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By Henry Stenhouse
On March 15th 2015 over one million people tuned in to watch the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Grand Finals at ESL One Katowice. At the previous year s event, viewer numbers peaked at 250,000. In just one year, the number of people watching had quadrupled.
But what caused this explosion in viewership? I've collected some of the most entertaining matches and moments from throughout the year. If you're looking for a reason to get into competitive CS, this is it.
The world map of Counterstrike is dominated by European nations: Denmark, Sweden, Poland and France all field teams of considerable renown. After the only North American team fell in the group stages of DreamHack Winter, it was left to a surprise performance by the Brazilian team Luminosity Gaming to keep American hopes alive.
Defeating both EnVyUs and Ninjas in Pyjamas, LG secured a place in the semifinal. Facing the formidable Team SoloMid, they received a crushing 16-5 defeat on Mirage. With the second game taking place on TSM's map of choice, Overpass, the Brazilian dream looked to be over…
Despite a shaky start, LG finally found their form. A combination of patient approaches with blistering flashes of aggression concocted the perfect formula to overcome the Danish defence. Breaking through to map 3, both teams brought their best in a gut wrenching finale. Luminosity may not have left the tournament as champions, but with victories against three of the greatest teams in CS, Brazil has certainly earned its place on the map.
Counter-Strike teams are rarely stable. Replacements and restructures come fast and often. In this regard Virtus Pro are an anomaly, maintaining the same lineup since January 2014. VP's roster also holds a high average age, with three out of five players aged over 27. Without any recent major successes to speak of, questions had begun to rise over how long the beloved Polish side would continue to compete.
Enter the Dubai Invitational. Fielding eight of the best teams from across the globe, the event looked to be a tight competition between the two favourites, Fnatic and TSM. VP surpassed all expectations by breezing out of the group stages before scoring a confident 2-1 win over Fnatic. The five map grand final vs TSM proved nothing short of spectacular, with momentum swinging wildly between each side.
Virtus Pro excel in flexibility, seemingly any member of their team cable of both rifling and AWPing. The player to watch throughout the event was VP's Janusz 'Snax' Pogorzelski who exhibited exemplary rifling along with inventive use of smoke grenades to secure rounds.
From the astounding to the amusing, the end of the ESEA Pro League looked to be a disappointing affair after EnVyUs's in-game leader, Vincent 'Happy' Cervoni, received a Denial of Service attack just five rounds in. Incredibly, EnVy decided to persevere with just four players, overwhelming a flustered mousesports to take the match.
A bold French performance and some unconventional casting by Lauren 'pansy' Scott and Alex 'machine' Richardson resulted in one of the most entertaining matches of the year. The duo livened the game with everything from speed and minimalist casting to a spectator fly-through race of the map.
CS:GO may be a team game, but individual moments of exceptional skill (or luck) often provide the best memories. Here are some of the best from this year:
Nikola 'NiKo' Kova of team mousesports pulls off a series of phenomenal long range deagle kills to claim an ace and economy win against Titan:
H vard 'Rain' Nygaard recovers from 1 vs 4 to save match point. Surviving on just one point of health, he single handedly keeps Kinguin in the game:
NiP's Patrik 'Forest' Lindberg locks down Dust2's double doors, earning a knife kill and dispatching four of TSM's roster:
Of course no highlight reel for 2015 would be complete without THAT deagle ace by Vincent 'Happy' Schopenhauer:
To discuss the greats of CS:GO without mentioning Fnatic is to do a great disservice to the game. The Swedish team have proven themselves the kings of CS time after time. Securing no less than five $100,000 first place victories this year, Fnatic's reign looks far from over. The highlight? Katowice grand finals, map three:
The North American heroes may have run into trouble in the latter stages of the year but during the summer months they were in the form of their lives. Reaching three back to back finals at ESEA Season 1, ESWC 2015 and DreamHack Valencia, the team fell just short of tournament victories in each case. Despite this, C9 garnered key victories over EnVyUs and VP to show they could compete at the top of CS. Here they are at DreamHack Open Valencia:
After such a deluge of superhuman feats, I feel it's important to remind yourself that these professionals are, at the end of the day, still human. This year's Cluj-Napoca supplied an abnormal number of team kills, collected neatly in this montage by Kevin Tweedale:
Averaging 500,000 players daily, CS:GO sits happily at second place on Steam s player chart. With increasing prize pools and MLG Colombus hosting the first North American major in 2016, Counter-Strike s popularity growth shows no signs of slowing. If 2014 was the year CS:GO blossomed, then 2015 has proven to be its tour de force.
