We Aren’t The Champions: Dota 2 International Playoffs Over

Not pictured: professionals.

The full pageantry of Valve’s whopping great Dota 2 tournament The International won’t kick off in Seattle until Friday, but already it’s seen a few upsets. Seven days of playoffs ended last night, whittling nineteen teams down to eight–with last year’s champions, Alliance, notably knocked out.

We haven’t seen all the fun and dressing Valve plan to fill the 17,000-capacity KeyArena with as teams fight over a $10 million prize pool, but we have got a fair look at how they’re trying to welcome newcomers, not to mention the state of the game. It’s a bit mixed, really.

While Valve do have videos of everything to watch, you should at least try the in-game game-watching stuff. Dota 2 has by far the best spectator system in video games, allowing viewers to choose from different commentary streams, follow streams’ cameras or jump around as they please, pause and skip around the timeline, and loads of other things I’m astonished other games aspiring to be digital sports don’t copy. Dota 2’s free to download on Steam so go on, even if you don’t care about the game itself.

One big addition to the show this year commentary stream for newbies, which is supposedly intended for people who are either new to Dota or don’t play it at all. It is certainly more friendly than the regular commentary. However, the bits I tuned in for focused too much on carefully explaining skills and items, the intricacies of which are perhaps less important for the uninitiated than high-level themes and movements of the game. It did improve over the week, though.

As for the Dota 2 itself, well, it’s been a bit wonky for my liking. Far too many matches have dragged on with little action, only teams poking at other then running away and setting up camp outside each other’s bases, slowly chipping down towers. A lot were dull to watch, and I don’t fancy an International filled with these sorts of games. Teams began adapting to this conservative play over the week, mind, and may have a few tricks up their sleeves for the main event.

Many games have brought murders galore too. A remarkable match last night between Titan and Newbee saw Newbee going for Roshan before kick-off then snowball into pushing Titan’s barracks after 12 minutes (I realise this sentence is gibberish to many). The controversial ‘rat Dota’ style has brought some great moments too.

The International’s prize pool is up to $10,764,294 as I write this, with $4,951,575 earmarked for the first-place team (teams are five players). Even 14th place will get at least $21,529. These numbers will all go up as people continue spending money on the Compendium, The International’s virtual sticker album thing.

I suppose recommending a game to watch is the sort of thing one does in these situations, so sure, go watch that Titan vs. Newbee game. Skip to about 2:30:00 in the stream replay to see it or, better yet, go to the in-game viewer (it’s match ID 776170591). Or here’s where another level 1 Roshan attempted ended very badly (poor old Alliance):


  1. Poddington says:

    DOTA2, like Starcraft 2 are games I enjoying watching rather than playing. Although I do like playing them too, I’m nowhere near as good as professional teams and they take it to a new level.

    Can’t wait for the main event this weekend :)

  2. Afred says:

    I’ve actually really enjoyed the newcomer’s stream, as a complete beginner, and the possibility of watching little clips of each character’s ability in the draft phase is incredibly useful, which makes watching games in the dota 2 client almost perfect.
    And I’m not sure why conservative plays are getting criticised here, a part of the fun in watching it for me is more in those small power imbalances and counter-push etc than in the big spectacular plays (Roshan at the start of the game etc)

    • Martel says:

      I’m not new to dota and I still prefer the newbie stream. There’s just so much information in the game that I still learn new things from listening to them, and I find them to be pretty good commentators as well. Plus they tend to shout a lot less than the other announcers.

  3. fluffy_thedestroyer says:

    i really think the spectator view in most multiplayer games especially the ones that have a lobby and people can connect should have a “spectator” type of system which allows multiple functions. Sometimes, its good or fun to see other people play. I have to admit it can make some good youtube video as well.

  4. The Sombrero Kid says:

    My heart says Na’Vi, My Heart/Head says DK My head says Newbee, as long as it’s not EG.

    • Terragot says:

      Are you me?

      Na’Vi look absolute turd in drafting, laning and teamfights. Newbee made them look completely out of depth. It’s absolutely devastating to see as a long time Na’Vi fan, but they won’t make it much further unless they truly are holding off their strats for the main event.

      Newbee look unstoppable, they even beat iG.

      As long as EG don’t have Random Jesus on their side and win with Phantom Assassin ult luck then I’ll be happy enough.

      I’d love to see Mushi / DK holding the Aegis though. Maybe they have enough to put Newbee on their arse?

      • PikaBot says:

        I actually don’t think this is the case. In drafting certainly, maybe a little bit in laning, but Na’vi actually had some genius execution in teamfights over the series. Look at that fight at Roshan in the second game. It looked incredibly bad for them at first, but by dancing in and out they came out on top (although when they pushed their luck by going up mid it got turned around on them).

