PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games.

League of Legends takes the spotlight this weekend for its EU and NA Summer Finals (which just might draw the spotlight away from the recent controversies rocking the scene.) That s not your only option, however: there s plenty of fighting game tournaments taking place all over the world, Dota 2, CS:GO, and the return of PC pro Smite. Have fun!

League of Legends: 2016 NA and EU LCS Summer Finals

There's a lot of high-stakes LoL taking place over a short period of time over the next few days. On Saturday, the third place matches in both the NA and EU LCS Summer Finals will take place, with Unicorns of Love vs. H2K taking place in Europe at 08:00 PDT/17:00 CEST and Immortals vs. CounterLogic Gaming taking place in the US at 12:00 PDT/21:00 CEST. The timing for the grand finals on Sunday are the same. Find more information, and the livestream, at LoLesports.

Dota 2: World Cyber Arena EU Qualifier

You'll forgive me for not having too many precise schedule details for this one, as... well, beyond the matches that have already been played, they seem a little hard to come by. Nonetheless, there is some top-tier Dota happening this weekend even as the majority of the scene wrestles with the inevitable but still-spectacular roster drama that follows the International. This is the EU qualifier for the next WCA. The previous one was, by all accounts, a gigantic shambles that people only forgot about because the Shanghai Major was a higher profile shambles. But at least there's Dota to watch. Check Gosugamers for up to date stream and schedule info.

CSGO: ESEA Season 22, Power-LAN 2016, CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 Pro Series

There's a lot of mid-tier CS:GO taking place across the world this weekend, from North America to Denmark to Poland. On Saturday, check out the playoffs for Power-LAN 2016 starting at 02:00 PDT/11:00 CEST here's the official site for more info (it's in Danish, mind.) CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 will be running throughout the weekend, starting at 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST on Saturday and 11:30 PDT/20:30 CEST on Sunday (more info here). Finally, ESEA Season 22 concludes on Sunday with $50,000 on the line. Tune to the livestream from 01:00 PDT/10:00 CEST.

Smite Pro League: Fall Split

PC Smite is back for another season and this weekend is your chance to get in on the ground floor. Matches began yesterday and continue through to Sunday, starting at 11:00 PDT/19:00 CEST each day in both North America and Europe. You can find out more information on the teams on the official Smite Pro League site and find the livestream here.

Capcom Pro Tour: Lots of Ranking tournaments

Look, we've got limited header space here, alright? Ranking Capcom Pro Tour tournaments this weekend range from Absolute Battle in Dallas, USA to Argentina Pro Gaming Series in Argentina to an Online Ranking Event in Europe to OzHadou Nationals 14 in Sydney to Fight in Rio: Olympia in Rio de Janeiro. As such, you can expect a decent standard of fighting game play regardless of when you tune in: check each official site, listed above, for further details. Keep an eye on Twitch s Street Fighter V section if that s the game you re after.

PC Gamer

The Dark Rift has opened, and Vrogros the Underlord, the support hero who was revealed to the world earlier this month at The International 2016, has taken his place in the Dota 2 lineup.

Conjure waves of abyssal flame to immolate enemies held paralyzed in your spiteful grip. Feast upon the carnage of battle, gaining strength as foes perish around you, their attacks diminished by your very presence, the Dark Rift update page says. Tear a rift in reality to teleport yourself and your teammates across the map, delivering bloody retribution to any who would defy the will of Vrogros the Underlord.

I guess that's one way to put it. Described a bit more prosaically, the Underlord's abilities include Firestorm, an area-of-effect fire spell; Pit of Malice, which traps and damages enemy units; Atrophy Aura, which weakens nearby enemies and grants bonus damage to the Underlord; and his ultimate, Dark Rift, a teleport that carries the Underlord and all nearby friendly heroes to a selected friendly unit's position.

The update also brings a new post-game summary to Dota 2 that will provide detailed reports on different aspects of player and team performance that will help break down game flow and visualize critical turning points. Scoreboards, graphs, teammate stats, and other relevant information will all be at your fingertips and because statistics aren't much good if they can't be viewed over time, summaries of past matches will be saved for later viewing.

PC Gamer

GET CAUGHT UP

Find all of our coverage of The International, including accessible summaries of each day of play, right here.

Image via the official Dota 2 Twitter account.

The International 2016 is over and Dota 2 has its sixth world champion. This phenomenal tournament showcased some of the most impressive technical skill in the history of the game, along with an unprecedented degree of balance that saw 95% of the hero pool picked or banned. Every day held surprises, and if your bracket predictions weren t in tatters by the end then congratulations: you re actually Oracle.

The International is always exciting as a fan of Dota 2, but TI6 was exceptional. The game is in an extraordinary place at the moment, from the metagame to its international competitiveness. Where else would you see every region represented in the top 4 on the world stage? Where else can young unknown talent emerge to challenge the title within the space of eleven months? Dota 2 remains unsolved after this International, a strategic puzzle with no correct solution. Watching teams try, watching many fail and one succeed, has been the highlight of my gaming year so far.

Here s what happened on the final day.

Lower bracket final: Evil Geniuses vs. Digital Chaos

Click here to see the stream.

Scrim partners and rivals, these two teams know each other inside-out and both walked a long road to reach this point. The defending champions, EG s story at TI6 is one of recovery: after a disappointing year and a late roster switch that made them ineligible for a direct invite, their composure, creativity and execution all shone through when it mattered most.

Digital Chaos arrived in the lower bracket final after the most impressive underdog run in the history of the game. They are a team of rejects and rookies: Misery and w33 from Team Secret, Resolut1on from Empire, with Saksa and Moo arriving from the lower tiers of the international scene. With players from Macedonia, Ukraine, Denmark, Romania and the USA, DC represent the span of western Dota. Almost anyone could claim them EU players, NA ownership, a CIS carry and almost everyone did, but regional flag-waving is less important than what DC achieved. Underestimated and sometimes mocked, these players bound together by circumstance, players who had to ask for teams to play with on Twitter after they got booted from their former squads, pulled out the tournament run of their lives.

But only one of them would earn a spot in the grand final. EG arguably got the better part of the draft in the first game, with meta favourite Shadow Demon and Universe s legendary Faceless Void. Their strategy was built around heroes with loads of playmaking potential, which suits EG and the way they like to play Dota. Perhaps taking some hints from Wings 2-0 defeat of EG the day before, however, DC picked up a roster with a lot of sustain: Oracle, Tidehunter, Naga Siren, and Razor with sustained magic damage from Mirana.

BEST DOTA NONSENSE

After a spine-tingling live performance of the Dota 2 score, the Taiko drummers who were also part of the Monkey King reveal earlier in the week stuck around to soundtrack the pick-ban phase for each game in the grand final. There s nothing more Dota than live drumming for a character select screen.

After a good start for EG, DC successfully exploited EG s dependence on long-cooldown ultimates and pushed fights when the defending champions couldn t reliably defend. EG looked a little shaky in places, too ceding kills they didn t need to and occasionally misplaying with those vital ultimates. Establishing a lead, DC were ultimately able to force the issue and close out the game.The second draft proceeded along familiar lines until right at the end. Facing a durable and heavily-armoured lineup from EG and without a heavy magic damage dealer, DC drafted the twin-headed dragon, Jakiro one of the six remaining heroes neither picked nor banned by this point at the International. Not only that, but they gave the hero to w33 to be played in the midlane. This was a bold decision, bordering on a running joke just look at Misery s face the moment he picks it. Even the referee is laughing.

Mid Jakiro isn t entirely without precedent, but it s definitely not part of the current metagame. The pushing power that the dragon provides paid off early for DC, stripping EG of their outer towers by the 26 minute mark. But a series of crucial pickoffs on DC heroes prevented them from closing out the game in the narrow window of time they were afforded to do so. DC had one amazing teamfight in the Dire jungle where everything went their way: EG walked in a straight line into Jakiro s phenomenal magic damage output which, coupled with a clutch Chronosphere, resulted in a teamwipe in DC s favour. But DC hadn t done enough to curtail EG.Fear on one of his signature heroes, Sven.

DC had pulled something out from deep in their pockets for this second game and it simply didn t work out. EG, however, found new confidence: particularly Fear, whose Roshan and Aegis steal with Sven around the 43 minute mark demonstrated why the hero is so closely associated with him. This was the play that broke the match open for EG, as they strode confidently through DC s defenses to force a third game.

And what a third game. I don t think anybody thought we d see a game top EG vs. EHOME, but, well expectations don t have a particularly long lifespan at this year s International.

PLAY OF THE DAY

DC.Moo is the right man in the right place at the dramatic conclusion of the EG vs. DC series. His judgement here is just incredible. As EG storm DC s defenses, he destroys two lanes of barracks by himself in the EG base. He teleports home just in time to help out in the teamfight with Beastmaster s Savage Roar, then returns to the fountain, buys a Refresher Orb, and ults again to ensure that EG lose this vital fight. In a day of great play, this stood out.

