Apr 17 2014 - 5:43 pm

Here are the greatest rivalries in professional 'Dota'

In August 2013, a sold out crowd of esports fans in a Seattle concert hall screamed in excitement
Andrew Groen
Dot Esports

In August 2013, a sold out crowd of esports fans in a Seattle concert hall screamed in excitement. Swedish Dota 2 team Alliance were risking everything to chip away the last bit of health from the base of their opponents, the adored Ukrainian side Natus Vincere.

At stake? $1.4 million and international fame as the champions of The International 3, the biggest annual event for the second most popular esport in the world.

“They’re doing it! The Kings in the North! Alliance wins!” the casters screamed to a roaring crowd on its feet. It was one of the best, most pivotal games of Dota ever played. When Alliance came away victorious, it forged one of the great rivalries in all of esports.

Just like in any other pro game, the repeated clashes of Dota teams over the years have led to some fierce rivalries across the world. The epic battles have come to a head now in Dota 2, as the teams now routinely fight for prize pools in the hundreds of thousands—and for ultimate glory at the yearly mega-tournament, The International, which boasts a prize of more than $1 million.

The Dota allstars: EHOME vs LGD

In 2009, an unsigned Chinese team that had recently made waves in the amateur scene finally caught the eye of a big sponsor. In short order, they'd go on to become a global powerhouse in the late days of the first Dota game, playing under the banner of a company called Guizhou Laogandie Food, better known by the acronym LGD.

Having only proved themselves as amateurs, LGD was something of an underdog. Compare that to EHOME, a group of incredibly talented players assembled specifically to dominate the Chinese scene. EHOME fielded arguably the top players in China at every position.

These two teams developed into the titans of Chinese Dota. Beginning the year of LDG's formation in 2009, their clashes became the stuff of legends.

“[LGD] had amazing results, but so did EHOME who really had an outstanding year winning like 10 titles. Only LGD could stop them,” said Dimitri "Mali" Vallette who works for LGD Gaming and news site 2P Dota and is an expert on the Chinese Dota scene.

Despite sporting the best rosters ever assembled, the real focus was on the battle between the teams’ primary carry players, the two best in the world: Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei of EHOME and Gong “ZSMJ” Jian of LGD. This matchup was like Michael Jordan and the Bulls vs Magic Johnson and the Lakers.

EHOME fell on some hard times, though, and were forced to make some tough decisions. Zou "820" Yitian, EHOME's captain, switched to the support position even though he was one of the best carry players around.

A “carry” is a type of hero in a MOBA that is quite weak in the early game but incredibly strong later on. The highest skill players are often placed in the carry role because of the care needed to survive the early game and the skill needed to fully unleash your character in the late game. More strategic-minded players often play support because the less intensive position gives them more time to build a strategy and analyze the game.

Switching your carry player to the support position is somewhat analogous to switching your star quarterback in football to fullback, where they’ll mostly be blocking and helping other players, not taking the primary role in winning the game.

This change might have been surprising, but it paid off. The team came back from its slump to upset LGD in the qualifiers for one of the biggest events of the year and then "trashed everyone at the main event," Vallette said. That included European heavyweight Na'vi.

“They didn’t lose one single game. After that, EHOME dominated the scene completely.”

Chinese giants reborn: Team DK vs Invictus Gaming

It’s often been said that the Chinese Dota scene has the very best individual players in the world but that Western teams are closer knit and exhibit better teamwork. But what happens if a team fronts the cash to just buy all of the best players in China? That’s essentially the story of the two current behemoths of Chinese Dota: Team DK and Invictus Gaming.

Its the modern incarnation of the EHOME vs LGD rivalry, fueled by the fact that many of the players on these new teams were taken from the former giants.

“LGD had an amazing lineup until 2011 when Invictus Gaming bought four of their players,” Vallette said of the devastating roster move that gutted LGD’s lineup and propelled Invictus to the top of the Dota world.

Team DK brought in its own stars, including EHOME’s former carry, Zhilei, long considered the best carry player in the world. And after the conclusion of The International 3 in August 2013, it bolstered the roster with four new top players lifted from other teams.

Team DK and Invictus Gaming went on a hunt to find the absolute best talent available. They found it. And fans were the winners for it.

Earlier this year, the two faced off in three straight grand finals matches in a span of just two weeks. That includes the $160,000 World E-sports Professional Classic finals where Team DK pulled off a stunning reverse sweep in a best of seven series, unheard of in professional Dota.

The two titans are, without a doubt, the cream of the crop in China right now, and most of the country’s best talent is wrapped up in their immense payrolls. For Invictus, this investment has paid off. They took home a $1 million prize after winning The International 2 in 2012. Team DK is looking a bit stronger these days too, and this matchup will be one of the best to watch as The International 4 approaches in July.

