Congratulations to the devoted fans, who followed TI5 for its twelve hour stream on Monday, replete with late starts and technical delays. If you didn’t catch it all, perhaps because it was dawn in your time zone or you couldn’t consume work hours, we’re here to recap how the day went.
Valve and other personalities at the event teased us that we would be in for a treat for the opening ceremony. The reveal, spoiled to some already, turned out to be a live choral symphony, who performed our beloved Dota theme.
Gabe Newell then appeared through fog and delivered a short and sweet opening speech, talking about how Valve was at the Superbowl, America’s greatest sporting event, and later they were all huddled around a laptop watching the DAC group stages. The International is our Superbowl.
If you haven’t watched the group stage, Valve has produced, much to their credit, great filler content—interviews of players, overall journeys of the teams—that played between matches. The main event is much of the same, but it’s also spliced with on street interviews by Kaci Aitchison and the commentary from the analyst desk, helmed by RedEye and featuring a rotating cast of personalities. Jeremy Lin, NBA player and by far the most famous person not Dendi to be at TI, later joined the panel to add his insights on LGD vs Empire, and how the cerebral components of basketball and Dota are related.
LGD’s last pick Keeper Of The Light presented Empire with a problem: how do you push into Keeper Of The Light? The answer is a lot harder when you consider that LGD is one of the best defensive teams at The International. You do not push their high ground unless you are absolutely sure you know what you are doing. LGD can be 20k behind and still punish you for your mistakes.
Empire’s aggression was its greatest strength that rewarded them early game control, but eventually led them to a series of missteps, some of which involving Silent blinking too far with his Queen of Pain (once underneath LGD’s Tier 4 towers).
As we will see more in this tournament, Phantom Lancer hits a point where you now have to play the “Phantom Lancer is lava” game. Don’t touch him. Once BKB expired on Empire’s cores, they didn’t have an answer. They also didn’t have a way to control the fight after the first jump, and with slippery heroes such as Storm and Phantom Lancer, LGD always had the opportunity to be patient and re-engage and, finally, take over.
LGD wins game 1
By all accounts Empire’s greedy draft should have resulted in a disastrous early game. Instead, Magnus got his much needed xp offlane, Anti-Mage had uncontested farm against Tusk, and LGD’s Lycan and Lina dual lane mid were unable to extract any advantage over Resolution’s Queen of Pain.
Despite a game where Empire’s Bounty Hunter had poor impact, and their Disruptor was unable to land a passable ultimate (also a testament to Maybe’s exceptional Storm Spirit positioning and play), it didn’t matter in the bigger picture, when they have all their eggs in the Silent Anti-Mage basket.
Empire’s leads always feel tenuous, as if at any moment, during one of their gambles, it can all fall apart. This game was no exception, but it finally paid off. Silent, well farmed on his Anti-Mage, knew he could push the limits with his hero with a Butterfly pickup. LGD misread the situation, and ended up losing what was essentially a 3 vs 1 fight against AM. Let’s forget that Silent continued to push high ground by his lonesome after and died. He was far too ahead for LGD to have any answer, and eventually Empire took two raxes and the game.
Empire wins game 2
Xiao8, aka Director 8, performed an exhibition on how to play Bounty Hunter in the early game. Casters and analysts projected trouble for LGD’s Ember mid lane against Lina. Xiao 8 showed bottom lane and rotated mid shortly after, helping Maybe on his Ember net a double kill on Lina and Tusk.
By minute 5, Xiao8 was the architect of 100% of LGD’s first 5 kills. By min 10, he was again pivotal in 10 of 11 kills. Empire tried to do what LGD did to them with Phantom Lancer, but they couldn’t get enough momentum for PL to get enough farm. At minute 41 the score was 24-3, in favor of LGD. Empire’s last kill was at 12 minutes, and it would take them 30 more to find another.
The game was sealed long before Maybe initiated the crushing blow with a Blink Dagger, Sleight of Fist, critting and cleaving on three heroes.
LGD wins the series 2-1
It’s telling of Cloud 9’s performance this game if their greatest highlight was a courier snipe, by Bone 7’s Nature’s Prophet, at minute 0.
They attempted a Wisp/Prophet lineup, whose mobility was used to great effectiveness by Alliance at TI3, two years ago. This game, Bone7 was unable to grab any farm on his Furion, and opted for a Midas. The pickup indicated an appeal for the late game, however, EternalEnvy, at the same time, built a Solar Crest on his Razor.
