Having had it pointed out to me about information I missed about several key players, I've gone back and added in a paragraph or two into Part 3. I've added it here, so feel free to read it if you want a more complete picture of the DotA scene back then.
A History of DotA in 7 parts:
1. From Aeon of Strife to 6.27
2. Violent AOE: The 6.32 Era
3. Fast Push: The 6.37 Era
4. Trilane and the Global Strategy: The 6.41 Era
5. Rise of the Blink Dagger: The 6.43 Era
6. Lessons in Ganking by VP: The 6.48 Era
7. To be continued...
Part 5 - Rise of the Blink Dagger: The 6.43 Era
6.43 was one of the golden eras in the history of DotA. Numerous strategies emerged and many unpopular heroes were introduced into CW. The game's seemingly infinite variation drew more players into the world of DotA.
6.43 fixed many bugs and balance issues that existed in 6.41. At the same time, several important changes were made. These changes made 6.43 into a stable competitive version with one of the most profound and far-reaching effects in the history of DotA.
Between 6.43 and 6.48, none of the versions were stable versions. Their individual influences can be ignored, so I'll put all mention of pre-6.48 competitions under the 6.43 heading.
Happenings in the EU/NA scene
On May 8th, VP (Virtus Pro) was formed from players out of MaGe and DoTa. In the ASUS Spring 2007 Tournament, the LighTofHeaven-led Say Plz defeated VP to become champion. Just like how Michael Jordan had to overcome many difficulties before dominating the NBA, after this defeat VP ruled the DotA world from 6.43 to the 6.48 era.
On June 8th, MYM hosted the MYM Prime Nations #1 tournament with players representing their countries that ran concurrent to MYM PriDe #6. In total, 18 countries attended. China's team was organized by ChinaPanda who took care of players who wanted sign up and play. GL ended up representing China, but due to the bad internet, they were eliminated after one win and one loss. In the final, Russia defeated Denmark to become victor.
Vigoss, shares title of “King of Gankers” with ARS-ART
Another important tournament in June was DreamHack Summer 2007. Using version 6.44, this was the first international-level competition that used -XL mode (three bans for each side). Carrying widespread influence, this tournament drew 33 participating teams. Ultimately, MYM defeated T_T with their own version of the devastating global strategy, swapping out Spectre for the famous MYM Tinker surprisingly not played by Merlini. This is because they introduced an innovation of their own—a jungling Beastmaster by Merlini together with a jungling Furion to quickly reach the all-important Level 6. Beastmaster synergized very well with the lineup providing excellent vision for ganks as well as a creep for a quick teleport from Tinker. T_T would go on to win SK Gaming's sponsorship, and become another powerful and influential team following the steps of MYM and VP.
MYM PriDe #6 turned out to be a cakewalk for the Russians with five Russian teams making the playoffs. The finals were between Say Plz and VP. After a bitter 84min contest, VP emerged victorious. They were on their way of creating their own legend of winning three consecutive MYM PriDe events.
After MYM PriDe #6, the long and drawn out TFL competition finally reached the playoffs. In the first round, SK fought three hard fought battles to defeat VP at their peak. VP got sent to the losers' bracket where they were eliminated by the previously unheard of South Korean dark horse team xDT (Extreme DotA Team). xDT commonly employed heroes that were extremely unpopular at the time like Anti-Mage, Terrorblade and Faceless Void often surprising the opponent. In the finals of the TFL, SK got their revenge for Dreamhack Summer by defeating MYM to claim victory. TFL was the only tournament during the 6.43 era that VP did not win.
ARS-ART with the cold, emotion-less eyes of an assassin
shares title of “King of Gankers” with Vigoss
On August 24th, ASUS Summer 2007 began. VP went undefeated to take the tournament while Say Plz took 3rd place.
On September 6th, MYM PriDe #7 began. Even though IceFrog had just released 6.48b the day before, this tournament still used 6.43b as the competitive version. MYM first defeated VP in the winners' bracket, but they were then defeated by VP slaughtering their way out of the losers' bracket. It was a fierce, seemingly preordained meeting that was hard to forget.
