Dota 2 Major Recap: EPICENTER XL

China Number 1: PSG.LGD claim first ever Major Championship for Chinese region with 3-1 win over Team Liquid. CIS squads FlyToMoon, Virtus.pro, secure Top 4 finishes.

As the Pro Circuit season inches ever closer to its end, Dota 2 fans are getting the chance to see some of the highest quality Dota of the year as teams are giving everything they’ve got in an attempt to make one final push one the Pro Circuit stage before the chaos of the TI8 Qualifiers descends upon us. The EPICENTER XL Major has more than lived up to that promise of top tier Dota action as the Major has come to an end. After over a week of action between the Group Stage and the Playoff Stage of the event, the matches in Moscow have concluded and a new Major Champion has been crowned in the Russian capital. 12 teams made their way to Moscow, each with their own goals and different situations, but all looking to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage with just a handful of events remaining on the schedule. While some of those squads had to go home empty handed at the conclusion of the Major, a select few of them managed to leave their mark on the landscape of the Pro Circuit.

When all was said and done in Moscow, it was PSG.LGD that stood victorious at the Major, as the Chinese squad earned its first Major Championship and became just the fourth different team to win a Major this season. The victory was also a significant win for China as a region, as PSG.LGD earned the first Major Championship for the region in the history of Dota 2. The squad put together a record of 16-6 across the whole event, with just two of those losses coming in the Playoff Stage. Along its path to the Championship, PSG.LGD reaffirmed its ability to contend with and defeat the top squads in the world, as the team won four of its five series against Top 8 ranked teams in Moscow and brought down Mineski, Virtus.pro, and Team Liquid twice to claim its title.

As the Pro Circuit season comes closer to its end, every event left on the schedule has the potential to massively impact the Pro Circuit standings, and the EPICENTER XL Major was no exception to this. PSG.LGD’s 1st place finish at the event moves the team all the way up from 8th to 4th in the Pro Circuit standings, and gives the team the prestige of being the top ranked team from the Chinese region. The team that PSG.LGD defeated, Team Liquid, did not move in the standings following its 2nd place finish. However, the European squad locked in a much more valuable prize, as the Qualifying Points that it earned in Moscow gave Team Liquid a high enough total to guarantee a direct invite to TI8 this summer. That achievement makes Team Liquid only the second squad to secure direct invite status for TI8, joining fellow EPICENTER XL Major participant and Top 4 finisher Virtus.pro. The surprise star of the Major, FlyToMoon, managed to get itself on the board in the Pro Circuit standings, with its 3rd place finish putting the team’s Qualifying Point total at 675. Those points put the squad into 12th place overall in the Pro Circuit standings, but without any other Pro Circuit appearances left, the CIS squad will not be climbing any higher for the rest of the season. With its 4th place finish, Virtus.pro lay claim to even more Qualifying Points despite the fact that the team has not needed them for quite some time. The team’s Top 4 finish keeps it in 1st place in the Pro Circuit standings with a Qualifying Point total of 8097 with two Majors left on the team’s schedule.

With the action now officially done in Moscow, a new Major Champion crowned, and the Pro Circuit standings updated, we can take some time to reflect on the Major itself and how each of the participants performed on the Pro Circuit stage. In addition to each team’s individual performance and achievements at the EPICENTER XL Major, we can take a brief look at what events, if any, the participating teams have left on their schedules as the Pro Circuit begins wrapping things up and the TI8 Qualifiers approach.

 

Virtus.pro 600px-Virtus

Place: 4th

Winnings: $70,000 (Total) & 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

Virtus.pro came into the EPICENTER XL Major as the top ranked squad on the Pro Circuit this season, and the only team to have already secured itself a direct invite to TI8 this summer. The guaranteed invite status hasn’t done much to slow the CIS squad down, as VP has continued to perform at the highest level and turn in quality performances on the Pro Circuit stage in spite of not needing any of the Qualifying Points from those events. The EPICENTER XL Major offered a bit more of an incentive for the team to put together another strong showing on the Pro Circuit, as the team was playing in front of a home crowd in Moscow. The chance to play an event in the CIS region combined with an opportunity to test itself in further preparation for TI8 had VP coming into the Major looking for yet another successful run at a Pro Circuit event.

The CIS squad opened up play at the Major with the first and only series of Day 1 of the Group Stage, as VP faced off against South American squad paiN Gaming. VP’s core trio of Morphling, Lifestealer, and Viper were able to establish a fast pace that had the team out to a significant net worth lead in the mid-game. However, the tide of the match soon turned as paiN Gaming’s lineup wit a power spike in the late-game. Despite solid showing from Ramzes666’s Morphling (11-3-10) and No[o]ne’s Viper (14-7-10), VP was unable to retake control of the match as it lost its first match of the Major. After that surprising loss, VP came back with a vengeance in Games 2 and 3 of the series as the CIS squad absolutely crushed paiN Gaming in back to back matches. The CIS squad out killed its opponent by a score of 70-18 as VP closed out two straight wins in a little over 46 minutes of total game time and began its Group Stage run with a 1-0 record.

