First round of NA International qualifiers serves up drama, controversy

It's day three of the Americas qualifiers for the International, Valve’s yearly Dota 2 super tournament, and one thing has been made apparent: When you tell 10 teams that one, and only one, has the opportunity to play for $4

Image via Valve

It’s day three of the Americas qualifiers for the International, Valve’s yearly Dota 2 super tournament, and one thing has been made apparent: When you tell 10 teams that one, and only one, has the opportunity to play for $4.6 million (and counting) in prize money, the competition gets awfully fierce.

The Americas qualifier, which is the first of four regional qualifiers seeding into the International’s main event later this year, pits 10 of North and South America’s best Dota 2 teams against one another. The 10 teams began in a recently-concluded round-robin group stage, with the top four teams, who are listed below, advancing to the qualifying tournament double elimination playoffs:

Team Liquid

– North American Rejects

– Sneaky Nyx Assassins

– Union Gaming

While all of the teams fought tooth and nail, some matches, and resulting storylines, will likely etch themselves into the memories of Dotas fan. In a mere two days there were forfeited matches, questions about whether certain teams were intentionally trying to lose, and a three-way tie to determine who moved on.

The favorites

As the qualifiers started, all eyes were on the three favorites Team Liquid, North American Rejects, and Sneaky Nyx Assassins. Between the 15 players on these three teams, 11 were former competitors at previous Internationals.

Team Liquid was the strongest North American squad at last year’s International. The North American Rejects, living up to their namesake, were comprised largely of former players from top tier teams. And the Sneaky Nyx Assassins featured two ex-Liquid players and three fresh American faces rounding out the team.

These squads each went blow for blow in the group stages, with Team Liquid losing their match versus against the Rejects, who in turn lost against the Assassins, who were then bested by Team Liquid.

As a result, all three teams made it to the playoff bracket. In the upper bracket, Team Liquid and the Rejects face one another in a highly anticipated rematch. In the lower bracket, Sneaky Nyx Assassins would fight eHug for their tournament lives.

TeamLiquid “throws” game, forcing three-way tie

In the final match of the group stage, Team Liquid faced off against Union Gaming. Liquid had already secured their spot in the upper portion of the playoff bracket regardless of the match’s outcome.

After two full days of constant play, and with nothing on the line, Liquid decided to play a little unorthodox. Well, highly unorthodox.

If the Harlem Globetrotters played Dota 2, they would play a lot like Team Liquid did in this game. The team stormed the field in the strangest way possible. A roaming support player picked up most of the early kills over his teammates. Both support players and carries alike grabbed high-value items that unusual for their heroes. It was going great—until all of a sudden it wasn’t.

Union Gaming would eventually wrestle the bizarre game back into their control and go on to win. That win, in a match where Team Liquid was highly favored, forced a three-way tie and another several hours worth of matches.

With a chance to play for $4.6 million on the line, not everyone was happy. Both casters and pro players spoke out, calling Team Liquid unprofessional—and worse.

Liquids fucking disgusting

— EternaLEnVy (@EternaLEnVy1991) May 14, 2014

Crowdfunded eHUG’s heartbreaking exit 

Last year, eHug reached out to Reddit to help crowdfund their professional Dota 2 team. At the time, they were met with a fair amount of scepticism. But they’ve since proven their merit as a quality team and have had decent showings in tournaments, even as doubts remain about their business model.

Their story in the qualifiers, however, was one of heartbreak.

Well before the qualifiers started, the team had asked to move back their 12pm start time to accommodate the schedule of one their players, who is a university student. That never happened, and as a result they were forced to forfeit in their first qualifier against Union Gaming when that same player showed up exactly one minute late.

For those wondering, real life intervened and Cak3z was literally a minute too late. We had tried to reschedule yesterday, but were denied.

— Team eHug (@team_eHug) May 12, 2014

eHug would go to shake off that loss. And as the qualifiers progressed, they looked like they’d make it into the playoff bracket.

Then the Team Liquid and Union Gaming match happened. Very suddenly, eHug found themselves in a three-way tie, when they thought they had playoffs in the bag.

They would lose to Sneaky Nyx Assassins, but were favorites against Union Gaming for the final playoff spot. They would then go on to lose that match too. In the most important two days of these young Dota players’ careers, they could not catch a break, doomed by the forfeiture and Team Liquid’s decision to take their game easy.

The first of today’s matches has already started, with Team Liquid losing to the North American Rejects the first match of a best-of-three series. You can watch the rest of the series, as well as the Sneaky Nyx Assassins versus Union Gaming matches, on Twitch.