If MYM PriDe #6 was said to be Vigoss's mainstage, then MYM PriDe #7 was ARS-ART's. He seemed to be naturally endowed with instincts of an assassin and filled to the core with a desire for aggression. He attained an acme of perfection with heroes like Nerubian Assassin, Gondar and Pudge. Without a doubt, his and Vigoss's performances both deserved the title “King of Gankers”. At the time, VP's captain and strategic mastermind Jolie described ARS-ART and Vigoss as thus:
On September 29th, the Garena gaming platform announced the Asian DotA Championships (ADC). This was a big online tournament held over the course of four months with 32 teams from 10 countries in Asia participating.The tournament began with 6.43b and ended with 6.48b. Together with PLU, a livestream was provided online. This was the first DotA competition that provided an online livestream to the Chinese audience.
ARS-ART's (Virtus.Smile) playstyle is very unique, different from any other. His solo-killing ability is simply incomparable, often seizing an opportunity another player would have missed. Even though he is not as good a support player as NS, he can provide many Observer Wards.
Vigoss is our other hero killer. Unlike ARS-ART, Vigoss prefers to gank with his teammates. His reaction speed is simply shocking and he has exceptional powers of prediction. These qualities make him DotA's best ganker. Another positive trait he has is that he never gives up and keeps fighting to the end.
Influential teams and star players:
During the 6.43 era, VP was dominant. Out of five important international competitions DreamHack Summer, ASUS Spring, ASUS Summer, MYM PriDe #6, MYM PriDe #7 and TFL, VP won three while MYM, Say Plz and SK took one apiece. At the time, Say Plz was reaching its twilight and trying to continue on despite its problems. SK had no star players aside from Loda. This led to contests between MYM and VP being the most eagerly anticipated. Their meetings in consecutive MYM Pride tournaments are considered classic matches in the history of DotA.
From left to right: M.Admiration, Jolie, Vigoss
Later on in the group stages of MYM PriDe #7, this team made a huge comeback to defeat VP. Going without even Boots at 42min, Syllabear managed to farm up Radiance. 20min later, they had pushed into VP's base. This made the disconsolate VP type out after GG the two phrases "guis U SO COOL" and "FUCK U". This was the famous Profanity-Gate affair.
After group stages, VP, rB (French team Redbear) and MiZen (Singaporean team formed from Micronology and Zenith) were in a three-way tie, so tiebreakers were played. However, the tiebreaker results didn't solve anything, so they were forced to looking at stats from each game (hero kills/tower kills/barrack kills/number of Aegis). MiZen playing a conservative playstyle and often being in an inferior position was eliminated. It was very tragic, because if their luck was just a tiny bit better, VP's three consecutive MYM Pride wins would have been interrupted.
After the hit0mi-led NA team x6's (Check-Six) fine performance in MYM PriDe #6 that led them to a 3rd place finish, instability in team members cost them their sponsorship. Even though they left their mark on MYM PriDe #7 by claiming 3rd place, NA were no longer the dominant force they were in the 6.32 era.
hit0mi uttering a summons to the underworld before facing LighTofHeaven's Say Plz at MYM PriDe 6
hit0mi has been a core member of NA teams including JMC, x6, coL, tPD and later eMg. Aside from Fear and Merlini, he was the only player from NA to make the aforementioned GotFrag list of Top 10 DotA Players of All Time in 2007. (He is actually from Germany and came to NA for college, but he was awarded honorary NA status on the GotFrag list, so I will continue this tradition). With teams x6 and eMg, he attained 3rd place placings in consecutive MYM PriDes.
He was known for his game sense, grasp of the tempo and strategic mastery. As attested to by a former x6 teammate, he was also known for his leadership and was possessed that special ability of making good players around him even better. As we will see later on, players such as MYM's Maelk also possessed this rare quality. As a result, hit0mi is remembered as one of the famous leaders in the history of DotA.
During the 6.43 era, VP emerged with great splendor drawing the gaze of the whole world. Vigoss and ARS-ART became superstar-level players. One became the #1 DotA player in world between versions 6.43 and 6.48 inclusive; the other became known as the King of Gankers.
ASUS Spring 2007 runners-up VP (Virtus Pro)
From left to right: Vigoss, M.Admiration, Jolie, ARS-ART and NS
VP's popularity also brought acclaim to NS as the world's best support player. Just as how ezy's appearance in the 6.32 era showed DotA players—even the casual ones—the importance of good fundamentals, NS's exquisite ward placement showed everyone the importance of good map vision.
Behind Vigoss and ARS-ART, Jolie only had to worry about the grand strategy and tempo management, which led to him being referred to as VP's metronome. M.Admiration was VP's most stable player. Without a doubt, VP's players were the best even among top players. Together, they succeeded at making VP a legend.
