In the first week of 2018, the world of eSports turned its attention towards Washington D.C. for the fourth annual Captain’s Draft.
Dota 2 players from around the world took the stage to compete for the honour of winning the year’s first major title and valuable qualification points for The International later in the year.
Last time out, the win went to Evil Geniuses, who saw off Vega Squadron 3-1 in the final. This year, Vega Squadron were not in attendance, having been dispatched in their area qualifier by Team Empire. And so the world watched to see whether EG could repeat their performance one year on, or whether they would lose their title to a rival squad.
Who Was In Attendance?
Aside from the title holders, the controversial Team Secret were the other directly-invited squad showing up in Washington to compete. This multinational team has dealt with stories of discord within the ranks over the distribution of prize funds, a practice which has seen members leave and the finger of blame pointed at current captain “Puppey”, yet Secret were rated as favourites to take the title by Betway eSports. One way or another, their attendance made for an intriguing story.
China’s Vici Gaming were also seen as contenders to unseat Empire in the box seat. Having overhauled their playing roster in September, they took on Newbee in the final of Chinese qualifying in November. Having beaten the same opponents once in the preliminary rounds, Vici repeated the dose and secured their qualification, winning 3-2 in a competitive final round. With a group of new players raised on winning, they presented a formidable challenge in January.
Europe’s attendees at the finals were OG, the mostly Scandinavian squad who came through a controversial qualifying campaign in which they overcame fairytale finalists Mousesports. OG hadn’t had to play a semi-final after their scheduled opponents Hellraisers withdrew from the competition. Mousesports, who had lost their initial preliminary round match, then came up on the outside rails, winning a series of “losers’ rounds” before being denied 3-1 by OG.
Who Were The Outsiders?
Any of the four teams above were felt to have had a decent chance of winning the contest, while the remaining four hoped for a sympathetic draw or a shock result. Nonetheless, there was some decent pedigree outside the top four – and with the ever-present risk that Team Secret’s uneasy alliance could come unglued, there were plenty of shocks to come.
The smart money stayed away from Brazil’s PaIN Gaming. Having qualified under their old name Midas Club Elite back in October, they then chose to change their name in the middle of November. Although their qualification was achieved in impressive style, PaIN were not seen as a threat to the main contenders, and it was wise for them to view this competition as a learning experience rather than a competitive opportunity.
There were plenty of outside bets on the qualifiers from South East Asia and North America — respectively, Mineski and CompLexity. CompLexity moved through their qualifiers with a minimum of fuss, and a 3-0 win in their final match against the clearly misnamed Immortals saw them come into the Captain’s Draft 4.0 with momentum and confidence. Mineski, for their part, fought through four rounds of competition without being unduly troubled at any point.
Team Empire were the last team to make up the eight. Their qualification was achieved in the Russia/CIS heats and came at the expense of Captain’s Draft 3.0 finalists Vega Squadron. To qualify over a team who came within one match of being champions last year means they still managed to put in an impressive performance.
But when it came down to it, it was Team Secret who proved to be the strongest side. With an awesome 3-2 victory over Vici Gaming in the finals, they certainly gave viewers a thrilling spectacle.
Although Vici Gaming put in a strong challenge, they simply couldn’t handle the sheer skill and determination of the Team Secret players.
And with Evil Geniuses having to watch the finals from the sidelines, it showed just how quickly things can change in the world of esports.