If you’re betting arcana on the Dota 2 Asia Championships, now would be a good time to stop.
Day one of Dota‘s second-largest tournament threw virtually all predictions out the window as the reigning International champions stumbled over the first few hurdles. In contrast, two re-formed Western sides and a surprise from Southeast Asia topped an opening round that featured more twists than a refreshed Eul’s Scepter.
Secret toppled Chinese all-star retirees Big God, fan favorite Natus Vincere, and peaking European qualifier Hellraisers. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Gustav “S4” Magnusson looked the part of “Western hope” while summarily dismantling Hellraisers. But Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg in particular showcased new highs in technical play and execution on a Puck performance to remember.
Evil Geniuses fans were delighted to see Syed “Sumail” Hassan quickly developing in the wake of Babaev’s departure. Kurtis “Aui 2000” Ling and Sahil “Universe” Arora were rock solid against some of the tournament’s toughest Eastern entrants, including Vici Gaming, Newbee, LGD Gaming, and MVP Phoenix. But Hassan in particular demonstrated world class poise and skill on more traditional mid heroes, freeing Clinton “Fear” Loomis to play a true safelane role for perhaps the first time in Evil Geniuses’ “SADBOYS” era.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the first day of competition was Rave, a little-known Southeast Asian side that toppled Invictus Gaming and an upstart TongFu, surrendering only one loss to a potent LGD lineup.
This sort of success is not without precedent; Titan famously started hot at The International 2014 before fading quietly out of the picture. Still, the result is encouraging for a corner of the Dota world known more for match-fixing scandals than hopeful performances.
At the opposite end of the table, millionaires, car company spokespeople, and defending International champions Newbee delivered an uncharacteristically poor first series of games, dropping to Vici Gaming, Evil Geniuses, and a meager MVP Phoenix with a single win over struggling TongFu.
Again, this performance is not without precedence. Newbee finished ninth at the International round-robin before surging through the playoff bracket to hoist the Aegis of Champions. With 11 games still to play, China’s Dota poster-children have plenty of time to write the wrongs of the opening day of play, provided complacency hasn’t undone the squad already.
Image via artubr/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)