It is often forgotten that VP had not a 5-player roster, but one with six players. The last member was Sahka. He usually played the role of support along with NS and contributed much to VP's dominance during this era.
From left to right: Jolie, Sahka, Vigoss, ARS-ART
At DreamHack Summer early in the 6.43 era, MYM.Merlini was brilliant in his jungling Beastmaster from Level 1 as part of MYM's take on the innovative global strategy. It was a shame that soon after this tournament, Merlini temporarily went back to Taiwan on vacation. After he returned, he wasn't in his old form.
As a replacement for Merlini's Tinker during his vacation, MYM found a new team member in slahser. His individual ability in all aspects of the game and flashy ganks were particularly memorable quickly reaching Star status.
Happenings in the Asian scene
The first important tournament was the Chinese qualifiers held in Beijing on May 15th for WCG Asia competition (ACG) in Singapore. The winner was team GL with Snoy, Stephy, DC, 820 and DiviDust (he changed his name from Tossgirl during the finals in Singapore). The runner-up was Nebula. Later on August 5th in Singapore, ACG Grand Finals, GL lived up to the highest expectations by defeating the Malaysian team Ct (Cybertime). This was a Chinese DotA team's first foray out of China and actually was able to achieve glory. GL's path to the finals received much news coverage in China.
This time, the Chinese qualification competition was organized very poorly. Before the competition, only 30min were allotted per match and hero and tower kills were used to determine the victor. This kind of match regulation caused much commotion. Furthermore, the grouping left people feeling very helpless. There were 4 groups. Group A had 8 teams of which 4 were leading teams of the time: AVNC, IFNT, HTML and GL. However, Group D had merely 2 teams. The omission of replay release after the tournament was also a source for further castigation.
In early June, CDL-I finally entered its late phase and playoffs began. 4 teams were left: GL, Zhanguotianxia, HTML and IFNT. Zhanguotianxia was GL's B-team. Rumour has it that it was a team led by an overseas student (I think it was Tossgirl, but I don't remember too clearly). CDL-I's rules were extremely stringent that even GL's A-team choked at a critical juncture. In the end, IFNT defeated HTML to become victor. IFNT was one of China's best teams at the time. Its talented players were numerous, but they hadn't won a major tournament since then.
GL after winning WCG 2007 ACG tournament from left to right: DiviDust, 820, Stephy, DC, Reporter, Snoy
After CDL on the evening of July 9th, IFNT and GL fought another fierce struggle between two mighty and evenly-matched teams. In a Bo3 on the line was WE's (World Elite) sponsorship to become China's first professional DotA team. The first match, IFNT won. The second had only gone some 20min when the computer of IFNT carry player 2046 playing Queen of Pain restarted, because they couldn't stop the cybercafé from shutting it off. IFNT was forced to play 4v5, eventually losing. The third match, GL relied on 820's incisive Silencer to defeat IFNT winning them WE's sponsorship.
At the time, everyone thought GL had won WE's sponsorship thereby becoming China's first professional DotA team. In ACG 2007 that followed, GL also used WE as their team name. However, Snoy later wrote in his blog that WE had not actually provided any funds to them. So it was that even though GL won the competition, they didn't actually become China's first professional team.
On September 26th in the finals of WGT China 2007 (World Gamemaster Tournament), Longdd's exceptional performance led HTML to defeat IFNT for the victory. PLU provided the livestream for this match. This was the first time that mass media was used to provide a livestream of a DotA event. At the time an advertisement said:
The victory at ACG brought GL to the peak of their popularity and made them indisputably the best team in China. HTML was also very strong during this era. In the CW room in the VS gaming platform, a popular saying was "come try to beat us, GL and HTML players not welcome." In my recollections GL often played standard lineups and crushed teams with mainstream strategies. HTML used weird lineups with a graceful playstyle, which frustrated opponents to no end.
WGT and PLU are making history, and you as a DotA fan are also making history, because the ultimate goal of mass media's publicity and livestream is to attract you fans towards the e-sport. Your IP is the debrillator for the heart of future DotA.
Playing against GL was like reading a Jin Yong novel (popular Hong Kong author who wrote novels about adventures of martial artists)—you felt there was a majestic atmosphere. Playing against HTML was like reading Gu Long (popular Mainland China author of same genre, but who liked to delve more into the psychology of his strange characters)—you felt befuddled by strange and peculiar sights. HTML's Nerubian Weaver and Tinker strategy had an awe-inspiringly illustrious reputation.
