ESL One Genting Fallout: 10 Impressions

Featuring: Domestic Derbies, Biggest Losers, Misery’s prime, Godz’s best LAN work and more.

If you were wondering, Saksa is a 6 ft 8in giant. Courtesy: ESL

The fallout series is (shamelessly) inspired by Zach Lowe’s weekly column “10 Things I like and don’t like” where he picks out short topics to discuss from around the NBA.

Okay, let’s go.

1. The reaffirmation of Digital Chaos

The jury was out on DC for a long time after their Cinderella run at TI6.

The team had an underwhelming Summit 6 showing after switching offlaners and didn’t play any other LANs before the major in fall. Their Top 4 finish at Boston also carried an asterisk next to it. DC were overwhelming favorites going into each of their playoff series before some deja vu hit them hard — another team on a Cinderella run (Ad Finem) upset them 2–0.

Still, everyone admitted that they were good; but was the Arizona-based squad truly elite?

The final series of Genting gave us a definitive affirmation, but the explanation lies somewhere in the adjustments made by the team’s jogger cloth-loving captain.

Misery is the ultimate journeyman of DotA — he’s been playing professionally since 2008. This is his tenth (!) year of right clicking furiously to earn imaginary gold and real money at the same time. That’s actually insane.

Misery’s countless teams over the years. Courtesy: PGL

The more impressive part is that Dane is also entering his prime now after slogging away in relative mediocrity for years. The pressure of leading a team has brought out the best in himself. Misery doesn’t get talked much about as a support on DC, for Saksa hogs that spotlight (and rightfully so), but he has been quietly beasting as a playmaking 4 since TI. Check out his Pudge vs Wings Gaming for a taste.

But how about his role as a captain?

A good litmus test for captains are elimination games in the final. The stakes are the highest and their backs are up against the wall. Misery’s DC fell short at TI6 versus y’s Wings after being down 2–1. However, ESL Genting showcased Misery’s improved fortitude after being down 2–1 again versus favorites Newbee in the finals.

And he did it in style by playing mind games with Kaka.

Teams with Selection Priority at the event generally opted for First Pick in the draft — true for 17/27 recorded games. Radiant was chosen 6 times and Second Pick even fewer at 3. The map changes (especially roshan) saw teams gravitate towards Radiant and the win-rate stats back up this shift. So what did Misery do when he had selection priority in a Game 5 of the finals?

He chose Dire.

The gamble paid off as DC’s Centaur-Lifestealer combo steamrolled the Newbee lineup in the most one-sided game of the close fought five game series.

Sometimes it’s the just a fear of getting cheesed that upsets a captain’s mojo. Kaka was uneasy throughout the draft, dipping generously into reserve time and ultimately coming up with a subpar lineup.

Digital Chaos notched their first LAN victory and have joined the elite club of DotA teams. They had been teetering on the edge since TI — driving a wannabe luxury car in a Cadillac, but have since upgraded to a Mercedes-Benz.

2. Necromancery is so hot right now

Helm of the Dominator is the defining item of 7.01 so far, and at ESL Genting it was bought by carries and supports alike. The stats to cost ratio is amazing, the aura(s) is better but the active is where the item really shines.

With diffusal blade no longer allowing self-casting, the Satyr Banisher became the creep of choice for most carries. Unlike a diffusal blade eventually running out of charges and requiring an upgrade, a carry can just dominate another Satyr after using at least 5 purges on a meager 3s cooldown. And the goddamn slow lasts for five seconds as well.

Stacking with the dominated creeps, however, was almost non-existent. R.I.P Rogue Knight.

The real highlight was MSS’s Dark Seer when he busted out the cheesy Centaur-Wall combination on Day 1 —

Aui gave MSS control over his centaur.

With the replica wall being changed to a primarily crowd control spell than a damage dealing one, the AOE stun becomes easier to land. If the stuns are chained properly, it can be catastrophic with an Eclipse (or any high damage AOE spell). Granted, that never happened in this game for NP. Everytime MSS executed the combo it was underwhelming due to the lack of follow-up from his team.

