PC Gamer

It's a quiet weekend overall as many pro scenes enter a lull following a long month of dramatic Spring championships. That doesn't mean that you've got nothing to watch, however: on the contrary, there's no better way to cap off a week of Overwatch than with the game's first competitive LAN. If that's not your speed, the Capcom Pro Tour is hitting no less than three cities over the next two days, and there's still Dota 2 and Smite to be watched. Enjoy!

Dota 2: The Summit 5 Qualifiers

Playoffs are still a few months away, but this weekend will see a handful of matches played in the European and South East Asian qualifiers. There are games at 11:00 BST/03:00 PDT and at 16:00 BST/08:00 PDT on Saturday that'll be streamed on the Beyond the Summit Twitch account. Afterwards, you can also catch Virtus.pro and Danish Bears in the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 2 qualifiers at 19:00 BST/11:00 PDT (livestream here.)

Overwatch: TaKeOver LAN

The first Overwatch LAN is being hosted by TaKeTV, better known for StarCraft's HomeStory Cup. It's a relatively small and chilled-out event with a modest $5,000 prize pool. This is a chance to get a sense of the developing Overwatch pro scene in Europe. Play began today and continues starting at 11:00 BST/03:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday. Here's the livestream.

Smite: Spring Split Week 9

As the Smite scene regroups after the recent drama you can expect that, at the very least, the rest of the week's games will last longer than a minute and a half. You can find top-tier play in Europe and North America starting at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday. As ever, you can watch the games on HiRezTV.

Street Fighter V: Combo Breaker and FFM-Rumble

There are several stops on the Capcom Pro Tour this weekend, including Combo Breaker in Chicago, FFM-Rumble in Frankfurt, and Japonawa in Tijuana. This means you're rather spoiled for choice when it comes to competitive fighting games, but Capcom promise a 'surprise' at Combo Breaker that might well prove to be a reveal of the next DLC character for SFV. If you're unsure which one to watch, then Combo Breaker is recommended for that reason. Find the schedule and stream information right here.

PC Gamer

There s loads happening in all sorts of scenes across the world this weekend, from international CS:GO to Dota 2 in Sweden to top-tier StarCraft in Korea. There s also one of the biggest-ever Rocket League prize pots on the line and a massive Street Fighter V tournament underway in Paris. GL HF!

Dota 2: Dreamleague Season 5 PlayoffsAnother long-running Dota 2 league reaches its final stages, this time in Sweden. Top-tier teams including OG will be playing throughout the weekend. Matches begin at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Saturday and at 11:00 BST/03:00 PDT on Sunday. The stakes aren t quite as high as they were at Epicenter, but it s bound to be great Dota nonetheless. You can find the stream here.

CSGO: StarLadder i-League Invitational

There s a lot of great CS:GO happening this weekend, including StarLadder s i-League Invitational in Kiev. Luminosity, Na Vi and Virtus.pro are taking part. Strangely, it s hard to find a definite schedule for this one, but the playoffs are due to conclude on Sunday. Your best bet is to check GosuGamers hub page on European time for the livestream (check the sidebar for info on upcoming matches.)

CSGO: Esports Championship Series

More CS:GO, this time on the other side of the world. A similarly impressive lineup of teams including Astralis, NiP and Fnatic go head-to-head in the USA for a slice of a massive $1,750,000 prize pool. Games begin at 00:00 BST/16:00 PDT (the previous day) on both Saturday and Sunday. Find the livestream here.

StarCraft II: WCS Korea Season 1 Cross Finals 2016

Four of the best SCII players in Korea (and therefore the world) fight to determine a final champion for the region. There s $17,000 at stake for first place as well as 1,000 WCS points. Games begin at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Sunday. Find more information, as well as the stream, on the official site.

Hearthstone: Americas Spring Preliminary

This massive qualifier for the Americas Spring Championship is open to all, but expect to see a lot of well-known faces too. The top 128 in the region will duke it out across the weekend, starting at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT each day. It ll be streamed on Twitch.

Rocket League: Qualifier 1 Online Final

One guy in last week s comments asked, and we ve delivered! Rocket League s inaugural esports, er, league has reached its first moneyed final, with the conclusion of qualifier 1 in Europe and North America playing out over the next few days. The $5000 pot might seem modest by modern standards, but this is early days for an exciting new esport. Find more information, and the livestream, on the official Rocket League esports site.

Capcom Pro Tour: StunFest

France has produced some impressive Street Fighter V players of late, so it s only appropriate that Paris is the next stop on the Capcom Pro Tour. Andi Hamilton looked forward to StunFest in his most recent column, and anticipates great things for the event. Play begins at 19:00 BST/11:00 PDT on Saturday and at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT on Sunday. A word of warning: the initial livestream has been a bit flaky, particularly when it comes to SFV. Hopefully they ll have sorted it out by the time the top 8 rolls around. In either case, you can find more info and the livestream here.