Cloud 9 at one point, in Cloud 9 fashion, scrapped together a fight that led to a timely Roshan kill. Then, shortly after, they gave up the Aegis and two additional deaths on Wisp and Prophet, for free, in Cloud 9 fashion. They never managed to gain any momentum for the entirety of the game. CDEC held a 20k gold lead at 30 minutes. Bone7 finished one oblivion staff.
CDEC wins game 1
Cloud 9 returned to the Gyro/Io duo that gave IG their only shutout loss. And they topped it off with another comfort hero: Legion Commander for Bone7. However, in the draft, Cloud 9 again revealed both their supports early, and this time CDEC responded with Phantom Lancer.
Cloud 9 established early game map control, also aided by an early duel win for Bone7 against Agressif’s Phantom Lancer. Then, the technical delay. Internet shut down for everyone at KeyArena, and an offline error greeted the millions watching on stream.
Some Cloud 9 fans will look to this pause as the reason, or excuse, for what ensued later. CDEC smoked into the Cloud 9’s safe lane and found EternalEnvy for a quick kill. The rest of Cloud 9 responded, and rather than getting a return kill on CDEC, one Cloud 9 death became four.
Eventually, another glaring hole appeared in Cloud 9’s draft: they only have Legion Commander’s Duel for a stun. Cloud 9 didn’t have an answer for Dark Seer or anyone he Surged. Once, during a relocate gank, PL activated his Drums and walked away.
One other weakness, which is usually the case against Phantom Lancer, was there was nothing for Cloud 9 after their BKB expired. Without a way to stun and lock the fight early, CDEC could always re-engage.
CDEC habitually used smoke after a scout Zeus ultimate and exploited the window during his cooldown and the expectation that they were on one side of the map. In a final gamble, EternalEnvy split pushed with NoTail on his Wisp sitting behind. CDEC responded and blew up the Wisp before he got the save on Gyro.
CDEC wins series 2-0
The first elimination game of the day. Both teams drafted within their comfort zones, favoring consistency over a high risk, or cheese, strategy. Newbee, the TI4 champions, was at risk of finishing TI5 in last place.
Mu on his TA had a great start, including an early double kill when QO erred by trying to kill Clockwerk under Cold Embrace. QO, though, later redeemed himself, with a five man Requiem from the trees during an attempted Newbee smoke gank.
This game was also marked by a surprisingly quick, 24 minute Aghanim Scepter for NutZ’s With Doctor. He only had 15 cs at 20 minutes.
By minute 30, there were 41 kills. Both teams were fighting for their tournament survival. One pivotal moment occurred when March, on his Spirit Breaker, charged through multiple heroes at the Dire secret shop, without being interrupted by the available Euls or Hex from Lion. MVP took three kills and traded none.
One recurrence, which must have been frustrating for the player, was that kpii constantly died on his Juggernaut without using Omnislash. It was partly due to him overstimating the damage he could take under Bladefury, but it was also due to the fastidious way Newbee dispatched him early in a fight.
The final fight of the game began, again, with a kpii death. He bought back and finally unleashed what must have been the most cathartic ultimate of his life. Newbee called GG and the first chants of the tournament began. M-V-P, M-V-P.
MVP advances. Newbee is eliminated.
Mad said there are two Na’Vis. Winter said that Na’Vi against the wall is a different Na’Vi. Perhaps there is some truth there, but what we do know is that they are the underdogs, whether we get the Good or Bad Na’Vi, against one of the most formidable opponents in China.
The draft gave us two surprise picks in the final phase: Na'Vi took Wisp, and VG picked Luna, pushing Queen of Pain to the offlane for iceiceice.
At 10 minutes, Dendi made use of his early Eul’s to pick off Hao’s Luna. It’s one of the small victories for Na'Vi this game.
VG, bringing back TI4 strategies, started a death ball that rolled through nearly every Na’Vi tower. This was until XBOCT, on his Anti-Mage, was farmed enough to repel VG by split pushing.
Sometimes, in best of ones, luck can seem more impactful than any other time. At min 20, VG picked off XBOCT which transitioned into a Roshan kill. A double damage rune, spawned by the Dota gods, helped VG move that effort along. The kill score was 9-5, and Na’Vi, though losing, were doing a respectable job for what is essentially 4vs5.
The game eventually picked up this rhythm where VG would attempt to five man push down a side lane, Na’Vi’s Lina or Anti-Mage would split push the opposite side lane, and then VG would be forced to respond, often failing to achieve anything other than wasting time.