Actually during the 6.43 era, there was another powerful DotA clan in China that if you wanted to use the number of clan members as a metric, was the strongest in the world. MYW and Xiaobaitu these average teams had a large influence on the development of Chinese DotA by giving it exposure to large numbers of people. In the long run, DotA even without any competitive nature attached was very fun to play. Some teams had competition as their end goal, while others had entertainment as theirs; these are two completely different ideals. Both made enormous contributions to the development of DotA in China.
After Chinese qualifications for ACG, AVNC disbanded. At the time, when 820, Huati, 2046 and others did some interviews where they all expressed regret. After AVNC, HFUT, XJTU, SMTH and other college teams emerged during the 6.43 era. With excellent individual ability and excellent chemistry from sitting beside each other in real life, these college players were shockingly good.
In early July, the once magnificent CPL LAN tournament winners Nebula announced they were disbanding due to pressure for team members to go work and study. From these pressures and the fiasco with the sponsorship, IFNT, GL and HTML which formed the first generation Chinese teams after performing gloriously and inciting much excitement during the 6.43 era have all gradually lost their vitality. In succession, they walked off the center-stage of history.
On September 30th, a consolidation of Chinese experts formed the team SNM. On the eve of their formation, they gave people much hope for the future. It's a shame that nothing came of it. After making noise, the team disappeared. It's lamentable, because if these experts were really to have been gathered, it wouldn’t have been impossible for them to re-enact a second coming of GL.
In the 6.43 era, the playstyle mainly studied was VP's full pressure gank strategy. Individual brilliance was often overcome by good chemistry and teamwork. GL's five players who attended ACG were certainly deserved Star status. After Longdd left for HTML, his elegant playstyle and flamboyant ganking drew him much attention. HTML's GK also gradually became a star player.
Dgc, Soulk and 830 who played for both GOW and IFNT also flourished during this time. HTML's amei, Shuairen, IFNT's 2046, hanhan, and others also shined for a while.
To sum up, the 6.43 era was an explosive period in Chinese DotA with large amounts of new players joining the gaming community. Various teams and discussion forums emerged in large numbers like mushrooms in the rain. Livestreams began and tournaments happened more frequently than before. Sponsors began noticing DotA. A very good foundation was laid for Chinese DotA teams to move towards the professional direction.
The powerful and influential Singaporean team Zenith from SEA that had swept away all competition in 2006 was now facing growing troubles. First at ACG Singapore qualifications, they met an unexpected setback and didn't qualify. Being a leading team in Asia and not winning ACG for two consecutive years led people to begin questioning their strength. After ACG due to some team members not being stable, they combined with another top Singaporean team Micronology to form MiZen.
The South Korean dark horse xDT (the team who eliminated VP in TFL) had some memorable players. Even though it was the team that picked unorthodox heroes like Anti-Mage and a jungling Terrorblade, their main carry xD.Scout played no small part in ensuring that it worked. Even now, this player is still invigorating the DotA world. He was seen playing on team SuP (Sponsor us Please) in ADC 2009 and more recently on How.kr playing under the alias Tomato in ADC 2010.
These teams were founded and led by ex-xDT player Heen to win all the Korean DotA tournaments during this period, earning them the right to represent Korea in international tournaments such as ADC and ACG. His team would achieve a 4th place finish at ACG 2009 ahead of the Chinese team led by Zhou, cD (Comme Dieu) and a 3rd place finish at ACG 2010.
Team xDT was originally formed from two teams in NA, TreXoN (winners of CAL Open Season 3) and Tofu. Aside from Scout and Heen, other famous Korean players include Chu and March. Both represented Korea at ACG 2008. March would go on to take part in ACG 2009 and 2010 with Heen and Scout. Chu was famous for his Meepo play and would go on to join tPD. March would go on to become an active member of the NA DotA community and join the world class team Nirvana.Int (Nirvana International).
Mainstream strategies and hero picks
Early on in the 6.43 era during DreamHack Summer 2007, MYM.Merlini, the traveler from afar, demonstrated the jungling Beastmaster playstyle. In fashion for a while, it was 6.43 era's first mainstream strategy and its repercussions are felt even today.
