Last night, The International’s Grand Finals played out with teams Newbee and ViCi Gaming battling for the largest monetary prize in eSports history to date, a massive US$5 million. In a stadium packed with fans eager to watch this clash between the two Chinese teams, any fears that the showdown would be a repeat of last year’s largely reviled Alliance versus Na’Vi match (partly because of the strategy employed by The Alliance — which favoured split-pushing and avoiding direct confrontation — but mostly because Na’Vi were the favoured sons in that bout, yet went on to lose the match) were eradicated early, with the balance of play shifting completely to risky gambles and game-winning engagements.
ViCi initially came out strong, putting their experience with the “deathball” strategy (which favours early ganks, aggressive pushes and quick wins – a play style which ViCi had utilized throughout the tournament) to task and winning the first match within 24 minutes, culminating in one of the most chaotic end-game engagements I’ve seen.
After that, however, Newbee had their number, and ViCi — who seemed to be on a deathball road trip on a highway to hell and weren’t getting off until the ride was over — were expertly picked apart. Newbee’s plays in the next three games were exceptional — in particular Newbee player Mu’s Puck plays (with some outstanding phases and blinks) — and increasingly reduced the time to victory in each subsequent match with deadly efficiency, right up until the last game which lasted a mere 14 minutes and saw a GG thrown up with only two tier-one towers lost, resulting in a final 3-1 victory to Newbee.
While they’re a relatively new team formed in February of this year, Newbee falls under the captaincy of long-standing pro xiao8 (formerly of LGD Gaming). The International Grand Finals, while somewhat anti-climactic in my personal opinion, is likely to change the face of competitive gaming — ESPN televised the grand finals (to the bemusement of various Muggles on Twitter; I wiped away a tear of mirth at the words “Warcraft gaming tournament”), and it’s the largest payout for an eSports event in history. You can get a breakdown of the prize tiers here; ViCi won a paltry $1.475 million for their troubles.