A pile of Compendium rewards have just been released! Check out the new Pudgling courier, chat emoticons, weather effects and more. Purchasing a Compendium unlocks all present and future Compendium rewards, such as couriers, immortal items, battle booster, stat tracking, and an unusual taunt for the upcoming Techies hero.
With this update, we're also introducing Live Rewind, allowing you to pause, rewind, and jump around the timeline when spectating any live game. Saw an awesome team fight? Rewind and watch it again and again. Need to grab a drink while your favorite team is playing? Pause the match and resume when you get back.
Meanwhile, if you're coming to The International, you might want to head over to our Ticketing FAQ to prepare yourself for the event.
Can't make it to The International? Try joining (or hosting!) a Pubstomp, where people around the world gather locally to watch The International. Check out our Pubstomp page to learn more.
STRETCH GOALS Compendium Reward Released: Mini-Pudge Courier and Level 50 Alternate Style Compendium Reward Released: Chat Emoticons Compendium Reward Released: Weather Effects (equip-able in the Global loadout) Compendium Reward Released: Alternate Styles for Lt. Squawkins
INTERFACE Added Live Rewind feature for spectators Gold border added to top bar if a teammate can buyback when dead Placing your cursor over an Ultimate diamond in the top bar will show you it's cooldown. Fixed a bug where the buyback toast would get stuck on.
Images courtesy of the official ESL Twitter account.
'Timing' has been the watchword of this entire tournament. It was a concern this morning, when another late start threatened to force the entire show to run long, with the last quarterfinal match - Na'Vi vs. EG - not starting until 10.30am. It was a concern when the arena's internet connection went down and when Fnatic's voice comms broke for twenty minutes. It was a concern in-game, too, as the strengths and weaknesses of today's greedy, ult-centric metagame came down to who had power at the exact minute when it counted.
Timing problems caused a fair amount of heartache today, but I also got to see a terrific showcase of what the best Dota 2 teams can achieve when they're moving to their own rhythm. In addition, the event itself held together despite the technical problems to deliver one of the best large-scale e-sports experiences that Europe has seen since TI1. Great casting and analysis and a hugely engaged crowd made Frankfurt a great place to spend a weekend - and I'm not just saying that because I've been surviving on beer, sausages and energy drinks since Saturday morning. Well, mostly. The point is: it's gone midnight and I've got games to discuss, so let's get into it. As ever, spoilers below.
Na'Vi vs. EG
Everyone was waiting to see how Na'Vi would do against the team that beat them 3-0 earlier in the week. EG stuck to a familiar set of heroes for game one, picking up Storm Spirit for mobility and control and matching him with Enigma and Tidehunter, giving them the teamfight ultimates that have defined this tournament. Na'Vi's draft had echoes of Alliance in its focus on the pushing power of Funn1k's Nature's Prophet and got greedier from there, with a farming Faceless Void, mid Invoker, and support Doom. Puppey's support Disruptor was effective but not such a hindrance to EG's pushing and farming power that he could grant his team painless passage into the lategame.
All those tower kills gave EG a healthy advantage across the board, with zai's Enigma in particular benefiting from having all of his major items - and more - by the twenty minute mark. Na'Vi's draft was built for teamfights but EG gifted them no easy kills. The game felt close to a long time but chiefly due to Na'Vi's ability to fight from a disadvantage - eventually, slowly, EG ground them down.
Game two seemed like a return to form for Na'Vi when Puppey's Chen secured first blood with a jungle harpy (of all things). Plays like that - and virtuoso ganks in general - are why Na'Vi are so passionately loved, but they've been outdrafted an uncomfortable number of times lately and that's what happened here. Funn1k attempted a Bulldog-style Nature's Prophet again but struggled to be effective against a Storm Spirit and Tiny/Io combo that proved to be just as good at taking rax when nobody was looking. XBOCT played Anti-Mage but couldn't win the farm war against Tiny, a hero who is perfectly happy to go toe-to-toe with AM in the late game. Without a Black King Bar, Na'Vi's carry just couldn't sustain a presence against substantial lockdown.