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!
Dota 2 has had an incredible year. A wide range of tournaments, huge plays, and the ever-shifting metagame have resulted in an exciting scene. There have been laughs, sadness, and always some damn good Dota. With the clock ticking and 2016 looming near, let s take a look at Dota 2 s five biggest moments of 2015.
Some games are a friendly reminder that the key to victory in Dota 2 is to kill the enemy s ancient. It doesn t matter how much farm a player has or if they can stay alive in the enemy fountain, if they don t kill an ancient, they don t win. In this case not only were CDEC fighting for the game, they were fighting for their Dota 2 Asia Championship slot. Unlike The International 2015 s format, a poor group stage performance could have led to elimination from the DAC, and CDEC were struggling among the competition. In contrast, Secret hadn t lost a game (and wouldn t lose one for the rest of the group stage).
Down two barracks and worried about Lycan s pushing power, CDEC had to fight. In an astounding three minutes of fighting (with about 20 seconds of posturing), numerous buybacks, and a skewer into fountain, this was one of the best base races in Dota history.
Until 2015, South America had little representation in professional Dota 2. This changed with the Frankfurt Major, when Unknown.xiu, a Peruvian team, managed to work their way through two qualifiers to eventually reach the tournament. As you ll see above, they showed some extra swag in their match versus Digital Chaos. Not only did they take a win, but they relished their victory with some good old fashioned bad manners.
On a more serious note, when a region is suddenly represented on the world stage it can bring substantial growth to the area as a whole. Unknown.xiu has unfortunately split, but the experience gained by the players will help cultivate more talent, and the extra eyes on South America can generate much needed sponsorship. Even if Unknown.xi had limited success upon reaching the Frankfurt Major, they were still able to beat Newbee and earn 12th place. The biggest growth of South America may happen in 2016, but the process started two months ago.
The Frankfurt Major brought an interesting question to the table: could new teams do well in the Major format? When the only Valve-run event was The International, teams had time to form, test their merits, and find a way to improve (or disband). This meant that tons of smaller teams, such as Team Tinker, were forming and developing in tournaments prior to the The International. Most of them sank, but a few managed to swim. The Dota Major s faster schedule had the potential to change all that.
And at first glance, it seemed like the newer teams were struggling. At the Frankfurt Major, only a single open qualifier team made it into the winner s bracket. Then came OG. OG had a mediocre performance in the group stages, snagging third place out of four. They looked like the kind of team spectators might read about out of curiosity, but ignore in favor of fan favorites. Once the main event began, however, they gained some new momentum.
Their first win didn t come as a huge surprise, as Fnatic hadn t won a single game. The victories kept coming, although every win seemed to be followed up with an assumption that the win streak was about to end. That they made it all the way to the grand final and won is this year s Cinderella story, and it earned them a lot of fans on the way: fans that rushed the stage as they lifted the trophy. New teams can not only win Majors, it seems, but they can pick up a major fanbase along the way.
On October 16th, it was announced that Natus Vincere was disbanding its Dota 2 squad, leaving behind fan-favorite veterans like Dendi and XBOCT. This was a short-lived change, and both Dendi and Sonneiko were shortly signed onto a new Na Vi squad. This brief restructuring served as a reminder that the Dota scene is dramatically changing. The expected synergy between Funn1k, XBOCT, and Dendi was a relic of the past, and even if that lineup was well-loved by fans, it couldn t survive in the increasingly tough Dota 2 scene.
This is the flipside to the many underdog stories of 2015, where OG and numerous other teams suddenly appeared and shone. Good tournament results are a zero-sum game though, and as these new teams find their place, the older organizations might just leave the scene altogether. Na Vi and Dendi have stuck around for now, but for how long?
