Header image by Gareth Damian Martin.
This week, all the Dota 2 teams in China kicked every single one of their players. Sort of. The rumor is that some players and organizations had been negotiating behind the scenes, so the teams collectively decided to level the playing field by dropping all of their players. That’s unofficial though. Official rosters and contracts will still show team makeups we can’t actually see on the Major Registration list. Some of these teams (wings and iG.Vitality) have already started to coalesce into their previous configurations.
We’re still two weeks from the end of the add period, but the drop deadline has arrived, which means if you’re on the wrong team, you’re stuck there Kaipi’s captain, Pittner “bOne7” Armand forgot to drop two of his players before the somewhat nebulous deadline of September 4th, which means they won’t be able to receive direct invites to Valve-organized tournaments. Kaipi has some well-known pros on it, but they haven’t competed in a Major yet—they played through the European Open Qualifiers to secure a spot in the closed quals for the Manila Major in April, but they didn’t make it that far for the International, or for the Shanghai Major in January. They might have gotten an invite for the upcoming Fall Major, but maybe not. For some teams, the add/drop period means almost nothing.
The rules Valve designed to make the shuffle less dangerous for players are really more like guidelines. They don’t have official weight within organizations, and the registration list that I’ve been using as a resource turns out to be more of a space for power plays and attention-grabbing rumors. It’s fun to follow, but it’s not any more objective than subtweets, or who’s twitch banners said what yesterday.
In the four years I’ve been watching League of Legends, this is, in all likelihood, the most awful competitive metagame I have ever witnessed. In this post-patch 6.15 world, it’s becoming clear that Riot’s dream of a laneswap-free meta has all but come to fruition. What has resulted thus far—perhaps to some people’s surprise—has been a textbook display of League, and I mean that in the sense that textbooks are actually extremely boring to look at for extended period of time. Yes, Riot managed to effectively remove the early game get-out-of-jail free card that lane swaps afforded for both teams, but now we’re left with a bunch of pro-level games that end up looking about as dynamic as co-op vs. AI matchups.
Here’s a rough rundown of every single League of Legends game that happened this weekend: The junglers picked Rek’sai and Gragas. Everybody banned Gangplank. Jhin and Ashe shot people from like a mile away. Vladimir killed everybody.
With such a focus on early farming and jungle pressure, the roles of each player have become more rigid than they’ve ever been. The League that we saw this weekend was a calcified mess of early skirmishes that snowballed into out-of-control leads by the 30th minute, most hinging on how well the ADC hit their ult or how many people the junglers caught with their knockback abilities. Remember when Flash/Body Slam was a fun, impressive combo? Neither do I.
When they released patch notes for 6.15, Riot admitted that some of their methods for disincentivizing lane swaps would require a more “nuanced approach” to get right. Judging by this weekend’s games, that hasn’t happened yet. For now, congrats to C9, Splyce, Samsung Galaxy, and Albus Nox Luna on making Worlds—I can only hope that that tourney doesn’t look like another parade of the same exact crap over and over again.
In Hegel’s writings on aesthetics—we’re getting to Dota 2 in the next sentence, I promise—the philosopher writes that a community can never be taken to exist in advance; rather, the community is gathered by an original work of art, forged by an individual genius, that gives (not reflects) a shared set of values. Weird as it sounds, Hegel’s ideas about the relationship of art and community were on my mind during Arteezy’s much vaunted return to streaming on Twitch.tv last week after a multi-month, self-imposed exile to the weird, kappa-less world of Panda.TV. In this scenario, Arteezy is the artist, Twitch is the temple, his stream is the work of art, and it summons, creates, and maintains a community around it. What transpired, in other words, was less a window into elite Dota 2, and more a finely crafted performance that reminded viewers of Arteezy’s primacy in setting the cultural meta of Dota 2.
The closest analogue I can think of for the fifteen hour marathon stream is an fading rock band’s inevitable fan-service reunion tour; think Metallica playing Ride the Lightning in full with a holographic simulacrum of Cliff Burton. The harmony’s incredible, though. Arteezy masterfully drew upon the web of irreverent memes that were conceived on his rowdy stream and its rowdier chat. A sampling of this canon: the subterranean churning of Yung Lean’s classic track, “Kyoto“? He played it three times, each of which was accompanied by exactly 7,689 appearances of “S A D B O Y S BibleThump” in Twitch chat over the course of its four-and-a-half minute running time. MangoBay (PartyTime CoolCat) was played at least twice. Frenetic bursts of BabyRage accompanied even the slightest error. For longtime fans of his stream, it was impossible not to smile.
There were, of course, some occasional musical curios; Hans Zimmer’s “Time” from the Inception soundtrack showed up apropos of nothing, and, for a blissful half-hour period, Arteezy demonstrated a surprising command of the deeper cuts of The Pharcyde’s discography. But in between all-chat shit-posting elevated to a rarified art form—quoth Artour, in response to a slapstick team fight, “THE FUCK ISt haigjem”—and a characteristically genre-striding soundtrack, it was a reminder of just how much Arteezy has given to the cultural cohesion of the Dota 2 scene. For whatever else the gleeful stream was, it was also a veritable catalogue of the shared memories that have gathered the (Hegelian?) community of fucking memes or whatever. Say what you will about Artour the player—and I am always rooting for Team Secret to lose—there’s no denying that Mr. Babaev has been quite a trendsetter. And he’d hate that I’m saying this.