An unusual Elder Titan pickup by EG made it even more difficult for Na'Vi to survive when the game ran long, his Natural Order aura making delicate heroes even more vulnerable to EG's fully operational Tiny/Io battlestation. After a long back-and-forth in the late game EG eventually claimed the advantage, taking the set 2-0 and sending Na'Vi home. I saw many slumped shoulders in yellow hoodies afterwards.
iG vs. Alliance
In the first match of the semis iG gave the world a demonstration of how you go about dismantling Alliance. Banning Io and Nature's Prophet is part of it, but iG's strategy went deeper than that. They solved the problem of Alliance's current playstyle by refusing to fall into the obvious trap, which is committing everything to shutting down one of the Swedish team's lanes. Alliance are as strong as they are because of their map control: force Bulldog to play at 20% efficiency and S4 and Loda will get 150% out of the rest of the map. Force all of Alliance's lanes to operate at 70% efficiency, however, and they have a much harder time in the mid game.
iG did just that, with on point, persistently aggressive drafts that denied Alliance much needed map space. Ferrari_430's supreme Ember Spirit was a constant nuisance, and excellent Nyx Assassin rotations by YYF in the first game shut down not only Alliance's supports but S4's midlane Batrider too. The Swedes proved that they were capable of pulling out plays from the back foot, but the Chinese team kept up a degree of pressure that denied Alliance any hope of retaking the map.
Game two acted as more evidence against Brewmaster as a competitive pick. Teams love him, and his potential impact can't be denied, but that simple counter - press the attack when his ult is down - has caused problems for the teams that ran him throughout this tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if his place in the current meta was reconsidered after this weekend. He's great to watch, and dangerous in the right hands, but S4 looked like he was trapped in the hero in game two against iG. When Primal Split is on cooldown, he's just not the same hero.
This match demonstrated just how versatile iG are. Their early game plays discounted the notion that yesterday's steady push strats could be lazily categorised as 'Chinese Dota'. They knew how to unsettle Mouz, just as they knew how to topple Alliance this afternoon. It's a shame to see Alliance lose their recent momentum, but it has been very exciting to watch the return of a giant of the Asian scene.
EG vs. Fnatic
With iG's place in the final decisively secured, it remained to see which of the surviving western teams would face them. Game one made that question look simple: EG banned out Fnatic's all-important Io and seemed to bait out Excalibur's Meepo. He plays the hero better than anyone - and has single-handedly turned around games for Fnatic with him in the past - but here it was a disaster. He thoroughly lost the midlane against Arteezy, who killed him solo with Tinker. Focused rotations by EG assisted by good farm across the board made this a straightforward win for the Americans.
Fnatic made EG work for every inch of ground in game two. Augmenting a push-heavy draft with major teamfight ults - Chronosphere, Poison Nova, Black Hole - meant that they could get something out of every engagement despite an initially strong performance by Arteezy on a midlane Outworld Devourer. The game ran long, and it was a close-run thing all the way - particularly as Fnatic seemed keen to push their advantage too far in many cases. But eventually that teamfight power was enough to exhaust EG's supply of buybacks, and with their barracks gone there was only a limited amount of time left on EG's clock.
EG let the Excalibur Meepo through again in game three and it was only through a few impressive early jukes that Fnatic managed to survive the aggression designed to shut him down. Fnatic managed to claim a decent advantage in the early game, but couldn't control Universe's Tidehunter. As soon as that Blink Dagger came online, he was able to create space for Arteezy's Templar Assassin and mason's Doom to do substantial work. Fnatic held on thanks to Excalibur's Meepo topping the gold and experience charts, but it was all on him.
In an inverse mirror of the first game, EG were able to eventually grind down Fnatic's core heroes to the point where they could easily storm through several lanes of barracks at once. Hann1's Earthshaker was essential to slowing EG's pushes - a trick picked up from the Chinese teams - and great teamfight play kept them in the game, but one death from Excalibur without buyback cleared the way for EG to march into the final. Fnatic proved that they're one of the most dangerous teams in the world at the moment, but EG demonstrated how powerful multi-core lineups can be in these long games.
EG vs. iG
The final was a real test for EG. It began almost immediately after their semi-final match against Fnatic. Playing three best-of-threes in a single day is difficult enough without getting the kind of break that iG had enjoyed since their lunchtime victory over Alliance. But if there's ever been a player who could pull his team through anything, it's Universe. EG's offlaner did extraordinary work in the first game as Faceless Void, landing perfect Chronosphere after perfect Chronosphere while achieving respectable farm in a difficult position. iG drafted their familiar push lineup - Pugna, Enchantress, Shadow Shaman - but it wasn't enough.
Level-hungry core picks by EG - Void, Brewmaster, Razor - were bought space to farm by the incredible ganking combo of zai and PPD on Sand King and Mirana. iG regrouped and managed to push all the way through EG's mid barracks by the 20 minute mark, but a series of phenomenal teamfight performances around Universe's Chronosphere led to wipe after wipe for the Chinese team. Fifteen minutes after iG broke EG's base, EG returned the favour - and took a second lane of barracks a few minutes after that. Knowing that they were beaten, iG called it.
