I’m going to be honest with you here. After the emotionally taxing rAge Masters event in October, I was expecting the local DotA2 scene to wind down and for us to quietly slip into 2017. Instead of relaxing, MTN decided to turn my DotA2 vacation on its head by unveiling its Mega8 esports DotA2 Summer Invitational recently, which is due to be held in Cape Town between the 2nd and 4th of December 2016. Yep, you read that correctly, it starts today! You better start reading to be up to date before 19h00.
MTN Mega8 esports | About
MTN are working with Kagiso Media to get all aspects of Mega8 esports launched smoothly and bring us the MTN Mega8 esports DotA2 Summer Invitational. Kagiso Media defines itself as having interests that cover “new media, content production, specialised published, research, radio broadcasting, and television.” Sounds like they’ll be covering a lot of the media angle on behalf of MTN, which seems like a pretty interesting idea. MTN Mega8 esports, kicking off in 2017, aims to be a “platform which hosts leagues and tournaments for the public.” More specifically they aim to create leagues for both DotA2 and CS:GO next year, where each title consists of multiple divisions across multiple legs/seasons. For instance, the majority of new teams will start in the Ladder and have to earn their way into the divisions above by way of promotion/relegation. Mega8 plans to have each of the divisions consist of no more than ten teams per league, with two teams being promoted or relegated from each division at the end of a leg/season.
Each leg/season will last two months (according to the seasons of the year – which I would guess suggests four legs/seasons per year) and upon completion will be followed by an online invitational for the top 8 teams for that leg/season. There are also plans for two LAN events for 2017, for either CS:GO or DotA2 (thus avoiding the issues experienced by players/MGOs at rAge 2016). An additional point Mega8 have made is that each division/league will offer prize money to incentivise growth. On paper so far MTN Mega8 esports appears to position itself as a potential 2017 powerhouse in South African competitive gaming, sticking to a lot of the precedents set by industry veterans Telkom while simultaneously improving on a lot of things players are often unhappy with in Telkom run tournaments. For instance, if Mega8 ensures that promotion/relegation occurs between every division then that’s a step in the right direction. Teams should be able to, simply by way of competing and climbing up the ranks, earn their spot among the top teams in the country in the highest available division.
MTN Mega8 esports | DotA2 Summer Invitational
Now that we know a little bit more about what MTN aim to do in terms of its foray into local esports, we can finally talk about the upcoming DotA2 Summer Invitational hosted in Cape Town between 2 and 4 December. The MTN Mega8 website is calling the DotA2 Summer Invitational a “beta tournament” and a “launch” all at the same time, where the “top eight teams” in South Africa have been invited to compete for a R50 000 prize pool. They’ll be using local casters (I haven’t seen a list yet but I’m sure Wilson et al. will be there) as well as their own expert panel. The “expert panel” consists of Devin “HellbirD” Rigotti (below: centre), Gareth Woods (below: left), and Rhys “WookiE XXL” Crossley (below: right), although the addition of WookiE suggests to me that there is also CS:GO happening concurrently with the DotA2 tournament. Not sure what’s going on there, we’ll have to wait and see.
The event is being streamed live from Cape Town and begins Friday the 2nd of December at 19h00, with the Grand Final set up for Sunday the 4th December. You can watch the live streams of the games on Youtube; on either the primary Mega8 stream or the secondary Mega8 Channel 2 stream.
MTN Mega8 esports | Dota2 Summer Invitational: The Teams
The image above outlines the first round of fixtures for the MTN Mega8 event this weekend. Below we’ll briefly outline the teams invited to participate in the DotA2 Summer Invitational, but in the order we predict they’ll finish by the end of the MTN Mega8 esports DotA2 Summer Invitational this weekend:
1st: White Rabbit Gaming (WRG)
By now I’m pretty sure everybody knows the legend of the Magnus that broke Bravado Gaming at rAge 2016. It was an electric and exceptional reception to a great display of DotA2 skill. That Grand Final series was some of the best fixtures I’ve seen locally, ever. It also exemplifies just how hard it was to finally bring Bravado Gaming down in RSA; both in terms of raw individual skill and mental preparation. Bravado had been the undisputed powerhouse in DotA2 for so long that people didn’t know if they could be beaten, and new esports players coming into the scene would often state their belief that Bravado could not lose. Yet WRG were able to put in some of their best performances to date, and look like confident competitors as they achieved the unachievable. They didn’t look surprised they won. Happy, yes. Elated, obviously. But they certainly believed they could take down Bravado Gaming and now that they’ve made this leap, I don’t see them slipping back into a routine of losing to bvd. WRG appear to have been playing a fair amount of DotA since this epic conclusion to the DGL Masters event at rAge 2016; it shows as they look to be deadlier than ever. I’m positive they’ll be aiming for no less than winning this entire event and while the top four teams have never looked closer packed in terms of skill, you have to give WRG the nod here as they’re (to use an Overwatch term) on fire. That isn’t to say it’s a sure bet they’ll win. Far from it as I honestly think more teams than ever before could ultimately win this thing. It used to be so much more certain only six months ago, but now? We have this madness. Not even knowing who is going to win before the tournament starts! Ridiculous!
