Overlapping matches will mark the group stages of the world’s first-ever Dota Major in Frankfurt, tomorrow. Which do you watch if you can only watch one?
Alliance vs. EHOME
This may be the most informative first-round match-up of this tournament; it’s a must-watch.
Despite illustrious histories, Alliance and EHOME have never faced each other on a ticketed match. Let that sink in: EHOME has three top six International performances and their current roster also took third at the NanYang Dota 2 Championships this fall. Alliance was the first Western team to take a victory at a premier Chinese tournament and is a former world champion with one of the most impressive streaks in Dota history.
They’ve never played a ticketed match.
Alliance reborn has been on the rise in Europe, with 6.85 buffs to several key AdmiralBulldog heroes and a return of former TI-winning captain S4. EHOME won a Chinese qualifier seat at every premier tournament since The International, including the upcoming Summit 4.
This match will really help to give context to compare teams from the East and West and help give a benchmark for projecting regional strength in the main bracket. That by itself makes it worth watching; it is crucial for developing the tournament’s narrative.
Alliance is one of the globe’s most efficient teams — they range between fourth and sixth at the tournament depending on the stage of the game — and one of the most aggressive mid-game teams, ranking just behind Vega Squadron in terms of average damage output after the laning phase.
Their hero pool also focuses heavily on lesser-used characters, including S4’s Batrider, Admiral Bulldog’s Nature’s Prophet, and Akke’s Lich.
EHOME is middle of the road; they are neither conservative nor liberal. They have average deaths narrowly in the better half of teams with comparably ranked stats in damage, towers, kills, and efficiency. Their diversity gives them an upper-hand on opponents with specific weak-points, but makes them weak against teams with high consistency.
Either team could walk away a victor and either way the fallout will have much to say about the Frankfurt Major, as a whole.
Alternative: Secret vs. Newbee Young
Let’s be real: Newbee Young didn’t earn a spot at Frankfurt. They finished third in the qualifier of the region with the most direct invites. Secret, on the other hand, is the top-performing team in the world since The International.
You can see where this is going.
If Secret loses this match, or honestly even just a game, it’s an indicator that Newbee Young found some Dota steroids or Secret didn’t take the matching seriously. Newbee Young may have a better chance later in the day. More than likely, they will have to make a name for themselves out of the lower bracket if they can do it at all.
CDEC vs. Mineski
I expected a decline for CDEC when I read the 6.85 patch notes, and sure as death and taxes the team has fallen far from their second-place finish at The International.
Part of the problem is certainly that success has brought more attention to their by-the-book execution, making them easier to counter; that would be true regardless of patch. Compounding that problem, they’ve been slow to adapt to the shifting landscape around them, even going so far as to say that they believe they can continue to play “basically the same” as on 6.84, when interviewed at ESL One New York.
Depending on whom you ask, they likely rank third or fourth in China, which likely places them between sixth and ninth in the world.
Another big problem is that this patch has encouraged a play-style similar to CDEC’s favored ramping aggression.
Other teams are adapting comparable game plans and with strategic prevalence comes numerous counters.
While CDEC was The International’s team of fast towers and early offensive rotations, 6.85 has hit their pacing with a venomous gale: their earliest average tower now comes two minutes later with additional delays compiling into four or six minutes of lost time before highground.
Meanwhile, Mineski has been on a tear in their region; they’re the only SEA squad to defeat Fnatic in a match this fall — and they did it twice. Fnatic’s average level of aggression is even faster than CDEC’s ideal: all tier ones averaged before fifteen minutes.
No SEA team has an upper-hand against CDEC; the latter team scrims against better opponents, has more resources, and has recently proven they have a far higher level of execution. But if a SEA team could walk into the Frankfurt Major and take a top eight contender off-guard, it’s Mineski.
Their play history is minimal outside of SEA, making them a wild card. Their recent history against CDEC is a 1:1 split in the NanYang Championships. The only other time they’ve faced off was at the Dota 2 Asia Championship qualifiers nearly a year ago.
Mineski aren’t expected to win, but they could. If CDEC do lose, it’s a horrifying sign for the Frankfurt Major run, which is still very much uncertain. A good performance here can save the team for another four months, while a poor performance will likely indicate that CDEC will be relegated to regional-only play in the new year.
Alternative: LGD vs. Cloud 9
I considered choosing this match, but in the end I think it has a lesser story to tell. Similar to Mineski, Cloud9 is an underdog in this (and basically all) match-ups they face. Like Mineski, they have risen to the top of their region.
However, LGD and Cloud9 have never faced off. LGD has been more stable in China since The International, taking fewer unexpected losses than CDEC. In addition, Cloud9’s most relied on heroes have little impact on LGD: Ember Spirit and Ancient Apparition, C9’s most played heroes, haven’t won any games against LGD this patch. They are always either banned out, picked by LGD, or shut down.
Tusk, C9’s third most played hero, has only a 33% winrate against LGD. Winter Wyvern follows up with two games and two losses. C9’s hero pool seems implicitly understood by LGD.
Despite some possibility that North America has a few surprises in store, it’s unlikely that they open the tournament with an unexpected win here. It also makes less of an impact on the overall tournament narrative: the odds of C9 rising from bottom eight to top eight seem slim.
This plays into why CDEC’s match is more interesting; CDEC is facing a real risk of dropping if their performance stability doesn’t return fast.