        Anyway, this happens every year. Na’vi go down in flames during the preliminary, everyone declares them dead, and then at the main event they whip out a pocket strategy that puts them back into contention. Counting Na’vi out at this point is premature.

        • Synesthesia says:

          That roshan fight was the highlight of the playoffs for me. To actually shut down a tidehunter ult, (i think only warlock’s has bigger aoe?) while fighting for rosh, at the low ground, and still have something to show after it was beyond fantastic.

          That being said, newbee absolutely wrecked face during the second match. Strategy was more than skill this time around.

        • Terragot says:

          Xboct seemed wildly out of position in the important fights. I enjoyed Dendi launching Puppey in with echo slam, but by that point they were way too far behind.

          Most surprising was some of the positioning from Kuroky, who is usually their most intelligent player.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        I’d love to see Mushi / DK holding the Aegis though. Maybe they have enough to put Newbee on their arse?

        You & me both.

        BTW Vici Gaming chose to play Newbee rather than DK in the winner bracket. I can see Vici sending Newbee to the loser bracket without too much trouble, they’ve just executed everything almost flawlessly in the group stage. Even rOtK isn’t playing like his usual self.

        Newbee won game 3 vs iG yesterday due to iG’s draft. While DK, iG & Vici have evolved or reinvented their playstyle, Newbee & LGD are still trying to play like it’s TI3 not TI4.

  5. Horg says:

    For anyone interested in watching a VoD or two, the highlights of the tournament so far are probably iG vs Na’vi US group stage (close game featuring a farmed Earth Shaker), and Newbee vs Titan bubble bracket game 2 (the biggest comeback of the tournament so far). All games are archived and free to watch in the game client.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Newbee vs Titan bubble bracket game 2 (the biggest comeback of the tournament so far).

      I was actually cheering out loud watching that game.
      While in the office.
      And I’d do it again.

    • Apologised says:

      Nah, for me, the best game so far was EG’s Mason deciding to ignore the Executive orders and kick Alliance out of the International anyway in what was the best Storm Spirit you will ever see in your lives.

      Evil Genius’s had obviously been told to throw that game early on by their Owners who also run Alliance. The Drafting phase alone was blatant, letting Alliance have Wisp, CK AND letting Bulldog have his legendary Lone Druid?
      We should have simply seen another suspicious loss almost as blatant as C9’s decision to lose to LGD earlier in the day although in that case I sort of understand it, the temptation to make sure neither FNatic or Alliance, both who can be T1 threats was probably too much for form Alliance captain EE to resist.

      Instead, when the orders of “Team Alliance is Faster than you, do you understand?” (link to youtube.com) came from on high, Mason chose to go “Que senor?”.

      I have NEVER seen a Storm Spirit played that well, and I doubt I ever will again.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    Teams just need to stop picking Razor and everything will be fine. TI4’s meta has sort of come out of nowhere (I refuse to believe all 16+ teams were each sitting on a Skywrath pocket pick) and we’re only just beginning to see responses and variations to heroes with stubbornly (and in some cases mystifyingly) high pick-rates so far.

    Having said that, I think most of the dota has been of exceptional quality. The average match length is only somewhere in the 40s of minutes – I feel like last year the games dragged on much longer, sub-30 minute stomps notwithstanding.

    • Martel says:

      I feel like this year’s games have tended to go longer than last year’s, but that’s in my gut with no actual data. At least for me it might be a bit illusory based on how some of the teams (DK for example) are much more methodical than some of the teams last year and it makes it feel a bit slower paced.

      That being said I like the methodical playstyle myself. The flashy battles are fun to watch, but I also really like to see things like expert support play and split pushing.

  7. Skeletor68 says:

    Really enjoying the games so far. Some great use of Earthshaker. Some scary/irritating Naga. Fantastic Meepo from C9. Can’t wait for the next set of matches and laughing at James and Bruno.

    Also, Tobiwan could have been a metal singer apparently. BLACK HOOOOOOLE!
    link to soundcloud.com

  8. Scytale says:

    >> Teams began adapting to this conservative play over the week

    Yes, because teams realized that there was the possibility of getting knocked out when there is close to $5 million dollars on the line!

  9. cyrenic says:

    Is the conservative play caused by the amount of money on the line?

    • Banyan says:

      Some of the casters think so. Especially in the round robin, best of one, there’s no time to try a pocket strat, see how the other team reacts, and adjust. I think we saw more interesting strategies in the playoffs, which were best of 3. There was a Bounty Hunter pick whose sole job was to snipe couriers, which is possibly the most annoying thing I’ve ever seen in a game and turned out to be the game winning strat.

  10. Reapy says:

    Newbie stream has been great for me. I can’t really follow the high level strategy as much to tell who is winning, but they do a great job summing everything up. I clicked over to the main stream and actually was a bit surprised on the style they choose to present as the face, the shouty OH OH OHHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHHHH style announcing.

