History of Competitive DotA (Fast Push: The 6.37 Era)
On September 10th 2006, DotA Allstars 6.37 was released. On December 6th, the Chinese version came out. The 6.37 version was the second stable competitive version in the 6.3x series. There were many big changes that finally brought an end to the AoE (area of effect) era and marking the beginning of the fast push with summons strategy.
Happenings in the EU/NA scene
The most important competition during the 6.37 era was the ESL DotA Nations Cup. Participating teams numbered 12 in total including NA powerhouses coL, JMC and tPD, as well as strong EU teams such as Team Q, Say Plz, TeG (The Elder Gods) and JoY (Jukes on You). Without a doubt, these were the top teams of the time. Since the competition stretched so long in duration, teams disbanded and players didn't always remain with original teams for the entirety of the competition. Nevertheless, this was the most high-skilled international tournament before the MYM Prime Defending series of competitions.
The most dominant team in the ESL was tPD. Early in the 6.37 era, tPD experimented with Pandaren Brewmaster, Syllabear and other heroes before finding the perfect meat shield for a fast push strategy: Bristleback. From that point onwards, the Bristleback, Enchantress, Twin Head Dragon, Beastmaster and Holy Knight lineup swept aside all teams at ESL who had no way to withstand their onslaught.
It was a shame that at a critical juncture in the tournament, the Bristleback God that was SwissBeatz became inactive having gotten into World of Warcraft (WoW). Then, Say Plz stole tPD's own strategy and used it against them sending them into the losers' bracket in the semi-final match. In the losers' bracket, Team Q followed Say Plz's initiative and eliminated the inventor of the fast push with summons strategy. It's lamentable that tPD fell into a downward spiral soon after.
In the finals of the ESL after Say Plz won Game 1 due to one of Team Q's players (CatQ) having internet issues and the team being forced to use a stand-in, they fought a bitter, hard-fought 2h 30m 46s match against Team Q. After a heaven-startling and earth-shaking comeback (no pun intended), they managed to claim victory. This was one of the most classic matches in the history of DotA.
On November 6th 2006, after hosting three small-scale DotA tournaments that didn't have much worldwide impact, e-sports organization MYM held the MYM PriDe Xtreme #1 Tournament (Prime Defending) filled with high-skilled players. From MYM PriDe #5 onwards, this tournament series would go on to become the most influential online DotA competition in the world. MYM PriDe Xtreme #1 was won by the old school Romanian team TeG who defeated coL and Team Q on their way to the finals. Second place was claimed by Say Plz
The famous EU DotA website DotA-League held the 6th season of its popular online tournament Pick League. Each team would accumulate points based on victories. In the end, the German team WE (World Eaters) won. WE|Kuroky had made his mark on the world of DotA for the first time.
During this tournament in a match between MYM and WE, the recently-joined MYM.Merlini used for the first time ever in a competitive match Boots of Travel (BoT) Tinker strategy of flying everywhere on the map to gank. So it was that a classic DotA strategy emerged. Later, in the 6.52 era, Indonesia's XcN (eXeCutioNer) would bring the BoT Tinker strategy to its pinnacle.
Surprisingly, this strategy was developed by a pub player called Virot2 who had been perfecting it since 6.27. He published an influential guide between the 6.32 and 6.37 versions that was the first to advocate such a build considered highly unorthodox at the time. If there was a case of a pub player revolutionizing the DotA world, this would be it.
On September 29th, the famous 6.32 era team JMC announced that it was disbanding.
On November 15th, 2006, e-sports organization MYM began sponsoring the recent winner of MYM Prime tournament, JoY, thus prompting them to change their name to the one we're all familiar with. The key members were Paccie, MaNia, Maelk, Akke and Loda (stands for Lord of Dol Amroth). Half a month later, they claimed victory in the DotA category of the renowned LAN (local area network, i.e. offline) tournament DreamHack. After winning the tournament, Loda and Akke left MYM to form a new team called T_T (Team_Team). After Loda left, MYM reached out to members from the disbanded JMC. The addition of Merlini, Fang and p0c boosted MYM's popularity and prestige making it one of the most followed teams.
