StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Recap

Team Liquid triumphant again following victory over resurgent LGD Gaming squad. Newbee, Mineski pull in Top 4 finishes.

The Dota 2 action has come to an end in Shanghai as the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor has reached its conclusion and another team stands as Minor Champion. Eight participants made their way to China in search of money, glory, and Qualifying Points, but at the end of it all it’s another familiar face hoisting the trophy as Team Liquid won back to back iterations of the StarLadder i-League Invitaional. The win earned the European squad its third Minor Championship and its sixth Top 4 finish at a Pro Circuit event. The team received a bit of a challenge in the Final of the event, but not from a team that many might have been expecting, as LGD Gaming was the Chinese squad to face off against Team Liquid rather than Newbee. Despite failing to make it to Final for yet another rematch of the TI7 Grand Finals, Newbee did manage to find its way into the Top 4 at the event, alongside Southeast Asian leader Mineski. With those four squads making it into the Top 4 in Shanghai, the Pro Circuit standings look just a little bit different than what we saw coming into the event. Team Liquid’s 1st place finish doesn’t move it much as the European squad continues to hold the 2nd place position in the standings. The team’s opponent in the Final, LGD Gaming, took a step forward in terms of its rank, moving from 12th to 10th and more than doubling its team point total in the process. Newbee’s 3rd-4th place finish keeps it in the 4th place in the standings overall, while Mineski’s Top 4 finish breaks its tie with Vici Gaming to give the Southeast Asian squad sole possession of the 6th place ranking. The Pro Circuit standings received some other alterations stemming from roster changes that occurred during the event, but that covers everything resulting directly from the results in Shanghai. With the rankings adjusted and covered, we can shift our focus to looking at the teams themselves and how they performed at the Minor, as well as what comes next on the schedule for each of the participants.

Team Liquid 600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Place: 1st

Winnings: $135,000 (Total) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per player)

Team Liquid has been dominating the Pro Circuit so far this season, performing just as well as one would expect for a defending TI Champion. The European squad has still yet to attend an event without coming away with Qualifying Points, and came into this event off the back of a 2nd place finish at the recent ESL One Genting Minor. With this trip to Shanghai, the team was looking to extend that streak of Top 4 finishes with another impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage.

Team Liquid began its Group Stage matches with a series against South American squad Infamous. Game 1 saw Team Liquid have a small issue in the early game, as Infamous came out with an aggressive strategy that earned it eleven kills in the first eight minutes. Team Liquid managed to recover from that rough start though, as the team’s core trio of Dragon Knight, Gyrocopter, and Brewmaster controlling the team fights as the European squad won Game 1. Game 2 was a decisive victory for Team Liquid, as Miracle-‘s Razor and MinD_ContRoL’s Tiny took over the match and kept the Infamous lineup in check (combined 25-4-20). Team Liquid faced LGD Gaming in its next series, but the Chinese squad wouldn’t prove to be much of a challenge. Game 1 was fairly one sided, as Team Liquid held a net worth lead of nearly 10k for most of the match and claimed Mega Creeps before LGD Gaming conceded defeat. Game 2 also went in Team Liquid’s favor from the early stages, as Miracle- put together an impressive performance on Queen of Pain (14-1-13) to send Team Liquid to the Playoff Stage. Team Liquid faced Mineski in the Semifinal, and the European squad would get off to a strong start in the first match of the series. Team Liquid gave up just eight kills in Game 1 in a dominant performance to take the momentum in the series. Game 2 saw the two squad exchange net worth leads several times over the course of the match, with Team Liquid falling behind by over 14k net worth towards the end of the match. However, Miracle- would lead the squad to a victory once again with a masterful performance on Outworld Devourer (18-7-10, 32.7k net worth) that helped close the gap and earn Team Liquid a 2-0 series win. The Finals of the event put Team Liquid up against Chinese squad LGD Gaming in one last Bo5 series. Team Liquid won Game 1 behind yet another fantastic performance from Miracle-, this time on Storm Spirit (22-4-12). The team stumbled a bit in Game 2, as LGD Gaming came out aggressively and forced Team Liquid to concede defeat in just over 18 minutes. From that point forward though, Team Liquid was back in control of the series. Game 3 was a convincing victory for the European team, as its combination of Sven and Io put near continuous pressure on the lineup of the Chinese squad. Just one win away from a series victory, Team Liquid came out in Game 4 with a strong team fighting draft that overwhelmed the lineup of LGD Gaming to close out the series and the Minor with a 3-1 win that earned Team Liquid a 1st place finish.

