Bot The International is its own beast, but it makes for an amazing Dota 2 spectator experience
The International is famous for its eye-popping prize pool, stellar talent, and global competition. For pro players, it’s the ultimate achievement to attend a TI. Winning one puts you in a category all on its own.
But for everyday Dota players and pro scene enthusiasts, The International is more than a competition. It’s a celebration of Dota, and all the positives and negatives of the most complicated game in the world.
That means stuff like replica Pudge hooks, groups of cosplayers dressed up as Meepos, and Dendi appearing out of nowhere. The International is full of traditions, and the newest one is Bot TI.
Beyond the Summit, an esports tournament organizer, first ran Bot TI last year just before TI8. It brought a whole new kind of tournament to Dota 2, but it doesn’t feature any of the pro players you know and love. In fact, it doesn’t feature any players at all. Bot TI is its own beast, but it makes for an amazing Dota 2 spectator experience.
Instead of team, heroes themselves are put into a bracket for best of three matches. Instead of pushing lanes and fighting for towers, the tourney features only 5v5 team fights in a Best of 3. That means five Kunkkas can square off against five Treant Protectors.
The winning hero advances up the bracket while the loser is forgotten. What’s the catch? These teamfights are entirely played out by bots. No inputs from anyone, just predetermined builds and varying degrees of AI competency.
This results in some seriously fun Dota 2.
It wouldn’t be very fun if it was just six-slotted bots right-clicking each other to death, but Beyond the Summit’s ruleset allows for some stiff competition. Each round of the Best of Threes changes up the rules.
The first round strips heroes down to the bare essentials. They’re only level five, meaning that they don’t have any ultimates or level four abilities. As for items, they get to fill their inventories with Iron Branches and nothing else.
The second round ups the ante by setting every hero to level 15. This means level two ultimates and both level 10 and 15 talents. They’re also given 10,000 gold to buy items, defaulting to the most popular pub builds.
The final round takes everything to the extreme. The gold budget is doubled and heroes are set to their maximum level. These are heroes close to their peak, and these fights are always the most entertaining.
This system allows for certain heroes to excel in certain rounds, but come short in others. A team of Iron-Branched-up Spirit Breakers can bowl over a gang of Terrorblades. Once the farm kicks in, those Terrorblades can mop the floor with the bulls.
It’s worth noting that a few items are banned to keep a level playing field. Blade Mail has been banned this year alongside Black King Bar. The latter isn’t excluded for balance reasons; Lifestealer and Juggernaut still have access to magic immunity. It’s banned because it isn’t fun, which tells you a lot about the event.
For determining things like talents and skill builds, Beyond the Summit uses their own internal logic. Heroes that usually take passive gold talents, like Ogre Magi and Crystal Maiden, drop them since they aren’t useful in one big teamfight. The same is true for experience boost talents.
Even though Bot TI is only in its second season, there are some clear frontrunners. Last years winner wasn’t a hard carry like Spectre or Medusa. In fact, the champion is usually played as a support.
Elder Titan took the gold last year thanks to his ability to synergize with himself. Stacking Hoof Stomp is incredibly powerful, but its nothing compared to Earth Splitter. The ability on its own can start and end a teamfight and five of them are almost impossible to survive.
The second-place hero was almost perfect for countering Elder Titan. Abaddon lost to ET in a nailbiter of a three-game grand final. Borrowed Time allows the rider to survive the initial burst and even heal from the excess damage, but the Titans just dealt too much.
Other heroes that performed well include those with strong area of effect spells. Tidehunter and Enigma, the kings of teamfight combo, placed 5-6th. Warlock, Zeus, and Pheonix right below them confirm the theory. Dragon Knight is the oddball out in the top 12, but the AoE damage from this right-clicks combined with his absurd tankiness help tilt the odds in his favor. He fell to Elder Titan and Enigma last year.
You’d think that since the games are entirely automated, there wouldn’t be many differences this year compared to the last. However, Dota is a constantly evolving game. Several balance changes could help or hinder many top-level Bot TI heroes.
7.22 gave every hero an Aghanim’s Scepter. With 20k to spend in the last round, we’ll be seeing a lot of them. One hero that I expect to do very well is Death Prophet. Her Aghanim’s Scepter allows her to regenerate her health throughout a fight. Her main downfall last year was that the fights would end before her Exorcism spirits returned to heal her. With Aghs sending out two spirits with every ability, that problem is solved.
If you’re looking to tune in to Bot TI, you’ll be pleased to know that it has already started! Early group stage recaps are already up on Beyond the Summit’s YouTube channel, and the preliminaries are far from over. The main event will be shown on Beyond the Summit’s Twitch on July 3rd, so you have plenty of time to recap.