Every year, Dota 2 fans band together to enjoy weeks of competitive action as the world’s top players cross swords for the Aegis of Champions. The International (TI) has always been where the hype’s at, having grown into one of the grandest and anticipated tournaments in the esports circuit over time.
TI11 marks the first time that fans in Singapore were able to catch and breathe the excitement live. The playoffs, held at Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre from 20 to 23 October, kicked off to a muted start, but things quickly got into high gear during the finals weekend, which ran from 29 to 30 October at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
And what a spectacular affair it was! The atmosphere was electric from the moment the crowd thronged the space, bathed in blue lighting as streaks of red adorned the stage. In the middle stood the highly-coveted Aegis, so close yet so far out of reach.
Where most attendees were content enough to just turn up and catch the action, some of the more dedicated ones brought along fan signs to cheer on the favourite team. Moments later, excited cheers washed over the stadium as the players walked onto the playing area amidst the shower of fireworks, signifying the start of the first match: Team Aster vs Team Liquid.
The showdown between the underdog team and one of the fan favourites didn’t turn out to be a quick one-sided victory, much to the glee of fans. Chants caught on during various points of the match, with each good play earning hoots from the crowd, and missed chances drawing disappointed groans and silence. Alas, Liquid walked away the winner, and Aster was eliminated after putting up a fight. The final scoreline was 2-1, offering a promising taste of what was to come in the coming matches.
But before the final programme of the evening, cosplayers dressed as Dota 2 heroes took over the stage for the cosplay competition. From the likes of Rubick to the Fire Spirit, these costumed individuals impressed with their finely-crafted and detailed creations:
Playtime was soon over, and the highlight was finally here. The stadium buzzed with excitement and cheers as Tundra Esports and Team Secret occupied their respective spots, headphones on and rearing to go. More intense was this match than the last, and plenty of close shaves, impressive plays, and tense action later, Tundra emerged top with a 2-1 victory over its European peer. The hottest team to win has booked a spot in the TI11 Grand Finals, and the atmosphere was nothing short of exhilarating.
All of that only served as a precursor to the final day of TI11, which would bring a highly-anticipated showdown between crowd favourites Team Secret and Team Liquid. With the doors yet to open, attendees roamed the premises to check out the various merchandise and take part in fringe activities at the secret shop, Secretlab’s booth, and other exhibitor areas.
Similar to the previous day, cosplayers also paraded around as they, along with the casual event-goer, took photos at the photo wall.
It was time soon enough, and enthusiasts, pumped up with energy and anticipation, took their seats. When members of the two teams appeared, the venue roared to life, and the battle for a Grand Final spot begun. Secret’s quick victory in the first round did little to quell the hype, which soared even further in the second round when Liquid clawed its way to even the scoreline.
A hard-fought battle later, and the result was determined: Secret, with its 2-1 win, will face off against Tundra! The crowd cheered, the team hugged one another in joy, and the stage was set up for an epic clash.
As the two finalists made their preparations backstage, the crowd was introduced to a new Dota 2 hero, Muerta, in the form of a short teaser. Not much else was revealed about the gun-wielding ghostly entity, but she is set to join the game’s roster sometime in early 2023.
Back to the present, hype levels hit the roof as those in attendance greeted both teams with the “Kallang Wave”, a wave cheer unique to Singapore that bears similarity to the Mexican wave. Considering that the name is a reference to the former National Stadium that the Singapore Sports Hub replaces, and how the Singapore Indoor Stadium is indeed part of the latter venue, the celebratory move is nothing short of apt.
And while fans were hoping for a tense, nail-biting 3-2 scoreline, Tundra showed that it wasn’t meant to be. The team stomped to a sweeping 3-0 victory amidst the deafening cheers, disappointed groans, and emotionally-charged atmosphere, proudly lifting the Aegis in honour of their first TI win. Still, it was a good showing for Secret, who had fought their way from the Last Chance Qualifiers to first runner-up. So close, yet so far, indeed.
Congratulations to Tundra for winning TI11! While the annual affair had its fair share of production issues and dissatisfaction this year, Finals weekend demonstrated the thrill and community spirit that comes with celebrating a shared love for Dota 2. It has been an absolute honour for the Singapore crowd to have experienced one of the world’s greatest esports events, and it’s one that most should hold dear to their hearts.
Till next year!