North America on the rise as Immortals, Evil Geniuses survive elimination matches on Day 3.
It was elimination day in Bucharest as Day 3 of the Minor got underway. After strong showings from LGD Gaming and Mineski in the first 2 days of competitions, those squads got to sit things out and enjoy the day’s festivities as observers rather than participants, having secured the first two of the 4 slots available within the playoff bracket. For the rest of the field, the stakes were raised on Day 3, as a series loss here meant falling out of contention for a top 4 spot and those all important Qualifying Points. Infamous, Team Secret, Immortals fought it out for the final playoff spot in Group A. Meanwhile, Evil Geniuses, Na’Vi, and Vici Gaming J.Thunder competed for the last slot in Group B.
Group A: Infamous(0) vs Team Secret(2)
Though these two teams came into Day 3 with the same record, it cannot be said that the squads got to this point in the same manner. After a punishing series against LGD Gaming, Infamous enters this match up looking shaken up and overwhelmed by its Day 1 ordeal. Team Secret was likewise defeated by Immortals, but the European squad saw a much more competitive series than its South American counterparts. Team Secret couldn’t come out with a win, but its level of play and coordination were still solid as team was simply outplayed by an impressive Immortals squad. Coming into this elimination match up, Secret appeared to have the advantage over Infamous, but the South American squad would still have a chance to pull off the upset and knock off the European favorite.
Despite the length of this opening game, Team Secret was the squad in control for pretty much the entirety of the match. Team Secret drafted a lineup designed for skirmishes and team fights, looking to be active and aggressive. Infamous opted for more of a pushing lineup, drafting a core trio of Death Prophet, Nature’s Prophet, and Luna. The early stages of the game were somewhat close, but as the game progressed, it bacame more and more apparent that Infamous couldn’t handle the initiation and team fight power from Team Secret. While Infamous’ lineup did lend itself towards defending the team’s base, Secret were so far ahead that they were able to slowly chip away at the South American defense. Team Secret continued to pressure the Infamous base while building its net worth lead higher and higher. By the time the Ancient finally fell for Infamous, the South American team had fallen behind by an astounding 59k net worth, in a match that Team Secret simply dominated throughout.
Infamous needed to regroup an come back strong to even up the series against Team Secret. Unfortunately for the South American squad, that is not what happened, as Team Secret followed up its game 1 performance with an even more dominant win in game 2. With a fighting lineup and an Io and Sven combination, Secret got out to an early lead against Infamous. The Io picked shined in this game, allowing Ace’s Sven to easily transition between farming and fighting and putting Secret further and further ahead. Infamous were strangely spread out across the map for most of the game, which left its heroes vulnerable to the aggression from Team Secret. With over 1 kill and 1k net worth differential per minute of game time, Team Secret had this game in the bag from the start in a match that never felt even remotely close.
Both teams came into this series having suffered rough loses on Day 1 of the event, but Team Secret managed to respond to that loss in a much more impressive fashion. The team drafted and played with a level of confidence and aggression that it had lacked in its Day 1 matches. Infamous, on the other hand, looked completely out of sorts in these two matches. The team’s drafts were exploited and largely countered by those of Team Secret, and the team made some rather strange decisions that cost them potential opportunities to turn the games in their favor. The loss for Infamous knocked them out of the Minor without having taken a single match. Though the team did not perform well in Bucharest, the experience against top international opponents in a LAN environment will surely help the team develop and improve. While Day 3 ended in disappointment for the South American squad, Team Secret’s day was not yet over. With this relatively easy victory Team Secret moved on to the Decider Match, and a much anticipated rematch against the same Immortals squad that had beaten them on Day 1.