Smite: Spring Split

Smite s European and North American Spring Split enters week eight with another round of play this weekend. You ll find matches starting at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday, with Europe leading the charge on Saturday followed by NA on Sunday. Schedule and livestream details can be found on the HiRezTV site.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

Friday s announcement of the World Esports Association, WESA, could ve gone smoother. A leaked logo earlier in the week prompted widespread speculation, and even in the immediate aftermath of the official announcement it was tough to find a clear explanation of what this new sports federation would actually do. In part this is the fault of WESA itself. I was at the launch in London, and my experience was of a number of good ideas struggling to make themselves heard above the furore.

There are a bunch of different ways to say we want to create a more stable and professional conversation around esports , after all, and we ve started FIFA is only one of them although it just happens to be the one that makes people think about corruption and bad governance. It feels like they ve been fighting fires from minute one as a consequence of mishandling a few key points.

On the other hand, the way the conversation around WESA has developed demonstrates, with bittersweet irony, why something like WESA is necessary. The esports community likes to hold court in Reddit and on Twitter. YouTube and the press are used as soundboards that start public fights elsewhere on social media. And I m not just talking about fans: the last few days have seen senior industry figures including members of WESA get drawn into a mess of he-said-she-said. This is an industry used to conducting its affairs through DMs and private Skype channels, where transparency (i.e, a leaked chat log) is usually a consequence of a fight getting out of hand.

WESA s most appealing stated aim is its desire to structure and professionalise exactly this kind of conversation; to provide a way for esports orgs to talk to one another in a way that avoids exactly this kind of unhappy fallout. I don t think that s a crazy idea, in and of itself.

What, how, why

Here s a broad outline: WESA is a committee featuring eight large esports organisations (Fnatic, NiP, Na Vi, Virtus.pro, G2, EnVyUs, FaZe and mousesports) and one tournament organiser (ESL). Representatives for these organisations are joined by a representative from a player council. WESA is distinct from other sports federations in that it gives players direct representation independent of their teams.

Motions brought to the committee will require a 75% majority vote to pass, and any policies brought into being by WESA will only be applicable to WESA members and WESA-sanctioned leagues. WESA members will be able to play in non-WESA leagues, and non-members will be able to play in leagues that WESA oversees.

WESA itself will not run events or leagues at all, but given the connection to ESL it s not surprising that the CS:GO Pro League is the first to be sanctioned by WESA. Areas of consideration suggested to me on Friday range from anti-doping to anti-gambling, broadcast rights, scheduling and legal dispute resolution.

To that latter end, WESA will also operate an arbitration court designed specifically for esports. They boast that this will be able to operate via video chat, return a verdict within 48 hours, and allow disputes to be resolved independent of the complex web of national jurisdictions that esports has traditionally struggled to navigate.

The association will fund itself with membership fees (the board would not specify how much this is) and by taking a revenue share of the leagues that it sanctions. This share is split evenly between all member organisations.

Almost all of it has precedent within conventional sport (WESA s first league commissioner, Pietro Fringuelli, was previously a legal advisor to the German Bundesliga) and the failings of similar organisations, like FIFA, does not necessarily mean that this also will fail. Associations and unions are not de facto corrupt, and all governance is imperfect to a degree. If esports is to become more structured, that has to start somewhere. There is no perfect external authority to be consulted for an industry this new, with this many unique considerations. To that end, I understand why WESA has formed in the way that it has.

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

Cause for concern

The controversy surrounding WESA, then, comes from a few different places: concern about who is involved in WESA and how much power they ll have; the motivations that drive its members; the failure of previous initiatives like this; a general distrust of centralised governance. I put these concerns to James Kennigit Lampkin, VP of Pro Gaming for ESL.

You look back at an organisation like G7 Lampkin says. These teams came together and said we re going to work together, we re going to unionise against organisers and leagues . Then other people tried it. And it always failed. Why did it always fail? Because every single time a new game comes out, that relationship set resets. Those team owners are incentivised to be ultra-competitive in the space, get the best players they can, go after each other shady stuff happens. When you say to team owners, hey just go work together , consistently over the last decade it didn t work.

Creating a stable structure that can produce guidelines that would survive the death of any given game was one of WESA s founding ideas. That was the thought behind the structure Lampkin says. Instead of having teams operate by themselves and organisers operate by themselves, maybe we could actually create something sustainable that doesn't get destroyed the second a new game comes out.

This sentiment is echoed by Fnatic s Patrik cArn S ttermon, who was captain of the Fnatic CS:GO team for six years. You cannot really expect, in esports, that a title we play today will be around in a hundred years. But nevertheless we feel like a game can have longer longevity than it has today. In order to stimulate such, we need to get organised. We need to set standards. We need to ensure that the professional circuit that we are very much part of is well-defined, predictable, that sponsors can understand the scheduling and so on. This has not been the case in CSGO in particular.

People think we re just coming in and making a power grab and trying to control the entire space. That is by no means the ambition we have here at all.