El Clasico: Natus Vincere vs The Alliance

In western Dota 2, there’s only one matchup that the community will drop anything to watch: Na’Vi vs Alliance. It’s become known as “el clasico” because it’s considered to be the quintessential struggles of modern Dota 2. “El Clasico” is the phrase soccer fans use to describe the matchup between beloved soccer clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona, and it's a natural fit for this rivalry between the two European Dota giants.

But oddly enough, Na’Vi and Alliance have only been rivals for about eight months.

It all began with the scene described above at The International 3, the Super Bowl of Dota 2, where the two teams faced off in the grand finals. That best of five series is considered one of the all-time classics, coming down to the nail-bitingly close finish described above, where Alliance narrowly edged out Na’Vi to take home the $1.4 million prize.

But Na’Vi has won an International title as well, and they’ve been in the finals of The International for each of the years it's existed. In fact, they’ve consistently defeated their rivals in grand final after grand final since The International 3, winning three straight finals matches against Alliance since August.

Na’Vi won more, but Alliance won when it counted most. To make things even more tense, the two teams are actually tied all-time. According to Dota news site GosuGamers, they are now 31:31 in matches against each other since 2012.

Although the rivalry between these two teams started less than a year ago, it’s important to note that the history of their players goes back much further. Na’Vi’s Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and Kuro “Kuroky” Salehi Takhasomi both have long histories in the community, and Danil “Dendi” Ishutin is easily the single most beloved player in the world.

Alliance is no slouch either, with perhaps second-largest fan base in all Dota. Their stars Jonathon “Loda” Berg and Joakim “Akke” Akterhall are both veterans of Dota and competitive gaming, the former being one of the few western players to gain a following in China, where he’s nicknamed “L-God.”

This rivalry won’t be dying down anytime soon. Both teams are still at the top of their game and are usually considered to be the two best teams outside of China. Each team will have its chance to secure bragging rights for another year at the International 4, held in Seattle's Key Arena in July.

Today - 12:04 am

The new LCK meta: Singed top?

LCK Season 7 kicked off last night, giving us an early look at the new 10-ban meta.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Image via Riot Games

Competitive League is back. Most professional leagues kick off the Spring Split later this week, with League of Legends Champions Korea getting the ball rolling last night. After a crazy offseason, we finally get to see what the pros make of the meta, how they’ll play around overpowered tanks, and what they’ll do with jungle plants.

One of the key questions going into this season was what the new draft phase would look like with the implementation of 10 bans (5 per team). We saw some of the effects of that last night. The first match involved a fascinating storyline with the ROX Tigers facing former top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho for the first time.

But from a meta perspective, the more interesting match started after Smeb and KT walked off with a win. That’s when Longzhu Gaming and Samsung Galaxy both busted out pocket picks.

Wait, what? Singed top?

The craziness started in game one, when Samsung, playing on the red side (and picking second), inexplicably left Rengar available. That allowed Longzhu to first-pick the terrifying jungle assassin. In return though, they got Ezreal, Poppy, Zyra, and Viktor, strong picks themselves and ones that Samsung is familiar with.

Then with the last pick, top laner Gu "Expession" Bon-taek went with Singed.

Singed is fun and unique champion who can push minion waves in a way few champions can match. His mechanics have led to some pretty ridiculous strategies. But he’s not known in professional play because of his low overall damage and uselessness in team fights. Singed players typically play with a one-versus-five mentality, something that usually doesn’t agree with the typical Korean focus on team cohesion.

For Longzhu, Singed was honestly an afterthought for most of the game. That’s because Rengar took over. Lee "Crash" Dong-woo was all over Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong’s Lee Sin from the start, taking over the blue side jungle and enabling his bot lane to push with impunity.

That can be risky against Samsung’s strong solo laners, but it paid off as the Longzhu duo roamed around for turret after turret. Kim "PraY" Jong-in’s Jhin was absolutely incredible, pushing people off turrets and sniping them from range.

Samsung tried to turtle and defend, but that’s where Singed came in. Having built Zz’rot portal, he made life hell for Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin’s Poppy. Poppy wants to teamfight, but with Singed constantly pushing, CuVee had no priority and Longzhu romped.

We are not sure that Singed will continue to be a popular pick; he’s too easy to camp if there isn’t pressure elsewhere. But we’re also excited to see more team strategies being built around previously off-meta champions. 

More pocket picks to come

Image via Riot Games

Samsung responded in game two with a new champion: Camille somehow made it through the first ban phase. But then Longzhu came back with a counter pick of their own: Jax.

This game was what 10 bans was all about. It was incredibly fun watching these two top laners duel. At first, Camille had the upper hand, taking on Jax and then Song "Fly" Young-jun’s Ekko, beating both. But after Jax got a couple items, he became the stronger bruiser, getting a solo kill back. Stuns, dashes, and ults combined in a terrific dance. It was an incredible display of skill from two players and everything we hoped 10 bans could be.

Game 3 was a more straightforward Samsung win, but we got even more champions. New jungler Kang "Haru" Min-seung picked Kha’zix, and a level one invade got him first blood. In the mid lane, Lee "Crown" Min-ho picked Corki, someone we hadn’t seen in a some time. His range advantage kept Fly pushed in and Samsung played a steady game to win.