The expectations for Team Liquid were as high as possible heading into this event, but given the team’s performance so far this season that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It also shouldn’t be very surprising that the team was able to earn itself yet another Top 4 finish, as the team has done so at every Pro Circuit event it has attended so far. The European squad was projected to finish within the Top 4 at this event, and the team lived up to that prediction and then some. The team’s 9-1 overall record at the Minor and its 1st place finish add another achievement to what is already a nearly unrivaled resume for the team. At this stage, it would take a meltdown of unimaginable proportions for Team Liquid to miss out on a TI8 invite, but the team continues to string together impressive performances on the Pro Circuit stage as it moves ever closer to the Qualifying Point totals needed for a guaranteed spot. The team has opportunities to move closer towards that required total on the horizon, as Team Liquid will be attending the ESL One Katowice Major in February as well as The Bucharest Major at the beginning of March.

 

Newbee

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Place: 3rd-4th

Winnings: $30,000 (Total) & 30 Qualifying Points (Per player)

Chinese squad Newbee came into the latest Pro Circuit event feeling a surge of confidence following an impressive win at the ESL One Genting Minor last week. The team remains the highest ranked squad in the Chinese region, and after a run that included a 3-2 win over defending TI Champion Team Liquid, Newbee appeared to be playing at the top of its game. The chance to play on home soil in Shanghai provided a perfect opportunity for the Chinese team to continue its impressive play and potentially gain ground on the other top ranked Pro Circuit teams.

Newbee began its quest for back to back Minor wins with a series against Team Empire. The CIS squad struck first though, as Newbee’s attempt to dictate the pace of the game with a Legion Commander pick backfired early. The team recovered after that initial loss, winning Game 2 behind a fantastic Outworld Devourer performance from Sccc (15-2-11). Sccc led the way again in Game 3 on Invoker, helping Newbee take the lead early and close out the series 2-1. That win put Newbee up agaisnt Southeast Asian squad Mineski for the top spot in Group B. Newbee again faced issues in the opening match of a series, as Mineski’s team fighting lineup dominated the late game stage. The Chinese squad came storming back into the series in Game 2, with Sccc’s Shadow Fiend and Moogy’s Leshrac leading the way with two incredible performances (combined 28-4-24). Game 3 was a close and hard fought affair, with both squads remaining close throughout the early and mid-game stages. Eventually though, Newbee was able to seize control of the match behind its core trio of Medusa, Tiny, and Brewmaster to win the series 2-1 and advance to the Playoff Stage. Newbee’s Semifinal match up saw it face another Chinese team in the form of LGD Gaming, with a spot in the Finals on the line. Newbee dropped the ball in Game 1, attempting a draft based around Medusa and Razor cores that was out farmed and out fought by LGD Gaming’s more aggressive lineup. Game 2 saw Newbee appear to recover from its previous loss, as the team built up a lead of over 10k net worth heading into the late game stage. However, the core duo of Phantom Lancer and Tinker for LGD Gaming were eventually able to out scale their opponents, taking crucial late game team fights and turning the momentum in its favor to hand Newbee an 0-2 loss and end its run at the Minor in the 3rd-4th position.

Coming into this event, the expectations for Newbee were set about as high as they possibly could have been. Coming off of an impressive win at the ESL One Genting Minor, the Chinese squad was playing at an incredibly high level and had the chance to perform in front of its own fans in Shanghai. Newbee was projected to finish in the Top 4 at this event, and the team was able to maintain its momentum and match that prediction. Despite the team’s wins in its Group Stage series, the losses in Game 1 against both Team Empire and Newbee are somewhat concerning. We see many teams get off to slow starts in series and turn things around much like Newbee did, but for a team playing at such a high level it is somewhat surprising. Also surprising was the team’s 0-2 loss to fellow Chinese squad LGD Gaming. The team did recently make a change to its roster, and its possible that facing that new lineup threw Newbee off of its normal strategies. It’s also possible that this new LGD Gaming lineup is a better team than many may have been expecting. Either way, Newbee comes away from the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 with another Top 4 finish and more Qualifying Points. This event will certainly not be the last opportunity for Newbee to flex its muscles on the Pro Circuit stage, as Newbee are scheduled to participate in the ESL One Katowice Major later this month as well as The Bucharest Major in March.

