It’s Dota 2 time: Y‘all should watch The International

The biggest competition in all of e-sports is about to kick off in earnest: the Dota 2 International 2017 starts on Monday. Sixteen teams will compete in Seattle’s KeyArena for a prize pool of more than $23 million, with the winning team alone picking up more than $10 million.

For reasons that aren’t remotely clear to me, there are still a few people out there who don’t play this free-to-play gaming masterpiece. Sure, you’ll have to sink a breezy few hundred hours into the five-on-five action real-time strategy game to really have a good grasp of it, but it’s the most richly rewarding (and occasionally frustrating) gaming experience in the world.

Dota 2 has a large professional competitive scene, driven by several million-dollar tournaments over the year, and Valve’s The International is the biggest of them all—the highlight of the Dota 2 calendar. The group stage is already underway, with the main event starting in front of a live Seattle crowd on Monday, August 7th at 10am PT. (You can track the progress at the Flying Courier.)

Every game will be streamed live via Twitch, making this the perfect opportunity to see the game played at the highest level.

To make more approachable a game that can be, well, a little intractable, Valve will broadcast a “newcomer stream” that should be more understandable to a general audience than the main, jargon-loaded streams. Valve’s first newcomer stream debuted at the TI three years ago. While the main streams assume a good level of game knowledge, in that original newcomer stream the casters took time to describe the basics of the game and its variety of characters and items. For reasons that are poorly understood, the company has never really replicated that experience, as valuable as it was to casual viewers and those taking a first look at the game. This year, Valve says that its newcomer stream will enhance the standard broadcast with “contextual overlays” to help viewers understand what’s going on. For those wanting more background, Polygon has a comprehensive primer.

Who are the teams to watch? Last year’s winning team, Wings, fell apart, so they won’t be there to defend their title. Home crowd favorites Evil Geniuses will be looking to take their second title—they also won in 2015—and have looked strong but far from unbeatable so far in the group stage. Chinese team LGD Forever Young is, at the time of writing, unbeaten in the groups and looking utterly dominant. Their stablemates, LGD, have also looked impressive. Russian teams, of which there are two—Virtus Pro and Team Empire—have a reputation for early aggression but have only looked middling so far. European powerhouse OG has also looked weaker than expected, though the other big European team, Liquid, has performed well.

Overall, the field is looking wide open, with probably eight of the teams credible contenders. LFY could carry their group stage momentum into the main event, but on the big stage, with the roar of the crowd, the elaborate KeyArena staging, and the pressure of elimination matches, any team could step up and make it.

 

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