How do you become the most successful “captain” in a sporting scene inhabited primarily by post-teenagers with almost meta-human phalanx reflexes, whilst dragging out a team that was once heavily criticized for being a jitter-bug on a frying pan, to the point that you become virtually the face of inspiration in one of gaming’s biggest communities? The answer is simple, you’re either Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, a man who leaves the Majors feeling “Supreme”, or you’re none of the aforementioned.
With Valve’s heavily criticized, and even ridiculed, Shanghai Majors finally reaching a conclusion, long-running fan favorites Team Secret stand tall and triumphant, with captain Puppey claiming the title of being the only team captain in DoTA 2’s competitive history to have won first place at two Valve events and having placed his team in the top 10 at every Valve event throughout his DoTA 2 career, his record having been well over 5 years in the making. Next in line stand Team Liquid, one of Europe’s finest teams and home to Puppey’s ex-Navi teammate Kuroky, and last year’s The International champions Evil Geniuses from USA, both teams having performed exceptionally well throughout the tournament. All the teams that participated gave their all but eventually tapped out to these 3 behemoths of the pro-scene, even Frankfurt Majors champions OG. And all of this beautiful bits of DoTA happened in aplomb, despite the utter callousness of the organizers, staff being fired left right and center, the incompetence of the support staff and producers, China’s own plethora of problems with anything even remotely related to progress, and the fact that the tournament ended on quite a salty note, wherein almost all participating teams are missing valuable gear and personal belongings due to venue security clearing out completely unguarded rooms with almost zero authorization from the teams themselves. Now, onto the tastier bits, and not just the bipolar-hype for the upcoming Manila Majors.
DoTA 2 almost NEVER sees a stale meta-game, and the incredible diversity of the competitive environment from the playoffs to the group stages further reinforces this statement. Statistically speaking, the Majors enjoyed a very healthy meta-game where almost 90 heroes out of the 109 available in Captains’ Mode were picked at least once, while not a single hero achieved a pick rate close to 50% (As opposed to TI5, where 5 heroes enjoyed more than 50% in that regard).
Widely regarded as patch 6.86’s cannon fodder, Invoker stood out as STILL being the player-favorite (40.66% pick rate), while the community-theorized, push-centered metagame turned out to be just a single gear in a network of a well-oiled dozen. On that note, the only common factor prevalent was the general fear of a hero that has very recently been introduced into professional matchmaking – Kaolin, the Earth Spirit, and his initial impact, though short-lived due to a massive nerf to one of his many utilities a few weeks ago, has managed to stay intact (72 % Ban rate, or roughly 66 times he’s been banned across the 91 matches in the playoffs through to the group stages), which suggests that professional teams still favor a generally cohesive team-fight capability and readily opt to remove isolated factors that could easily disrupt the flow of a coordinated assault, should they find the need to.
There is one other note that needs to be highlighted when talking about the Majors metagame — THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT HAVE CHANGED. Even two successive matches with near identical core picks/bans turned out to be completely different when it came to base strategies, and player adaptability has struck an all time high. Just the 10 or so matches leading up to the grand finals between Team Liquid and Team Secret comprise enough evidence to stay firm on the statement.
I could even go as far as echoing the analysts during the final face-off between the two finalists, their 4th and decisive game, that Secret’s heavily unprecedented draft was basically the biggest “out-draft” of the whole tournament.
In all, the professional scene is steadily evolving, and it’s only befitting for those they inspire to follow suit as best we can. As the audience, all we can do is emulate what matters, and think beyond the box when it comes to competitive, coordinated game-play. Bear with the fanboy, folks, because we’re growing as an ESports community and the world is slowly, but surely, taking note. This is Elliot, wishing all you people goodwill hunting.