (3:30am PST). You can find all the details on schedule and bracket here, and watch on the official stream here.

PC Gamer

Image taken from key art for the Elements of the Endless Plane set for Faceless Void by blossomalex.Dota 2 players never wanted stutter-step like this.

Over the last several months, the community surrounding Valve’s popular MOBA has launched an avalanche of complaints about a massive drop in the game’s frames-per-second performance. The issues became most prominent after the release of the 7.00 patch on December 12, which featured a massive design overhaul and the first Dota 2 hero to not have a counterpart in the original Warcraft III mod.

While there’s collective agreement across sites such as Reddit and Twitter that 60fps should be the bare minimum for remotely-decent play, many users are having issues even reaching a basic 30fps. Users report that high-end computers that typically run at 140fps have often dipped down towards 60fps, sometimes lower in more intense moments. These issues may tarnish the game’s reputation for being accessible on low-end computers, particularly as Dota 2 rises as an esport alongside similar, well-tuned games.

This is an issue for not only everyday players but also pros, who require precise input and responsiveness in clutch situations. Pros and streamers such as Arteezy, Limmp, and MoonMeander aired their concerns over Twitter. EternalEnvy complained late December that during teamfights, his framerate would cut nearly a third: from 144 to a mere 50. As fans raise their expectations for esports production quality, tournament organizers need the 60fps with visually-pleasing settings, typically “High” or “Ultra,” to execute increasingly higher-quality video streams.

Because of these widespread complaints, the words “performance patch” now make frequent appearances on the Dota 2 subreddit’s front page. Since mid-December’s patch, at least 150 complaint threads (manually counted, and rising) have been posted on /r/dota2.

The issue of low FPS has even become part of the subreddit’s comedy culture, known for its absurdist, blunt humor. One thread starts, 'TIP: How to tell when enemies use certain abilities' and lists some audio-visual indicators of characters’ abilities. The punchline: “Wukong's Command (Monkey King) - your game will freeze and your FPS will dip below 20 for a second or two.” This is a reference to Monkey King's ultimate, which summons several statues in a circle to attack opponents. Players find that using this ability causes lag, making big teamfights nearly impossible to navigate.

The largest thread was created by esports match observer Pimpmuckl as a “megathread” to aggregate, organize, and discuss the largest issues facing the community. Edited into the main post are both complex and simple ways improve FPS, which grew too big for the post itself and had to be carried over into a public Google Doc. Another user put up an extensive list of bugs, including a few lag and FPS issues, some of which may have been fixed since that initial posting.

The notion of community-sourced solutions is familiar to both Valve and the Dota community, and Pimpmuckl has been sharing advice with players and pros alike. He's using his general computing knowledge to help others to bring their computers up to par.

While Valve hasn’t provided a formal explanation for these issues, Pimpmuckl tells us that a combination of emerging factors from increasing numbers of particle effects for hats to the 7.00 map overhaul may be potential parts of the issue. He believes that these increasingly-complex parts of the engine may cause the CPU to get overworked, delaying commands called 'draw calls' from being sent from the CPU to the graphics card. Unfortunately, without the official word from the developers, there’s no way of knowing what specifically causes this to happen within the game engine.

As players attempt to play through the lag, Valve remains mum on the conundrum. However, hope may emerge as the Bellevue snow melts. Twice, the developers have released a 'Spring Cleaning' update once in 2014 and again in 2016, each in the midst of player bug complaints. The former was the first such patch after the game left beta, and each focused mainly on unintentional interactions between players. A dedicated patch could bring a lot more good news.

Of course, having the devs quickly attack issues as massive as these may be risky. In all fields of programming, shortcuts that can improve performance can have major implications for other unexpected parts of the game, which could drive away a good chunk of the game’s 13 million unique users. Therefore, a performance patch may not be as easy as “just fixing FPS,” and given the lack of a timeline from Valve, haste shouldn’t be expected.

For now, Pimpmuckl shared his best quick tips for fixing FPS issues. If you believe your graphics card is working up to par and want to help your CPU’s performance, turn off high quality water. If that doesn’t do the trick, turn down shadow settings. On the other hand, for graphics cards that are struggling, settings such as parallax mapping, tree wind and ambient occlusion should be the first to go. Adjusting the render quality should be a last resort as it can put more pressure on the CPU. And, while Vulkan should theoretically help with some issues, it seems to have more bugs than its DirectX 9ex counterpart.

