2016-2017 Season Awards
Over the course of the 2016-2017 season, Virtus.pro have grown from a fresh ragtag team of CIS players struggling to beat tier 2 teams, to the face of CIS Dota. From their humble start, they stuck together and one of the key components to their success has the prowess of RAMZES666. Occasionally referred to as the “Russian Arteezy”, he has demonstrated excellent game knowledge, itemisation, and mechanical skill in the safelane. In the previous season, he was an up and coming star, the centrepiece in Team Spirit’s success leading to their participation in the Shanghai Major while also being central to Shanghai drama, wherein his keyboard was lost by staff. The key factor differentiating him from other traditional CIS carries is perhaps his restraint, contrasted with the sometimes over-aggressive habits of players like XBOCT, Silent, and Illidan.
As one of the highest average KDA players in the scene, he performs exceptionally on fighting carries with relatively high survivability, the standouts being Lifestealer and Ursa. On the former, he was known to go for rather more unconventional items to adapt to the game, often opting for Manta Style as a solution to Treant Protector’s Overgrowth. On the latter, he would play aggressively and back off when necessary with full knowledge of his limits, utilising Enrage in an almost mesmerising way to quickly burst down an enemy or get out scot-free. With his large pool of heroes, added to an affinity for strong mid-game carries, he has proven to be perhaps the most formidable safelane carry throughout the year. Consequently, it is only right that he is rated the Best Carry of the 2016-2017 Season.
‘Wonder kid’, ‘genius’, ‘exceptionally gifted’. These all are comments might be praises lavished at any young and new player in any sport that has shown some potential to achieve something. However, from the ancient Chinese football-prototype of cuju to the more recently invented like tugball, human’s sporting history is more often littered with people who were predicted to make big things happen yet ended up going nowhere. They are the modern, sporting version of Zhong Yong.
We in the business of journalism is probably one of those to blame. Media more than often overhyped their abilities in order to sell copies and advertising. Sometimes it is the manslaughter by exaltation.
But sometimes the wonder kid survives, and Miracle is definitely one of them. Shortly after his spectacular rise through the MMR leaderboard up to TI5, he joined OG (then still known as monkey Business) and swiftly introduced himself to the world by winning 2 Majors, proving that his fame is no fluke and taking after Sumail, who won the DAC 2015 after a month as a professional and the International half a year after that.
As 2016 is not really an odd number, two blood-thirsty, maddeningly on-your-face Southeast Asian teams confounded and paralysed OG’s brains, successfully dislodging them on their way to glory in Seattle. Faced with ignominious defeat, Miracle chose to leave OG.
But that decision seems to have no impact on his former team. OG still won two Majors in autumn and spring as Liquid stumbled through the year. But it was at TI that Miracle and his team had their revelation. They seemed to discovered the key in KeyArena, perhaps learning from Wings that versatility is the winning characteristic for TI. Miracle was more frequently sent to the safe lane, and often taking part in double cheese strategies moulding Broodmother and Huskar that were readily deployed. The result? We already know.
Few players are as closely associated with one single hero. Burning and Anti-Mage, perhaps. 820 and Vengeful Spirit, in his day. Merlini and Zeus, that’s a long time ago. All have their name added to the game in Warcraft Dota. But s4 and Queen of Pain are in a different league entirely. Having created the much repeated and probably now cliched phrase ‘one million dollar Dream Coil’, s4’s relationship with the fairy dragon more resembles a courtship where the admirer is friendzoned. Indeed, throughout the entirety of TI7, he played no Puck. And his last Puck game in a Main Event would go back to OG’s last game at DAC, where he made the uncommon choice to forgo GPM and go for Orb speed and distance.
But OG fans should nevertheless appreciate there wasn’t any upsurge in popularity for QoP as an Offlaner, which was made even unlikelier after Blademail was changed to no longer provide lifesteal or benefits from spell amplification. Otherwise the implication would be enough to keep Twitch chat and other teams laughing during their sleep.
However, luck to avoid your own pitfalls is not enough. s4’s biggest assets for OG is his versatility, creativity, and on-spot decision-making. We may not see him play QoP in tournaments anytime soon, but he seemed to be able to play all standard offlane heroes well. He was the person who invented Midas into Octarine Core on Enigma. Even though the Orb Speed Puck did not save the game, it illustrates his creative faith in his own decision. As rewards, two Major wins and our award as the Best Offlaner are no less than desiring.