Lineup: Castaway, Santo, ChiDoWi, Welp, & Schlinks
Round 1 Prediction: WRG 2 – 0 xTc
2nd: Bravado Gaming (bvd)
It had to happen sometime. No one stays at the top forever, nor could they even if they wanted to. Hats off to everyone that worked with the Bravado Gaming team over the past couple of freakin’ years while they stayed at the very top. Sadly though Bravado Gaming fell on the 9th of October 2016, suffering a shocking defeat to White Rabbit Gaming in the climactic final match of the Grand Final series during the Telkom DGL Masters event at rAge 2016. And, honestly, WRG were the better team not only over the series but over the entire weekend. It was shocking only that it actually happened. In a recent article (click here to read if you haven’t already), Bravado Gaming outlined what many of us suspected would come from such a monumental shift in the South African competitive DotA2 landscape. SeeM retiring (effective immediately), Doni off to Europe next year, Flarez possibly joining him, and general uncertainty plaguing both Habibi and Odu over what direction they’re taking next year. So far this means only SeeM will be missing for this tournament, but it really sounds like the lifeblood of this team is gone. I’m not sure what to expect from them, but it could go one of two ways in my opinion. Even if they lack synergy and look average at best, they’re still individual players of such high quality that a top 4 finish seems an obvious bet. As a worst case scenario, at least for the other teams, they come out with teeth and fangs bared and absolutely stomp every single team they face with mad and righteous fury. Unless… I’ve completely missed something. P.S. I’m down with some fury from bvd here. It would be a pretty awesome farewell!
Lineup: Doni, Flarez, Habibi, Odu, & Wazmac
Round 1 Prediction: bvd 2 – 0 Ventus Pink
3rd: eXdee Gaming (xD)
eXdee Gaming finished the Telkom DGC at rAge 2016 in first position (no surprise there) and barely broke a sweat but for one or two matches. Although the gap between the rest of the Prem Div. pack and xD has been slowly shrinking over the course of 2016, there was never really much threat of anyone beating them this year. In other tournaments they consistently contest the likes of Aperture Gaming and White Rabbit Gaming, so they’re normally used to top 4 finishes as a standard result. Yet, much like with WRG, they’ve seemed to be playing a fair bit of late and looked particularly good when they played against WRG in a Telkom organised scrim recently. As one of only three teams to beat bvd during 2016 in a competitive tournament, we know that they’re capable of toppling giants on a good day. Now that bvd are battered and bruised, and with WRG sitting pretty at the top, I’m confident xD can carve out a top three finish here (top four at the very least). xD have some of the best players in RSA in their respective positions and they seem up for any challenge. But as a personal aside… can someone please explain to me how ImpacKt manages to be so impactful (I swear I didn’t plan that) across the map as a support, while having little to no effective net worth of his own? It’ll be 40 mins into the game, he’ll still be tp’ing to make saves, and will only have brown boots and a magic stick to his name. I mean I know how he does it, but how does he do it? He probably gives SoDa tangos as well at the start of every game…
Lineup: RDK, SoDa, 225, Mikasa, & ImpacKt
Round 1 Prediction: xD 2 – 0 F3
4th: Aperture Gaming (ApG)
Well personal bias claims first. Aperture Gaming are my boys. I make no secret of my love for these awesome guys and their particularly flashy brand of pubstomping madness gone pro. Yet, that being said, they’ve often underperformed when they should do well (although they were robbed by some pretty biased scheduling nonsense at the DGL Masters during rAge 2016). ApG handed Bravado Gaming a heavy defeat in the Upper Bracket at rAge 2016. This victory drained every reserve that ApG had, and I’m pretty sure Phalanx was violently ill for days afterward. The point of this is that over the entire year ApG have edged closer and closer to besting bvd and had finally proven that they have the skillset to beat the best. I’m under the impression that they’re possibly without Adastam, who isn’t due to be back in the Cape until Saturday evening, which might be a cause for concern as ApG don’t have a significant roster of subs to call upon. The whispers floating around regarding this are that a) Adastam could potentially join on Sunday if ApG are still in the running, and b) the standin may be either the infamous rAgeBos or Hurley, who is their only other realistic alternative. I’m not sure how ApG will fare in this tournament as they’ve also tried a little role switching recently, which may need to be switched up further to accommodate whoever they choose to use in place of Adastam. With cbN and xTc looking particularly menacing, ApG must be cautious that those teams could prove slightly trickier opposition than usual. I wonder if we’ll see that Phalanx Pudge though? It’s been a fair while…
Lineup: acg, OMalley, Phalanx, Bob, & rAgeBos/Hurley (?)
