With a $1,000,000 prize pool and 1,500 qualifying points for The International 2018 on the line, ESL One’s first Poland-hosted Dota 2 Major has been a dynamic mix of various playstyles and proficient strategy exhibited by each of its sixteen qualifying teams (eight from invites and eight from regional qualifiers). From Team Liquid’s aggressive early game pressuring to OG’s mobile approach to divide and conquer, the Spodek Arena has scarcely contained the exultations of fans responding to the intensity of fierce competition between Dota’s best teams and magnetic performances.
Since the kickoff of ESL One Katowice on February 20th, each team has demonstrated a vigorous commitment to securing a slot in The International 2018 and earning a chance to make their mark in Dota history. As the final push towards TI8 begins, it’s fascinating to witness the meta evolving at such a rapid pace, while observing how Valve’s revised approach to Dota’s patch and update system is shaping the professional scene overall. With the recent release of patch 7.09 on February 16th and the changes it brought to support player impact, ESL One Katowice has showcased the effectiveness of a well-balanced team composition which emphasizes team fight control and gradient progression.
While several teams adopted the aforementioned strategy, few have executed it as well as Vici Gaming and Virtus.Pro thus far. Vici Gaming picked apart the competition as they transcended the TI7 victors-Team Liquid, and forced OG down into the Group A lower bracket. Meanwhile, Virtus.Pro bested OpTic Gaming and Mineski in the quarter and semifinals, only to lose two matches in a row to VG during the winner’s finals. That’s not to say the contest between these two juggernauts wasn’t a momentous presentation, however the striking similarities in team composition were eclipsed by VG’s incorporation of strong turnaround potential in the form of Razor, coupled with the serial combination of AoE disables provided by Disruptor’s kinetic field, Underlord’s pit of malice and Elder Titan’s echo stomp. Several times throughout the match, VP would attempt to lure VG into their positional advantage, only to have VG respond with superior lockdown, resulting in a swift pickoffs and futile escapes. VG’s game plan in these two particular matches exemplifies the dominance of robust crowd control.
Despite the perpetual ebb and flow of Dota’s meta, team compositions which prioritize heavy disables have always been among the most effective for several reasons. They allow teams to properly coordinate their positioning in team fights, provide enemy heroes with less opportunity to inflict damage and counter push strategies when combined with mobility, i.e. blink dagger. Although rapidly pursuing objectives has worked well in the past, the last several patch releases have brought Dota back to baseline in terms of traditional gameplay, oriented around team fighting and gradual progression throughout each phase of the match.
At the moment, it’s difficult to speculate whether or not the most recent patch will continue this trend, however, if the level of excitement from fans at ESL One Katowice is any indication, perhaps we’re moving in the right direction.