The 2016/2017 season has seen the support role rise much higher to prominence than ever before. One of the key reasons for that was how players pushed the boundaries of the role throughout the year, constantly finding ways to have more impact. At the forefront of that movement was Liquid’s GH. The impact of a single player on a team is usually difficult to gauge, but with him it was readily seen. Joining a team that had failed in the qualifiers to Boston, it was apparent that exchanging Bulba for GH had given Team Liquid the boost it needed to reinvigorate themselves after a disappointing start to the season.
So what is it that makes GH this season’s best support? On a cursory glance, you might just point to his unholy trifecta of first-ban material heroes: Kotl, Earthshaker and Wisp. But just talking about these would be underselling the primary reason why GH is such a strong support player: Game Sense. It is borderline ridiculous how well he is in tune with the flow of the game. Always knowing where to be and what to do, be it ganking or farming and stacking in the jungle, (or as he is also prone to do, both at the same time) is a thing of beauty that wins games. Maybe it is best described by syndereN’s cast during the 3rd Game of the TI Grand Finals about GH’s rotations: “The way I see it, it is his only kill on the map. It is this exact hero with this exact ally. It is a very specific subset of things to happen”. Add to that uncanny knowledge his superb mechanical skill, and you look at a monster of a player that very deservedly won not only this award, but also TI7 in his first season of competitive play.
Best/Most Innovative Strategy
Virtus.pro at The Summit 7
Normally throughout the year we see many innovative, if not downright broken hero combinations that pro’s find through endless hours of theory crafting and practice. At The Summit 7 VP decided to take that a step further and decided to try to get through the entire event without picking the same hero twice. By Game 5 in the Grand Finals, VP were forced to duplicate a few of their hero picks but as Lil said in his winners interview,
“You have to realize when it’s time to stop memeing… when the thing is, you can win the tournament”.
VP defined innovation during the tournament, trying to mix old forgotten strategies with current meta picks. Along the way we saw VP reach deep in their bag of tricks playing combo’s like Shadow Demon + Luna, Dazzle + Huskar, and their well known Drow + support Weaver. Virtus.pro’s use of 81 different heroes over the course of the event had both quality and quantity in terms of strategy. At times that was admittedly stretched thin but their surprise 5th pick Anti-Mage (moving their 2nd pick Sven over to support) blindsided Team Secret in the final game of the Grand Finals. To the very end, VP had been outmaneuvering the opposition and outplaying them. We feel that no other team is as deserving as Virtus.pro for the feat they accomplished in the BTS house.
There is little to be said about Maroun “GH” Merhej that hasn’t been said already. Position 4 extraordinaire and Team Liquid’s backbone on which rode their Lower Bracket streak to the TI finals, GH struck gold early in his career that began a little less than a year back. To fathom the unlikeliness of a little-known Lebanese player in his 20s to join a failing Tier 1 team and turn the tides around to secure 5 LAN victories and a TI in the belt is in itself a challenge. And just like his KotL and Earth Shaker plays, GH manages to surpass himself and achievements by any other newcomer this year, again and again.
GH joined a beaten and widely criticized roster of Team Liquid; instantly thrown into the spotlight of a premium tournament for the first time, GH managed to shock the skeptics with incredible all-round plays, most notably sealing his spot among the best Io players in the world. Coinciding with the monumental rise of Team Liquid as they began plundering tournaments, GH’s name in the community flourished from just another pubstar to being one of the best supports in the world in a short time span.
Whether it be a monstrous solo performance as a KotL against Invictus Gaming or god-like plays against LFY, GH became an irreplaceable addition to Team Liquid this year. It comes with no surprise therefore, that the undisputed star of competitive Dota 2 supports, GH-god, is our best newcomer.
