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With 2019 coming to an end, it’s always great to look back at a year of Dota 2 but seeing as it is also the end of the decade, we’ve also decided to look back at all the parts of the game which has been going for nearly the entire decade that made it what it is today. From huge gameplay changes to a tournament that is constantly breaking records, the best games of the years (in my opinion), controversy and much, much more, the last 9+ years of Dota 2 have been special to all.

So, take a walk down the nostalgia lane of 2011 through to 2020 with us as we look back at the game that changed the face of esports for good.

2011 – The humble beginnings

The best place to start is at the beginning and for Dota 2 that was at Gamescom, Germany all the way back in 2011. Valve decided then to release the game alongside a tournament which would not only become the absolute pinnacle of Dota 2 but of an entire esports epidemic which swept through the world over the decade – The International. The first iteration of the event, while having a fairly small audience in a small hall, gave us the base for every TI to follow and even at $1,600,000 in prize pool money, we were all already blown away. And little did we know that this would only be the small beginnings of something so much bigger.

At the first event we were introduced to Natus Vincere, a team which would go on to make history not just by themselves, but as individual players too. As Danil ‘Dendi’ Ishutin quickly became one of the most well-known esports stars in the world – quickly forgotten were his original DotA days as Na’Vi blasted their way into first place at TI1. Unfortunately, as beloved and prolific as they were, this feat would never be achieved again in the same decade and even after two years of reaching the grand finals again, Na’Vi were denied a second addition to the Aegis of Champions.

While the game was not yet made fully open to the public, people who had initially entered the early closed beta would receive more invites which they could spread to their friends and the world and quickly Dota 2 became a massive hit. From there on out things moved really quickly for Dota 2 and 2012 was another fantastic year.

Game of the year: Na’Vi versus EHOME, Game 1, TI1.

2012 – A continued beta

While Dota 2 remained in a beta period for the entirety of 2012, the game had a lot of amazing reveals during the year – one of the main things being that Gabe Newell confirmed that it would be completely free-to-play, with the addition of cosmetic items to an ingame store for purchase. Alongside this it was also confirmed that every hero that were released initially and as a follow-up would also be completely free. Considering some of the other MOBA games of the genre, this made waves in the community and was absolutely loved by everyone.

image: Dota 2 Spoils of War

TI2 moved us out of Germany and into North America, where we would spend the next few years – Seattle’s Benaroya’s Hall being the venue for the next two years. After another magnificent event, Invictus Gaming were able to claim the title – which included another prize pool of $1,600,000 for the second year running.

However, through all of this, Dota 2 still remained in a beta period – although numbers on Steam showed that the game was being played by hundreds of thousands across the world, with more joining daily. But 2013 would be the year where things would change…

Best game of the year: Na’Vi versus Invictus Gaming, Game 2, TI2, “The Play”.

2013 – The end of beta

In July of 2013, Valve released Dota 2 out of its beta phase and into its official capacity on the Steam servers. While the game had already been seeing peaks of upwards of 200,000 players, these numbers began to quickly rise in the months following the game’s release and with TI3 around the corner, this made for even more incentives too; an ingame Compendium which helped crowd-fund the prize pool. $2,800,000 was on the cards this time around and, at the time, that instantly became the highest in esports history, writing another amazing chapter into the Dota 2 books.

But that wasn’t all TI3 produced either as the grand finals have long been once of the most famous rivalries in the game – Alliance versus Na’Vi. Every Dota 2 fan throughout the world knows the amazing grand final and how it ended and made 2013 one of the biggest years for Dota 2.

Best game of the year: Alliance versus Na’Vi, Game 5, TI3.

2014 – Free to Play

There were two big things that stood out for the year; one being the new world record esports prize pool set at TI4 and the other being Free To Play, a documentary detailing the lives and careers of three well-known players. Free To Play was released by Valve in March of 2014 and quickly reached acclaim as it highlighted Dendi, Clinton ‘Fear’ Loomis and Benedict ‘hyhy’ Lim’s struggles in moving from DotA into its sequel and TI1. Millions around the world pre-loaded the movie on Steam and joined in through the screams, tears and triumphs of the three – something not many had witnessed at the first TI event.

Following this, Dota 2 begun to break even more records, as mentioned above – as TI4 raised a gigantic $10,000,000 prize pool, and for the first time now had moved to an even bigger stadium with KeyArena in Seattle taking over. Dota 2 was vibrant, everywhere and had already taken the world but the story was still far from over.

Game of the year: Alliance versus Cloud 9, Game 2, ESL One Frankfurt, The Rat Kings come out to play.

2015 – More teams, more tournaments

By 2015, we had almost seen the entire DotA roster of heroes released into the game but the Dota 2 train was still going strong as ever. However, with four years having passed since the game’s release, it was clear that there were becoming a massive surplus of team’s wanting to get into the hallowed grounds of TI and join the fight for the millions of Dollars, the Aegis of Champions and a spot in the history books of esports – and thus we suddenly saw another tournament rise; the Dota 2 Asia Championship. DAC would end up boasting a $3,000,000 prize pool as well as following on from Valve’s Regional Qualifier tradition to make the tournaments open to teams and players worldwide.

image: Redbull

While it may have been the only tournament of its kind at the time, DAC 2015 opened the pathway to an even bigger esports industry for Valve and Dota 2 – as the Dota 2 Major Championship would soon be confirmed.

