The International 2013: Grand Finals in review
Last night, Seattle's Benaroya Hall hosted the grand final of The International 2013, Valve's humongous Dota 2 tournament. We sent Chris along to report from the event, cheer himself hoarse, and attempt experimental breakdancing moves. You can find his thoughts on the final below.
All of the tournament's matches are available from The International 3 site. Both that link, and this post, contain spoilers.
Before anyone talks about the final itself - and they should, it was astonishing - respect should be paid to Orange for their incredible performance in the lower bracket final. They proved that no-one can stop them when they are at their best and, personally, Mushi is my MVP for the whole tournament: he played more than 18 heroes during the event. Watch the first match vs. Na'Vi for his Queen of Pain; I suspect she is the hero Na'Vi wanted to pick up and Mushi showed them decisively why. Watch the third game however for a crash course in why people fear Na'Vi. It was arguably Puppey's game of the tournament with two of the best Black Holes of his career being pulled out of the hat in late-game.
Orange deserve huge credit for their achievement and I would like to see them make the Grand Finals next year.
So, then - Na'Vi vs. Alliance, round two. I don't think anyone could have predicted just how close this was going to be. Especially after that first match when an unorthodox Na'Vi draft was utterly punished by the Swedes and lead to a 15 minute GG call. At the time I wondered if it was over; if Puppey's pocket strat was all Na'Vi had. Then Alliance picked up a strange draft of their own and threw the second game almost as hard - one thing's for sure, Venomancer is going to slither away from TI3 feeling a bit embarassed.
There was a danger of both teams retreating into safe strats but both seemed willing to continually take risks. They both prioritised each others' most dangerous heroes over standard bans like Io and Batrider and this gave these heroes their most prominent showing at the tournament yet. Io seemed more dangerous though particularly in game three when put into the hands of Dendi as a solo mid. In conjunction with Funn1k's Razor and KuroKy's Rubick he created the space for XBOCT's Alchemist to become a huge problem. Even a well-fed Lone Druid panda with an Ogre Magi buff couldn't overcome Na'vi and they took it to 2-1.
In banning out XBOCT's Lifestealer Alliance gave him Alchemist every game and this was the core of Na'Vi's strength. The hero has had a strong showing in general and Alliance seemed to double-down on the fact that shutting him down early is the way to survive. The first Nightstalker draft of the tournament shocked the crowd but paid off wonderfully in S4's hands, snowballing after an early teamfight to the point where Alliance handily controlled the entire map within the first 20 minutes. They took the game and proved that every hero has its place.
An International Grand Final has never gone to five games before and I was incredibly nervous for the teams before the tie-breaker. They responded with hands-down the best game of Dota 2 I have ever seen: a bloody back-and-forth with new strategies and huge risks taken by both teams. This is the game I won't spoil, because you need to watch it: but what makes it so phenomenal is not just who won but how. Dota 2 creates space for creativity at the highest level of play like no other e-sport, and this'll be the game I show people in the future when I'm trying to convince them to care about it. Massive congratulations to the winners.