The International 5 managed to both shatter and reaffirm expectations of the professional Dota scene. MVP Phoenix surprised the world by fighting their way into seventh place, and in doing so tied with the suddenly floundering Team Secret. However, the biggest surprise story was the sudden reappearance of CDEC. CDEC wasn t directly invited to The International, but instead took second in the Chinese qualifier. Like the OG phoenix that would later rise in the Frankfurt Major, CDEC couldn t stop winning once the main event began. They easily found themselves in the grand finals, having only dropped a single game to the third place LGD.
Within a few day of losing the winner s bracket final to CDEC, Evil Geniuses faced them again in the grand final. Revised strategies and smart drafting delivered them to a 2-1 advantage, a single win away from the lion s share of an 18.5 million dollar prize pool. These are the circumstances that led to the $6m dollar slam.
EG s victory wasn t really about the single play. The game had already gone haywire for CDEC, and a midgame pickoff on Sumail was their only chance at a desperation Roshan kill. The setup was perfect for Evil Geniuses. PPD used Ancient Apparition s Ice Blast for vision, and the Echo Slam followup from Universe was absolutely brutal. A simple play, delivering a simple statement: Evil Geniuses were going to win The International 2015. CDEC had reached for the prize, but EG had proven they were the best.
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!
M4A4 or M4A1-s?
"Depends on map/position. If I have to choose, then it's the M4A4."
The Return of the King or Return of the Jedi?
"Both, only a Sith deals in absolutes."
Coffee or tea?
"Tea. Coffee will make your tail grow out, or so my grandma used to tell me."
Clutch plays or solid teamwork?
"Solid teamwork above all."
What's your new year's resolution?
"I don t really make those to be honest, but let's say I need to lose some weight and improve on a bunch of things related to my work as an analyst."
There s something special about this time of year. Maybe it s something we ve created for ourselves. Maybe it s part of human nature. Not only do we get to celebrate the holidays, but it s also a time for reflection. We think about the past year. All the goals we had set for ourselves, everything that happened in our lives and of course all the events in the game we all love: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
One thing I love about esports is how much can happen in a short period of time. The amount of tournaments, frequent roster changes and other things surrounding the game all add to the excitement of being a fan of the sport. It s mind boggling that it s not even a year ago that four players from iBUYPOWER got banned after a match fixing scandal that had taken place the previous summer. Nor has a year passed since the insanely close all-Swedish finals between Fnatic and NiP in Katowice during the ESL One Major, where Fnatic eventually managed to win the third map to seal the deal. That deciding map on Inferno is in my mind one of the most memorable moments from 2015. Fnatic were up 14-4 when NiP almost managed a heroic comeback. 16-13 was the final score. One dream crushed, another fulfilled. That's the beauty of our game. But let s not dwell on the past. We have yet another exciting year of CS:GO ahead of us.
The next CS:GO Major will take place at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, home of the glorious and heroic Blue Jackets (fanboy: a fan that lets his passion override social graces). To uncover what this means for the North American scene I asked the up and coming CS:GO analyst Janko 'YNk' Paunovic, famous for his in-depth play-by-play breakdowns.
"I don't think it will have that big of an influence. Maybe the ELeague if it offers more spots for NA teams. That would give some less-known teams like Splyce, Enemy or the former 3-sUP team, who all have the potential to break through in my opinion, a chance to play against top teams and gain that much needed experience."
What is ELeague, then? It's the result of a collaboration between the two media companies Turner and WME | IMG. During 2016 there will be two seasons with a prize pool of $1.2 million per season, making it the biggest league in CS:GO history money-wise.
"I hope that this will motivate NA teams even more, so that we can see other teams besides Luminosity being a threat to the EU teams."
From what we've seen so far in the first hype video none of the top tier European teams are featured. ELeague could be a great initiative if they go about it the right way. Each season stretches over a ten week period of time. That's a lot of time in esports and consequently a huge commitment. Because of that it's likely that a lot of top teams opt out until ELeague has proven itself.
Given that both the MLG Major and ELeague will take place in North America, I asked Janko whether thinks this will affect the level of interest among European fans.
"I don't feel that the level of interest will change. The majors are highlights of the year in CS:GO. EU fans might however not be able to watch as many games because of timezone differences."
