Dota 2’s International 2016 is almost halfway done, and good grief, what a digital sportstorm it’s been so far. Champions have been slain, underdogs have dominated, and panels have turned into hand puppets for completely unstated reasons. Here’s everything you need to know (besides a puppet explanation) ahead of today's upper bracket semi-finals.
Obviously HERE BE SPOILERS:
The big shock of the tournament so far – if not pro Dota’s biggest upset in years – has been the swift elimination of favourites OG. By far the highest-accomplishing team of the past year, winning both the Frankfurt and Manila Majors, this tight-knit multinational team couldn’t have possibly expected to fall to MVP Phoenix in bloody fashion before being ejected for good by the mostly-Fillipino open qualifier and regional qualifier winners TNC.
Games are rarely more staggering than the second and final game in the latter series – OG had rallied to build up a considerable lead before a clutch defence by TNC turned things to their favour. A heartbreaking loss for OG, but surely a career high point for TNC.
Speaking of high points, today’s MVP Phoenix vs Wings semi-final is a likely one for viewers. These are two of the scene’s boldest teams, in both the confidence of their hero drafts and the ferocity of their execution; expect wizard violence, and lots of it. MVP will have the momentum of their OG win behind them, but Wings' own 2-1 victory over Digital Chaos (only losing with a novelty Pudge/Techies strategy straight out of my pub games) in the upper bracket shows that they aren’t set to repeat their Manila Major flop.
EHOME and EG will also meet in the semis. EG arguably had a tougher first-round opponent in Newbee, but then again didn’t really struggle in their 2-0 victory (aided by yet another outstanding Storm Spirit performance by SumaiL), suggesting their stint of mediocrity earlier this year is well and truly behind them. EHOME also took a clean series off Alliance, sending the Swedes to the lower bracket, and will now look to do the same to EG. Both are already doing surprisingly well, considering they had to come through regional qualifiers instead of receiving a direct invites – who will falter first is anyone’s guess.
Back down in the lower bracket, fan favourites (and, judging by their pre-TI performances, top 8 contenders) Team Secret and Na’Vi were sent home on day one by LGD Gaming and Team Liquid respectively. The Secret-LGD match, a best-of-one like all of the first round lower bracket matches, is a particular must-see; Secret recovered from a horrible start to defend for aeons against LGD’s better-farmed lineup, creating legions upon legions of hero illusions to form an impenetrable wall that lasted well past the hour mark. It speaks volumes about Secret’s base defence that LGD didn’t get their opening until finally taking a fierce brawl at the Roshan pit.
Funnily enough it was Digital Chaos, which includes ex-Secret members MiSeRy and w33, who paid LGD in kind by eliminating them in a clean 2-0. DC now face TNC in the lower bracket. Considering how even the most generous fans would say both teams have overperformed to get this far, having posted unspectacular pre-TI performances, expect some extremely sad faces and/or Reddit posts once one of them goes out.
Prior to their conquering of OG, TNC also managed to dispatch an underwhelming Vici Gaming Reborn, who never seemed to adapt to the visa-trouble-induced absence of offlaner Yang. Veteran squad Fnatic also convincingly KO’d the wildcard challengers Escape Gaming – they’ll face off against Alliance later today, along with Liquid versus Newbee.
Hero-wise, TI6 is already the most diverse International yet, with 104 of 111 having been picked. Huskar’s high damage/high survivability combo continues to see him a frequent pick/ban target, though the defensive supports he pairs so well with are outright ubiquitous. Shadow Demon seems to be in every other game, so useful is his ability to save allies by phasing them out of existence for a few seconds (while creating some friendly illusions to fight alongside with). These types of supports, with last-second backside-saving abilities, are definitely the flavour of the tournament – look out for Dazzle, Oracle and Winter Wyvern as well.
The show starts at 6pm BST, with Alliance vs Fnatic as the first game of the day; you can find the full standings and schedule on Valve’s site, including for the annual All-Star game on Thursday 11th/Friday 12th (depending on timezone). By this time tomorrow we’ll have our top eight teams remaining, including the winner bracket finalists – just two sets away from the Aegis of Champions. Don’t miss it and don't forget to check back for more from us tomorrow!