NEED TO KNOW
Get up to speed on the players, metagame, and results going into the International with our extensive guide to the and . You can find all of our ongoing coverage of the tournament on . The fastest place to find VODs for each game is on , but you can also find them in the game client. Check out the current bracket standings on the .
Header image via the . Spoilers begin beyond ‘IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH…’, below. This year’s International is the fourth that I’ve attended, and I’ve never seen an upset on the scale that we saw today. If there was any doubt that Dota 2 is the world’s most internationally competitive esport, they can be safely put to rest.
IF YOU WATCH ONE MATCH…
Upper bracket: Alliance vs. EHOME
EHOME might be a wildcard team, but their form in the group stage made them the favourites here. The draft and early laning phase was a game of wits that arguably Alliance came out ahead in, however: the Swedish team has always had great macro-level decision making and this is demonstrated by a series of smart lane swaps that denied EHOME a bit of crucial early momentum. In fact, Alliance’s gold lead and control of the map in the early game looked convincing.
While LGD’s Necrophos pick took the number of heroes played at the International up to an unprecedented 104, themes are starting to solidify as games go on. As a support, Shadow Demon is becoming representative of a playstyle in much the same way Io is: in his case, however, he represents slow safe sieging with beefy carry illusions—typically Terrorblade, Alchemist, Naga Siren or Morphling. On the opposite end of the meta, however, is the pickoff and momentum-centric playstyle adopted by—in particular—EHOME.It’s here that Axe and Sand King are finding their place in the game. Given her ability to fit into the former strat and counter the other, expect to see more Naga Siren as the week goes on.
However, Alliance simply gave too much away too regularly without getting enough in return. While ceding a lane or two might have been okay in order to maintain a farm advantage, EHOME soon took the game into their own hands. EHOME.old ELeVen’s Sand King was the star, here, with peerless Burrowstrikes catching two or three Alliance heroes every time. This kind of beautiful combo execution counteracted s4’s Storm Spirit’s natural evasiveness and even AdmiralBulldog’s tough-as-nails Bristleback couldn’t survive against the weathering magical assault from heroes like Sand King and Mirana. After Alliance were wiped in a gigantic teamfight around the 34 minute mark, EHOME took the first game.
Facing relegation to the lower bracket, Alliance drafted very comfortably in game two: Lone Druid, Skywrath, Batrider, Phantom Assassin. EHOME stuck to their guns—or, I should say, they stuck to their stuns. With Sven, Sand King, Mirana, Elder Titan and Shadow Demon, they built a combo machine with five interchangeable parts: get caught by any single EHOME hero and Alliance faced getting caught by all of them.
Alliance managed to score first blood, but traded for it. They lost their courier early, too, but showed a bit of life with some solid rotations that racked up kills on the board. EHOME countered with their own successful rotations, and when an Alliance attempt at top lane failed at the end of the laning phase EHOME began to pick up momentum. AdmiralBulldog couldn’t put in the kind of performance he normally does on Lone Druid because of the pressure he faced from EHOME’s pickoff power. Exchange after exchange came out in EHOME’s favour as Alliance waited for the big items that might help—but they didn’t. Having held Alliance’s cores down for the early game, EHOME paved the wave for a very farmed Sven to clean up late. EHOME progress, Alliance will fight for their lives in the lower bracket.
PLAY OF THE DAY
DC support Saksa played the Dota of his life today, but I wanted to highlight in particular. When LGD’s Dragon Knight and Necrophos jump on Gyrocopter, Saksa’s clutch Glimmer Cape and Cold Embrace save soaks up some huge cooldowns: Necro’s ultimate, Dragon Knight’s stun, precious BKB seconds. Then he has the presence of mind to leave, wrapping around the trees to hit LGD on retreat with a perfect ultimate. The camera is following Timbersaw, here, but watch that ice dragon go.
Upper bracket: Evil Geniuses vs. Newbee
These two former International champions pulled out what looked like two different years of International drafts in game one, with Newbee sticking to current-meta favourites and EG getting nostalgic for heroes like Storm Spirit and Winter Wyvern that did work for them last year.
Newbee’s approach paid off early, with kpii in particular showing up on Slardar. An early fight scored four kills for the Chinese team, the kind of momentum boost that normally persists in the current meta. EG shook off convention however and struck back immediately, winning the counterattack cleanly.
As levels and items—particularly Blink Daggers—started to come EGs way, the fights went worse and worse for Newbee. This was one of the most solid team-wide performances of the day, with great aggression from Suma1L’s Storm Spirit supported by Zai’s phenomenal Io. EG pushed close to their limits but never exceeded them, commanding the map but not—as other teams have done—getting too far ahead of themselves and feeding back the advantage. A really solid victory for the defending champions.
