Back to Back! Mineski ensures another top 4 finish, claims Group B crown in Day 2 action.
After an exciting series of performances on Day 1, the PGL Open Bucharest kept the ball rolling with another slate of matches on Day 2. The matches from Group A saw a Chinese squad shine brightly as LGD Gaming secured a top 4 slot, while the North American squad Immortals put together a strong showing itself. Group B had the potential to see the same scenario play out, with NA squad Evil Geniuses and Chinese team VGJ.Thunder joining SEA powerhouse Mineski and CIS contender Na’Vi among the squads that saw action on Day 2. Na’Vi and Mineski had both previously played on LAN at the StarLadder i-League Minor, while EG and VGJ.Thunder made their first LAN appearances of the season in Bucharest.
Group B: Evil Geniuses(2) vs. Vici Gaming J.Thunder(1)
EG has looked strong so far in regional qualifiers, and the squad appears to have adjusted to the return of Fear in time for the Minor. VGJ.Thunder have not looked quite so strong, and but the organization’s new roster certainly has a lot of experience and talent in a strong Chinese region. Immortals and LGD Gaming set the bar on Day 1 for the North America vs. China match up, and this series will look to live up to the excitement of those prior games. This series will be an interesting test for both teams, particularly as the two squads are playing on LAN for the first time this season.
Game 1 saw EG get off to a hot start with a highly aggressive lineup. The team picked Spirit Breaker and Jakiro for aggressive ganks and pushing, adding both Io and Lone Druid to amplify those strengths. A last pick Bloodseeker was the final piece to an EG lineup that absolutely punished VGJ.Thunder. From the outset of the match EG was in control, winning the laning stage, pressuring VGJ.Thunder’s cores and limiting the team’s farming opportunities. EG’s aggression was spearheaded by Fear’s Spirit Breaker, as the new EG captain was active and ganking early and often. By the 10 minute mark, EG had built up a 6k net worth lead, leaving VGJ.Thunder scrambling to find answers. It was clear early on that this one was EG’s game to lose, with VGJ.Thunder being reliant on a massive EG mistake to have any serious chance at a comeback. That mistake never came, and EG claimed game 1 in a walk over affair to seize control of the series.
Game 2 saw EG attempt to replicate the success that its aggressive lineup from game 1 had managed, with a trio of ganking supports alongside a Clockwerk for initiation and a Clinkz to add a physical damage source. On the other hand VGJ.Thunder drafted a trio of Night Stalker, Pugna, and Bloodseeker for some aggression of its own, backed up by a Anti-Mage last pick. While EG had been the aggressor in game 1, the roles were very much reversed in the series’ second match, with VGJ.Thunder being active across the map and punishing the EG lineup. VGJ.Thunder roamed the map at will throughout the early and mid game, tearing through EG’s lineup. EG managed to group up as 5 in the mid game to buy some time, but it wasn’t enough to bring the game back to a manageable position, and VGJ.Thunder won the game to tie up the series.
With the series tied up, it all came down to a decisive game 3 to see who would come away with the series victory. Each team had taken a game in the series through a fast-paced and aggressive play style, but game 3 would not be so simple to win for either squad. EG drafted a tough farming and team fighting lineup, headlined by Necrophos and Sniper and backed up with Pugna, Lich, and Kunkka in support. For VGJ.Thunder the lineup would revolve around Bloodseeker and Broodmother, with Witch Doctor, Earth Spirit, and Omniknight providing the lockdown and control for those two cores. The game appeared to be well within the control of VGJ.Thunder, as its lineup took early fights and managed to control the map with strong and effective pushes through every lane. EG was backed into a corner as it was left scrambling to defend the remnants of its own base. Sacrificing space and objectives for time, EG managed to fight back and just barely stave off defeat as VGJ.Thunder couldn’t quite finish off the enemy’s base. After multiple push attempts and team fights, EG had fought back into a somewhat even scenario by leaning heavily on its core Necrophos and Sniper for damage, as well as relying on Lich’s level 25 talent for massive amounts of armor on its few remaining structures. VGJ.Thunder’s lineup simply hit a wall here, as EG’s damage and the Ice Armor on its remaining barracks made it too hard to break base without a significant pick off. After being down by nearly 26k net worth, EG had managed to pull back to an even net worth count at the 80 minute mark. Minutes later, EG stormed into the VGJ.Thunder base, wiping the team and fighting through its buybacks to complete an improbable comeback to win the series in an 82 minute long marathon of a game.