Round 1 Prediction: ApG 2 – 1 Carbon
5th: Carbon eSports (cbN)
Out of all the top South African esports teams competing at this event, Carbon eSports has to be the most difficult to write about. I honestly couldn’t tell you a single thing about them. I rarely hear juicy rumours floating around, I rarely know how their scrims are going, and I rarely know how well they’re going to do on any given day. They’re just an Enigma wrapped in Chelsea) levels of trolling. What I can tell you is that they gave one heck of a showing in their final fixture against bvd during the DGL Masters event at rAge 2016, playing really well and only narrowly losing to the slightly better bvd on the day. And that’s honestly no small feat considering that the bvd that showed up was looking for blood. cbN have brought in Filthy Frank (from DC) and amawing (from puLse.Reborn) for this tournament (I don’t think they’re permanent changes). Filthy Frank has displayed an aptitude for midlane throughout the year at the highest level and could really shine here. This could potentially free up c1 to cause all sorts of mischief around the map unfettered and unburdened. As always with cbN, we won’t know which team will pitch up to the event until they get underway.
Lineup: c1, strike, Chelsea), Filthy Frank, & amawing
Round 1 Prediction: ApG 2 – 1 Carbon
6th: Xperts @ Total Chaos (xTc)
Xperts @ Total Chaos are a tough team to figure out. One minute they’re exceeding all expectations at the end of Leg 2 in the DGL Masters, but then proceed to be unceremoniously dumped from the DGL Masters event at rAge 2016 by F3. What the heck just happened? xTc were first shocked by a 0 – 2 defeat by Damage Control before their unexpected ejection from the tournament due to a narrow 1 – 2 loss to F3. Before you could blink, that was that. xTc are impossible to predict, as they should beat certain teams on paper, but often don’t in practice. But they’ll always have the potential to take out a bigger name or two when they’re playing well. xTc have dropped RipInc, Heffalump, and 756 for this event, and their replacements are; bluecat, Depi, and probably the best Clockwork in Martian DotA, FonFon. This is a good place to be in for xTc, who look to have a pretty strong line up now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re able to put bigger names to the sword, provided they’ve had enough game time together to prepare. Since they’re still a newer lineup they may lack of synergy or team coordination may be poorly developed thanks to so many recent new additions. No matter what happens this lineup is going to be interesting to watch.
