What We Learned from The International Dota 2 Championships 2018

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018 has officially come to an end, and with it, comes a few weeks of lull between this year’s competitive season and the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit. But, unlike in previous years, there won’t be as big of a break time around, as Valve are stepping it up for next season, adding a bit more organization to the Dota Pro Circuit, starting with requiring teams to register their rosters as early as on September 15.

What does this mean? We can’t say for sure just yet. We don’t even know what or where the first Major is going to be, nor the Minor. The only thing we know is when.

This is why, for now, we’re going to leave next season’s problems for later on. Instead, we’ll set our gaze towards the best TI as of yet, with another record-breaking prize pool and punctuated by the biggest cinderella story in all of esports.

The Best Meta Is No Meta At All

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018

Famous for saying that anything can work in Dota 2, OG’s team captain, Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein, did indeed find a way to make anything work during OG’s championship run. (Valve)

It’s hard to describe exactly what the word “meta”, which is short for “metagame” means. However, the word is often used to describe what combination of strategies and hero lineups are the most viable at a given moment.

Heading into the International Dota 2 Championships 2018, many observers and analysts alike pegged as the “laning meta” to prevail. Different teams approached it their own unique way. But, one thing they all had in common was the emphasis on strong lane dominators. If you win the lanes, you have a better chance of securing objectives, and you can use that to snowball to win.

Sounds good, right? This has worked well for months. Mainly, because of a combination of the many gameplay changes seemingly designed with this in mind.

Nobody told OG that, however. Losing or breaking even during the first ten minutes of the game, widely known as the laning stage, was par for the norm for the champions. Instead of drafting to win the lanes, their strategy revolved around playing for the mid-game and late-game, with enough sustain and depush in their lineups as they took their wee time farming up their items.

Despite playing from a serious deficit at some point in all of their games, OG prevailed because of their unique strategy. This also included the occasional use of off-meta picks, unorthodox gameplay courtesy of Topias ‘Topson‘ Taavitsainen, and clever use of buybacks.

As has been usually the case at every TI, the eventual champions didn’t comform to the current metagame — they’re the ones who decide what it is.

Chinese Dota Fall Short of Expectations

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018

Song ‘Sccc’ Chun and Newbee fell way short at TI8 and went home with only a 13th-16th place finish at coming in second just a year ago. (Newbee)

Even when majority of their top teams were struggling all season long, you could always bet that there would be a couple of Chinese teams who will be making some noise come TI.

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018 served as an exception.

Early on in the tournament, it was evident that this was going to be a tough tournament for the six Chinese Dota 2 teams, and a wildly competitive group stage didn’t help them one bit. By the time the tournament had moved on to the main event and only 16 teams remained, one Chinese team, Invictus Gaming, had already been eliminated, while the rest except for PSG.LGD would be playing with their backs against the wall in the lower brackets.

Not even halfway through the main event of The International Dota 2 Championships 2018, only PSG.LGD remained in the tournament.

This is an unprecedented turn of events. Just a year ago at The International 2017, for example, 3 out of the Top 4 finishers were from China. Two years back, a Chinese team, Wings Gaming, won The International 2016. Even a year further at The International 2015, 3 out of the Top 4 finishers were also from China.

While you can’t exactly fault PSG.LGD for the loss, especially Xu ‘Fy‘ Linsen, who will, once again, fall short of winning a TI despite being wildly considered as the best performer of the tournament, this has to be quite disappointing.

If nothing else, we should expect the Chinese teams to come back even stronger for TI9, especially since it’s going to be played in their home turf.

The Dota Pro Circuit Worked

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018

Despite an early exit from The International Dota 2 Championships 2018, paiN Gaming’s performance throughout the latter half of the season is proof that the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit worked as intended to some extent. (paiN Gaming)

For all its kinks and shortcomings, by the time that OG lifted the Aegis of Champions and won The International Dota 2 Championships 2018, it was slowly becoming evident that the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit worked as intended.

Well, almost.

The year-long international tilt may not have been the healthiest for the players, as it required constant travelling overseas, but it was good for the scene overall. It helped pave the way for a number of organizations to invest in their own Dota 2 team. More importantly, it helped level the playing field by giving every Dota 2 team a chance at playing against some of the best in the world.