 

LGD Gaming

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Place: 2nd

Winnings: $60,000 (Total) & 90 Qualifying Points (Per player)

After opening the season with some roster changes, LGD Gaming came into the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor with a new look and a sense of confidence. The team’s results prior to the roster changes had been decidedly weak, but the hope was that the new lineup would be able to turn around the team’s struggles with a strong showing on home soil in Shanghai.

The Chinese squad opened play at the Minor with a series against North American team compLexity Gaming. LGD Gaming came out on a mission in Game 1, as the squad ran over its opponent behind incredible performances from Ame on Gyrocopter and Maybe on Shadow Fiend (combined 20-2-11). Game 2 went in a similar direction, with LGD Gaming leading from the beginning of the match and never surrendering that lead to close out a relatively easy 2-0 series. The team face a significant challenge in its next series, as the Chinese squad faced Team Liquid for the top spot in Group A. LGD Gaming found itself playing from behind throughout Game 1, as the team lost the match despite a massive performance from Maybe’s Storm Spirit (17-5-8). Game 2 saw LGD Gaming face similar struggles, as its lineup was heavily pressured and made largely ineffective by the Team Liquid draft. The loss to the TI7 Champions forced LGD Gaming into a rematch with compLexity Gaming for the final spot in the Playoff Stage. The Chinese squad once again dominated compLexity Gaming, out killing the North American squad 22-1 in a completely one sided affair. If looked as though LGD Gaming would repeat that performance in Game 2, as the team built up a lead of nearly 15k net worth in the late game stage. However, an over-extension within its opponent’s base opened up a window that compLexity Gaming was able to exploit to seize momentum and win multiple team fights to wipe out LGD Gaming’s lead to even up the series at 1-1. LGD Gaming regained control of the series in Game 3, relying on a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Razor, and Tiny to close out the series with a 2-1 victory that advanced the team to the Playoff Stage. The Semifinal saw LGD Gaming go up against Newbee, but the squad didn’t appear to be intimidated by the Chinese leader. LGD Gaming had near absolute control over Game 1, out killing Newbee 21-6 and claiming victory in just over 23 minutes. Newbee came back with a solid start in Game 2 and built up a lead of over 16k net worth in what was looking like a walkover. However, LGD Gaming mounted a fantastic comeback effort, hitting double digit kills on three of its heroes as it snatched victory away from Newbee to win the series 2-0. That win put LGD Gaming into the Finals of the event, where it faced Team Liquid in a Bo5 series. Game 1 of that series would go to Team Liquid, despite a strong effort from Maybe on Shadow Fiend (10-6-12, 27.1k net worth). LGD Gaming would come back with an incredibly dominant performance in Game 2, as the Chinese team swept past the Team Liquid lineup and drew out a “gg” call in just 18 minutes to tie the series. Despite its impressive win, LGD Gaming wasn’t able to maintain that momentum moving forward in the series. The Chinese squad lost Game 3 in convincing fashion as it failed to contain the Sven-Io combination from Team Liquid. With its chance for a 1st place finish on the line, LGD Gaming came out in Game 4 with a core trio of Lycan, Puck, and Doom. Despite keeping things close in the into the mid-game stage, the team’s cores couldn’t keep up with Team Liquid’s heroes as the match went on. The harder scaling lineup of Team Liquid controlled the team fights in the late game, leading the team to a win that ended LGD Gaming’s time at the Minor with a 1-3 loss and a 2nd place finish.

LGD Gaming may have faced significant struggles in the past few months, but the team’s new lineup had been looking incredibly strong within the Chinese region. That string of impressive regional performances had hopes high that the squad could put together a strong showing in its first Pro Circuit appearance with the new roster. Coming into the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4, LGD Gaming was projected to finish within the Top 4, and the team matched that prediction in truly impressive fashion. Defeating compLexity Gaming in two series in the Group Stage was an encouraging sign for a squad that had not played any international matches prior to that point. Its defeat of Newbee, the highest ranked Chinese team on the Pro Circuit, in such convincing fashion is another huge achievement for the squad, as is its one win in the Finals against Team Liquid. For a lineup making its first appearance together on the Pro Circuit stage, these achievements are astoundingly impressive and may represent a resurgence for the squad on the international level. The Chinese squad will have a chance to repeat its strong performance and potentially earn another Top 4 finish as it prepares for the ESL One Katowice Major later this month.