Voice of Dota
Dota’s casting duos usually consist of two roles; the play-by-play caster and the analyst. While both present significant challenges, they differ greatly in both the challenges they face and the ways they overcome them. The play-by-play caster strives to make great plays into memories for fans, elevating their excitement to a new level. The analyst takes on a role much more prone to harsh judgement and criticism from both professional players and fans alike, and the analyst’s goal is to understand what the players are doing, know why they are doing it, and explain this as concisely as possible. Nobody does this better than syndereN.
syndereN has switched from player to caster and back several times throughout his history in Dota, and as a result, he brings a wealth of experience in the professional scene to the caster’s desk. He has also shown a rather comical side, able to easily keep crowds entertained with his most common co-caster Tobiwan. syndereN often predicts how teams will take engagements, what items they will buy, or how they will change their strategy well before it happens. All of syndereN’s casting skills may be strong, but what truly puts him over the top is his ability to explain complex concepts in seconds. Dota 2 games rarely give caster’s a break to slow down and explain a complicated teamfight, but with syndereN at the helm you won’t even need a replay to look back on. As far as accolades go, syndereN has cast two of the past three TI grand finals (he skipped TI6 because he attended as a player) and multiple Major finals. This consistent and unmatched quality has made syndereN this year’s Voice of Dota.
KuroKy has had one hell of a year. After TI6, he had to try to rebuild a team that was on the precipice of crumbling. The first couple of months were rough: finding a way for Miracle- and MATUMBAMAN to gel as cores wasn’t easy. With the addition of GH and their immediate win at DreamLeague Season 6, KuroKy began to plan for the future. He began doing something most teams and captains are loath to do: Team Liquid began experimenting with role swaps based on which heroes were picked in the draft. While some of these (such as GH’s mid Naga Siren) were detrimental, we would go on to see Miracle- and MATUMBAMAN exchange lanes multiple times through the rest of the season.
KuroKy showed he knew how to bring the best out of his team and empowered them to succeed in nearly every tournament they played. Liquid’s tournament pedigree this year speaks for itself: first place at StarLadder i-League Invitational #2, EPICENTER 2017, DreamLeague Season 7, and The International 2017. KuroKy stepped out from underneath the shadow of Puppey and proved that he is a world-class captain himself; for that, we award him with Best Captain for 2017.
VP vs. OG, Kiev Major Grand Finals Game 5
The home crowd cheering for VP in Kiev while OG aimed to win their fourth Valve Major championship. The series became a closely contested brawl right down to the end. The Kiev Major is only the second time a Valve event has gone the distance, and just like Na’Vi vs. Alliance at TI3, it will be remembered for a long time. This game had everything you could want from a deciding game 5 (maybe apart from the Alchemist pick): the crowd favourites off to an early lead, long drawn out fights in which any lapse in judgement could turn the tide of battle, and an incredible comeback.
We were lucky enough to get a look at the mindset of the players before, during, and after the game due to Valve’s True Sight and the stakes of the match could not have been higher for the two teams involved. Virtus.pro wanted to prove they had what it takes to win a major on home soil and bring the CIS region back some of its long lost glory. Arguably, they still accomplished this, even though they lost the match. The desperation and determination that both teams had, giving it their all to triumph, came through clearly in how they played this game.
Maybe Next Time kills OG's Ancient
When we are talking about the moments that make Dota 2 such a magical game for us, more often than not we point to “The Play” from TI2 or the $6 Million Echo Slam during TI5. One single flash of brilliance that encompasses the entirety of what makes Dota great. For this season we have decided to award the game-winning moment of Game 3 of the Boston Major Grand Finals. In a game that itself was a strong contender for match of the year, Maybe Next Time finished out a game that had it all: comebacks, no TPs, rapiers, back-up rapiers, mega creeps and a mad rush for the throne were all included. But in the end it was our Biggest Play of the Year that closed out the 80 minute long game.
After a failed rush for the naked throne in OG’s base, Ad Finem were on the back foot with 4 dead and OG easily fending off the mega creeps with the Greeks’ own Divine Rapier. But in a situation where other players might just settle down for the long grind, Maybe Next Time started to calculate. 350 HP seemed easy enough to do and he subsequently began his stealth mission. ODpixel’s “I don’t think Maybe Next Time goes for this sort of play…” was echoing the thoughts of every single spectator as we saw Earthshaker creeping ever closer to OG’s base and the exposed, glyph-less throne, but we were all to be proven wrong.