Case in point, during the group stages of TI8, the teams that were eliminated, paiN Gaming (4-12) and Invictus Gaming (5-11),were merely a win or two away from advancing to the main event. In contrast, last year at TI7, the two teams to be eliminated first, Fnatic and Hellraisers, could only win a combined total of 3 games.

While there exists a clear gap between Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 teams, at the very least, it no longer is the yawning chasm that it once was, and that’s the important bit.

With encouraging signs of improvement already set in place for the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit, we can only expect the quality of the competition next season and at TI9 to be even better.

Rosters Changes Are Coming

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018

Mid-season acquisition, Abed Azel ‘Abed’ Yusop, will likely be playing for another team next season. (Fnatic)

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018 was amazing. Probably the best yet. The storylines gripped you from the get-go and the drama was top notch. But now that it’s over, teams are likely looking forward to letting go of their players and rebuilding their rosters.

The sad reality is that many teams underachieved. The aforementioned Chinese teams, for example, stand out as a good example. Especially Newbee, who, at this point last year, had also faced disappointment, but had high hopes after coming in second place at TI7. And, with so many individual players from lesser known organizations posting incredible performances, a lot of the players you saw at TI8 will likely be playing for a different organziation next season.

Fnatic, a roster filled with known names and brimming with potential, are huge candidates for a shuffle after finishing in 13th-16th place. The same goes for sister teams, ViCi Gaming and VGJ.Thunder. The latter most likely because of the rule changes regarding having only one team per organization next season. The same logic applies to VGJ.Storm, although it’s highly likely that their roster will stay mostly together, albeit under a different banner.

Mineski definitely won’t stand pat after finishing in 9th-12th place. The same goes for their SEA neighbors, TNC Predators, who might look to bring in another foreign voice as a captain or as a second coach to help them emulate their previous success at TI6.

As great as TI8 was, the competitive Dota 2 scene will likely look very different in a few months. Expect to see only a few Dota 2 teams retaining their rosters for the new season.

The Best TI As Of Yet

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018

“The Late Game” show was a welcome addition that helped give TI a proper way to close off the entire event. (Valve)

Despite a change in venue, going from the KeyArena in Seattle to the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, TI8 delivered its fair share of heart-racing moments, gut-wreching defeats, and the customary memes, among many others.

The inspirational story of OG stand out as the biggest surprise of them all. A group composed of a coach forced out of retirement to play the offlane, a hard carry who had not played competitively in nearly a year, and a pubstar who had yet to appear in a big international LAN, OG came up big. This ragtag team of misfits turned the meta on its head to deliver an all-time performance and immortalize themselves in the annals of Dota 2 history.

Of course, there were the crushing disappointments as well. Seeing Newbee going home on the first day was sad, to say the least. Virtus.Pro going out with a whimper at a respectable but slightly disappointing 5th-6th place finish after roaring through the regular season was also something that a lot of people did not expect.

Of course, who could forget the all-time games we saw at the lower bracket finals between Evil Geniuses and PSG.LGD? How about the tight series between OG and PSG.LGD in the upper bracket finals? More importantly, what could’ve been a fitting way to end the tournament than a best-of-five Grand Finals that went all the way? OG’s 65-minute win in Game 4 of the Grand Finals stand out as one of the biggest comebacks in the grandest stage of them all.

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018 was fun beyond words. We’re looking forward to seeing it reach even greater heights next year in Shanghai.

Final Thoughts

The International Dota 2 Championships 2018 was one for the Aegis (get it?).

Kidding aside, The International Dota 2 Championships 2018 was definitely a step forward in the right direction for Valve. Despite breaking records every year for its ginormous prize pool, Dota 2 was starting to lose its player base. However, with the hype from TI8 likely not going to dissipate anytime soon, and the bigger hype for TI9 being held in China, it’s safe to say that Valve has the attention of the gaming world once again.

Now, all Valve needs to do is deliver, and here’s to hoping that they do.

What do you think of the biggest takeaways were from The International Dota 2 Championships 2018? Do you think we’ll see TI9 step it up and be bigger? If so, in what ways do you think will next year’s TI be better? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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