Newbee, Team Liquid finalize playoff bracket after do-or-die Day 3 in Hamburg
Day 3 brought with it an end to the group stage, as the final series of both groups were set to be played. The final 2 spots in the playoff bracket remained up for grabs heading into the day’s games, with Newbee and Evil Geniuses fighting for the Group A spot, while SG e-sports and Keen Gaming would compete for the chance to challenge Team Liquid for the final spot in Group B.
Group B: SG e=sports(1) vs Keen Gaming(2)
The first series of Group B featured a battle of two relative underdogs at the Major in SG e-sports and Keen Gaming. Neither team had wildly high expectations coming into the event, but one of these squads would walk away with the chance to play Team Liquid for a spot in the playoff bracket. With both squads having lost their opening games in Group B, it seemed as though the two teams were a relatively even match heading into this series.
Keen Gaming came out looking to be both aggressive and efficient in game 1, drafting a lineup with heavy initiation as well as farming potential. For SG e-sports the lineup was similar, with heavy team fight and initiating power backup up heavy volume farming cores. Keen Gamin started out strong, as its mobility and initiation allowed it to apply pressure to SG’s lineup early. Keen Gaming pushed itself into an early lead, going up by as much as 18k net worth in the mid and late-game stages. However, SG e-sports continued to hold out, desperately attempting to defend its base against Keen Gaming’s pushes. As the game continued, Keen Gaming chipped away at SG’s base defense, even while its own lead was beginning to dwindle. Eventually, SG was bled dry, and Keen Gaming took the win in game 1.
The game 2 strategy from Keen Gaming revolved around team fights, with the Chinese squad drafting a core trio of Death Prophet, Chaos Knight, and Venomancer. For SG e-sports, the plan was slightly more aggressive, with Bane and Spirit Breaker supports looking to set up kills and space for a core Arc Warden and Mirana. SG’s aggressive supports allowed its cores to farm well and establish a small lead as the game progressed in the late-game stages. The lead continued to increase for SG, though Keen Gaming put up a stout defense that drew the game out even further. After 62 minutes, SG finally managed to break through Keen Gaming’s defense, winning a final fight against the Chinese squad and its buybacks to even up the series.
With its playoff hopes on the line, Keen Gaming opted for a lineup focused on control and team fighting potential with cores of Monkey King and Mirana. On the opposing side, SG e-sports opted for a greedier lineup centered around a core trio of Alchemist, Vengeful Spirit, and Puck. Keen Gaming’s early damage and fighting capabilities gave the team a slight lead as the game moved towards the mid-game stage, but SG’s Alchemist was still keeping the South American squad close despite the difference in kills. Even with Alchemist farming well, SG e-sports’ lineup had trouble keeping up with the team fight power of Keen Gaming, as the Chinese squad expanded its lead. A crucial engagement in the Roshan pit finally tipped the balance in Keen Gaming’s favor enough for a breakthrough into SG’s base and a final team fight win that clinched the series for the Chinese squad.
SG e-sports put up one hell of a fight in this series, but in the end it came up just a but short of a victory. That being said, the Brazilian squad looked impressive in its matches in Hamburg despite its losses, and the potential for this squad moving forward is a major source of hope and optimism as the squad accrues valuable experience on the intentional stage. For Keen Gaming, this win moved the Chinese team into the Decider series of Group B for a match up with Team Liquid for the final playoff spot in the group. Keen Gaming entered that series as a significant underdog, but even if the squad fell to the TI champs as expected, the team had already performed admirably and perhaps exceeded expectations at the Major.
Group A: Newbee(2) vs Evil Geniuses(1)
Day 3 saw the final series of Group A play out, as North American squad Evil Geniuses took on the Chinese powerhouse and TI7 runner-up Newbee. Newbee had struggled somewhat to begin the season, opening competition with an astoundingly poor performance at the first Minor. Though the team had kept up appearances in the Chinese scene, it desperately needed a solid performance on the international stage to recover from its rocky start. For Evil Geniuses, the season had gotten off to a much more favorable start, but the NA squad looked to build on its solid performance to this point with a win in Hamburg.
Newbee opened game 1 with a strong roaming and team fighting lineup, backed by tanky cores of Dragon Knight and Centaur Warrunner as well as a Bloodseeker for added physical damage. EG also opted for a lineup with roaming and fighting potential, focusing its draft around Monkey King and Queen of Pain for high damage and mobility. Early on, it appeared that EG’s lineup had the advantage, as its cores were outfarming their counterparts on Newbee. The farm advantage combined with frequent ganks and pick offs gave the North American squad a lead as Newbee’s cores looked to come online in the mid-game. That plan never came to fruition for Newbee, as EG’s team fight strength proved too much for Newbee’s lineup in fight after fight. By the time Newbee was ready to fight, EG’s cores were too far ahead for the Chinese squad to decisively win a fight. Without a way to win engagements and stop EG”s push, Newbee backed out of game 1, conceding the first game to EG in this best of 3.
