The International 2019 is drawing closer as 8 teams have already qualified for the biggest Esport event in history. This leaves TI9 with 4 spots still up for grabs, with the 1500 Dota Pro Circuit points on offer at ESL One Birmingham just as enticing as the $300,000 prize pool, especially this is the second to last tournament on the DPC calendar. What can we expect from the 12 teams that are present for this tournament? Well, personally I couldn’t wait for this tournament for two reasons; To see how teams have adapted to 7.22 and secondly, the introduction of Mars to Captains Mode. And Let me tell you, ESL One Birmingham didn’t disappoint. There was plenty of great Dota, insane wombo combo’s, remarkable individual plays, the return of Cliffteezy and most of all, excessive ‘Ceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeb’ voice lines!
ESL One Birmingham
May 28 – Jun 2, 2019
$300,000 USD Prize pool
Invited Teams- Vici Gaming, Gambit Esports (replacing Virtus.Pro), Ninjas in Pyjamas, PSG.LGD, Team OG, Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses, Team Secret
Qualified Teams- Alliance, Forward Gaming, Keen Gaming, TNC Predator
Warning– The following contains spoilers.
|5||Ninjas in Pyjamas||4-6|
Group A saw Vici Gaming and TNC Predator top the group. In fact, these two teams were the only teams to have a positive win ratio. Group A saw an unusual amount of series split 1 game each, with only 5 series finishing 2-0 (VG claiming 3 of them). This led to VG finishing the group stage with an impressive 8-2 record that included series wins over Team OG, NIP and Forward Gaming. None were more dominate than their 20 min demolition of Team Liquid, which unfortunately summed up Team Liquid’s tournament. The group stage bided farewell to Forward Gaming, winning only 2 out of their 10 games. Perhaps the FG still need more time for their roster changes to gel but with time running out before TI, it may look like they will have to work their way to TI via the open qualifiers. Joining FG on the plane is Ninjas in Pyjamas. Perhaps the recent events regarding their previous coach was a distraction for them? Who knows. All I know is that NIP wouldn’t be happy with failing to qualify for the knockout stage. Lucky enough for PPD and his team, their spot at TI is already secured.
Group B was a different story with plenty of teams winning 2-0. Evil Geniuses, like Vici Gaming were the standouts. EG finished 8-2, only losing games to Chinese powerhouse- PSG.LGD. Speaking of PSG.LGD, they continued their good form to finish 2nd in the group with a 7-3 record. Strangely enough though, PSG.LGD dropped 2 of their 3 losses to Alliance, who didn’t win another game that meant they were packing their bags back to Sweden. Team Secret also continued their dominate run of late, finishing 3rd with a 6-4 record while Gambit Esports did enough to sneak through. Joining Alliance on the plane home (well, different plane) was Keen Gaming, despite pinching a game off Team Secret, they proved they still have some work ahead of them.
This is where the fun begins! First up was Team Liquid and Gambit Esports. Despite Queen of Pain being out of the meta prior to 7.22, Afoninje displayed one of the best QOP performances you will see that saw Gambit take Game 1. Gambit’s momentum was quickly haulted as Liquid quickly took Game 2 and you could sense that Liquid mean business. You’d expect a last pick Broodmother on Matumbaman to be able close out the series, right? Well, despite taking an early T3 and Rax, Gambit’s teamfight was simply too strong and were able to prevail, despite never taking a Rax themselves and going straight for T4 and throne. Suddenly, Liquid were gone and Gambit found themselves moving onto the next round.
Team Secret didn’t take much time to dispose of the TI8 champion, Team OG. Puppey proving why he is once of the best drafters in Dota with a greedy, albeit teamfight focused draft that proved too much once they came online in Game 1. OG knew they had to pressure early but Secret were able to withstand the early pressure, get their items and there was little OG could do. Game 2 was even more one-sided as Topson’s Troll struggled to do anything as Secret proved 7.22 was nothing new to them and moved onto the next round.
In the upper bracket we saw two of China’s finest- Vici Gaming and PSG.LGD. VG went for a greedy, late game builds on their cores that didn’t pay off as PSG.LGD needed just over 20 minutes to take game one convincingly. Game 2 was much more entertaining, you felt that a late game Paparazi Spectre could carry VG through for a Game 3. But, great itemization by PSG.LGD and a huge game by Maybe’s Natures Prophet saw VG move down to face Gambit.
