It’s amazing how far we have come.

Ten years ago South Africa’s best Defense of the Ancients (DotA) players would head over to their favourite local LAN, where no more than a handful of teams would battle for bragging rights and, in rare cases, they’d win back a small portion of the costs they incurred attending the event.

Competition rules were decided by individuals with little understanding of the game and often ended in controversy. Spectators were limited to a small group of people standing behind the PCs of their favourite players, trying not to disturb them.

These days, competitions are very different. This weekend, the last of four online qualifiers for the NGL AORUS Corsair Dota 2 Clash are taking place. Three teams so far have secured their spots in the grand final, so let’s have a quick recap of what’s happened and what’s still to come.

Qualifier 1

The first NGL qualifier took place on Sunday 24 August and was a learning experience for all involved, but the passion amongst players, administrators and spectators was enough to make up for any complications experienced.

With neither of the Bravado teams making an appearance, Energy eSports seemed to be the team to beat and beaten they were, by Full on Jukes in an epic encounter that could have gone either way. Although this would suggest that FoJ were on the path to victory, they came undone against xTc.RaiN who had a similarly entertaining match before ultimately meeting Ventus.Pro in the finals.

Ventus had a seemingly quiet run to the semi-finals, besting a number of teams. In the semi-finals however, Ventus met 4 Noobs + Nick, otherwise known as NewB, a fairly new team that has had promising results, including a well-known victory over Bravado Blue. It would not be NewB’s day though, as Ventus managed to secure the victory and book their seat in the finals to take on xTc.RaiN.

Ventus went on to win the finals as well and Ventus’ Captain Darryn “zieK” Papathanasiou summed up the finals well:

“It had been a long day of gaming, despite the best-of-1 format, and getting to the finals felt great. Seeing as we would be going up against xTc.RaiN and knowing that we didn’t have a great win rate against them, we were determined to give it our all, especially with so much on the line.

Going into the game both teams had rather standard line-ups with the exception of a hero or two on our side based on what we knew works best against RaiN from past experiences. Early game was fairly even, with mistakes being made on each side which ultimately comes down to exhaustion, but overall everyone was well composed. At the 30-minute mark we were able to take the lead after a successful Roshan fight and capitalize on this.

We attempted to break high ground numerous times, but were only successful around the 60-minute mark with great play coming from GRiME on the Ember Spirit.

It was a fantastic game and display of skill.”

Qualifier 2

Following on the success of the first week, the second qualifier the following Sunday was surrounded with expectations and excitement, as well as the entrance of a few familiar faces in the form of Bravado Blue.

As one would expect, Bravado Blue entered the challenge on form, claiming convincing victories as they steamrolled into the late stages of the tournament. Full on Jukes attempted to repeat another upset as they took them on, but were unable to take down the titan. Bravado progressed to the semi-finals where For The Dream, who had performed surprisingly well during the tournament, were waiting for them.  Bravado once again proved too strong and earned their spot in the second qualifier’s final match.

Although Energy eSports seemed to recover from their first round elimination, they were once again foiled in the semi-finals, this time by 4 Noobs + Nick, who are quickly earning a reputation for causing upsets in big tournaments.

This set up a new rivalry. Previous engagements between Bravado Blue and NewB had ended with mixed results, and either side was completely capable of claiming victory. On the day, Bravado Blue did not falter and in merciless fashion punished NewB for a single moment of impatient decision making.

Darron “LKR” Reinhardt from Bravado Blue gave his thoughts on the match.

“I think they did a really good job in the early to middle stages of the game, because even though we were pretty far ahead, through kills and the fact that they had bought Midas on every hero, they still managed to win fights under our towers and pull ahead of us in both gold and experience. There was a lot of 5-manning where neither team wanted to fight, but also did not want to get picked off alone, until it seemed as if they got fed up with waiting around and tried to push into the base where we won an important fight and the game seemed easy from that point on.”

Qualifier 3 and the big bad wolf

It seemed inevitable that Bravado eMo would eventually take part in the NGL and, with their sister clan already through, one would imagine that Bravado eMo would emulate their performance… except no one does it quite like Bravado eMo.

On Sunday 14 September Bravado eMo dominated their opponents with eyebrow-raising ease and an alarmingly casual approach to their matches.

Hours before a match against Bravado eMo, we had seen their competitors showcasing impressive skill and knowledge, but later these same individuals looked more like small prey than the Dota 2 predators we had come to see them as.

Bravado eMo strolled into the finals. I could just imagine Flarez and Doni, sitting in garden chairs outside, sipping on fruity drink. One of them almost took the time to wonder who the finals would pit them against – but that was just a fleeting thought that passed as quickly as it arrived.

However, the big bad wolf had been surprised before. Although it did not cost eMo their victory, the incredibly talented, but somewhat lazy Energy eSports made their first appearance in an NGL final and despite using a substitute player, they were the underdog with teeth.

Energy eSports were on the board early as they picked up the first kill, but that was about it. Energy constantly attacked and tested the Bravado players, coming agonisingly close at times, but punished by Bravado on every single occasion.

In the end, this quote from Shaun “Profeci” Murrel summed up the encounter: “A wild Bravado appears! Energy used high level Dota. It wasn’t very effective.”

The team – who I suggest be renamed to The Bravado eMonsters – will be firm favourites at rAge this year.

All set for qualifier 4

The final online qualifier is happening this Sunday, starting at 12h00 with finals scheduled to take place at 19h30 on Sunday evening. Although the LAN finals at rAge have the potential to be up there with some of the most impressive events in South African Dota 2 history, the qualifying events have been addictive, and part of me wishes they weren’t coming to an end.

Sadly, it must end. You simply cheapen an experience when dragging it out and the fourth qualifying round of the AORUS Corsair Dota 2 Clash has an air of excitement that is unmatched by its predecessors.

“There is one chance left boys!”

As a former captain, that’s what I’d be saying, pushing my team to do a little better, to be the best on the day regardless of our opposition.

NewB and Energy , favourites to win qualifier 4, have already done enough to suggest they will be at the LAN finals. NewB are impossible to displace from the top four, and although a very specific series of events could see Energy left behind, the likelihood is that they too have done enough to secure their place. With that said, both these sides will no doubt be after the same thing: beating the other in a possibly destined final to become the champion.

Slightly lower down the log, xTc.RaiN and iFG.zeRo will be intent to take the victory for themselves, but will also appreciate how critical a top four finish would be. For The Dream is a few points behind and gaining momentum. A slip up here could be incredibly costly to any of them.

Similarly Lekker Sex, Battlenet Boys, Easy Forfeit, Full on Jukes and Need Rage Tickets are all capable of progressing with points alone. That is, if they can knock out iFG.zeRo before they are into the top eight.

What about Nieu Meta, BlowUpDolls Hydra and Glaciem eSports? What about traditionally strong sides like Veneration, Berserk and M21? Perhaps if you are reading this article, what about you? There is one last way, one last chance and it couldn’t be more suitable for a gamer.

Sunday’s games will again be shoutcast, so feel free to join us and watch some intense Dota 2 action. Want to know how to find us to spectate the games? Open up Dota 2, go to Watch, click on Tournaments, then Amateur, then Europe and you’ll find us there under NGL AORUS Corsair Dota 2 Clash.

You can also check out the current standings on the leaderboards here and follow your favourite team’s progress throughout the day here.