The biggest moments in pro Dota 2 in 2015

TI5 Echoslam

Dota 2 has had an incredible year. A wide range of tournaments, huge plays, and the ever-shifting metagame have resulted in an exciting scene. There have been laughs, sadness, and always some damn good Dota. With the clock ticking and 2016 looming near, let’s take a look at Dota 2’s five biggest moments of 2015.

5. Team Secret and CDEC have an epic base race

Some games are a friendly reminder that the key to victory in Dota 2 is to kill the enemy’s ancient. It doesn’t matter how much farm a player has or if they can stay alive in the enemy fountain, if they don’t kill an ancient, they don’t win. In this case not only were CDEC fighting for the game, they were fighting for their Dota 2 Asia Championship slot. Unlike The International 2015’s format, a poor group stage performance could have led to elimination from the DAC, and CDEC were struggling among the competition. In contrast, Secret hadn’t lost a game (and wouldn’t lose one for the rest of the group stage).

Down two barracks and worried about Lycan’s pushing power, CDEC had to fight. In an astounding three minutes of fighting (with about 20 seconds of posturing), numerous buybacks, and a skewer into fountain, this was one of the best base races in Dota history.

4. Unknown.xiu taunt their way into Frankfurt Major 2015

Until 2015, South America had little representation in professional Dota 2. This changed with the Frankfurt Major, when Unknown.xiu, a Peruvian team, managed to work their way through two qualifiers to eventually reach the tournament. As you’ll see above, they showed some extra swag in their match versus Digital Chaos. Not only did they take a win, but they relished their victory with some good old fashioned bad manners.

On a more serious note, when a region is suddenly represented on the world stage it can bring substantial growth to the area as a whole. Unknown.xiu has unfortunately split, but the experience gained by the players will help cultivate more talent, and the extra eyes on South America can generate much needed sponsorship. Even if Unknown.xi had limited success upon reaching the Frankfurt Major, they were still able to beat Newbee and earn 12th place. The biggest growth of South America may happen in 2016, but the process started two months ago.

3. The crowd rushes in at The Frankfurt Major

The Frankfurt Major brought an interesting question to the table: could new teams do well in the Major format? When the only Valve-run event was The International, teams had time to form, test their merits, and find a way to improve (or disband). This meant that tons of smaller teams, such as Team Tinker, were forming and developing in tournaments prior to the The International. Most of them sank, but a few managed to swim. The Dota Major’s faster schedule had the potential to change all that.

And at first glance, it seemed like the newer teams were struggling. At the Frankfurt Major, only a single open qualifier team made it into the winner’s bracket. Then came OG. OG had a mediocre performance in the group stages, snagging third place out of four. They looked like the kind of team spectators might read about out of curiosity, but ignore in favor of fan favorites. Once the main event began, however, they gained some new momentum.

Their first win didn’t come as a huge surprise, as Fnatic hadn’t won a single game. The victories kept coming, although every win seemed to be followed up with an assumption that the win streak was about to end. That they made it all the way to the grand final and won is this year’s Cinderella story, and it earned them a lot of fans on the way: fans that rushed the stage as they lifted the trophy. New teams can not only win Majors, it seems, but they can pick up a major fanbase along the way.

2. Natus Vincere releases its Dota 2 squad (then signs it again)

On October 16th, it was announced that Natus Vincere was disbanding its Dota 2 squad, leaving behind fan-favorite veterans like Dendi and XBOCT. This was a short-lived change, and both Dendi and Sonneiko were shortly signed onto a new Na’Vi squad. This brief restructuring served as a reminder that the Dota scene is dramatically changing. The expected synergy between Funn1k, XBOCT, and Dendi was a relic of the past, and even if that lineup was well-loved by fans, it couldn’t survive in the increasingly tough Dota 2 scene.

This is the flipside to the many underdog stories of 2015, where OG and numerous other teams suddenly appeared and shone. Good tournament results are a zero-sum game though, and as these new teams find their place, the older organizations might just leave the scene altogether. Na’Vi and Dendi have stuck around for now, but for how long?

1. The $6 million dollar slam

The International 5 managed to both shatter and reaffirm expectations of the professional Dota scene. MVP Phoenix surprised the world by fighting their way into seventh place, and in doing so tied with the suddenly floundering Team Secret. However, the biggest surprise story was the sudden reappearance of CDEC. CDEC wasn’t directly invited to The International, but instead took second in the Chinese qualifier. Like the OG phoenix that would later rise in the Frankfurt Major, CDEC couldn’t stop winning once the main event began. They easily found themselves in the grand finals, having only dropped a single game to the third place LGD.

Within a few day of losing the winner’s bracket final to CDEC, Evil Geniuses faced them again in the grand final. Revised strategies and smart drafting delivered them to a 2-1 advantage, a single win away from the lion’s share of an 18.5 million dollar prize pool. These are the circumstances that led to the $6m dollar slam.

EG’s victory wasn’t really about the single play. The game had already gone haywire for CDEC, and a midgame pickoff on Sumail was their only chance at a desperation Roshan kill. The setup was perfect for Evil Geniuses. PPD used Ancient Apparition’s Ice Blast for vision, and the Echo Slam followup from Universe was absolutely brutal. A simple play, delivering a simple statement: Evil Geniuses were going to win The International 2015. CDEC had reached for the prize, but EG had proven they were the best.

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