Whereas previous International tournaments were a year long preparation for pros and anticipation for fans, Valve’s three Dota Major Championships now punctuate various points throughout the year—premier events scattered across the globe. Sixteen of the world’s best Dota teams have converged for the Shanghai Major, the second tournament of the major series. For all Dota fans—the casual to the committed—this will be the first focal event of 2016. There has been MDL, Starladder, and WCA, but none of them reach the kind of prestige and prize pool ($3 million) as Valve sponsored events. It has been four months since the previous major in Frankfurt—where OG claimed the top prize of 1.1 million dollars—enough time for teams to boot camp, scrimmage, and prepare again for one of the largest events of the year.
The event is split into two phases: the group stage and the main event. Following in the trend of the previous The International, no team out of the 16 will be eliminated in the group stage.
In the group stage, teams are split into four groups, with four teams in each. They will play in a double elimination format, with the top two teams advancing into the upper bracket and the bottom two teams advancing into the lower bracket of the main event. This stage takes place from Feb 25-28, with each day featuring a group.
The main event will be a double elimination bracket played over the course of five days, from March 2-6
Being an international event, the Shanghai Major may air at inconvenient times for audiences in other regions. New Yorkers, for instance, will have the Grand Finals begin at 2:00AM in their time. However, the games across the main event and group stages may span over 10 hours in a day, so there should be windows to view games live. The community at r/dota2 has put together a convenient table of schedules and events across various time zones.
Like all Valve-sponsored events, the Shanghai Major will be free to watch in the Dota 2 client. Streams will also be available on Twitch and Steam Broadcasting. You can of course also follow the action via TrackDota if you cannot follow a stream live.
For the past week we have posted two articles about some of the storylines heading into the Shanghai Major. First, kawaiisocks wrote about the ascent of Chinese teams, EHOME and LGD, and their chances at the Shanghai Major. LGD comes into Shanghai as one of the most experienced teams at the event, which can be a key factor when it comes to adapting to the meta and making late game decisions. On the other hand, the legendary team EHOME looks to be the favorite entering Shanghai Major, coming in with momentum from their championship win at the MarsTV Dota League.
Skim wrote about the prospects of familiar Western faces: EG and Alliance. Both TI winners, and both coming into Shanghai Major looking for redemption. EG narrowly missed championship wins, coming in second at MDL and Starladder and third at the Frankfurt Major, while Alliance has reunited their TI3 squad, looking to restart the chemistry that won them their first TI Aegis.
EHOME is peaking at the right moment, but let’s not forget a few other powerhouse teams that can also challenge them. Team Secret may not have had the best recent results, but any team with Puppey is not one to dismiss. Then there’s the defending champions, OG, who streaked through the Loser’s Bracket at the Frankfurt Major to win the event. There has never been back to back championships for any team at a Valve event. OG will have the opportunity to make history.
If TI5 was any indication, anything can happen over the course of a two week long tournament. Few would have predicted that CDEC, a wildcard team, would have destroyed their opponents on the way to their second place finish at TI5. There is scant opportunity for an underdog, like VP, Liquid or compLexity, to perhaps not win the event, but attain an unexpected amount of success.
One of the more striking dynamics of a major event is the way that it accelerates the meta’s evolution. It can be due to underrated tactics that teams finally decide to unveil or just an errant hero pick that gains traction. Some teams will adhere to their predetermined strategies and some teams will adapt, while maintaining their identity. There are strengths in both. CDEC at TI5 was formulaic and predictable, but unstoppable. And EG used the versatility of their players to their advantage. Because of the format, the Majors and The International transform Dota into a two-week endurance sport that’ll require Dota IQ, experience, and confidence for teams to be successful.
Some of the best storylines from a Major are from what happens after. By the end of the event, there will be fifteen teams who failed to meet their expectations of winning the championship. The usual path to reconcile this is either buckle down and work to improve a consistent roster, or blow it up and find new players. The latter has been the usual course of action, leading to what is known as the post-tournament “shuffle” of players. Even championship teams aren’t exempt from the impulse to rearm their rosters.
Because of this regularly scheduled shuffle, every moment through a Major or International becomes a seminal one. Was it this misplay that dissolved this team? Was it this draft pick that pushed that team to replace its captain? The anticipation of post-tournament drama amplifies the meaning of every failure, as if the stakes weren’t already high enough.