He adds, "from what I've seen at IEM San Jose, I expect a big crowd and a great atmosphere."
We talked about the weapon changes that have been a hot topic ever since the infamous Winter Update.
"Well, they reverted those changes, but I feel that the pistol changes were okay. The Glock nerf was unnecessary and the tec-9 could've been nerfed even more in my opinion."
Valve also decided to make changes to the most popular assault rifles in an attempt to make sprays less effective.
"As for the rifle nerfs I agree with the idea, but I feel that they went about it the wrong way. In my opinion, randomness is not good for a game like CS, it's just counter intuitive."
A lot of people have requested a remade version of the map Nuke in the official map pool. I asked Janko how he felt about this topic.
"Personally, I don't think Nuke was that bad of a map, I think teams weren't creative enough on their T sides, which resulted in big results for the CT's. I also disagree that if a map is to be good for competitive play it has to be 'side balanced'. For me Nuke was fun to watch because of how good some teams were as CT, hence making it look easy."
Side balance is often discussed within the community and the popular opinion is that maps should be as balanced as possible. Good arguments can be made on both sides of the fence and it will be interesting to see what Valve decides to do next.
"I would like to see Tuscan back in the map pool, that map was really fun to both play and watch."
No matter what we think about changes to the game and upcoming tournaments, it's impossible to deny that the scene is only getting bigger. The number of viewers is steadily increasing. The prize pools are growing, albeit slowly. There's no reason not to think that we're in for a treat in 2016. What a time to be a fan of CS:GO!
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!
Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2 and wizards in general. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
On the morning of Christmas Eve I played a game of Dota. I had an idea—actually, an idea that was supposed to form the basis of this post. It s not so easy to spread gifts around the Dota community, these days, so I d decided to spread the spirit of the season rather simply: I d end everything I said in chat with merry Christmas .
I loaded into a game of solo ranked and picked Witch Doctor. I bought wards and the courier and gave a ward to Kunkka, who was headed to the offlane (because this was a solo ranked game). gave u a ward, kunkka I typed. Merry Christmas.
He said thank you. Somebody else typed lol . Then, our mid said something over voice that did not sound threatening or angry but was certainly not in English. It may have been Russian, I didn t know or mind. Kunkka assumed it was Russian, and made his objections clear over voice chat.
Fucking Russian mother ass fuck you were his exact words. He continued along those lines for a little bit. They started shouting at each other. The zero-minute runes spawned.
The opening few minutes of the game went well. Omniknight, my fellow support, successfully stacked and pulled. We got first blood, and then another kill, and then I rotated mid and helped Pudge kill the other team s mid Meepo. Then I did some more warding, then helped get a kill top. I felt pretty good. The yelling did not stop.
Meepo abandoned. Two members of the enemy team followed. They were left with Keeper of the Light and Earthshaker at ten minutes.
They managed to defend for twenty more.
I spent the rest of that Dota game listening to Kunkka scream at Pudge who screamed at Weaver, our safelane carry. Nobody wanted to work together for long enough to break base, or even take Roshan. It was miserable: Omniknight and I supported in silence while Weaver dove tier four towers and died, Pudge screamed at him, did the same, and so on. I didn t say anything for a long time. Then, as we finally took down a lane of barracks and then a second, I realised that I d have preferred it if the other team had won.
Well defended guys I typed. You probably deserve to win this one. Merry Christmas.
Earthshaker responded in Russian. Kunkka lost it, again.
We won the game, I got my +25 MMR, and I thought: man, why does anybody play this game.
The next game ended with a very salty Tiny throwing his own teammates (me) into the enemy team, forever, until the game ended. The one after that wasn t any better. My hopes of a heartwarming Christmas Dota diary faded. Some communities are Christmas-proof, and I suspect that Dota is one of them.
So instead I m going to write about why I do play this game.
I started playing Dota in 2012 because we needed somebody to write about Dota. I d played StarCraft II for a year or so and PvP in various hotbar MMOs for longer. I d just come off a long Star Wars: The Old Republic habit, and going from three 12-action quickbars to just four abilities per character felt quaint, easy even.
