Though there have been a few premiere events since the Shanghai Major—Epicenter and ESL One Manila to name a few—the Manila Major will be the most significant event before The International. The event will punctuate the progression of 6.87’s meta and will preview what we can expect for the upcoming TI, as all rosters are locked. Sixteen teams will compete for a share of the $3 million dollar prize pool, while securing an invite to what may be the largest prize pool ever at the next TI.
Group B: The Group of Near-Death
Group A is the actual group of death, with both Newbee and OG among the strongest teams of the tournament. But Group B will be the one to watch with its web of storylines. DC has had an impressive run lately, defeating fellow Manila Major attendant compLexity across 4 series in the past 3 days. CompLexity will have some time to recover from their losses, as Secret, DC, Na’Vi, and Wings Gaming fight in Group B. Though today’s Natus Vincere is no longer the collective fan favorite from TI1, Dendi still remains one of the most beloved players in Dota. Na`Vi last week had a strong, 2nd place finish at DreamLeague, and at the Manila Major they might be facing their ex-captain, Puppey of Team Secret. Meanwhile, the wings gaming, as the lone Eastern team, can lay back, and though they’re the favorites to win the group–off the momentum of their 1st place finish at ESL One Manila and their recent streak of strong online performances–it won’t be an easy path.
Validating The Shanghai Shuffle
Roster shuffles, the movement of players between teams, usually follow premier tournaments, and the Shanghai Shuffle was the latest and most critical, as it locks in the final roster for both The Manila Major and The International. One of the highest profile changes was Team Secret dropping two of its players, w33 and Misery, after their win at the Shanghai Major. It was met with community backlash and some criticism from their fellow pros.
This storyline sets up the possible revenge matchup of Team Secret vs. Digital Chaos in Group B. Digital Chaos signed ex-Secret members, w33 and Misery, and this will be their first match since the shuffle. Team Secret has been stumbling lately, with struggles during Epicenter and ESL One Manila, but a successful run at the Manila Major can justify their roster shuffle. Even though they’re not the favorites entering in the tournament, a team led by Puppey is not one to quickly discount. Don’t forget they had lost four straight LANs before winning the Shanghai Major.
Consistency Over Change
Meanwhile, teams like compLexity Gaming, Team Liquid, OG, Alliance, and Fnatic have opted for consistency, locking in their rosters without any changes after the Shanghai Major. Alliance will enter Manila with the same roster they won TI3 in 2013. OG and Liquid will have two of the longest, consistent rosters since they formed in October last year. They’re in the minority.
The scheduling of the Majors and its roster locks compel teams to make changes, at a point when they’re reeling from losses and forced to look ahead. Teams who choose to keep their rosters are choosing to build inward than outward. It’s a sign of an organization’s confidence in their players, and the idea that stability and chemistry trumps other avenues of improvement.
The Advent Of Coaching In The West
Coaching is not a new concept to Dota, though its acceptance in the West has lagged behind its sister Esports. Chinese teams have had coaches since the early days of professional Dota, but coaches for Western teams are a recent development. Team Secret was one of the first organizations to hire a coach for a more permanent role in 1437, and other Western teams have followed suit, with new hires for the Manila Major: Blitz for Team Liquid, syndereN for Alliance, 7ckingmad for OG, SVG for EG and Pajkatt for DC.
For the most part, coaches used to be temporary hires for The International, offering another set of eyes to track the glut of simultaneous games during the group stages. But the advance hires of these coaches months before The International suggests using a coach in the traditional sense: self improvement. A coach can offer an outsider’s perspective and an objective assessment of mistakes that has some distance from players’ views, which can be influenced by grievances and recriminations. Finger pointing between teammates can be productive, but a coach can smooth the process.
With the influx of money into the Dota scene, coaching becomes more of a viable career path for Dota players and casters. Ukranian caster v1lat recently talked about how coaches could easily make as much or more than talent. The value of the position was particularly highlighted at the Shanghai Major, where the top 2 teams, Secret and Liquid, both had coaches.
The structure of coaching is well-embedded into every other humanly sport, and it’s surprising it has taken this long for more teams to adopt the concept. Dota is as much skill as it is strategy, and a good coach can help improve both. Coached teams will be more prepared for drafting and in-game strategy, increasing the quality of Dota not only for the Manila Major, but into The International.