The EPICENTER Major kicks off this weekend, boasting a $1,000,000 prize pool. The group stage will be taking place this Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd in a GSL format. This involves four groups (A-D), with the top two finishers in each group advancing to the upper bracket of the playoffs and the bottom two in each group starting in the lower bracket. The first round of the lower bracket will be BO1 elimination, with all other games in the event being BO3 except for the finals which will be BO5. The playoffs will start on the 24th with a break on Thursday before the mainstage event from Friday 28th until Sunday 30th.
So, who’s going to TI?
Eighteen teams will compete in The International in August in Shanghai, China. The DPC system guarantees that the 12 teams with the most amount of DPC points at the end of the season will automatically qualify. The other 6 remaining spots will be claimed by winners of TI regional qualifiers, with one spot available for each region (EU, NA, SA, SEA, China, CIS).
EPICENTER is the last major in the Dota Pro Circuit and will therefore be the last opportunity to secure a direct invite to TI via the DPC system. The top 8 teams have already secured enough points to guarantee their qualification, and these are as follows:
- Team Secret (14250)
- Virtus.pro (11400)
- Evil Geniuses (6750)
- Vici Gaming (6300)
- PSG.LGD (4140)
- Fnatic (3525)
- Team Liquid (2820)
- Ninjas in Pyjamas (2590)
All of these teams have qualified for and will be competing in EPICENTER.
The bottom four DPC qualification slots are currently held by:
- Keen Gaming (1140)
- OG (948)
- TNC Predator (696)
- EHOME (629.6)
Out of these bottom four, only OG and TNC managed to qualify for EPICENTER. Teams who did qualify for EPICENTER but aren’t already in the DPC top 12 are: Gambit Esports (228), Forward Gaming (154.88), Alliance (379), paiN Gaming (150), Royal Never Give Up (63.65) and Infamous (60.9).
What does this mean for DPC places at EPICENTER?
There’s a lot of possible outcomes and numbers here, but to put it simply:
Any of these participating teams can qualify for TI with a top 6 finish (minimum +900 points), though this isn’t very likely to happen.
EHOME (629.6) are the team most likely to lose their DPC slot as they’re in 12th place and aren’t qualified to EPICENTER to defend their spot.
Alliance (379) and Gambit (228) are in the best position to claim EHOME’s 12th place slot with a 7th-8th place finish (earning +450 points) which would put them at 829 points and 678 points respectively overtaking EHOME’s 629.6 points.
OG and TNC will want to avoid finishing in the bottom four to guarantee their safety.
Enough numbers, time to talk DotA!
If you’ve kept up to date with DotA news/looked at the subreddit, you’ll have noticed that Team Liquid have replaced their mid-laner ‘MATUMBAMAN’ with the now-confirmed ‘w33’. Aside from exchanging one superstar player for another to freshen up the atmosphere, this roster change is all about versatility, hero pool and space creation.
If teams want to stay at the top of the competitive scene for a prolonged period of time they need to stay ahead of the shifting meta through different patches. This usually requires adjustments to the hero pools, strategies and styles of play in order to not get ‘figured out’ by other teams. Top teams will be studied tenaciously by their competitors and their picks, bans, warding spots, smoke timings and overall strategies will be scrutinized until weaknesses and counter-strategies are found. If a team doesn’t evolve and adapt constantly, they risk falling behind and getting countered. One of the keys to Team Secret’s success this past year has been their constant adaptation and strategy adjustments without compromising in-game execution and discipline.
Much of this is reliant upon the players themselves having the capacity to adjust their active hero pool without weakening their gameplay. Secret’s offlaner, ‘Zai’ is perhaps the ultimate example of this – having an exceptional hero pool and adjusting his role to allow the rest of his team more space to shape the game to their liking rather than having a locked-in playstyle which the rest of his team are forced to play around. It can even be argued that Zai and Puppey are the Team Secret support duo, and form the gel which allows Nisha, MidOne and YapzOr to be an ever present threat to enemy teams. A lot of teams have found success through utilizing a ‘sacrificial core’ role, namely someone who compromises their own net worth and playstyle to be an active space-creating menace on the map in order to generate an overall greater benefit for their team.
In Liquid’s case, ‘MATUMBAMAN’ fulfilled this role, and was absolutely crucial to their earlier success and pivotal in winning TI. Unfortunately his hero pool and playstyle doesn’t fit the current meta and Liquid haven’t found a successful way to adapt alongside him. Matu was notorious for his ‘green’ heroes – Necrophos, Viper, Lone Druid, Venomancer and Tidehunter in addition to Broodmother, Monkey King and Lycan. When these heroes were strong and the meta catered to their playstyle Liquid held a huge advantage both in draft and in game. His heroes caused too much mayhem to be ignored and were often too tanky or slippery to bring down easily. The result was an enormous amount of space creation and fight openings for their flashy star player, ‘Miracle’ to break games wide open and finish opponents in style. Recently, this has simply not been happening and their replacement of ‘w33’ appears to make a lot of sense when considering this, bringing his own potential pool of unorthodox chaos-creating heroes such as his trademark Skywrath Mage, Meepo, Windranger etc. to put a new and unfamiliar form of pressure on their opponents which Liquid will be counting on to find their stride coming into TI.
Finding and Maintaining Form
During EPICENTER and leading up to TI, every team will want to be on point with their own synergy and hit the ground running. TI almost always guarantees its own meta, and so teams will need to come in feeling confident in their own style to ensure they can mould themselves to the environment as quickly and smoothly as possible. The interactions between players and their ability to coordinate successfully is crucial to success. Having had the entire year to make roster and playstyle adjustments, any team with a shot at winning TI should now be functioning like a well-oiled machine. Teams who reach their peak in performance are characterized by an unprecedented level of confidence in their ability to win, so much so that they are able to pick almost comically outlandish lineups and still emerge victorious over other top teams. The best examples of this are Wings gaming at TI6, and OG at ESL One Frankfurt 2016. Team Liquid certainly showed much of this in their road to winning TI7 and Team Secret have been touching on brilliance throughout this DPC season, and we have our fingers crossed that this journey will continue at EPICENTER this coming week and set the standard for the ultimate test at TI9 in August.
— by Duncan James