In game two EG opted for familiar strategies, drafting a farming hero for Arteezy - Phantom Assassin - and surrounding him with backup: Sand King, Batrider, Doom, Bane. In response, iG pulled out an aggressive lineup similar to the ones they beat Alliance with. Ferrari_430's Ember Spirit was the perfect setup for Sunstrikes from Luo's Invoker who was otherwise left to farm a lightning-fast Necronomicon 3 on the safelane. Credit goes to PPD for the hot jukes of the tournament, evading a three-man gank through the jungle before denying himself with Nightmare. But it was a small victory in a war that iG controlled decisively as soon as Luo joined the fray. It was obvious that EG didn't want to give up on the chance of a 2-0 victory, but it wasn't coming. The GG call came after 25 minutes.
Game three was as close to a perfect game of Dota as you're ever going to see. This isn't a game where perfection is really possible, but iG did everything they could to challenge that notion. EG picked up much of the same draft that they'd used to punish Na'Vi earlier in the day, combining Tiny/Io with Elder Titan, a farming Sand King, and a roaming Mirana.
It should have worked. It should have got them something, particularly in the late game when the Tiny/Natural Order combo came into its own. iG denied them a lategame. The problems started early, when it became clear that Ferrari_430's Queen of Pain could manhandle the Tiny/Io with impunity. Ganks came from every angle: YYF's farming Faceless Void. Perfect Sunstrikes from Luo on top of X Marks The Spot setups from ChuaN's unorthodox support Kunkka. Whenever EG looked like they might secure a kill, a Disruption from Faith's Shadow Demon took away their options. Precise, immaculate plays. iG executed flawlessly and gave nothing away: a single tower kill by Arteezy was enough to elicit a cheer from the crowd - and that was after twenty minutes.
Eventually, EG went all-in on Roshan in attempt to win themselves a way back into the game. iG punished it hard with a full five-on-five teamfight in which the Chinese team lost nobody at all. EG ceded victory - and the tournament - to iG after 29 minutes. The final score was 22 kills to zero. It was a tremendous statement to make in advance of TI4: EG are the best team in the western scene at the moment, and iG outplayed them in every conceivable way. The crowd was chanting "ChuaN! ChuaN! ChuaN!" as the Chinese veteran lifted the trophy, and with good reason.
If you missed our account of yesterday's games, you can read it here. Be sure to check out this interview with Mousesports' Pajkatt while you're at it, and check back in the next few days for an in-depth interview with Alliance's Loda.
Per Anders 'Pajkatt' Olsson Lille has been playing competitive Dota since prior to the first International, which he attended with Online Kingdom. He played for LGD.int at TI2 and will return this year with Mousesports, formerly Team Dog, who earned their place in TI4 with a fantastic performance in the European qualifiers. Yesterday, they got knocked out of ESL One Frankfurt following a close-fought and very exciting series of matches against Invictius Gaming.
I spoke to Pajkatt an hour after the game to talk about that first blood, the reasons why they lost, the danger of Pugna and the plan between now and TI4.
It was fantastic watching you guys play, even if it didn't quite go the way you wanted. Nonetheless, that Axe double kill is going to be one of those things that people are going to be sharing for a long time. How did that feel?
It felt very nice. Axe against Lycan is something we've played a lot. Lycan can't really do anything against Axe, because of the spin. He's just got right clicks, and his wolves, and that's more right clicks more chances to spin. Then they come mid with two heroes that can't really do anything. They had no spell damage, and Axe is really tanky. So when they go in close and they have wolves and creeps there, you just start spinning. It was... really nice.
I stood up and tried to get the crowd going and ripped my earphone out. I had to pause because when I plugged it in it started to make some weird noises. But it was really nice.
The dangers of showmanship, right?
Yeah, that's what it is.
There was no RNG in that encounter, right? Were you confident that they didn't have the burst damage to take you down?
I knew that if they went in like that then they were going to die. Three people on me... yeah, they're going to die.
Given the way the rest of the game went, are you still happy with the Axe pick?
Definitely. We lost that game because of a mid fight that we took without the panda ult and we lost like four people, five people. Later they got Rosh. The easiest thing for us to do would have been to go safelane in that game and they would have had a offlane Pugna against three heroes and he'd have got nothing and we would have stomped the Lycan mid. We could have also gone offensive creep skipped with Axe and taken the tower fast.
But the Axe pick was not the problem. When enemy teams pick Lycan, Axe is almost a total counter. I question myself now about why we didn't pick it in the third game. You make mistakes in drafting... it's a shame that it's single elimination because you take things from these games, and maybe we could have come back tomorrow and played for the better.
We also could have learned something for this third game... they ended up with Lycan and Pugna twice in a row. We should have stopped that in the first ban phase. The Lycan wasn't really the problem, though he's just some guy with wolves, scouting us but the problem was always that Pugna with their supports. They could just take our towers without us being able to engage.