 

Mineski

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Place: 3rd-4th

Winnings: $30,000 (Total) & 30 Qualifying Points (Per player)

The last couple of months have been a bit of a mixed bag for Mineski in terms of its performance. Coming into the Minor, the team was still a dominant force within the SEA region, but its results on the Pro Circuit were somewhat sporadic. Of the team’s last three Pro Circuit appearances, the team has earned one Top 4 finish but landed in the bottom half of the standings in the other two. Despite that, Mineski came into the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 as one of the more favored teams in the field.

Mineski began its run at the Minor with a series against European squad Team Kinguin to open the Group Stage. The SEA squad dominated Game 1 of the sereis behind and impressive display from Moon on Timbersaw (9-0-8). Game 2 presented some difficulties for Mineski, as it fell behind by over 20k net worth about midway through the match. Despite being up against Mega Creeps, Mineski was able to hold back Team Kinguin’s push and turn the momentum of the match thanks to incredible plays from Mushi on Outworld Devourer (18-4-19). Mineski faced Chinese squad Newbee in its next series, and came out aggressively with its draft in Game 1. The SEA squad’s control and team fight power proved enough to counter Newbee’s strategy and earn Mineski a win in the opening match. Unfortunately for Mineski, the squad couldn’t maintain that initial momentum into the next game, as Newbee put together a dominant performance to even up the series 1-1. Mineski managed to keep things close in Game 3 for most of the game thanks to a tanky and lineup with team fight power. However, Newbee’s cores managed to out farm and scale harder than Mineski behind a crucial Medusa pick to hand Mineski a 1-2 loss. Mineski’s loss forced it into the final Group Stage series against Team Empire, with the SEA team striking first in the series. Nana’s Mirana and Mushi’s Phantom Lancer dominated the match up (combined 21-2-21, 40.6k net worth) to earn Mineski a win in the opening match of the series. Team Empire can back with a vengeance in Game 2, controlling the match behind a huge performance from fn on Queen of Pain (14-2-8) that Mineski couldn’t counter. With a spot in the Playoff Stage on the line, Mineski relied on heavy team fighting power in its Game 3 draft, which allowed the squad to overpower and control Team Empires’ Medusa and Razor picks to close out the series 2-1. That win moved Mineski into the Playoff Stage, where the squad faced Team Liquid in the Semifinals. Game 1 was firmly in Team Liquid control for almost all of the match, as Mineski’s cores struggled to keep pace and were heavily punished. Game 2 saw the Southeast Asian squad put up a much stronger fight in a match that saw the net worth lead fluctuate multiple times throughout the mid and late game stages. Despite wonderful performances from Mushi’s Ursa and Nana’s Shadow Fiend (combined 24-15-29, 56.4k net worth) and a net worth lead of nearly 15k, Team Liquid snatched the momentum and closed out the game and the series to end Mineski’s run and leave it with a 3rd-4th place finish.

Mineski’s recent results on the Pro Circuit stage may not have been as consistent as the team may have liked, but it still looked strong heading into this Minor. The ESL One Genting Minor wasn’t the best display of the team’s talent, but we had already seen multiple examples of the SEA squad playing at its best and the expectations were high in reflection of that. Coming into the Minor, Mineski was projected to finish within the Top 4, and the Southeast Asian squad was able to match that prediction with an impressive performance in Shanghai. The question for Mineski following this Top 4 finish is whether the team can achieve those results on a more consistent basis. Mineski will have a few opportunities to show that it can do just that, as the Southeast Asian squad will be attending both of the upcoming Majors in February and March (ESL One Katowice & The Bucharest Major)

 

Team Kinguin

627px-Team_Kinguin

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $7,500

Team Kinguin first catapulted itself onto the Pro Circuit stage in November when the team came just one win away from a Top 4 finish in its Pro Circuit debut at the Perfect World Masters Minor. When the team managed to break through into the Top 4 at its follow up appearance at the DOTA Summit 8 Minor, the Polish squad appeared ready to complete its push into the upper levels of the European hierarchy and the perhaps even the Pro Circuit standings themselves. With the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor having been the team’s first Pro Circuit appearance of 2018, the team was looking to continue its rise through the ranks with a quality performance in Shanghai.