Three games, full of creative strategies and pocket picks. This is likely what Riot envisioned when they moved to the 10 ban system. But of course, these are the highest skilled players in the world—can players in Europe and North America, perhaps with smaller champion pools, recreate the success we saw last night?

In just a few days, we’ll find out.

Jan 17 2017 - 11:07 pm

How to Watch the ESL Hearthstone Trinity Series: Players, Format, Times, and More

It's the biggest team league the game has seen in over a year.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Blizzard Entertainment

It's been well over a year since Hearthstone last had a major team league in the West—something fans have been crying out for. Tomorrow the wait ends, and the ESL Trinity Series begins.

Eight trios, flying the banners of some of the biggest franchises in esports, will compete in best-of-11 matches until Mar. 2. The top teams will advance to a live finals at the ESL studios in California, with $75,000 up for grabs for the winning team.

This is a big moment for Hearthstone esports. After growth slowed in 2016, this league could get 2017 off to a big start as the major players in the scene attempt to stabilize and consolidate their positions.

Here's everything you need to know about the league, the teams involved, and how the matches will play out.

What is the format?

For each match, the teams will submit nine decks—one for each class in the game. Each team will ban out two of their opponent's decks, leaving seven decks from which the teams pick a final lineup of six.

The teams then play a best-of-11 match in the Last Hero Standing format—once a deck loses a game it is locked for the rest of the match, and you lose when you have no decks left. Unlike the Archon Team League Championships where each player was assigned a couple of decks to play, all six players will be playing every game of every series. They will do so with open communication, which viewers will be tuned in to throughout the broadcast.

The format requires a huge amount of strategy, deckbuilding skill, and team work. The teams will have to argue out each individual play, make their move within the short timeframe of a turn, and try not to fall out in the process. Matches will be long, and real-life fatigue will play a part.

How will the league be broadcast?

The broadcasts will be presented from ESL's studios in Burbank, California, with TJ Sanders and Brian Kibler slated to call the action.

The players themselves will be playing from home, adding another level of difficulty to the communication, until the league reaches its final stages.

The matches will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting tomorrow, with two matches per day. Games will start at 1pm ET (10am PT) for the duration of the seven week season and will be aired on ESL's Hearthstone Twitch channel.

Who are the teams?

The lineup features some of the biggest brands in esports. Two Hearthstone world champions, over a dozen tournament winners, and some wildcards too.

G2 Esports are easily the favorites to win it all. The trio of Dima "Rdu" Radu, Thijs Molendijk, and Adrian "Lifecoach" Koy is the most decorated in the game, with the Archon Team League Championships title also under their belt. The weight of expectation is firmly upon this European trio.

Although the team is relatively new, having just brought on a third member in time for the league, Alliance will be one of the teams to watch. The Swedish organization picked up a trio of players to represent the team and their country in three-time major winner Jon "Orange" Westberg, 2015 world champion Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall, and consistent journeyman Harald "Powder" Gimre.

Virtus Pro will be a force to be reckoned with. After starting out as rivals at the 2016 European Winter Championship, Artem "DrHippi" Kravets, Ole "Naiman" Batyrbekov, and Raphael "BunnyHoppor" Peltzer have formed a formidable unit. The team has been represented in countless major tournaments this year, with DrHippi finishing second in the world championship.

CompLexity will be looking to turn potential and underdog determination into results. Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen was impressively consistent throughout 2016, but did not win a major title. Simon "Crane" Raunholst has long been considered one of the best minds in the game but he has also not borne this out with results, while perennial prospect Tugay "MrYagut" Evsan will be looking to show just why he was so highly touted for so long.

The only all-American lineup in the tournament, Luminosity Gaming will also be hoping to live up to their billing. Branded a U.S. "super team" when they were formed last year, DreamHack Austin winner Keaton "Chakki" Gill and the experienced Paul "Zalae" Nemeth will be partnered by top young talent Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang.

The experienced but somewhat out-of-favor hand of Peter "Gaara" Stevanovic will look to guide Tempo Storm's young prospects David "JustSaiyan" Shan and Victor "Vlps" Lopez to success, while the veteran Team Liquid trio of David "Dog" Caero, Jeffrey "Sjow" Brusi, and Yevhenii "Neirea" Shumilin will aim to prove the value of experience.

Speaking of veterans, 2014 world champion James "Firebat" Kostesich, early leader Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and 2014 World Esports Championship winner Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener will round out the lineup for Cloud9. With Firebat having casted more than competed in 2016, StrifeCro having made just the odd appearance and TidesofTime having spent the past two years struggling with whether or not he loved the game anymore, this lineup will now have to deliver on a big stage.

Though 2017 is only a few weeks old, the ESL Trinity Series promises to be one of the most entertaining and competitive events of the year. The players will be tested to the limits of their skills—and Hearthstone fans will finally have another team league to get invested in.