Still the potential is there — and proper execution will come in time. The added bonus of safe lane-push with an ion-shelled creep is also nothing to scoff at either.

MSS quickly pushes out mid with his centaur with little information on the enemy whereabouts.

The item’s rework (especially the passives) has made it a viable pick up on a wide range of heroes, and the offensive ceiling of the item is waiting to be explored.

3. Shrine fighting has arrived

The Sanctuary active is truly crazy. It can turnaround lost fights on its own and teams are increasingly adjusting their movements in skirmishes to exploit the HP/Mana regen.

It can also cause massive blue balls, and DotA surely didn’t need anymore more of those.

The Chinese derby at ESL had two amazing usages of shrines —

Game 2 Wings vs Newbee. The replay files for this series was unfortunately bugged. Courtesy: ESL

Newbee’s cores had a huge networth advantage at this point and were entering their peak, whereas the Wings cores were starved and behind schedule. This should have been an easy 3v5 fight for Newbee as they surround the radiant heroes. In 6.88 it would have worked out quite predictably...

But, tada! Someone on Newbee forgot to account for the shrine. The heal allowed Wings to stay alive through the refraction charges of Templar Assassin and in turn send her to the coffers. The fight was their window back in the game and the reigning TI champs mounted a long-winded comeback to take it away from Newbee.

Game 3 of Wings vs Newbee. Courtesy: ESL

The rubber match had another game changing sanctuary usage. Wings were looking to push their sizable advantage and end the series with a broodmother lineup. They knew they were on a timer before a six-slotted medusa came online, but damn shrines got in the way of a TI6 finals rematch.

  • Watch the top left corner — faith_bian successfully isolates the Clockwerk and brings him low. Kpii pops a shrine and faith_bian no longer can output enough damage to overcome the healing and he is forced to shift his attention. Clockwerk surviving ultimately results in both Wings carries dying as he hits a clutch rocket flare on Shadow in addition to multiple hooks.
  • Watch the bottom right next — Shadow Fiend and the Earthshaker have cornered the Medusa and are pumping out serious damage. She falls below 50% HP/20% mana and the offensive push looks to be successful for Wings. Bam, out comes another sanctuary which forces them to retreat since they no longer have the damage to finish the job. It’s even more ridiculous for Medusa since the mana-regen component helps her gain extra eHP.

Two key shrine usages saved the lives of Clockwerk & Medusa and allowed Newbee to execute a successful high ground defense. The kills on retreating enemy cores swayed the momentum in their favor and Newbee subsequently punched their ticket to the finals.

Teams will likely adjust their sieges in time, but as it stands the utility of shrines is bonkers. Maybe they should stop regenerating once a player receives some form of hero damage from the enemy à la healing salves?

4. Godz: ESL Broadcast’s MVP

The A-list of DotA casters is kinda thin and only two personalities can perform Play-by-Play & Color commentary today — Capitalist and Godz. The latter was at Genting for only two days, but he quickly became the highlight of the event.

Godz stands out because of his ability to weave a strong narrative and capture the viewer’s attention regardless of his role. He sets up his partners favorably to keep the conversation flowing while providing genuine insight when called for. All that maybe written in the job description but rarely does it hit the spot so well. Live TV is hard.

Godz doing Panel & Color work on Day 2. Listen for how he crafts the story of the game. Courtesy: ESL

But the best part of his kit is the ability to deliver enjoyable, old-school play-by-play. No rhetorical questions, proper spacing for his color partner, palpable hype and most of all, no forced analysis. He just turns that side of his brain off, and it’s great. Less is more.

Godz’s Play-by play in Game 3 of Wings vs Newbee. Courtesy: ESL

Cap was undoubtedly the king of 6.88 in my book — especially towards the end of the patch where he often solo carried events. However, Genting was subpar by his (ridiculously high) standards. He’ll come back strong as the patch ages — a hard carry at heart who only gets stronger with time.