Patrik S ttermon

A lot of what WESA seeks to do (arbitration being the exception) already happens unofficially in some form or another. Esports orgs talk to one another in order to agree on schedules, players talk to each other about how they are treated, and how they d like to be treated, and so on. At its most benign, WESA seeks to make these processes more transparent and consistent.

Teams, and players, have come together in very unofficial ways Lampkin says. We deal with a player union in Dota and a player union in CS:GO. But the significance of those unions is fairly small the Dota union, for example, exploded because of a Twitter fight between two players. An entire union destroyed because of a Twitter fight between two players. If we're talking about how to make this work, it has to be official.

[WESA] will govern and form regulation, but it will form regulation on itself, really Lampkin says. It's a collective partnership that brings stakeholders to the table.

Both S ttermon and Lampkin acknowledge that skepticism is a likely response to any initiative like this. There will be questions asked S ttermon says. The community will be like, is this good for us? There have been projects that appear to be similar from the get go people have an inherent caution when it comes to uniting stakeholders, particularly when there are some dominant forces. People think we re just coming in and making a power grab and trying to control the entire space. That is by no means the ambition we have here at all.

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

The ESL-ephant in the room

Given WESA s stated aim to professionalise communication in the industry, the question of who has been invited to participate in that process is a primary concern. There are a lot of high-profile teams already involved, but many that aren t. Most notably absent, however, are the other tournament organisers: MLG, DreamHack, FACEIT, and so on. As far as WESA s launch incarnation is concerned, ESL speaks for that entire aspect of the industry. This is clearly questionable, and the hardest thing about WESA to accept on trust.

What we said was, if we're going to build this structure in WESA, then you're inherently required to balance ESL's power in that system ESL s Lampkin says. Because otherwise, as fans say, it looks like ESL's just going to try to dominate everything. That is specifically why we built it with players and teams with so much power. Certainly ESL as an organiser love our own events, but when you bring all these other people in who counterbalance that view, you get a system that allows for us to have a proper communication structure with other organisers and with non-member teams.

The structure of WESA, Lampkin argues, prevents ESL from operating with the kind of impunity that concerned fans have suggested. Even so, there are understandable concerns about how ESL might influence the association s priorities, or take advantage of these new clearer lines of communication. To that end, Lampkin asks that people wait and see.

What it comes down to is the actions of the association he says. If all the WESA teams pull out of ELEAGUE tomorrow, then you can quickly go and say 'hey, yeah, this was a terrible idea.' The point is that if, theoretically, ESL runs into the WESA board room and says 'we're shutting down everything!' The players say 'no, we're boycotting you' and the team owners walk out of the room and the entire organisation crumbles immediately. Because it requires consensus! That's the entire point of the system.

Even so, the question but why isn t anyone else directly involved should be asked. Lampkin s answer surprised me. ESL was in negotiations with other organisers he says. Not all other organisers, but we were in negotiations. Hey, is there a way for us to align our interests.' And after months of this process, hmm-ing and ha-ing, we came to the realisation that, no, it fails. As leagues, we are too competitive with each other across the esports ecosystem.

Lampkin didn t offer a specific explanation for why these discussions failed, so in that sense this remains another aspect of this difficult subject that the community is being asked to take on trust. We tried, but we re the only people who want to make this happen is the message here. And it s easy to be cynical about that message.

This is an open playing field. There is nothing stopping any organiser from building systems, fighting doping, fighting corruption, fighting against match-fixing.

James Lampkin

When I spoke to Fnatic s Patrik S ttermon, however, he independently verified Lampkin s sentiment. We set out, as teams, to talk to tournament organisers a few years ago he says. Through that process, eventually we learned that what we can accomplish with ESL is superior to the other discussions we had. This doesn t mean that those guys are cancelled out or not in consideration going forward. In fact, we hope to set a great standard and maybe stimulate other regions to set up something similar. Maybe we can work together.

There's always, I see it in esports press, I see it from fans, and I see it from our competitors, this implication that we're bulldozing or crushing Lampkin says. What we're saying is, no. What we're doing is we're working. This is an open playing field. There is nothing stopping any organiser from building systems, fighting doping, fighting corruption, fighting against match-fixing. Anybody can go and do that, it's just the case that ESL has been a bit ahead of the pack on a lot of this stuff. Look at the esports integrity initiative we had, AnyKey, WESA these are initiatives that we put forward with others to create a better structure within esports. Because literally we cannot do it by ourselves.

This, at least, is something that can be independently assessed. ESL have repeatedly expressed an interest in professionalising esports no other tournament organiser has been as public about anti-doping, for example, or diversity. This does not mean that their involvement in WESA is altruistic, but it does lend credence to Lampkin s notion that ESL happens to be the organisation with the most drive when it comes to these issues. This might sound unfair, particularly if you re working for one of ESL s rivals: in which case the onus is on those organisations to prove that they re just as engaged.