During the 6.37 era, the most influential team was tPD without a doubt. Despite not being able to win ESL, their fast push strategy became 6.37's tempo. If it wasn't for SwissBeatz giving up DotA for WoW, we can rest assured that their exploits would have been even better.
The Russian giant Say Plz began their march towards DotA world’s limelight. In terms of popularity Say Plz, as one of the oldest teams in DotA, had already supplanted coL. They were considered one of the best teams in the world playing with maturity, having stable players and rarely committing mistakes.
After being defeated in the finals of the CEVO tournament by tPD, coL began to fall apart. throzz retired, DOGKaiser fell under team verGe's enchantment and warr1ck didn't know what to do. With Fear as leader of coL, they had been one of the strongest teams in the 6.32 era.
iMbaQ had served for a time on Say Plz and STFU (Skill The F Up). With STFU, iMbaQ an Englishman overcame historical rivalries to join forces with Frenchman and ex-tPD star SoyCD. Also on this legendary team were FocusIRE (also known as DoTa[expert]), Get-Lost (FocusIRE's brother, also known as DoTa[pro]) and CatQ who were extremely skilled players in their own right. The all-star team took MYM PriDe #2 by storm crushing the opposition.
SoyCD was a strong solo-mid player who many considered to be the best player in the world at the time. He was quite proficient in using every hero. The only other player who stood a chance to compete for the title of best player during this era would be FocusIRE. He was another strong solo-mid and had won Season 2 of Dota-League's SIG (Single Instant Game) Ladder.
After joining Team Q, iMbaQ played the role of a carry. With his individual ability, he served Team Q with distinction in the TFL (The Frozen League) and ESL contributing to Team Q's dominance during this period. Aside from iMbaQ, the JesseQ-led Team Q had elJefeQ, BarbaraQ, JesseQ and CatQ who were all high-skilled players and friends in this clan that has been around since the Starcraft times. PenguinQ, nRiQ, QOa and leppasQ were also in this team. iMbaQ didn't use spaces when he types, preferring the underscore instead. He had a considerable amount of personality. Some say he was the Einstein of the DotA world, so great was his influence at the time.
LighTofHeaven had become the representative of EU DotA during the 6.32 era. Following strong performances by Say Plz, he drew more and more attention due to his spectacular performances in the carry role. He combined exceptional farming capability with awe-inspiring abilities of reading the game and stability in his play. He was a pioneer of the Necronomicon Silencer item route and played a crucial role in the advancement of Silencer in terms of how he should be played.
Having joined MYM, Merlini showed a renewal of his 6.32 era prestige and influence, filling the skies with heat-seeking rockets and once again propelling himself to dazzling stardom. To say that he was the most influential DotA player in the world wouldn't be an overstatement. He became the first player after Fear to attain Legend status.
Loda, ARS-ART, M.Admiration, FocusIRE and Levent, these later stars began making their mark during this era.
Happenings in the Asian scene
IceFrog's 6.37 version lasted from September 1st, 2006 until February 2007, but its influence on the Chinese scene wasn't actually that extensive. It wasn't until December 2006 until the Chinese version came out and was quickly replaced by 6.41 two short months later. In between was also the Chinese version of 6.38 and the Chinese New Year. Also during the 6.37 era, there weren't any big tournaments aside from CDL-I. Compared to the EU/NA scene, the Chinese scene was quite small.
On December 7th 2006, OGame.net announced they were going to host a Chinese DotA Tournament called the CDL-I Tournament. This time, their announcement was sufficiently loud. In fact, their eye-catching advertisement was on the 6.37 Chinese version's loading screen which was just released on December 6th. This edition of the tournament stretched a very long time lasting over half a year. It strode across three competitive versions from 6.37 until 6.43.
There were 12 teams that participated. Almost all were the 12 strong teams invited by CPL (Cyberathlete Professional League) as mentioned in Part 2 of this history. In the end, IFNT defeated HTML to take the victory. This was the more carefully organized online DotA tournament. Advertisements giving advance notice, replay release after the tournament and live casting were all performed fairly satisfactorily.