Group B: Vici Gaming J.Thunder(2) vs Natus Vincere(1) VS
Vici Gaming J.Thunder and Na’Vi entered an elimination match on Day 3 that very well could have been the winner’s match of the previous day, as both squads came tantalizingly close to winning their opening series. VGJ.Thunde gave North American power Evil Geniuses all it could handle, taking the series to 3 games ended by an 82 minute long endurance test in which the Chinese squad just barely fell short of the win. Na’Vi found itself in a similar scenario taking on top SEA squad Mineski, forcing the StarLadder i-League Minor runner up into a tough 3 game series. As it stands, the two squads did not manage to win their opening series, and as such they stood in a scenario where one of them would be eliminated on Day 3 in Bucharest. Both squads put together strong and exciting performances at the Minor, but only one would go on to face Evil Geniuses in the Decider Match. Would VGJ.Thunder earn a rematch against the North American team, or would Na’Vi pull through for a chance to play EG and potentially earn the CIS region’s first top 4 finish of the season?
Game 1 of this series began with both squads looking to fight, as the two teams drafted lineups with team fighting and pushing potential. The difference between the two teams came from the carries. Na’Vi based its lineup around a duo of Phantom Lancer and Lina, while the VGJ.Thunder lineup focused mainly around an Ember Spirit and Nature’s Prophet core duo. These lineups held even through the early stages of the game, but as the match progressed it became clear that Na’Vi’s lineup could both out farm and out fight VGJ.Thunder’s heroes. VGJ.Thunder had solid team fight control and setup, particularly a combination of Dark Seer and Kunkka, but the follow up damage was largely insufficient to win these engagements. Na’Vi’s Lina and Phantom Lancer consistently survived through the initial burst of damage and control, and subsequently tore through the VGJ.Thunder lineup. Without any prospects of winning a fight, VGJ.Thunder tapped out of game 1, conceding the first game to Na’Vi.
A strong team fight lineup had served Na’Vi well in game 1, and the CIS squad attempted to replicate that success with any draft heavily focused on fighting. A core trio of Faceless Void, Magnus, and Clokwerk, along with a support Ancient Apparition gave Na’Vi a powerful team fight setup. VGJ.Thunder also came into game 2 with team fight potential, basing its own draft around Anti-Mage, Death Prophet, and Legion Commander. Anti-Mage got off to a slow start, forcing VGJ.Thunder’s other cores to step up and carry the squad to make space for its primary core to catch up. Na’Vi’s window of opportunity to win in the mid game passed, and the Anti-Mage was able to recover and take control of the game. Na’Vi’s heavy team fighting potential might have allowed it to control VGj.Thunder’s lineup, but the team seemed hesitant to commit its major abilities to engagements, and the squad’s coordination was lacking as the game progressed. Eventually, Na’Vi’s control and team fight abilities fell flat as the squad lacked the damage needed to kill off VGJ.Thunder’s cores, and the Chinese squad tied up series and forced a decisive game 3.
VGJ.Thunder went back for the Anti-Mage pick again in this decided match, along side a Necrophos and a Batrider. Na’Vi attempted to utilize an aggressive and mobile lineup backed up by a Trol Warlord pick, but it wasn’t meant to be. VGJ.Thunder was the team coming out aggressively and building up a lead as the game progressed into the mid and late game stages. The initiation and team fight power for Na’Vi dropped off considerably, and VGJ.Thunder’s Anti-Mage pick paid off considerably and became too strong for Na’Vi to contain. Despite putting up an admirable fight, Na’Vi simply couldn’t hold back the tidal wave that was VGJ.Thunder, conceding defeat after 48 minutes and giving the Chinese squad the series victory.
Both of these squads had looked strong in their Day 2 match ups, just barely losing out to their opponents in those opening series. Unfortunately, only one of the two teams could advance to the Decider Match, and VGJ.Thunder showed that it had the determination and resilience to pull out a tough win. The Chinese squad’s faith in its own abilities in the late game was made apparent by its choice to rely on Anti-Mage picks in both of the final two games. However, it was the team’s aggressive play in the early stages of the game that often made the space needed for that Anti-Mage to become such a significant factor later on. Na’Vi found itself struggling for answers against the Chinese team, looking a bit off balance following the team’s decisive game 1 victory. For Na’Vi the run in Bucharest comes to an end with the CIS squad finishing in last place in Group B with an overall record of 2-4. VGJ.Thunder on the other hand were not done yet, as the team’s victory against Na’Vi earned it a chance for a rematch against North American squad Evil Geniuses.