DC picked an aggressive, melee-heavy lineup in Beastmaster, Shadow Demon, Ursa, Kunkka and Slark while EG adapted their playstyle with a five-man-push draft comprised of Elder titan, Tidehunter, Dazzle, Terrorblade and Brewmaster. DC s brawling draft scored first blood and did well in the lanes, with Sumail s Brewmaster struggling against w33 s mid Ursa.

EG refused to give any further ground to DC s aggression, however, gathering up around Terrorblade s vital Metamorphosis cooldown to push towers and take teamfights. A series of risky overextensions by DC put them further behind and placed the game in EG s hands. In order to keep their tournament hopes alive, DC resorted to rat Dota splitting the map and applying constant pressure in lanes that EG weren t defending in order to deny their opponent the ability to fully commit to a push.

It was one of the best demonstrations of macro-level strategy seen at this year s International and, more impressively, it was executed with heroes that aren t traditionally associated with the style. EG could commit big spells for kills here and there, but they struggled to hold on to map control and vision against DC s guerilla approach.

EG scored a run of successful Roshan attempts in the midgame but DC managed to prevent them from turning this into a serious advantage. Teamfights started to even out towards the late game, and DC proved able to splitpush and siege quickly as Misery s support Kunkka developed into an extra core hero. EG reassembled the deathball and stormed down mid, determined to end this series one way or another. Meanwhile, DC.Moo laid siege to the EG base alone.

The defense of DC s ancient at the 46 minute marks was one of the highlights of this entire event, with both teams throwing everything they had into one teamfight with everything on the line. Repelled once, Fear picked up a Divine Rapier on Terrorblade and prepared to hold the line in his own base. DC s split push earlier in the game gave them the advantage here, however, and Fear s own farm could be turned against him with Shadow Demon illusions joining the siege.

Avoiding heroes and going straight for the ancient, DC pulled it off: the defending champion fell, and the underdog advanced to the grand final. This was, in some ways, the most dramatic moment of the day the finals were fantastic, but two successive base races with Divine Rapiers in play are hard to beat.

TOP PERFORMANCE

There so much to pick out from Wings collective performance over the course of the day, particularly iceice in a tournament full of god-tier support talent, he still managed to stand out. Innocence emerged again as the best draft strategist in the scene. On the final day, though, it all came down to shadow. A run of absolutely stunning carry performances including a 20/0/16 K/D/A on Faceless Void puts him ahead of a competitive field, and deservedly so.

The grand final: Digital Chaos vs. Wings

Wings had the shortest route to the grand final of any team, only ceding a single game in the upper bracket (to DC, in fact). Even so, they only lost that game because they pulled out a Pudge-Techies pocket strat it was more Wings loss than DC s win. Plus, this kind of creativity in the draft is exactly what got them this far. Founded in August last year, Wings made a name for themselves by having apparently no limit to their hero pool: they transcend the meta, able to play multiple styles of Dota equally well and adapt their approach to their important.

The great thing about this final is that DC had come to demonstrate similar creativity too. Mid Jakiro might not have worked, but DC are a fun team to watch because they re willing to have fun and try new ideas even when the stakes are this staggeringly high. The fact that we got a final with two teams like this is another testament to the health of the Dota scene: this was no TI4, where one strat trumped everything. This was a battle of creativity and wits to the end.

This was apparent in the first draft, as both teams threw the meta out of the window and drew from the whole pool. Wings grabbed Io and Storm Spirit early while DC went for established favourites in Timbersaw and Keeper of the Light. Wings countered with Silencer and, when DC took Faceless Void, they picked up their fan-pleasing support Pudge as a counter. DC last-picked Skywrath Mage for w33, running a traditional support as a midlaner for the second time in the day.

This time, it went much better. A very fast first blood got w33 off to a great start in lane, and this translated into DC control all over the map. Even when Wings grouped up to take w33 down, he managed to snipe Blink s Storm Spirit with his ult before conceding the kill. Wings fought back hard, however, focusing on shutting down Moo s Timbersaw a hero he was undefeated with at this point in the event. This became a skirmish match into the midgame, with a run of clutch pickoffs for both teams set up by an ongoing war for vision between the supports.

Over time, however, Pudge failed to have the impact that the hero needs to be worth picking over a more reliable Void counter like Naga Siren. Once again, weak links in the draft put Wings at a disadvantage as the game progressed, and DC itemised well against the threat of Wings other control options, particularly Global Silence. A clutch pickoff on Storm Spirit and Io opened up Wings base at the half hour mark, and DC took the lead in the first game of the best of five.

DC ceded Faceless Void to Wings in game two but picked up counters that they re very comfortable with: Mirana, Naga Siren, Shadow Demon, Razor. The surprise pick of this draft was Doom, one of Moo s favourite heroes who was chosen as a counterpick to Blink s potent Invoker. It was the supports for Wings that really came into their own in this game, however, particularly Innocence s Oracle with an aggressive skill build, he made this defensive support work as an offensive roamer.

DC.Saksa put in a strong showing on Shadow Demon and the two teams traded relatively evenly going into the midgame, but Blink recovered from a shaky first game to deliver a stunning performance as Invoker here. Snowballing into a substantial gold lead, a run of clutch Sun Strikes including one snipe on Saksa as he returned to the fountain put Wings substantially ahead. From a close-fought midgame, Wings utterly rolled DC late to take the series to a 1-1 tie.

The underperformance of Doom in game two encouraged DC to go back to Timbersaw for the third game, along with Mirana, Winter Wyvern, Sand King and Clinkz as their pocket pick. It was Wings that got the better part of the deal here, however, getting Oracle and Void again as well as Death Prophet, Kunkka, and Nyx Assassin.

HOTTEST JUKE

This play was only partially caught on the main stream, so you might want to load up the replay in-game and fast forward to the 8 minute mark to see it properly. Jumped on by EG.Sumail s Queen of Pain at the bottom rune, DC.Misery s support Naga Siren manages to break line of sight behind the only tree available. The fraction of a second of extra time this grants him is enough for Razor s Static Link to drain Queen of Pain s damage, allowing Misery to score a momentum-building kill for himself.

This was another close laning phase, but Wings were able to exploit the pickoff power of the Nyx Assassin to slow down Resolut1on on Clinkz. This was a game of near-constant fighting, but unlike the second game the trades were much more one sided. Wings.Shadow lived the dream as Faceless Void, going on an unstoppable tear with a run of perfect Chronospheres and miracle bashes. DC managed to regain some ground late as Clinkz picked up the damage items he desperately needed, but they looked frustrated and played like their nerves were fraying as fight after fight slid in Wings direction. By the 20 minute mark, they were getting flattened.

DC fought hard as the game went late but there was no overcoming Wings gold lead as the young Chinese team simply refused to make the kinds of mistakes that would let DC back into the match. One last perfect Chronosphere at the edge of DC s base caught Resolut1on without buyback, and DC called GG.

Wings only needed one more game to win the International. DC took Mirana and Timber again despite having lost with it twice in a row, but the choice made sense: these are some of the best heroes in the game, and picks that they re particularly comfortable with. If they were going to win the series, they needed to prove that Wings hadn t entirely figured them out. DC also took Slark one of Resolut1on s best heroes as well as Night Stalker to counter Wings Keeper of the Light and Vengeful Spirit to counter Batrider.

Wings were one step ahead of them, however, recognising that DC didn t have what it takes to control Anti-Mage and grabbing him for shadow. They also picked up Axe for Faith_bian and made the surprising call to run it mid in response to DC s decision to give Slark to w33 instead of Resolut1on. Faith_bian won his lane handily, forcing awkward rotations as DC tried to find a secure position to farm from.

Early trades went DC s way despite w33 s bad start, taking advantage of Night Stalker s nocturnal presence to build map control going into the midgame. But it wasn t quite enough to control shadow s farm, and Anti-Mage steadily built a substantial gold lead. Wings might be content to play outside the meta most of the time, but making space for Anti-Mage is one of the oldest strategies in the Dota playbook: and it paid off here.

DC started to make mistakes in their haste to capitalise on their early advantage and Wings took advantage of every one. The underdogs put in one last fantastic teamfight performance at the half-hour mark, but Wings were better: iceice demonstrated once again why teams that beat Wings don t let him get Elder Titan. And when it came to it, with everything on the line, shadow delivered a game-ending, International-winning teamfight performance with Anti-Mage. Riding a 25k gold swing, Wings marched through DC s outer defenses and into a historic International victory.

Less than a year after forming their team, these young unknowns had just won more than $9m. Their victory may fit International tradition every even-numbered world championship has been won by a Chinese team but nobody saw this coming. KeyArena exploded in light, confetti, fire and applause as Wings lifted the Aegis of Champions.