Lineup: DotA-and-Die, bluecat, Depi, DOOMbunni, & FonFon
Round 1 Prediction: WRG 2 – 0 xTc
7th: Flipsid3 Tactics (F3)
Flipsid3 Tactics didn’t perform well at rAge 2016 but with a roster shuffle so close to the event, this result wasn’t much of a surprise. Their first round fixture against WRG ended predictably, with an emphatic WRG 2 – 0 win. This loss dropped F3 to the lower bracket where they faced off against xTc, and this fixture F3 narrowly clinched in the ensuing 2 – 1 series. In the second round of the lower bracket, they unexpectedly came up against bvd and were promptly deleted from the event. Recently F3 has made another round of roster changes, dropping Jappa. Faf was picked up prior to rAge 2016, but didn’t play a competitive match (eds: thanks to our silent sources who helped us fix an error here) and thus hasn’t really even been a formal part of F3. Consequently F3 have picked up 1337 and Muzzy to plug those gaps. Since the article went live, we’ve also been told that Panda737 will be playing for F3 in place of CritzEEE this weekend but have as yet not confirmed this (eds: thanks again to everyone reading and sending through your input, corrections, and updates). F3 have a particular knack for sourcing talent (or quotes) from elsewhere and making it their own, so I’m sure they’re under the impression that this constant player swapping strategy will work eventually. With undeniable experience in the form of Stickalish et al. (some of whom could well pull an ace on their day) they certainly could cause upsets if everyone gets a chance to come online. I suspect that the biggest challenges they’ll face will come from within their own ranks, as this lineup comes across as an extremely static one that wants to/likes to run a little on the greedier side. I think that they’ll potentially run into early trouble against more disciplined lineups. Additionally they do have some players who are known to tilt when under stress, a chink in the armour that opposition teams may seek to exploit. I really hope that Stickalish gets to see some success here though, as he has worked really hard this year.
Lineup: Stickalish, MilkY, 1337, Muzzy, & Panda737/CritzEEE (?)
Round 1 Prediction: xD 2 – 0 F3
8th: Ventus Gaming Pink (Ventus Pink)
Ventus Pink are one of three teams in the DGL Prem Div. who could have conceivably walked away with second place during the Telkom DGC at rAge 2016. But over the course of the weekend it was Ventus Pink who would play against firm favourites xD in the Grand Final. Earlier that weekend Ventus Pink were knocked from the upper bracket by Pulse Gaming Reborn in a very close 1 – 2 loss. They’d subsequently met Pulse Gaming Reborn once again in the lower bracket finals, a rematch both teams refused to lose in order to progress to the Grand Finals. It was ultimately Ventus Pink, not the favourites Pulse Gaming Reborn, who would progress to the Grand Finals to play xD after a tight 2 – 1 victory. Ultimately Ventus Pink would not have enough in the tank to upset expectations once again, falling to xD and earning second place. This remains a fairly momentous achievement for them nonetheless and doesn’t at all mean they can’t beat other Masters level teams. In particular they’ll be looking to take a chunk or two out of the likes of F3, xTc, or even cbN if they meet in the lower brackets. Although their performances have been top notch thus far this year in the Telkom DGL Divisions, this lineup still feels like it is missing something to take on the top names in the scene. However, everyone always loves rooting for the underdog and only a fool dismisses a team playing at this level lightly. Besides, who else is going to take up the mantle of fan favourite underdog in this tournament? There is no one else to represent the common DotA folk out there. You have my heart, Ventus Pink, even as my brain says no. I’m ready for an upset!
Lineup: Nightwraith, Arreat, 3, Ihsahn, & Seer
Round 1 Prediction: bvd 2 – 0 Ventus Pink
What is of most interest to me is how these top eight teams were chosen, with specific emphasis on the omission of two Telkom DGL Masters teams; Damage Control and Veneration eSports. To be fair, I’m not even sure if Damage Control have a full DotA2 roster at present to be able to play even if they were a potential invite. Veneration eSports, alternatively, could have declined attending this event just as easily as they declined to play almost 50% of their DGL Masters Leg 1 and Leg 2 fixtures this year. On the other hand, it isn’t beyond reason that Veneration eSports and/or Damage Control were simply overlooked (or a combination of both of these) in order to make way for a team like eXdee Gaming. The inclusion of Ventus Pink is probably largely due to their 2nd place finish at DGC this year. This would suggest to me, if any of the above is correct, that MTN Mega8 are simply using the top placed available seeds from the DGL Masters and DGC events held at rAge 2016 earlier this year. I just can’t shake the feeling that there was an opportunity missed here for some online qualifiers to put their own unique mark on this tournament. In any regard, this is going to be a great weekend for local competitive DotA2, for a variety of reasons, and I’m pretty excited for it! Welcome to the scene, MTN and Kagiso Media. GLHF to; all the participating teams, the as yet unannounced casters that better include Wilson, Skaapie, and Profeci (or I’ll initiate nuclear armageddon), HellbirD as the Lone Expert, and Gareth Woods as the Sole Survivor of the Trenches. Hope it’s a blast.