As the Manila Major approaches, with the shuffle behind us, some important storylines are starting to take shape. The struggles of players to defeat rivals, restore their former glory after bad performances or stay on top after numerous successes make an already exciting season of Dota 2 more volatile. With the announcement of The International 2016 last week, and rosters officially locked until August, here are some of the best storylines to watch as players start to buckle down to try and win what could very well be the largest esports prize pool of all time.
Evil Geniuses and Team Secret: Old and New Champions
Evil Geniuses’ win at The International 2015 was spectacular, and the roster led by Peter “PPD” Dager deftly avoided some of the pitfalls that ruined other championship teams. In 2013 and 2014, Alliance and Newbee were starting to slump after a long period of rest and no practice, in addition to having difficulty adapting to new patches. By comparison, Evil Geniuses isn’t winning championships but placed third in the Frankfurt Major and Shanghai Major, and second at Dota Pit, MDL and Star Ladder/i-League Season 13. With Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Evil Geniuses’ franchise player Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora leaving to join Team Secret, the rivalry between the two teams will be one to watch as they’ll likely compete for first place at whatever tournaments they both play.
Arteezy will also be returning to his breakout role as a mid player, facing off against Sumail ‘Sumail” Hassan, the wunderkind who won his first International eight months after entering professional Dota 2. The Team Secret and Evil Geniuses matchup will be the single highest skill and most exciting matchup in Dota, bar none.
Goblak vs. the World
After Team Spirit’s miraculous run to qualify for the Shanghai Major, the team’s spirit dropped drastically leading into the event, where Spirit placed third in its group and was the second team eliminated. Allegations that Team Empire’s management were attempting to poach the young Roman “Ramzes” Kushnarev during their boot camp became public in interviews, leading Ramzes and Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin to be kicked from the team due to internal issues. Some speculated that the team was already planning to disband before the Shanghai Major began.
With a fresh start and a desire to prove himself internationally, Artur “Goblak” Kostenko put together what many said would be the best team in the CIS region. While the team has had a lukewarm start in DreamLeague’s new season – currently 4-4 in group play to claim fourth place – the potential for the new roster is immense. Team Spirit also fell to Vega Squadron 3-0 in the grand finals of the Epicenter LAN European qualifiers, signaling that the team still has room to grow. Goblak will be looking to prove to his former teammates at Na’Vi, Team Empire and Virtus.Pro that he can be a truly great captain after years of chasing success without ever finding it.
Xiao8 and the Journey to the West
Zhang “xiao8” Ning is back from his yearly retirement to lead LGD Gaming to its fourth International and potentially claim his second International win. Before the Director can set his sights on the International, though, he will have to rally his team around him and get some solid wins. LGD sputtered out in the ESL One Manila Chinese qualifiers, losing all four of its games against Vici Gaming Reborn and CDEC Gaming’s Youth squad. Since then, LGD has clearly improved, but it’s unclear if it will be enough to climb atop the pile of other new teams.
Unfortunately for LGD, it was routed 3-0 by Newbee in the grand finals of the Epicenter Chinese qualifiers, leaving the players only one opportunity to prove themselves on LAN before the major. If LGD can claim victory at the upcoming Star Ladder i-League Invitational – which it was invited to – it can make a decent case for an invite to the Manila Major. With that would come an opportunity to prove that Chinese Dota isn’t dead, and it’s merely sleeping. Xiao8 is the most recognizable and acclaimed captain in Chinese Dota 2, and it would be a shame for him to not be in attendance at the Manila Major or The International 2016 after his much-awaited return.
Digital Chaos: Rebirth: Revelations: Re-SUNSfan
It seemed for a while following the reported Evil Geniuses players’ exodus that Digital Chaos would be the big winner in North America. According to reports, Clinton “Fear” Loomis and Sumail would be leaving Evil Geniuses for Digital Chaos.
And then it didn’t happen. Evil Geniuses apparently made a last-minute deal to secure Fear and Sumail and signed former members Sam “BuLba” Sosale and Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling from DC. Roman “Resolu1on” Fominok also announced he would be leaving DC and the team fell apart. Things seemed bleak for the organization.
Then, suddenly, a miracle in disguise. Jesus “ztok” Carhuaricra was banned by Valve for participating in match fixing, which led to the dissolution of the new Archon roster led by David “Moo” Hull. Aliwi “w33” Omar and Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen were both teamless after being kicked from Team Secret.
In an impressive series of last-minute maneuvers, Digital Chaos signed Moo, w33, and MiSeRy, then retained Resolut1on and Martin “Saksa” Sazdov. With two Major winners, the best mid player from the CIS region, North America’s fastest rising offlaner, and a Macedonian star support rounding out its new roster, Digital Chaos might finally achieve its lofty dream of becoming top two in North America. There are, of course, some issues the team will have to overcome. MiSeRy lacks experience as a captain and will be returning to the support role to better direct his teammates, and superstars don’t automatically make a team great.
Still, the players have all moved into a team house in Arizona to compete in North America, adding a highly individually skilled European-centric team hungry to prove themselves in the weaker North American region.