PC Gamer

NEED TO KNOW

Get up to speed on the players, metagame, and results going into the International with our extensive guide to the tournament and teams. You can find all of our ongoing coverage of the tournament on this page. The fastest place to find VODs for each game is on Reddit, but you can also find them in the game client. Check out the current bracket standings on the official site.

Grand finals day is here. Starting at 10:00 PDT (18:00 BST/19:00 CEST), the three best Dota 2 teams in the world will go to war for the top spot. This means everything to these players, regardless of the $9m first place prize. Whoever wins, Dota history is going to be made today. Will young talent emerge from China to sweep the title away from established teams? Will the defending champions recover from a shaky year to become the first team to win two back-to-back Internationals? Or will a team that everybody overlooked for months prove their doubters wrong on the one stage that really matters? It s time to find out.

Header image via the official Dota 2 Twitter account. Spoilers below.

IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH…

...watch DC vs. Fnatic, particularly game two.

THE MATCHES

Lower bracket: MVP Phoenix vs. Fnatic

META BUSINESS

Wings cracked open the meta today, proving that anything can work when the current top-tier aren t in the pool. Their teamfight-oriented push strategy in game one against EG is old-school Dota, and it seemed to take EG completely off guard. Although certain heroes will remain crucial going into the final day particularly Shadow Demon and Mirana there s still vast strategic space left to explore.

MVP Phoenix have had another fantastic year at the International, upsetting champions and proving that teams can still bring their own style of Dota 2 and win at the highest level. Nonetheless, that limited playstyle as entertaining as MVP s all-in aggression can be holds them back from the top spot. Wings exploited it yesterday, and Fnatic exploited it today.

MVP Phoenix went all-in on aggression in the first draft, as you d expect, but Fnatic outfought them in the early game. Fnatic.Ohaiyo on Sand King had a phenomenal early game with little opposition in lane, and a series of fights went Fnatic s way as MVP struggled to get key fighting items like Mekansm online. When they did, MVP managed to claw back some space on the map: but not enough to overcome the huge gold lead that Fnatic had established.

With the help of 343 s Bounty Hunter, Fnatic just kept building that lead. When DJ s Crystal Maiden had greater net worth than QO s Slardar, MVP must have known that they were in trouble. It proved so: they fought hard but so did Fnatic, and Dota is simply a numbers game sometimes. Here, the numbers went Fnatic s way.

MVP Phoenix withdrew from their house style in the second game, drafting on-meta picks like Mirana and Faceless Void. They got first blood, too, but had their momentum curtailed by an early courier snipe from Fnatic s Riki that a MVP Phoenix should have seen coming. A double kill for Fnatic.MidOne s safelane Juggernaut under MVP s tower demonstrated just how hard Fnatic were winning these lanes, and Oracle a hero that MVP seem to overvalue both in picks and bans couldn t provide enough of a defensive boost to keep the Koreans in this match.

Even so, a great teamfight performance at the 20 minute mark kept MVP in the game as they were given the opportunity to go HAM and demonstrate the kind of form that knocked OG out of the upper bracket. MVP struggled to turn these wins into objectives, but they did extend the game. MVP picked up Roshan later in the game but were immediately punished for it, giving Fnatic the opportunity they needed to start sieging. At this point, MVP looked like they were crumbling: a run of misplays and deaths after buyback played hard into Fnatic s hands. Mushi s midlane Medusa became a battering ram that secured Fnatic a place in the top four.

Upper bracket: Wings vs. Evil Geniuses

PLAY OF THE DAY

The standard of play at the International is now so high that virtuoso outplays are actually becoming less common: players are simply too good to get styled on. Yesterday, however, DC.w33 demonstrated that it can still be done. That mid-fight Sun Strike on Mushi s Huskar is one of the plays of the tournament, let alone the day and the presence of mind required to Cold Snap Elder Titan before the Echo Stomp can stop him is incredible.

This was a fascinating series. In a flashback to last year, a seemingly unstoppable EG came up against a hot young Chinese team and stumbled. Last year that Chinese team was CDEC: this year, it s Wings. The difference, however, is Wings startling versatility and their creativity in the draft. EG s master strategist ppd seemed utterly outmaneuvered by Wings willingness to reach outside the meta.

Wings entered the booth with a plan a really old plan. Building a teamfight lineup around Tidehunter and the main event s first Enigma is old-school Dota 2, with pushing power supported by Razor, Rubick and Timbersaw. This was experimental in terms of this event but relatively traditional in a broader sense. EG s draft suggested experimentation of a different sort: Universe not on an initiator but on Weaver; SumaiL on a mid Sand King; Zai on Io with none of the traditional Io partners. Fear on Anti-Mage suggested the EG wanted a way to split-push, but this seemed like a reactive rather than active choice.

A confident start for EG built up good momentum, with early levels on SumaiL providing good pick-off power when coupled with Zai. Yet levels and farm on Wings lineup translated directly into tankiness, and as time went on EG s ability to teamfight became less and less effective. Wings proved to be capable gankers too, willing to commit ultimates to score vital, well-coordinated kills on Fear s Anti-Mage. This was crucial because Fear represented EG s way back into the game, able to cut off creep waves and sap the momentum from Wing s lethal pushing power.

This worked for a time but it only took one mistake to collapse EG s fragile resistance. Seemingly underestimating the Tidehunter s Refresher Orb, EG were caught by a fantastic Black Hole in their base followed by a second Ravage that effectively ended the game.

TOP PERFORMANCE

Wings.iceice s Elder Titan in game two against EG was fantastic, delivering a series of clutch Echo Stomps that denied his opponents vital momentum. His team as a whole deserves credit, too particularly captain Innocence. Comfortably outdrafting EG two games in a row is no mean feat and bodes very well for Wings prospects on the final day.

Wings pivoted to the meta in the second game, picking up Elder Titan, Beastmaster, Shadow Demon, Medusa, Huskar a rogue s gallery of top picks, demonstrating what can happen when your opponent doesn t know what to expect. A late Alchemist pick by EG suggested that they planned on building an early lead and closing the game fast, and early kills from EG s aggressive trilane got them off to a good start.

Wings vision game was on point, however, with wards ensuring that Universe s Night Stalker couldn t establish the kind of global threat that he needs to in order to be effective. Wings.iceice was the star, here, proving once again why Elder Titan is such a threat against aggressive. Every Echo Stomp and Earth Splitter was on point, or so it seemed.

SumaiL s Alchemist couldn t establish the kind of lead that the hero specialises in as Wings evened out their early kill deficit. Wings teamfight coordination was phenomenal in the midgame, flirting with the edge of disaster but always coming out on top with clutch saves from Innocence s Shadow Demon ensuring that EG couldn t find the kills they needed. Comfortably sieging EG s highground at the 30 minute mark, Wings secured a 2-0 victory over the defending champions and a place in the grand final.

Lower bracket: DC vs. Fnatic

HOTTEST JUKE

Fnatic.Ohaiyo s Sand King runs into MVP Phoenix at the edge of the Radiant jungle, disrupting their smoke attempt: but fast blink reactions gets Ohaiyo to safety. Then, even faster Force Staff reactions propel him away from QO s attempted follow-up.

The lower bracket underdog melee reached its climax as DC and Fnatic fought for the right to face EG for that final spot in the grand final. Fnatic got creative in the first draft, drawing the main event s first Legion Commander but DC outplayed them with a Slardar pick (typically an offlaner or carry) that ended up being run as a support with a Dark Seer. This fantastic strategic decision put huge pressure on Fnatic s safelane Phantom Lancer and contributed to a quick lead for DC.

A run of clutch Mirana arrows got Fnatic back into the game, chipping away at DC s kill advantage. Then, dodging DC s aggression allowed Fnatic to pull back a bit of control over the game and it became a very close contest. They couldn t dodge the fights forever, however, and DC s draft which included Ursa, Slark and Keeper of the Light had huge potential in both skirmishes and teamfights. Smart itemisation proved vital here too, with DC building items to counter the single-target lockdown that Fnatic relied on to control snowballing heroes like Ursa.

DC s deadly frontline received fantastic support from Saksa and a series of clutch Vacuum-Wall of Replica combos from Moo s Dark Seer compounded DC s massive gold and experience lead going into the lategame. Fnatic found themselves on the receiving end of the same sort of treatment they gave MVP: they fought back hard, but were simply too far behind to close out this first game.This was Fnatic s first loss on the main stage, and with their aura of invulnerability shattered the second game presented a stiff challenge. The teams once again traded top meta picks, with Fnatic getting the deadly combination of Huskar and Io through the draft. DC responded with the main event s first Chaos Knight, a lesser-seen carry who is nonetheless considered a solid answer to Huskar.

Early aggression from DC scored first blood on Io, but a misplay led to a death on Resolut1on s Chaos Knight too. The laning phase went much better for Fnatic generally, but they gave up some of this momentum with a wasted rotation from Faceless Void and their mid Ember Spirit. Nonetheless, this was close for a long time.