While Valve hopefully works on a solution, players are left praying that they're not left lagging too long.

PC Gamer

The World Electronic Sports Games wrapped up in China this week, with Team EnVyUs taking home the $800,000 prize by defeating Team Kinguin in the CS:GO final. We even got to see TNC Pro Team defeat Cloud9 in the Dota 2 finals. It’s certainly been a busy start to 2017 and we’re not slowing down yet. There’s plenty to watch, from top-tier League of Legends to the CS:GO: ELEAGUE Major. We even have some top quality action from Heroes of the Storm. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

League of Legends fans can tune into the European Spring Split today as the 10 teams from France, Spain, Germany and the UK, as well as Fnatic Academy, battle it out for their chance to represent Europe in the Mid-Season Invitational. We will find out if anyone has what it takes to challenge G2 for the crown. Misfits and GIANTS! Gaming kick things off today at 08:00 PST / 17:00 CET. The full schedule and stream can be found by heading over to LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

The NA LCS Spring Split also returns today and this season might be one of the most exciting to date. Top teams from the last split have all become a little bit weaker, especially TSM who lost their star player Doublelift and replaced him with Wildturtle. Cloud 9 have also acquired new coaching and player talent from South Korea and replaced Meteos with the talented player Contractz. Both these teams will be kicking things off today at 15:00 PST / 00:00 CET, while the full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: Pit League Season 5

Eight teams will compete for the season five title and with a minimum prize pool of $125 000 on the line, plus the portion spent on chests and in-game tickets, it is sure to be a fiercely contested event. The tournament is scheduled for this weekend and the top teams are set to clash right from the beginning. Quarterfinals begin today at 01:00 / 10:00 CET and resume tomorrow at the same time. The event can be streamed over on Twitch.

CS:GO: ELEAGUE Major 2017

Sixteen of the best CS:GO teams will battle it out at the FOX Theatre in Atlanta, USA.  The group stage will take place from January 22nd to the 26th, while the playoffs begin on the 27th and end on the 29th. SK Gaming is set to be the favourites after they dominated last year’s headlines. However, the competition will be extremely fierce as everyone will want a piece of the $1,000,000 pie. The schedule can be found here, while the event will be streamed live via the ELEAGUE channel on Twitch.

Overwatch: OGN APEX Season 2

The star studded lineups have been battling since Tuesday in order to grab their share of the $180,000 prize pool. OGN APEX Season 2 has invited four Western teams to compete with the best Korea has to offer. So far the group B bracket has been the group that has received the most attention as it features Asia’s highest ranked team, Lunatic-Hai. However, Europe’s second highest ranked team, Misfits, will also be looking to reign supreme. It’s likely the winner of this group may go on to win the tournament. Group C will be starting their matches today at 02:00 PST / 11:00 CET, while Group D start at 03:30 PST / 12:30 CET. The event can be watched over on Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship stage

Heroes of the Storm’s HGC will see top teams battle for supremacy in regional professional leagues around the world. The best of the best will be tested in international clashes and a mid-season brawl as they fight their way to the finish at the HGC finals. The Heroes Global Champions will take home the crown and the winner's share of the cash prize. Europe’s first match between Team Dignitas and Misfits begins at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET, while the North American match between Tempo Storm and Team Naventic starts at 14:00 PST / 11:00 CET. The full schedule and stream can be found here.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL. ChuaN is one of the most experienced figures in the Dota 2 scene.

With the announcement of the 2017 edition of the Dota 2 Asia Championships in Spring, it’s a make-or-break period for Chinese teams. After invites were handed out, a curious squad was announced by a famous team. Newbee.Boss, a revamp of a pre-existing B-team, includes a mix of three established players, ChuaN, Ferrari_430, Xiao8, and 'newcomers' axx and Zei9.

To the confusion of those who are unfamiliar with the fresh faces, the team has been called a 'troll' team, not to be taken seriously in the long run. Meanwhile, the Newbee Weibo playfully stated: “Yes, they are serious~”.

