The group stages for the first-ever Dota 2 Major run tomorrow and Saturday, with the main event lasting from Monday to Saturday next week at Festhalle Messe in Frankfurt. This is the first of Dota 2's 'smaller' regional championships: I say 'smaller' because it boasts a $3m prize pool. That exceeds every Dota 2 International prior to 2014 and every other tournament in every other competitive game, ever.
This is basically a bonus International: the same number of teams, the same format, and a world-class if not quite as eye-watering prize. Even so, there’s no reason to expect the Frankfurt Major to be any less dramatic than August's main event.
What's the format?
The group stages, which will be played over the next few days, will determine bracket placement in the main event. There are four groups of four teams, each playing best-of-threes in a double elimination format. Given the number of games taking place simultaneously, following all of the action in the group stages will be tough—but we'll get to that in a minute.
The main event will be a double elimination bracket with all games played as best of three with the exception of the grand finals (best of five) and the first round of lower bracket games (best of one). On that basis, expect a bloody first day as the lower bracket teams scramble over each other for their tournament lives.
Where can I watch it?
All of the matches will be streamed on Twitch and via the official Dota 2 streaming site. You can also watch the matches in-client using Dota 2's excellent spectator tools. This allows you to follow specific players, control the camera yourself, have your camera controlled by a specific commentator, or any combination of the above.
If you're able to get to Frankfurt, the main event runs from 10:00 to 23:00 CET at Festhalle Frankfurt, Ludwig-Erhard-Anlage 1, Frankfurt. Its free to attend from Monday-Friday (though there's likely to be some capacity restrictions) and a day ticket for the grand finals on Saturday costs €50.00. Get tickets and further information right here.
Where did IG go? And who is OG?
There have been some last-minute team changes due to the things that always happen at international esports events: Visa problems and surprise sponsorship. Chinese superstars IG encountered the former, and have been replaced by Newbee Young in Group C. OG, meanwhile, is the new name of (monkey) Business.
Which group stage matches should I watch?
There's going to be a lot happening at once over the next few days and it's very hard to choose which matches to watch. With that in mind, let's break it down by day:
November 13th: Group A and B
Group A comprises Evil Geniuses, Fnatic, Virtus.pro and Newbee. EG can reasonably be expected to be the favourites, here, but they've not been on quite the same world-beating form as they were when they won the International with their former roster. There's a lot of potential for upset within this group: Fnatic have talent but middling results. Newbee have regained their TI4-winning carry, Hao, and are stronger as a result. Virtus.pro are consistently entertaining to watch—their run of 5th and 6th place finishes belies their potential to knock out top-tier teams from time to time.
Group B comprises Vici Gaming, Unknown.xiu, Vega Squadron, and OG. Vici are the powerhouses here, a relatively known quantity in terms of talent, experience, and results. These are the guys you watch if you want the best chance of seeing absolutely top-tier Dota from every single player. Unknown.xiu are, appropriately enough, relative unknowns. They are the first South American team to ever qualify for an official Dota event, having been very successful (and very entertaining) in their run through the qualifiers. If you're looking for an underdog to cheer for, these are your best bet.
Vega Squadron's dark horse status took a hit when they failed to qualify for the TI5 main event, but they rode right back into form with their surprise victory at ESL One New York. OG, meanwhile, represent a wildcard of a different sort: a mashing together of new talent and veterans, former teammates and strangers. It's a reunion of N0tail and Fly from old-Fnatic, Fly and MoonMeander from the TI5 compLexity lineup, plus relative newcomers Miracle- and Cr1t-.
On the 13th, then, I'd recommend starting with Vici Gaming vs. Unknown.xiu—while there's a risk that it'll be a one-sided game, it encapsulates the broadest spread of experience and new talent.
November 14th: Group C and D
Group C comprises Team Secret, Newbee Young, LGD Gaming and Cloud9. Secret's early fall was one of the big stories to emerge from TI5, but the subsequent roster change has worked out for them: they won MLG World Finals and Nanyang and came second at ESL One New York. They are, comfortably, the favourites to win this tournament. Newbee Young are less favoured: they're relatively new, they haven't played much outside of China, and they were a substitute for IG. LGD are better favoured with the post-TI5 addition of rOtK rounding out a talented squad. Cloud9, meanwhile, having undergone a dramatic shift since TI5, releasing their entire roster and becoming a fully North American rather than mostly-European team.
Group D comprises EHOME, Alliance, CDEC and Mineski. EHOME have lost rOtK to LGD since TI5 but have done well since, picking up 3rd place in Nanyang. This is one of the oldest names in pro Dota, and they're definitely back. Also back: Alliance, the TI3 champions whose knife-edge heartattack victory over NiP in the Euro qualifiers was one of the biggest moments in professional Dota this year. CDEC's journey to the TI5 grand final was one of the stories of the year too, albeit something that they've not quite managed to replicate since. Mineski, finally, are the great hope for Filipino Dota at the event having proved themselves against SEA counterparts Fnatic in the qualifiers.
On the 14th, I'd recommend starting with either EHOME vs. Alliance (to confirm whether or not ALLIANCE ARE DOING IT) or Secret vs. Newbee Young, as it's an underdog-overdog matchup similar to Vici and Unknown. For me, Alliance vs. EHOME clinches it on a very important metric: silly pro player names. EHOME's new lineup includes 'old chicken', while Alliance have been having a lot of success with 'Mynuts'. If you would like to hear a professional commentator bellow something like 'old chicken is ALL OVER Mynuts', then this is your best chance to do so. And that, when it comes down to it, is what professional gaming is all about.
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!