BEST DOTA NONSENSE

As game three ends, Taiko drummers and martial artists take over the stage for the reveal of Monkey King and the New Journey update. He sounds a lot like McCree from Overwatch, for some reason.

Around the 17 minute mark, however, the DC teamfight machine came online and gave them the confidence to keep taking advantageous fights. The decision to give midlaner w33 Invoker paid off as he delivered one of the most impressive performances I ve ever seen on this high skill cap hero. Star power doesn t always shine when every player is this good, but w33 outplayed Fnatic comfortably in a number of crucial midgame teamfights.

He even repeated this legendary trick from the Frankfurt Major, using Invoker s Forge Spirit summons to detect an incoming smoke attack from Fnatic. Committing their Chronosphere to catch w33 was the best move Fnatic could have made at this point, but it was a desperation play that DC were able to take advantage of. Buying back the Invoker, DC punished Fnatic and rolled down mid to take a lane of barracks.

From this point the combination of Forge Spirits, Chaos Knight illusions, Shadow Demon illusions, and Beastmaster pets gave DC lots of slow-siege power. It was their teamfight prowess that gave them the midgame, but playing the meta paid off late. Fnatic were forced to try to take the fight to DC, but couldn t take enough in the trade to stop DC from pushing. Offlaner Moo died while taking down Fnatic s final barracks, and simply leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head until he respawned. He knew they d won: there was no coming back from mega creeps when Fnatic was this far behind. And he was right. Surging in to deliver the killing blow, Digital Chaos this team of misfits, rejects and relative unknowns won a place in the top three at the International.

PC Gamer

And we thought yesterday s Underlord reveal was the end of it. At the end of play the International today, fans were asked to stick around for a presentation . That presentation turned out to be an incredible martial arts performance accompanied by Taiko drums, at the end of which Valve revealed a new hero: Monkey King.

Sun Wukong was teased many years ago in the original DotA, and a recent Dota 2 test update included a mysterious prevalence of bananas: all signs pointing towards the first hero to be added to Dota 2 that isn t a port from the original mod. Monkey King will arrive in Dota 2 in the fall, as part of The New Journey update an appropriate name given the Monkey King s origins in Journey to the West, as well as the new direction this represents for the game as a whole.

Monkey King s abilities and role haven t been fully revealed yet, but the trailer gives a hint: he s a martial artist with illusion powers and what looks like the ability to disguise himself as a tree. Think Phantom Lancer by way of Treant Protector and well, you won t get very far. Needless to say, it s an exciting time to be a fan of the game.

The International 2016 concludes tomorrow as the remaining teams compete for the lion s share of a stagging $20m+ prize pool. Don t miss it, and be sure to check out our International write-ups to get up to speed on the action so far.

PC Gamer

The International's casting got weird this year.

The International continues this weekend, but even if you re not interested in the biggest Dota 2 tournament of the year, there s plenty of other weekend matches to keep you company.

Dota 2: The International 2016

This is it. After some stunning results this week, Saturday will determine the winner of this year s record $9 million grand prize. After a lower-bracket finals best-of-three match, the winner of the lower bracket will advance to a best-of-five in the grand finals. The broadcast begins tomorrow at 10 AM Pacific from Key Arena in Seattle, WA.

Our expert Chris Thursten has been at the tournament all week, and you can catch up on his excellent coverage of The International here. Watch The International livestream here.

Overwatch: Overwatch Open - week 4 qualifiers

The open qualifiers for the $300,000 prize pool Overwatch Open tournament wrap up this weekend. The top 12 teams, six from NA and six from EU, will be chosen based on their overall points from the last four weeks, qualifying to compete in the regional finals taking place next month. The games begin at 07:00 PDT/17:00 CEST on Saturday and 11:00 PDT/21:00 CEST on Sunday, and you can watch it all right here.

League of Legends Championship Series quarterfinals

NA and EU League of Legends players will be vying for semifinals spots this weekend in a series of LCS matches. On the NA side, Cloud9 and Envy will be playing a best of five on Saturday, followed by CLG vs. Liquid on Sunday. The winners of those matches will have to play against Immortals and TSM next weekend. On the EU side, Giants and Unicorns of Love throw down on Saturday, followed by H2K and Fnatic on Sunday. The winners will play Splyce and G2 Esports next weekend.

Matches begin with the EU at 8:00 PDT/18:00 CEST both Saturday and Sunday. Watch 'em here.

Smite Epsilon Invitational LAN

This weekend's Smite LAN is lean and mean: the four best teams from North America and Europe will be competing for a $26,247 community-raised prize pool. Small potatoes compared to The International, but this event will likely be a preview of the teams you'll see at the next Smite World Championship. Panthera (formerly known as Epsilon, the 2016 Smite World Championship winners) go up against Enemy, the underdogs who earned second place at the SWC, and Paradigm and SoaR Gaming. If you follow Smite at all, you'll recognize most of the names competing in this invitational.

The games begin at 8:00 PDT/17:00 CEST on Saturday and 10:00 PDT/19:00 CEST on Sunday. All the matches will be streamed on the HiRezTV Twitch channel.

PC Gamer

NEED TO KNOW

Get up to speed on the players, metagame, and results going into the International with our extensive guide to the tournament and teams. You can find all of our ongoing coverage of the tournament on this page. The fastest place to find VODs for each game is on Reddit, but you can also find them in the game client. Check out the current bracket standings on the official site.

Header image via the official Dota 2 Twitter account. Spoilers begin beyond IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH , below. This was a day that brought a number of the International s underdog stories together for a final showdown. We lost some favourites along the way, but this year s tournament continues to defy expectations as new teams rise to challenge the old order.

IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH…

...watch EHOME vs. DC.

THE MATCHES

Lower bracket: TNC Pro Team vs. Digital Chaos

META BUSINESS

Shadow Demon was a little less important today as teams began to prioritise him more in the ban phase. This opened up the meta a lot, allowing for creative picks like DC.w33 s Magnus in their comeback game against TNC. Without the threat of slow illusion siege, the game is much more fun to watch with teamfight-centric heroes like Sand King getting a chance to shine.

The war of the underdogs: these two teams entered the tournament in the shadow of much better-established peers. It s almost a shame that they met each other at this point: that one of them needed to end their run here, rather than get the chance to challenge upper-bracket favourites like EG and Wings.

DC placed a lot of importance on an aggressive trilane in the first game with the aim of shutting down TNC.Raven s Drow Ranger, but they ended up ceding a lot of room to TNC.Sam H s Batrider who scored multiple solo kills in the opening minutes of the game and picked up a phenomenal early gold lead. We ve seen a lot of Batrider in this tournament, and this was one of the most impressive: TNC s offlaner has really made a name for himself at this event.

His lead allowed TNC to pressure DC continually throughout the game, and Resolut1on s Naga Siren wasn t enough to give DC an advantage in the lategame. With Morphling available to score quick pick-off kills on vital DC supports and plenty of siege potential from Drow Ranger, TNC put themselves one game from advancing.

DC reached outside the tournament meta in game two, picking up w33 s Magnus paired with Elder Titan, Faceless Void, Ember Spirit and Ancient Apparition. TNC attempted to counter this teamfight-heavy draft with Silencer, but most of their hopes were centred on Alchemist: and DC support Misery proved extremely effective at shutting down the fast-farming carry with Elder Titan, following him around and preventing him from establishing the kind of lead that the hero specialises in.

PLAY OF THE DAY

No one player on Fnatic gets all the glory here: this beautiful counter-initiation was a team effort. It starts with DJ s Shadow Shaman drawing in and dodging Liquid s initiation and ends with well, just watch. This is what a comeback looks like.

DC pulled ahead this time but it wasn t easy going: a few misjudgements cost them, particularly when they failed to play around that all-important global silence from Demon. Yet this was an impressive performance overall, particularly Resolut1on s decision to pick up a Divine Rapier on Ember Spirit before DC s situation got desperate. Although this is normally an all-in move, here it provided DC with a practical advantage that they needed to avoid a stalemate: something many teams have struggled with during this event. After an explosive Reverse Polarity-Sleight of Fist-Ice Blast combo, DC evened out the set 1-1.

TNC played their hand early in the third draft by showing Raven s favourite carry, Terrorblade, along with Vengeful Spirit. DC countered with an early Winter Wyvern, who specialises in countering physical damage carries, as well as top pick Mirana, Dark Seer, and the infrequently seen but potent Slark. Seemingly deciding to go all in during the draft itself, TNC picked up Faceless Void and Alchemist: a very greedy lineup that left them weak in the early game.