We were banking on high cooldown spells. When you do that against this Pugna hero... they die but then they're back, and you have no spells and they take your tower. Then they go to the next tower and they have more items and maybe you kill them again but then you're on cooldown, and so on. There's an issue there. You can't draft these high cooldown heroes against them.
It was a huge transformation from game one into game two night and day. What was the nature of the discussion between those two games? What turned it around so dramatically?
I think there's a large difference between first and second pick, which helped us we got the PotM . In the first game, I don't think they rate panda that high but we haven't played Chinese in forever. In these games, you don't know how the enemy rates different heroes. We rate panda high and they didn't. We could have taken Axe/PotM, denied them the PotM, but we didn't. Next game we got the PotM and it's one of our most played heroes.
We also decided that we were going to pick 'us' we're going to pick what we're comfortable with. Axe is comfortable but this was a complete lineup that we've played versions of so many times that we know exactly what to do.
Do you feel like Bane has a place in a lineup without PotM? You didn't pick him when you could have done in the third game.
Bane without PotM is not the same. He's good for setting stuff up Bane/PotM, Bane/Slark. He's a guy who sets up things, he's strong in lane, he's tanky. But you kinda need to make use of him early on. He needs to get a lot done because he only has single-target spells. He doesn't scale in some ways like a Rhasta or a Sand King. You need to use his laning phase, and the easiest way to use that is if you have a PotM, obviously.
Plus the combination you can set it up from anywhere because PotM can come in, like, five seconds late and still land that arrow. You can pick Bane otherwise, but it's situational.
You guys really favoured the panda why is that the case right now? What do you feel like it's giving you?
We're just comfortable with it. MSS plays a good panda. You can take these fights he just keeps fighting, and enemies are scared to fight so they don't go for some towers. The problem with panda is when they realise that they can just fight and die and fight again. We know that now that if you just keep fighting through panda ult then he has a problem. But we've had a lot of wins with that hero, and a lot of success.
It seemed like your solution for how to beat iG in every case was always going to be aggression. Is that something you might reconsider?
Yes. For me, we lost the series only because of the draft. I think their play is nothing fancy, nothing we haven't already played against. It's only another team. We lost two games because they got some push strats and we couldn't really deal with it. The Pugna pick fucked us both games. The thing we can take from it is we can either ban the Pugna in first phase or take it ourselves. That's something we should do for sure.
Reckon you've got a place for it?
Definitely we need a plan to take it at least when they've got this Lycan, you know? He's not scary on his own. But combined with the right heroes, he's really scary. I would say that we lost the series because we didn't do 'us' all three games. We half-and-halfed it. I think we could have won game one, we had the draft, if we didn't fail those mid goals. But game three was lost three picks in. There was not much we could do.
To wrap up what's next for you guys?
We're going to bootcamp in Berlin for a couple of days and then we're going to go home. We have one day when everybody goes home to their houses and families and then we're going to fly to Seattle and play TI.
How are you feeling about it?
I think it's going to be good. Personally I just want to play more and more LANs. Besides MSS, all of us have played a lot of LANs but we haven't played LANs as a team and I haven't drafted in that long. It's something you need to get used to, because drafting at home and drafting at a LAN is really different because there's something on the line and you only get these three games. You're more scared, you're more intimidated, which limits you. It limits your mind so you don't think of these clever things that normally, sitting at home in your boxers, both feet in the air, you'd think of.
You're held back by your trousers.
Yeah, gotta do an iceiceice and play in your boxers but when you got to LAN you have to be more confident. It's hard because there's a big crowd and you only get a couple of games. There's a lot of people watching and these things go to your head, even if they shouldn't.
With that in mind, though, the crowd here fucking loved you.
I love them too. I love playing with the crowd. I think Dota's supposed to be played with a crowd this is what makes me happy, playing Dota. Going to events like this... there were some hiccups but when you get to play on this stage with this crowd it's worth it a hundred times over. This is the way Dota is supposed to be played. It's strange, but it makes it so much more of a fun sport. It feels like it matters.
Thank you for your time. Any shoutouts?
I want to shout out to EpicGear, BenQ, Mousesports, and to my family and friends back home in Sweden.
The Citizen Returns, a mod for Half-Life 2: Episode 2, is a sequel to a 2008 mod called The Citizen. They're both about, as you may have guessed, a citizen. He's trying to escape City 17 at the same time Gordon Freeman is fighting the Combine elsewhere, and he's teaming up with rebel forces along the way. In addition to urban combat with enemy soldiers, zombies, and gunships, there's a fun rescue mission in which you can choose the style of your attack, either at long range as a sniper, up-close in disguise, or just plain loud, with explosives. It's like a little taste of GTA V's heists crept into the Half-Life universe.
I'm no doctor but I think I know how to save that patient.
