Takeaways from Ukraine: Kiev Major Recap and Retrospective

The 2017 Dota 2 Major series is over! Concluding last Sunday, the Kiev Major marked the end of this year’s run, and we can tell you with the utmost confidence and surety that both it and Boston were incredible events that will be remembered as such. PGL did a bang-up job with both, and it’ll be safe to say Valve will be working with them again soon.

While teams are now preparing for the upcoming Spring Shuffle™ and therefore TI7, we’re still here looking back at Kiev and all the amazing things that happened during that one week of pure Dota. We’re here to recap the major storylines, some of the best matches, note down the significant meta shifts, and more. Most of the following will likely mean a lot on the road to TI7, so strap yourselves in for this one!

The Southeastern Rivalry Continues

As it was probably foretold in some centuries-old prophecy, Faceless and TNC Pro Gaming were matched against each other in the main event’s single elimination playoff bracket. As two teams who rule the top ranks of the Southeast Asian region, they know each other inside and out, and have plenty of experience against each other. Unfortunately for the Filipino team, Faceless got the better of them once again this time around, showing once again that familiarity can be either a blessing or a curse depending on how you use it to your advantage.

This match in particular also illustrated the pitfalls of single elimination. Not to take away from Faceless’ good performance in their match, but it can be said that one unlucky bracket draw caused TNC’s downfall in the tournament. Had it been a double elimination format, TNC likely would have made top 8, at the very least.

Single Elimination: The Dilemma of Narrative Versus Competition

It’s been said many times now, but it bears repeating every time: single elimination is a controversial format, particularly for Dota 2 as an esport. On one hand, it creates compelling storylines and is good for the “human” nature of the game (think back to Ad Finem at Boston, and Brazilian squad SG e-sports at Kiev), but on the other, the randomness and sudden death atmosphere it creates arguably makes for some poor competition.

Let’s face it: even the best teams in the world have off days sometimes. But that’s exactly why double elimination exists — to give the best teams the best chances to make it to the grand finals. After all, if they truly are the cream of the crop, they should be able to find ways to bounce back after an upper bracket loss. Not to mention that double elimination puts actual weight on the group stage that isn’t limited to simply dodging bad matchups in hopes of surviving the first round.

Fortunately, TI7 will do just that. Hopefully Valve sees the merit in double elimination for next year’s Majors.

The Meeting of the Four Prodigies

Okay, maybe that title hasn’t been used by anyone in the Dota community ever, but it’s good to note that the “new generation” of incredibly talented but young players was at the Kiev Major. Sumail, Miracle-, ana, and Abed were all in teams that participated in the tournament, and although Digital Chaos lost to VGJ early on, the other three definitely put on some spectacular shows.

Miracle- and ana in particular displayed extreme resilience and nerves of steel in the face of imminent defeat. Miracle- helped Liquid survive the first round of the playoffs with his Templar Assassin while being down in net worth for more than half of game 2, while ana gave OG their fourth Major title with his Troll Warlord despite being harassed and killed constantly early on. Sumail, on the other hand, just stayed rock-solid throughout the whole tournament, producing big play after big play to keep EG within reach of a victory no matter what game they played.

These guys deserve every single point of their eight to nine thousand points of MMR. It’s clear that their respective teams recognize this, and typically draft and play around them. Sumail in particular got his hands on several comfort heroes, including his signature Storm Spirit. All in all, it was a treat just seeing these young men play some kickass Dota. The future is bright in their hands, we’d say.

Morphing Metagame

The Kiev Major is so far the only tournament to be played on patch 7.05, which was released nearly a month ago. The balance patch saw nerfs across the board to popular picks such as Alchemist, Monkey King, and Earth Spirit, all three of which posted win rates below 40% — not pretty at all. Earth Spirit in particular saw action in 18 games, but came out of the LAN event with a 33% win rate.

This proves that even incremental nerfs can severely impact a hero’s viability, provided that enough of them stack up patch after patch. The meta at Kiev also shifted from early roaming supports towards split pushing with illusion-based heroes like Terrorblade (who by the way posted an absolutely astounding 77.78% win rate) and Naga Siren, even without assistance from Shadow Demon. Warlock and Treant Protector have since replaced The two supports mentioned above.

Interestingly, though, one hero that wasn’t even touched in 7.05 surfaced as a driving force in laning-heavy strategies. Instead, it was actually the changes around her (Tranquil Boots, root mechanics, etc) that catapulted her to the most-picked spot in the event. We’re talking about the ice princess herself, Crystal Maiden. Often paired with Juggernaut in order to provide him with plenty of mana early on, she proved to be a solid pick overall. Her ability to cause havoc in teamfights with Freezing Field and farm with Crystal Nova also contributed to her success. At the end of the tournament, she was able to boast a 59% win rate over 54 games.

Hand of Midas actually saw a huge increase in usage in this tournament, despite it receiving a net nerf in 7.05. Some teams even opted to run four to five-Midas strategies, having supports pick up the item in order to sustain themselves throughout the game. Even heroes such as Anti-Mage, who typically rely on Battle Fury to accelerate their farm, purchased the item to give them a flat GPM increase. BurNIng in particular used this to great effect throughout the event.

And finally, we get to the item that gave everyone headaches: Solar Crest. As one of the most cost-effective items in Dota, Solar Crest gives great benefits for a very attractive price. 2625 gold is very reachable for support heroes, and for that price they get +12 armor, +25% evasion (just 5% below Butterfly!), and +75% mana regen. Not to mention that they can transfer these benefits to allies, or debuff enemies the other way. It’s simply way too good for its cost; it reminds us of Aether Lens and Dragon Lance when they first came out. Expect it to receive a cost increase at the very least in patch 7.06.

OG: Esports Dynasty

One team stood at the top of the world when all the dust had settled and the Ukrainian crowd was left stunned after Virtus.pro’s loss in the grand finals. For the fourth time since the Major series began in 2016, OG lifted the trophy, perhaps cementing their place as one of the greatest teams/organizations in esports history.

It helps putting this into perspective. As the Majors are essentially seasonal versions of The International before the crowdfunding model exploded in TI4, one could say that OG have essentially won four TIs. Fly’s leadership and veteran experience are the biggest factors to OG’s success, allowing stability and chemistry to form naturally between his teammates. This is magnified by the fact that he’s actually led two different incarnations of the roster to four grand finals.

Photo Credit: StarLadder

ana also seems to have matured greatly since the Boston Major. While he was particularly easy to tilt back then, he showed an uncanny ability to get right back up after being knocked down during the laning stages of OG’s games. In game 5 of the grand finals, he started off immediately losing his courier to Lil’s Enchantress. He lost his lane handily, and at one point, his team faced a 10k net worth deficit. That was when ana decided to put his foot on the ground and carry his team to victory in what was the most dramatic comeback in the tournament. He has really come into his own as an individual player, who does not give up at the first sign of failure.

Say what you will about their playstyle, but it’s clear that OG are willing to do anything to win. This is what separates them from the rest — they always play to the best of their ability, and they frequently look like they want to win more than their opponents do. That drive and competitive spirit has stayed the same throughout their two years of existence.

All that’s left for them is to win the big one this August. If they keep the same form they showed at Kiev in TI7, they might just be able to finally claim the Aegis for themselves.

Categories: Dota 2,eSports,latest