It is interesting to note that the now infamous trilane (3-1-1 laning) emerged during the time between the 6.32 and 6.37 eras in the SEA scene. It is rumoured to have first been used by lesser known teams at WCG Malaysia 2006 in August. The first time it can definitely be proven to have been used in a competitive match was in the semi-final BO1 (best of one) match of WCG Asia 2006 by Singapore's MI2 (stylized way of writing MR) facing their dominant countrymen, Zenith. With Zenith's star-studded squad of GPS, Ant, ToFu, LuX and iceiceice on ten month long winning streak, MI2 needed a miracle.
Facing a gank-heavy lineup from Zenith with the possibility of a dual-stun lane, MI2 ingeniously trilaned an Enigma, Vengeful Spirit, Medusa bottom against a solo Sven. Threatened with complete lane domination, Zenith was forced to pull the dual jungling Sand King and Chen all the way from Scourge jungle to bottom lane for support, costing them experience and gold. Ultimately, with Medusa strong beyond imagining, MI2 was able to take three towers with their first push and force Zenith to "gg" with the next.
On September 24th 2006, in a showmatch between MI2 and coL, Asia's gank style met EU's lane-control style to determine which one was stronger. The match became the focal point of discussion for many and appealed to countless fans.
MI2 was the winner of the most recent WCG Asia 2006 (World Cyber Games). coL had just defeated tPD and become the winner of CAL (Cyberathlete Amateur League). The two teams met at their peaks and the match attracted worldwide attention. Due to poor internet connections, both sides fought well in one match each and the contest was split one apiece.
In the first match, coL dominated with their standard AoE 4-protect-1 Clinkz. (This was still early on in the 6.37 era) In the second match, MI2 dazzled with their offensive trilane (as opposed to their farming trilane vs. Zenith).These two matches were classic matches full of historical significance. From this point on, the gank and lane-control styles of play began to interact, both trying to borrow from the strengths of the other.
Soon after this showmatch, EU and NA teams led by MYM and coL began experimenting with trilanes as a situational strategy for offensive purposes or farming. Popular picks in the SEA scene such as Viper and Queen of Pain entered the competitive pool of EU and NA DotA.
Mainstream strategies and hero picks
As alluded to previously, there were many big changes since the 6.32 version that brought an end to the AoE era and begun the fast push with summons era. These changes included:
-Mekansm could no longer be stacked. -The items Vanguard and Bottle were introduced. -Tangos were buffed to heal 75 more HP (health points). -Denied units gave off some experience instead of none. -A reward of 200 gold was now given to team members when an opposing tower was destroyed.
Changes to game mechanics to denies as well as the buff to tangos allowed melee heroes such as Beastmaster and Bristleback to become viable for the first time.
6.37 wasn't actually a very balanced version. Under -LM mode in 6.37, the Sentinel fast push using summons strategy with Chen and Enchantress was almost unstoppable by Scourge. Even with the Spectre trilane strategy, Scourge lost more games. This is why players began to doubt the balance of competitive matches and to consider the possibility of using -AP mode over -LM. Thus began a shift in public opinion regarding the competitive mode.
Several versions that followed 6.37 were stable competitive versions, but these versions made some important changes with some looking like they'd been made in a rush.
6.38 introduced the new items Arcane Ring, Flying Courier, Mjollnir and Vladmir's Offering. As well, the siege unit was added as a creep type. The Bottle was buffed immensely by allowing runes to refill an empty bottle and a buff to the mana regeneration of each sip. A new hero Priestess of the Moon was introduced.
6.39 continued with the changes, the significant ones being: addition of -RD mode, addition of the OB (observer) stat table, and two new heroes, Geomancer and Dazzle.
DotA 6.3x was the era where DotA spread worldwide and continued its evolution as an e-sport. During this time, large-scale tournaments with influence worldwide were held providing the conditions for different DotA playstyles to interact (trilanes and Queen of Pain being two examples). The rationales behind different strategies blended and gained from the strengths of each other preparing for the arrival of a new era.