The mod begins with a couple of rebels scraping you off the ground and getting you patched up after, apparently, you were hit by a train. After a lengthy (slightly too lengthy?) intro, the action kicks off with the Combine assaulting the rebel base, forcing you to fight your way through the city to freedom. In the midst of this you meet a recurring character named Larry. More on him in a bit. The mod does a nice job of balancing solo roaming with group combat among the ranks of the rebels, and even throws in a few bits of puzzle solving and interactions with helpful characters.
This gadget-building guy gives his creation a thumbs-up, as do I.
In the mod, you're not Gordon Freeman, you're just some dude, which means no gravity gun. I did miss it a bit, especially when a bunch of rollermines came tumbling my way. It also means that while you often are fighting side-by-side with other rebels, they're not just waiting around for you to give them orders. They do their thing, you do yours. It works out, though, and at least they're not crowding around you, blocking doorways and suggesting you reload every time you expend a bullet. Sometimes it's nice just being a face in the crowd.
It was the casual stroll of this zombie dude that totally freaked me out.
There are some new environments to explore, like a large casino which appears (based on a radio recording) to have been the site of some human experimentation, along the lines of Dr. Suchong from Bioshock. The result is a briefly appearing new zombie monster, who honestly isn't that scary or hard to fight, but which scared the bejeebs out of me with the way it just casually strolled through the casino to start punching me. There are a couple of other effective surprises and scares in the mod as well.
I'm disguised as a Combine. Can you guess which type?
The centerpiece of the mod is toward the end, when the rebels are planning a rescue mission to free their leader (Larry) after he's been captured from the Combine. It's interesting in that there are a few different ways to go about it, and after the rebels can't choose between using explosives, subterfuge, or snipers, you get to decide for them and spearhead the mission. I went with undercover work, disguising myself as an Elite and walking freely through a crowd of Combine to kick off the mission.
How to entertain yourself during an overlong briefing.
The voice acting in this mod runs the gamut in a way rarely seen. Some mods have great voice acting, some have passable voice-work, and some are just plain terrible. The Citizen Returns has all three, sometimes all in the same conversation, and includes a ton of different accents, levels of enthusiasm, and even sound quality. At least one voice sounds like it was recorded over a scratchy telephone line. None of this bothered me, as I'm actually quite charmed by non-professional voice-work in mods, it's just unusual to see so many different levels of performance all in the same mod.
That's Larry on the TV. I would watch a show with Larry.
Then, there's the voice of Larry, which is and this is not an exaggeration the least enthusiastic performance ever recorded in human history. I'm honestly not even sure how to describe it. It's more than robotic, more than monotone, more than bored. It's simply the most lifeless and least-interested recitation of dialogue I've ever heard. It's amazing, and as the mod went on I grew to love Larry more and more. I just sat around waiting for him to say something, and he says a lot of things, and all the things he says are incredible. I actually grew a little disappointed near the end of the mod, when a tiny bit of inflection and life began to creep into his voice.
I made a little highlight reel of Larry's finest moments:
The mod takes, I'd say, just under two hours to play, and it's well worth it if you're looking for some new Half-Life 2 action with a handful off oddball characters and, like I said, some really perplexing, yet not unenjoyable voice acting.
Installation: You can download the mod file here. To install, drop it in your Sourcemods folder in your main Steam directory. The mod will be added to your Steam library and can be launched from there.
What an incredible day for DIGITAL SPORTS. You get used to the idea that these events are always going to get bigger; that the next step up is always going to mean a larger stadium and more impressive production values. But there's something pretty startling about seeing games played at the highest level in an environment like the Commerzbank Arena. It's more than you get from attending other kinds of large gaming convention: it's not just about having something in common with thousands of other people. It's about the catalysing impact of sport, the way a hobby can grow and grow and grow until it becomes a spectacle.
Today I became freshly aware of the effect that sport has on a crowd. Even as a handful of people crept away from the games to watch the World Cup, the energy in the arena was astonishing. I figured I'd seen the biggest crowd response I was going to see when S4 landed that million-dollar coil at the end of The International 2013, but ESL One came close to topping that with its first kill. It's the best soundtrack you could hope for, like watching Dota in the company of a thunderstorm. A thunderstorm that really likes it when wizards die.
If you missed any of the matches, VODs are available here. Otherwise, lets talk about the games. Needless to say, I'm going to spoil the results.
Mousesports vs. Invictus Gaming
The home crowd was on Mousesports' side before they drafted Brewmaster and Axe in their first picks in game one, which is saying something. The new Mouz, formerly Team Dog, are slicker and more aggressive than the previous lineup to carry that name. Aggression is more or less their identity, and that first game draft, which also included Bounty Hunter, Leshrac and Shadow Demon was designed to win the game fast and hard. It almost worked.