Timing his entrance into the base perfectly, his Shadow Blade not only evaded the Gem on OG’s Nyx but also the sentry placed right after Earthshaker snuck past. Finally, with the throne in sight, Luna also bought back and TP’ed on top of Maybe Next Time to finish off the throne as the Dota 2 world collectively lost their minds over one of the ballsiest and best plays in recent Dota 2 history.
Hero of the Year
Some heroes are just always interesting to watch. Close to the center of this pool of heroes is Earthshaker. Many games have been turned around on a dime after a team gets hit by a huge Echo Slam, and as if the damage from the ulti itself wasn’t enough, Aftershock keeps them stunned for 4.5 seconds if chained perfectly. This has always been a possibility with Earthshaker, so why did he see a surge in popularity in professional games since 7.00?
To understand it properly we need to go back before The New Journey patch. Earthshaker used to be an awkward hero to lane properly: in the middle lane he was too easily counterpicked; he had no way of staying safe in the offlane; and as a support, he was dependent on being able to block immobile enemy heroes with Fissure. All in all, there was almost always a better pick.
Discovering that Earthshaker could pull the offlane creep waves with the help of Fissure was the only thing needed to legitimise the hero. This allowed him to stay safe under tower while farming towards his Blink Dagger. In patch 6.83, Enchant Totem’s mana cost was changed from 50 to 20/30/40/50, which might seem small on the surface. However, it had a big impact down the line. Pros innovated with new builds, leaving Enchant Totem and Fissure at level 1 and maxing Aftershock, letting Earthshaker to farm incredibly mana efficiently. This in turn made Earthshakers have a more reliable Blink Dagger timing, allowing teams to take and win surprise midgame teamfights and smoke ganks. Lastly, him being a strong flex pick for either support or offlane in turn enabled him as a mid, in case the enemy forgot about him and picked a melee mid laner.
Earthshaker played a big part not only in the drafts, but also the teamfights. The anticipation of a looming Echo Slam puts viewers on the edge of their seat, and this year we saw many players piloting this hero to victory. For these reasons, we give Earthshaker the Hero of the Year award.
LGD ganks a Replicate
Just as we honor the best plays of a season, we also have a category for plays that are decidedly less helpful when it comes to winning. While a year of Dota has it’s shining peaks of glory and fame, there is also the shadowy valley of mis-clicks and fails. The dubious honor for this year goes to LGD during their match in the Lower Bracket against Team Liquid during TI7.
Both teams had had a rough route through the loser’s bracket already, but unfortunately for LGD, their route was about to end.
Obviously we cannot say what exactly was going on in the booths, but LGD did not look at all like the team that had sent OG packing a round earlier. Maybe it was the pressure, or maybe it was the tilt from two blatant misplays: heavily investing into ganks on what turned out to be illusions. Twice. Tilt-inducing as it already is for us in our never-ending trench of pub games, how would you feel after blowing Reverse Polarity and Ghost Ship on essentially thin air? Offering up your main teamfight threats on a silver platter to a team like Liquid was never going to end well; naturally, those two mistakes cost LGD initiative, map control and composure. With elimination and a top 3 spot on the line, the stakes were high and it seems like nerves got the better of LGD as they subsequently collapsed and bowed out of Seattle in a quick 0-2 fashion. Leaving TI in such a disappointing fashion must have been quite the downer, and we sincerely hope that we will never have a repeat winner for this category.
LFY vs. Liquid, Lower Bracket Finals Game 3
In a tournament filled to the brim with exceptional teams and amazing games it was really difficult to choose which game we should give this award. Should it go to one of the many comebacks we have seen in Seattle? Or to the mainstage marathon of VP vs TL? In the end, we decided to give the prize to Game 3 of Team Liquid vs. LFY in the lower bracket finals. Not only was the game itself a nailbiter, the entire series was a treat to us spectators as both teams held nothing back in order to punch a ticket to the Grand Finals. With those added stakes in play, there really was no other game we could have given the award.