With its playoff hopes at stake, Newbee decided to take a page of of EG’s book i ngame 2. The Chinese squad selected Monkey King and Queen of Pain itself, looking to control fights with high damage and mobility. EG also drafted a fighting lineup, focusing its strategy around a trio of Venomancer, Ember Spirit, and Visage. Neither of the two teams were able to fully control the game though, as the two squads remained even through the early and mid-game stages. EG started to pull away as the game entered its later stage, building up a lead of over 11k net worth, but Newbee wasn’t finished just yet. Behind an absolutely incredible performance from Sccc on Queen of Pain, the Chinese squad began pulling itself back into the game, wiping out EG’s net worth lead and taking control of the game. The 11k net worth deficit that Newbee had been facing became a lead of over 38k by the end of the game, as Newbee completed a come from behind victory to even the series at one game each in a 67 minute long match.
Game 3 would prove to be a long affair as well as these two teams fought in one last game to decide who would move on to the playoff stage. Newbee drafted control and team fight potential in this final match, backed up by Templar Assassin and Lifestealer for physical damage and farming power. EG similarly drafted a heavily control and team fight based lineup, throwing in a Mirana and a Lone Druid to match the cores of Newbee. The two teams remained close through the early and mid-game stages, much like they did in game 2. Neither side was able to take a decisive lead and the cores were keeping pace in terms of net worth. As the game shifted in the later phases, Newbee’s lineup finally began to pull away, as kpii’s puck began transitioning into a more heavily farmed core that EG had no direct counter for. Without a solid 3rd farming core to fall back on, EG began to fall behind, with Newbee pulling ahead in terms of net worth as well as map control. EG would make one final attempt to defend its base, but Newbee proved to be too strong for it to handle, and Newbee claimed this third and final game to win the series.
The final playoff team in Group A has been decided, and its Newbee that will be playing on the big stage on Day 4. Despite a tough fight from Evil Geniuses, the North American squad finds itself eliminated from the Major just short of a top 4 spot. EG finish its run at the Major with a 3-3 overall record, but the team performed well in Hamburg, even it it couldn’t produce the results it may have been expecting. For Newbee, this victory is a much needed return to form after the squad’s poor start to the season. This top 4 spot puts the Chinese team near the top of the standings on the Pro Circuit, and could be just the spark that it needs to return to top form moving forward. Things won’t get any easier for Newbee moving forward, as the team has a match up with CIS powerhouse Virtus.Pro in the semifinals on Day 4.
Group B: Team Liquid(2) vs Keen Gaming(0)
Just about any match up involving Team Liquid is going to feature the TI7 champions as favorites, and this one is no different. The final series of Day 3 saw Team Liquid matched up against the Chinese standout Keen Gaming for the final playoff spot in Group B. While Team Liquid came into this match as a heavy favorite to win, we have already seen that its possible to defeat the reigning champions. Virtus.Pro had a tough path to bring down the champs, but the CIS squad proved that Team Liquid is a beatable team, and Keen Gaming hoped to follow the script VP had written en route to an upset victory at the Major.
Keen Gaming decided upon an aggressive strategy in game 1, drafting Spirit Breaker and Nature’s Prophet to go along with highly mobile cores of Queen of Pain and Bloodseeker. For Team Liquid, the emphasis was on farming and controlling team fights, with the squad drafting a core trio of Monkey King, Doom, and Venomancer along with team fighting supports Lich and Earthshaker. Keen Gaming opened the game just as aggressively as its draft implied, but Team Liquid managed to find just as many opportunities for kills as the game remained even going into the mid-game. Keen Gaming’s cores began to pull ahead in net worth towards the late game, with the Chinese squad using its mobility and damage advantage to establish control of the map. Team Liquid’s team fight power came to the fore in the late game, as GH’s Earthshaker set up multiple positive engagements as Liquid evened up the net worth lead. With Team Liquid’s lineup having reached its full strength, the team began to take control of the game back from Keen Gaming. The Chinese squad was left with few answers against Liquid’s team fight power, and with no path back into the match Keen Gaming conceded defeat in game 1.
After the hour long match in game 1, game 2 was a decidedly shorter affair. Keen Gaming drafted around a core duo of Lifestealer, Puck, and Nature’s Prophet.Team Liquid looked to farm and fight early, grabbing a core trio of Sven, Broodmother, and Venomancer. Despite finding some pick offs early, Keen Gaming’s lineup fell behind Team Liquid in terms of farm fairly quickly. As the game entered the mid-game stage, Team Liquid hit a power spike and went on the offensive, expanding its modest lead into a 20k net worth advantage that Keen Gaming had no answers for. Pushed back into its own base and left with no way to win a fight, Keen Gaming admitted defeat and backed out of both the game and series.
While the final results was what most people expected from this series, Keen Gaming certainly managed to make Team Liquid work for its win in Hamburg. The game 1 marathon showed that Keen Gaming have what it takes to stand up against some of the best teams in the world, as it pushed the defending TI7 champions to the limit. Keen Gaming leave the Major with a 2-4 record that may not seem so impressive at first glance, but is still notable considering which teams the Chinese squad faced off against. For Team Liquid the hard fought win pushed it into the playoff bracket and a top 4 finish at the season’s first Major. The team’s struggles in game 1 of this series may be something that the team looks into moving forward, but for now it needs to focus on its next opponent. Team Liquid’s first series of the playoffs will come on Day 4, as the TI winner face Team Secret in the semifinals.