The main event of the Dota 2 International kicks off in a few hours, but a lot has already happened. Four days of preliminary matches have seen some serious upsets in terms of both team performance and the overall metagame – most of the players I've spoken to are expecting real drama when the matches move to Seattle's Benaroya Hall today. If you have even a vague interest in e-sports, you should be watching. In this post, I'm going to go over the basics and suggest the best ways to find matches, updates and analysis throughout the event.
How do I start watching?
Valve's official site for The International is excellent, and provides a rolling spoiler-free schedule of matches with listings for commentary in different languages. It should be your first stop for anything match-related. Remember that you can link your Twitch.tv and Steam accounts to have a chance of receiving item drops while watching the game in a browser.
If you opt to watch using the in-game spectator tool, it's really easy. Valve have removed the tutorial requirement from new accounts so if you don't play Dota 2 you can download the client and get watching straight away. Watching in game has the advantage of letting you check hero inventories, ward ranges and stat screens independent of what your chosen caster is looking at – in the latter case, this is a recent addition from Valve.
Where do I find analysis and discussion?
Expect the Dota 2 subreddit to explode when matches start. The moderators have done excellent work already compiling a Survival Guide for the tournament and running official discussion threads for each day of play. Head there if you want to discuss the games with other players; Twitch chat is going to involve a lot of kappa, a lot of missing Rares, and a lot of people demanding the dissolution of Swedish car manufacturer Volvo. It'll be a lot like reading Twitch chat, is what I'm trying to say.
It's also worth keeping an eye on JoinDota . Their write-ups of the prelims have been great, so if you miss a day check there to get up to speed. They also produced an impressive series of team profiles in the run-up to TI3: if you've got a few hours to spare, dig in.
What the hell are you doing, then?
I'll be at TI3 every day watching matches and talking to players, the community, and Valve. After the day finishes I'll be posting my impressions here - the hope is to give a sense of what the atmosphere in the room was like, who is hanging around, and where it looks like the tournament is headed.
What's the state of the game?
Since the Western Qualifiers in May the Dota 2 metagame has changed substantially, and it's still changing. We've seen western strats and hero picks influence the Asian teams and vice versa, and there have been substantial shifts in the last week. If you felt like you knew competitive Dota 2 two weeks ago, prepare to make some adjustments.
The heroes to keep an eye out for are Alchemist, Dragon Knight, Lifestealer, Outworld Devourer, Visage and Weaver. Competitive staples like Lone Druid are still a major presence, but expect to see teams capitalising hard on the push potential of those initial three strength carries. Outworld continues to win pretty much whichever 1 vs. 1 match-up he's put in, and Visage is too useful for most teams to ignore.
Europe has dominated the preliminary rounds but that's not the whole story. Na'Vi and the undefeated Alliance will be confident going into their games today but upsets are always possible, particularly when teams are fielding players who haven't played in front of a roaring audience. It's very much worth following Chinese team DK, the current trendsetters of the east Asian scene.
The USA had a good start and a rough end to the prelims, with both Liquid and Dignitas finishing in the lower brackets. Both of these teams have the potential to turn themselves around, however. I spoke to Dignitas team captain Fogged yesterday and he seemed calm and focused on preparing for their upcoming match with Rattlesnake.
Which games should I watch today?
All of them. Obviously. But if you have to choose, it's worth keeping an eye on the lower bracket matches. These teams will be playing best-of-one games to stay in the tournament, so not only is it your last chance to see half of these guys play but they're under more pressure than anyone else. I'm particularly excited about Mouseports vs. LGD.int – mouz haven't lived up to their potential at TI3 so far, but when they're on form they can take games off anyone.
I'm at TI3 and I have strong opinions
Then say hi! I'll be wandering around throughout the event talking to people. I'm short, British, and carrying a bag that says PC Gamer on it.