EG and TNC Predator produced some real highlights of the tournament, so much that 3 games were needed to pick a winner. TNC controlled game 1, despite EG’s best efforts to hold on and drag it out to 40 minutes. Eventually though, TNC showed patience and were able to eventually close out Game 1. Game 2 saw one of the games of the tournament, a true back and forward game that saw a strong early game by TNC, that should of saw them snowball. Hell, they even cliffed Arteezy (again) which saw a number of memes on reddit. But as always, a few bad teamfights around Roshan turned the game as both Sumail on his QOP and an RTZ Liftstealer proved why they’re some of the best cores in Dota and saw this series go to a Game 3. The deciding game of the series could be summed up in one phrase- Aghanim’s Scepter’s for all! Sumail’s Alchemist went on a shopping spree, handing out Scepters to everyone on his team while at the same time, styling on TNC as EG moved on and TNC moved down to the lower bracket.
Gambit Esports continued their great run, this time dominating a lackluster Vici Gaming. VG couldn’t take a game off PSG.LGD in the upper bracket, nor could they take a game off Gambit either. Gambit had a plan in game 1, fight. They constantly grouped up and forced VG into teamfights, something VG clearly didn’t want as their draft wasn’t designed to fight this early- Game 1 to Gambit. If it works, why change it? Game 2 saw Gambit replicate their Game 1 draft… Well, nearly. Sven, Bane and Earth Spirit all returned and so did the teamfight mentality. Again, VG were punished with their weak lanes and Gambit snowballed, knocking out another team in their impressive lower bracket run.
Next up was TNC and Secret. Puppey’s greedy drafting again paying off in game 1 as Yapz0r’s jungling Enigma enabled a 4 core mid-late game that proved too strong for TNC. Game 2 saw TNC absolutely dominate Secret. Gabbi was unleashed on his Sven and proved why Sven was the top pick of the tournament and absolutely wrecked Team Secret. Tims on his Natures Prophet felt like he was everywhere. Well, because his was! This was something TNC attempted in Game 3 as they picked both Sven and NP again, but Puppey and his team weren’t going to get done by this again. Secret got a few of their signature heroes in return as Yapz0r styled on his Rubick and MidOne put on a masterclass on his Templar Assassin, sending Secret through to the next round.
Could Gambit continue their impressive run and end Secret’s chance at more silverwear? Nope. Gambit’s impressive run unfortunately (well, fortunately for all you Secret fans) came to an end as Secret never looked threatened by Gambit. Game 1 saw Puppey doing his thing, drafting another strong lineup that was designed for late game. While Game 2 saw a teamfight-orientated lineup from Secret that was too much for a greedy Gambit line up that just couldn’t hold out to late game to come online. I couldn’t help but feel that Secret forced Gambit to draft differently against them. Gambit had success in their previous two rounds with their teamfight focused drafts, but they changed their draft strategies against Team Secret and were sent home.
Winners Bracket Final
Could EG finally end their run of finishing 3rd? you bet! After losing 2-0 against PSG.LGD in the group stage, EG had their chance to avenge this series loss and they did it in style, sending PSG.LGD to the lower bracket with a straight sets 2-0 win. Game 1 saw s4 struggle on his Dark Seer like I’ve never seen before. Mainly due to PSG.LGD clearly wanted to protect Ame on his Sven, a clear plan that was well executed during the laning phase. Sumail on Leshrac and Maybe on his QOP was a pleasure to watch all game, both players proved why they’re the best in the world of both of these heroes. But the difference was Arteezy, who backed up his recent tournament and for mine, was player of the tournament. He played Lifestealer perfectly, only dying once and exposed a clear weakness of magic immunity lock downs on PSG.LGD. Game 2 saw a change of drafting approach by PSG.LGD, but with the same result. But again, RTZ was again the difference as PSG.LGD had no answer for his Naga Siren. With a focus on mid and PSG.LGD’s safe lane, Ame was struggling with the extra harass o his Wraith King, while EG’s Naga was free-farming, forcing Chalice to abandon his lane and take his NP to other lanes. We all know how a 20 min free farming Naga goes… Manta, Diffusal and Butterfly. PSG.LGD were simply out drafted and outplayed, allowing EG to snowball and move into the grand final.
