A few days prior to the beginning of The International 8 group stage, Team Liquid’s Dota 2 writers put out an article that ranked the 18 participating teams in order of their projected results. The article in question was entitled “The International 8 Power Rank”, and was very similar to power rank articles seen in major traditional sports publications.
The writers put European squad OG in last place, ranking even lower than International first-timers Team Serenity. Their reasoning: OG had just lost two of their best players in the form of Gustav “s4” Magnusson and Tal “Fly” Aizik, both of whom jumped ship over to Evil Geniuses after the China Supermajor. In addition, the only team that OG managed to defeat in the period between the EU qualifiers and TI8 was Immortals—a squad that wasn’t even in the running at the event itself.
Needless to say, expectations were rock bottom for OG. They had barely cobbled together a last-minute roster just in time for TI, and morale was at an all-time low due to the departure of their marquee players. Moreover, the metagame favored stronger, more harmonized teams on paper.
To hit the ground running
The metagame at TI8 was all about the laning phase. Brought about by the change that made creep denies give 25 percent of the total experience bounty to the denying team, drafts that were good at controlling the lanes and scoring more creep kills than the enemy team shined at the tournament.
It was the return of the classic 2-1-2 strategy from the early days of DotA, after a long era of games dominated by trilanes, roaming position 4s, and solo offlaners. The nerfs to neutral creeps in the jungle, as well as the removal of Poor Man’s Shield and Iron Talon in Patch 7.07, paved the way back towards dual lane setups. In fact, solo offlane disappeared entirely as a result, as teams could simply deny every creep to leave the offlaner at a severe and crippling level disadvantage. Dark Seer, the quintessential solo offlane hero, was arguably affected by this the most; he went completely unpicked at TI8.
But the true focal point of the metagame was creep denies—no doubt about it. Teams that could box their lane opponents out effectively would be able to contest creep kills, and with enough denies they would secure themselves a heavy experience advantage over the other side. This often led to situations where one team would snowball out of control, leaving their opponents underleveled and thus underpowered. For all intents and purposes, losing the laning stage meant losing the game entirely.
Thwarting the trend
Despite all this, though, the OG practically spat in the face of the metagame, particularly in the grand finals where they faced off against Dota Pro Circuit third placers PSG-LGD Gaming. After taking the first game of the championship series, OG gave up the next two, placing themselves with their backs against the wall. They went on to win the last two games, even after being down significantly in terms of net worth in both.
How did they do it in a metagame where comebacks were supposed to be rare? Being at a deficit in the early game was supposed to spell doom for them, and yet they came back huge in games 4 and 5 anyway. By and large, the reason that they were able to pulloff the impossible (and as several Dota 2 personalities and community figureheads called, “unbelievable”) was due to their sheer determination, grit, and of course the massive clutch performances from their players.
Hard carry player Anathan “ana” Pham in particular came up huge in games 4 and 5, piloting Phantom Lancer and Ember Spirit respectively. He pulled off some of the biggest plays in TI history, showing both PSG-LGD and the fans in Rogers Arena just how badly he and the rest of OG wanted to win the title. In spite of PSG-LGD being the much better team on paper and in the laning phase, OG simply refused to back down—and were rewarded with $11 million and the Aegis of Champions for it. Their miraculous run with a roster that was completed just before the open qualifiers is definitely one of the best stories in esports history, and it contributed massively to the success of TI8.
OG proved exactly why, after eight years of continuous development, Dota 2 still doesn’t have a surrender or concede option—unlike competing titles such as Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends. In Dota 2, there is always a way to come back after a deficit—metagame be damned. OG’s run also proved just how much of professional Dota 2 is tied to mental fortitude, which they had plenty of throughout the entire tournament. PSG-LGD, on the other hand, seemed to crumble under the weight of the expectations they and the community had placed on themselves as one of the strongest teams at the event. And it showed, with just how much of the late game they let slip past them in the grand finals.
In that sense, OG “defied” the metagame in their own way. Whereas past champions such as Wings Gaming would disregard the meta by drafting unorthodox lineups, OG simply kicked the door down and laughed in the face of impending defeat. It was a beautiful spectacle in every sense, and we have them and their incredible resolve to thank for it.
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