Having proved that he knew exactly how to ruin an Alchemist s day in game two, Misery delivered a repeat performance this time with Sand King. They applied pressure to TNC s vulnerable carries around the map, and TNC resorted to trying to sneak Roshan at 14 minutes to get back into the game. Misery threw his life away trying to disrupt the attempt, but this ray of hope for TNC was quickly squashed with a huge Winter s Curse from Saksa s Winter Wyvern. DC got a free Roshan for themselves as well as a comfortable kill lead.

DC followed up with deep aggression while Resolut1on continued to farm. At this point, Slark was ahead of Alchemist on the net worth table: a terrible sign for the prospects of the South East Asian team. As the half hour mark approached, this became an increasingly one-sided affair. Facing elimination, TNC fought to the bitter end: but greed in the draft and effective counterplay by DC had brought their fairytale run to an end. They can be very proud of top 8, but it s sad to lose them.

Lower bracket: Fnatic vs. Team Liquid

TOP PERFORMANCE

After a very rough start to the day against TNC, and with his mum watching from the sidelines, DC.Moo put in the performance of his life in two successive games against EHOME. Given that he was facing iceiceice, one of the masters of Timbersaw, this commanding showing is all the more impressive.

A resurgent Liquid was the favourite going into the series, despite Fnatic s solid performance against Alliance the previous day. Liquid drafted aggressively into Fnatic s siege-oriented lineup, but early passivity prevented them from claiming control of the map through brawling alone.

Mushi s willingness to aggressively roam on a position one Luna seemed to take Liquid by surprise, here, as Fnatic quickly began to take the better part of the trade every time the two teams clashed. And Ohaiyo on Slardar proved a tempo-breaking counter to Liquid s attempt to wrest control back of the game. By the time Fnatic settled into the inevitable Shadow Demon-Luna illusion slow siege, Liquid were simply too far behind on gold and experience to fight them. This was a surprisingly one-sided victory for the South East Asian team.

Seemingly learning the same lesson that they were forced to learn against Newbee on Wednesday, Liquid locked off Shadow Demon in game two and focused on their own teamfight potential. And it went really, really well with Axe, Sven, Ancient Apparition and Razor establishing early dominance that made a third game seem all but certain. Yet Liquid failed to end the game early when they had the advantage, and as time dragged on something shifted in Fnatic. They rebounded at around the 23 minute mark with a huge teamfight victory despite a massive gold and experience disadvantage, taking on Liquid where they were strongest and simply outplaying them.

HOTTEST JUKE

DC support Saksa goes deep looking to confirm a kill on TNC.Kuku s Timbersaw but finds himself under threat. Desperately needing to get a kill on the board, TNC give chase with three heroes as Saksa shakes their pursuit deep in the Dire treeline.

Then, they did it again. And again. Fnatic s teamfight performance in this game was nothing short of extraordinary see Play of the Day for a specific example and the subsequent and dramatic swing in their fortunes well deserved. Liquid held on until deep in the lategame, but they looked like their confidence had taken a big hit. A couple of whiffed invitations demonstrated an uncharacteristic lack of finesse, and Fnatic punished every mistake with a potent show of force. DJ s Shadow Shaman deserves particular credit for his consistent teamfight impact over the course of the game. Liquid resorted to a last-ditch Refresher Orb purchase on Sven to stay in the game but found themselves outmaneuvered and outgunned. A triumphant Fnatic had eliminated the last remaining European team 2-0.

Lower bracket: EHOME vs. Digital Chaos

Having won the battle of the underdogs earlier in the day, here is where DC s run was supposed to end. Despite being knocked down to the lower bracket by EG the day before, EHOME were nonetheless still regarded one of the strongest teams in the entire event, group stage winners that had made the defending champions fight tooth and nail for every inch of ground they conceded.

THE DAILY JIMMY

My notes for this moment simply read JIMMY NO . Having routed TNC in the Roshan pit, their opponents DC move in to claim the Aegis for themselves. TNC captain Jimmy Demon Ho smells a play to be made, however, and sets up on the cliffside to swap Moo out, kill Roshan himself, and steal the Aegis. It doesn t work. Jimmy is slightly too late, misses his window, and dies in the attempt. This probably wasn t the play to make, but when you re facing elimination from the International why not, eh?

Which makes what happened next all the more shocking. Despite what seemed like an outdraft by EHOME with iceiceice comfortable on Anti-Mage against Invoker and Timbersaw DC established an early lead with style. Strong support rotations, with the help of w33 s Sun Strike, built a kill lead quickly. Yet they didn t look to have the lategame: EHOME had Shadow Demon and Anti-Mage, after all, while DC had made the surprise decision to put Resolut1on on a core Vengeful Spirit.

In defiance of expectations and the meta itself, it worked. DC were pushing high ground at the 22 minute mark, building momentum not from macro-scale decision making but from clutch skill where it counted. On-point Sun Strike snipes by w33 punished EHOME on the retreat and kept DC ahead as Moo s Timbersaw acted as a potent foil to EHOME s Sand King. They kept the pressure up, refused to cede anything to EHOME without taking more in return, and broke EHOME s base in 30 minutes. Commentators wondered: did DC break EHOME s spirit, or had EG already done it for them the day before?

Regardless, EHOME looked shaky in the second game. DC picked up an early first blood and a courier snipe that took the wind out of EHOME s midlane efforts. Nonetheless, they ceded a number of early kills as EHOME s rotations punished Timbersaw. EHOME doubled down on the pickoff power of Nyx Assassin and Lifestealer but as time went on this became less effective. DC demonstrated a willingness to expend Chronosphere to score a single kill on a vital hero, but this was enough to keep any of EHOME s cores from getting out of control.

BEST DOTA NONSENSE

After a week of pointing out that Purge s analysis screen makes him look like a weatherman, the inevitable happens. Thanks, Purge.

It began to look as if DC were living charmed lives. As Nyx moved into assassinate Resolut1on s Faceless Void at the 26 minute mark, he just happened to Time Walk out of the way. DC would continually defuse EHOME s aggression like this, with skill and luck locking the Chinese favourites out of the game that looked incredibly frustrating to play against.

From there, DC simply outplayed them. Channeling the spirit of EG.Universe from the day before, Resolut1on landed a huge three-hero Chronosphere at the 37 minute mark that provided the opening that DC needed to end the game. Elated, this team of misfits and rejects won themselves a place in the top five.

PC Gamer

At the International 2016 s All Star match a just-for-fun contest between a random assortment of players Valve have revealed Dota 2 s new hero. The community has been waiting for Underlord ne Pit Lord for years. With his addition, Dota 2 is finally feature complete: every single character from the original WarCraft III mod is finally present in Valve s definitive version. The new hero will be released on August 23rd alongside an update to the post-game UI.

Underlord is a caster with tremendous utility, able to trap enemy heroes in a pit, apply heavy damage over time, and leech off their attack power when they die. His ultimate allows him to teleport an entire team s worth of heroes to any allied creep or structure on the map, an ability that would fit perfectly in this year s rotation-heavy meta.

The addition of Underlord brings Dota 2 s hero pool up to 112 as the game enters an uncertain new era: will anonymous designer Icefrog create new heroes? Or is Dota 2 done ? Unlike other MOBAs, heroes themselves aren t part of Dota 2 s business model and regular additions aren t needed to keep the game alive. Given how competitive the current pool is, with 104 characters picked or banned at the International, there s an argument to be made that the game is perfect as it is.

Check out our ongoing coverage of the International right here. It s been a tremendous contest so far, with a healthy meta, competitive international scene, and fantastic production values. Saturday s grand final is not to be missed.

PC Gamer

NEED TO KNOW

Get up to speed on the players, metagame, and results going into the International with our extensive guide to the tournament and teams. You can find all of our ongoing coverage of the tournament on this page. The fastest place to find VODs for each game is on Reddit, but you can also find them in the game client. Check out the current bracket standings on the official site.

Header image via the official Dota 2 Twitter account. Spoilers beyond IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH , below. After three days I imagine this must begin to sound like hyperbole, but this International keeps going from strength to strength as the best teams advance through the bracket. Although the results of the day may not shock you, the matches themselves should. Today, catch the game that panel host and 14-year esports veteran Paul ReDeYe Chaloner called easily the top three game in any esport I ve seen in the last 14 years. Possibly the greatest.

IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH…

...watch EG vs. EHOME, particularly game one.

THE MATCHES

Lower bracket: Alliance vs. Fnatic

Alliance needed to increase their tempo after their disappointingly passive performance on Tuesday and they showed signs of doing so in this first game against Fnatic. They scored first blood in mid, helping s4 s Mirana, but ceded some of this momentum when Fnatic.343 s Bounty Hunter sniped Alliance s courier which was carrying s4 s bottle and boots.

META BUSINESS

As I wrote yesterday, Shadow Demon is emerging as the key hero of this International. It s now clear that teams need to either be able to slow siege with Illusions or need to be very well equipped to deal with it: and more often than not, the team with Shadow Demon wins. The prominence of supports we ve also seen a rise in Warlock play also raises the issue of farm priority: a crucial factor in this metagame is how well teams are able to get vital levels on their position 4 and 5 players. EG in particular have come to excel at this.