    I have always preferred informative commentary in sports though, learning more about any game as you are watching is infinity more interesting than trying to hype me up by screaming like an animal.

    • KevinLew says:

      The poorly named “dota2ti_noob” stream may very well be one of the best things about the TI4 tournament. It makes me really sad to see that almost nobody watches it when it is so good, and I doubt most players are at the skill level that they’d understand all the tactics involved.

      Purge is one of the most brilliant commentators ever. I actually like when he intentionally ignores some of the action to explain what happened in a previous team fight, or explain some of the strategies involved. Without having hundreds of hours invested into Dota 2, then it’s really hard to see that it’s more than just twitch gaming and clicking as fast as possible. My point is, there’s actually a deep level of strategy that isn’t apparent to most viewers.

      • Everblue says:

        Oh, Purge is the newbie commentator? I will definitely check out that stream then, since his “Purge plays…” videos are excellent.

        • PikaBot says:

          The newbie stream is being cast by a rotating team of Purge, Blitz, Sunsfan, and Pyrion Flax (there might be another guy but if there is I don’t know who he is). It’s definitely the best stream to be watching.

          What’s funny is that even though I don’t like Pyrion’s video content at all, I’ve found he’s actually an excellent caster. The most memorable moment of casting this far has been him excitedly declaring HERE COMES STORM SPIRIT OUT OF NOWHERE! HE’S SUPERMAN! during Alliance’s last game.

      • Banyan says:

        In a recent game, Purge pointed out the incongruity of a mid Templar Assassin building a Hand of Midas, as if he expected the game to go long, when his team’s other picks indicated an early push strat and the other team had unexpectedly already taken their Tier 1 towers. As someone who follows in game build recommendations reflexively, the noob stream has been great.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I clicked over to the main stream and actually was a bit surprised on the style they choose to present as the face, the shouty OH OH OHHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHHHH style announcing.

      That’ll be the infamous Toby “Tobiwan” Dawson. Unfortunately he’s casting the grand final this year too.

    • RedWurm says:

      I’ve generally been sticking to the newcomer stream too, and really liking it. My only issue really is that they have to more or less treat each game like it’s the viewer’s first exposure to dota – so every single fight has a lengthy explanation of what a Black King Bar does, or reduces Sunsfan to tears as he faces having to explain Black Hole mechanics for the fourth game in a row.

      That said, I’ve liked the casters and their coverage of the draft – which used to be completely baffling to me – has been very helpful. I’ll probably stick with it unless I’m watching a lot of matches in a row, because I can only take so much Black King Bar chat.

      • Lacero says:

        Purge is doing a great job, and he does actually seem to have the patience to repeat what everything does over and over. and over. again and again.

        I don’t though, so when they go into a skills description I switch to another stream and then back when he starts shouting over things or just trying to narrate the game really fast.

  11. Lobosolitario says:

    They could get Total Biscuit commenting on the newbie stream, his Youtube videos manage to make Dota 2 pretty interesting and engaging for the uninitiated, or at least for me.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Yeah I really enjoyed his videos but I don’t know how active he is on Dota 2 anymore. Besides, the poor dude has some pressing health issues meaning he will likely be staying away from crowded places and doing any travelling.

      I do like Tobiwan losing his mind, but have switched over to the Noob stream for Purge and Sunsfan when they’re available. I have no idea how any of the casters can parse what they’re seeing quick enough to describe it though.

      • Banyan says:

        Apparently, casters spend a lot of time learning the sounds of the abilities, so they can identify, for example, an Io latching in from a Storm zipping by even if it isn’t on the screen.

      • Vandelay says:

        I think he ditched playing DOTA. He couldn’t commit the time he thought that it needed and I think I’ve heard him complaining about the community on a few occasions.

        Which is a shame. His Single Draft Disaster series is what got me to give DOTA a whirl. He is also one of the few casters that doesn’t scream over the game, making them much more watchable.

        • Wahngrok says:

          Tobi has long apologized for that racist slur. But the internet does not forget and some are not willing to forgive it seems.

          Other than that he is the right caster for the finals in my opinion. I got hooked on his enthusiasm alone during TI3 while not knowing hardly anything about the game.

          edit: Oops, this was supposed to be an answer to Malibu Stacy.
          edit 2: Link to Tobi’s apology: link to forum.gamesports.net

  12. kwyjibo says:

    Of the 8 teams left in the tournament, 5 of them are Chinese.

    • arienette says:

      And we all know what that means!

      • Dominare says:

        I know, its crazy – its almost like they’re the most populous country in the world or something.

    • Vermalech says:

      Some feeling inside wants a team that isn’t Chinese to win, given there are so many teams that are.

    • Terragot says:

      Chinese DOTA is the new European DOTA is the new Chinese DOTA.

      America DOTA is still RNG, though.

  13. Lion Heart says:

    great, now half life 3?