So what’s really going on? According to fans aware of the Chinese scene, the indicator of whether or not the team is legitimate is “the boss” Zei9, who is reportedly… well, literally their boss. 

One of the owners of Newbee is playing on the squad using that handle, according to reliable sources. He apparently isn’t too bad, as he’s reportedly in the 6k MMR range and trains regularly under ex-competitive player SanSheng. According to a Reddit comment by a user who has translated Chinese Dota 2 content previously, “People used to jokingly say the most hard working Newbee player is Zei9.” Past images have shown the CEO in the 5k MMR range (circa TI5) and some fans on social media claim they have seen this player in action on ChuaN’s stream.

She ranks in at an incredible 7100 MMR, and her tournament match win rate, according to DotaBuff, is an impressive 55%

Meanwhile, new recruit axx has the Dota 2 community talking up a storm. After all, she is the most recent woman player to be given a shot at making it to a large-scale LAN—and it’s no token appearance, if her stats tell the story. She ranks in at an incredible 7100 MMR, and her tournament match win rate, according to DotaBuff, is an impressive 55% in 539 recorded games (with an even more astounding 65% pub rate). Axx plays a magical Invoker, about 75% of 33 games, and has a strong record on other carry heroes including Alchemist, Shadow Fiend, and Slardar. Having played in leagues with other major names such as fy and old chicken, the popular streamer and in-house player could be an essential core for the new team and a strong new presence in both the Chinese scene and abroad. 

Even with the lack of competitive experience of the two new players, the notable veterans in the squad are a force to be reckoned with. Those who are familiar with the Dota 2 scene will recognise all three of them as International winners.The Malaysian support ChuaN is a mainstay in the professional Dota 2 scene. As a part of Invictus Gaming, he won The International 2012, which started the West-to-East back-and-forth pattern seen in the annual Valve tournament. Since then he's had a rollercoaster ride in regards to his Dota 2 success, as other International victors have historically suffered. In late 2015, he left IG and joined Newbee instead, though he worked through similar ups-and-downs under this banner. He was last seen on the big stage at TI6 in August, where Newbee took the 9th-12th place slot; after this low placement, the took an indefinite hiatus from competitive play.

Newbee's championship team at The International 2014.

ChuaN’s ex-teammate and fellow TI2 winner Ferrari_430 has been hidden from the scene for a bit longer than ChuaN. According to his official DotaBuff record, the mid player’s last premier game with his former squad IG took place seven months ago as part of the TI6 China qualifiers. Since then, like many other high-rank players in China, he has been engaged in in-house leagues until his re-emergence into this new squad.

The team’s third International champion and captain Xiao8 won in 2014 as part of the core team of Newbee. Don’t be fooled by the relatively late win, though—the player has been around since 2010, notably in the first TI with IG in 2011 and with LGD in 2012, taking third place after being knocked out by some of his current teammates. In fact, he is one of the few players remaining who has made an appearance at the main event of every iteration of The International (Every. Single. One.), regardless of team affiliation. Most recently, he qualified for Boston as part of LFY (LGD.Forever.Young), but the team fell to eventual second place winners Ad Finem. 

He supposedly 'retired' after Boston for at least six months, though given Dota 2’s history of 'retiring' players, the meaning of this word may need to be reevaluated. Technically, this was his second 'retirement', as he did so after TI4 and returned in a serious manner not too long after. Still, it could contribute to why the team is not taken seriously.

So now that we can understand who all of these players are, we can start asking—what’s the deal with Newbee.Boss? Most likely, the speculation of the community is correct: this could be a 'just for fun' team, albeit with eyes on the main stage of DAC alongside the main Newbee squad. Between xiao8’s re-rise from retirement and the CEO of the company joining in, fans have found little reason to treat the squad like their A-team counterparts. Even with axx’s skill, some believe that she’s on the team just for kicks due to her streaming background.

