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 too. There is also beef chilli to be spilled in shoes and explanatory diagrams to show how Fnatic's logo tells the story of a man being strangled by butts. Here is what happened on Day One...
The first thing that happened this trip was that my plane to Seattle was involved in a crash. Not in the way you are thinking. There was a freak hail and lightning storm at Chicago airport and visibility plummeted to mere feet. Taking advantage of the weather, a baggage cart from a rival airline made a break for it and smacked into my plane causing damage and rendering it unflyable. This led to a lot of emergency rerouting and it looked like I might actually miss the first day (or part of it given it ended up being more than 14 hours long). Eventually, though, I made it to Seattle the right side of midnight. There was also the small matter of my baggage which finally turned up several hours after I did. I wouldn't have been so bothered but it contained my new crown. Don't ask.
Valve learned a lot about staging the live event from last year. I'm not sure how much it has changed the livestream (if at all) but the setup at KeyArena was orders of magnitude better than at TI4. Firstly the stage is at the centre instead of at one end so all the seats are facing the right way if you want to see the players in their booths. Showing the action are four huge screens, each facing one side of the auditorium. Secondly, the actual stage is set up similarly to the first International at GamesCom with two sets of player booths facing each other across the square staging area - it echoes the Dota map and, by extension, the game's logo. Thirdly, a version of the game's map is actually projected onto the staging area from above. When some abilities are used they're rendered on the stage floor and augmented with lighting effects. The one I saw most often was Gyrocopter's Call Down because it takes a while to play out. Others were blink-and-you'll-miss-it or I forgot to look because I was staring at the main screen to follow the action of a fight.
If you want to see a masterclass in chaining up abilities, LGD offered one when Silent from Team Empire overstayed his welcome in their base as Anti-Mage during game two of their matchup. A Eul's Scepter sends him spinning into the air and is immediately followed by the stun from Lina's Light Strike Array. A Walrus Punch from Tusk was followed by his snowball (which also deals a stun) and kept Silent in place while the team took care of the kill. And that is why you don't just unload all your spells in one go.
[Watch from about 48.30 on the video below]
The crowd will make a pleased "huh" noise, like thousands of people have discovered their meal cost less than they thought when the bill arrives if Nature's Prophet gets picked in this meta. This is what happened when Cloud9's Bone7 picked Furion for the first game of their match against Chinese wildcard team, CDEC. He skilled Teleportation first and hid at the lip of CDEC's fountain until he was able to kill the little courier who ferries items to the heroes so they can stay in lane longer. It's a huge inconvenience to the enemy team and means it's harder to get their items. Unfortunately that was about all that went well for C9 in that match. I spilled coffee in my notebook at this point and, to be honest, the splatter was pretty representative of what happened to the North American side.
Pauses are grim things. The second C9 v CDEC match seemed to be going Cloud9's way but technical problems meant a pause. Minutes turned into an hour and, when the teams rejoined the game Cloud9 couldn't seem to regain that earlier swagger. I don't want to entirely blame pausing - after all, the first game was a win for CDEC too and that team are playing really well - but the shift in mood and play between the first dozen minutes and the rest of the game was obvious. Going down to a lower bracket after a disrupted match feels rough.
This is my attempt at drawing the gold and experience graphs for the MVP Phoenix v Newbee game. It was such a close-run thing for ages and the losing team would be crashing out of The International. Phoenix were plucky underdogs, through on a wildcard ticket while Newbee were the defending champions, a team whose star had rapidly descended but whose group stage performance showed they could still put up a fight. But gradually MVP built up their advantage and Newbee, the final team standing at TI4, became the first to exit TI5.
It is entirely possible to get beef chilli in your own shoe while eating a burrito. Twice.
My Compendium placement predictions are still standing. For now.
I spent a lot of time faffing about with my Vici Gaming pick - were they second or third place material? It was looking like they might be neither as they ended up in the lower bracket, playing a best-of-1 elimination game against fan favourites Na'Vi. It was another intense and hard-fought match and it looked like Na'Vi might actually go through - or at least keep the match going past what had seemed like a death push into their base from Vici as XBOCT's decidedly tubby Anti-Mage set about shredding the opposition. Obviously there were many mistakes prior to that point but it's the ones at the end of the match that you remember so it's going to be a while before Artstyle's going to be allowed to forget casting a Shallow Grave which rendered himself unkillable instead of XBOCT. The ancient fell and Na'Vi signed out on their worst International performance to date. Vici are through. My Compendium predictions are intact.
There really needs to be a better way of showing that Io is invisible.
Fnatic's approach to roles was truly lovely but didn't get them far against Virtus.Pro. Mushi - generally Fnatic's star mid-laner - handed the Shadow Fiend reins over to his protegée Kecik Imba while he hovered nearby with a support Naga Siren. A valuable experience for the younger player for sure, but VP went through with a decisive victory. This is a doodle from about 30 minutes into the match.
Also, has anyone else noticed that Fnatic's logo looks like a short dude getting strangled by the butts of two tall guys who are tying their laces?
15 hours of Dota things is a lot of hours of Dota things. All I can remember of IG versus MVP Hot6 is that the first blood was an interesting one - Spirit Breaker, hungry for a kill on a low-health Lina chases too far. By the time he catches up she has salved herself and regained enough health that she survives. Spirit Breaker is not so lucky. IG's Chuan pulls out an impressive Rubick - I know this because I wrote it about three times in my notes with varying degrees of legibility - and Hot6 bow out.
At this point I bow out too (although I do not make $54k for doing so). Until tomorrow...