It didn t take long for that impression to be proven staggeringly wrong. The first hero I played was Lion, in an easy bot game along with four friends. We won, but it took forever. We thought we d wait a few weeks before braving actual matchmaking, but we lasted a few days. The first hero I played against other people was Gyrocopter. I bought an Aghanim s Scepter, because global-range Call Down seemed like the most overpowered the thing in the game. It wasn t. This game also took forever. We grouped up and used Treant Protector s Nature s Guise to attempt to sneak into the enemy base and destroy the ancient. It didn t work, because that doesn t work, and we lost. It was brilliant.
I had discovered a game that wasn t a set of fixed strategies that had to be mastered and repeated, as most competitive games I d played were. Dota 2 is a sandbox, an opportunity to be creative, and although there is a lot to learn, the purpose of that learning is to expand your options—not close them off. And when you start to apply that creativity, the solutions you come up with are solutions that you own. There are orthodoxies, yes—what role a hero plays, what items they should probably buy—but no rules, in the way that games traditionally enforce rules.
This was a game where you were really responsible for your ideas, your performance, your moments of success (and failure.) There s something specifically compelling about that: the knowledge that the only thing stopping you from improving is your own willingness to improve, and that when you do get better your friends will watch it happen.
That was what prompted my deepest-ever investment in a competitive game, compounded by this sense that Dota is—no matter how toxic the community—unavoidably social. You need to work with others, and so you need to learn with others, and it s hard not to make friends as you do that. This is a game that is essentially very human, from the professional scene down. It inspires jokes, arguments, friendships, rivalries, dumb songs, anxiety, tryharding, shitposting, unlike any other game I ve played. It s not just an ARTS, or a MOBA, or whatever: it s a giant social sandbox, a stage for people to play on which uses strategy as the basis for a shared vocabulary.
Don t get me wrong. There are some really shitty people playing Dota. There are a lot of shitty people playing Dota. And sometimes, like yesterday, it doesn t really feel worth it. The lesson here is partly the same old: solo ranked is a disaster, play with a group. But it s also helpful to remember why I ve dumped so much time (and hat money) on this ridiculous game. Because Dota is unique. And there are a lot of games that try to be a bit like Dota, and they don t succeed, because this is the only game in the world where a first-time player can try to use a talking tree s tree magic to sneak an invisible helicopter into a fortress.
Merry Christmas, Dota. You re weird.
Joy to the world, the tests are run! The result is a spectacular three-minute Portal carol built in Source Filmmaker by Harry 'Harry101UK' Callaghan. The turrets—including the Animal King, naturally—have come together at this special time of year to spread neurotoxin to the tune of Mykola Leontovych and Peter J. Wilhousky's Carol of the Bells.
Callaghan did the voices and music himself, with turret rigs provided by August 'Rantis' Loolam, which is an exhausting array of talent and an indictment of my own sorry skillset. You can find his YouTube channel here, and the song is available on Bandcamp.
In CS:GO there are a few things that separate the good players from the bad: aim, economic knowledge, movement and last but not least, gamesense. Counter-Strike—like many other competitive games—requires equal parts technical skill and intelligence. Gamesense is a direct extension of the latter. Before you can start popping heads on the regular you need to know where those heads are and what they re carrying.
Gamesense is really just a another word for instinct. It s the knowledge of how your game is progressing and how your teammates and your opponents are playing. Gamesense allows you to make a judgement about where your opponents are on the map and what kind of gear they re carrying. If your gamesense is good enough, you ll have a much easier time getting into bombsites, clutching rounds and countering flanking maneuvers. Gamesense is a combination of economic knowledge and map knowledge, so in order to improve your gamesense you ll need to learn more about both those things.
Don t worry about losing a couple games while you learn
Economic knowledge is easy to develop. Try to remember what your opponents were carrying after every round and keep an eye on the win/loss chart on the scoreboard. If your opponents just lost two rounds where they were carrying full loadouts, it s safe to assume they ll buy pistols this round. Did you just drop a few rounds? Then look out for AWPs because your opponents are flush with cash and ready to roll. The best way to get a feel for how the CS:GO economy works is by looking through your own demos and seeing how your opponents tend to spend their money. When you reach a higher rank you ll notice that your opponents and your teammates follow the unwritten economy rules a lot more closely, increasing the accuracy with which you can estimate your opponent s gear.
