The Shanghai Major is behind us, and as the whirlwind of emotion finally settles it’s time to look back at what made it such a great tournament. Among all the production drama, an incredibly competitive event unfolded that showed just how dynamic competitive Dota has become. While many games were decided by early aggressive action, the variety in play showed the world both 17 minute stomps and hour-long slugfests. Being able to quickly adapt was proven to be a critical skill, with an offensive team like MVP Phoenix sweeping group stages but only finishing in a (nonetheless respectable) fourth. Meanwhile, Team Secret, who looked like fools versus MVP Phoenix, regrouped and found themselves champions. Let’s look at some of the most important moments of the Shanghai Major, both big and small, that created one of the most interesting Dota 2 events to date.
JerAx’s courier snipe
Team Liquid vs EG: lower bracket finals, game 2
Many memorable plays tend to be finishers, dramatic moments that swing the end of a game, or mid-game fights that suddenly change a game’s tempo. The most important plays aren’t always massive, though, and one of the biggest plays of the tournament involved the smallest member of either team - the courier. At the 0:00 mark, Team Liquid’s JerAx roamed to Evil Geniuses middle tier two tower. Protected by smoke, he placed a ward, scouted a courier carrying Sumail’s bottle, and slaughtered it before Sumail’s Zeus could receive his only item purchase. Killing a courier isn’t an uncommon strategy, but this courier kill was a huge deal.
It effectively won Team Liquid the game. The bottle denial stalled Sumail as he went up against FATA-’s Death Prophet. With almost no worthwhile sustainability he was crushed in lane. Zeus can work well as a defensive midlaner for the first few minutes of a game, but Sumail was forced back to base, unable to get more than a few last hits, and even with the helpful presence of ppd he still died. Sumail finished the game with an atrocious gold-per-minute of 228, less than every member of Team Liquid. It was a calculated play by Team Liquid, who were not only aware of how important Sumail’s start was, but even that Evil Geniuses might take an evasive path with the courier to keep it protected. Two Phoenix autoattacks completely changed the course of the game, and propelled Team Liquid to the grand finals.
Ohaiyo’s Templar Assassin meld
Fnatic vs Team Spirit: group stages, game 3
This match may not seem hugely important since it was only a group stage game, but this gank secured Fnatic a spot in the upper bracket. Unlike The International 5 and the Frankfurt Major where they were immediately eliminated in their first playoff game, the South East Asian team had time to adapt to the developing meta. If they hadn’t made this kill, odds are that they would have been unable to break highground. If that happened, it’s likely that they’d have lost to compLexity in the Loser’s Bracket of the playoff stage. The fifth-place finishers would have ended up in a tie for last.
This play is also notable because it’s the quintessential “noob trap.” Even basic guides will bluntly state that Meld is a bad skill to ambush someone with. It wastes too much time, usually requires more luck than skill, and players will be suspicious of a missing Templar Assassin. Professionals seem to agree, since Meld is rarely used for traps like this. It’s a play that’s been so obvious for such a long time that pros just don’t expect it. That’s what makes it such a cool play. Ohaiyo played with RAMZES666’s expectations and broke the norm of most professional Templar Assassin players. RAMZES666 was caught so offguard that he couldn’t react quickly enough to keep himself alive. The gank was so unexpected the casters almost didn’t mention it. It’s one of the goofiest and “pubbiest” plays that can happened in professional play, and therefore it’s perfect.
EG vs Team Secret: upper bracket semifinals, game 3
Evil Geniuses were on the back foot throughout this series, but a sudden pickoff let them push for an all-in that would earn them in a space in the grand finals. There truly was no recovering from this push, as mega creeps were already gathered in the Dire base, and Arteezy’s Sven had not one, but two Divine Rapiers. He was easily hitting for over 1000 damage per swing, with the ability to two-shot most heroes and probably three-shot a team with cleave damage. Then, it all went horribly wrong.
Team Secret went on the offensive when Evil Geniuses reached their ancient, aggressively diving the backline with Ember Spirit and Lion. This was all a distraction, however, as the most important member of EG was Arteezy: separated from his team and now attacking towers. The dive synchronized with a sprout from Nature’s Prophet onto the Rogue Knight. Sven sat there for a full six seconds, his Black King Bar wasted, taking tower shots, and unable to hit any buildings. This was a Sven that could have easily healed to full HP with his Satanic. Even if he wasn’t killing heroes, he probably could have finished off the base by himself.
Once EG realized that Arteezy was dying on his own, they went full defensive, with Sumail killing himself through Pugna’s Life Drain in an attempt to keep Arteezy alive, but it was to no avail. A single sprout kept Arteezy out of the fight long enough for Team Secret to secure their place in the winner’s finals.
Fear’s Black Hole
Team Liquid vs EG: lower bracket finals, game 1
There’s just something beautiful about seeing the easily-interrupted Black Hole turn a teamfight, and Fear has been a constant champion for this. It’s the moments leading up to this Black Hole that make it spectacular, though. Fear is patient, waiting, calm, despite the fact that he could very easily die, he knows that his ultimate will turn the fight around once he finds his opportunity. It’s the setup from Universe off to the side that lets him catch every hero capable of stopping the Black Hole at once. Even so, it almost all went terribly wrong.
Arteezy wades into the fray with less than 100 HP, and he’s barely able to keep himself alive through the Radiance burn from MutumbaMan’s bear. Not only that, but PPD (with similarly low HP) stuns the bear to keep Arteezy alive from its autoattacks as the Black Hole ends. The Magic Missile helped burst down the bear before the sub-100 HP heroes died from the Radiance burn. Sumail was also able to contribute to this scrappy fight with a follow up stun as the Black Hole ended. Despite Fear’s huge play, this fight could have easily been in favor of Team Liquid. The shocker is that Evil Geniuses still lost the game despite this huge play: this demonstrates just how high the standard has become. A devastating fight at the 30 minute mark isn’t enough to knock out the best teams. Comebacks are always a possibility.
The Shanghai Major was only an early taste of the 6.86 patch, and teams are still laying out the new metagame. Aggressive and offensive plays are clearly powerful, as shown by teams like MVP Phoenix and Fnatic, but the ebb and flow is still there. It wasn’t gimmicks or luck that made these plays great, however: the pros just keep on getting better.
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