All that aside, TI5 raised a staggering $18,000,000, once again toppling over the previous record and presenting Evil Geniuses with $10,000,000 for winning and 2016 was about to be one of the best for Dota 2.

Game of the year: Ninjas in Pyjamas versus Team Empire, ESL One New York European Qualifiers, Semi-finals, Game 2, the closest base race in Dota 2 history.

2016 – Let the Majors be (Re)born

Even though the first actual Major was technically held in 2015, it came late in the year and proceeded TI5. The Majors became a new way for teams to show off their talent before TI invites went out and avoid regional qualifiers by being directly invited into the event. These Majors were splendid, with massive prize pools and a host of different teams fighting for the spoils. They have us series like we’ve never seen before such as Ad Finem versus OG, Team Secret versus Team Liquid and much, much more.

2016 pulled the ingame “Compendium” out of our hands for the first time but instead gave us something even better; the evolving Battle Pass which is what helped TI reach even further goals and records in esports.

But that was not all the year gave us, because as 2016 came to a close, something that had been in alpha for a year was released – Dota 2 Reborn.

Reborn shifted Dota 2 from a simple sequel built on a new engine to an entirely different game from its predecessor.  Nearly every aspect of the game saw a change from the map and HUD to gameplay and matchmaking. It may have taken nearly six years, but Dota 2 had attained a greatness like no other and we still weren’t at the top at every level – although 2016 brought us close. The year would also see Dota 2 reach its highest average peak players over a 30-day period with a total that reached almost 1,300,000 players. And it still did not end yet as we witnessed, for the first time ever since we’d left behind the Warcraft III client, a brand-new hero in the game – one that was never in the previous game – Monkey King.

Although all of that was great and Dota 2 was at its highest point, 2016 also came with some controversy that most will remember as James ‘2GD’ Harding was fired by Valve for breaching his contract. While many believe that this was the wrong move, we’ll let you decide for yourself with the video below (strong language ensues):

Game of the year: OG versus Ad Finem, The Boston Major, Game three.

2017 – A new era evolved

As Dota 2 moved forward, it continued to grow which meant that we also saw the final year in which TI was held at KeyArena and another new winner with Team Liquid making their way into the driver’s seat and claiming a world-record breaking prize pool at $24,000,000. TI7 also confirmed another two heroes would be coming our way with the confirmation of Pangolier and Dark Willow and the Dueling Fates update.

It was only following The International 2017 that we learned of an entire new system that would becoming for the new season, filled with far more action that we had even seen before.

Game of the year: OG versus, The Kiev Major, Grand Final.

2018 – Welcome to the Dota 2 Pro Circuit

2018 was a strange year for Dota 2 as it gave us the first insight into the Pro Circuit; a new way for teams to play through the season and earn points which would get them invited to TI8. While this system would give us constant action throughout the year, it definitely took its toll on the teams with 22 tournaments in the competitive year. Some of these tournaments were Minors which offered teams 300 points while others were Majors and offered a total of 1500 points.

image: Liquipedia

But after all the tournament dust was settled, the inaugural season of the DPC led us to Vancouver for TI8 and a $25,000,000 prize pool. While the DPC set many teams up for reaching the pinnacle of TI, it was a team that had success at the previous Major system which would sweep through the event – OG. The year would also give us our first looks at another two heroes; Grimstroke and Mars but things were still far from over for the game.

Game of the year: OG versus PSG.LGD, TI8, Grand Final.

2019 – Now again as it once was before

Following TI8, the DPC would once again announce its evolution as the game changed things up for players and teams. With five Minors and five Majors throughout the season, we would see teams having to qualify for tournaments rather than participating in a stuffed schedule. With this massive change came more great rivalries too as teams begun to take control of the Majors again but this time there were three at the helm; Team Secret, and Vici Gaming.

As the Majors ended and teams made their way to China for TI9, the Dota 2 community broke all the records once again – with a staggering, jaw-dropping, insane $34,000,000 prize pool for the event. Completely blowing the previous year out of the river and claiming the spot as the highest prize pool in esports history once again, TI9 was set to be absolutely amazing – and it did not fail to impress. In 8 years of the event, we never once saw a team or player claim the Aegis of Champions twice, not until OG. The amazing squad were able to take down everyone in their path and write their name in the history books for Dota 2 once more.

TI9 confirmed another two new heroes too; Void Spirit and Snapfire, but also confirmed that we would be moving into another new era of Dota 2 with the Outlanders update. By now we are all familiar with this and every way it has changed the game – exactly like Reborn did some time ago and moving forward we can only imagine what’s next.

Game of the year: Team Secret versus Mineski, TI9, For Austin ‘Capitalist’ Walsh’s “water bottle incident” and the game itself.

2020 – Onwards and upwards

With the new year on the horizon we already have a string of Majors and Minors to look forward to in 2020 before Stockholm, Sweden welcomes us for the tenth iteration of The International. While there are sure to be many changes in gameplay, hero choice and item builds coming in the new year, we have absolutely no doubt that Dota 2 will continue give us new rivalries as new teams and players begin to rise.

Are you ready for 2020 in Dota 2?

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