Day 2 sees Team Secret, Virtus.Pro punch ticket to playoff bracket in Hamburg
Day 2 brought about some new match ups and excitement, as the Major shifted away from the single game series into the best of 3 format. While none of the teams had been elimination on Day 1, the stage and match ups had been set for the next phase of the group stage. Day 2 would see two series from Group A and one from Group B, as one team would see it’s run at the Major concluded by the end of the day.
Group A: Newbee(1) vs Team Secret(2)
The Winner’s series of Group A featured Newbee and Team Secret, two teams that had taken decidedly different paths to begin the season. Newbee’s Pro Circuit experience had been surprisingly underwhelming to this point while Team Secret had been looking relatively strong in comparison. Newbee certainly looked as though it had put its struggles behind it in its previous match against Fnatic, but it remained to be seen if Newbee had recovered enough to take on stronger competition.
Game 1 saw Team Secret come out incredibly aggressive, drafting a Spirit Breaker to go along with an Io and a Nature’s Prophet. Newbee hoped to rely on strong farming and fighting, drafting team fight oriented supports to go along with a core duo of Necrophos and Weaver. Unfortunately for the Chinese squad, the aggressive lineup won out, as Team Secret applied immediate and constant pressure across all of Newbee’s lanes. Newbee was behind from the start of this game, and its supports were frequently ganked and picked off to keep pushing Team Secret further ahead. Despite a strong showing from Sccc on the Necrophos, the one hero couldn’t do enough on its own to save the rest of the team, and Newbee were forced to concede game 1 to Team Secret.
Newbee’s strategy for game 2 involved a draft somewhat similar to the one it used in the first game of the series, with the squad picking up controlling, team fight ready supports to back up high damage farming cores of Ember Spirit, Ursa, and Venomancer. For Team Secret, the lineup was less aggressive than its game 1 draft, but no less mobile with the squad putting roaming and easily maneuverable supports behind a a core duo of Huskar and Legion Commander. The control from Newbee payed off early, with the Chinese squad finding early picks offs and pushes that got it off to an early lead. Newbee’s lead ballooned in the mid and late game stages, and Team Secret were backed up into its own base, hoping for a mistake from the Chinese squad to open a window back into the game. Newbee avoided making that mistake though, marching into Team Secret’s base and forcing a game 3 as Team Secret “gg”ed out of a tough game 2.
Game 3 saw Team Secret go back to a more aggressive and fighting oriented lineup, with Newbee pinning its hopes on a core trio of Chaos Knight, Ember Spirit, and Enchantress. Team Secret’s aggressive strategy afforded it a lead early once again, as Newbee’s lineup was put under heavy pressure from the start. Neebee’s cores were never able to fully come online in a game that Team Secret had control of from the very beginning. Without a reliable way to take fights against Team Secret’s lineup, Newbee didn’t have any path back into the match, and Team Secret came away with the victory in both the game and the series.
Newbee put up quite a fight in this series, but in the end Team Secret proved to be too much for the Chinese squad to handle. Team Secret’s aggressive drafts and strategy in games 1 and 3 seemed to put Newbee off its game, and the team simply wasn’t able to find a way to recover and get itself back into those matches. For Team Secret, the win secures it the top spot in Group A along with a top 4 finish and a guarantee of Qualifying Points at the Major. For Newbee, the Major may not be over just yet, as the Chinese team will have one final chance to get itself into the playoff bracket in the Decider series of Group A on Day 3.
Group B: Team Liquid(1) vs Virtus.Pro(2)
The first best of 3 of Group B featured a match up of top level teams, with the TI7 champions Team Liquid taking on Virtus.Pro. Team Liquid obviously came into this series as the favored team, but Virtus.Pro had always been able to challenge the top teams in the world before, and there was hope that the CIS squad could do the same at the Major.
Game 1 saw an Io and Tiny combination come out for Team Liquid, with a core Venomancer for extra team fight damage and farming potential. For VP, the lineup was very much oriented around fighting and farming, with the team drafting somewhat greedily with cores of Lifestealer, Queen of Pain, Doom, and Enchantress. VP’s greed paid off in this game, as VP’s lineup had the damage and mobility to pressure Team Liquid early and often. Team Liquid’s supports were picked off constantly, and those ganks gave VP the control of the map that it needed to facilitate healthy levels of farm for 4 core heroes. With low levels of farm, little control over the map, and the ability to kill only Solo’s sacrificial Bane, Team Liquid found itself backed into a corner. With no reasonable means of making a comeback, Team Liquid conceded the game and gave VP the first match in this best of 3 series.
Team Liquid stormed back into this series in game 2, drafting a lineup built to fight from the start of the game and lead by picks of Phantom Assassin and Broodmother. Virtus.Pro’s lineup featured a similar greediness as its game 1 draft, with the team taking Alchemist, Weaver, Legion Commander, and Enchantress. The game started much as game 1 did, with VP coming out aggressively and finding pick offs in order to make space for its cores to farm. This time though, Team Liquid had the lineup and cores to keep pace with VP’s farm. As the game progressed, VP’s net worth lead actually began to collapse as Phantom Assassin, Broodmother, and Venomancer were able to find enough farm to compete. As the game entered the late-stages, Team Liquid’s lineup took the net worth lead, as the advantage of VP’s Alchemist pick began to lose relevance. Behind 3 straight team fight wins, Team Liquid were able to turn the momentum of the game and cripple VP’s defense. With few heroes left and its buybacks expended, VP called “gg” to give Team Liquid a comeback victory and tie the series.