VP found itself back in action on Day 3 of the Group Stage, as the team faced off against another team ranked in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings in the form of Chinese squad Newbee. Vp looked to combine damage output with control and roaming potential as it picked up cores of Lifestealer, Lina, and Dark Seer alongside Earth Spirit and Jakiro supports. The game remained close early, but VP was eventually able to take control of the match in the mid and late-games stages. With Ramzes666 and No[o]ne combining for a stat line of 18-1-19 on Lifestealer and Lina, VP was able to shut down Newbee’s team fight power and secure a win in the series opener. Game 2 saw VP go for a bit more of an aggressive strategy, as the team picked up cores of Broodmother, Morphling, and Omniknight. A similar scenario to Game 1 played out for VP, with the CIS squad establishing a lead and relative control over the match in the late-game stages. However, this time Newbee was able to fight back and challenge VP. Despite strong performances from Ramzes666’s Broodmother (11-11-11, 29,1k net worth) and No[o]ne’s Morhpling (13-3-12, 43.5k net worth), VP lost a series of late-game fights that allowed Newbee to march straight into the CIS squad’s base and pull of a incredible comeback victory to even up the series. VP decided to try the aggressive fighting strategy again in Game 3 of the series, drafting a core trio of Morphling, Death Prophet, and Doom with Nature’s Prophet and Sand King as supports. That lineup proved effective early, as the team’s aggressive play style had Newbee’s cores facing constant pressure and harassment. With its core trio combining for a stat line of 30-6-55, VP held the net worth lead for the entirety of the match as it closed out a 2-1 win over Newbee.

With a 2-0 series record, VP entered Day 4 of the Group Stage in a relatively strong position in the Group B standings. However, the team was in for a challenge as it faced fellow CIS squad Na’Vi. The team looked to push the tempo in Game 1 of the series, combining Troll Warlord and Death Prophet with a Night Stalker and Io that produced an aggressive lineup that Na’Vi was not fully prepared to handle. VP controlled the match from the mid-game on, and behind a strong showing from No[o]ne’s Death Prophet (16-3-8) the team was able to decimate Na’Vi’s base and draw out a “gg” call to win the opening match. Game 2 of the series saw VP look for a fighting lineup as it grabbed cores of Troll Warlord, Lina, and Magnus. The team was able to build up a significant lead in the early and mid-game stages of the match, but Na’Vi was still holding its own and winning a large number of fights in that time. As the late-game stage set in, Na’Vi was able to continue its strong team fighting and swing the momentum in its favor. The losses nullified VP’s ability to out scale its opponent, and Na’Vi was able to break through the team’s defenses to secure a win and tie up the series. VP’s misfortune continued in Game 3 of the series, as the CIS squad built up a lead early but quickly lost control of the pace of the game in the face of Na’Vi’s aggressive fighting lineup. Na’Vi was quickly able to establish control of the map, and with VP down by over 10k net worth at the 23 minute mark, the team conceded defeat to suffer its first series loss of the event.

VP’s loss to Na’Vi was a small setback for the team, but the CIS squad still had the chance to take a commanding position in the Group B standings if it could win its next series against OG. VP went into Game 1 with a draft with high levels of fighting and ganking potential, with Viper, Slark, and Dark Willow cores alongside Clockwerk and Rubick supports. The team had some trouble breaking away from OG early, but the CIS squad quickly established control in the late-game stage its opponent’s team fight potency began to fall behind significantly. With Ramzes666’s Slark (17-3-10) and No[o]ne’s Viper (16-1-10) leading the way for team, VP made complete control of the map and was able to push through OG’s final base defense to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw VP pick up Templar Assassin and Death Prophet, paring the duo up with a trio of gank heavy heroes in Slardar, Lion, and Nyx Assassin. As soon as the laning stage ended and VP’s heroes had levels, the team began aggressively pursuing fights that OG was not ready to counter. The team fight wins opened the way for VP to establish control over the map and push OG further and further back into its own base as the CIS squad built up a net worth lead of nearly 30k. With OG’s team fight and damage paling in comparison to that of VP, the European squad couldn’t hold back the final push as VP completed a 2-0 sweep of the series.