Map knowledge is a little harder to develop due to the sheer number of maps you have to study. Another reason why map knowledge isn t learned as quickly as economic knowledge is the fact that you have to learn two different sides of a map equally well. Take the time to go through the learning process map for map and don t worry about losing a couple games while you learn. Take it from StarCraft veteran WhiteRa: more GG, more skill.
Pre-aiming is the art of aiming at locations where you expect opponents to be playing from before you ve actually seen them, allowing you to shoot them immediately instead of having to snap your crosshair onto them.
I ve mentioned watching demos a few times as a way to improve your gamesense. There s a good reason why I believe demos are such an invaluable part of refining this part of your skillset. It s impossible to give you one way to improve your gamesense that will work for every player at every rank. Playstyles simply differ too much to write one guide that covers all the bases. If you ve ever seen a high-ranked player fail horribly at smurfing on the lower ranks, you ll know what I m talking about. High-ranked players expect their opponents to adopt a playstyle they know how to counter because nearly everyone on their rank is playing that style. When those players then play against people of a lower rank, it takes them time to get used to their opponents not defending bombsites from the optimal positions, making it hard to pre-aim when attempting an entry.
This knowledge, combined with your newfound economic understanding, grants you special clairvoyant powers
The only truly reliable way to get a real understanding of how people at your rank are playing is by watching your own demos. Who better to show you how your opponents play than your opponents?
If this is your first time attempting to improve by watching your demos, here s some advice. You ll want to start by finding a demo of a close game. You re not going to learn anything from watching a game where you were on fire the entire time, dropping 50 frags and getting knife kills every other round. You ll also have a hard time finding flaws in your game when your opponents were much better than you and you lost without winning a single round. A game where you barely lost is great for learning purposes. You were matched against a team of nearly equal skill and were just unable to pull out the victory. Watching the replay will let you understand why.
Let s start off by looking at your terrorist side. Compare your buying choices on the pistol round with our pistol guide and then look at the angles your opponents were holding. If you spot a position you ve never seen before, make a note of it and move on. You re going to want to do this for a few demos in order to find out which spots are common and thus should be checked when attempting to storm a bombsite.
Those one-off spots your opponents sometimes choose to play are a lot less important than whichever locations are more popular at your rank. Repeat this process for every standard round and you ll end up with a pretty good idea of how counter-terrorists defend their bombsites at the level that you re playing. You ll also notice that playstyles heavily depend on loadouts, so keep track of what players are carrying too. This knowledge, combined with your newfound economic understanding, grants you special clairvoyant powers (or, at the very least, a better chance of winning.)
We want to focus on getting a good feel for where the terrorists are moving on the map and what that means for your defence. Once again we turn to our demos. While watching your CT-side, two things are important: how your opponents attempt to take bombsites and how they defend bombsites afterwards. Note-keeping is the solution to figuring out which types of attacks are most common and require special attention. Keep an eye out for how your opponents are moving before they start an attack so you can call it out to your team before the assault even happens. Being able to do this will make you invaluable to any team you come across in matchmaking. When your team does lose a bombsite, you are forced into the most difficult position in the game: retaking. Look at your demos for common spots the terrorists like to use in order to defend their explosives and check those first when attempting to retake a bombsite.
A single demo doesn t tell you much, so take the time to watch a few of your own demos and make it a habit as you rank up. When you notice your ability to predict your opponents playstyle slipping, look at your demos and note the differences. Keep doing this and you ll start adjusting your playstyle without even thinking about it, making you a much better player in the process.
Yesterday, Alliance drew a line under a bleak year, beating LGD Gaming 3-2 in the World Cyber Arena grand final to win $370,000. Almost as if this were choreographed fan service, Alliance clinched victory with the same line-up that won The International 2013: Loda, s4, AdmiralBulldog, EGM and Akke.
