Virtus.Pro claim long awaited Major title as CIS team is victorious in Hamburg
After 3 days of Dota action in Hamburg, the time had finally come to crown a champion at the season’s first Major. Out of the 8 teams in the field at the beginning of the competition, only 4 remained in contention for the title at ESL One Hamburg. Team Secret, Team Liquid, Virtus.Pro, and Newbee comprised the teams in the playoff bracket, but only one claimed the top spot and the lion’s share of prize money and Qualifying Points.
Semifinals: Virtus.Pro(2) vs Newbee(1)
The first series of the semifinals saw CIS squad Virtus.Pro take on Chinese team Newbee. Newbee had come into the event after some recent struggles, but the team’s performance to this point in the Major had been exactly what most had been expecting from the TI7 runner-up. For VP, the start to the season had not been nearly so rough, but the CIS squad was making one of its first appearances of the season at the Major and was looking for a strong statement win to build momentum.
Game 1 saw VP drafting a heavy farming and pushing lineup, with cores of Phantom Lancer, Nature’s Prophet, and Leshrac. Newbee went for a more aggressive draft, picking up a Spirit Breaker and a mid lane Batrider to make space for Terroblade and Venomancer. The game remained close throughout the early stages, but VP was able to hold a small advantage in terms of net worth. As the game entered the later stages, the strength of VP’s lineup became more apparent, with the CIS squad being able to take control of team fights more effectively. With its strong initiation largely negated by VP’s lineup and items, Newbee found itself unable to win key engagements, losing the opening match of this semifinal match up.
Newbee needed a change in strategy to stay alive in this series. The team drafted mobile heroes with high damage based around a core duo of Timbersaw and Queen of Pain. VP attempted to pick up tanky fighting cores in Sven, Dragon Knight, and Brewmaster. Newbee’s mobility allowed the team to play aggressively from the start of the match, finding pick offs and building an early lead. VP’s heroes found themselves vulnerable to Newbee’s near constant pressure, and the CIS squad quickly found itself facing an even larger deficit in net worth. VP’s tanky cores never got to a point where they could outlast Newbee’s damage, and VP backed out of game 2 to even up the series.
Game 3 saw Virtus.Pro adopt the same strategy that had brought victory to Newbee in game 2. The team picked up aggressive and mobile heroes in Spirit Breaker, Broodmother, and Bloodseeker, as well as a Necrophos for extra damage and farming ability. Newbee attempted to draft a team fighting heavy lineup centered around Monkey King, Mirana, and Nature’s Prophet, with Earthshaker and Bane added in for control. As we’ve seen in most of the matches at this Major, the aggressive strategy looked to be the more effective one, as VP got out to an early lead. Newbee’s supports had no way of defending themselves against VP’s aggressive heroes, and the Chinese squad’s cores weren’t farming fast enough to stay even. At 20 minutes VP led by around 3k net worth, but by around 30 minutes that lead was just shy of the 20k mark. Newbee’s lineup had been backed into a corner, and with no reasonable path back into the match, the Chinese squad admitted defeat, bringing an end to this first semifinal series.
The first series of Day 4 certainly lived up to the hype, as both Virtus.Pro and Newbee put together impressive performances on the big stage. For Newbee, this top 4 finish was just what the team needed after the rocky start to its season, and the Chinese powerhouse looks to be back to or near top form. VP got its season off to a fantastic start with its win in Hamburg, as the CIS team is guaranteed a top 2 finish in its first LAN event of the season. Virtus.Pro now plays for the title of Major Champion, as the team makes it way to the finals to await the winner of the Team Secret and Team Liquid match up.
Semifinals: Team Secret(2) vs Team Liquid(1)
The other semifinal match up featured two of the best team in both the European region and the world, as Team Secret and Team Liquid clashed for a spot in the finals of the ESL One Hamburg Major. Team Liquid came into this event as the favorite to win, but its performance to this point at the Major had shown that the team was not quite as unbeatable as in the past. Team Secret would have its work cut out for it, but a win against the TI7 champions was still possible.
Team Liquid came out aggressive in game 1, drafting Night Stalker and Nature’s Prophet, along with core Necrophos and Invoker for an insane amount of mobility and ganking potential. Team Secret chose to draft a somewhat greedy lineup, picking up 4 cores heroes in Doom, Phantom Lancer, Venomancer, and Ember Spirit. Unfortunately for Team Secret, its greedy strategy was punished from the start, as Team Liquid utilized its mobility and global presence to apply pressure to every lane. Team Liquid found itself ahead by 5k net worth by the 10 minute mark, and things only got worse for Team Secret from that point forward. With the deficit climbing and its heroes unable to keep pace with Team Liquid’s lineup, Team Secret called “gg” and gave the win to Team Liquid in the opening game of the series.
Team Secret decided to flip the script for game 2, opting to draft an aggressive lineup itself in hopes of turning the series around. The team drafted Nightstalker and Winter Wyvern in support of a core trio of Phantom Assassin, Magnus, and Bristleback. Team Liquid chose to draft farm heavy and team fight based cores, picking up Dragon Knight, Gyrocopter, and Nature’s Prophet. The game remained even through the early and mid stages, with Team Secret’s aggressive lineup unable to secure enough kills to build any significant advantage. Around the 20 minute mark, Team Secret hit its power spike, and the whole game tilted into its favor. With its heroes and team fight spells online, Team Secret took control of the game, winning multiple fights in a row and forcing Team Liquid further and further back towards its own base. With its base under attack and no conceivable way to win a fight to turn back the siege, Team Liquid backed out of game 2, evening up the series at 1 game each.
