This weekend will see nine of the top Dota 2 teams in the world collide at the Major League Gaming Championship. The event -- hosted at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio-- will take place from November 22nd through 24th, and boasts prize pool of over $120,000.
The field is riddled with elite teams, and everyone is out for blood as this event is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most prestigious and difficult tournament since The International Three . The teams will first compete in a round robin group stage, playing each of their opponents once. From their the top four teams will advance to a best-of-three single-elimination bracket.
A variety of strategies and playstyles can be expected, as the teams are still in the process of adjusting to the new metagame brought on by the changes in the 6.79 patch.
Loda, s4, AdmiralBulldog, EGM, Akke
The International 3 winners are still generally regarded as the strongest Dota team in the world. Following their million-and-them-some dollar victory in Seattle, the Swedish team have largely continued their winning ways. Aside from a smattering of losses in group stage games in various leagues, Alliance’s only major hiccups since The International have a been a pair of 2-3 defeats at the hands of their rival Na`Vi at the Starladder and WePlay finals.
The champs enter the tournament as one of the favorites, and will look to bounce back from those two losses and eliminate any doubt that fans might have that they won't be the undisputed best team of 2013.
XBOCT, Dendi, Funn1k, Puppey, KuroKy
The Na`Vi-Alliance rivalry just keeps getting better, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue this weekend. Na`Vi’s overall record since The International isn’t quite as pristine as Alliance’s, but they have consistently found a way to pull out the big matches, winning the Starladder, WePlay, and Techlabs finals. Never afraid to go outside the box, the most recent patch will provide the perfect opportunity for Na`Vi to throw some strategic curveballs throughout the weekend.
BurNIng, Mushi, iceiceice, LaNm, X!!
DK’s roster underwent a major overhaul following The International 3, leaving BurNIng and X!! as the only members remaining from the team that competed in Seattle. After adding some of the most respected and talented Asian players from various other teams, DK is surely the most formidable Eastern team, and the only one attending the MLG Championship. The team has struggled a little bit adjusting to the new patch, and they have had very limited experience against Western teams in recent months, but any team with this kind of individual star power has to be considered a real contender.
TC, BuLba, qojqva, FLUFFNSTUFF, Waytosexy
Team Liquid comes into Columbus on a hot streak, with only a few losses in the last month. They have adapted quickly to the new patch and should be playing with confidence. Despite losing Korok and ixmike88 after The International 3, the new lineup seems to have gelled quickly and many expect them to shine this weekend. Their newest additions, qojqva and Waytosexy, have proven to be invaluable assets to to the squad.
Team Liquid comes enters Columbus as the most consistent North American team, and it's not unlikely that we'll hear more than a few "USA" chants once the team takes the stage.
Fear, MSS, UNiVeRsE, Jeyo, Fogged
The last year for Evil Geniuses can be described as boom and bust. The team saw major revisions after failing to qualify for The International 3, but despite the facelift the squad still struggles to meet expectations regularly. They have shown flashes of brilliance with recent victories over Alliance and Fnatic, but they've also spent the last week dealing with network issues at their training facility so they're not coming into the event with the polish that they likely hoped for.
Evil Geniuses head to Columbus as underdogs, but they will have ample opportunity to prove themselves against top-class competition. Any team captained by Fear is one worth respecting.
Era, H4nn1, Trixi, N0tail, Fly
Fnatic comes into the tournament in fairly poor form, having lost 6 of their last 10 matches. However, there is likely no team better equipped to deal with the challenges that show themselves during major offline events. Fnatic is by far the longest-tenured team in the field, having the same roster for longer than any of their competitors. The players know each other well, and they will have to rely on this familiarity if they hope to make it out of round robin play. Fnatic is also one of the few teams that still run wisp regularly, and successfully, and they have a fondness for running dual-lane in mid, which is something not all opponents will be accustomed to.
EternaLEnVy, SingSing, Aui_2000, pieliedie, Arteezy (replacing bOne7)
Formerly playing under the bannerKaipi, Speed Gaming failed to qualify for The International Three, but was, regardless, considered by some a better team than a few of the teams who made it to Benaroya Hall. Unfortunately, their three-position player, bOne7, was unable to get a visa for this tournament and had to be replaced by Arteezy. However, don’t expect that to throw off their rhythm too much, as Arteezy was a former member of this team and only recently left due to school commitments. Speed Gaming comes into the tournament with strong performances as of late, but the competition at MLG Columbus will be a marked step up from what they have been facing recently.
Sockshka, FATA-, miGGel, 7ckngMad, paS
This spot was originally reserved for the winner of the MLG Fall Invitational, Team Dignitas. However, Dignitas recently disbanded and will be replaced by Sigma in Columbus. Sigma has fared better since the new patch came out, but it will be an uphill battle trying to take down the juggernauts like Alliance and Na'vi that they will encounter in this tournament. Still, they will hope to build off of recent wins over Evil Geniuses and Fnatic, and will look to continue to impress as they face off against the other heavy hitters in the round-robin stage.
Pretty Boy Swag
Sleisel, RyuUboruZ, Cak3z, Jubei, ima_sheep(sux)
Pretty Boy Swag won the open qualifier to earn their spot in the Major League Gaming Championship. The team is made up of players from North American inhouse leagues, and is not a very well known team in the international competitive scene. Formerly known as Typical Mistakes, this roster experienced success at MLG’s previous event, barely losing in the finals of the Fall Invitational at Full Sail in a very close series against Team Dignitas. Pretty Boy Swag heads to Columbus as monumental underdogs, and every match this event will be one that they have to fight tooth and nail through.
Key Strategies to Watch
Prevalence of Push Strategies
With the new patch comes a huge amount of minor balance changes that combine to form the new metagame. Since there were so many changes in this patch, it is taking longer for teams to figure out exactly how to draft and how to play in 6.79. Keep an eye on push strats. Pushing towers is a part of every game, but it’s possible we will see more of the dedicated push strat this weekend, with heroes like Death Prophet in a farming position.
Transition from Trilanes
In the time since 6.79 was released, more and more teams have been experimenting with dual lanes and other creative lane orientations. For so long, competitive Dota 2 has been dominated by the trilane, or some variation of the 3-1-1 formation. It will be interesting to see how much that archetype is challenged with all of the changes to the jungle and lane equilibrium.
And, of course, the impact of the heroes that are new to Captain’s Mode will be explored and exploited. Elder Titan became an immediate early pick or ban with his addition to Captain's Mode (which we're going to largely credit to Liquid's Bulba). Medusa, however, has only very recently started to shine competitive play. We will certainly be in for at least a few surprises this weekend, as the elite Dota 2 players of the world are always looking to exploit new heroes, or to use old heroes in new ways.
Professional Player Predictions
onGamers had the opportunity to ask professional Dota players what three teams they were expecting to shine this weekend.