The tournament got off to the most exciting possible start when Pajkatt's midlane Axe, who had been handily outlaning Ferrari_430's Lycan, got jumped by IG's support pair of Earthshaker and Shadow Shaman. What should have been a routine gank mid turned into a disaster for the Chinese team when it turned out they couldn't actually bring the Axe down before his Counter-Helix spins wrecked them; three spins and two dunks later and that three man gank had become a first blood double kill for Mouz.
But momentum easily won is easily lost, and over time it became clear that IG had drafted specifically to control the tempo of the game. ChuaN's Earthshaker was the bouncer at the entrance of every engagement Mouz wanted to take in the midgame, slamming the door shut with on-point Fissures every time Mouz tried to press the attack. IG efficiently secured farm, towers and Rosh kills while Mouz's gank lineup fished for kills, taking advantage of the long cooldown on Primal Split to minimise the impact of the Brewmaster. With Pugna and Shadow Shaman ensuring that IG could take towers whenever they liked, Mouz desperately needed counter-initiation that they just couldn't reliably get from a Bounty Hunter or Leshrac.
It was a very different story in game two. Mouz picked up the Bane-Mirana combo, securing themselves a dominant start and lumbering IG with the most unhappy Razor and Faceless Void you're likely to see. MiSeRy was the clear MVP for his Bane play, creating space everywhere with max-range Nightmares, Fiends' Grips from nowhere, each setting up a Sacred Arrow or Ancient Apparition ult. IG doubled down on protecting Luo's Razor, which bought them some time, but all the while FATA built up a Viper that the Chinese team just couldn't deal with. It was a phenomenal performance from Mouz, ending after 36 minutes with 40 kills to 7.
Then, after picking up a head of steam, Mouz returned to their game one plan for game three. Denied the Mirana, they went for Brewmaster with Tidehunter, Lich, Ember Spirit, and Ancient Apparition. IG played what they knew, picking up Earthshaker, Lycan, Storm Spirit, Pugna and Rubick. Despite being close on kills and towers for the bulk of the game, Mouz struggled to unseat their opponents in teamfights and couldn't ultimately overcome the fact that they'd been outdrafted. IG's relentless pushing power forced Mouz into a reactive rather than active posture: as much a the western teams love Brewmaster at the moment, he acts as a fairly good barometer for when things are going badly wrong. If Primal Split is being used to clear out a Pugna ward, you've probably already lost. The crowd didn't want to see Mouz go, but go they did. They proved that IG are beatable, but IG proved that clutch plays mean nothing if you don't have a plan to end the game.
Fnatic vs. Vici Gaming
For all the drama that currently surrounds Fnatic's ability to play at TI4, their first game against Vici felt like a powerful statement of intent. The original four members of the team - Hann1, N0tail (alright, BigDaddy, whatever), Trixi and Fly - totally controlled the pace of the game while their standin Excalibur farmed happily away in the corner of the map. Vici respect-banned Excalibur's Tinker and Meepo in every game, leaving BigDaddy (uh) free to pick up Io. He and Hann1 are the Riggs and Murtagh of professional Dota: their Io/Tiny midlane combo held Vici to the fire relentlessly at every stage of the game. Despite a few familiar pace-controlling supports coming out for Vici - Shadow Shaman, Earthshaker - it was BigDaddy's Relocate timer that set the rhythm of play. If they couldn't get kills, Fnatic would take towers, and despite a few dodgy trades late in the game the win came to them comfortably.
Vici let almost the same Fnatic draft through again in game two but countered with Lycan, Ember Spirit, Shadow Demon and Tidehunter while taking the Mirana for themselves. Excalibur adopted a more active role on Slark as a consequence, which effectively removed Fnatic's safety net: there was no comforting bed of money to fall back on when things went south. A fair few misplays in the first half of the game - errant Pounces, Sacred Arrows coming in slightly too early - suggested at nerves all round, but overall Vici were much more effective at slowing Fnatic down long enough for Lycan to farm. Hann1's Tiny was a concern throughout the game, again, but on-point Disruptions from Fenrir helped Vici turn teamfights in their favour. Like Mouz before them Fnatic struggled to control Roshan, and eventually there was no choice but to relent before Vici's relentless Lycan push.
Fnatic stuck with Tiny/Io in game three but swapped out the rest of the lineup for Brewmaster, Venomancer, and Lich. Vici took the now-standard Pugna, Shadow Shaman, Earthshaker trio again alongside Doom and Bristleback. The strength of Fnatic's draft was its flexibility: even when Vici seemed to have the upper hand, there'd be a Poison Nova or Chain Frost to ensure that Fnatic got a decent trade out of any encounter. This created a stalemate in the midgame but Fnatic were ultimately in the lead: they got better at securing objectives and took advantages wherever they could find it. Fly's kill-securing Lich broke the record for the most kills in 25 minutes on that hero, ending the game with 14 kills to a single death. Despite an intelligent and coordinated defence effort, Vici's defences eventually gave way to Fnatic's endless siege.