Game 3 ended up being a very much one sided affair, as Team Secret drafted a lineup designed to dominate team fights. The team picked up Necrophos, Juggernaut, and Pugna cores, while throwing in Nightstalker and Lion as supports to help control Team Liquid’s heroes. For Team Liquid, the game plan was aggression, as the team picked up an Io and Sven combo to go along with Spirit Breaker, Batrider, and Bloodseeker. Team Secret game out strong to begin the game and took advantage of the vulnerability of Team Liquid’s lineup early. Liquid’s heroes did not adjust well to being on the defensive, and Team Secret built up a lead of a few thousand net worth by the 10 minute mark. As the game progressed, Team Liquid’s lineup had even more difficulties finding favorable engagements, as it continued to lose fight after fight to Team Secret’s lineup. By the 30 minute mark, Team Secret had control of the map and the game, and Team Liquid was forced to defend its base in a desperate attempt to hold out. By this point though, Team Secret was too far ahead, and Liquid’s heroes were taken out one last time as the Ancient fell and Team Secret claimed the win and a spot in the finals of the Major.
While Team Liquid had been considered a favorite to win coming into this series, its previous performance had exposed some weaknesses. Team Secret managed to exploit those weaknesses in impressive fashion, taking down the TI Winners with confident and aggressive strategies. For Team Liquid, this loss is probably a disappointing finish, but its nothing that should have fans of the TI7 champs panicking just yet. The team still finished within the top 4 and will receive a significant amount of Qualifying Points for its performance. The European squad will have some adjustments to make before its next event, but the team continues to hold a place at the top of the Dota 2 world, and this loss isn’t likely to change that. For Team Secret, this win may represent a big step forward for a team that had long been living in the shadow of Team Liquid. The team’s performance so far had been impressive, but the comparison was always going to be made between one strong European team in Team Secret and the European team in Team Liquid. With this win, that conversation shifts somewhat, and Team Secret has found itself in a position to climb to the top of the standings in the Pro Circuit. The team faced off against Virtus.Pro in the final to see which squad would come away with the title of Major Champion in Hamburg.
Finals: Virtus.Pro(2) vs Team Secret(0)
A clash between CIS and Europe would mark the finals of the season’s first Major, as Virtus.Pro took on Team Secret for the title of ESL One Hamburg champion. Both teams had looked fantastic heading into this match up, taking out top level competition with a sense of confidence and calm that are the calling cards of top tier teams. However, only one of these teams would be able to lay claim to the title as well as the to spot on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, as the final series of the Major was set to begin in Hamburg.
Virtus.Pro were looking for farm and team fight power in its game 1 draft, picking up cores of Vengeful Spirit, Sniper, and Brewmaster alongside Enchantress and Ogre Magi. For Team Secret the game plan called for equal parts aggression and heavy magic damage, with the European squad drafting cores of Timbersaw, Lina, and Pugna to go along with Mirana and Spirit Breaker supports. The game went back and forth in the early stages, with each team holding a significant lead in the first 20 minutes of play. It was the mid and late-game stages where VP’s lineup began to pull away, as the strength of its farming cores started outpacing those of Team Secret. Behind No[o]ne’s Sniper and Ramzes666’s Vengeful Spirit, Virtus.Pro was able to push out its lanes and take control of the map, forcing Team Secret to play defensively. From this defensive position, much of Team Secret’s power was nullified, and the team was forced into one last attempt to defend its base against VP. Despite its best efforts, Team Secret’s defenses were easily swept away by VP’s lineup, and the CIS squad destroyed Team Secret’s Ancient to claim victory in game 1 of this final series.
With its championship hopes on the line, Team Secret drafted a lineup that would attempt to balance aggression with farming potential. The team picked up Spirit Breaker and Rubick supports to balance out Ember Spirit, Phantom Lancer and Magnus cores. For VP, the plan was control and team fighting power, with Bane, Chen, and Sand King backing up cores of Viper and Vengeful Spirit. VP got off to an early lead, with the CIS squad’s cores farming faster than their counterparts on Team Secret. With VP’s high damage and control the squad was able to secure early fights and skirmishes as well, adding onto an already significant net worth lead. For Team Secret, the draft strategy wasn’t coming together as intended, with the team’s cores having difficulties dealing with VP’s heavy control and damage. VP took control of the map, bringing down all of Team Secret’s barracks and earning Mega Creeps to put the European squad up against the wall. Team Secret tried to hold out in its base, but against both Mega Creeps and a nearly unstoppable VP lineup, there was nothing Team Secret could do to hold on. VP claimed the win in both the game and the series, taking home the title of ESL One Hamburg Champion.
VP looked like a team playing on a whole different level in this final series, as the team took care of Team Secret in impressive fashion to secure its first LAN win of the season. With victories against both Team Liquid and Team Secret at this event, VP looks like it has returned to the form that had it at the top of the hierarchy in the Dota 2 world last year. VP has been looking for this high profile win for some time now, sitting just on the cusp of this accomplishment time and time again. With this win in Hamburg, VP finally has its long awaited title, along with validation of its position as one of the best teams in the Dota 2 world. For Team Secret, the loss must come as a bit of a disappointment, but the team has secured itself another strong finish to add to its solid start to the season. The European squad began the season with an incredible display of dominance in its region, and Team Secret showed that its early season success wasn’t a fluke, especially with the team’s win over Team Liquid. Both squads showed the world that they deserve to stand at the top of the standings in the Pro Circuit, but this time its Virtus.Pro that walked away with the title and the trophy in Hamburg.