Game two was much closer, although it didn’t start out that way. EG picked up a head of steam early with solid rotations and great aggression (and a few lucky bashes) by Universe’s offlane Faceless Void. But Newbee countered with on-point Sand King-Skywrath Mage combos that made life very difficult for Fear’s Morphling. This put Newbee in a position to farm well and control the map as both teams settled into a long, passive evasive period.
This was a day of incredible individual performances, but the standout has to be EG offlaner Universe on Faceless Void in . EG had to work hard for this one, but Universe’s perfect Chronosphere plays—every single time it was needed, or so it seemed—made their job so much easier. Masterful consistency.
Great teamplay at 23:00 by EG saw momentum swing back the other way thanks to some great Timbersaw play by Suma1L. Newbee countered, and then EG countered the counter, and then an explosive Epicenter by kpii at the 31 minute mark made the statement that Newbee would not be going quietly. This became. In some ways, a game of offlaners: Universe with perfect Chronospheres setting up massive Elder Titan ultimates, kpii with fantastic Sand King aggression forcing EG to react.
EG gave up some of their advantage by pushing too hard to end the game, a lapse in discipline that they weren’t punished as hard for in the first game. This allowed Newbee a foothold and took the game ultra-late: when PPD’s Shadow Demon has Boots of Travel, you know the game’s gone long. This one came down to a fight in mid, as yet another phenomenal Chronosphere forced buybacks out of Newbee, but their willingness to rush back to the fight was their undoing. EG wiped them again to take the series 2-0.
Lower bracket: OG vs. TNC Pro Team
After their shock relegation to the lower bracket yesterday, OG faced a relatively forgiving start to their comeback run. TNC Pro Team had defied expectations in groups, but nobody expect much from this Filipino team and their American captain on the main stage.
Nobody will underestimate TNC now.
Early aggression from OG.Fly’s Witch Doctor went awry when, having chased TNC.Eyyou deep into dire territory, he attempted to deny himself to neutral creeps—only to be sniped for first blood by a great anticipatory Astral Spirit. OG ceded a kill lead to TNC early, in fact, although they came back quickly and took the better part of most trades for the early part of the game. OG also seemed to have the better draft, with Drow’s aura boosting Medusa and Enchantress with Faceless Void and Witch Doctor for control.
Yet TNC made what they had work. Axe and Lifestealer in combination proved to be too much for many of OG’s squishy ranged carries, and TNC solidly outplayed OG at the 14 minute mark with a wraparound smoke gank that put the two-time Major champions on the defensive.
They responded by taking Rosh, dodging fights and splitting the map and it worked, for a time: but a smart Blink Dagger pick up on Lifestealer made him harder to kite and OG had no good answer for the power of Sam H’s Axe. And all this time Kuku’s midlane Phantom Lancer was becoming more and more of a problem, stymying OG pushes by forcing them back to their base to defend.
A stunning teamfight for TNC at the 45 minute mark opened up Roshan and OG’s mid barracks fell shortly afterwards. Building their net worth advantage towards 20,000 gold, TNC held off from rushing in and steadily out-split-pushed OG. This first game wasn’t a lucky win by an underdog against a favoured side: it was a solid outplay by a team that needs to be considered their equal (or better.)
OG revisited comfortable old favourites in the second draft, picking up Tiny and Io—once the terror of the meta—as well as Ember Spirit and Dark Seer, a fantastic combo in its own right. But TNC got Huskar and Dazzle through the draft thanks to OG’s respect for Sam H’s Axe in the first game, along with Drow Ranger, Faceless Void and Vengeful Spirit. This wasn’t just a good draft: it was a shopping list of the current top tier.
THE DAILY JIMMY
There weren’t any particularly notable cliff plays today, so instead let’s celebrate the mind of TNC captain Jimmy ‘DemoN’ Ho. Here, he with a haste rune for no other reason than to imply that he’s just placed a deep ward in their offlane. He didn’t—but OG waste two sentry wards looking for it anyway. What a player.
TNC traded Dazzle for a first blood kill on Miracle’s mid Ember Spirit, a trade they’d take any day. OG struck back however with impressive aggression into TNC’s safelane while Miracle scored a solo kill in mid. By 18 minutes, OG looked like they might be able to pin TNC into their base: but the defense was robust, scoring a favourable kill trade for TNC and forcing OG to respect TNC’s defensive supports. Striking back into the map, TNC picked up a 2-0 teamfight win after Ember Spirit’s Searing Chains latched onto creeps rather than Drow Ranger, his target. TNC took Rosh, and Drow reached the top of the net worth chart.