Alliance vs. Cloud 9
This was the most extraordinary match of the day, and the one you should go and watch right now if you've got two hours to spare. Despite a relatively unusual Skywrath Mage pick, Alliance drafted a very comfortable lineup in game one: Chaos Knight/Io with Storm Spirit mid and Clockwerk on the offlane. Cloud 9 drafted Tinker with Brewmaster, Jakiro, Lion and Nyx Assassin, but the supreme mobility of Alliance's draft made it very difficult for them to find the space they needed to play effectively.
EternalEnvy's Tinker struggled to find any farm in the early game as Loda's Chaos Knight picked up a killing spree as part of Alliance's now-standard aggressive trilane. Later, if Relocate ganks couldn't pick him off then Storm Spirit or Clockwerk would - AdmiralBulldog in particular deserves credit for a Clockwerk performance that demonstrates that all that work expanding his hero pool has been worth it. The tipping point came when Bulldog began a great teamfight behind Cloud 9's tier two towers with a max-range hook, creating space that Alliance used to immediately secure Roshan. Ending after 33 minutes, the match felt like one of Alliance's more confident victories over Cloud 9 in the DreamLeague finals.
Game two was the opposite. Cloud 9 built a lineup with phenomenal built-in redundancy, playing to each of their talents to ensure that they always had a way to shut Alliance down. Enigma's Black Hole; Bane's Fiends' Grip, Faceless Void's Chronosphere; Ember Spirit's mobility, lockdown, and AoE damage; Mirana's Moonlight Shadow and Sacred Arrows. Despite Alliance getting off to a good start with heroes they excel at - Bulldog's Nature's Prophet, S4's Puck, EGM's Io - they just couldn't secure the advantage over Cloud 9's superlative play. Loda's Wraith King gave them some space to lose a battle but win the counter-attack, but Cloud 9 always had a way to back off or secure an additional kill. Pieliedie deserves a lot of credit for his Bane performance, which - like MiSeRy's earlier in the day - makes a strong case banning the hero outright. He enabled kills on Bulldog and S4 that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Eventually, however, despite a 20,000XP deficit, Alliance started to pull it back. They played the very specific kind of Dota that Alliance excel at: western-style clutch plays with eastern efficiency. They picked up an Orchid on Bulldog followed by Scythes of Vyse on Bulldog and S4, which gave them the disables they needed to survive Cloud 9's ults. Then came the Necronomicon, the Refresher Puck, and what followed was the longest and most exciting game of Dota I may have ever seen. It ran to eighty minutes and ended on two of the most extraordinary exchanges. The first was a long teamfight that ran from the river on bottom lane up through the Dire's secret shop to mid, with Chronosphere and Black Hole both being used to slow Alliance's assault. Incredible plays from both sides trading back and forth until the camera panned north to reveal Cloud 9's middle barracks gone, and AdmiralBulldog making off like a bandit. The second encounter began as Cloud 9 went all-in on Alliance's tier 4 towers, leading to a heart-in-mouth teamfight around the Swedes' exposed ancient and ending with a turnaround that we'll be talking about for the rest of the year.
The final quarterfinal match between EG and Na'Vi will be played tomorrow morning due to a late start today. Check back tomorrow night for a full report from the final day.
And, thus, the Dota 2 community did buy many internet sticker books. And yea, they did fill those books with non-corporeal points. And so, Valve did set aside 25% of each purchase creating an International prize pool of $10 million, and much wealth and happiness for their own accountants.
Essentially, the community has spent over $33 million on these virtual souvenirs. It's comfortably the biggest prize pool in e-sports history, and all with Valve contributing 'just' $1.6 million to the initial prize pool. It's a huge achievement, and one that should result in fierce competition for the top prize.
What we don't yet know is how much that top prize will be worth. The distribution of the pool is yet to be announced, although Chris is a strong believer that, this year, Valve need to make changes.
As part of the money raised, the community have unlocked all stretch goals currently set. You can see the full list of what Compendium owners (and the entire Dota 2 playerbase) have unlocked by visiting the Compendium mini-site.
Later this afternoon I'll be heading to Germany to begin a weekend of coverage of ESL One Frankfurt, the last major Dota 2 tournament before The International. It's shaping up to be really exciting. The scene is in good shape, with varied and exciting play coming from a broad range of teams. Eight of those teams Alliance, Na'Vi, mousesports, Fnatic, Cloud 9, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming and Invictus Gaming will be competing in Frankfurt for a crowd-boosted prize pool of over $200,000. I sat down with fellow Dota nerd Janusz Urbanski to go over our predictions for the event.
