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The Highlights Of Dota 2's International 2016 Group Stage

The Highlights Of Dota 2's International 2016 Group Stage
After four days of intense Dota 2 action we are finally ready to head into the main event of The International 2016. Two teams bowed out on the first day, thanks to the brutal wildcard tournament, while the rest of the field went on to fight for that precious upper bracket berth over the next three days. The group stage was full of surprises, with a few former The International winners finding themselves in the lower bracket, along with a handful of teams many expected to be challenging for first place come August 13. Overall we saw 124 games of Dota 2, some ended in just a few minutes while many went well past the hour mark. There was absolute stomps and back and forth epics with more than a few throws, and an unbelievable amount of heroes being picked. Already this has been one of the best Internationals yet, and the main event hasn’t even started. Just in case you missed the group stage, or need a recap after a few days off, we have gathered all of the highlights, from unbelievable individual plays through to the most intense series, along with a few quick predictions on what to expect in the coming days.

OG’s MoonMeander steals a gem

Keeping a gem away from your opponents when there is a Riki on your team is always a big deal, no matter what level you play at. Without being able to use his invisibility effectively Riki becomes close to useless, and OG’s offlaner David "MoonMeander" Tan realised this when playing against Alliance. While the play didn't turn the game significantly, it is easily the most daring and unique play of the event so far. While on the subject of OG, their series against LGD is easily one the best from the group stages. We saw unexpected heroes, multiple racks being taken and major net worth swings, making it one of OG’s toughest challenges in what was a fairly straight forward group stage for the two time Major winners. After this LGD seems to falter a little, finding themselves in the lower bracket and due to face off against Team Secret.

Alliance deciding team fight against Evil Geniuses...

Alliance are in another highlight clip (which seems to be a recurring theme), this time playing against Evil Geniuses. With more than an hour on the clock it looks like a team fight has finally decided the game, until some excellent stalling tactics and some amazing RNG turn things around for an unlikely victory, all of which is made better by LD’s now iconic hype. This was an unfortunate loss for EG, who ended up surprising everyone by being one of the most consistent teams, despite their recent roster changes. They all looked on the same page throughout and managed to take second in group A, securing an upper bracket birth and re–establishing themselves as potential title contenders. Evil Geniuses' first match against TNC, who also surprisingly secured a upper bracket place, is also worth a watch should you have time.

Mega comeback with mega creeps

Coming back from mega creeps is a rare occurrence in Dota 2, and while this game only had megas active for a few seconds it does technically count as a mega creep comeback. Alliance (again) were playing up against Escape Gaming, who came second in the wildcard earlier in the week to book their slot in the group, and managed to take down all the racks before Escape picked off a few key heroes and went straight for the base. Unfortunately this would be one of only two wins for Escape, but if you are only going to win a couple, you may as well do it in style. Of course two wins is not good enough for an upper bracket slot so SyndereN and the rest of Escape will have to play Fnatic in the perilous best of ones. Alliance on the other hand did sneak into the upper bracket, booking a date with surprise of the tournament EHOME, who won the wildcard event. EHOME looked like one of the strongest teams in the entire tournament, winning group B and only dropping two games. Their performances have all been excellent, although this play from LaNm was easily the highlight of their group stage, as he has no right to even try this, let alone pull it off and survive...

Liquid’s meltdown

Arguably the most unexpected outcome of the group stage was the dismal performance from Team Liquid. Often mentioned as potential winners for the entire thing, Liquid failed to show up in the groups, ending second from bottom and in the lower bracket. It really is hard to pick out a highlight for Liquid, as they looked like a lower tier team and not the two time Major finalists that we know. Their lower bracket match against NaVi is sure to break many hearts, as one fan favourite is guaranteed last place. If you must get your Liquid fix their series against Team Secret, who were also disappointing, is probably the best.

What to expect from The International's main event...

So we now know that OG, MVP Phoenix, Digital Chaos, Wings Gaming, EHOME, Alliance, Evil Geniuses and Newbee will all be in the upper bracket, while TNC Gaming, Vici Gaming Reborn, Team Secret, LGD Gaming, Fnatic, Escape Gaming, Natus Vincere and Team Liquid will all be in the lower bracket. As we have seen before, being in the lower bracket is far from the end of any The International dreams, but it certainly makes life harder. The NaVi vs Liquid match is a must watch, while Team Secret vs LGD should also have some fireworks. In the upper bracket the battle of the last two The International winners between EG and Newbee should be entertaining, as should DC vs Wings, both teams with a lot of potential that have been hit and miss throughout the tournament so far. That being said, this play from DC’s Resolut1on is worthy of winning any International. Looking further ahead to the final day it is difficult to see OG not featuring in some way. Their play so far has been excellent and their path, providing they win against MVP, looks relatively simple, although a potential match against EHOME could be interesting. EG have a real chance at being the first ever two time The International champions based on their performance so far, but still have a long way to go, while EHOME could be the first wildcard team to win TI, going one better than CDEC last year. Of course don’t count out a lower bracket run from Liquid, although they will have had to have worked hard - or devised some incredible strategies - over the weekend. Finally while we all wish that the Synderella story would end with a victory at The International it looks unlikely to say the least. For us OG, EG and EHOME look like the safest predictions for top three, although Newbee aren't far behind any of them.