After a grueling marathon of games and delays, the Dota Pit Season 5 grand finals closed with Evil Geniuses as the victor in a 3-2 win over OG. Dota Pit served as a patch debut for several teams to display their prowess and growth since the Boston Major; it was the first meeting of these teams on patch 7.01.
Despite the absence of some notable power players such as Wings Gaming, Newbee and recent darling Ad Finem, there are still lessons to be learned from the three-day tournament in Split, Croatia. Here are some of our biggest takeaways from the finals heading into the Kiev Major this spring.
Though Storm Spirit has been notably absent, his brothers of Ember and Earth dominated drafts at Dota Pit. Both topped the most-picked charts, with Ember Spirit at 15 matches played and Earth Spirit at 12. Ember boasted the higher win percentage at 80 percent, while Earth came in at 75 percent.
Some of it might be due to the teams participating. Evil Geniuses and OG both have popular Earth Spirit players -- Andreas Franck "Cr1t-" Nielsen and Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka, respectively -- and Invictus Gaming's Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao made effective use of the hero against Elements Pro Gaming. The hero did maintain a 100 percent pick/ban ratio in the event, though, and it's possible that over the coming weeks, even more four-role supports will look to pick up the hero to take advantage of his demanding but effective skill set.
While Earth Spirit may still be a pocket pick, Ember Spirit saw play from five of the eight teams competing, including all top-four squads. The new build for the fiery warrior, which takes advantage of his level 10 talent of 15 percent spell amplification, is a different playstyle than the cleave-centric build of old, but it's brutal in the hands of a seasoned Ember player.
Cores such as OG's Anathan "ana" Pham and EG's Sumail "Suma1L" Hassan took advantage of these buffs to snowball in the early game, and they provided constant control with low-cooldown snares in the late game. It's likely that Ember Spirit will see some checks and balances added to his kit before the next major, or he will be on first-ban/pick status for a long time to come.
New cores rise to the surface
Though teams relied on older tactics in some matches, those that did were often punished by it. EG is the prime example of this: The only games the team lost in the grand finals were matches in which it fell back on the old Shadow Demon/Luna draft in Games 1 and 3. OG had success with Alchemist in Game 1 of the grand finals, but for the most part, teams stayed away from the gold-generating hulk.
Weaver surfaced as a flex pick for many squads, able to be put in either a support or core role, likely inspired by Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk's potent support Weaver. Queen of Pain saw varying success, with teams experimenting with the new Blademail synergy she gained in her level 25 talent, and a few squads picked heroes such as Phantom Assassin, which was wickedly effective for both Faceless and Team Secret in matches against Digital Chaos.
The major standouts for cores (besides Ember Spirit) came in Lone Druid and Underlord. The former, often characterized as a hero centered on his summoned bear companion, found independence in the new talents and better items for the actual Druid hero, leading to a build that prioritized standing in the backline and tossing axes at lightning speeds. This "Alone Druid" foregoes itemizing his bear companion for attack speed and range-enhancing items on the main hero, and had an 80 percent win rate in the five games he was picked.
As for Underlord, the final Defense of the Ancients hero to be ported to Dota 2 finally got some competitive play in the new game thanks to his inherent tankiness and potent Pit of Malice ability, which both reveal invisible units and roots heroes in place for massive setup potential. EG's Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora made good use of the hero, winning three of the four games he played as Underlord and taking advantage of the hero's innate survivability and useful kit to simply stack up auras for his team and bolster his cores. Don't be surprised to see Underlord join the ranks of hotly contested offlaners, as he was one of only three heroes to see a 100 percent pick/ban ratio at Dota Pit.
New storylines form
In the wake of Dota Pit, it's safe to say that a rivalry is forming between Evil Geniuses and OG. These two teams have met frequently in the past months, often in the top 3 of a tournament, and the matchup has gone back and forth several times.
EG emerged victorious at Dota Pit, but OG has the Boston Major and The Summit 6 to hang its hat on. In many ways, the storyline between these teams is reminiscent of Na'Vi and Alliance in The International 3 era: two squads at the top of their game, constantly butting heads for the top spot at any given international tournament.
While the two titans battle it out for the top, upsets played out in the lower portions of the bracket. Despite finishing third, Team Faceless has to be happy with its showing at Dota Pit, knocking out top North American squad Digital Chaos (which had eliminated the team from the Boston Major) and powerhouse CIS team Virtus.Pro on its way to the lower bracket finals.
Invictus Gaming also had a strong performance, led by veteran captain Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei, and Team Secret can't be too disappointed with where it finished after missing the Boston Major. Dota Pit was a good reminder that while top-tier teams exist in Dota, the window is widening, and there is rarely a guaranteed matchup for any team in any given international premier.
Dota needs LAN again
Perhaps the most visible, pertinent issue raised at Dota Pit was the server issues. That wreaked havoc during the grand finals, highlighted by an issue with Dota and most esports: the lack of LAN options.
While LAN has slipped into the esports vernacular as a way to categorize localized tournaments with a crowd and teams playing in proximity to one another, the true definition of a LAN is still local-area network. Though tournaments put players in arm's reach of each other, the matches still take place online, and thus are still at the mercy of issues such as internet outages and server disruptions.
Team Secret manager Matthew Bailey explained on Twitter that since the Reborn update, which launched in June 2015, local servers have been unreliable and rarely used for competitive matches. They also lack basic features such as the ability to stream to DotaTV, which is the method many use to watch Dota matches in-game, and the save feature, which previously allowed teams to save a state of the game and restore it, avoiding messy remakes.
Local lobbies don't work on the Reborn client. Rip. Just going to have to pick a random server and hope for the best. #DotaPit— Matthew Bailey (@Cyborgmatt) January 22, 2017
@Make3333 There are no save games in Reborn so nope. 😞— Matthew Bailey (@Cyborgmatt) January 22, 2017
While the servers stabilized well enough to finish out the series, it caused hours of delays for the tournament, resulting in a massive drop in stream viewership and a match that went to 4 a.m. local time. Fatigue became an important factor for teams, exacerbated by the delays.
When considering some of the top esports, it's sad to see so few utilize LAN in major tournaments, especially considering its prevalence in past esports giants such as StarCraft: Brood War and Quake. Hopefully, Dota Pit serves as a wake-up call for developers; lacking these features can cause problems at the worst time. While a few hours' delay at a premier can be harmful, these same issues surfacing during a major or The International could be devastating.