On a day of competitive Dota 2 that put the long-term legacy of high profile teams in jeopardy, young squads put on some surprisingly strong performances.
Day one of TI6 started in the upper bracket with European team OG clashing with Korean squad MVP in a match the Euro squad were widely expected to win. OG had been the odds-on favorite to take it all at TI6, winning two of Valve’s "Majors" this year and dominating the competitive scene. However, The young Korean squad shocked the arena to take the set in a 2-1 win that saw fantastic, entertaining play from both sides. In the end, OG’s controlled play style anchored by the virtuosic play of carry Amer "Miracle" Al-Barkawi, the first Dota 2 player to reach a matchmaking rating of "9K," wasn’t enough to counter the wild, chaotic strategies of MVP. OG will continue later this week in the lower bracket.
The day continued as North American squad DC took on the Chinese team Wings. Wings and DC were both surprise showings in TI6’s upper bracket — both have showed promise this year, particularly Wings, with a commanding performance at the most recent Summit competition, but were not expected to show as well as they have. Wings took the set 2-1, though the competition was more lopsided than it would appear, with a bizarre "pocket strat" draft by Wings in game two. The Chinese team selected an unconventional lineup including fan-favorite Pudge and the much maligned Techies, which elicited good-natured trash talk from DC as the game got underway. Wings lost game two decisively, but came back to win game three, sending DC to the lower bracket.
Next, the real moments of truth began as a series of four single-elimination matches got underway. Chinese squad ViCi Gaming Reborn took on Philippines-based TNC, who managed to play their way through open qualifiers in the Southeast Asia regional competition to make it to TI. VGR were considered minor favorites in the matchup, with fan-favorite Xu Linsen — known by his handle "Fy" — providing a source of valuable experience and guidance to the team. But TNC pulled out a win after a tense early matchup, sending VGR home and securing TNC’s place moving forward.
Chinese team LGD next faced off against EU squad Team Secret. Secret has been dogged by controversy and personnel changes that have accompanied surprisingly lackluster performances for the "all-star" squad. After last minute team changes after TI6’s roster lock date, Secret were disqualified from receiving a direct invitation to the tournament and were forced to play through the EU regional qualifiers. The team dominated there, but struggled in the group stages, resulting in their placement in single-elimination. LGD pressured Secret aggressively in the early game, and despite amazing support play from Johan "pieliedie" Åström and carry player Artour "Arteezy" Babaev, Secret lost the 70 minute game and were eliminated from the competition.
EU squad Fnatic turned in one of the faster wins of the day against wildcard winners Escape Gaming next, and the day concluded with one of the most anticipated matches of the day, as the original International champions Na’Vi faced EU/CIS team Liquid in single elimination. Na’Vi have one of the most passionate fanbases in professional Dota 2, anchored by Danil "Dendi" Ishutin, a personality universally beloved in the game’s scene. Meanwhile, Liquid were considered to be heavy favorites for at least a top-two finish along with fellow EU team OG, but have had difficulty in the group stage, placing near the bottom of their group. But Liquid quickly gained a convincing lead, and a desperate-seeming Na’Vi made misplay after misplay, ultimately conceding after 35 minutes. Many fans in the audience were audibly heartbroken as the Ukrainian team walked away from the main stage, eliminated from the tournament.
The 2016 International Dota 2 Championships continue today as several former International champions battle it out to stay in the upper bracket. You can find more information about how to watch The International 2016 here, and you can learn more about watching Dota 2 as a normal, not-obsessed person with our guide.
Correction: This article originally stated that Na'Vi was eliminated by Chinese team LGD and has been corrected.