Put it this way: if WESA is successful in creating a system of governance that makes CS:GO players richer, safer and happier, and attaches that primarily to ESL events, then ESL will definitely benefit and that is worth being circumspect about. However: players will also be richer, safer and happier. That should make it harder for tournament organisers of all kinds, including ESL, to offer players anything less than the good deal that they ve become accustomed to. This is a best-case scenario, perhaps, but it illustrates why a pragmatic approach, even one that seems compromised, has the potential to exert a positive influence over the esports industry as a whole.

This product is very close to my heart S ttermon says. Esports has been vastly changing, but some stuff hasn t changed in pace with the rest of the industry. Like player representation, benefits, broadcasting rights stuff you normally see in conventional sports that have been around for a long time.

Photo credit: Riot Games

Players and teams

If long-term players want these things, and they are not being provided for in the industry as it currently operates, then they will go looking for it. It s worth considering that WESA has been established with a focus on CS:GO that seems to have been the main criteria governing which teams were initially invited and the CS:GO scene is probably the most open to this kind of structure. There s little publisher oversight, a lot of different stakeholders, and little stability.

CS:GO is, I think, the one game where there's an opportunity for team owners to start to manage themselves without excuse the analogy without a parent says Lampkin. [WESA] is not a reporting-upwards relationship, it's a consensus-building organisation.

This is the sense that I get from S ttermon, too: CS:GO both needs better governance and is open to it. He cites League of Legends as an attractive model.

I think there's a lot of learning to take from Riot S ttermon says. How they set up the LCS. The LCS has proven to be a very successful formula for teams, there's a schedule, there's a transfer window, the fans are really hype. That's similar to the sports world, and sports have had a much longer time to figure these things out.

It s easy to see where the appeal of WESA may lie for teams like Fnatic. Reliable prize pools, regulations and schedules are good for business, and they are specifically good at attracting major sponsors that might be put off by esports wild west reputation. If WESA (or an initiative like it) succeeds, then the parties involved stand to benefit tremendously. But and this is a really important but stability and profitability translates directly into a better experience for players and viewers. If you want more events near you, better support for semi-pro teams, more regular games, then all of that stems from a healthier business. I m not saying that WESA can or will achieve this, but it s important to understand the contours of the area between trying to make esports more viable and trying to take over the industry.

Through WESA, however, these organisations many of them a decade or more old have an opportunity to become the official governing heart of the CS:GO scene. They may well prove to be benevolent governors, but they ll still define the environment that players operate within. The growth of the Dota 2 scene makes for a useful contrast, here. The vast prize pools associated with the International, coupled with Valve s preference for working directly with players rather than teams, has created a highly unstable environment. The influence of the traditional esports orgs has been on the wane since 2014, when a number of teams split up and reassembled under new banners. This has been a mixed blessing: more freedom has, on occasion, meant more freedom to get screwed over . But players have largely been in charge of their own destinies.

As prize pools in CS:GO increase, it s not surprising that the old orgs are looking for ways to increase their significance in the eyes of their players before the scene goes the way of Dota. If they re trying to do that by offering the players a better deal as part of a WESA member org than they d get on their own, however, then it s hard to say that this is necessarily a bad thing.

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

Long-term viability

I suspect the discussion around WESA will change dramatically the moment they either (a) screw up or (b) solve a major problem for players. The former would prove the cynicism of the last few days warranted. The latter would suggest that ESL et al deserve more benefit of the doubt than they ve been getting.

Beyond that, the organisation s first challenge is creating meaningful regulations that create more stability and better quality of life for players within the CS:GO scene. That is far easier said than done, and likely the work of months if not years. But if they can do that and that s another big but then the next step is to apply WESA s learnings to other esports. S ttermon is confident that this is possible.

It s inevitable to capture the learnings and apply the learnings across the board, right? He says. Not only in future Counter-Strike leagues but within our organisation across other games. That doesn t mean it has to be a forceful approach it s about getting in the same room, understanding the opportunity and how we can collaborate together. The intention is to very much be open minded, include as many stakeholders as possible, but not forgoing the intention to professionalise the space we want to do this in a sustainable fashion.

The only way WESA works is if it has the buy-in of players and teams.

James Lampkin

Lampkin argues that WESA doesn t need to take over the industry to be effective that it can be just as useful as a positive example independent of other organisations, and that they would be happy for this to be the case. I don t think Riot needs WESA, right? He says. But what we see is a lot of problems that we look to solve are either not the core competency of a lot of game publishers, so the goal for us is, we provide the solution even if we re not engaged with that publisher through WESA if we ve figured out how to solve anti-doping, or we ve figured out how to solve gambling issues, then just copy us! It s an open market.

Despite the talk of the LCS, there s a little of Valve s logic to this stance. WESA will either succeed because its ideas work, Lampkin argues, or fail because they don t and either is good for the industry as a whole. The only way WESA works is if it has the buy-in of players and teams he says. It's the only way it works. I can go and ask nicely for a team to join but if they don't want to join they don't have to join. It's entirely based on the value proposition that we as a group here have created to try to stabilise things and create a better structure.

