Pip is currently in Seattle to cover The International 2015 - Valve's six day Dota 2 [official site] tournament. There's over $18m on the line and a rich tapestry of professional gaming to enjoy (or unpick) - we did a cheat sheet to explain the basics. There are also bags to be clambered into and DDoS attacks to withstand. Here is what happened on Day Two...
Evil Geniuses were taking on compLexity in the first match of the day. You could tell because just outside the venue several dudes were handing out free EG wristbands and flags as well as glow sticks. It was all very subtle stuff.
During the first game, compLexity seemed to be putting up a decent fight and at eight minutes had the lead in terms of levels. The thing about the current meta, though, is that you can look like you're dominating the early game, but if the enemy's carry player isn't shut down effectively and you can't end the game in time that guy (hi Anti-Mage) will show up and just shred everything you were trying to protect and your team too.
Real-world issues were also impinging and, after a spate of pauses due to lag, players vacated their booths while the event organisers dealt with what turned out to be a DDoS attack. As a result the match technically went on for several hours.
When the teams returned compLexity's window for taking the game had all but closed and Fear (a player whose emotional search for a new desk in the Dota 2 movie Free To Play endeared him to viewers) spent the rest of the time beefing up his Anti-Mage (a late-game murderer who hates magic and fun) and shredding everything compLexity was trying to protect. And also compLexity. That's not to say his EG teammates weren't also doing work - particularly Universe on Sand King - but Fear has this lovely calm flow to his Anti-Mage play and is just incredibly effective.
Where the first game was more about Fear, the second was entirely about young star Sumail. Sumail gave a virtuoso performance on Ember Spirit ably supported by Universe's characteristically on-point Tusk. The effect was marred a little as the sixteen-year-old appeared to do that thing where you're balling so hard you get a little careless towards the end but Fear was on hand to mop up remaining kills or cover for deaths with Razor. I wish I were as chill as Fear seems in these matches.
I only managed to see a smidge of the first Secret v EHOME game as I was experimenting with watching on the big screen just outside the arena while I joined the queue for the Secret Shop. The Secret Shop is Valve's on-site merchandise stand. I'm always curious to see what they're selling and there are little rituals around the plushies. They come in these blind pick boxes so you don't know what you're getting and you'll see all these people dotted around trying to trade with other people for a full set or maybe multiples of a favoured hero. I figured I'd pick up one plushie and if it wasn't the one I wanted I'd swap around and chat to attendees until I got it, maybe making some new TI friends. Unfortunately it meant I missed most of the match, heading away from the screen as Secret were in the lead and coming back just as EHOME took the victory with what looked like an obscenely fat Storm Spirit. (Storm Spirit is a lightning dude who zips about the place being a jerk)
I should probably not have bothered with the AirBnB given this was the bag they gave me my Secret Shop shopping in:
For heaven's sake not again. pic.twitter.com/GZPN0amvBi
— Chris Thursten (@CThursten) August 4, 2015
FOUR AND A HALF
Matt is a gentleman who bought about a dozen blind plush boxes and ended up with five Juggernauts. He has been swapping with other people ever since and nearly has the full set, he just needs a Jakiro.
I have a Jakiro.
"Do you have a Jakiro?" he asked me. I had just clambered back out of the Dota bag.
"Yes," I say. "But I love it and want to keep it."
I am posting his picture in case you have a spare Jakiro and you see him wandering KeyArena because I feel a tiny bit guilty.
For their second game against Secret EHOME picked up a Nightstalker. Nightstalker isn't one of the usual suspects in the current metagame but LaNm used his silence effectively to control Arteezy's Anti-Mage and punish greedy moments like the latter's attempt to destroy an opposition stack of ancient creeps. S4's Shadow Fiend was also a frequent kill as he strayed too far from the safety of the base. I'd thought Secret might still be in with a shot but EHOME's YJ had been steadily bulking up his Gyrocopter. I (and perhaps Secret) realised this when he showed up to a fight in mid just after half an hour into the game and a full Witch Doctor ultimate couldn't finish him off and the glowing golden helicopter went a-hunting. Tournament favourites, Secret, descended to the lower bracket as a chant of EHOME! EHOME! echoed through KeyArena.
That Leshrac prediction I made from the TI cheat sheet is still holding up nicely as the disco goat is still confined to his stable - a first round ban every single time.
Next up was MVP Phoenix against Team Empire. I've been rooting for Phoenix since just before the Wildcard matches. It's because they're slightly rough round the edges but able to spar with the big names - add in their Wildcard status and they meet all the criteria for "underdog" and that's a narrative which plays incredibly well at an eSports tournament.
At first it felt like Empire might dominate with their co-ordination and skill but Phoenix managed to get kills on some key heroes and QO's Templar Assassin grew monstrous. There's a moment when she gets killed just outside Empire's base having scored a triple kill but has an aegis, meaning she comes back to life. Empire have no detection so she's able to use one of her abilities to go invisible and then use a short-range teleport item to escape. Except she doesn't escape. She gets off a cheeky hit on one of Empire (their Queen of Pain), at which point the Empire Storm Spirit uses up all his mana chasing after her and is promptly obliterated in two hits. It was a classic "I did not think this one through" moment. QO also takes down Silent's Razor because why not. At this point I had drawn a big heart in my notebook.
For game 2 Empire attempted to keep QO at bay, even picking up the Templar Assassin for themselves, but he picked up an aggressive Lina and applied constant pressure. The Templar Assassin, meanwhile, even managed to get bullied by Febby on Bounty Hunter early in the game, being chased through the Radiant jungle with no boots on (thus moving relatively slowly) as Febby threw out damage. Actually, although QO had the obvious star turn in those matches, Febby played brilliantly. It wasn't a one-sided match by any means but Phoenix were the superior team and Empire exited the contest.
Cloud9. Oh, Cloud9.
Cloud9 are a rollercoaster ride of a team, as prone to leaving their fans heartbroken as elated. The first game of their match against Vici ended in a loss but one which took more than an hour of back and forth. But the second? Watching in the arena there were ripples of confused murmuring as the C9 draft unfolded. I assume there was a theory behind it because these are pro players but it ended up looking like one of those lopsided pub drafts where you head onto the map and realise you don't have a support and someone's picked up Undying simply because he wasn't banned out. Vici took them apart easily, drafting a super-effective [pun intended] Sniper into their lineup and with Fenrir getting some amazing fissures for Earthshaker which pinned members of C9 in and assured further swift demises.
Cloud9 now join Empire in the spectator seats while Vici advance.