The 2017 Dota 2 competitive calendar is done and what a year it was. From the 7.00 patch to the Kiev Major to the introduction of the Dota Pro Circuit a particularly exciting International, this was a transformative 12 months for the competitive scene, as well as the game itself.
With the calendars set to turn over, it’s worth looking back and reflecting on the year’s best. So who were the best players? What was the best play? And what was the best event? Read on and find out!
Comeback of the Year: The Na’Vi Franchise
When yours truly was mulling over categories for this year’s Dota 2 awards, this one was imagined as being part of a game or a series. The biggest and best turnaround that fans have seen this year, though, is the revival of Natus Vincere.
The black and yellow are handily the most popular team in Dota 2, almost entirely due to beloved mid player Danil "Dendi" Ishutin. Tournaments gain a marked boost in viewership whenever Na’Vi plays but, unfortunately, that has been an increasingly uncommon sight over recent years.
Frequent roster changes and an inability to secure top-level talent have resulted in years on end of subpar results and when the team fell well short of qualifying for TI7, it was easy to wonder if Dota’s original dynasty was dead. But in almost miraculous fashion, the team has returned to form in recent months.
The additions of up-and-comer Vladislav "Crystallize" Krystanek and CIS veteran Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosyan have paid huge dividends, and the return of Alexander "XBOCT" Dashkevich as a coach has helped keep the team remains consistent month over month. That has translated to the new squad being a regular presence at Dota Pro Circuit events, and have taken home qualifying points in their last two appearances.
Big things could be on the horizon for Na’Vi in 2018 and it feels great to be excited about the team again.
Player of the Year: Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko
The rise of Virtus Pro was one of 2017’s biggest stories.
In 2016, VP was a mid-tier European squad. Good enough to pop up at plenty of tournaments and good enough to keep step with their regional counterparts...but not quite good enough to actually win anything of note.
When its lineup washed out of the qualifiers for TI6, though, it prompted the organization to undergo a bit of housekeeping, with the old roster being cleared out in favor of a new CIS supergroup. The move instantly paid off, with VP dominating EU qualifiers and winning its first LAN just three months after forming. That wasn’t just a flash in the pan, either, as the team stayed dominant after the introduction of the 7.00 patch, entered TI7 as one of the favorites to win and have nearly locked up direct invites to TI8 in 2018’s Dota Pro Circuit.
Every member of the team, naturally, has proven themselves as an elite-level Dota 2 player. The best of the bunch, and likely the best at his respective position, is mid player Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko.
Since joining the team from Vega Squadron, No[o]ne has cemented his place as one of the best mid players in the world. He rarely outright loses his lane and, more often than not, turns his strong early game performances into utter dominance late. Most importantly, while many other mids have had their performance dip after the slew of patches in 2017, No[o]ne is as strong as ever.
While there are many other candidates for Player of the Year, and while many of his comrades could have taken this prize, no one beats No[o]ne.
Tournament of the Year: The Summit 7
While the franchise and the tournament organizers might not have the best relationship anymore, there’s no question that The Summit is the Virtus Pro Show. The team seems to operate on another level when they’re in the house and that has translated to first-place finishes in the last three Summit tournaments.
Each of those events have seen Dota 2 master classes put on by VP, but the most impressive by a mile came at The Summit 7.
At this point in 2017, VP wasn’t the undisputed powerhouse that it is now. While good, there were questions about the team’s staying power at the top due to a fan perception that it was a “one trick pony” that lived or died on early aggression and a narrow hero pool.
On some level, this was justified...but VP took those doubts as a challenge. A challenge that it decided to answer at the Summit 7. A challenge that it answered in an uniquely impressive way...
During the tournament, Virtus Pro resolved to not pick the same hero twice for as long as possible. Despite taking the long road through the tournament (playing 17 games in total), it lived up to that challenge in spectacular fashion, picking five unique heroes each game until Game 5 of the Grand Finals, where it sealed up first place by beating Team Secret.
At face value, doing this required an absurd level of cajones. And doing it around the time when Valve was weighing its options for direct invitations to The International 2017? That took, in professional wrestling vernacular, grapefruits. Making good on that promise and still taking first-place? Well, that takes something else entirely.
Summit 7 on its own would’ve been a fine LAN event. VP’s incredible performance, however, transformed it into one of the memorable tournaments in recent years, and probably the best of 2017.
Play of the Year: SumaiL’s Five-Man Vortex (and More)
At his best, Evil Geniuses’ Syed Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan is greatest best Dota 2 player on earth. Like a Wayne Gretzky, there are times where it feels like he can see into the future, and use that knowledge to set up huge plays.
The entire Manila Masters tournament was a testament to this, as SumaiL transformed the event into his own personal highlight reel. The greatest example of this came in EG’s series with Team NP.
After dropping the first game in a best-of-three, EG was already in a tight spot. That situation became even more dire, however, as they fell behind in both farm and towers in Game 2.
EG is no stranger to comebacks, but those rallies are usually a team effort. Here, though, SumaiL took it upon himself to hold back NP, and drag his squad to victory.
Playing as Storm Spirit, he nailed play after play. Across-the-map Ball Lightnings. An Aegis snatch. And biggest of all? A five-man Aghs Electric Vortex that swung the game on its head.
EG would ultimately take the game off his performance. Then the series. Then the whole dang tournament.
Team of the Year: Team Liquid
It might feel like a bit of a copout to pick the winners of The International as the team of the year but 2017 has been Team Liquid’s year. There’s no avoiding or denying it.
Three first-place finishes in StarLadder events. First place in DreamLeague season 7. First place at Epicenter 2017. First place at the Dota PIT Minor. Champions of The International 2017. It’s just too long a list of wins to deny, and that’s not even touching on strong finishes in other events like the DreamLeague Major or ESL One Hamburg.
Just as important as the team’s success in 2017 is the fact that Liquid is getting better. While teams can often struggle from a post-International hangover, Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi and co. are looking as good as ever. There’s a strong likelihood that they’ll secure an invite to The International 2018 before long and if they keep up their current pace? There’s a strong chance they become the first ever two-time TI champions.
Disclaimer: The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.