After the team's disastrous elimination from The International 5 qualifiers in May, this win has to be all the sweeter for beating Chinese team LGD on their home turf. After two matches, it looked as if the visitors were going to embarrass LGD with a clean sweep, but MMY's Lion bought LGD time in game three, forcing Alliance to concede by the 30-minute mark. A 22-minute stomp in game four brought the score to two-all. The simmering final bout boiled over with a spectacular counter-push from Alliance which claimed two lanes of racks without casualties and all but decided the game, despite a stylish Aegis steal by rOtK on Clockwerk.
Unfortunately, the tournament was marred by what many perceived to be poor and sometimes baffling quality. The only Dota to be played on-stage was the final—the rest of the matches were streamed. Players were seated on plastic fold-out chairs, padded with their own jackets. There was nowhere to buy food at the venue, and Alliance manager Kelly Ong ended up relocating the team to a net caf to train. Meanwhile, another Chinese team, Newbee, decided to forfeit their matches two hours before they were due to start—they didn't even get on the plane. To top it off, a Tweet from Erik Barge claims that LGD got wind of an Alliance Rosh attempt because the booths weren't soundproof.
Apparently the Chinese casters called out the Rosh attempt by us and the booths aren't soundproof.
— Erik Barge (@ErikBarge) December 20, 2015
When a teaser image for Dota 2 s 6.86 patch appeared last Sunday, it felt like Christmas had come early. Dota 2 patches are a big deal: they have a chance to redefine the game and most changes are totally unpredictable. This patch didn t disappoint, and some of the new additions have fundamentally altered how Dota is played. With that in mind, these are eight of the biggest changes in 6.86.
Phantom Assassin got a nice little intelligence boost this patch, but she s probably feeling down in the dumps due to one specific change: Silver Edge s break can no longer be purged. Break is a mechanic that disables a hero s passive skills. This includes Phantom Assassin s Coup de Grace and Blur, Huskar s Berserker s Blood, and Anti-Mage s Spell Shield. While Silver Edge is expensive and the break is still prevented by spell immunity, any passive-dependent hero has to play with incredible caution. A Black King Bar will be needed to deter any would-be breakers. Bristleback with broken bristles is incredibly squishy, and a broken Phantom Assassin feels like a really bad Anti-Mage.
Aether Lens provides two bonuses that were almost never seen in Dota: more cast range on targetted spells/items and a slight buff to all spell damage. At first glance that may not seem impressive, but the 200 cast range buff can redefine heroes and totally alters mid-game scaling. For instance, an Ogre Magi with Aether Lens may suddenly have the range on Fireblast to make him a constant threat in team fights. For Bane, Fiend s Grip would have whopping 825 range.
For many heroes that can use the item, Aether Lens will compete with an early Blink Dagger, Force Staff, or Aghanim s Scepter. A hero dependent on getting a quick initiation will probably invest in items that provide faster movement. Though anyone that doesn t need to start a fight in the blink of an eye might pick up an Aether Lens: heroes like Witch Doctor, Lina, or Zeus. In the case of the former, his positioning can become ridiculously safe with the extra range. In the case of the latter two, the bonus damage supplements the range for some major pain.
Dragon Lance is another cool addition, providing modest stats and a 130 attack range boost for ranged heroes only. While it will be great on certain heroes, like Enchantress, its effects aren t as pronounced as those from the Aether Lens. It can be disassembled, so it might see play in tower pushes before being put away for a Black King Bar. This could be extra effective with heroes that outrange towers with a Dragon Lance, and lead to way more early pressure.
What if players could start the game with 12 bonus damage, 200 spare gold, and the ability to pop a small heal every 5 seconds? Four new items were added in 6.86, and two have a direct impact on the early game. For 75 gold, Faerie Fire provides 2 damage and can be instantly consumed for a 75 HP heal. Combine this with a Mango, and it s possible to lane entirely off of consumables. Or maybe mids want to start with a spare Iron Branch, which can now be consumed to drop a happy little tree. This can be used defensively to escape, or even offensively to trap heroes in abilities like Tusk s Ice Shards. Early game item builds have always had some divergence, but now there are some very noticeable active effects that cost less than 125 gold. Expect some sick tree-planting plays.
once Pudge snags a Scepter, he ll have a potential burst combo of 950 pure damage, at least 450 magic damage, and whatever damage trickles in from Rot
The laning gimmicks are great, but what if players wanted to try a previously slow jungler, like Legion Commander? Quite a few poorly-paced jungle heroes have had their potential jungling speed dramatically increased with the addition of Iron Talon. Iron Talon is a 500 gold item that has an active ability to damages any non-ancient creep for 40% of its current HP. It s not going to provide a massive amount of sustain, but rather provide a new option for survivable junglers that lacked speed.
