theWonderCow, December 5, 2016

What to expect from the Boston Major Main Event

Single elimination is an unprecedented tournament format for a Dota Major, and for good reason. With a GSL-style format, like the Boston Major has, teams have extremely limited access to opponents, which in turn restricts a team’s adaptability. The Boston Major may be the single most difficult Dota event to preview in the history of the game.

Few teams in Boston have played many top-tier games outside of their regions between The International and now, and those who have haven’t gotten a strong indication of what each opponent will bring to the table from such rich metagame options.

The group stage saw a few trends, including upsets: Warriors Gaming Unity over reigning International champion Wings, Complexity over Evil Geniuses (twice), and Ad Finem over EHOME. That said, it’s very difficult to ascertain if any or all of these teams are playing their best in these group stages. In past events, a top seed would not only secure a favorable round-one match-up, but all-but guarantee a top-eight finish. At Boston, taking top seed gets you a random bottom-seed from another group with no choice and no bracket advantage. Thus is the nature of single-elimination.

With all that said, here’s what we can expect from the Main Etage, which starts on Wednesday.

First off: expect more diversity as teams try to break out cheesier, less counterable options in their gambit of elimination matches. 26 heroes went unpicked in the group stage, including some I’d be very surprised to see passed up entirely. OG used to regularly run N0tail’s mid Meepo, usually in game one of a series, in an attempt to grab a quick 1-0 advantage. Several teams have given Huskar high-priority bans due to his power as a last pick, but he’s only been banned once so far at this event. With regular play for Io, it’s possible the as-yet unseen Tiny will get some field time as well.

Looking at the brackets, here’s what you need to know about the teams.

Virtus.pro vs iG Vitality

Virtus.pro: Just won The Summit 6 and still looking extremely strong. They have what would be considered an easy first round against iG Vitality, but arguably the most difficult second round of the tournament. VP, Evil Geniuses, and Wings would be three teams expected to place in the top four, but the bracket design will force two of them out before semifinals.

iG Vitality: iG Vitality took a game against OG to open the day, but haven’t won a series yet this tournament. They are also using two stand-ins (Burning and Q). Even though those are stand-ins with tremendous experience and skill, their communication and execution has not seemed on par with top teams at this event. They also have the most difficult road to a Boston win of any team, making it unlikely that we’ll see them advance far.

Evil Geniuses vs Wings Gaming

Evil Geniuses: Did not look as dominant in the group stages as they normally do, but this is a team that regularly rebounds from lower brackets. Their matches against Complexity are a must-watch and included record-breaking, jaw-dropping execution from both teams. EG look strong to overcome Wings, but an aggressive team like Virtus.pro would be difficult for them.

Wings Gaming: This is still one of the strongest teams in the world, but they are playing against the tide of research from every opponent. In addition, although I would never doubt their work ethic, their execution has slid somewhat in the time since The International. That lands them still easily a top five team in the world, but due to the single-elimination bracket they would need to basically take four grand-final quality matches in a row to win.

The must-watch match of this arm appears to be Evil Geniuses vs Wings Gaming.

Complexity vs WG Unity

Complexity: Wildly overperformed expectations during the group stage and have continued to excel with a fairly unique hero kit including Leshrac priority. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen them face many styles of play at this event. OG/MVP Phoenix both play very differently than EG, the only team they’ve actually beaten so far.

WG Unity: We saw sparks of success for Warriors Gaming Unity to open the group stage, but they seemed to slide apart as other teams warmed up into the day. They’ve already taken a win from Wings and will be guaranteed a prize pool equivalent to their lifetime earnings to date, meaning they also have less pressure to succeed. Perhaps that lack of pressure will allow them to play creatively in a way that catches a few teams off-guard. We’ll see.

OG vs MVP Phoenix

OG: OG look very strong, taking mostly sub-30 minute wins during the group stage and drafting a lot of Luna/Shadow Demon/Dragon Knight push strategies. Historically, Fly has had one alternative strategy ready to deploy at major events, so if bans or counters threaten OG then expect a change of pace (possibly into an Io-based strategy or Meepo cheese). Either way, they also have a decently open bracket and should be happy facing MVP Phoenix for the first time since the latter surprisingly defeated them at The International 6.

MVP Phoenix: This team just isn’t all together. Much of its talent was poached by Team Secret after The International, and even with the late return of star offlaner Forev, they have not been executing together. Their signature aggressive style was styled on by Newbee and generally unthreatening to Team NP, and to end the day MVP Phoenix won the second-fewest games in the group stage of any team at Boston. Anything can happen in single-elimination, but MVP Phoenix simply look unprepared for the caliber of opponent here.