5. Retooling the old to keep up with the new

The change to battlefury’s cleave made Anti-Mage an undesirable pick. But it also allowed Ember Spirit, one of the most cookie cutter heroes ever, to enjoy a newfound versatility in item progression.

Before 7.00, carries would go safelane and build a version of the following every game without fail:

Boring, but deadly. Every time.

ESL Genting saw quite the variety instead:

Ooooh, so many new items.

Magic Ember is the largest (successful) playstyle shift of a hero in recent memory. He’s back in the midlane, in the hand of playmaking mids where he truly belongs.

Everyone saw that shift for Ember coming, but there were more subtle ones at Genting.

Several Drow Rangers opted to max frost arrows first, contributing with the slow in early fights and also farming the new ancients (by kiting) without lifesteal. Before, Drows often didn’t touch the skill until after lvl 10. Arteezy was especially notorious for this, and would often skip the skill entirely till he exhausted stat-levels.

uuu9’s build in semi-finals versus Wings Gaming

The infamous W33voker game was another of such adjustments. Instead of building the usual CC items like Euls, Sycthe, Orchid or even the Aghs Scepter, w33ha opted to build more attack damage items after picking up an early Vanguard.

While it’s not certain if the vanguard build is the most optimal, one thing is for sure — it certainly works (afterall, they got the W). The added tankiness saved W33ha’s lives three or four times in the mid-game and allowed him to scale properly into the late game where he promptly took over.

The amount of survivability and damage is unreal. Courtesy: ESL

Mirana-Warlock was a common combo that EE used to run for heavy team-fight presence last patch. While Warlock has dropped out from most teams’ rotation after dominating 6.88, NP found a nice niche for it that relies on the new talents. Mirana’s +100 attack speed talent synergizes well with magic immune Golems —

That Siege Speed. Courtesy: ESL

Shadow played a ranged-carry Druid in their series vs DC after the latter countered the spirit bear with a WK pick. He built two items on the bear totaling a massive 475 gold. The impact was however quite minimal as the hero’s squishy nature saw the Druid being eliminated often early from fights.

Bears’ items are in the top right corner

6. Virtus Pro’s immaculate teamwork

The Russian bears didn’t make it past the semi-finals, but still put on a show at Genting. While their overall approach to the new patch felt raw, VP’s teamfight execution carried over without any discounts.

Game 2 Virtus Pro vs Team NP. Pasha’s Perspective

Now that’s crisp.

Aui’s Slark was the only thing standing between Team NP and elimination at this point. EE was struggling on his signature Ember and MSS’s Dark Seer had another lukewarm game. The two-man gank squad of Pasha & No-one nailed NP’s dreams to the coffin as they killed Slark twice within 60 seconds.

Here’s another one —

Game 2 DC vs VP. Courtesy: ESL

W33ha sees the incoming Earth Spirit and tries to side-step the rolling boulder, but Solo hexes him just at the right moment to reduce his movespeed. As Merlini described eloquently, VP chain-disabled perfectly to prevent the Invoker from using Tornado (an active spell) as a possible escape or buy time for the Mirana to trade kills.

7. SEA’s continuing woes

It’s almost a cycle at this point. SEA teams “come out of nowhere” at Majors/TI and then shit the bed at other international LANs. According to Liquipedia, MVP.Phoenix is the only team from the region to finish Top 2 in the past 20 premier events (they won DotaPit 4 vs EG).

The Korean team has disbanded and moved on to greener pastures in the west, and it seems that no SEA team has stepped up to fill the void. The region was the most represented at Genting with 3/8 slots, but failed to win a single game against others teams.

0-7 versus international squads on home court does not bode well. For a region that had very high post-patch activity with multiple local tournaments (online and offline), they seemed lost versus teams making their patch debuts.

Fnatic hasn’t submitted a complete roster for Kiev. WG.Unity already underwent a roster change a day removed from the deadline. That’s two powerhouses already in the Open Qualifiers.

Execration no longer have Abed. MVP.Phoenix has disintegrated. Things aren’t looking peachy for the scene.