Virtus.Pro appeared to have recognized its issues from game 2, as the team went back to an aggressive and fight oriented style for game 3 based around Troll Warlord, Necrophos, and Brewmaster. For Team Liquid, the emphasis was once again on farming and fighting with the team selected a core trio of Terrorblade, Venomancer, and Broodmother. VP rotated and ganked aggressively from the very start of this game, putting considerable pressure on Liquid’s lineup. VP followed those ganks up with coordinated pushes that left Team Liquid with little space on the map to farm safely. By the 30 minute mark, VP had built up a 20k net worth lead, and Team Liquid was faced with a tough situation as it had to defend its base. Though VP had some difficulties breaking through the defense initially, the team’s lead in net worth and power eventually came through for it. Team Liquid’s heroes were wiped out in one last defense, and VP were able to clear out the base and destroy Team Liquid’s Ancient to win the game and the series.
As the two teams came into this match, most people would have said that Virtus.Pro had the capability to defeat Team Liquid in the right circumstances. That being said, it still came as a bit of a shock that the CIS squad was able to find the win at the Major. Team Liquid had looked nearly invincible to start the season, and this victory has to be considered a significant accomplishment for VP. With its win in this series, VP secured itself the top spot in Group B as well as a top 4 finish and guaranteed Qualifying Points for the Pro Circuit. For Team Liquid this loss may be a bit surprising, but the European squad will have a chance to bounce back and fight for the second playoff spot in Group B on Day 3.
Group A: Fnatic(0) vs Evil Geniuses(2)
This series appeared to be the most straight forward of Day 1, as Evil Geniuses were set to take on Fnatic in the last series of the day. EG had lost to Team Secret on Day 1, but was still looking like a solid team coming into the event. Fnatic on the other hand, did not look nearly so good both before and during the Major. The team’s struggles so far this season have been numerous, and its opening match drubbing by Newbee certainly didn’t do much to instill confidence that this squad had gotten it together. All things considered, Fnatic still had some hope of an upset win against Evil Geniuses, but that outcome was a long-shot to say the least.
Fnatic looked to balance team fighting with farming potential in game 1, drafting Ember Spirit and Necrophos as its cores, but surrounding them with Clockwerk, Beastmaster, and Lich. Evil Geniuses opted for a more aggressive lineup, with Spirit Breaker, Jakiro, Bane, and a core Mirana set to make space for a carry Lone Druid to farm. EG’s aggressive strategy started paying dividends almost immediately. Fnatic’s lineup was not the most survivable in the early stages of the game, and EG’s heroes were able to take advantage of that. Perhaps more importantly than the aggression was the high levels of farm that the Lone Druid and Mirana were finding, as Fnatic’s cores were quickly being outpaced. EG’s net worth lead continued to grow as the game went on, and by the time Fnatic’s lineup felt it was ready to fight, it was already too far behind to win those engagements. EG pushed into Fnatic’s base, swept its defense aside and destroyed the Ancient to claim victory in game 1.
Game 2 was somewhat closer than game 1 had been, but not by much. Fnatic opted to shift its focus towards a lineup that could more easily take fights early in the game, picking cores of Broodmother and Death Prophet for a combination of team fighting and pushing power. EG went aggressive again, drafting a Night Stalker and Enchantress to go along with Bloodseeker and Troll Warlord picks. EG’s aggressive draft led it to an early advantage once again, putting pressure on Fnatic’s cores and finding pick offs with relative ease. Fnatic’s cores were able to keep the game close despite the aggression, finding enough farm to keep pace with EG’s heroes for the most part. The problem for the SEA squad was that the fighting part of its draft never materialized, as EG was able to find pick offs without any major response from Fnatic. With its team fight presence never coming online, Fnatic wasn’t able to stop EG from taking control of the map and pushing its lineup back inside of its own base. Trapped inside of its own base, Fnatic attempted one final fight to stave off EG’s push, but it couldn’t stand up to the strength of EG’s lineup at that point. With that last fight lost, Fnatic surrendered the game and the series to Evil Geniuses.
That series went just about exactly as expected, as Fnatic again struggled to put the pieces together in its games on Day 2. EG on the other hand, looked confident in both its drafting and its execution, though it remained to be seen if that came more from the team itself or from the opponent it was facing. Either way, the result was a win for Evil Geniuses, keeping the NA squad’s hopes for the playoff bracket alive. The team was set to clash with Newbee on Day 3 in the Decider match to determine which team would lay claim to the final playoff spot in Group A. Meanwhile, the loss for Fnatic spelled the end of its run at the Major, as the team was officially eliminated from the competition. The team leaves the Major without winning a single game, and this opportunity to turn its season around and prove to the world that it had gotten over its recent struggles appears to have been wasted.