It wasn’t necessarily clear what we would see when EG and VGJ.Thunder came up against each other to kick off the action on Day 2. Both squads had undergone some roster changes, and were making their first appearances on LAN for the season. What we got was nothing short of amazing, with a full three game series being capped off by what was probably one of, if not the best, games of the season so far. Games 1 and 2 were won out by aggression, with each team claiming a win off the back of active and aggressive lineups. Both teams flashed high levels of skill and team coordination in those first 2 games, but game 3 is where we really saw what these teams were made of. An 82 minute long slug-fest of a match provided an extended highlight real for both squads in the end. EG showed a level of determination and craftiness not often seen even at this highest level of competition, as the team dug out a long and painful come from behind victory. However, this game and this series, showed us quite a lot about how strong the losing team was as well, as VGJ.Thunder performed admirably and likely better than most had been expecting. Despite losing the series in the end, VGJ.Thunder had played itself into a position where it had a legitimate chance to knock off one of the world’s strongest and most prominent organizations. With the loss, VGJ.Thunder were done for Day 2, as the Chinese squad will not play again until tomorrow when the elimination matches are set to begin. For EG though, there’s no rest for the weary, as the team’s hard fought victory earned it a spot in the final series of Day 2 against the winner of the Na’Vi-Mineski series.
Group B: Natus Vincere(1) vs. Mineski(2)
So an 82 minute long thriller to cap off a series is a bit of a tough act to follow, but this series certainly featured two teams with the star power and skill to pull it off. Na’Vi and Mineski both saw action already this season at the StarLadder i-League Minor, but unfortunately didn’t get the chance to play against each other directly. After Mineski’s 2nd place run at the season’s first Minor, the SEA squad was looking to maintain its momentum and claim another top 4 spot and more Qualifying Points to start its season. On the other hand, Na’Vi entered the series looking for redemption, as the CIS squad was just one series against Team Secret away from a top 4 finish itself.
Game 1 started out looking like an even match up, but the game quickly became a one sided affair as Mineski took control. Both sides drafted lineups with strong roaming and controlling supports built to buy time and space for high volume farming cores. Dendi’s Lina kept Na’Vi relatively close in terms of net worth in the early stages, but as the game progressed Mineski was able to find more farm as a team than Na’Vi. The Na’Vi heroes started to lag behind, with only Lina maintaining a competitive net worth. Mineski pulled ahead and began dominating team fights, as Na’Vi became too reliant on Lina to present a significant threat. One final brute force push into Na’Vi’s base, backed by an Aegis and cheese, secured a rather easy win for Mineski and a series lead for the SEA squad.
After a rough game 1 loss, Na’Vi needed a solid performance to keep itself in this series, but Mineski wasn’t going to make it easy for the CIS squad. A strong team fighting lineup which included a last pick Tinker gave Na’Vi fits throughout the game. Hoiwever, Na’Vi’s draft came through for them in this one, wit the team pulling together an even better fighting and farming lineup led by a trio of Magnus, Faceless Void, and Weaver. With these heroes, Na’Vi and Mineski remained neck and neck through the laning and early stages of the game, but once the teams approached the late game, Na’Vi’s heroes began to shine. The Na’Vi core trio began to outpace the Tinker carry for Mineski, and the teamfight execution from the CIS squad allowed Na’Vi to seize control of the game. Na’Vi proceeded to play things safe from that point on, methodically pushing lanes, taking smart fights, and storming into the Mineski base to win the game and tie up the series.
Mineski’s loss in game 2 prompted the team to make some adjustments heading into the 3rd and final game of the series. The SEA squad drafting a lineup with heavy roaming and ganking potential to make space for core Visage and Vengeful Spirit. Added into the mix was a Silencer pick in an attempt to control Na’Vi’s opportunities to initiate fights. On the other side of the matchup, Na’Vi went all in around a Sven and a Queen of Pain, hoping find pick offs to create space for Sven to take over the game. Sven did find that farm, but he was just about the only hero on Na’Vi to find it. Meanwhile, Mineski was balancing high levels of farm across all of its cores, leading to a steady power increase as Na’Vi became increasingly more dependent on the Sven. Na’Vi tried to buy more time for its lineup to catch up, avoiding engagements as much as possible. However, Mineski had taken control of the map by this point, limiting Na’Vi’s farming options and forcing it into a desperation fight. By the time this fight took place, the Mineski lineup had the items and abilities it needed to kite around the Sven, refusing to give him a stationary target. Without the Sven’s damage, the team fight potential for Na’Vi was almost non-existent, and Mineski claimed a the game and the series victory.
