Day 1 opens with exciting action, but few surprises as season’s first Major begins in Hamburg
Day 1 saw 4 best-of-one match ups as the Major got underway in Hamburg. Every team in the field saw action on the first day of the event as the Winner’s and Loser’s series were determined for the two groups. Most of the Day 1 match ups have a clear favorite coming in, but with these match ups being just single game series, there was a lot of potential for upsets and surprises in Hamburg. The question was whether we would see those upsets be realized or if things would shake out in line with the predicted outcomes.
Group A: Newbee(1) vs Fnatic(0)
Group A kicked off with a match up between Chinese squad Newbee and SEA team Fnatic. Both squads entered the match looking to get back on track after some recent subpar performances. Newbee came into the Major after an astoundingly poor showing at the StarLadder i-League Minor, in which the team finished in last place and failed to win a single game in its group. Fnatic arrived at the Major due to the misfortune of the squad in front of it, as SEA Qualifier winner Happy Feet were unable to secure Visas in time to travel to the event and Fnatic was chosen as its replacement. Both squads come into the event in desperate need of a quality win to turn around what have been rough starts to the season.
Fnatic opted for a somewhat strange draft in this match, going for a lineup with teamfight and control combined with solid farming cores in Venomancer and Anti-Mage. However, the team picked the Anti-Mage second, allowing Newbee an opportunity to draft a lineup that could punish it. That’s exactly what Newbee did, picking a team with both heavy roaming and aggressive potential and teamfighting power. That Newbee lineup was active early, rotating and punishing Fnatic’s cores in the early game and forcing the SEA team to play from behind right from the start. Newbee were quick to establish control of this match, leaving Fnatic reliant upon its Venomancer and Anti-Mage cores to keep pace in terms of farm and look for a window to take a game turning fight. That window never appeared, as Newbee quickly and methodically pushed across the map and into Fnatic’s base. With no prospects left for extending the match, Fnatic threw in the towel, conceding defeat and giving Newbee its first win of the Major.
Newbee came out strong in its first match in Hamburg, looking to make a statement and build confidence against a struggling Fnatic squad. The team’s dominant victory in this opening match was a positive sign that the team has recovered from its unfortunate performance in Kiev. The win sets Newbee up for the Winner’s series on Day 2, where the squad will face the victor of the Evil Geniuses and Team Secret match. For Fnatic, the loss is an affirmation of the team’s struggles to this point. The SEA squad took a risk with the early Anti-Mage pick, and that risk was heavily punished in a match where the team didn’t seem to stand much of a chance past the early stages. The loss hurts, but Fnatic isn’t out of the Major just yet, as the squad will have another chance in the Loser’s series tomorrow against the loser of the EG and Team Secret game.
Group A: Evil Geniuses(0) vs Team Secret(1)
While the first match of Group A featured two teams that were coming off of recent struggles, the other match of the group was a fight between two of the stronger teams on the Pro Circuit so far. Evil Geniuses and Team Secret both came into the Major with solid performances under their belts, with the two squads both having earned Qualifying Points already this season. While this initial match up was just single game series, it still served as an important benchmark for two teams looking to make a push up the standings on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit.
Evil Geniuses came into this match with a roaming and pushing lineup, with teamfighting potential and a Clinkz to add another high physical damage dealer. For Team Secret the plan was to set up strong fights and find farm for its main cores Ember Spirit and Juggernaut. Early in the game, it seemed that EG’s lineup had the upper hand, with its cores quickly outpacing those of Team Secret. EG’s crowd control and early damage facilitated easy pickoffs leading into lane pushes that setup it up with control of the map. Team Secret was forced into a position in which it needed to buy time for its core heroes to recover and come online. Despite the near constant pressure from EG’s lineup, Team Secret managed to do just that, biding its time and waiting for a mistake to take advantage of. That mistake came about 28 minutes in to the game, as EG made an attempt to kill Roshan that set Team Secret up for a game turning teamfight victory. After this incredibly well executed fight, Team Secret stole the momentum that EG had held for the entirety of the match. The cores for Team Secret came online, the squad’s teamfight execution was on point, and EG’s cores no longer had the damage to win its engagements. Team Secret turned a deficit of several thousand net worth into a lead of over 20k by the end of the game, taking multiple fights that forced EG to concede defeat and finishing off the comeback win.
After an opening match that looked entirely one sided, it appeared we would be seeing a similar outcome in the second match of Group A. However, Team Secret showed an impressive level of poise and patience in this match, sticking to its game plan and waiting for a slip up from EG rather than trying to force its way back into the game. The comeback win for Team Secret puts it into a strong position in the group, and the European squad will face off against Newbee in the Winner’s series on Day 2. For EG, this loss is somewhat conerning. The NA team played incredibly well early, put the inability to close out that game with a significant lead casts some doubts on the team moving forward. Evil Geniuses will have an opportunity to bounce back on Day 2, as the team goes up against Fnatic in the Loser’s series of Group A.
