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Dote Night: The Fallout From The International 2015

Incy wincy spider

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. Today she's going to talk about the aftermath of TI5 for pro players and spectators.

With the confetti [mostly] picked out of my handbag and Aegis of Champions in the hands of five new gentlemen, it's time for the fallout from The International 2015.

For the players that all began a little while ago. The International is a great place to try and win stacks of money with your current team but it's also a networking event and a recruitment opportunity. The best teams in the world (and their managers and associated folk) are all in attendance and an attractive prospect dissatisfied with their current roster is a veritable Cinderella in a shoe shop. I don't think that analogy worked but you get the point.

Even Valve's Erik Johnson mentioned it when we were about halfway through The International 2015 as we discussed efforts to increase team stability for the next year: "The reality is that most of the roster changes that are going to happen have already been talked about at this event because players are already figuring out – especially the teams that have been eliminated – are already trying to figure out what [they're] going to do next year."

While those new setups are finalised and other players decide whether or not to continue in the pro scene or not there is another type of fallout. It's in the regular public matchmaking.

Last night I played against a Broodmother. Until The International public matchmaking on my tier seemed to absolutely detest Broodmother. Now we've watched her as a dominant force in a tournament, throwing her destructive babies at people, warping the shape of the match by demanding attention and creating space for carries to get nice and fat. Players want to replicate that. They also want the Axes and the Earthshakers and the Gyrocopters and the Ember Spirits and the Linas. Some were popular beforehand – Axe is such a satisfying show-off hero while Lina is strong and versatile so their swell is less noticeable. Others are more obvious.

A host of the new usual suspects

I'm in no way immune. I watched Fear from Evil Geniuses play Gyrocopter in every single one of the games in the grand finals. He only lost once. I came home determined to master the hero, to get those same satisfying kills and to achieve such great obesity in terms of gold and experience that any enemy would be crushed underfoot. The same is true of Broodmother, although I'm only taking her into games against bots, too self-conscious to put her in-game and risk being shredded.

I also wanted to get my hands on some of the offlaners – Earthshaker and Dark Seer. Apparently (according to Dotabuff) I have a 100% win rate on Earthshaker. It's only across eight matches , sure, but a 100% is still a 100%. It's made me reluctant to actually practice him because every time I try to improve a Dota statistic or ranking it goes down. I'm the queen of torpedo-ing my own numbers through attempted improvement and when the starting point is 100%, doing worse seems inevitable. Dark Seer is a little more approachable as I have six games with him and a 50% win rate. Theoretically I could improve on that.

I've also resolved to try Naga Siren and Winter Wyvern as supports. I've never played either of them once in all my 1,482 matches.

In fact, the majority of my game time has been spent on Witch Doctor, Venomancer, Lich and Lion with Sniper as the only carry in that top five. I just did the maths and together those five make up more than a third of my game time. It's an odd realisation that you're that stuck in your gaming habits. I think I've written about trying to break out of roles before and how hard it can be, not just because of your own behaviour but because of how your regular teammates have learned to think of you. You're fighting your own comfort and trying to find a new place in the game. It's hard.

She has a glowing butt as her ultimate

But the fallout from The International is part of a rejuvenation, or at least I hope it will be. I remember playing Gyrocopter years ago because I liked him and I liked the idea of being a carry. I stopped because I hadn't figured out carrying yet and feeling like a drag on my team was wearing. I tried him again last night while on a post-TI high and thought it would be different because I've learned so much in the intervening period. It wasn't. I hated that game and I hated how the character felt in my hands versus the memory of how he can be played.

This isn't a call for advice. What I wanted to do was point out that the pool of desirable heroes changes because of this skilled celebrity influence and sometimes there's a disparity between what you think will happen and the reality of a game. It's the same feeling art galleries capitalise on when they try to sell you a box of watercolours or some pencils in the gift shop as you leave. When it happens in Dota, sometimes when surfing a wave of new hero enthusiasm means you find someone exciting to play, sometimes you find a new way to feed, and sometimes you do the latter on the way to the former.

And so, while the pros re-evaluate their relationships with one another, the spectators like me re-evaluate their relationships with the characters.

The International 2015 was a fantastic event, full of upsets and heart-pounding matches. It reaffirmed my interest in the game. Now I'm back home I need to reconcile that excitement with the reality of playing and learning.

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