There is a long, tough journey ahead for WESA. The association has been founded in a culture that was primed to reject it from the start, and it may yet prove that this is justified. Yet I worry that this same culture might prevent WESA, or an organisation like it, from being effective despite best intentions. If every attempt to establish standards is treated like a conspiracy, and every attempt to make esports more profitable treated like a scandal, then the conversation within the industry between teams and showrunners, teams and players, organisations and fans has almost nowhere to go.

It s important to ask tough questions. As the esports industry matures, however, these are questions that need answering too: who is going to offer players a secure career path? Who is going to prevent another crash? Who is going to ensure that the rights of players don t get trampled as the business becomes more profitable? WESA may not prove to have all, or any, of the answers. In that case, the question becomes: who does?

PC Gamer

Valve has announced details for the Dota 2 International Compendium and Battle Pass, and judging by their scale, the company hopes to dwarf the $18,429,613 raised last year for the International prize pool. The Battle Pass can be bought into at both level 1 and level 50 for $9.99 and $26.99 respectively and all purchasers get access to the compendium, three Immortal Treasures, an exclusive seasonal terrain, access to regular quests and well, a ridiculous amount of other stuff.Among the more important of that stuff are the Weekend Battle Cups, a series of tournaments which mirror the competitive edge found in professional play. During scheduled, weekly events, participants can party up and battle through eight-team, single-elimination brackets, the lengthy notes read. Teams are placed in a skill tier against evenly-matched opponents competing in one of four geographic divisions. Winning one of these tournaments which kick off in June rewards battle points and fancy proof of your victories.No matter which of the many rewards excites you the most, there s plenty of reasons to play Dota 2 during the event: raising battle level continues to unlock more and more awards such as a terrain, new taunts and more.The full details are over on the Dota 2 website, and you re well-advised to make a pot of tea before poring through the extensive documentation. Tickets for The International 2016 went on sale early last month. The main event kicks off at Seattle's KeyArena between August 8-13.

PC Gamer

Whatever your game, there s loads to watch this weekend. LoL s MSI is the highest-profile official event, but both Dota 2 and CS:GO have massive tournaments of their own and then there s a bunch happening in the house of Blizzard, another stop on the Capcom Pro Tour, and regular season play in Smite. Find all the details below.

League of Legends: Mid-Season Invitational

Catch the finale of what has been a dramatic event so far and will undoubtedly continue to be so. Our columnist Cassandra Marshall covered the main points you need to know earlier in the week. One semi-finalist will be decided today, with CLG and Flash Wolves duking it out for the remaining spot in Sunday s grand final tomorrow. Play begins at 06:30 BST/22:30 PDT (the night before) on both days, with rebroadcasts at 19:00 BST/11:00 PDT. Find the livestream on LoLesports.

Dota 2: Epicenter LAN

Epicenter has been a brilliant event so far, with over-the-top staging matched by phenomenal games. Newbee s record-smashing 29-game winning streak was brought to a halt by OG yesterday as TeamLiquid s star continues to rise. The remaining playoffs will be played over the course of the weekend, with games beginning at 09:00 BST/01:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday. Here s the English language stream.

CSGO: ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals

Top-tier CS:GO with a $512,000 prize pool to match. Play has been ongoing since Wednesday, with finals taking place this weekend at the O2 in London. Tune in tomorrow for semifinals between Ninjas in Pyjamas/Luminosity and G2/Fnatic, with the grand final set to take place on Sunday after a showmatch. The livestream for both days starts around 14:00 BST/06:00 PDT, with matches beginning around an hour later. Find it here.

Heroes of the Storm: Europe Summer Regional 2

The second European Summer Regional rounds up the best of the region s Heroes of the Storm teams in Tours, France. In addition to the main prize, there s a slot at next month s Summer Championship on the line. The final day begins at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Saturday and you can watch on Dreamhack.tv.

Hearthstone: Europe Spring Preliminary

160 of Europe s best Hearthstone players go toe-to-toe over the course of three days, starting today. You can watch the livestream on Twitch from 13:00 BST/05:00 PDT on Saturday and Sunday, but this event also has a substantial live component. Venues around Europe are running their own viewing parties with side events for attendees: check out this post for more information.

Capcom Pro Tour: Battle Arena Melbourne 8

The latest stop on the Capcom Pro Tour brings Street Fighter V to Australia. As usual, this is an open tournament featuring pro talent: if you re only interested in seeing the very best, consider jumping in later in the event. That said, BAM8 have a healthy livestream schedule planned: pools start at 01:00 BST on Saturday/17:00 PDT on Friday and the top 32 will be streamed from 08:00 BST/00:00 PDT on Sunday. You can find the stream, and more details, here.

Smite: Spring Split Season 3

Smite s regular season continues with an evening of play in Europe on Saturday and North America on Sunday. Find the games on Twitch starting at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT both days.