Boy, what a grand final. 5 games of back and forward action by two teams that had stars in every position. Game 1 reminded me of EG vs PSG.LGD game 1, s4 again was left against a trilane (sometimes 4 heroes) and suffered, EG sacrificing their offlaner to enable their pos 1 and 2. EG took a page out of Secret’s playbook and went for a greedy strat. Cr1t jungling on his Enigma while RTZ was racking up the gold on his Arc Warden. Secret knew exactly how EG wanted to play and instead of letting s4 get some XP and levels, they forced him out of lane constantly, took over the jungle and pushed early towers which Nisha loved on his Sven. This saw their lead push out to over 15K, until Sven gave over a huge killstreak and EG were suddenly back in it and got some map control back. It was short lived however, EG’s gold was stacked on Arc Warden and TA was falling off. Secret were able to close out an impressive start to the Grand Final.
Game 2 saw IO and Gyrocopter fall to Secret, which usually means the game is as good as won. This wasn’t the case though as Secret felt kind and let Chen fall to EG, now both teams had a global TP ability. Depsite the initial tri-on-tri, EG came out on top and never looked like losing. Secret’s draft had a clear issue with lockdown, a rare instance where perhaps Puppey was outdrafted. 1-1.
Game 3 saw IO slip to EG this time, with RTZ back on his Liftstealer and EG’s draft suddenly looked superior. Despite having IO, EG fell into Secret’s trap and felt like they were holding out for late game as Secret were able to mostly avoid fights until Nisha’s Anti-mage came online and along with MidOne’s Death Prophet, were able to carry Secret to a 2-1 lead.
Game 4 again saw a lack of lockdown haunt Secret as EG looked as they have all tournament, dominating Secret with strong lanes, strong mid game and never gave Secret a chance of going late game, even though EG had the stronger late game on paper.
It all came down to Game 5, both teams had scored 2 wins over each other and EG had all the momentum. Both teams drafted well- EG had scary teamfight potential- Mars, Warlock, DP, Doom, Spec. Secret were had a more balanced lineup that could fight, rat and counter-initiate with Shadow Sharman, Nyx, Dark Seer, Monkey king and the ultimate fight reset against a strong teamfight lineup, Naga Siren. Secret changed up their strats in game 5, sending MidOne’s MK into the safe line against RTZ’s Spectre, a clear sign that Sumail had dominated MidOne all series. This forced Nisha’s Naga Siren to go mid, well more of a jungling core that also got CK under his mid tower. Zai and Yapz0r ensured s4 again felt pressured and gave up plenty of deaths early, stifling his farm and xp gain. By 15 mins, s4’s Doom and Fly’s warlock both had 5 deaths but neither team had an advantage. Secret were playing smarter, getting good pickoffs thanks to Yapz0r’s Nyx Assassin. EG were winning teamfights easily, forcing Secret to play smarter. The beginning of the end was a smart double smoke by Team Secret, attempting to take Rosh only to be scouted, retreating, shrining up and smoking back in to finish, right under EG’s nose. Secret took some map control but EG again were able to win a teamfight, take a T3 and felt strong, so strong that they perhaps pushed the tempo and tried to make too much happen. EG smoked, trying to catch out Puppey as he was out of position but EG went in too deep as Sumail and Arteezy tried to fight MidOne’s Monkey King in the Wukong’s command, only for Zai to land a huge wall-vac combo into a Yapz0r Impale and suddenly, EG were all dead. Secret take mid rax as EG don’t want to engage. Rosh is back up, smoke and smoke action, what happens next? Well, a HUGE vac-wall combo by Zai on Cr1t, Sumail and Fly, into ANOTHER epic Yapz0r Impale, Puppey traps Cr1t in his Serpent Wards as MidOne and Nisha deal the physical damage. Damn, it was supposed to be EG with teamfight advantage but Secret played this last two teamfights PERFECTLY. Another uncontested Rax and Ageis follow and suddenly Secret have a 20K gold lead. Team Secret played Game 5 perfectly and waiting until EG made a mistake and capitalized.
EG calls GG just shy of 40 mins as Secret back up their MDL Disneyland and Chongqqing major wins by adding ESL One Birmingham to their impressive run.
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