The game is Dota 2, and the tournament is known as The International, a name that conveys the sort of respectability to which esports aspire. This year will mark the eighth International. Hosted by Dota 2’s developer, Valve, The International has grown in stature at a remarkable rate since its inception. The first International was held in a hall at Gamescom with a grand prize of $1 million, but this year, the eighth installment of the spectacle will fill Vancouver’s Rogers Arena — instead of the usual venue of KeyArena in Seattle — as teams fight for a prize pool totaling almost $25 million.
Wednesday, Aug. 15, through Saturday, Aug. 18: Group stage, starts at 9 a.m. PST
This year’s tournament changed format from previous Internationals, with teams qualifying for the main event through the Dota Pro Circuit tournaments played during the last year. The top eight teams qualified automatically for the International. Ten more teams received enough qualifying points to make it to the tournament as well.
At the start of the International, all 18 teams compete in round robin play to decide bracket seeding. The teams are split into two groups, with each team playing every other team in its group twice. The top four teams in each group advance to the upper bracket, while the fifth through ninth teams in each proceed to the lower bracket. The bottom team from each group is eliminated.
Monday, Aug. 20, through Saturday, August 25: The main event, starts 10 a.m. PST
The International proper is a double elimination tournament (teams that lose in the upper bracket are knocked down to the lower bracket, in which another loss means elimination.) Nearly all series will be best-of-three, with the only exceptions being the first lower bracket matches (best-of-one) and the grand finals (best-of-five).
Eager to ensnare the widest audience possible, Valve is providing many ways to watch the tournament (most of which are free!) There will be a number of streams available in different languages, each featuring different broadcasters commenting on the game. New players may find it helpful to watch the “Newcomer Stream,” a stream focused on walking viewers through the basics of the game and what is occurring during each match.
Dota 2 is free-to-play, and that includes all the gameplay features available, including the ability to spectate games and watch replays. Dota’s spectator mode is also robust, probably one of the nicest of any video game. One can watch the game from the perspective of any broadcaster or players, or simply control the camera themselves. Spectator mode also provides real-time graphs and stats, allowing viewers to analyze the game as it progresses.
YouTube or Twitch
Maybe you don’t want to install the game to watch it — perhaps you simply want to watch it on your smart TV. Regardless of why you might be unable or unwilling to watch in-game, Valve has you covered. All the games will be streaming for free on their official Youtube and Twitch channels.
If you miss a game and want to see how it played out, Valve will provide replays both in-game and on the company’s official website. The replays also allow you to pause and rewind.
Go to a pubstomp
Like classic sports, esports are just a bit more fun to watch with a pint in hand, surrounded by cheering friends. Thanks to some enterprising bar owners, you can get that experience while watching TI5. The International’s website has a list of pubs that will be showing the tournament, making it easy to search for locations in your area.
A long-running esports organization that competes in a number of games, Team Liquid managed to fight its way through 2017’s The International despite things looking dire at the start of the tournament. After its first main stage bout, Team Liquid found itself knocked down to the single elimination lower bracket. It clawed its way back with five straight wins, fighting through the lower bracket to emerge into the finals against a long-running rival: Chinese team Newbee. Despite a dominant run in the tournament, Newbee couldn’t handle its resurgent opponents, and Team Liquid became the champion of last year’s TI7. This year, Team Liquid is the defending champion, which paints a massive target on its back — especially because Newbee is back this year, as well.
Newbee took the championship spot in 2014, but struggled after some bad breaks and a tough TI5. Things were tough for a few years, until Newbee adjusted its roster and came back with a vengeance in the 2017 tournament win. “Vengeance” is a defining theme for Newbee this year, as well. The team was a powerful force in the TI7 tournament, blasting its way through the upper bracket, until it came up against Team Liquid in the finals. Newbee had struggled against Team Liquid for a while — it hasn’t beaten its rival since 2016 — and Team Liquid proved to be too much in The International as well. Newbee took second in 2017, but maintained its full team from last year and is out for revenge in in TI8.
Virtus.pro struggled in its early years of Dota 2 play, even dropping out of the game on two different occasions, but formed a new five-player team in 2016 to become something more. The Russian team has been incredibly dominant in the run-up to TI8, winning much more than any other team in the Dota Pro Circuit tournaments throughout the year. In fact, Virtus.pro has been such a force in the DCP that it garnered more than twice the qualifying points of the next best team, Team Liquid (last year’s winner of The International), and has taken home nearly $1 million more in winnings, as well. The team has been on a roll since adding RodjER, who competed in TI7 for Team Empire, in February, winning the ESL One Kowtice in February, the Bucharest Major in March, and ESL One Birmingham in May. Notably, they placed second in the China Dota2 Supermajor in June — a loss to Team Liquid, creating an interesting dynamic for a rematch at TI8.
Dota is a complex and sometimes confusing game, particularly for new viewers. If you want to familiarize yourself with the game a bit before watching the tournament, there are many resources available.
The Dota 2 website has a breakdown of all the characters in the game, their roles, and their abilities. Readers can also find information on other aspects of the game such as items, updates, and top plays.
Team Liquid is one of the most prolific organizations in esports, and a large part of that is its community engagement. At the forefront of this is its Liquipedia network is a series of wikis covering different esports and their professional scenes. LiquidDota is a great resource for learning about professional teams and players, as well as the game itself.
The Dota 2 subreddit has been one of the major community hubs since the game was first announced. It provides links to numerous guides, streams, and informative discussions. The only downside is that you might have to wade through a dank bog of memes.
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