The Swedes nonetheless built up decent early map presence and began to group up for pushes. In their eagerness however they d lost sight of Fnatic.Mushi on Sven, who performed for the first 20-something minutes of the game. Mushi alone gave Fnatic a massive gold lead and as soon as he started entering fights Alliance simply couldn t find the trades they needed. A clutch Aegis of the Immortal steal by Fnatic around the 40 minute mark was a backbreaking blow for Alliance, who nonetheless held off the SEA team for another 20 minutes before succumbing to slow siege from hyper-tanky Sven illusions.

Facing elimination, Alliance took fans back to 2013 for the second game. As in their set on Tuesday, their response to adversity was to find confidence in comfort picks. With Nature s Prophet, Enchantress, Puck, Rubick and Lifestealer, their early game was spectacular. Alliance.Akke s map-wide presence with Enchantress handily won Alliance s lanes for them, and Fnatic.Ohaiyo s Batrider in particular had a terrible early game. The ability for Alliance to appear anywhere on the map with Puck-Lifestealer initiations and Nature s Prophet teleports demonstrated why the team s map control was once so feared.

Alliance struggled to convert that early presence into objectives, however, and Fnatic rallied around some great Chronospheres from Mushi s Faceless Void and clutch Batrider plays by a revitalised Ohaiyo. A run of pickoffs drained Alliance s supply of buybacks and, denied the ability to take fights on their own terms, their defenses crumbled. Fnatic took the set 2-0, leaving only one European team in contention for the International.

Lower bracket: Liquid vs. Newbee

PLAY OF THE DAY

I will show you Fear in a handful of dunk. After a series of great plays got them back into a losing game, this clutch double Berserker s Call from EG.Fear s Axe set up an explosive combo from Ancient Apparition and Mirana. Blowing up Beastmaster and Timbersaw, EHOME s tankiest frontliners, was a huge win for EG.

Once a top four favourite Liquid s disappointing group stage performance cast a long shadow over their International hopes. And Newbee hadn t shown the kind of dominance that they did earlier in the year, ultimately struggling to overcome EG s superior decision-making on Tuesday. This, then, was a battle of tarnished champions.

Despite what most commentators believed to be an outdraft by Newbee, Liquid s absolutely phenomenal early performance in game one made this matchup look very one-sided indeed. Great combo play between MinD_ControL s Sand King and KuroKy s Kunkka made a case for Liquid being the best brawlers in the game at the moment. But ultimately they were outdrafted. In a post-match interview, KuroKy would allude to one mistake that cost Liquid game one: that mistake, I m pretty sure, was letting Newbee get Shadow Demon.

Liquid had sufficient traditional lategame to close out the match, but this is the era of illusion play. Despite such a terrible start, the tempo-controlling power of Naga Siren combined with Shadow Demon s powerful illusions slowly strangled Liquid out of the game. Fixing this mistake , as KuroKy put it, changed everything.

Claiming Shadow Demon for themselves in the second game, Liquid played it the same way. They dominated early, roaming the map with Undying and Sand King and picking up a fast lead. The difference was that they had serious lategame too in Morphling and Shadow Demon, and Newbee knew it. After another Liquid teamfight win, Newbee called GG at 17 minutes the fastest win of the tournament. There simply wasn t any point going late against a lineup they couldn t beat.

TOP PERFORMANCE

I m going to level with you, reader: this should probably be EG.Universe again, or perhaps EG as a whole for their phenomenal work today. But I want to keep showcasing talent from around the scene, so let s turn our eye to Wings.iceice and his commanding Elder Titan in game two against MVP Phoenix. The game-winning control he provided his team demonstrated why the hero is so often banned.

Runner up #1: Alliance.EGM s Rubick, game two against FnaticRunner up #2: Liquid.MATUMBAMAN s Anti-Mage, game three against Newbee

In deciding to reset and try again, however, they also handed Liquid a big momentum boost. And Liquid got Shadow Demon again in game 3. This time, it looked like Liquid had the draft nailed down. Newbee s lanes struggled near the beginning of the game but they put in a much better, more aggressive performance against Liquid than they had done earlier. For the first time in the series the teams traded relatively evenly. The issue for Newbee was that they d allowed Liquid to pick Anti-Mage into a draft that had few answers to him, and that they subsequently failed to slow down MATUMBAMAN as he pulled ahead on farm.

A necessary attempt to challenge Liquid s Roshan attempt at 20 minutes went terribly wrong for Newbee, turning into a teamwipe that Liquid capitalised on hard. The Europeans established map control and aggressive vision throughout Newbee s half of the map while MATUMBAMAN s willingness to fight kept catching the Chinese side off guard. After an exciting clash mid at the 35 minute mark. Liquid did it. After a 2-1 victory over the former International champions, they will continue to fight in the lower bracket as the last European team in contention.

Upper bracket: MVP Phoenix vs. Wings

This was the match everybody was looking forward to. MVP Phoenix are the most charismatically aggressive team in the tournament, underdogs-done-good who just want to punch everybody to death, all of the time. And Wings are the International s most creative drafters, willing to throw away an upper bracket game with a Pudge-Techies pick just because.

The first game demonstrated both of these qualities. MVP picked up their fighting cores PA, Dark Seer, Invoker while Wings baffled onlookers with a glass-cannon lineup of Drow Ranger, Io, Queen of Pain, Puck and Warlock. Sometimes, genius looks like a pub game where two people want to go mid and one guy really needs to do his Warlock quest.

HERE S A PICTURE OF UNIVERSE ANYWAY

But it worked. Despite crowd pleasing early aggression from MVP, Wings had given themselves two crucial advantages: they had cores that could easily disengage, and they had ultimates particularly Dream Coil and Chaotic Offering that punished MVP Phoenix for balling up. MVP Phoenix s tendency to charge headlong at their opponents became a disastrous Achilles heel, with Wings letting the Koreans walk into trap after trap. Drow Ranger s aura played nicely into Wings all-ranged draft, too, enabling quick pushes after each teamfight victory. Despite the eyebrow-raising pick-ban phase, Wings clearly had MVP Phoenix s number.

MVP Phoenix did not care. Opting to play their kind of Dota or die trying in the second game, they drafted Bounty Hunter, Dark Seer, Spirit Breaker, Phantom Assassin, and Ursa. Yep! That s five aggressive melee heroes. Nope! It didn t work. In a shock move, Wings drafted completely traditionally. With Juggernaut, Faceless Void, Elder Titan, Disruptor and Batrider, they had sensible answers to MVP s swagger.

God love them, the Korean team almost pulled it off. They had a far better early game than they had any right to, riding talent and moxxie to a kill lead and plenty of early presence. But Batrider, Elder Titan and Faceless Void are top-tier heroes for a reason, and great play by Wings particularly iceice s Elder Titan completely denied MVP Phoenix their vital momentum. MVP supports DuBu and Febby, so often the pace-setters for their team, were victimised by the punishing combination of Disruptor s Glimpse and ET s Echo Stomp. Wings took this series 2-0, and it wasn t close. Most worryingly for MVP Phoenix, these games also broadcast the counter to Korean aggression to every other team in the tournament.

Upper bracket: EG vs. EHOME

HOTTEST JUKE

Lightning-fast counterplay by EG.PPD s Shadow Demon sees him cast Disruption on Axe in the microsecond between Axe s blink initiation and his Berserker s Call. Then he dodges the incoming Sacred Arrow for good measure, pulling EHOME completely out of position and leading to a kill on Mirana.

Okay, seriously, just watch this one. Here s the link again. Put some time aside: this should have been a grand final set, and I ve not seen a game of Dota this close-fought or exciting since the finals of the International 2013. It s that good.

This clash of titans began extremely well for EHOME as they won all three lanes. The unusual decision by EG to put carry Fear on an offlane Axe seemed to backfire, as EHOME.iceiceice put on a clinic as Timbersaw one of his signature heroes. Huge early aggression from EHOME put them far ahead with all of EG s outer defenses crumbling within the first 20 minutes. The Chinese team were already pressuring EG s base by the time crucial items like Axe s Blink Dagger came online. The duelling cheers of USA! USA! and EHOME! EHOME! had started to tilt hard to the latter.

But EG held the line. Once again, Universe made it clear that he is the best Faceless Void player in the world: a massive Chronosphere at 17 minutes followed by fantastic follow-up control play by Fear opened the door for SumaiL s Mirana to score a triple kill. EG s 17 year old midlaner put in a star performance of his own, finding kills both solo and with Universe s peerless setups.

This was still EHOME s game, however. They knew exactly how to split the map and contain EG s movements. On multiple occasions, iceiceice would make threatening gestures on the top lane in order to force EG to give up vital objectives like Roshan. And EHOME.Fenrir s Warlock presented fierce opposition to EG s initiations: for every great Chronosphere, there was a great Chaotic Offering.