Yet TNC seemed to have missed their window: Huskar had not single-handedly won the midgame for them, and it was getting late. In Tiny and Ember Spirit, OG had lategame power in spades. What TNC had was patience and excellent wards, putting them in a good position to avoid mistakes and hold the line against OG. But it really would have only taken a single big mistake to lose this.
Once again a Faceless Void—this time Sam H—became the hero his team needed, picking up a Shadow Blade to ensure Chronosphere setups on Miracle’s Ember Spirit. Kills on OG’s cores became the key to TNC’s road back into the game, although they faced (and lost barracks to) Tiny-Io split push when they got too aggressive. Even so, OG couldn’t end the game. OG had a 20k networth lead at the 58 minute mark but it didn’t matter.
Tremendous reactive play by Sam H’s Void and Eyyou’s Vengeful Spirit negated n0tail and Miracle’s farm advantage, and Huskar and Drow Ranger just kept getting scarier. In a desperation move, Miracle picked up a Divine Rapier with the hope of ending the game: and to be fair, he could have. A decked-out Ember Spirit presents a serious threat to defending players, as a single good Sleight of Fist critical hit can take a support out of the game entirely. In that regard, Miracle got a little unlucky—he couldn’t summon the crit magic like MVP.QO could against him on day one. But OG were also forced to fight around their Rapier at the foot of their own ancient, and another perfect Chronosphere ended their tournament run.
In a shocking upset, OG—easily the favoured team coming into the International—were eliminated 2-0 by the team expected to come 16th. It was soundly the biggest upset in the history of the competitive scene. All eyes are on TNC to deliver possibly the biggest underdog success story in the history of Dota, too.
BEST DOTA NONSENSE
Lower bracket: Digital Chaos vs. LGD
Another oft-underestimated team, DC, put on a strong showing here against formidable Chinese team LGD—the squad that ousted Team Secret. They let LGD get Batrider in the draft only to instantly counter with Nyx and Shadow Demon. Coupled with Kunkka and Invoker, this gave them huge roaming kill potential that they used to good effect. It wasn’t always smooth running, however: a few misjudgements and lucky escapes saw them just miss a number of kills that would have built them a much more substantial lead.
This was a close-fought thing, but DC refused to give up the little bit of momentum they’d earned early on. Resolut1on’s carry Naga Siren was the essential pick for DC, here, providing them with a vital teamfight reset button, slow siege potential, and even map control with illusions and a Gem of True Sight stripping away LGD’s vital observer wards. Growing impatient with being slowly whittled down by Naga Siren illusions, xiao8’s Batrider led a charge out of the LGD base which managed to catch Misery’s Kunkka. DC punished them for their over extension, however, saving Kunkka with a defensive Shadow Demon Disruption and rallying to wipe LGD and take the first game.
Both teams got creative in the second draft, with DC picking up Winter Wyvern and out-of-favour carry Gyrocopter and LGD countering with the tournament’s first Necrophos: a character that we might see again due to his ability to disable vital late-game buybacks.
LGD handily won their lanes this time with xiao8 in particular putting on a clinic as Beastmaster. Even so, DC anticipated how important early pushing was going to be to LGD’s draft and Winter Wyvern and Gyrocopter in combination proved to be an effective counter, preventing the Chinese team from taking that early lead and turning it into objectives. LGD resorted to roaming as a full team, arguably for far too long—they didn’t get enough done to justify the time spent away from farming, and DC started to inch their way back into the game.
Not without losing a whole lot, though. Glimpse from MMY!’s Disruptor proved the bane of Misery’s Bounty Hunter’s life, but over time it became clear that Bounty Hunter was the only one of DC’s heroes that LGD could easily kill. They were getting outmaneuvered if not played, and DC itemised well to ensure that Necrophos couldn’t do the one thing he was supposed to do: ult somebody important. As Glimmer Cape and Linken’s Spheres came out, DC started to turn around LGD’s advantage.
Although I’ve included him in a sidebar, it’s worth reiterating how vital Saksa’s Winter Wyvern was to DC in this game. He played perfectly, making multiple clutch saves throughout the game even as—occasionally—DC’s cores got a little too aggressive. It was also Saksa that closed out the game in DC’s favour, picking up a Refresher Orb and almost immediately using it to land a massive double Winter’s Curse on Agressif’s Necrophos. Dead without buyback after a long back-and-forth game, LGD knew they were beaten. The team lead by a guy who got kicked out of Secret had just beaten the team that beat Secret.