For the first time in the history of the International, we have a team that has broken the curse and won TI twice. Not only that but they won back-to-back and created history
Dota is one of the oldest esports around. Its first form was released all the way back in 2003. It’s gone from a custom mod for Warcraft III made by a few amateurs to one of the biggest esports in the world, with more than $34,000,000 given out at The International 2019.
Throughout its lifespan, we’ve seen Dota explode from just a single game to an entire franchise. Artifact and Underlords were both released by Valve in 2019. As the first multiplayer online battle arena, it’s spawned a new genre with several esports to its name. League of Legends, VainGlory, Smite, and more all owe their origins to Dota.
The International 2019 marked the ninth year of established competitive Dota. It brought with it the largest prize pool esports has ever seen in a brand-new location. The International is finally living up to its name, as this was the first to be hosted outside of North America.
It also set a precedent of who the top teams are for the years to come. Let’s look at the results and see who came out on top at the biggest esports tournament in history.
The main event of TI9 featured crazy upsets and phenomenal play from the best teams in the world, but the biggest upset in Dota history has now struck gold twice. OG, despite having a rough season with a player missing for the majority of it, have once again lifted the Aegis of the Immortal despite being the underdogs.
The International has never been won by the same player twice, but this year, there was a real opportunity for it. Team Liquid was looking in form since adding w33 to the roster and Evil Geniuses looked confident going into the event. Team Secret’s Puppey was pining for a repeat, and two Major victories validated his hopes.
This marked the first time a player has won TI twice, but it doesn’t end there. OG has won the title for two years in a row with the exact same lineup. Ana, Topson, N0tail, Ceb, and JerAx are now the highest paid esport athletes in history, earning a combined $60,000,000 from TIs 8 and 9.
There’s no precedent for that kind of success. Even after OG’s first TI victory, many detractors wrote it off as a fluke. They were extreme underdogs. This year, they were once again expected to fall short. They had a rough season compounded by Ana’s break. Sites had very low odds on OG taking the Aegis again (13.5 on picklebet).
And yet they did it in stunning fashion. Between Ana’s carry Io and JerAx’s phenomenal playmaking on Tiny, OG looked downright unstoppable at the main event.
IceFrog, the lead developer of Dota, is very camera shy. A post-TI congratulatory tweet is usually the only contact he has with Dota fans. This year, he just retweeted his congratulations from last year. The frog is as efficient as he is mysterious.
We should rename this section “Featured Team” as instead of talking about a specific match we are going to talk about Infamous, their impressive run through TI9, and how they stole the hearts of fans worldwide.
South America isn’t exactly a dominant region in Dota. Many fans were upset to learn that SA would once again get a dedicated slot for TI9. The common argument is that Tier 2 European talent is, on average, better than South America’s best, so EU should get an additional slot.
But South Americans are still a massive portion of Dota’s player base. Valve tries to represent all regions at their biggest event of the year. Wouldn’t really be an International if it was just European and Chinese teams, would it?
Infamous was a surprise qualifier, taking down Thunder Predator and paiN Gaming to get to TI9. Expectations were low for them. Many expected them to fall 9th in their group and not even get to play on the main stage.
They shattered those expectations. Hector and Chris Luck are now the hottest core duo in Dota. They eschew the current meta of active fighting in favor of the classic formula; midlaner makes space while the carry farms up. Infamous’ incredible teamfighting made sure that Hector had time to ramp up, and sometimes they’d have won the game without their Position 1.
Watching a Lifestealer farm the jungle sounds boring, but Hector’s “Money over everything” approach was hilarious and inspiring. Seeing him Infest an Ancient camp every minute was a joy every single time, and it helped him maintain one of the highest GPMs of the tournament.
Despite starting out in the lower bracket, they made huge upsets against Keen Gaming and Newbee. They eventually fell to Team Secret, but the 2-0 scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.
The haters won’t have anything to say about SA’s designated slot next year. Here’s hoping that Infamous’ skills uplift their whole region.
OG’s run was full of amazing picks and incredible outplays, but one of their strategies stands above the rest.
Io is a unique hero among MOBAs because his kit is designed all around helping another hero. By Tethering to a core, he can raise their attack speed and tankiness while supplying them with Io’s own regen. He’s traditionally played as a hard support and is often paired with hard-hitting carries that scale with gold rather than experience. His name is commonly believed to stand for “input-output,” referencing his shared healing.
But OG decided that Io could just be the carry instead. Ana opted to take him to the safelane where he’d quickly farm up a Helm of the Dominator. From there, Io would constantly rotate around the map using a Dominated jungle creep and his Spirits to swiftly dispatch foes.
From there, he would go for Aghanim’s Scepter. The item allows Io to constantly spawn Spirits that orbit around him, dealing small but sufficient damage to enemy heroes and creeps. The Spirits constantly respawning meant that he could use them to scout enemies hidden in trees as well as burst someone by teleporting on top of them.
The unusual strategy sounds like a last-ditch attempt to salvage a draft, but Ana went 6-0 in his carry Io games. Teams just looked plain dumbfounded when confronted by it. He even used it in game four of the grand finals. It’s not the first time Io has appeared at the biggest event in esports, but it’s certainly the first time he’s had a gold-per-minute above 400.
Io is considered as a “pro only” hero since he relies heavily on communication and syncing his actions with the carry. However, expect to see tons of him in your matches. People love copying cool and unexpected TI strats, but don’t expect them to have the same skills as Ana.
Ana has ruined pubs for everyone now.
While Team Secret was the favorite going into the event, they weren’t the only team to win two Majors this year. Vici Gaming had a ton of momentum going into TI9. Compare that to EG, who have had a rocky season. They’ve gone blow for blow with Secret one weekend only to lose to a Tier 2 team the next.
EG is known for their diehard fans, and those fans were worried to see EG go against Vici in the group stage. It would be the hardest match for EG, and they weren’t exactly sailing smoothly through groups.
Sites heavily favored Vici, with their victory sitting at 2.15. An EG victory would have more than sextupled a wager though, with a 2:0 win for EG set at 6.2. #BleedBlue fanatics likely jumped at those odds and were heavily rewarded for it.
Game one was an absolute slobberknocker. Both drafts had huge lategame potential and the match lasted over an hour. SumaiL and Arteezy both had their star moments, but a 32,000 net worth Morphling is a tall order even for Vici.
After their first loss, Vici just collapsed. The second game lasted just over half an hour and EG did a great job of changing up the pace. SumaiL’s Leshrac ended with more than 4,500 building damage topped only by Arteezy’s Lifestealer. The dynamic duo ended early with confidence.
Two titles were defended at The International 2019; the first was OG’s. Despite their consistent reputation as underdogs, they managed to claw their way to victory two years in a row. Even the most legendary Dota 2 teams haven’t achieved that much.
The second is The International’s reputation as the biggest event in esports. The series maintains its status as a festival of Dota. A massive prize purse is one thing, but the new hero announcements, cosplay contest, and hilarious skits are proof that TI has a magic all its own. I’m already looking forward to next year’s grand finale, and you should be too.