During the early stages of the match, it seemed like Liquid were an unstoppable freight train cruising through a haphazard LFY defense without any signs of slowing down. Two early kills snowballed rapidly into a tier 1 tower before the 3 minute mark and a 6K gold advantage for Team Liquid at 8 minutes in. However, true to the amazing play LFY showed throughout the tournament, they rallied and made a strong defense in the next teamfight to slam some emergency brakes on to the train. But even with that temporary stopgap, they were staring into an abyss as their Morphling had been crippled–he was 7th on the net worth charts. Rather than succumbing to the pressure applied by KuroKy & Co., LFY aggressively searched for opportunities to stage their comeback. Scoring pick offs here and there as they traversed the chokehold that Liquid had established around the LFY base, the Chinese squad held on heroically. Staying disciplined even as the deficit grew to surpass 10,000 gold, LFY knew just what they had to do, buying space for Monet to recover and eventually retake the initiative. Their movements on the map were a thing of beauty, searching for lone TL players to pick off, covering for their position 1 by pressuring other areas on the map, and only taking fights they knew they could win.
Owing to that exceptional game sense from the Chinese side, Liquid’s momentum began to stall out and the game was dragged towards the later stages. As Liquid geared up for a death push fueled by their still significant networth advantage, massive fighting broke out all over the map as LFY were forced to take a fight in their jungle even as MinD_ContRol’s Furion began working on the bottom barracks of their base. Although TL managed to take their objective, they also paid the heavy price of 6 deaths; LFY could now sense blood in the water. It was as if the match only now began in earnest, with LFY quickly following up the shift in momentum to brawl with Liquid head on even as they were still behind on networth. But Chinese weren’t the only ones pulling out all the stops, as TL showed not only superb individual performances (including a mind-baffling Aegis snatch by MinD_ContRol) but even better shotcalling. Liquid’s call to throw more bodies at buildings slowly wore LFY down, even as they kept reclaiming lost ground and almost broke even in gold. In the end it all came down to LFY’s last stand in front of their throne as mega creeps and Liquid closed in for the kill. While LFY put up a admirable defense, in the end they were washed away by Liquid on their way to claim the aegis. As the finals were unfortunately quite one-sided, it is this game that should be best remembered from this year’s International.
Most Valuable Player
It should be no surprise that we are naming GH as the most valuable player at TI7. Not only was every team forced to focus on his hero pool when banning against Team Liquid, but his individual performance stood out as being a step above his competitors. His Io, although rarely seen has become something of a legend. Along with his Keeper of the Light and Earthshaker, he had the highest impact of any support during TI7; that’s saying a lot considering the incredible pool of supports that were competing in Seattle. It can not be stressed enough how critical GH was in Team Liquid’s victory. His abundance of experience on KotL illuminated many to the strength of KuroKy’s drafts while the power of his Earthshaker formed fissures throughout the enemy team’s plans. Throughout the tournament he was steadfast and never succumbed to the pressure of the big stage. While it is true that GH was most known for his core group of heroes, when required he would play something else to equal effect, helping Team Liquid secure victory on the largest stage. All of this is without mentioning the fact that he officially joined Team Liquid very early in 2017 and he is a newcomer to the professional Dota 2 scene. We can’t wait to see what the next year will bring to our MVP of TI7.
Team EmpireWhen it comes to the international, Team Empire have historically had a spotty record. In 2015, they received a direct invite but crashed out of the tournament, placing 9th-12th place. In 2016, they bombed out of the qualifiers in the round-robin stage. As such, no one exactly had high expectations for them coming into TI7. On top of it all, their carry player, Chappie, had trouble getting his visa in time, resulting in a last-minute substitution.
At this point, almost everyone had written this team off entirely--they weren’t that good in the first place, we told ourselves, and now on top of it all they had to play with a stand-in. Resolut1on is good, we thought, but he can’t be that good. Oh, how wrong we were. Although they looked shaky during the group stage, once the main event started, Resolut1on and his teammates showed us just how dangerous it was to underestimate them. After defeating Cloud9 in the Bo1 with an immaculate performance on Faceless Void, Resolut1on delivered two back-to-back monstrous games on Sven to send Evil Geniuses packing.
Against all odds, Team Empire had defeated the fan favorites and were looking like a threat to make the same kind of deep run that Digital Chaos had done in the previous year. Even though they lost the next series to eventual the TI winners Team Liquid, Empire’s performance had already exceeded everyone’s expectations, making them the biggest surprise of TI7.
Ah fu's Aegis Snatch
There is a Chinese aphorism about sporting event that the bigger the stage is, the duller, more uneventful everything becomes. Two teams with huge stakes at the line tend to play passively, trying to grind out however long it takes. Dota used to be one of them.
