Four Takeaways from ESL One Birmingham 2018

After five days of Dota 2 action, ESL One Birmingham 2018 has finally come to an end, paving the way for the final Major of the season, the China Dota 2 Super Major. However, before we see the Dota Pro Circuit officially come to an end in Shanghai later this week, let’s first take the time to look back on the storylines that emerged at the first-ever Dota 2 Major in UK.

Virtus.Pro Make History

ESL One Birmingham 2018

It’s business as usual for Virtus.Pro as they go on to win their fourth Major title, tying them with OG for the most Major wins ever by a single organization. (ESL Dota 2)

If winning a Major without dropping a single game and with only one game going past the 40-minute mark doesn’t prove that Virtus.Pro are the best Dota 2 team in the world right now, then I don’t know what will. Sure, PSG.LGD could still give Virtus.Pro a good run for their money — Virtus.Pro have yet to win a single series against the current iteration of PSG.LGD — and Team Liquid are still heavy favourites owing to their stature as reigning TI champions, but the CIS bears are definitely in full TI form.

Just to put into context how dominant Virtus.Pro have been this season: If each member of Virtus.Pro were to form their own separate teams at this very moment, each team would theoretically have enough points to receive a direct invite to The International 2018. Their lowest point-getter is Vladimir ‘RodjER‘ Nikogosyan with 2,655 Qualifying Points. That’s still more than the 7th-place team Newbee, who have 2,445 Qualifying Points.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. No organization in the right mind would break up such a successful roster. Also, this literally will not happen because any Dota 2 team that makes changes to their roster past the roster lock in February is subject to the penalty of losing eligibility for a direct invite to TI8 in addition to having to go through the Open Qualifiers. But still, it’s not exactly a comforting thought for opposing teams when a single Dota 2 team has had such a dominant season.

Here Comes the paiN

ESL One Birmingham 2018

If they make it all the way to TI8, paiN Gaming will be a legitimate dark horse contender to make a deep run. (paiN Gaming)

The “hometown favourites” at ESL One Birmingham 2018 gave the crowd a lot to cheer for when they went on a third-place run. Although it was a shame that they couldn’t keep their series against Virtus.Pro close — no team was able to do so, save, maybe, for OpTic Gaming in Game 2 of the Grand Finals — they legitimately looked like a team on the up-and-up against the other teams in the tournament.

With ESL One Birmingham 2018 now over, paiN Gaming will go back to South America having earned some valuable experience from the world’s best Dota 2 teams. Although it’s not a sure thing just yet, but, if paiN Gaming are able to make it to The International 2018, they have the makings for a good sleeper pick to make a deep run.

Valve Needs to Think Twice about ESL

This isn’t so much about ESL One Birmingham 2018 as it is about ESL themselves.

While the event itself was a resounding success, with a crowd that was more than happy to attend their first ever Dota 2 major, the same can’t be said for the organizers. Ever since ESL One Hamburg 2017 back in October, ESL has found themselves on the receiving end of harsh, but valid criticism, for every tournament they have held.

From subpar formats to the lack of days for a Major tournament and to top it all off, their recent deal with Facebook that granted the social media giant exclusive streaming rights to their Dota 2 tournaments, a lot of what ESL has done this season has received nothing but negative press.

Of course, negative press is still exposure. However, Valve should still take note of all the negative criticism ESL has received and their lack of action to address it. We don’t exactly know what Gabe Newell has in store for Dota 2 for the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit just yet, but here’s to hoping that involves less Major tournaments from ESL to give other tournament organizers a chance.

The Regional Qualifiers Are Going to be Fun

For most of the season, the Regional Qualifiers for the DPC tournaments have not had much drama. Save for the occasional upsets and underdogs rising up to beat the favourites, it’s almost always the same team nabbing the designated spot for their region.

Come the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, we should see this change a lot.

With all the direct invites to TI8 all but guaranteed — only Newbee and VGJ.Thunder are in real danger of losing their spots — we can now look forward to the teams who we will see playing at the Regional Qualifiers, starting with the Open Qualifiers less than a week after the end of the China Dota 2 Super Major.

North America, for one, has three Dota 2 squads fighting for what could potentially be just one spot for The International 2018. Namely, that’s OpTic Gaming, VGJ.Storm, and Evil Geniuses. Not to mention the other Dota 2 squads that could rise up and pull off an upset or two, like Immortals, as well as compLexity Gaming, who recently welcomed back former members David ‘MoonMeander‘ Tan and Adam ‘343‘ Shah.

Mind you, that’s just North America. Expect the other Regional Qualifiers to be just as competitive.

Final Thoughts

Newbee and ViCi Gaming’s struggles at ESL One Birmingham 2018 aren’t all that surprising. It’s not the first time this season both Dota 2 teams got eliminated so early in the tournament.

As for the meta, there weren’t really much to take away from all of this. We didn’t exactly get a chance to see a lot of matches take place because of the GSL format group stages. Also, come playoff time, it was single-elimination. The remaining six Dota 2 teams in the tournament simply stuck to what worked. This meant more of Dragon Knight, Razor, Death Prophet, and Gyrocopter, all of which are considered as safe and stable heroes who almost always will be picked regardless of the meta.

Leshrac did have a 70% win rate across 20 matches, though. This was despite losing three straight times in the Grand Finals. So, that was a surprise.

Unfortunately, because of the recent patch, 7.16, we will likely see the meta from the ESL One Birmingham shift again once the China Dota 2 Super Major starts. Especially since the final tournament of the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit will have a more “forgiving” format, stretching across two weeks with a round robin group stage and a double-elimination playoff.

What do you think were the biggest takeaways from ESL One Birmingham 2018? Do you think we will see Virtus.Pro win yet another Major once again at the China Dota 2 Super Major? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below. 

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