Newbee.Boss looked strong in their first matches against Calvary and Rush.B

To be clear, this fan-pleasing combination of well-known players with personalities isn’t unfamiliar in Dota 2. In the Western scene, NA’s Vegetable Esports Club is a ragtag team of rogue pros and English casters that fights through qualifiers for several tournaments. It’s a worthy effort, as VEC only lost in the Boston Major NA open qualifiers to ProDota, the cross-server EU team that eventually fell in the main qualifiers. Given Dota 2's frequent use of open qualifiers, squads of free agents pop up often with varying degrees of success. Most recently, Evil Geniuses CEO and ex-captain PPD formed his own squad with several other pros for the Kiev Major qualifiers.

While Newbee.Boss may just be a fun dream team to play on for Newbee's boss, it’s certainly not an unworthy squad. During the Dota 2 Asia Championship 'pre-qualifier' for an abandoned qualifier spot, Newbee.Boss looked strong in their first matches against Calvary and Rush.B, displaying a strong sense of team cohesion, Newbee.Boss cleanly took two games straight per match. In fact, zei9 performed skillfully among the chorus of pros. The team must now fight through main qualifiers, full of powerhouse teams such as EHOME, LFY, and IG, but this means that they have a very real shot at making it to the main event.

Newbee.Boss is a strange mix of long-time legends and complete unknowns. After all, “three Chinese legends, a strong female player, and their boss make a gaming squad” sounds like the start of a cheesy joke (or a Hollywood movie). Even so, while some of the former TI champions have come in and out of relevance, this formation could let axx break out into the international scene—and give Newbee's boss a taste of the glory that he's helped others achieve.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: World Electronic Sports Games

This weekend, all eyes will be on China as the World Electronic Sports Games opens its doors. There’s plenty to watch, from top-tier Dota 2 to the League of Legends EU Challenger Series. We even have some top quality action from one of Hearthstone’s highest ranked players. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

Dota 2: World Electronic Sports Games

The World Electronic Sports Games event kicked off yesterday at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center, China. The LAN finals event is the last part in the race for the whopping $1.5 million prize pool. A total of 24 teams have managed to secure their place in the final stage after nearly five months of gruelling regional qualifiers. However, it’s not all about the money as the tournament marks a historic moment in the Dota 2 competitive circuit. The WESG is currently the only event to offer over a million USD prize pool to teams formed exclusively from five players of the same nation. The full weekend schedule can be found here, while the event can watched over on Twitch.

StarCraft II: World Electronic Sports Games

StarCraft II also has a fairly hefty prize pool up for grabs in China this week. The WESG will be giving out $402,000 in StarCraft prizes, which is considerably less than some of the others games, but it’s still a substantial sum. The quarterfinals start today at 22:00 PST / 07:00 CET, while the semifinals begin tomorrow at 19:00 PST / 04:00 CET. You can watch all the action over on Twitch.

CS:GO: World Electronic Sports Games

CS:GO also kicked off its group stage last night and will resume today. The quarterfinals start tomorrow, while the semi-finals and the grand final will be taking place on the same day, January 15th. There has already be an unexpected surprise as the Swedish CS:GO team GODSENT will no longer be attending the WESG grand final. GODSENT were set to compete against teams such as Signature, Team Kinguin, Space Soldiers, Bravado Gaming, and FIVE eSports Club before they bowed out. The full weekend schedule can be found here, while the event can watched over on Twitch.

Hearthstone: World Electronic Sports Games

Counter Logic Gaming is set to be the favourite for this year’s title, as North American esports organisation welcomed Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert to their roster on Tuesday. His most difficult opponent will likely be fellow European player Liam “Lbdutchboy” Brouwer from the Netherlands.  Xixo was the highest ranked Hearthstone player on the GosuGamers ladder last year, as he won the StarSeries Season 2 and defeated Jon “Orange” Westberg in the European WESG qualifiers. Make sure to check the WESG Facebook page to find the latest schedule times and streams.

