Never before has the soaring peak of Dota 2 been so varied, competitive, full of promise and, most of all, consistent. The top four finishers from the group stages of the MDL Disneyland Paris Major all happened to be the top four teams in this season's DPC rankings at the time: Vici Gaming, Virtus.pro, Evil Geniuses and Team Secret.
Out of four majors this season, Virtus.pro fought their way to the grand finals of three and won one. Evil Geniuses, with their trio of third place finishes at Majors this season (along with taking third at The International 8), have steadily accumulated enough bronze to furnish an ancient Sumerian army. PSG.LGD played a brilliant role in giving fans the most electrifying TI grand finals since the era of Wings. Since TI they've finished top six at least in each Major this season. Vici not only came, saw and conquered Dreamleague and its accompanying Minor, but they've also finished inside of the top eight at every other Major this season.
Then there's Europe. Amidst debates from fans and players about how many DPC slots each region deserves, what became clear throughout last week was that Europe is, perhaps, most deserving of the lion's share.
Before Dota 2 even existed, China was a titan of Dota. When Dota 2 did finally arrive, a tradition was established. China won The International on even-numbered years. Odd-numbered years were divided up for the rest of the world to fight over. Even then, only one time ever did a TI grand final not include at least one Chinese team.
Wings gave China their third TI victory at TI6. Up until that point, the other winners included Na'Vi from the CIS region, Europe's Alliance and Evil Geniuses from North America. Team Liquid kept the tradition alive by denying Newbee a win at TI7, and their win marked the first time that a region aside from China won multiple Internationals.
With OG's history-making win last year, not only did a European team defy destiny, but they gave Europe as many TI wins as China. Evidence has mounted throughout the current DPC season that the European region is a cut above the rest right now and four teams make up their upper echelons.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Ninjas in Pyjamas kicked-off the DPC season with their offlaner, Neta '33' Shapira absent from the Kuala Lumpur Major. Standing in for him was Team Liquid's star Position 3 player, Ivan Borislavov 'MinD_ContRoL' Ivanov. NiP finished fourth and went on to have a quiet season. This led fans to question the team's ability to perform without MinD_ContRoL.
Over the past two weeks, NiP won the OGA Dota PIT Minor to punch their ticket to Disneyland. There, they finished in the top six, alongside a resurgent OG. They even punctuated their run with a strong win over reigning Major champions, Vici. With their recent improvement and the potential that continues to be realised by this roster, NiP has proven that they're strong and only getting stronger.
For all of the superlatives one could heap on OG for their TI8 run and the string of Majors to their name prior, they've not had an explosive season. Anathan 'ana' Pham once again took a hiatus from playing Dota. In his absence, the team moved forward with Igor 'iLTW' Filatov. They steadily improved with their new carry, but not quickly enough to keep the dream of another TI alive. Luckily, ana recently returned to the team and they've already begun regaining their form, with a notable win last week over VP and a top six finish at the Paris Major.
Riding the wave of momentum generated by their TI7 win, Team Liquid spent an entire year being one of the strongest and most consistent teams leading up to TI8. This current DPC season was much rougher for them, as they quietly reinvented their style. Now, under the roof of the House of Mouse, they've struck paydirt.
After a narrow loss to EG in the first round of the upper bracket, they went through paiN, Vici, OG, PSG.LGD, and Evil Geniuses back-to-back on their road to the grand finals. In other words, they beat South America's strongest team, the winner of the previous major, multi-time major champions and the reigning TI8 champions, the TI8 runners up, the TI5 champions and consistent podium-finishers. They came up short against Team Secret, but with one of the most impressive lower bracket runs since TI7, they're back in top form.
Like Virtus.pro, Team Secret has appeared in the grand finals at three out this season's majors so far and finished fourth in Sweden. Unlike Virtus.pro, they now have two current season championships to their name. Secret themselves knocked down LGD, OG and EG, before trouncing Liquid 3–1 in the grand finals of the Paris Major. For good measure, they also took the crowns at ESL One Hamburg and ESL One Katowice. Their accomplishments this season don't need to be primped, preened, or otherwise talked up. They speak for themselves. Team Secret is the best-of-the-best right now.
Europe has three undeniable tier one teams and a surging NiP, who're only getting better as time progresses. Four of the top six finishers at MDL Disneyland Paris and three of the current eight teams who've already clinched their TI9 invitations hail from Europe. This weekend cemented a few things: nobody's untouchable, but European teams are the reigning kings of kings. There's only one Major left this season and then it's on to the first ever International to be held in Shanghai, China. The question, until then, is how long will Europe wear the crown?