StarCraft 2: Spring Championship

Alongside Heroes of the Storm at DreamHack this weekend, StarCraft 2 is hosting its Spring Championship. 32 players from 17 different countries makes this a massive international showcase, with everyone fighting for a portion of the $150,00 prize pool. You can watch it on Twitch here, with games starting at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Saturday and Sunday, and 11:00 BST/03:00 PDT on Monday.

PC Gamer

Warhammer. Warhammer never changes, as Wrong Perlman once said. But Dota 2 does, it changes loads, and its latest alteration is its support for Warhammer-themed items in the Steam Workshop. As that support was just announced yesterday, there are currently no Warhammer-themed items in the Dota 2 'shop, but I'm sure 3D modellers and texturisers are busy inventing them as I type this. Here's the Warhammer tag, looking all sad and empty.

An incentive to do so is the Call to Arms contest, which runs from now until the end of August, and will reward up to eight of the best entries with a coveted place in a new Warhammer-themed Dota treasure pack. They'll also get a load of Sega games, including Total War: Warhammer, along with all the other Total Wars. The rules are linked above if you fancy your chances, but the main one is that entries should abide by the "visual themes" of Games Workshop's series. Designers of big spiky shoulderpads and massive guns will be in their element, I reckon.

PC Gamer

We ve got a relatively quiet weekend coming up as League of Legends takes a break ahead of the forthcoming mid-season invitational. Even so, there s some top-tier European Counter-Strike to watch and a lot of great Dota 2 happening at WePlay s Season 3 LAN finals (rubbish greenscreen staging notwithstanding.) Some of the world s best Hearthstone players will be putting Whispers of the Old Gods to the test in Korea, too.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: CEVO Gfinity Pro-League Season 9

There's some top-tier CS:GO happening at Gfinity's arena in London this weekend. Play has been ongoing since Thursday, but continues with semifinals on Saturday and the grand finals on Sunday. Play begins at 12:00 BST/04:00 PDT on Saturday and at 15:30 BST/07:30 PDT on Sunday and you can find the livestream here.

Dota 2: WePlay League S3 LAN Finals

There s two more days of play left in the WePlay League Season 3 LAN finals in Kiev. There s been some really exciting, fun Dota played so far although the tone of the event has been set by a run of Shanghai Major-style production snafus. From a comedically terrible greenscreen set for the analysis panel (see above) to arbitrarily cutting away from games during crucial teamfights, it s been a bit of a shambles. That s part of the fun, though, and reason enough to tune in. Play begins at 08:00 BST/00:00 PDT on Saturday and at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Sunday and you can find the English language livestream here.

Hearthstone: Seoul Cup World Invitational

An array of top Hearthstone talent including Thijs, Ostkaka, Reynad and more will compete for a share of $22,000 in Seoul this weekend. It'll be a relatively quick, single elimination contest with play spread across both days. Hearthstone s latest expansion has done a number on the metagame, so it ll be fascinating to see what decks succeed at one of the first serious competitions since Whispers of the Old Gods launched (you can find some pro predictions here, incidentally.) Watch the English language livestream here, but bear the timezone in mind: play begins at 14:00 KST both days, which is 06:00 BST or 22:00 PDT on the day before.

PC Gamer

The looming Manila Major is on course to be classic Dota with a twist. Valve has announced the 12 invitees who will be joined by four victors from the regional qualifiers. Among them are stalwarts like Alliance and Na Vi, joined by the power-players of South East Asia in Fnatic and MVP.

This year s selection process has been enigmatically described as a more holistic approach . Valve considered a history of greatness in addition to recent success in making its picks. Consideration was also given to the outcomes of third-party LAN tournaments to reduce emphasis on the qualifiers.

In full, the teams who made the cut are:

  • Team Secret
  • Team Liquid
  • Evil Geniuses
  • MVP
  • Wings Gaming
  • Vici Gaming
  • Fnatic
  • OG
  • Complexity
  • Alliance
  • Na'Vi
  • LGD

The Manila Major kicks off June 7, with qualifiers for all regions taking place May 3-6.

PC Gamer

Gif by Gunpoint/Heat Signature artist John Roberts

Three Lane Highway

Documenting Chris' complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Dota doesn't evolve by increments. There are adjustments and hotfixes from time to time, sure, but this is a game of dramatic shifts. Even after all these years, Dota patch notes have retained their power to shock—perhaps because this is such a complex game, requiring thousands of hours of slowly-acquired knowledge with little hand-holding. When the underlying rules of this complex competitive sandbox get changed, years of ingrained intuition get thrown out and need to be replaced.

That is what has happened over the course of the last 24 hours with the release of the 6.87 update. It'd be hyperbole to call this 'the biggest patch ever', or anything like that—after all, I felt that way when they moved Roshan, when they introduced magic lifesteal, and so on. New patches are always the biggest patch ever. 6.87 feels like a particularly big one, however. We'll be figuring out its ramifications for a while, and there's loads left to be discovered.

