The Pinoy road to the ‘Olympics of Dota e-sports’

the “Olympics of Dota 2 E-sports,” the biggest dream of Dota players, including Filipinos. 
Aegis trophy: Winning it is the dream of many Dota 2 players.

(First of two parts)

Even before young children or even food delivery riders on a break started playing the hit video game Mobile Legends Bang Bang, internet cafes were already packed with Defense of the Ancients (Dota) enthusiasts showcasing their best over cash bets (pusta) or bragging rights.

Visiting players (dayo) continue to travel to internet cafes in various cities and provinces to challenge the local dominant Dota team for an agreed money pot.

Now we are hearing “Welcome to The International” from Valve Corp. president Gabe Newell as he casually speaks at every iteration of the “Olympics of Dota 2 E-sports,” the biggest dream of Dota players, including Filipinos. 

The International features teams from China, North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, and Southeast Asia. It is the culmination of nearly-a-year-long competitive play in the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) organized by Dota 2 creator Valve Corp. 

$19-M prize pool

All paths point to the Aegis, the trophy of champions passed on to The International winners, which comes with at least a $19-million (P1.04-billion) prize pool for the top teams to share among themselves. In The International 11 (TI 11) last year, the grand winner Tundra bagged $8.5 million (P466 million) out of the $19 million for that edition. 

The prize pool balloons, depending on the number of buyers of Dota 2 battle pass in-game, which includes cosmetics, team voice lines across the regions, and an exclusive interactive guide for subscribers.

Dota 2, a sequel to Defense of the Ancients, which was created for Blizzard Entertainment’s “Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos,” is a multiplayer online battle arena video game produced by Valve. It pits two teams of five members each who are out to destroy the enemy’s throne at the heart of their base. 

The teams select from a pool of 124 “heroes” with unique spells and abilities to form a synergistic squad ideal to triumph over the other team who may draft heroes to counter them. 

Players are designated a Position 1 or “hard carry” that farms enemy and jungle creeps to get items necessary in bringing victory; a Position 2 or “midlaner” that gains faster experience and gold and brings tempo and dominance early in the game; a Position 3 or “offlane” that matches up with the opposing hard carry (they are heroes with larger health pools and tanks the enemy ambush, or gank, and also initiate fights); a Position 4 or “soft support” that roams around the map to help the team gain advantage by ganking unsuspecting foes; and a Position 5 or “hard support” that babysits the hard carry with “consumables” for health and for “mana” (that is spent when using spells) until they can become stronger than anybody else in the match.

Learning Dota 2 is one thing, but to be the best in the game and play professionally, players have to be mechanically gifted and show mastery in many heroes. They also need to have faster reflexes and thinking skills to outplay opposing players. 

Outstanding players are often scouted by e-sports teams in their younger years while playing in pubs, also known as “in online ranked games.” They dream of playing in the big leagues and eventually cap their careers with an Aegis.

Road to glory

The road to glory in the 2023 DPC season featured the Lima Major in Peru, Berlin Major in Germany, Bali Major in Indonesia, and the DreamLeague (Season 19 and 20) in Europe. 

Two groups of nine teams will start in the best-of-2 round-robin group stage and will weed out the weakest heading toward the playoffs. The top four teams of both groups will advance to the upper bracket, while the fifth and sixth teams of both groups will play in the lower bracket.

The playoffs have a best-of-3 double elimination format until only two teams remain. The grand finals of each event showcase a grueling best-of-5 match that may last for five hours or more.

Twenty teams from across the six regions—China, North America, South America, East Europe, West Europe and Southeast Asia—will compete for this year’s edition of the online game recognizable around the globe or The International 12 (TI 12) in Seattle, Washington, on Oct. 12-29.

Each region has two Divisions, 1 and 2. Teams battle in a round-robin format of best-of-2 matches. The top two to four teams (depending on the region) in Division 1 will qualify for a Valve-sanctioned event that provides a massive point haul. This goes on at least thrice in one season before heading to The International Regional Qualifiers.

In Division 2, the top two teams will replace the two relegated teams in Division 1 before they even have a shot at qualifying for a major event and eventually The International.

Direct invitation 

The “easiest” way to join TI 12 in Seattle is through a direct invite. Only 12 teams with the most points are directly invited; the remaining eight slots are up for grabs in the Regional Qualifiers two months before the final tournament.

A lot has happened since TI 11 (Oct. 15-20, 2022). There have been new updates on the map, such as a 40% increase in size, addition and removal of items, and hero/character tweaks and rework. These affected team strategies, play and chemistry.

Rosters have also shuffled as teams tried to bolster their lineups suitable for a shot at the Aegis.

Eight Filipinos out of 100 players saw action in TI 11 in three teams and two regions. The Philippines was fourth in country representation after Peru (13), Russia (13) and China (12), showing the competitiveness and quality of the Filipino players.

Related: Filipinos hope to win big at The International 12 in Seattle

Godfrey Tarras, a fourth-year journalism student at the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication, is an intern at

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