Group B: Team Liquid(1) vs SG e-sports(0)
Group B opened up with a bit of a David versus Goliath scenario, with TI7 champion Team Liquid taking on the all Brazilian squad SG e-sports. Team Liquid entered the Major with both Qualifying Points and a Minor title to its name this season, with the squad having won the season’s first Minor at the StarLadder i-League Invitational. SG e-sports do not have quite as impressive a pedigree or resume, though the team had gotten a bit of experience on the big stage itself so far this season. Team Liquid was a nearly indescribably big favorite coming into this match, but anything can happen in a single game series, and SG e-sports had shown the talent and skill to potentially steal a game against the reigning TI champs.
SG e-sports looked to make an upset win happen with a heavy roaming lineup with a lot of setup for its Miran and Ember Spirit picks. Team Liquid opted for solid supports with ganking potential, along with some surprising core picks in Broodmother and the nearly forgotten Spectre. Liquid were aggressive early, pulling ahead and building a sizable lead behind its cores. By the 22 minute mark, Team Liquid was ahead by over 10k net worth, and it only got worse from that point on for SG. SG’s cores managed to find decent farm, but the aggressive play and early pressure on the rest of its lineup crippled its ability to take fights as the game progressed. Team Liquid had control of this match from the start, and SG e-sports never found a path that would lead it back in to the game.
This game was pretty much as one sided as people were expecting, with SG e-sports easily falling to the TI7 champions. Even with Team Liquid making that unorthodox pick in its draft selecting a Spectre, the team is skilled enough to pull off just about any lineup. For SG e-sports, the loss can’t be all that disappointing as the team was fully expected to lose anyway. The Brazilian squad falls to the Loser’s series with that loss, to match up against the loser of the Virtus.Pro and Keen Gaming match. For Team Liquid, its next opponent will be the winner of that same match, as the team moves into the Winner’s series and stands just one more series victory away from a top 4 finish at the Major.
Group B: Virtus.Pro(1) vs Keen Gaming(0)
The final match of Day 1 was certainly an interesting one, as two teams that we have seen rather little of so far this season fought in the final match of the day in Group B. Vitus.Pro is a name that most fans should be familiar with, and the squad itself hasn’t changed from its roster in the previous season. Keen Gaming, on the other hand, is a squad that very few will be familiar with unless they are deep into the Chinese scene. The former EHOME.Keen lineup had only won the qualifier for this event, having fallen short in every other attempt to qualify for a Major or Minor. With that being said, this opportunity in Hamburg could prove to be Keen Gaming’s only shot to make a name for itself, meaning the Chinese squad came into the match hungry for a opening victory. For Virtus.Pro this opportunity is not quite so rare, but the CIS team had not made an appearance at a Pro Circuit event prior to this point, and the squad was also looking for a strong start to reestablish itself at the top of the hierarchy in the Dota 2 world.
Keen Gaming came out in its match looking for a lineup with good teamfight setup, with cores Puck and Monkey providing mobility and potential damage. For VP, the draft was centering around aggression and pushing lanes with a core trio of Death Prophet, Bloodseeker, and Nature’s Prophet. The game remained close through the early stage, with Keen Gaming’s Monkey King pick finding some key kills in the laning stage. Once the game hit that mid-game timing, Virtus.Pro found its opportunity to run away with the match. VP came out with a massive team fight win at 15 minutes, and the team’s strength spiked uncontrollably from that point forward. VP’s lead ballooned to over 20k by the end of the match, and Keen Gaming’s cores were left in the dust as VP pushed and fought its way into the base of the Chinese squad. With its base in shambles and control of the match lost, Keen Gaming called “gg” and surrendered its opening match to VP.
The final match of the day was actually a rather close one for a time. Keen Gaming was hanging with VP throughout the laning stage, but that lost team fight started an avalanche that Keen Gaming simply wasn’t prepared for. Despite the loss, Keen Gaming should be somewhat encouraged by its first match at a Pro Circuit event. The team showed that it has the skill and potential to at least provide a challenge for the teams at the Major, and its Day 3 match up against SG e-sports will give the Chinese squad a chance to keep its hopes alive in the Loser’s series of Group B. For VP, the win gave fans a glimpse of the strength and aggression that many had come to expect from the CIS squad, and the apparent return to form is just what VP will need moving forward. VP wound up with a hard obstacle in its next series, as the team will have to contend with Team Liquid in the Winner’s series of Group B on Day 2.