Unfortunately for Team Kinguin, its performance at the Minro would not be of the quality that the team may have envisioned coming into the event. The team opened its Group Stage matches with a series against Southeast Asian squad Mineski, but the Polish squad did not fair well in its first matches. Game 1 was a stomp in Mineski’s favor, as Team Kinguin’s draft was rolled over by Mineski’s overwhelming team fight presence and its cores were unable to find enough farm to remain competitive. Game 2 initially appeared to be going better for Team Kinguin, as the squad kept things close early and actually jumped out to a massive net worth lead of over 20k near the 40 minute mark of the game. However, the team found itself running into major difficulties breaking the high ground defense of Mineski, and multiple forced attempts to breakthrough opened a window for Mineski to mount a comeback effort behind an absolutely masterful game from Mushi on Outworld Devourer (18-4-19). The shift in momentum lost Team Kinguin its lead and the game, as Mineski completed the 2-0 over the Polish squad to send it into an elimination series against Team Empire. Game 1 was another stomp that went against Team Kinguin, as the team was blown out by an impressive duo of Shadow Fiend and Tiny from Team Empire. Game 2 saw Team Kinguin manage to bounce back with a strong performance of their own, as Nisha’s Medusa (9-1-10) led the squad. Despite two disastrous team fight losses that nearly wiped out its net worth lead, Team Kinguin managed to hold its advantage in a wire to wire win to even up the series. In Game 3, Team Kinguin rolled the dice with a somewhat risky draft that included cores of Broodmother and Timersaw. While the core duo was able to find farm well enough, the damage and initiating power from Team Empire, particularly Ghostik’s Beastmaster and yoky’s Night Stalker (combined 16-4-33), left them severely limited towards the later stages of the match. With its support heroes being heavily punished and picked off and its cores unable to scale as quickly as its opponents, Team Kinguin threw in the towel to lose the game and the series. The 1-2 loss left the Polish squad with a 1-4 overall record, eliminating it from Playoff consideration and ending the team’s run at the Minor with a 7th-8th place finish.

Considering the increased level of play that we had been seeing from Team Kinguin coming into this event, the squad’s finish in the combined last place slot comes as a bit of a surprise. The team’s uptick in consistency within the European region and Top 4 finish at its last Pro Circuit event had hopes high for the Polish team. While the team wasn’t necessarily expected to find a Top 4 spot at this Minor, the team did come into the event projected to finish in the 5th-6th position to at least threaten to claim on of the Top 4 positions. The team may have struggled and failed to match up with that prediction, but hope isn’t lost for Team Kinguin just yet. The team will be competing at the ESL One Katowice Major later this month, and is one of the invited teams for the Europe Qualifiers for the GESC: Indonesia Minor, the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor, and the DAC 2018 Major. We’ll see if Team Kinguin can earn more opportunities to prove itself on the Pro Circuit stage, or if the Polish squad will fall into the “one hit wonder” category.

 

Team Empire

600px-Team_empire

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $15,000

Team Empire had been putting together a moderately successful season within the CIS region to this point, having established itself as a potential contender at home. Within the past month, the team has managed to convert some of that regional success into opportunities to compete on the Pro Circuit stage. However, this particular opportunity at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor would come with an added challenge for the squad, as the CIS squad would be playing with Alexander “Nix” Levin serving as a stand-in in place of normal carry player Airat “Silent” Gaziev. Even with that hurdle to move past, Team Empire came into the Minor with aspirations of earning its first Qualifying Points of the season.