There are an enormous amount of changes in this update. Many heroes have been changed in variously subtle and dramatic ways, and it'd take an extensive essay to go through the impact of every subtle mechanical change (like the alterations to creep aggro), the changes to the map, and the impact of every new item. If you'd like a thorough overview, put aside a couple of hours and check out this reddit thread. You'll find a bunch of long Twitch analysis sessions by professional and high-ranked players, which is a good way to get a sense of the patch as a whole.

In this article, then, I'm going to run through a couple of specific changes to highlight notable buffs, nerfs, and silly sideways shifts. It's too early to say what 6.87 is going to do to the top-level meta, but here's a taste of Dota 2 in the immediate aftermath of this huge update.

Strength is stronger, intelligence is... different

There are a lot of top-level changes in this patch, but here's one you need to be aware of. Hitpoints now scale more from strength, and a hero's basic health pool is larger. It's not enough to make a huge difference in the opening minutes of the game, unless you end up in one of those close-fought early teamfights around a bounty rune: expect most characters to be one or two auto-attacks tankier.

Later on, though, it amounts to a chunky buff to strength heroes. Given that the previous metagame was dominated by intelligence and agility, this is the start of a shift back towards Dota's beefy frontliners that will continue elsewhere in the patch. If 6.87 had a theme song, it would be this.

People who declared that 'we LoL now' when Octarine Core and Aether Lens introduced scaling damage and utility for spells might need to hold on to something, because spell damage scales with intelligence now. Not a huge amount, mind, but enough to keep spellcasters competitive for longer into a match. This is a profound philosophical shift for Dota 2, which for years was about the tension between powerful spells and scaling auto-attacks. Now, those lines are fuzzier—expect perceptions about roles to change, particularly when it comes to intelligence heroes.

Even so, the amount of mana gained per point of intelligence has been reduced. This is a big part of the nerf to previous pubstompers Outworld Devourer and Invoker, who have both, in various ways, had their mana pool axed: Invoker has undergone a flat intelligence reduction, while OD has had his costs increased and intelligence steal nerfed. Magic scales better but heroes that rely on it need to be more careful with their usage, at least until they pick up a big item or two.

This is offset a little by the boost in hero base mana from 0 to 50, but I'd argue that this is a bigger buff to strength heroes anyway. On average they gain more proportionally from the change, and the way their spells fit into their playstyle means that this extra mana opens up their options more. Dragon Knight has jumped from 195 to 230 base mana, for example, allowing him to get more use out of his freshly-buffed laning skill Breathe Fire.

With these buffs to strength heroes in mind, let's address the big red elephant in the room:

Axe is an extremely good Dota guy

With a 7.46% positive winrate swing in the first hours of the patch, I'm both happy and sad to report that my most played and probably favourite Dota hero is now flavour of the month. He's been made competitive, particularly in pubs, by two sets of changes in addition to the general strength buffs outlined above.

The first regards him directly. Counter Helix, his passive, now does pure damage and as such isn't mitigated by armour. It has had its damage slightly reduced to compensate, but in effect this makes him scale much better: level 4 Helix will now always do 180 damage, whereas previously it would steadily decrease as enemies stacked up their defenses.

Axe hits harder, scales better, and is one of the few heroes to be unaffected by the armour aura that has been added to towers. These punish dives by characters that rely on physical damage, but Axe isn't one of those characters any more. Axe doesn't care.

The second factor responsible for the rise of Axe is the change to Blade Mail, which now returns damage before Axe's damage mitigation is applied (meaning it stays effective even if Axe is tanked-up) and goes through spell immunity (meaning that it synergises brilliantly with Berserker's Call, which also goes through spell immunity.)

Blade Mail is one of those Dota mechanics, like Undying's Tombstone and the entire character of Omniknight, that requires enemies to play around it. As such, it is the bane of pubs and anywhere where coordination is in short supply. Axe is now the best carrier of an item that is uniquely able to turn a player's own farm against them, and this is what I'd attribute his spike in winrate to.

It's worth mentioning that the Blade Mail buff is also a big help to characters like Centaur Warrunner, who has also had a couple of nice buffs in this patch. It remains to be seen just how big an impact it has, but I wouldn't surprised to see Blade Mail tuned back down fairly shortly.

Arc Warden is an actual hero now

There are a bunch of nerfs in this patch—Invoker, Outworld Devourer, Death Prophet, Earth Spirit, Enchantress, etc—but Arc Warden feels like the one that has come closest to a proper rethink. Dota 2's newest hero didn't make a great first impression thanks to a cheese strat that is now well and truly dead. Having been stripped of his ability to teleport around the map with a Divine Rapier that he has no danger of losing, he has to actually use his abilities in synergy with one another.

I'm not an Arc Warden player and I don't feel fully qualified to explain how his playstyle will change, but its clear that the patch raises his skill ceiling and potentially increases his utility a great deal. His Spark Wraith ghost-mines are much easier to spam and now purge, which is a big buff, while Magnetic Field needs to be used more thoughtfully—it's not enough to just stick it down on top of whatever you're trying to kill.

