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The International 2016: And The Winners Are...!

After a week packed with phenomenal Dota 2 [official site] plays, combacks and upsets the winners of The International 2016 (and a casual NINE MILLION DOLLARS?????!!!!) are:

Wings Gaming!

The Chinese side scooped the top spot as well as the Aegis Of Champions trophy after a fantastically well executed four games of a best-of-5 set against mostly-North-American-but-also-European side, Digital Chaos.

Wings have been one of the hot favourite teams from early on but in a tournament so prone to upsets it’s generally a risky move to start bandying around predictions. I mean, just take a look at my predictions and the words OG written in the top spot. Add in the fact that Digital Chaos came to the grand finals off the back of a thrilling win in the lower bracket finals against last year’s champs, Evil Geniuses, and you can see why there was a genuine question over which way the set was going to play out.

Digital Chaos actually managed to take the first game which fueled the chants of fans rooting for the team. They then followed that up with a strong start in the second game but ultimately Wings regained momentum and scored their first win of the day. The third game was far more one-sided. DC did still manage to find pick-offs at various points and were clearly still fighting for the title but they were unable to put out enough damage to turn enough of the fights into kills in their favour. Wings had no such trouble and were averaging a kill per minute near the end of the game. Shadow’s Faceless Void was particularly impressive on that front, landing Chronosphere after Chronosphere (they’re the big bubbles that freeze time for everyone inside except Void) and scoring bash after bash which is the thing which deals a stun and some bonus damage (the latter perhaps being more by the good will of the random number generator gods than skill but, hey, if he’s got a hotline to RNGsus that’s a pretty next level strat).

The final game began with Faith_bian’s Axe bullying W33’s Slark in the mid lane but DC weren’t falling too far behind thanks to pick-off kills on iceice and Blink. DC felt like they were playing more fluidly and had a draft that was working for them far better than the previous games. The kill count was most definitely in DC’s favour but Wings were not going to be counted out so easily. A ward offered vision of DC coming to investigate a rather slow Rosh attempt by Wings and the latter managed to turn the tables on their would-be assailants. It’s a disaster AND Shadow’s Anti-Mage walks off with the Aegis. From then on (and I will also admit to being exhausted by the time zone difference at this point) it was mostly incredibly bright, fast-moving teamfights and a lot of members of DC being exploded by Anti-Mage. An overly aggressive play by W33 saw his Slark ripped apart while he was off hunting by the Dire secret shop and, without the ability to buy back into the game and with DC’s gold and experience graphs falling off a cliff and into an abyss Wings trounced what was left of their opponents’ base. Cue pyrotechnics!

I’ll likely write a more in-depth post about it early next week when the dawn chorus isn’t yammering outside my window but I also wanted to say that you should DEFINITELY check out the lower bracket final which was Evil Geniuses vs DC. For me that match actually felt more like a grand final simply because of the narratives involved. One side comprised four members of last year’s winning squad looking to become the first team ever to repeat a victory at The International. The other, a rag-tag crew which hadn’t even existed as a team this time last year, reluctantly captained by a man who had attended every single International and won none so far. They’re both narratives we’re used to attaching to and rooting for in pop culture so it was an easy match to hook into in terms of the emotions. It also helps that Misery – Digital Chaos’s captain – appears to wear every emotion on his sleeve. You get drawn into those moments of joy or despair when someone’s onscreen living them out, rather than when you’re watching some of the more restrained or measured players. Compare that with the fact Wings hadn’t been on stage at all that day, and certainly hadn’t just triumphed in a gruelling best-of-three that was fresh in the crowd’s mind.

But I also think it’s worth watching because you see how DC ended up going as far as they did and what sort of a team they became by the end of their run through the tournament. I’d say there’s a creativity to their play and their drafting which let them push out ahead of Evil Geniuses at crucial points. Game three, for example, ends up as a tense, unexpectedly creative piece of rat Dota which I loved. DC were split pushing the lanes in a way that utterly messed with Evil Geniuses’ flow and essentially left that side spreadeagled across the map.

I’m not saying any of that to undermine Wings’ achievement. I just wanted to make sure that a spectacular lower bracket final didn’t escape anyone’s attention amidst the fireworks!

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