Three things we learned at the Manila Major

OG enters the stage to face Team Liquid at the Manila Major grand finals at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. Linus Escandor II for ESPN

The Manila Major victors have been crowned after weeks of grueling, competitive matches between some of the top Dota 2 teams in the world. The $1 million prize pool has been doled out, the Reaver rewarded, and each team is returning to their respective corners. This Major isn't just the last Valve-sanctioned event before the International, but also the prelude to every storyline heading in. From the top competitive picks and strategies, to the shifts in power between top teams, Manila has laid the blueprint for a dramatic International in Seattle this August. Let's take a look back at the Manila Major and see what the most pertinent information might tell us about the lay of the land, and storylines to come.

1. Houses built on solid foundations last

In the grand finals of Manila, both Team Liquid and OG stood out as rosters that have stuck together since the 2015 International. For Liquid, this meant the reliability to climb the lower bracket together as a squad. With OG, it was the trust to fall back on carries like Johann "N0tail" Sundstein if prodigy mid Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi couldn't manage an explosive start.

This isn't to say all teams without stable rosters performed poorly, though. Newbee and LGD, who reached third and fourth respectively, both had shifts in their lineup as recent as March 25. Natus Vincere made a solid run into the top eight, despite finding its offlaner Victor "General" Nigrini in February.

But where the shuffles showed the most holes were in the infamous last place exit of two titans of Dota 2: Evil Geniuses and Team Secret. The subsequent trade between the teams after their poor runs could speak volumes and merit pages of armchair-Dota analysis, but suffice to say, it was clear that recent adjustments to the lineups had not worked, especially for Team Secret.

If anything was learned from Manila as far as team composition goes, it's that the "dream team" concept fails to make the grade. Mechanical skill is less of a factor than it used to be. As individual players reach those heights, it becomes less about what single players can do, and more about what a team can do together.

2. Brawn over brains, rabbit over tortoise

It's been clear that strength carries are on the rise, thanks to the most recent balance patches. Adjustments to Armlet, the increasing value of health and new items like Echo Sabre make beefy carries much more appealing.

The pace of the game has also been significantly sped up, as teams are looking to fight early and often. Kills in the first few waves can lead to shutting down an entire lane and taking a greedy carry offline for a long time. Teams have frequently put a higher value on getting their more game-changing supports to six as quickly as possible, in order to have them participate in these early skirmishes.

As a result of these two factors, Lifestealer was the king of carries at Manila, boasting a 56% win rate across 69 games in the tournament. His Feast ability made short work of any carry who got close, as well as taking out squishier supports in two or three quick, successive hits.

Slardar saw similar play, as the most-picked hero across the entire Major with 131 matches. While his natural synergy with Lifestealer helped, Slardar also provides a nice Amp Damage bonus and an easy team fight ability in Slithereen Crush, allowing him to control the pace of the game within seconds of acquiring his first item. Low cooldowns, high impact and tanky heroes were the main factors to look at for picking your cores in Manila.

3. The dire straits

In Dota, there's always been an imperfect balance between the two sides of the river, and the Radiant has often drawn the shorter stick. It was no different in Manila, as the Dire side overall had a 65% win rate. To top that, in every match of the grand finals, the winner was on the Dire side.

There's a litany of reasons for this: easier jungle layout, less susceptible to ganks, and of course, better access to Roshan's pit. Radiant teams were often forced to exert undue pressure in the lower-right corner of the map, just to dissuade Dire teams from taking easy Aegises.

The solution to this problem is perhaps the least obvious of any issue in Dota, as the odd balance of the only map in Dota has often teetered on a pin back and forth. It definitely merits an examination at least, as carries like Ursa and Lycan work their way back into the meta and Roshan becomes a more urgent objective in the early stages of play.