Chris: ESL have made a lot of noise about having all three prior International champions at the tournament Na'Vi and Alliance, who received automatic invitations, and IG who arrived through the Chinese qualifier. I think the story of ESL One will, at least in part, be about which teams go all-out for that prizepool and which hold on to something in advance of TI4.
Alliance are bringing in WinteR as their coach for this tournament, which suggests that their summer campaign is properly under way. They made a confident return to form at DreamLeague and if they can maintain that pace here then I think they have a shot at taking the whole thing they're my pick out of the returning champions. The great thing about competitive Dota at the moment, however, is that it isn't dominated by one or two teams.
Janusz: Alliance had a rough patch earlier in the year, but recently they have started to look like the team that won TI3 so convincingly, a worrying prospect for the other teams. As ever, however, Na Vi can never be counted out. They have played well throughout the year, both online and on LAN, and I m sure we can expect the Frankfurt crowd to get behind them.
Na Vi are up against EG in the first round, though, and this talented EG lineup have proven they can beat any team in ESL. I wouldn t be surprised if they treat this as a dry run for TI4.
Chris: It'll be really interesting to see how EG do. If they keep to the form they've been on recently then the tournament is theirs to lose, as far as I'm concerned their 3-0 victory over Na'Vi in the D2L Western Challenge attests to their dominance, and arguably they've had a greater impact on the metagame than any other team in the last year. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure this is mason's first LAN of this scale he's hardly seemed to be the type to get dragged down by nerves in the past, but it's hardly trivial to find yourself in front of a stadium full of people a few months into your pro career.
What do you make of Cloud 9's chances? Their run of second-place finishes in the last couple of months suggests that they're unlikely to win the whole thing, but they've proven that they can beat anybody on a good day. I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish high.
Janusz: Cloud 9 don t lack for talent, but can t seem to clinch the win when it really matters. Their farming style may have become a bit predictable and could be punished by the top teams. Going up against Alliance so early will be a tough challenge, but if they can win that match they have a solid shot at taking the tournament. I think they want a big win at this point, and getting one will boost their confidence no end.
Mouz are my 'dark horse' pick, as they ve started to look really dangerous in the last few months, but have yet to prove that they ve got what it takes to win at the highest level. It will be a tough first round matchup against a resurgent IG. Do you think they ll get past the Chinese TI2 champions?
Chris: You can't count Mouz out, but I agree that it's a tough matchup. That said if Mouz do beat the Chinese team then they could do well overall they're fully capable of unseating the best western teams, and playing in front of a home crowd should ensure good performances from FATA and paS. Facing Alliance or C9 in the semis is never going to be easy, mind.
What are your thoughts on Fnatic versus Vici Gaming in the quarterfinals? Fnatic are continuing their run with Excalibur standing in for Era, which has been going fantastically for them. They've got incredible versatility and control and I'd expect them to do well in front of a home crowd. Last night's news about them being potentially unable to compete in TI4 could mean they double down on their efforts here.
Janusz: Fnatic are renowned for their stable roster so I was worried how they would do without Era, but it seems to be going well so far. They re are a great team and deserve a win, but they will need luck on their side if the other big teams play their best. Fnatic will be playing Vici Gaming first though, which is a game they can win. VG are a strong team, but like Cloud 9 they just can t seem to win tournaments.
VG do have Sylar, however, an intimidating carry that has had a few stand out performances recently and could make a big impact. Are there any players you are particularly looking forward to seeing play?
Chris: I like watching Hann1 and I'd like to see Fnatic run him on the offlane again. Otherwise, it's all about the support pairings Zai and PPD for EG, Akke and EGM for Alliance, Puppey and Kuroky for Na'Vi. I love me some rotations.
How do you think Na'Vi will do? EG beat them handily a few days ago despite Na'Vi getting a comfortable set of heroes in the first game Dendi Puck, Puppey Enchantress, XBOCT Lycan and that doesn't bode brilliantly for them in the quarterfinals at ESL. We could see them knocked out very early. On the other hand, they're Na'Vi. Coming back from a disadvantage is what they do. If Puppey's sitting on an EG-beating strat, this is when we'll see it.
Janusz: I m not too worried about Na Vi to be honest. They re one of the best LAN teams and have so much experience playing in high pressure matches. It s true that they haven t looked their best in the last few tournaments, and EG will go into the matchup with a lot of confidence, but Na Vi are bound to put up a good fight. As you say, Na Vi are known for coming back from behind and somehow finding a way to win, which should make for a thrilling match. It s a wide open tournament and Na Vi can beat all the teams playing, so I look forward to seeing them take to the stage.
Check back tomorrow for more coverage from ESL One.