The 2016-2017 competitive Dota 2 season was one of the best yet. Between Patch 7.00 redefining the entire game, completely new heroes joining the fray, and the International once again shattering esports records, the season was filled with memorable moments for both newcomers and veterans.
It was also marked by some of the most heart-stopping and jaw-dropping plays the community has ever seen—with a few even rivaling classic plays from the competitive scene’s early years.
What better way to cap off the year by turning back the clock for a while, then? These are the top eight Dota 2 plays this year that made us stare in disbelief at what had transpired.
SG’s Dream Coil/Black Hole combo
Although the roster that competed at the Kiev Major is no longer around, the almost-Cinderella story of Brazilian squad SG e-sports at that tournament still fascinated fans all over the world. South America isn’t really considered to be one of the stronger regions in pro Dota 2, yet SG surprised everyone by defeating Team Secret 2-1 in the first round.
While this was definitely cause for celebration for the Brazilians, their opponent after Secret was an even higher wall to climb. They were up against Evil Geniuses, back when they were at their absolute top form.
They lost the first map. It was beginning to look like the end for SG—and it was, as they also lost the third and final game. But few could say that they didn’t at least go out in a blaze of glory—certainly not when Adriano “4dr” Machado and Otavio “Tavo” Gabriel both hit a Dream Coil and Black Hole combo for the ages.
Toby “Tobiwan” Dawson, known for the most hype Black Hole calls in history, couldn’t contain his excitement. And we can’t blame him.
Virtus Pro’s VacWall into Static Storm
Virtus Pro had a very, very good time last season. Several high placements in premier tournaments, including second place at the Kiev Major, marked their impressive run through 2016 and 2017.
In spite of their failure to defend home turf in Ukraine, though, there was still plenty for their local fans to be happy about. One of them was the Vacuum, Wall of Replica, and Static Storm combo pulled off by Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov and Alexei “Solo” Berezin against Vici Gaming J.
The play was simply exquisite, and a beautiful symphony of teamfight abilities hitting all five enemy heroes. Above all, it was an example of VP’s strong chemistry and teamwork—which we can still see even in the current Pro Circuit season.
Miracle-‘s solo Exort combo, on an invisible hero
TI7 champion and two time Major winner Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi really has nothing left to prove. He’s shown time and time again that he’s one of the most mechanically gifted players on the planet, perhaps rivaled only by EG’s Syed “Sumail” Hassan.
He definitely did just that at the Dota 2 Asia Championships last March, with a mind-boggling Invoker solo kill on Newbee’s Xu “Moogy” Han (known back then as “uuu9”), in spite of the fact that Moogy was invisible during the whole combo. Skip to 4:35 in the following video for the clip:
Sure, you could chalk this up to dumb luck and guessing, but knowing Miracle-, he probably knew exactly where Moogy was after casting Tornado. This was a true 9K MMR play, that much is clear.
Gabbi jukes his way to four kills
Over the last two years, the Southeast Asian scene has cemented itself as a real threat in the world of pro Dota 2. Guys like Djardel Jicko “DJ” Mampusti, Carlo “Kuku” Palad, and Armel “Armel” Tabios are just a few of the players that regularly help SEA compete against other tier one squads.
Execration’s Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte is a prime example of the level of talent present in the region. His Puck is truly something to be feared—which was on full display at the Mineski Pro Gaming League SEA Championship last September.
MVP took a very favorable position while sieging Execration’s top lane tier one tower, and got two kills as a result. DJ decided to retreat while he could, but Gabbi stood his ground and started laying into Lee “Reisen” Jun-yeong with auto attacks.
He got the kill in return, but he quickly realized that he was in no man’s land against three MVP heroes. But he was playing Puck, so what did he do? Style all over the Koreans, of course. He proceeded to kill the Luna, then he bought a Blink Dagger back at home in order to spend all of his gold before dying.
But that’s not what went down. Instead of sticking with his decision to buy out before biting the dust, he sold his Blink Dagger for a full refund, and bought a new one at the side shop. He used this and his remaining mana to kill the Undying and the Batrider, surviving with just 50 HP at the end of it all.
Sumail dives in with reckless abandon
“Sometimes, you just have to go in and hope for the best.”
These were the words that Sumail used in response to a question directed towards him at EG’s Manila Masters championship press conference. The Pakistani prodigy has long been hailed as the best midlaner in the world—thanks to his immense mechanical skill and seeming lack of fear in the face of danger.
There’s a reason that a hero designed to jump right into teamfights in order to wreak havoc upon the enemy team is his signature pick. Storm Spirit is what launched Sumail into stardom, and every time he gets his hands on the hero, there’s always a big play to look out for.
This was exactly the case at the Manila Masters last May, where he pulled off a pseudo-Black Hole thanks to the Electric Vortex talent. Just look at him go in with the utmost confidence (at 2:03):
Sumail was undoubtedly the MVP at the Manila Masters, and without him, EG might not have won the whole tournament in the first place. This play served to solidify that title.
GH keeps Liquid alive with the power of light
This entry focused on Maroun “GH” Merhej’s Keeper of the Light at TI7 isn’t just one individual play, but rather a series of sequences in which his Illuminates kept Team Liquid in top fighting shape through some protracted teamfights.
With his Aghanim’s Scepter in hand, GH positioned himself extremely well in their first game against Team Empire in the lower bracket, allowing him to keep his teammates topped up during a high ground siege.
His talent on the hero caused their opponents at TI7 to “waste” a ban slot on him alone. This gave Liquid loads of breathing room during each draft—an advantage that they leveraged in their run towards the championship. Not bad for someone that only started playing full time last year.
Ah fu, thief in the night
Aegis steals are always dazzling and breathtaking, mostly due to the incredible game sense required to pull them off, as well as the risks involved.
Of course, LGD Forever Young’s Tue “Ah fu” Soon Chuan knows this. Known mostly for his Earth Spirit play, he’s up there with guys like Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka and Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi on the list of best Earth Spirit players in the world.
And so, it was almost unsurprising that he was right in the middle of the most astonishing individual play at TI7. He committed Grand Theft Aegis against Virtus Pro on Dota 2’s biggest stage, showing both patience and nerves of steel in the process.
VP desperately needed the Aegis to defend their base, but Ah fu would have none of it. The play immediately after the steal was the icing on the cake—lower bracket flavored icing in VP’s case. The Chinese crowd in Seattle went completely bonkers after the play, and so did Tobiwan.
Greek backdoor in Boston
While the other plays on this list were all about individual skill and mechanical prowess, our top play of the season belongs to one that revolved more around snap decision-making than just sheer technique. This play highlights intelligence and decisiveness in hectic situations, where the smallest mistake can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
We’re talking about Ad Finem’s decision to backdoor the ancient in the grand finals of the Boston Major.
Verros “Maybe Next Time” Apostolos decided to forsake his own handle by going straight for the jugular in this play. Despite staring down the barrel of tournament elimination, he sneaked behind OG’s bottom creepwave with his Blink Dagger, thereafter running up to the ancient under the cover of Shadow Blade.
This allowed his teammate Omar “Madara” Dabachach to teleport in with his level two Boots of Travel, giving them more than enough firepower to close out the game for good. The play was so unbelievable that it made caster Owen “ODPixel” Davies discover a whole new octave to his voice. Whatever he said during the final seconds of the game was completely unintelligible, in fact.
The crowd erupted in cheers of disbelief and elation, and the moment was instantly etched into Dota 2 history. Ad Finem (now known as mousesports) went on to lose the series, but they won the hearts of everyone in attendance.