Kiev Major in Retrospect: CIS needs a bigger stage
The fifth Major in Dota 2 history has concluded and as we head into TI season, it is worth taking a look at the Kiev Major and see how it fared. As one of the few large scale events and the first Valve event in the CIS region, the Kiev Major had a lot at stake, not only for the teams competing, but also for the entire region. A flop, such as the Shanghai Major, could potentially hurt future opportunities for more Majors in CIS, whereas a successfully run event would give hope for more regular events in the region.
While a lot can be said and judged from a screen at home, the true Major experience can only be had in person. Soaking in the atmosphere of thousands of fans screaming their lungs out as their favorite team clenches victory is an indescribable feeling. Luckily, yours truly had the chance to attend 4/5 Majors, only missing out on Shanghai.
The Kiev Major will be judged on 5 categories: Game & Storylines, Venue & Location, Crowd, Format and Production.
Before we head into the breakdown of each of those categories, it should be noted though that this is very much subjective and from a fan/press perspective. The experience greatly differs from person to person and players, managers and talent especially will have a vastly different experience of the event.
Game & Storylines: 4,5/5
Every Major in Dota 2 history so far has had exciting and memorable games. It feels as though that the quality of games improves with every patch and meta change. For over a year now, there’s been a trend that helps diversify the meta, allowing numerous heroes to be viable picks at almost any given moment, which results in exciting match-ups and encounters. The Kiev Major was another great example of that with an intense group and playoff stage. TnC emerged as a dominant force and Team Secret set themselves apart from the rest, dominantly taking down DAC champions iG, while favorites such as EG, Liquid or Newbee struggled in the group stage.
The meta right now allows games to go on for quite some time, which allows for many, if not all heroes to reach a high level, equipped with a variety of high tier items. That, and other factors such as an increased difficulty of pushing highground, has led to longer games with a lot of potential for comebacks. OG themselves turned around two large deficits in the grand finals, and SG e-sports had an intense game 2 vs EG in the quarter finals, wherein crucial Blackholes secured victory.
The grand finals themselves were also the first finals of a Valve event to end with all 5 games played since the TI3 finals.
SG e-sports run against Secret and EG was quite a feat and a huge upset that may be the beginning of a bigger story. OG broke their own record and now have four Major titles, continuing their 100% Major finals win streak. This may have been the last tournament for TI6 champions Wings.gaming, now Team Random, as they look to part ways heading into TI7. TnC continue to struggle against Faceless, and Faceless continue to struggle against international competition.
The Kiev Major had a lot of storylines, exciting games and a strong meta, with 99 different heroes picked. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Venue & Location: 3/5
Kiev is a great city, it has a variety of things to offer and as a capital of CIS esports, it was a great destination for a Major. The people in Kiev were nice, though the average person above 25-30 years old had difficulties communicating in English. Still, navigating through Kiev proved to be rather easy, with a cheap metro and Uber/cabs. And that is a big charm for Westerners: the low cost of everything here. Food, drinks and hotels/apartments were quite cheap, certainly cheaper than anything in say Boston or Frankfurt. It was still more expensive than Manila, but very affordable still. You could’ve easily spend only €30-50 for decent food and drinks for the entire week, and up to 100 would also allow for fancier food such as steaks etc.
The Palace of Arts was opened in 1970 and is a beautiful, small theater. With a metro station right in front, it is very easy to reach with a variety of restaurants, bars and shops around it. Unfortunately though, the venue is quite old and outdated. The air was very thick throughout the entire event, as rarely any venue is made to host events for such a long time as a Major. The seats were okay, but due to production/cameras, several seats were basically not available or had zero vision on screens, which caused quite a few people to sit in the aisles.
The press room was located a floor below the actual theater with its own, separate entrance. A small TV with a Twitch stream allowed the working press to follow the action. Unfortunately for press, and for players, there was not a lot of dedicated space inside the theater for either players or press. While press don’t necessarily need it, players had almost no reason to stay at the venue after/before playing. The beauty of attending an event is usually to have a chance to meet players when they grab food, drinks or just generally walk around the venue. Players were hardly incentivized to stay, outside of the dedicated Meet’n’Greets.