At min. 35, Na’V,i off a split push, forced a four man rotation from VG. The fifth man? It was Luna, who died. Xboct reaped the killing spree. He was banking 7.3k gold before spending it on an Abyssal Blade.
By min. 52, Dota gods again awarded VG a double damage rune as Roshan spawns. Shadow Fiend crits for 1.3k damage.
XBOCT elected for a glassy build on his Anti-Mage, with his own defensive item being BKB. His defense was his Wisp, Tusk, and Dazzle. VG eliminated Tusk and Dazzle before the fight started, and they held the upper hand, even amid a flurry of last ditch buybacks from Na’Vi.
Na’Vi exited TI with a respectable and worthy performance. There weren’t two Na’Vi’s, the good or the bad, but just the one that we were all happy to finally see.
VG advances. Na’Vi is eliminated.
In a turn of events, Mushi surrendered his signature Shadow Fiend to Kecik Imba, opting to play a support Naga Siren instead. Though Kecik Imba performed admirably on Shadow Fiend, Mushi did not look the same on Naga.
Overall, this was a game of ill-advised, or as the caster Blitz put it, “sloppy,” Roshan attempts by Fnatic. They repeatedly forced fights at the Roshan pit. In one event they entered knowing they did not have Wraith King ultimate, Dark Seer ultimate, and the result was they lost Shadow Fiend, again, as well as the Aegis.
With the Aegis, Virtus Pro pushed the t1 tower. Fnatic, in an attempt to scrounge for a small victory, attempted to defend and lost four heroes. Here’s more salt in the wound: Mushi used Song of the Siren moments before he died, putting it on a 3 minute cooldown, while Wraith King died with ultimate off cool down but did not have enough mana.
At minute 24 Fnatic entered the pit, where Virtus Pro was moments away from finishing Roshan. Some more miscommunication: Naga initiated with sleep too late as VP already picked up the Aegis. Fnatic continued anyway, and no matter how perfect Kecic Imba times his Shadow Fiend’s ultimate with the ending of Song, it can not be quicker than an Echo Slam.
Then there was the third Roshan, the third opportunity for Fnatic to correct the game. Again, Fnatic was too late, and Spirit Breaker caught them on the retreat. Fnatic lost their Shadow Fiend, Wraith King, and eventually the bottom rax.
Can you ever have too much armor? VP was pushing with Dragon Knight, who receives an innate 12 armor from his passive, but he was also buffed by Vladmir’s, Assault Cuirass, Weave, and Solar Crest. Oh, he also has BKB. VP took the game in dominant fashion.
VP advances. Fnatic is eliminated.
Hot6ix was able to extract an unexpected amount of XP and farm on their offlane Zeus. In one gank, SunBhie sniffed out Burning, on his PL, hiding in the trees near the Radiant T1, and the rest of Hot6ix was able to pull off the kill before he can escape.
Again, chalk it either to luck or skill, but there are these auspicious moments that are more pronounced in best of ones. Hot6ix was taking Roshan, with IG in the dark. Ferrari even picked up an invis rune outside the pit. That’s when Luo, on his Spirit Breaker, in transit to the other side of the map, drove by the Roshan pit, pushed Jakiro on the high ground, spotlighting Hot6ix’s Roshan attempt.
Finally, here’s a recap of the essential skills that Chuan stole on his Rubick: Bloodseeker’s Rupture, Zeus’ Ultimate, and Earthshaker’s Fissure, multiple times.
IG advances. MVP.Hot6ix is eliminated.
RedEye and Mad are developing somewhat of an entertaining rivalry, initiated by RedEye ribbing Mad on Alliance’s exit from the qualifiers. During the break, Mad fired back over Twitter.
Kaci Aitchinson has an uncanny ability to extract funny and charming moments from what could be socially awkward disasters.
This was my first TI, but from what I’ve heard, the audio quality has vastly improved.
The crowd was by far the loudest, and most present, during VG vs Na’Vi. Credit to Valve for putting the lower bracket later in the day, during primetime.
It’s only day one so it’s natural that not everyone has shown up to the sold out event. Even though KeyArena wasn’t at full capacity, it didn’t remove from the excitement we all felt during the matches.
If you wander around enough, you will eventually find someone you recognize, whether it be a player or a caster. From what I’ve seen, they’ve all been very courteous and patient talking to fans.
Names like MVP, EG and Na’Vi are far easier to chant than, say, Com-Plex-It-EE.