Group A: Immortals(2) vs Team Secret(1)
The deciding series to determine the second playoff team from Group A turned out to be a match up that viewers of the event’s previous days had already become familiar with. Team Secret and Immortals clashed for a second time in Bucharest, this time with quite a lot more on the line. The first series between these two teams saw Immortals play a faster, more aggressive style than what Team Secret had been expecting, and the European squad were unable to make the proper adjustments in time to avoid a quick 0-2 loss. Team Secret’s dismantling of Infamous in the previous series gave hope that the team would be able to adjust its play and drafting strategies to change the script in this rematch. On the other side of the match up, Immortals were looking for a bounce back victory after a tough 1-2 loss to LGD Gaming. The series against the Chinese squad saw Immortals deviate somewhat from the aggressive play style we had seen from it before, with limited results. The question remained of whether the squad would again try to branch out with its drafting and pace, or if it would risk having an opponent like Secret adapt to the aggressive style it had previously relied on.
Team Secret came out swinging right from the start, drafting a somewhat aggressive lineup but throwing a surprise last pick Meepo into the mix. The Meepo pick certainly threw Immortals off balance, as the team’s lineup struggled to contain it. Though the game remained close through the early stages, by the 20 minute mark it was becoming clear that Team Secret was going to pull away significantly. Led by Ace’s Meepo, Team Secret flung itself into the mid-game with an aggression that Immortals had no answer for. The move seized control of the game for Team Secret, and the European squad never looked back, securing a victory in the first game of the series.
Aggression had payed off well enough for Team Secret in game 1, and the European squad decided to stick with the strategy heading into game 2. A trio of Bloodseeker, Necrophos, and Nature’s prophet were joined by the global presence of Zues and Spirit Breaker to form a team that Secret hoped could apply constant pressure to the Immortals lineup. Unfortunately for Team Secret, they underestimated Immortals, a team that had been relying upon fast paced, aggressive lineups since the event began. Led by QO’s Monkey King and Febby’s Nightstalker, Immortals were constantly forcing Team Secret into engagements and ganks. Though Team Secret’s lineup weathered the storm in the game’s early stages, the constant aggression wore it down as the game moved forward. Immortals controlled the game past the 20 minute mark, racking up 18 kills on the Monkey King en route to a series tying victory.
Game 3 would prove to be a long affair between these two squads, with Team Secret opting for a heavily farm and magic damage based lineup while Immortals opted for a team fight oriented draft with a Bloodseeker providing a physical damage dealer. The game itself would last a little over 50 minutes, but it was Immortals that had the edge throughout the match. The Korean squad was able to exert significant pressure on Secret’s lineup, limiting the team’s farming opportunities and finding the occasional pick off as well. Team Secret found itself sacrificing towers and map control for time, looking for a window in which the team could take a successful fight and turn the tide of the match against Immortals. That moment never came, and while Team Secret did manage to hold off its opponent for some time, the net worth differential continued to climb ever higher in favor of Immortals. One final series of pushes spelled the end for Team Secret, as the team was bled dry and forced to expend all of its buybacks in what ended up being a futile effort to turn back the game winning push from Immortals.
Well, the rematch between Immortals and Team Secret was certainly more competitive than the original series, but it ended with the same result when it was all said and done. team Secret looked like it was better equipped to handle the Korean squad, but the team’s aggressive play style again proved to be too much for the Europeans to contain. Team Secret found itself falling just short of the mark for the playoff bracket this time, missing out on back to back top 4 finishes at the season’s first 2 Minors. On the other hand, Immortals earned itself the team’s first top 4 finish in its first event of the season. The Koreans from North America have a tough test ahead of them in the playoff bracket, as the squad will have to face off against SEA leader Mineski in its semifinal match up.