He's now more interesting than cheesy, which will probably devastate his popularity but makes him a much more positive presence in the game. Whether or not you believe he's been dumpstered or rescued from the dumpster is down to your definition of trash.

Earthshaker is the hero Dota deserves

There's no Dota 2 update party like a Dota 2 crazy Aghanim's Scepter changes update party. There a few notable ones in this patch—Mirana and Gyrocopter, Winter Wyvern and Oracle—but none of them do this:

That's from my first post-patch ranked game. Mirana believed that she had survived the Rosh fight. Mirana was wrong. You can try to run from the slam; the slam does not care. The slam will find you. I've had a lot of reactions to solo Dota, but laughing maniacally in the office has never been one of them. Aghanim's Scepter, Aether Lens, Octarine Core Earthshaker is the most fun I have had in this game in years.

To explain: Aghanim's Scepter now enhances Enchant Totem rather than Echo Slam, giving it the ability to be cast anywhere within a 900 AoE. This causes Earthshaker to leap into the air and cast Enchant Totem at the target location, which never stops being funny. It's an initiation and an escape, as well as an 'I must go, my people need me' button to be used during slow moments.

I'm 90% sure this got added first and foremost because it is funny. Earthshaker's itemisation was a little set in stone before, sure, but he wasn't necessarily broken. He didn't need this—but I'm delighted that he got it.

Let's all celebrate the age of Jumpshaker with another round of this amazing gif:

This change is also, incidentally, a nice little buff to Rubick (who otherwise got a bit of love this patch.) Rubick loves stealing Earthshaker's stuff, and Enchant Totem was previously the spell of choice for preventing the Grand Magus from getting Echo Slam. If you're using it to initiate, that's harder. And if Rubick has his own Scepter, then getting Enchant Totem is its own kind of reward.

Icefrog is a Markov Chain

There's a lot more I could say about this patch, and a lot more I want to experiment with. Storm Spirit's Aghanim's upgrade, for one—a 450-range AoE Electric Vortex! Plus: Skywrath Mage's 12-second ultimate! You'll see a lot more Skywrath/Clockwerk, Skywrath/Axe, and Skywrath/Legion Commander in the days to come. And I'll do my best to cover the best/silliest/worst new combos as they emerge.

To wrap up, however, I'd like to address 6.87's dumbest change:

Puck

Illusory Orb speed increased by 1

If you don't play Dota 2, a speed increase of 1 is not very much—at all. This is this update's joke change, a reference to a Reddit thread from last week which generated Dota 2 patch notes by feeding previous updates into a Markov chain text generator to create a machine's idea of what a Dota 2 patch might look like. There were a lot of brilliant and impossible things in that post ('Lone Druid dies', 'Torrent now give less experience with all heroes in the Forest') and one that was funny because it was so inconsequential—increasing Puck's Orb speed by 1. So that's what Valve and Icefrog have done: implemented an idea that comes directly from a joke. They definitely read reddit, is the takeaway here.

I love the idea that in a few months we'll see yet another International won by a hairs-breadth Puck play, and we'll wonder: did a a Markov chain text generator just win somebody millions of dollars?

PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

Dota 2 is about to undergo significant changes in the form of the 6.87 gameplay update revealed by Valve earlier today. Foremost among them is a change to Ranked All Pick that incorporates the addition of a 15-second “voting phase” which will take place ahead of the picking phase. Each player will vote for a different hero, half of whom will be selected at random and banned.

"Two players cannot vote for the same hero. The game displays heroes as they are voted on, but not who voted. The number of bans is equal to half the total number of votes. If there is an odd number of votes, the number of bans is randomly rounded up or down," the Dota team explained. "The random ban selection will choose at most 3 heroes from one specific team's votes, so it's more evenly split."

The update also adds a new Scan function to the minimap, which scans a selected area for eight seconds and indicates whether or not it contains any heroes. The scan “does not consider units inside the Roshan Pit, but does consider Smoked units,” and the results are a straight-up yes/no: No indication of how many enemies are present is given. On the plus side, enemy teams won't know when you've performed a scan, so your surveillance efforts won't raise any alarm bells.

Other notable points include an increase of starting HP from 180 to 200, HP per strength being boosted from 19 to 20, an increase in Hero base mana from 0 to 50, and mana per intelligence reduced—whoa, quick change of pace there—from 13 to 12. Of course, there are quite a few other changes and balance tweaks on the menu, and a small handful of new items.

The Dota 2 6.87 update will be rolled out to the main client within a couple of days, barring unforeseen disaster, but if you want an advance look at what's coming, you can take it for a spin with the Dota 2 Test client right now. Our resident Dotaphile Christ Thursten is preparing his thoughts on the patch from the penthouse of his mind palace, and will post those on PC Gamer Pro tomorrow.

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