Watch some of Complexity’s games for a read on their consistency. Check Trackdota regularly during these matches, because if they go as expected you won’t necessarily need to watch them, but if they become upsets it fundamentally changes the narrative and bracket.

Digital Chaos vs Team Faceless

Digital Chaos: North America’s likely number-two team played very well during the group stage and has continued to be on-point since The International through the fall’s events. That’s a good sign. They’re also one of the few teams remaining in the world that has their carry, Resolution, take higher farm priority than their mid. That is a dying breed of strategy as trilanes become an increasingly distant memory and kills are made extremely profitable early and mid-game goals. One issue that plagued DC during TI6 (and arguably cost them the finals against Wings) was a small draft pool. That seems to continue to be an issue for them here, as they had the third-fewest heroes played in the group stages. However, they could simply be holding onto new picks for the main event.

Team Faceless: This feels like a team with promise that hasn’t yet had time to fully explore. Black is fresh from a long period of injury in which he worked as a commentator. Many of the players on this team have limited competitive experience and the team hasn’t had much of a chance to play outside of their region, SEA, which is easily the weakest in the world. With weak opponents, Faceless is going to have difficulty progressing outside of LAN events. Watch Faceless carefully for improvement over the course of this event, but it’s unlikely that they topple DC in their first round.

EHOME vs Team NP

EHOME: Another Chinese team with two stand-ins (End and DDC) in a similar position to iG.V. Fortunately for EHOME, they were a stronger team prior to the substitution, giving them more room for error. They’ve looked much crisper overall, even though they did drop an unexpected series against Ad Finem.

It’s difficult to judge EHOME because they’ve only played Ad Finem and iG.V, two of the weaker and less experienced teams in this pool. They dropped in total just short of half their group stage games against these two teams, so either both Ad Finem and iG.V are stronger than expected or EHOME is about to have difficulty against other groups.

Team NP: The first major outing for North America’s newest sweetheart, Team NP has said that they will stick together and continue to improve regardless of Boston’s result. That’s good; the team has had only a few months and a couple events to come together, with several of them coming off of long periods coaching or playing for sub-pro teams. Team NP is heavily reliant on offlaner MSS for initiation, and a bad game from him will usually mean a loss for the team. That’s a vulnerable linchpin of success for a team otherwise looking fairly strong. EHOME could be a tough opponents (like I said in their section, it’s difficult to compare across groups) and Digital Chaos would be an almost guaranteed loss. 

Watch all of these games if you can, but definitely watch EHOME vs Team NP. That will help you understand the relative strengths of both those groups.

Ad Finem vs NewBee

Ad Finem: The Greeks did take a surprise win already this tournament, but they look like unlikely opponents to topple Newbee. That said, they’re in a similar position to WGU, and with less pressure often comes better performances. Also, Newbee is going to know much less about Ad Finem than the reverse, giving this team a small edge in an otherwise-difficult round-one match.

NewBee: Newbee look very strong. They took four Chinese tournaments/qualifiers in a row leading into Boston (each ending in November) and really only struggle with Wings from their own region. They struggled against the aggression of VP, implying that they may also struggle against OG and Complexity in a later match-up, but ended the group stage with one of the top average GPMs of the attending teams.
They also have arguably the easiest bracket: Ad Finem are relatively inexperienced and Newbee has regularly dominated Chinese opponents such as LGD and LGD.FY. Assuming nothing changes, that already gets them to the semifinals.

LGD vs LGD.Forever Young

LGD: LGD didn’t earn a seat at Boston, but were invited due to visa issues for Execration. They’ve clearly improved drastically over the last few months, but they also only played Faceless and Complexity. Complexity looked very strong, but they were also largely facing a known opponent, so LGD may have simply caught them with their pants down. Faceless are still a developing team. LGD will probably beat LFY in their first round, but if they face Newbee in the round of eight… that’ll be a heck of a series.

LGD.Forever Young: LFY played only 15 heroes in the group stage. They didn’t win a single game, though, so they didn’t have as many drafts in which to boost their hero count. In every metric, this team simply fell apart in the group stages. However, that’s only one side of the story. They had to face Digital Chaos. Then they had to face Wings. They haven’t had a single match against a comparable opponent yet, and LGD might be a more realistic foe.

In this wing, I’d recommend watching LGD vs LGD.FY. These two teams know each other better than any other round-of-16 match, so it should be some really interesting drafting and movement.

theWonderCow

With years in esports publishing, broadcasting, and analysis, Gorgon's specialized focus on locking down trends in Dota has landed him as a featured writer for joinDOTA, the Score, Dotabuff, and more. You can reach him on twitter.com/theWonderCow.