This series certainly provided some entertaining Dota, despite the one sided nature of the games themselves. Mineski looked strong again after coming off of its performance at the StarLadder i-League Minor, and now have a chance to secure another top 4 finish in Bucharest. The team looks strong in its play style and drafting, only dropping off a bit when the team deviates or experiments with its lineups. For Na’Vi the loss is an unfortunate development, as the team finds itself just short of beating a major rival again. Na’Vi did not look as strong in this series as it had at the previous Minor, and some of that may come down to the drafting. Na’Vi have two fantastic carry players in Dendi and Crystallize, but its drafts in this series seemed to place too much on the shoulders of those two players. Na’Vi’s supporting cast is a talented and capable group, and Na’Vi as a team seems to have more frequent success when it puts its supports in a position to assist and play alongside the cores rather than simply making space or being sacrifice to by time and farm for them. As it stands, Na’Vi will have some time to regroup and prepare, as the team will return to action tomorrow in the Day 3 elimination matches. For Mineski, Day 2 isn’t over just yet, as the team’s victory won them a chance to take on Evil Geniuses to crown the king of Group B.
Group B: Evil Geniuses(0) vs. Mineski(2)
After a long and drawn out Day 2 for both squads, Evil Geniuses and Mineski reconvene for one last go to close out the Day 2 action. Despite dropping a game against their respective opponents, both squads looked strong and showed an admirable level of determination in adjusting to its opponents strategies and finding ways to win games. Neither side looked particularly better than the other in their series, so the two squads appear equally matched heading into this final series of the day. The winner of this series will earn itself a day off, avoiding the elimination matches that come on Day 3. More important than that though, the winner of this series will secure a playoff spot, a top 4 finish, and at least 30 Qualifying Points on the Pro Circuit.
The game 1 plan for Mineski looked to be focused around early rotations and engagements, as team drafted a highly mobile team fighting lineup including a last pick Monkey King. For EG, the plan appeared to be control and team fight setup, with the squad largely reliant on a last pick Chaos Knight to provide the bulk of the physical damage. Unfortunately for the EG, Mineski’s lineup was first to the punch, ganking early and often and controlling the game’s early stages. By the 15 minute mark, Mineski had built up a 7k net worth lead, and EG was struggling to find farm on Chaos Knight as well as its offlane Pugna. Mineski’s lead only increased as the game went on, with EG being driven further and further back towards its own base. By around the 20 minute mark, EG was desperately trying to find an opening for a fight, hoping for a glaring Mineski mistake that would give them a path back into this game. Mineski made no such mistake, closing out the game and capping off a dominant showing against the North American squad.
Game 2 began in a similar style to that of game 1, with Mineski employing a lineup built around roaming potential and strong team fight initiation. EG’s lineup had solid wave clear in support of heavy farming cores in Necriphos and Anti-Mage, but that lineup was severely punished in the early stages of this game. Mineski ganked with alarming frequently and efficiency, but RTZ was still able to find farm on his Anti-Mage and buy much needed time for his team to recover. The early and mid game fights were dominated by Mineski’s Clockwerk and Silencer, as the potent combination of initiation with the Hookshot and follow up with the Global Silence continuously left EG on the back foot in fights. The saving grace for EG, apart from the solid farm on Anti-Mage, was its high ground defense. EG’s lineup featured an insane amount of wave clearing power, and Mineski found almost all of its efforts to break the EG base turning against it. As the Mineski offensive began to stall out, EG began finding its rhythm and closed the gap in terms of items and net worth. The game began to approach stalemate past the 60 minute mark, as both teams found their advantages becoming less and less relevant in the game’s late stages. EG’s farmed Anti-Mage hit max items, while Mineski’s Hookshot and Global Silence combination was largely countered by defensive items from EG’s heroes. With Mineski still unable to force its way past the high ground defense of EG, it needed to take fights outside of EG’s base to open an opportunity to close out the game. EG eventually took the bait, fighting and losing outside of its base and expending its buybacks and dying outside of the base again. With those back to back fights won, Mineski essentially avoided the problem of EG’s defensive capabilities, finally finishing off the match for a 2-0 series victory after 74 minutes.
We saw the opposite ends of the spectrum of competitiveness in this series between Evil Geniuses and Mineski. Game 1 was an absolute stomp for Mineski as it simply ran over EG’s lineup with aggressive play and active rotations. Game 2 gave us an amazing endurance test for both teams, but it was Mineski who came out on top yet again in an impressive show of strength as well as resilience. After a long and hard fought win, Mineski finds itself once again in the playoff bracket of a Minor with its second top 4 finish in as many attempts. Mineski gets to watch the excitement and anxiety of Day 3’s elimination matches from a position of comfort, as the team joins LGD Gaming and awaits the emergence of the final 2 playoff teams. For Evil Geniuses, the loss drops it down into the Decider Match of Group B tomorrow, as the North American squad will look to regroup and finish out the group stage with a win against the victor of the Na’Vi and VGJ.Thunder series.