But not anymore, after numerous patches the game flow has become very aggressive, indeed. There are still games when one side is forced to sit in their base and play counter-attack (or mahjong Dota), as only one mobile and elusive carry would go out and farm. But even in those games, teams are more willing to take fights as they know there is far more gold on the map for their opponents to farm.
Ahfu’s chances to steal the Aegis of Immortal was increased by whom he was playing against. Virtus.pro did not earn their universal unfortunate nickname ‘Virtus Throw’ for nothing. Their wild, aggressive playstyle can discomfort their opponents in the early game but often costs themselves the eventual result. Aggression can turn into carelessness and disorganisation. Sand King, who can do virtually no physical damage, decided to enter Roshan pit instead of scouting. Perhaps the best Disruptor player, Solo, was distracted by the treants. Even ever reliable RAMZES had wasted all his small units fighting Void. As the theft happened, countless VP fans’ hearts were broken, and the team itself was shocked into demoralization as well.
But if you are not a VP fan, the calmness with which Ahfu blinked and used Boulder Smash into Rolling Boulder was a beauty to behold. A world-class player’s best exquisitely displayed. We, and ddc, certainly did not mind him for having made that play.
Team Liquid in the Lower Bracket
After a rather scattered Team Liquid showed up against Invictus Gaming in the first round of the winner bracket at The International 7, not many people would’ve bet on them to win it all. It is therefore with an amalgamation of shock and surprise that Team Liquid crushed all the odds to provide the most awe-inspiring fight at Seattle. From losing their first game and brushing multiple times against the face of annihilation to having their names inscribed on the aegis of champions, the men in blue provided the best streak at TI7.
After going down to the Chinese, KuroKy and company faced off against a rejuvenated Team Secret. Dropping the first game, Liquid faced elimination, and had it not been for some nail-biting moments in the second game that turned the tide in their favor, they would’ve been shown an early exit. It was clear from Game 3’s domination that Team Liquid weren’t sleeping anymore, and that dropping to the loser bracket didn’t deter them from their path. The image only grew clearer in their next game against the revamped Team Empire, riding high over their victory against Evil Geniuses. It didn’t take more than two 30-minute games to display which team was superior.
The next match featured CIS giants, Virtus.Pro, who many pundits had written the aegis for. After a heart-bursting Liquid win in Game 1 that involved Liquid desperately pulling off an absolute miracle of a turnaround in match that lasted for 103 minutes, VP fought back to bring the fate of the men in blue down to one game. It took Miracle’s Anti Mage and GH’s Earth Shaker to keep the chants of ‘Lets Go Liquid’ alive in Key Arena, and so they continued.
Now one game before the Lower Bracket finals, Team Liquid made quick work of LGD to secure a top 3 finish. They once again faced the threat of elimination when LFY pulled off a dogged win in Game 1 against them. But the spirit of never backing down continued to cast its magic, and Mind_Control’s Nature Prophet coupled with MATUMBAMAN’s Venomancer outrageously routed the Chinese back home with consecutive victories to secure a top 2 finish.
The final boulder on the road to eternal glory, Newbee, was one of the favorites for the tournament. The team’s appearance in the grand finals came off as no surprise to the analysts, given their clear strength throughout the competition. But in a spectacular fashion, Team Liquid continued the string of comfortable domination as they took down Newbee in three consecutive games to claim the Aegis of Champions.
Best Use of Chat Wheel
n0tail vs. Cloud9
One of the most beloved bonuses from this year’s Battle Pass has been the addition of sound bites to the chat wheel. They’re excellent for keeping up team morale in pubs--you can’t help but laugh at a “Ай-ай-ай-ай-ай, что сейчас произошло!” after your mid player dies solo or spam some “It's a disastah!” when your Faceless Void chronos your entire team. Of course, the pros have been making excellent use of the chat wheel lines as well. In honor of this fantastic feature, we present the Best Use of Chat Wheel award to n0tail for his use of the “Это. Просто. Нечто.” line.
Writers 2009, Shrinkzxo, ShiaoPi, OmniEulogy, nighimare, jdc214, ChilloManiac, tehh4ck3r
Editors rabidch, Sn0_Man, tehh4ck3r
Editors rabidch, Sn0_Man, tehh4ck3r