As the year comes to a close, let’s take some time to reflect on how it all went down in 2018.
OG celebrating after winning The International 8; Photo courtesy of Valve
I wanted to write a “best of” list, I really did. But as I started to brainstorm which team was the best, which player, which event, I realized that I had a hard time narrowing my selections down to one. So instead of trying to say a specific team or player was the best player of the year, I present to you, my highlights for 2018:
Event Cinematic of the Year:
Opening Cinematic for EPICENTER XL
I know, what a weird category, you’re thinking. But I want to give recognition where it is due. EPICENTER has been known for its production values, including the set design, a massive and memorable trophy, and overall, a slick presentation. For the XL iteration, the organization focused on a gorgeous cinematic that played before each day of the tournament. It was an epic battle between Dota 2 heroes, with the logos for each of the teams integrated into the ability effects, weapons and such. It was a much more complicated undertaking than I think I’ve seen from anyone other than Valve or the most serious of the short film competitors.
While the rest of the event was limited in terms of extra content, the three-minute long opening was a great way to get in the mood for some quality Dota 2 each day of the tournament!
Team of the Year:
Virtus.pro at ESL One Birmingham. Copyright: ESL | Adela Sznajder
The CIS juggernauts won four Majors this year and placed in the top 4 at three more Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) events. They finished the first season of the DPC in first place with nearly 3000 more points than second-place Team Liquid. Virtus.pro’s 5-6th place finish at The International 8https://www.gosugamers.net/dota2/tournaments/27285-the-international-2018 (TI8) was a disappointment, to be sure. But the squad’s already come back to win the first Major in the second DPC season, and the entire roster announced this past summer that they’d be sticking together until at least some point in 2019.
I’d go so far as to say Virtus.pro were the best team this year—I know, I know, you’ve got a good case for why some other team was the best team of the year. This is why I wanted to focus on my personal highlights rather than do a best-of-list! But for Virtus.pro, I’ll make the case simply: they were the most consistent team across all twelve months, putting up the best overall results.
I also want to mention PSG.LGD. They had a remarkable five months from April through August, placing second at both TI8 and Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 and winning both EPICENTER XL and the MDL Changsha Major. There was also a third-place finish at China Dota 2 Supermajor in there, which sealed their third-place ranking in the DPC. That said, they were shakier in the periods before and after, so I don’t think they present a serious challenge to Virtus.pro for the full year. Those five months, however, were really exciting for fans of the team. Hopefully, they can find their footing more quickly in 2019.
Hero of the Year:
All right, this might seem really arbitrary. But if you look at datdota.com’s Hero Performance for all heroes in all the professional matches, you can see which heroes were most played this year, which had the highest win rate and so on. Bane is one of only seven heroes (out of 116) to have more than 1000 games played, landing at number five in the list. He also has the highest win rate of all those heroes, with a solid 54.8%. That puts him tenth in the list of highest win rate heroes. No other hero has such a strong combination of games played and games won.
Storyline of the Year:
OG Wins TI8
It doesn’t get any better than OG, an open qualifier team, winning the biggest tournament of the year. Some fans swear they knew OG could go the distance. Others will gladly admit they joined the bandwagon once the team got rolling at TI8. Some days, I still experience some disbelief that they did it, not because I didn’t think they were capable, but because they had such a journey to get to the Aegis.
Two key members of the squad officially left on May 28th to join Evil Geniuses; Open Qualifiers for Europe for TI8 began on June 14th. It was not a friendly split. In a blog post on May 28, Sébastien “7ckngmad” Debs wrote, “If you were not ready for what just happened, be assured that neither were we.” He went on to say “This news came as early as yesterday, and it was a big shock for us.”
After the shake-up, 7ckngmad remained in the offlane and Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka continued in the position four support. But other changes were required. Johan “N0tail” Sundstein moved from the carry position to the position five support to make space for two new players, returning former-OG player Anathan “Ana” Pham and Finnish streamer Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen. The latter had minimal LAN experience through WESG at the time. The International 8 was really Topson’s big LAN debut, a fact that was hammered home in multiple interviews with the team leading up to the tournament.
OG finished fourth out of nine teams in their group during the Group Stage. They went 9-7 in eight two-game series. They lost 0-2 in the match-up versus Evil Geniuses, the team they arguably most wanted to beat. Still, the Europeans squeaked into the upper bracket, giving them the most direct possible path to the Aegis.
It took them three best-of-threes, two of which went to three games, and a full five games in the Grand Finals, but OG pulled it off. There was more than one game that seemed lost before they snatched the victory. And through it all, the squad made ample use of the in-game tipping system and the chat wheel voice lines to amp themselves up and play mind games with their opponents.
OG’s run was dazzling. And then immediately afterward, the team took a break. When they returned, it was with a new carry player, as Ana decided to take a longer break. The TI8-winning OG roster was short-lived, but surely one of the most memorable in Dota 2 history.
Tournament of the Year:
The International 8
How could it be anything other than the focal point of the entire Dota 2 season? The International 8 was made more glorious this year for OG’s win. It was unexpected, it was dramatic, it was everything we could want in a championship. The Europeans broke the West-East back-and-forth that had happened since the first International.
For the first time, The International was held in Vancouver, Canada. While the location was not as perfect for the event as the Seattle site, due to the lack of outdoor space, the event still made the most of the city. Several pre-produced pieces featured local players such as Artour “Arteezy” Babaev as well as not local, but fan-favorite Danil “Dendi” Ishutin exploring the city.
There were also videos exploring the scene in Japan, via the Mara Cup, and in South America, by way of both Enzo “Timado” Gianoli, and the Rainha de Copas tournament featuring all-women teams. There was a short film contest, cosplay contest, and the All-Star match to provide content between series.
The broadcast had popular caster-analyst pairings as well as the surprise return of Ben “Merlini” Wu for the Grand Finals, who had announced his retirement from Dota 2 casting earlier in the year. Alex “Machine” Richardson was back doing interviews with teams after they were eliminated. Kaci Aitchison returned for antics with Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner, and also did some fantastic interviews, some pre-recorded and some live ones of coaches post-draft.
The event also had an official aftershow, for those who hadn’t had enough Dota 2 content during the day, and to give attendees somewhere to hang out. There were plenty of community events as well, providing nightly destinations for anyone who wasn’t sure how to spend their evenings in Vancouver.
And again, OG winning the tournament.
The International 8 was an incredible tournament, and I can only hope that The International 9 is just as good! To relieve all the action and revisit all the content, check out the official Youtube channel.
That’s All, Folks!
Those are my highlights for the year. It’s been an incredible year of Dota 2. We saw lots of changes, from rosters to the DPC to the game itself. I’d love to hear what your highlights of the year are—stick them in the comments below!