This post contains spoilers for The International 3 - Dota 2 Championships.
Yesterday proved a number of things. First and foremost, that the best teams in the world are the best for a reason; second, that the crowd in Benaroya Hall is capable of keeping up their energy and morale pretty much indefinitely.
Here are a couple of thoughts on yesterday's matches.
Alliance vs. LGD.cn was a stunning start to the day. Alliance emerged from the group stages undefeated but met firm resistance from LGD in the first game. The Chinese team can construct a teamfight like no other, in my opinion: steady, impeccable plays that come together one by one to take teams apart. Alliance's inability to crack LGD's defences caused the game to go long, ending on a thrilling base race. In the second match, however, LGD learned that Alliance have teamfight chops too. LGD secured a multiple kill advantage in the early game, but weren't prepared for outright Alliance aggression later on. Watch for the great S4 Puck play when Alliance cracks the Radiant top barracks before the end of the game. The Swedes maintain their winning streak.
The second round of IG vs. DK will go down in history as the longest game of competitive Dota 2 ever played. It ran for a massive 98 minutes and also set the record for most gold farmed on a single hero, Burning's Lone Druid. After neither team could secure a proper late-game advantage, both settled into farming: endless, endless farming. Even a Divine Rapier pick-up by Zhou couldn't prompt the game to end, and the crowd took to cheering any play at all to pass the time. Placed a ward? Standing ovation. Killed an ancient camp? Mexican wave.
I wandered up to the Korean and Russian casting booths to stretch my legs and the atmosphere was the same there - I'm pretty sure the Korean casters were having a competition to see just how long they could maintain an insane level of enthusiasm. Afterwards I was speaking to one of the devs from Valve who observed that, unlike most sports, Dota 2 currently has no mechnic in place to force it to end: technically, a game might one day go forever. Let's hope it doesn't.
The last great hope for American Dota came out swinging in Liquid vs. TeamMUFC , the first of the day's best-of-one elimination rounds. Liquid were the favourites given MUFC's losing streak but being knocked into the loser's bracket had shaken their confidence. Not that it showed: they brought out the big guns, including the tournament-first appearance of everybody's favourite murder bear, Ursa, in conjunction with Wisp. To say that there was a patriotic fervor in the room after Liquid's victory is an understatement: I'm pretty sure Ursa/Wisp 2016 is a safe bet for the next Presidential election.
Zenith vs. Virtus.Pro was also a crowd-plesaer, with Zenith's iceiceice picking up the first Invoker of the tournament and Virtus.Pro picking up Anti-Mage. Contrary to a popular idiom, this actually causes the fun to start . I really enjoyed watching the crowd react to live Sunstrike snipes - particularly a fantastic midgame kill on KSi's Clockwerk.
Due to the late running of the IG/LGD game I had to duck out of the main hall for the next two matches to make an appointment, but the upshot is this: Liquid is back, and LGD is out. The Americans will go on to play another Chinese giant, IG, today, after they took a game off Zenith to stay in the tournament.
I got back in time to watch a bit of the final of the solo tournament, which pitched Mushi vs. iceiceice in midlane. Iceiceice took it, in the end, and it's worth watching the second round - the Timbersaw match - for a fantastic blind kill. I did find that Puck vs. Puck matchup kind of boring, though, much as I love a good Phase Shift.