Maybe it’s the first big tournament of the season and they had patch jitters. Also Iceiceice’s Team Faceless hasn’t played yet. Maybe they’ll retake the SEA throne again. But given their lackluster support duo, they won’t be winning international titles anytime soon.

SEA plays a highly entertaining brand of DotA — and the world circuit can only benefit with a competent challenger from the scene.

8. Domestic Derbies are so much fun

Things that shouldn’t happen, happen in these match-ups. They say no to logic often. Teams have their own internal meta and pedigrees get thrown out the window. Remember EG vs Complexity at Boston?

Wings and Newbee faced off in semi-finals for an absolute cracker of a series at ESL this past weekend.

Kaka’s squad looked like they understood the patch the best at Genting; it was their fourth LAN on 7.00. On the other hand, Wings were coming off a long press tour doing award shows and post-Major vacations. Digital Chaos had defeated the reigning world champs to win their group, and it felt like an encore was waiting to happen for the rusty y’ in the semis.

Instead he turned the series on its head with unconventional picks after an uninspired Game 1.

Courtesy: Dotabuff

Wings played 14 different heroes in three games, and almost won it all on the back of a Broodmother. The Necrophos also nullified one of Newbee’s more successful lineups in Game 2.

Two different styles of drafting were at war. Kaka prefers heroes/combos that are strong in the meta, and may pick them at the expense of overall synergy. y’ on the other hand simply looks for good hero match-ups regardless of their meta presence. With PPD ‘gone’, he still remains the best reactive drafter in the world.

But the most impressive part was how Kaka/Faith adjusted for Wings after the horn. The duo’s warding was markedly different compared to other games. They were more aggressive in the early game rotations to exploit Wings’ relatively weak laning stage. Kaka’s shot calling in ultra-late game 3 was also impressively steady, and Newbee came up with one clutch high ground defense after another. Wings on the other hand ran around like headless chickens when it was time for the deciding fight —

Look for Wings’ movements after the failed siege. Courtesy: ESL

It’s a shame that both teams won’t be at the Dotapit LAN due to visa issues, for Kaka vs y’ has become one of the most fun rivalries in DotA 2.

9. The Biggest Loser was… Slardar?

Coming into the tournament, the regional trends of most contested heroes looked like this

Courtesy: Dotabuff

Slardar & Batrider topped the charts for every region and ESL should’ve theoretically fallen in line.

As expected, Slardar was the most picked hero at the event. However, the hero managed to have an awful winrate of 28.57%. The teams playing against the hero may have very well adapted quickly to counter his strengths, but the actual games tell a different story.

Most teams who picked the hero had little idea of how to execute properly with him. There was a bevy of missed crushes, failed ganks, missed item timings and overall poor Slardars everywhere. The hero felt like a discount bounty hunter in some games. Only Newbee really seemed to have any success with the hero.

P/B for ESL Genting LAN. Courtesy: Dotabuff

Batrider on the other hand disappeared completely from the rotation. The hero went from being first-ban material to being picked less than Windranger at ESL. Nyx and Weaver offer good ways to counter his instant initiation kit, but that is still such a surprising drop off.

Batrider was literally Anthony Bennett at ESL — who went from being the first pick in the NBA draft to being kicked out last week by the worst team in the NBA (the Brooklyn Nets).

But seriously, Windranger???

10. Versatility is here to stay

Allow me to toot the horn once more:

6.88 was the most versatile patch that DotA has ever seen.

People are probably sick of hearing it by now.

It wasn’t too long ago that the meta would quickly stagnate — 6.83/4 were especially guilty of this. So when Valve attached a sensationalist tagline to the new patch (“the battle for the Ancients will never be the same again”), there were worries about the nature of DotA’s balance. But, the variety at ESL Genting is promising.

91 different heroes were either picked or banned by teams this past weekend. That’s only over 34 games. If the trend hold up, teams with wider hero pools will continue to dominate the scene. Wings, EG, DC, OG among others all have core players who can play any carry from the book.

DotA will continue to reward captains who are willing to look over their teammates hero preferences and draft lineups with more synergy.

Versatility is here to stay. It’s a good feeling.