CLIFF OF THE DAY

Having blinked up to the cliffs near Roshan to kill Wings.iceice, MVP.QO gets to watch as Wings.Faith_bian survives against overwhelming odds in the river below. Somebody Force Staffs him down eventually, but it s too late for MVPs chances in this game.

Three things kept EG in this game despite a massive disadvantage. First, they kept their heads under pressure and minimised the number of technical mistakes they made during fights. Second, they had Shadow Demon: throughout the game, Zai was able to turn EHOME s advantage against them by turning creating illusions of old chicken s Juggernaut to push the lanes back out. The third factor was fantastic itemisation. In what would be a clowny move in any other match, EG picked up Dagons on three heroes: Mirana, Shadow Demon, and Ancient Apparition. This spike in burst magical damage proved a vital counter to Timbersaw, allowing Zai s Shadow Demon to fulfill an additional role as a playmaking nuker.

EG reclaimed the map after 70 minutes, but EHOME weren t done with them. Double Warlock ults with Refresher Orb proved a problem for EG as EHOME played perfectly around their opponent s overextension. They took another Roshan, forced EG back inside their base, and finally felled the last of EG s barracks. No team in an International has ever come back from losing all of their barracks.

Until now. A miraculous hold in EG s base gave them a foothold, and they made one final hail Mary push down mid. As EHOME engaged most of EG in the lane itself, Universe took on several EHOME cores alone and won. Nobody had buyback. Old chicken attempted to force the issue by going directly for EG s ancient, but Universe returned, pinned him down, and killed him too. Surging back out of the base, EG went all in with a Divine Rapier on Universe s Faceless Void. As EHOME scrambled to defend they found themselves hemmed in and controlled by ppd, Zai and SumaiL as Universe demolished first their tier 4 towers, and then their ancient. It was a historic victory, the best game of the tournament so far, and it was only game one.

BEST DOTA NONSENSE

Valve s AR tech is one of the coolest and silliest things about this event, allowing them to project life-size versions of the heroes onto the stage and in front of the analyst desk. If that fails however, you can always try replacing that expensive CGI with a passing cosplayer.

EG re-entered the arena to the deafening roars of a home crowd, clearly surging after such a phenomenal success. For EHOME, the loss must have been devastating.

EHOME claimed Mirana and Axe for themselves in the second game along with Warlock, Earth Spirit, and Timbersaw. EG picked up their Shadow Demon and Faceless Void again and paired them with Ogre Magi, Drow Ranger, and a last pick Medusa that proved to be a tough challenge for old chicken s mid Mirana. This time, EG won all of their lanes hard. If you ever needed proof of the importance of psychological momentum in Dota 2, this is the game to watch. Having proven that they could overcome impossible odds, EG played like they couldn t lose. And EHOME played in the knowledge that any game can be lost, and they started to make mistakes.

But they didn t go down without a fight. They picked up a few favourable trades while trying to stem the tide of EG s aggression, and old ELeveN s Axe made play after play that kept EHOME in the game. But when EG could find and eliminate Axe before the fight it gave them an advantage that EHOME had no answer for. A huge early advantage on EG s core heroes, plus the natural pushing power of Drow Ranger and Shadow Demon, placed EHOME s base under sustained threat. A series of stunning Chronospheres from Universe some with no vision whatsoever, all perfect effectively shut EHOME out of the game, again.

EG took his historic series 2-0, and advance to the upper bracket final. After a shaky year, the defending champions are looking like they might lift the Aegis again.

PC Gamer

NEED TO KNOW

Get up to speed on the players, metagame, and results going into the International with our extensive guide to the tournament and teams. You can find all of our ongoing coverage of the tournament on this page. The fastest place to find VODs for each game is on Reddit, but you can also find them in the game client. Check out the current bracket standings on the official site.

Header image via the official Dota 2 Twitter account. Spoilers begin beyond IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH , below. This year s International is the fourth that I ve attended, and I ve never seen an upset on the scale that we saw today. If there was any doubt that Dota 2 is the world s most internationally competitive esport, they can be safely put to rest.

IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH…

watch TNC vs. OG.

THE MATCHES

Upper bracket: Alliance vs. EHOME

EHOME might be a wildcard team, but their form in the group stage made them the favourites here. The draft and early laning phase was a game of wits that arguably Alliance came out ahead in, however: the Swedish team has always had great macro-level decision making and this is demonstrated by a series of smart lane swaps that denied EHOME a bit of crucial early momentum. In fact, Alliance s gold lead and control of the map in the early game looked convincing.

META BUSINESS

While LGD s Necrophos pick took the number of heroes played at the International up to an unprecedented 104, themes are starting to solidify as games go on. As a support, Shadow Demon is becoming representative of a playstyle in much the same way Io is: in his case, however, he represents slow safe sieging with beefy carry illusions typically Terrorblade, Alchemist, Naga Siren or Morphling. On the opposite end of the meta, however, is the pickoff and momentum-centric playstyle adopted by in particular EHOME.It s here that Axe and Sand King are finding their place in the game. Given her ability to fit into the former strat and counter the other, expect to see more Naga Siren as the week goes on.

However, Alliance simply gave too much away too regularly without getting enough in return. While ceding a lane or two might have been okay in order to maintain a farm advantage, EHOME soon took the game into their own hands. EHOME.old ELeVen s Sand King was the star, here, with peerless Burrowstrikes catching two or three Alliance heroes every time. This kind of beautiful combo execution counteracted s4 s Storm Spirit s natural evasiveness and even AdmiralBulldog s tough-as-nails Bristleback couldn t survive against the weathering magical assault from heroes like Sand King and Mirana. After Alliance were wiped in a gigantic teamfight around the 34 minute mark, EHOME took the first game.

Facing relegation to the lower bracket, Alliance drafted very comfortably in game two: Lone Druid, Skywrath, Batrider, Phantom Assassin. EHOME stuck to their guns or, I should say, they stuck to their stuns. With Sven, Sand King, Mirana, Elder Titan and Shadow Demon, they built a combo machine with five interchangeable parts: get caught by any single EHOME hero and Alliance faced getting caught by all of them.

Alliance managed to score first blood, but traded for it. They lost their courier early, too, but showed a bit of life with some solid rotations that racked up kills on the board. EHOME countered with their own successful rotations, and when an Alliance attempt at top lane failed at the end of the laning phase EHOME began to pick up momentum. AdmiralBulldog couldn t put in the kind of performance he normally does on Lone Druid because of the pressure he faced from EHOME s pickoff power. Exchange after exchange came out in EHOME s favour as Alliance waited for the big items that might help but they didn t. Having held Alliance s cores down for the early game, EHOME paved the wave for a very farmed Sven to clean up late. EHOME progress, Alliance will fight for their lives in the lower bracket.

PLAY OF THE DAY

DC support Saksa played the Dota of his life today, but I wanted to highlight this teamfight in particular. When LGD s Dragon Knight and Necrophos jump on Gyrocopter, Saksa s clutch Glimmer Cape and Cold Embrace save soaks up some huge cooldowns: Necro s ultimate, Dragon Knight s stun, precious BKB seconds. Then he has the presence of mind to leave, wrapping around the trees to hit LGD on retreat with a perfect ultimate. The camera is following Timbersaw, here, but watch that ice dragon go.

Upper bracket: Evil Geniuses vs. Newbee

These two former International champions pulled out what looked like two different years of International drafts in game one, with Newbee sticking to current-meta favourites and EG getting nostalgic for heroes like Storm Spirit and Winter Wyvern that did work for them last year.Newbee s approach paid off early, with kpii in particular showing up on Slardar. An early fight scored four kills for the Chinese team, the kind of momentum boost that normally persists in the current meta. EG shook off convention however and struck back immediately, winning the counterattack cleanly.

As levels and items particularly Blink Daggers started to come EGs way, the fights went worse and worse for Newbee. This was one of the most solid team-wide performances of the day, with great aggression from Suma1L s Storm Spirit supported by Zai s phenomenal Io. EG pushed close to their limits but never exceeded them, commanding the map but not as other teams have done getting too far ahead of themselves and feeding back the advantage. A really solid victory for the defending champions.Game two was much closer, although it didn t start out that way. EG picked up a head of steam early with solid rotations and great aggression (and a few lucky bashes) by Universe s offlane Faceless Void. But Newbee countered with on-point Sand King-Skywrath Mage combos that made life very difficult for Fear s Morphling. This put Newbee in a position to farm well and control the map as both teams settled into a long, passive evasive period.

TOP PERFORMANCE

This was a day of incredible individual performances, but the standout has to be EG offlaner Universe on Faceless Void in game two against Newbee. EG had to work hard for this one, but Universe s perfect Chronosphere plays every single time it was needed, or so it seemed made their job so much easier. Masterful consistency.

