Techies was picked seven times and lost once. A wildcard team who many didn’t peg as an underdog came to dominate its group. Cloud 9 dominated and failed in typical fashion. Whether you know anything or nothing about Dota, the past four days of the group stages have been largely incomprehensible. Over 150 hours of Dota were played — three series of matches occurred simultaneously across four time slots from 9am to 6pm. You would have had to uplink your consciousness to the internet to watch it all.
Techies has been in the spotlight ever since he was revealed, in dramatic fashion, amid an array of fireworks at the main stage of TI4. Since, Techies players have been described as toxic, a bane to the community, and deserving every bit of vitriol in our games, whether they are on the opposing team or ours. Professional players have bemoaned Techies, such as Aui_2000 from Evil Geniuses, who led a petition to remove the hero from the game, shortly before he would play the hero himself in a group stage match.
The rising legitimacy of Techies is shown by him being picked at all, when there are twenty five other heroes who have been abandoned in the pool. Previous tournament mainstays such as Weaver, Ogre Magi, Troll Warlord, and Sniper, have all been MIA this TI5, whether in part due to balance changes or the changing meta the past few months. Not only was Techies picked seven times, he was picked twice consecutively by Evil Geniuses in their final series against CDEC, a pivotal point for the top two seeds of their group. In the second game, EG showcased how Techies can be used without its usual lane partner, Tusk, who can set up early kills with a combination of snowball, mines, and suicide. Who needs Tusk when all you need is a Blink Dagger?
Techies at TI5 has been played as a core. Pros stay within their lane. They do not TP to a lane at 0 minutes. And they use the threat of Suicide and mines to protect themselves from ganks, while creating space for the rest of their team. Where pub players have been more static with how they use Techies, pros have been dynamic. Aui_2000, in game 2 against CDEC, split pushed a lane, teleported back, joined a smoke with his team, then jump started a kill on Gyro with a previously placed remote mine and then a Blink-Suicide.
For the main event, there may be heroes plucked from the unplayed pool, but Techies will still be the one to watch.
Cloud 9 is predictable in its unpredictability. No other team would buy a rapier on it’s Anti Mage as the next item after Manta Style, or smoke Roshan with Anti-Mage and Pugna healing him, or snake between enemy lines to jungle a single Radiant hard camp before TP’ing out. No team would forfeit a 20k gold lead in one game, then come back from a similar deficit in the next game (C9 vs LGD series). Yet when Cloud 9 does it, it’s the only way we could ever imagine it happening. As one caster, Draskyl put it, “As long as Cloud9 are playing Dota 2, it will never be boring.”
Cloud 9 gained infamy for attempting a level one Roshan at last year’s International, when they were at risk of an audience tipping it off. The attempt failed and put them too far behind at the jump to come back, even by C9 standards. This coming week, we will all be tentatively waiting for another Cloud 9 moment, whether it is disastrously sublime or victoriously cathartic—it is guaranteed to not be boring.
Some of the storylines coming out of the group stage are from unexpected performances by teams that were otherwise deemed favorite or underdogs. First, Vici Gaming, though inconsistent before TI5, was still considered an upper bracket shoe in for the group stage. Few expected that they would fall behind their fellow Eastern teams, but also Empire and Virtus Pro. On the other end of the story is CDEC, a wildcard qualifier who rocketed to the top of its group, tying EG’s record but eventually placed second because of tiebreaker rules.
Evil Geniuses was the dominant force in Group B. They won both their matches against CDEC and have seem to moved past their day one tournament woes. EG will not only be one of the favorites but will also have the backing of the Western home crowd. There’s also the heartwarming story of veteran player, Fear, who fans will recognize from Valve’s documentary.
Though Group A was considered the group of death, due to powerhouses Secret, LGD, and C9, the upper and lower bracket standings were largely determined by the final day. Prior to TI5, LGD won nearly every Chinese tournament, and they performed again by coming out on top of the group stage. On Day 3, we saw a preview of what might be an Upper Bracket finals with LGD against Team Secret. They split the series 1-1.
While LGD was dominating the East, Secret was doing the same with the West. They again looked in their top form. Though not perfect, they were methodic in the way they dismantled their opponents, in Team Secret fashion. It didn’t matter if their opponent was winning a lane or gaining an objective, because it felt like it was all part of Secret’s plan, like puzzle pieces falling into place. Secret would always manage to out farm even if they were outplayed. They rarely get out drafted (see Fnatic vs Secret game 2) and out of all the teams at TI5, they are one of the best at ending the game. Teams who struggle at pushing high ground would most likely benefit by asking, “What would Team Secret do?”
Again, there can be no International without Na'Vi. The roster has gone through a few rotations since last TI, but has eventually rounded out with Sonneiko and veteran ArtStyle. Core players may take the spotlight, but support player Sonneiko has shined in the group stage. His skill as a support is unquestionable, and then he had an opportunity to flex his carry muscles on his six slotted Naga Siren, where he nearly helped Na`Vi eke out a win against Fnatic.
In North American Dota, there was Evil Geniuses, then everyone else. It came to a point where the community discussed whether EG’s success was prohibiting the development of new talent in the region. Now at TI5 there are two NA teams in the upper bracket: EG and Complexity. Complexity in the group stage was the underdog, the upset, and now a fan favorite by surprising everyone by making it into the upper bracket. They will be playing against EG in what is being hyped as a grudge match between former Heroes of Newerth teammates. Both teams account for most of the Techies play during TI5’s group stage. Techies is a hero that is both spiteful and satisfying to win with, and considering the history of these two rival NA teams, there’s a good chance we may see it again.