Those plans and aspirations would run Team Empire right into a Newbee squad coming off of a victory at the ESL One Genting Minor, as the team opened its Group Stage matches with a series against the Chinese squad. The CIS squad would be the team to strike first in the series though, as a core trio of Tinker, Sven, and Enchantress saw Team Empire through as it out farmed and out fought a greedy Newbee draft. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t maintain its momentum into Game 2, as Newbee quickly recovered from its surprising Game 1 loss. Despite a solid output from fn on Sniper (11-4-9), Team Empire fell behind early and never managed to close the gap as Newbee tied up the series. The final game of the series went poorly for Team Empire, as its risky third core pickup of Axe was completely shut down and became a non factor in the match as the CIS squad lost the series 1-2. The loss put Team Empire in an elimination series against Team Kinguin, but the CIS squad was able to recover nicely from its loss to Newbee. Game 1 was a dominant victory for Team Empire, as fn’s Shadow Fiend and Nix’s Tiny put together absolutely beautiful performances to lead the squad to a win (combined 34-11-27).  Game 2 saw Team Kinguin back back in force, with Team Empire’s support duo facing heavy pressure. With the supports and offlaner relatively low on the net worth charts, Team Empire was almost completely reliant on its cores, who couldn’t match the pace of Team Kinguin’s draft. The final game of the series proved more competitive than the previous two, as the teams remained close through the early and mid-game stages. Eventually though, the initiating and team fight power of Ghostik’s Beastmaster (6-2-16) and yoky’s Night Stalker (10-2-17) helped provide the edge to Team Empire as it seized control of the late game and closed out the series for a 2-1 win. The win set up a series for Team Empire against Mineski, with the final spot in the Top 4 on the line. Game 1 was a relatively easy win for Mineski, as Team Empire’s lineup was severely pressured and contained. The CIS squad flipped the script in Game 2, coming out with an aggressive draft led by fn’s Queen of Pain (14-2-8) that swept past Mineski to even up the series. Unfortunately for Team Empire, Game 3 went decidedly in Mineski’s favor, as the CIS squad’s core trio of Medusa, Razor, and Axe fell flat against the SEA team’s draft. The loss ended Team Empire’s run at the Minor, leaving the CIS squad with a 5th-6th place finish in Shanghai.

Team Empire wasn’t exactly a favorite to earn a Top 4 spot at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor, but the team’s performance at the event is a pretty encouraging result for the CIS squad. Considering the fact that the tam was participating in just its second Pro Circuit event and that it came into Shanghai with a stand-in, the expectations for Team Empire were relatively low. In fact, coming into the event Team Empire was projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 7th-8th position, but the CIS squad was able to outperform that prediction. Not only was the team able to win its series against Team Kinguin, it won games against Top 8 ranked squad Mineski and Newbee. The team is apparently still in the process of deciding whether to keep Silent or replace him in the roster, and that decision will no doubt have a significant impact on the squad’s future performance. Whatever version of the roster that Team Empire chooses, it will have a few opportunities to earn a place on the Pro Circuit stage coming up soon, as the squad is set to participate later this month in the CIS Qualifier for both the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and the Dota 2 Asia Championship 2018 Major.

 

compLexity Gaming

727px-Col_big_logo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $15,000

The 2017 section of the season saw North American squad compLexity Gaming rise up to establish itself as one of the leading teams in its region, as well as a potential team to watch out for on the Pro Circuit. So far in 2018, the team has continued to play at a high level within the North American region, though the international performance for the squad has taken a bit of a hit. With the team looking for an opportunity to put together a solid performance on the international stage, compLexity Gaming came into the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor with the hopes of earning its first Top 4 finish of the new year.

CompLexity Gaming’s plans for success in Shanghai hit an immediate snag, as the North American squad began its run at the Minor with a series against Chinese team LGD Gaming. Game 1 was a struggle for the North American squad, as the team’s lineup was heavily pressured and found itself unable to scale at the same level and rate as their opponents. CompLexity Gaming earned just nine kills in the match as the team conceded defeat early to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw a similar scenario unfold, as compLexity Gaming fell behind early and never managed to find a way to recover and take the lead away from LGD Gaming. Despite a solid effort from Chessie on Lycan (10-5-6), compLexity Gaming lost the match and the series. The series loss put compLexity Gaming into an elimination series against South American squad Infamous, and the North American team would find a crucial opportunity in this series to bounce back and reclaim some momentum. Game 1 went in favor of compLexity Gaming right from the start, as both Chessie and Limmp ended the match with zero deaths on Sven and Death Prophet, respectively (combined 15-0-11). Game 2 was heavily in compLexity Gaming’s control as well as Zfreek put together a particularly impressive match on Rubick (6-4-23) that helped create space and time for the core trio of Monkey King, Shadow Fiend, and Underlord to out scale Infamous and close out the series 2-0. That win set compLexity Gaming up with a rematch of its opening series against LGD Gaming in which the North American team would put up a somewhat better fight. In Game 1 this was not the case, as compLexity Gaming was simply destroyed by LGD Gaming in a 1-22 scoreline. Game 2 saw compLexity Gaming behind significantly once again, though this time the team would receive a bit of good fortune. LGD Gaming became overconfident as it pressed into its opponent’s base, diving too deep and losing the subsequent fight to give compLexity Gaming new life. That opportunity led to a comeback from compLexity Gaming that wiped out a nearly 15k net worth lead to tie up the series. Game 3 proved to be a struggle for compLexity Gaming, as its lineup was constantly pressured and picked off throughout the match. The North American team would briefly hold the lead during the mid-game stage, but that lead evaporated several minutes later as LGD Gaming took control of the match and never looked back to hand compLexity Gaming a 1-2 series loss. The team’s 3-4 overall record in the Group Stage left it short of the mark to advance to the Playoff Stage, and ended the North American squad’s run at the Minor with a finish in the 5th-6th place range.