Runner up #1: EHOME.old ELeVeN s Sand King, game one against Alliance.Runner up #2: EG.Zai s Io, game one against Newbee.

Great teamplay at 23:00 by EG saw momentum swing back the other way thanks to some great Timbersaw play by Suma1L. Newbee countered, and then EG countered the counter, and then an explosive Epicenter by kpii at the 31 minute mark made the statement that Newbee would not be going quietly. This became. In some ways, a game of offlaners: Universe with perfect Chronospheres setting up massive Elder Titan ultimates, kpii with fantastic Sand King aggression forcing EG to react.

EG gave up some of their advantage by pushing too hard to end the game, a lapse in discipline that they weren t punished as hard for in the first game. This allowed Newbee a foothold and took the game ultra-late: when PPD s Shadow Demon has Boots of Travel, you know the game s gone long. This one came down to a fight in mid, as yet another phenomenal Chronosphere forced buybacks out of Newbee, but their willingness to rush back to the fight was their undoing. EG wiped them again to take the series 2-0.

Lower bracket: OG vs. TNC Pro Team

After their shock relegation to the lower bracket yesterday, OG faced a relatively forgiving start to their comeback run. TNC Pro Team had defied expectations in groups, but nobody expect much from this Filipino team and their American captain on the main stage.

Nobody will underestimate TNC now.

HOTTEST JUKE

Hell, this might be the juke of the year. After a great teamfight from Newbee puts EG on the back foot, EG.Zai is left isolated with almost no health. He abuses the line of sight barrier in the Roshan pit to throw Newbee.kpii off, dodges Burrowstrike, then TPs away in full view of his opponent.

Early aggression from OG.Fly s Witch Doctor went awry when, having chased TNC.Eyyou deep into dire territory, he attempted to deny himself to neutral creeps only to be sniped for first blood by a great anticipatory Astral Spirit. OG ceded a kill lead to TNC early, in fact, although they came back quickly and took the better part of most trades for the early part of the game. OG also seemed to have the better draft, with Drow s aura boosting Medusa and Enchantress with Faceless Void and Witch Doctor for control.

Yet TNC made what they had work. Axe and Lifestealer in combination proved to be too much for many of OG s squishy ranged carries, and TNC solidly outplayed OG at the 14 minute mark with a wraparound smoke gank that put the two-time Major champions on the defensive.They responded by taking Rosh, dodging fights and splitting the map and it worked, for a time: but a smart Blink Dagger pick up on Lifestealer made him harder to kite and OG had no good answer for the power of Sam H s Axe. And all this time Kuku s midlane Phantom Lancer was becoming more and more of a problem, stymying OG pushes by forcing them back to their base to defend.

A stunning teamfight for TNC at the 45 minute mark opened up Roshan and OG s mid barracks fell shortly afterwards. Building their net worth advantage towards 20,000 gold, TNC held off from rushing in and steadily out-split-pushed OG. This first game wasn t a lucky win by an underdog against a favoured side: it was a solid outplay by a team that needs to be considered their equal (or better.)

OG revisited comfortable old favourites in the second draft, picking up Tiny and Io once the terror of the meta as well as Ember Spirit and Dark Seer, a fantastic combo in its own right. But TNC got Huskar and Dazzle through the draft thanks to OG s respect for Sam H s Axe in the first game, along with Drow Ranger, Faceless Void and Vengeful Spirit. This wasn t just a good draft: it was a shopping list of the current top tier.

THE DAILY JIMMY

There weren t any particularly notable cliff plays today, so instead let s celebrate the mind of TNC captain Jimmy DemoN Ho. Here, he runs laps around one of OG s towers with a haste rune for no other reason than to imply that he s just placed a deep ward in their offlane. He didn t but OG waste two sentry wards looking for it anyway. What a player.

TNC traded Dazzle for a first blood kill on Miracle s mid Ember Spirit, a trade they d take any day. OG struck back however with impressive aggression into TNC s safelane while Miracle scored a solo kill in mid. By 18 minutes, OG looked like they might be able to pin TNC into their base: but the defense was robust, scoring a favourable kill trade for TNC and forcing OG to respect TNC s defensive supports. Striking back into the map, TNC picked up a 2-0 teamfight win after Ember Spirit s Searing Chains latched onto creeps rather than Drow Ranger, his target. TNC took Rosh, and Drow reached the top of the net worth chart.

Yet TNC seemed to have missed their window: Huskar had not single-handedly won the midgame for them, and it was getting late. In Tiny and Ember Spirit, OG had lategame power in spades. What TNC had was patience and excellent wards, putting them in a good position to avoid mistakes and hold the line against OG. But it really would have only taken a single big mistake to lose this.

Once again a Faceless Void this time Sam H became the hero his team needed, picking up a Shadow Blade to ensure Chronosphere setups on Miracle s Ember Spirit. Kills on OG s cores became the key to TNC s road back into the game, although they faced (and lost barracks to) Tiny-Io split push when they got too aggressive. Even so, OG couldn t end the game. OG had a 20k networth lead at the 58 minute mark but it didn t matter.

Tremendous reactive play by Sam H s Void and Eyyou s Vengeful Spirit negated n0tail and Miracle s farm advantage, and Huskar and Drow Ranger just kept getting scarier. In a desperation move, Miracle picked up a Divine Rapier with the hope of ending the game: and to be fair, he could have. A decked-out Ember Spirit presents a serious threat to defending players, as a single good Sleight of Fist critical hit can take a support out of the game entirely. In that regard, Miracle got a little unlucky he couldn t summon the crit magic like MVP.QO could against him on day one. But OG were also forced to fight around their Rapier at the foot of their own ancient, and another perfect Chronosphere ended their tournament run.

In a shocking upset, OG easily the favoured team coming into the International were eliminated 2-0 by the team expected to come 16th. It was soundly the biggest upset in the history of the competitive scene. All eyes are on TNC to deliver possibly the biggest underdog success story in the history of Dota, too.

BEST DOTA NONSENSE

What s on the stream? Back at me. I have it! It s those analysts for that game you love. Look again! THE ANALYSTS ARE NOW MUPPETS.

Lower bracket: Digital Chaos vs. LGD

Another oft-underestimated team, DC, put on a strong showing here against formidable Chinese team LGD the squad that ousted Team Secret. They let LGD get Batrider in the draft only to instantly counter with Nyx and Shadow Demon. Coupled with Kunkka and Invoker, this gave them huge roaming kill potential that they used to good effect. It wasn t always smooth running, however: a few misjudgements and lucky escapes saw them just miss a number of kills that would have built them a much more substantial lead.

This was a close-fought thing, but DC refused to give up the little bit of momentum they d earned early on. Resolut1on s carry Naga Siren was the essential pick for DC, here, providing them with a vital teamfight reset button, slow siege potential, and even map control with illusions and a Gem of True Sight stripping away LGD s vital observer wards. Growing impatient with being slowly whittled down by Naga Siren illusions, xiao8 s Batrider led a charge out of the LGD base which managed to catch Misery s Kunkka. DC punished them for their over extension, however, saving Kunkka with a defensive Shadow Demon Disruption and rallying to wipe LGD and take the first game.

Both teams got creative in the second draft, with DC picking up Winter Wyvern and out-of-favour carry Gyrocopter and LGD countering with the tournament s first Necrophos: a character that we might see again due to his ability to disable vital late-game buybacks.

LGD handily won their lanes this time with xiao8 in particular putting on a clinic as Beastmaster. Even so, DC anticipated how important early pushing was going to be to LGD s draft and Winter Wyvern and Gyrocopter in combination proved to be an effective counter, preventing the Chinese team from taking that early lead and turning it into objectives. LGD resorted to roaming as a full team, arguably for far too long they didn t get enough done to justify the time spent away from farming, and DC started to inch their way back into the game.

Not without losing a whole lot, though. Glimpse from MMY! s Disruptor proved the bane of Misery s Bounty Hunter s life, but over time it became clear that Bounty Hunter was the only one of DC s heroes that LGD could easily kill. They were getting outmaneuvered if not played, and DC itemised well to ensure that Necrophos couldn t do the one thing he was supposed to do: ult somebody important. As Glimmer Cape and Linken s Spheres came out, DC started to turn around LGD s advantage.

Although I ve included him in a sidebar, it s worth reiterating how vital Saksa s Winter Wyvern was to DC in this game. He played perfectly, making multiple clutch saves throughout the game even as occasionally DC s cores got a little too aggressive. It was also Saksa that closed out the game in DC s favour, picking up a Refresher Orb and almost immediately using it to land a massive double Winter s Curse on Agressif s Necrophos. Dead without buyback after a long back-and-forth game, LGD knew they were beaten. The team lead by a guy who got kicked out of Secret had just beaten the team that beat Secret.

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