Legion Commander and Lifestealer look like stronger candidates for jungling now, but the options are just being explored. Ogre Magi, boasting his ridiculous 3.5 HP regeneration, can find himself jungling with relative ease. My personal favorite is Mirana, and not for the gimmicky ancient farming. Rather, a roaming Mirana who can easily alternate between securing kills and picking off creep camps for easy experience and gold. It won t be a normal jungling experience, but many possibilities have been opened up.
The oldies-but-goodies weren t left behind, and classic junglers like Enchantress and Chen have some new tricks. Chen has some handy new options available if he finds himself stealing ancients, and a new magic resistance aura found on Hellbears and Centaurs could have a huge impact on early pushes. An enchanted Centaur Courser or persuaded Hellbear might be able to keep creep waves alive through a barrage of spells. I d expect to see some almost unstoppable early pushes in pro games with either Chen or Enchantress leading the charge.
There were a slew of Aghanim s Scepter changes this patch, many of which focused on normal abilities rather than ultimates. Sand King gained massive range on Burrowstrike, Magnus has an Empower cleave aura, and most importantly, Pudge s Meat Hook has a four second cooldown when he has a Scepter. Not only is the cooldown shorter, but Meat Hook s damage is also increased to 475. To make the butcher even more dangerous, Dismember now scales innately and heals Pudge for the damage done, all without requiring a scepter. This means that once Pudge snags a Scepter, he ll have a potential burst combo of 950 pure damage, at least 450 magic damage, and whatever damage trickles in from Rot. He won t have the mana to infinitely spam hooks, but he s always a threat now. Supports beware.
Almost everything has changed—even the map is a completely different place. While relearning terrain and routing is going to be rough at first, a lot of the awesome changes from 6.86 require an item or two to fully appreciate. This means that Dota 2 is going to be changing dynamically from game to game, and even during games. An early Aghanim s Scepter on Sand King will have significantly different impact than a Blink Dagger. While this has always been true to a certain degree, it s never been so easy to directly adjust heroes at such a fundamental level. This means that every game of Dota is going to require a new degree of adaption, whether it s playing carefully around break effects as Phantom Assassin, or watching for a Dragon Lance Sniper chipping away at you from across the river.
Let s keep this one quick. As Christmas approaches, our pro gaming options get thinner. Even so, there are two major LANs this weekend: World Cyber Arena 2015 in China and StarCraft II s HomeStory Cup XII in Germany. WCA has been running behind schedule rather a lot, and English-language streams can be a bit thin on the ground, but switch on at the right time and you will find games to watch. Or paused Dota 2 matches. One or the other. The production struggles have been real with this one, but the games have been fun when they ve happened.
If you travelled to China for the event itself, you're out of luck: Dota 2 isn't showing on the main stage at this year's WCA. The tournament is being broadcast online, however, with a healthy prize pool of $650,000 set to be split between a cross-section of international Dota 2. This is a good chance to watch professional players experiment in the new 6.86 update, which has thrown the metagame into serious disarray. The schedule has been uneven all day today, so I don't feel particularly confident telling you when matches are going to start: best check GosuGamers for that. You can watch English-language streams from both JoinDota and BeyondTheSummit.
There's a massive $110,000 waiting for the first place winner of the WCA 2015 Hearthstone tournament. There are a lot of Chinese players in contention, as you might expect, but also a fair few players from elsewhere: including 2015 World Champion Ostkaka. The games are being streamed on TempoStorm s Eloise s Twitch channel. The schedule isn t listed, but expect games in the morning in Europe and very late in the evening in the US.
The legendary low-fi StarCraft II tournament returns for the first time in the era of Legacy of the Void. An international cadre of players compete in a relaxed atmosphere over four days with $25,000 on the line. It's been ongoing for a couple of days already, and ends on Sunday. Find the livestream here.