After MYM PriDe #8 began, everyone's glance was drawn to VP. Nowadays when version 6.43 is mentioned, the terms "VP", "full pressure gank" and "Blink Dagger" will jump to mind. It's true, 6.43 was VP's era. The passionately fierce full pressure gank playstyle was emotionally stirring. VP also had great success in various tournaments. This led to nearly all players who watched the 6.43 era replays to become a fan quite involuntarily. VP's brilliance had illuminated the entire DotA world.
Recipe for nightmare fuel when the horror movie just doesn't cut it
With 6.43 being VP's era, to say full pressure gank was the mainstream strategy would be correct. With gank-style being mainstream, the high burst-damage heroes developed during the 6.41 era found their time of popularity lengthened. In particular, Lina and Queen of Pain were especially popular. Others included Sand King, Zeus, Leshrac and Sven. VP often ran dual-stun lanes which led to kills in the early-game becoming a common occurrence. To express how VP achieved dominance relying on the Blink Dagger during this era, we can examine the words of NS during the 6.48 era:
The above represents the beginning of the Blink Dagger era of DotA's history.
At present this is obvious, and this is strong. Even the shortest stuns(0,5 sec for example) you can strike one more time and strafe to make 1-2 more strikes. So – as the longer the stun is, the more strikes and more strafes you can make. A hero with 600 range that begins attacking his target at melee range can do a lot of damage before the target runs away. Of course, this depends on move speed of both heroes, animation of the attacker, both heroes items and other factors, but the fact remains certain – ranged heroes with stun can do a lot of damage after the stun finishes – strafing and striking again.
Why VP (not only VP now) usually win their lanes is because we had this knowledge – we were the first to learn how to do this, we abused it early and still abuse it now. Some teams shared our experience, MYM was even using "our" strategies. The benefit of stun is that while target is stunned u can strike it, and most of damage in DotA before 5x5 battles begin is done by hands(except some Power Nukers like Zeus, Lina, Lion and few more), so in any 1x2, 2x2 battle stun damage does not do much effect – its duration is much more important.
Accordingly – the best counter to stun is blink. Blink can save you from almost anything that can be a threat to you in DotA - there are a lot of different spells in DotA except stuns, and most of them can be avoided using blink. Blink is a counter to any of your rivals plans, if your enemy does not have blink, and you do - it becomes really imbalanced.
So, it is consistent that heroes that have blink as a skill are extremely powerful – they don’t have to waste 2150 and slot to buy dagger and even more abnormal and strange is that those heroes have powerful spells - by these heroes I mean Queen of Pain and Priestess of the Moon (also Puck red.). There are a lot of heroes that neither have nukes nor blink – and I don’t see what use you can make of them. Also any hero only with a nuke – Death Prophet for example – is a lot worse than hero with blink and at least one useful spell.
Our team was the first to use mass-stuns and mass-blinks, it was the main reason we dominated half a year back, and it is the reason why we can’t win so easy now. Of course we have high-skilled players, and a good roster, but we are not cyborgs and not from Mars, currently there are guys that play on the same level. They shared our experience, and can now give us a battle, of course I speak about MYM first and foremost, but if nothing will change at competitive scene there will be about 10 more teams to conquer in near future.
Chinese Author: IloveThis
Chinese Editor: xuyou
Thanks to the following GGnet users for providing corrections and suggestions: dagoncrowgg, Drazar, The-FallenAngel, ngazi
Special thanks goes to shostakovich for reading over a preliminary draft and providing suggestions and corrections!
Also, thanks goes to Heen for providing insider info on the Korean DotA scene! Good luck and be safe during your time in the military!
[spoiler=Select Replays]By popular request, here are a few select replays of some matches mentioned in the article:
WC3 version 1.21b
Map Version 6.43b
VP vs. sP
VP takes on sP's ganking lineup
Finals of MYM PriDe 6, VP with 1-0 advantage from upper bracket
Map Version 6.44b
MYM vs. T_T
Merlini's jungling Beastmaster takes on Loda's T_T
Finals of Dreamhack Summer 2007 Game 2
WC3 version 1.22a
Map Version 6.54b
MYM vs. tPD
Chu's epic Meepo takes on all-star MYM squad feat. Maelk and friends
Groupstages of ENADC 2 Game 1
Note: The links above to different WC3 versions are the ZIP files needed to change versions using the Warcraft Version Switcher. If you don't have it, you need to download that too:
Warcraft Version Switcher[/spoiler]