Group B: Evil Geniuses(2) vs Vici Gaming J.Thunder(0)
The Decider Match for both groups featured rematches on Day 3, as Evil Geniuses and Vici Gaming J.Thunder clashed again for the final playoff spot in Bucharest. The initial series between these two teams was a long and almost painfully drawn out affair, with game 3 lasting 82 minutes. The second go around promised to be just as exciting, with Evil Geniuses looking to bounce back after a rough 0-2 loss to Mineski and VGJ.Thunder riding a high of confidence after knocking CIS squad Na’Vi out of contention.
Evil Geniuses opted for both farming power and team fight capabilities in its game 1 draft, securing a trio of Monkey King, Lone Druid, and Batrider. VGJ.Thunder decided to continue rolling with what had performed well for them before, drafting an Anti-Mage alongside a lineup of highly mobile heroes to make as much space as possible. The teams remained even early, but as the game entered the mid-game phase the Anti-Mage began ramping up for VGJ.Thunder. Anti-Mage’s farm and presence were massive, but EG’s lineup had enough damage and control to lock him down, and EG’s main cores of Monkey King and Lone Druid were keeping pace as EG pulled ahead with a slight lead in the late game. A failed high ground push on the part of VGJ.Thunder widened this lead, and EG stormed into the base of VGJ.Thunder winning back to back fights and depleting VGJ.Thunder’s pool of buybacks before claiming victory in the opening game of the series.
EG tried to maintain momentum in game 2 with a Drow Ranger strategy, combining the agility carry with a core Visage. For its part, VGJ.Thunder decided to change things up too by going away from the Anti-Mage pick and drafting a lineup built around a core duo of Necrophos and Weaver. VGJ.Thunder’s lineup had a difficult laning stage, falling behind EG’s cores in farm and leaving itself vulnerable to early rotations and ganks from the North American squad. VGJ.Thunder’s lineup simply couldn’t survive the mass control and damage from EG, and EG built up a lead of over 10k net worth before the 15 minute mark. SumaiL’s Visage was pretty much unkillable, and VGJ.Thunder could only find an occasional kill against EG’s expendable supports. Against this unrelenting onslaught from EG, VGJ.Thunder couldn’t find any answers, and it became apparent rather quickly that the Chinese squad had no achievable path back into this game. VGJ.Thunder called “gg” just shy of the 22 minute mark, in a ridiculously dominant performance from EG that pushed it into the playoff bracket.
Evil Geniuses came ready to play in this deciding series, stringing together two impressive performances to claim victory in its rematch against Vici Gaming J.Thunder. The team looked far more confident than the squad that fell 0-2 to Mineski the day before, and that confidence translated into solid execution in its only series of the day. On the other side of the match up, VGJ.Thunder had a solid Day 3 as well, despite not finding the same results. Yes, the disaster that was game 2 of this series will leave a bit of a black mark of the team’s performance, but the squad still managed to beat a tough Na’Vi team to get to this point and it had played itself into a position where it had a chance to win game 1 before falling short. The Chinese squad likely came out of this event disappointed that it couldn’t take that last step into a top 4 spot, but the squad’s performance in Bucharest is a very positive sign for it moving further into the season. For EG, the run in Bucharest goes on, as the team joins LGD Gaming, Immortals, and Mineski in the playoff bracket to begin on Day 4. EG’s first LAN appearance of the season has already resulted in a guaranteed top 4 finish and a minimum of 30 Qualifying Points, but the North American team is not likely to be satisfied at that. A tough matchup against the impressive looking LGD Gaming awaits Evil Geniuses in its semifinal series, as the team will look to capitalize on its success in the group stage.