League of Legends: EU Challenger Series qualifiers

League of Legends fans can tune into the European Challenger Series qualifiers today as the 12 teams from France, Spain, Germany and the UK as well as Fnatic Academy, will battle out for the final two spots in the EU Challenger Series 2017 Spring Split. The finals will be best-of-five series, with the winner of each advancing to the EU CS Spring Split. Games will be played on patch 6.24 and the tournament will be played under the old six-ban rules rather than the new 10-ban ones. Play kicks off today at 08:00 PST / 17:00 CET, while the playoffs start at the same time on Sunday. The event can be watched over on LoL Esports

PC Gamer

At the end of an intense weekend of Dota 2 Digital Chaos took the grand prize at ESL One Genting in the mountains of Malaysia, the first-ever LAN win for the squad. The team took home $125,000 for the victory, while runner-up team Newbee, hailing from China, ended their own impressive run with $50,000. 

Each player beamed with excitement as they stood together with the trophy. MoonMeander barely had words as the stage host asked how he felt. It was their first LAN tournament victory, a massive milestone given how close the TI6 challengers came to holding title before losing to Wings in the grand final.

Reso1ution even grabbed the mic to brag. “Our first tournament! Woo!”“We won Saksa a LAN, guys!” joked MiSeRy, the captain and one of the support players. “First LAN win ever, guys! Congratulations!” 

As a last word to the venue, Reso1ution made his feelings clear for the enthused crowd: “I love you!” And because a winner can’t be excited enough, he added again— “Woo!”

 The victory came after an intense series versus Chinese team Newbee that spanned the full best of five, including a 51-minute match two taken by DC. Both teams were seen as strong contenders going into the matchup, with Newbee’s relatively fresh blood seemingly tapped out and DC’s full potential being similarly exposed after each suffered rough runs at the Boston Major. Aside from the strength of the finalists, competition was tight for every team going into the tournament.

CIS favorite Virtus Pro was predicted as a reliably strong pick at the beginning of the event. They were looked upon as a mid-game powerhouse, spawning an aggressive meta after winning The Summit in November that other teams picked up into later tournaments. Unfortunately, the team dropped to the lower bracket, tried to fight through, and were eventually defeated by the versatile, soon-to-be champions DC in an action-packed semifinals matchup.

The semis between Chinese rivals Newbee and Wings were nothing to shake a finger at as each team kept their eyes on big late-game plays. Newbee stomped their national rivals in a short first game, but Wings had to be dragged out kicking after winning the second game. The teams went back and forth in tense and exciting second and third maps that brought the ticker over 45 minutes. Ultimately, in a final game, Newbee held control of the map despite a Wings draft, including Broodmother, that attempted to do otherwise.

Malaysia had its eyes on Fnatic, a local team recently featured in Valve’s documentary True Sight during their failed fight through the Boston Major qualifiers. Led by veteran Mushi after an anxious post-Major shuffle, the team sadly fell through both the group stages and losers bracket after losing to, respectively, VP and Canadian fan favorite NP.

Also representing the locality were Execration from the Philippines and WP.Unity from Malaysia, both of which won their respective local qualifiers. Execration likely had a bone to pick with WP.Unity, as the Filipino squad took second to WP in the SEA Kappa invitational cup in December. After a strong three matches, Execration eliminated their local rivals, though they fell to Wings in the next round.

NP remained a crowd favorite despite losing to VP in the quarterfinals. After losing to the eventual 2nd place winners in the group stage, they showed potential after wiping out Fnatic 2-0 in the first Bo3. Unfortunately, VP gave the same treatment. The team still got a lot of love from its fans due to the team's openness about its everyday life (including its affinity for anime, as the team lists its MyAnimeList links on its homepage). For instance, MSS shared his experience with food culture after buying “Sky Juice”—meaning water (“juice” taken from the sky, meaning rain). The incident became an inside joke throughout the event and its segments.

Beyond the rivalries and memes, there was no shortage of interesting drafts during the event. Meepo was drafted not once, but three times: once at a loss for none other than DC’s w33ha, famous for his “w33po” gameplay; another time victoriously for the Filipino Execration player Gabbi, against local rival WG.Unity; and finally for Newbee’s uuu9, in a winning game against Wings.

Every pub's favorite hook-thrower Pudge was picked five times by four different teams with varying results. In alignment with Wings’ reputation for unusual picks, they attempted to win with Broodmother in their third semifinal match against Newbee, unfortunately to no avail. Overall, 63 heroes were picked throughout the tournament, which is a great sign: every match was gripping for spectators.

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