With less seats than the Boston Major, the venue felt too small, and it couldn’t live up to the hype of the crowd, combined with the lack of pro player presence, it was ultimately not the venue CIS deserved. Regardless though, Kiev is a great location and a bigger venue would do the scene and crowd justice.
The crowd in Kiev was very lively and active. They always cheered plays, regardless which team pulled it off. While several seats were empty leading up to the final day, that is nothing out of the ordinary for any esport event, certainly for events with such a tight, yet drawn out schedule. Fans choose the Bo3s they want to watch and skip others to stretch, get some fresh air and grab lunch. It’s very respectable though, how many fans stuck around during late matches, especially the EG/SG match, which lasted until 01.30am.
The finals was a great display of fairness and passion by the crowd. While the crowd clearly favored VP, they did not stay silent during OG’s successful ganks and teamfights. For anyone who attended the event, it was apparent that the crowd just enjoyed good Dota.
When talking about a good and passionate crowd, the Manila Major comes to mind. It’s true that Manila holds the bar for great events and unfortunately for Kiev, the crowd could not match the Manila hype. That said, this is not for a lack of trying, but rather because the venue could not match the Manila Mall of Asia in the slightest.
This column is likely the most subjective one out of all of the others. When the community first found out that Boston was going to be a single elimination event, a large discussion ensued. Many argue that single elimination allows for more intense games and also more upsets.
It’s questionable whether single elimination really produces better games than double elim--tournaments have proven to be exciting regardless of the format, as long as the teams and the meta is good.
That said, Team Secret and TnC in Kiev and Virtus.pro and LGD in Boston are good examples of the format failing them. All four teams were primed to make a top 4-8 finish, but all of them had an unfortunate draw. This time around, Secret played a flawless groupstage and absolutely dominated DAC champions iG, only to fall 1-2 against SG e-sports in the first round of playoffs.
The Swiss format of the group was new for a Dota 2 event of this scale and it created exciting games, as it always ensured teams of roughly the same strength would face off against one another. Fans seemed to enjoy the format and it certainly is a refreshing, welcoming change of pace from the so far standard round robin or "GSL style" groups.
As great as the Swiss group stage was though, it doesn't make up for the single elimination playoffs.
PGL has long established themselves as the premier broadcasting/production company in the Dota 2 scene. The Kiev Major was their 3rd Major in a row and they’ve also worked at TI6 and at DAC 2017. Their production continues to impress; their Roshan timer actually made it into the game as a new feature introduced with the TI7 Battlepass. PGL has also decided to stay away from their Battleview during live segments and instead uses it to analyze replays, which is a great improvement.
What also impresses about PGL and their Major production is the way they use their talent, specifically SirActionSlacks. Together with Malystryx, the content team has produced great content to keep fans entertained during long, strenuous pauses.
That said, the English stream wasn’t without its issues. Lags, audio and playback issues were sprinkled in-between a near perfect broadcast and when a gg call was almost missed due to such an issue, it left a bitter taste in fans’ mouths. There was also a slight hiccup when an intro for Evil Geniuses rolled out, but Thunderbirds was announced to be on stage.
While there wasn’t much to criticize during the event aside from these albeit small issues, the way PGL decided to end the event was weird to say the least, if not downright offensive. They showed a compilation of the female attendees in close ups and slow mos (which has since been deleted from Youtube). The community, rightfully, called PGL out for it and the company in turn issued an apology, though they don't apologize for creating the clip, but rather for airing it.
The stream experience was overall smooth, though very exhausting due to long hours and long pauses between games. 20-30 minute breaks between games added to the already long day of tightly scheduled games in a meta where games may run past the hour mark.
The Kiev Major was a great event, with great games and a lot of excitement. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event, despite its hiccups. But because it was so enjoyable, it leaves a lot of room for speculation as to how much greater it could've been with a bigger venue and crowd. The CIS region deserves a chance to display their passion again, hopefully in the next Major season.