CompLexity Gaming came within one win of cracking the Top 4 at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor, but the fact that it couldn’t quite make the cut is an outcome that was somewhat expected heading into the event. The team had looked strong within the North American region (3 Top 4 Qualifier runs, 2 wins), but its results on the international stage left something to be desired as the team continued to struggle in its attempts to rise through the ranks in the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the event, compLexity Gaming was projected to finish right in the 5th-6th place position that the North American squad found itself in at the end of its run. That performance marks the fourth straight Pro Circuit event in which compLexity has missed the mark for a Top 4 finish and more Qualifying Points. At this stage, this trend is starting to become more and more of a concern for the squad, particularly with some of the other teams in its home region starting to look more threatening. Fortunately for compLexity Gaming, the North American team will have at least a few more chances to prove itself on the international level, as the team is set to participate in the ESL One Katowice Major and The Bucharest Major in the coming months.

 

Infamous

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Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $7,500

In terms of Pro Circuit results, there hasn’t been much to talk about with regards to South American teams, as the region remains unrepresented in the Pro Circuit standings. We’ve seen a few teams rise and fall within the region already, not even halfway into the season. Among the South American teams that have retained some semblance of consistency and improvement is Infamous. Though the team has been looking considerably better than most of its peers within the South American region, the squad came into the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor with very low expectations.

Those low expectations proved to be prudent, as Infamous struggled significantly in yet another appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. The South American squad had the misfortune of having to play against Team Liquid in its opening series of the Group Stage, though the team would put up a decent fight in Game 1. Infamous came out aggressively in the early stage of the game, finding eleven kills within the first six minutes and hanging close with Team Liquid through the mid-game. However, as the game progressed further, the Infamous lineup found itself  being out scaled, as its Viper and Luna cores couldn’t keep up with Team Liquid’s trio of Dragon Knight, Gyrocoptor, and Brewmaster. Infamous lost back to back fights to force it into conceding defeat in the opening match. Game 2 was a much less contentious affair, as Infamous was dominated from the start and lost the match in under 25 minutes. That 0-2 loss set Infamous up for an elimination series against compLexity Gaming, though the squad found just as much success against the North American squad as it did with Team Liquid. Game 1 was a one sided loss for Infamous, as its draft failed to stand up to the team fighting power and tankiness of the compLexity lineup to give the NA squad a wire to wire victory. Game 2 also saw compLexity hold a net worth lead throughout the match, though Infamous was able to draw out the game with solid farming and fighting from its draft. Despite solid efforts from Papita on Mirana and Kotarō Hayama on Phantom Lancer (combined 19-8-17), Infamous couldn’t make a comeback happen and lost the match and the series to end its run at the Minor. With its 0-4 overall record, Infamous failed to advance out of the Group Stage and ended with a 7th-8th place finish.

While the early dismissal from the Minor is an unfortunate occurrence for Infamous, it was far from unexpected, as the South American squad wasn’t predicted to go very far at this event. Coming in the the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4, the team was projected to finish in the 7th-8th position, and the team unfortunately fell right into that less than stellar prediction. The theme for South American teams so far this season seems to be “growing pains”, as the teams from that region have seen significant and consistent struggles as they go about the slow process of adjusting to being fully integrated into the international scene. While Infamous has shown itself to be one of the better adjusted and more stable South American squads, it appears that the team still has a long way to go before its truly ready to emerge on the Pro Circuit stage. Infamous will have some opportunities to continute its quest for Pro Circuit success in the near future, as the team is already set to participate in the ESL One Katowice Major later this month, as well as the GESC: Indonesia Minor in March.

 

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