With the Manila Masters wrapped up, teams are now looking ahead to the biggest DotA 2 event of the year - The International 7. In the wake of stunning upsets and incredible performances, we're starting to get a clearer picture of the state of DotA worldwide... or are we?

What did Evil Geniuses' win mean?

Nothing we didn't already know. Evil Geniuses is and will be one of the best teams going to TI7. Under the leadership of Cr1t and Sumail, EG is untouchable in the North American region. Not that it matters though, as the team is definitely guaranteed a direct invite to DotA's biggest annual event.

Their showing in the Manila Masters proves that they cannot be beaten by anyone who isn't bringing their A-game. While Newbee did send them to the loser's bracket, EG came back almost immediately and took care of business in the Grand Finals. Sumail is a beast and with an all-star team in place, EG has no weaknesses in its roster.

What does Newbee's strong finish mean for the Chinese region?

As usual, the Chinese region is insanely this close to TI7. This year, we've got both Invictus Gaming and Vici Gaming - two teams that house a number of DotA stars that include BurNIng and Hao. Not to mention their affiliate teams VGJ and IG Vitality, both of which made appearances in The Kiev Major. Luckily for the rest of the Chinese teams, it looks like Team Random (which housed former TI6 champions Wings Gaming) isn't in play for now. But that's still a load of world class teams which leaves the Chinese region's hierarchy in question.

Newbee's strong showing in the Manila Masters isn't a fluke. They've been consistent performers in most premier leagues around the world, so a direct invite for them wouldn't surprise me at all. Newbee has found a way to blend in a bit of aggressiveness into what is traditionally a patient and reactive style, making themselves a strong competitor when it comes to being the region's best Chinese team.

Should we be worried about OG's weak showing?

No. Hell no.

Everyone knows the difference between their performance in a premiere league event and in a Valve Major Event. OG's brilliance lies with their unrivaled, cohesive team play and their high-level mastery of the technical aspects of the game.

While they are walking into TI with a relatively weaker team than last year, NoTail and Fly are hungry for that title, which makes them scarier now more than ever. Manila Masters felt like a case of them not wanting to reveal their cards until The International tournament. They've got world-class players in all positions that could rival even Evil Genius' lineup.

How far has Team Secret fallen?

Honestly, I don't know what to make of Team Secret anymore. On paper, this should be a team that consistently places top 8 in any given tournament. But for some reason, the team hasn't been able to get itself together for quite some time now.

I don't know if it's because of the constant roster changes or if the members just don't work well together, but it has been a very big problem as they've floundered at every major tournament they've been in lately. It's beginning to feel like the team is operating solely on the prestige of their name. With the way things are going, I would be outraged if they did get a direct invite to TI.

What does Team Faceless' strong showing mean for Southeast Asia?

This one's a bit difficult. Team Faceless looks like it finally got over the LAN hump that it was having trouble with and translated it into a very good performance. They took out rising SEA rivals Clutch Gamers and eliminated OG - the biggest team in the tournament.

Black proved to be the missing link in Faceless' LAN woes, as he created openings and control for his teammates that they weren't able to capitalize on before. This allowed iceiceice to become an even more effective player, as he was able to command other aspects that Faceless needed since the start of the season. You can still see their weaknesses at some points in the tournament, but they're getting better at coping with them.

Defeating Clutch Gamers in a convincing fashion also showed that they are (I am saying this begrudgingly) still the top Southeast Asian team, consequentially putting them at the top of the list if Valve ever gives a direct invite for a SEA team for TI7.

Will Team NP be the dark horse of TI7?

I love Team NP. It's like a reunion of some of my favorite players from Cloud9 all in one team. Back in the day, C9 was so entertaining with their crazy over-aggressive and unexpected plays. They would lose big and win big. I can still remember some of those crazier games where they came back from 35,000 gold down and a stripped-down base to win in a base race.

NP brought those crazy players back and now they're older and apparently more mature. They're still playing with that familiar aggressiveness, but this time they're reading situations far better and capitalize on their mistakes by being more cautious when certain situations arise. If the current roster stays as it is, they'll be major threats not only in the North American qualifiers (where they'll be facing teams like Digital Chaos) but also in TI7's main event.

What's next for Clutch Gamers?

After getting brutally cut down by SEA rivals Team Faceless, Clutch Gamers faces the harsh reality that the world stage is a whole different animal than any online tournament they've played in before. As hard as they've been practicing, they're still relatively green at the international stage. This showed at the Manila Masters with their first LAN appearance.

They were rattled and made reckless plays. Their usual calculated aggressiveness wasn't there and was replaced by unnecessary dives and initiations that worked disastrously against them. The pressure of playing for a hometown crowd was most likely a huge factor in this.

As it is now, the question is what effect this reality check will have on the team as they move forward. Although they are still the rising stars of the SEA region and have incredible potential, the truth is that they still have to compete with teams like Team Faceless and TNC Gaming, which had strong showings in this tournament. Even though they've beaten both teams before, one can't help but wonder if they can take the top SEA seat from these two teams.

The Manila Masters provided twists, turns, and delivered excellent matches. Although most of the fights went as expected, the results and the upsets helped reinforce a bigger picture of where the participants stand when it comes to the world stage. With The International qualifiers just around the corner, the Manila Masters was an excellent prelude for the bigger wars to come.

About the author: Don Cabuhat

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