Heading into the final day of the Group Stage, VP was secured a place in the Playoff Stage with its 3-1 record. The question was where the team would end up in the Group B standings, with a win locking it into the top two positions in the group and a loss moving it into a potential tiebreaker scenario for a position somewhere between 1st and 4th. The CIS squad faced a tough opponent in its final Group Stage series in the form of Team Secret, another squad still unsure of where it was going to end up in the Group B standings. VP came out aggressively in Game 1 of the series, as the team heavily pressured and punished Team Secret’s draft in the early and mid-game stages. With Ramzess666’s Slark (14-1-4) tearing through the Team Secret lineup, the CIS squad built up a lead of just under 10k net worth at the 23 minute mark and forced its European opponent into an early “gg” call. The team’s Game 2 draft provided it with a strong combination of both farming power and team fight presence, as cores of Lycan, Death Prophet, and Dark Seer were supplemented by Lion and Sand King supports. The strategy was working early for VP, as the team managed to control the vast majority of fights as it pushed Team Secret back and kept the European squad on the defensive for most of the match. Team Secret’s team fight power finally came together as the made a surge in the late-game to try to mount a comeback effort. However, by that point it was too late to overcome VP’s advantage as the CIS squad pushed into the Team Secret base and secured itself a 2-0 win to improve its Group Stage record to 4-1 and claim the top spot in Group B.

That position at the top of its group allowed VP to advance to the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage, where the team faced off against Chinese squad PSG.LGD for a spot in the Upper Bracket Finals and a guaranteed Top 4 finish. VP wanted to play aggressively in Game 1 of the series, picking up cores of Gyrocopter, Templar Assassin, and Centaur Warrunner with Nature’s Prophet and Tusk supports. Unfortunately for VP, the strategy didn’t work out well, with PSG.LGD’s lineup managed to take control of the match in the late-game and take the better of team fights. Despite strong performances from both Ramzes666’s Gyrocopter (16-9-14) and No[o]ne’s Templar Assassin (10-7-14), the CIS squad couldn’t break through PSG.LGD’s lineup as the team suffered a defeat to open the series. VP refused to give up on its aggressive play style in Game 2 of the series, as the team ran at PSG.LGD with a combination of high damage output and team fight control. The result was a sizable net worth for VP in the mid and late-game stages as PSG.LGD’s lineup was simply unable to ever mount any effective resistance to VP’s attack. VP out killed its opponent by a score of 30-8 as the CIS squad dominated the match up and tied the series at 1-1. In Game 3, it would be PSG.LGD’s turn to be the aggressor, as the Chinese squad presented a dangerous combination of damage and mobility that caught VP off guard. The CIS squad trailed for almost the entirety of the match, and was never able to wrest control of the game away from its Chinese opponent despite an impressive showing from No[o]ne on Lina (11-3-4) as VP lost the series 1-2.

The loss to PSG.LGD dropped VP down into the Lower Bracket of the event, where the team faced Southeast Asian leader Mineski in a Bo1 elimination match and a spot in the Top 4 at the Major. VP again looked for a lineup that provided a high level of team fight damage, picking up cores of Luna, Viper, and Doom with Oracle and Tusk supports. VP got off to a horrible start to the game, as Mineski’s lineup presented a level of early damage that the CIS squad simply couldn’t stand up against. That poor start carried over in the mid and late-game stages, as VP struggled to extend the match and cut into what had become a massive net worth lead for Mineski. No[o]ne’s Viper (11-4-6) led the team in terms of kills, but it was Solo’s Oracle (2-4-11) that made the critical play with an incredible False Promise that saved the team’s Luna and turned a late-game team fight in VP’s favor. That fight left Mineski with limited heroes and only a handful of buybacks, and VP was able to push straight down the middle lane to wipe out its opponent and pull of an unbelievable comeback win to keep itself alive and knock Mineski out of the Major.

VP’s victory over Mineski set up an all-CIS match up in the next round of the Lower Bracket as the team took on FlyToMoon to see which team would be able to claim a Top 3 position. Game 1 saw VP caught off guard a bit, as FlyToMoon came right at the Pro Circuit leader with an incredibly aggressive play style. The VP lineup was not prepared to deal with the early pressure, and the CIS team quickly found itself playing from behind as FlyToMoon opened up a big net worth lead. While VP was able to extend the game to a certain extent, it was never able to make a significant enough surge to actually threaten FlyToMoon’s control of the map and the pace of the game. After its final attempt to claim a team fight resulted in a team wipe and the expenditure of its buybacks, VP conceded defeat in the first match of the series. Game 2 saw VP shift its tactics towards more of a ganking and damage oriented strategy, with Lifestealer and OD cores being combined with a trio of Slardar, Witch Doctor, and Tusk. VP was able to build up a lead in the laning stage with its early aggression, but FlyToMoon quickly seized control as the match shifted towards the mid-game. With FlyToMoon holding map control and a sizable net worth lead, VP was forced to fend off a few attempted high ground pushes to stave off defeat. Despite a valiant effort from No[o]ne’s Outworld Devourer (18-8-11, 23.5k net worth), VP was eventually worn down as FlyToMoon broke past its defenses and forced a “gg” call that handed VP an 0-2 loss in the series. That loss brought VP’s run at the Major to an end with the CIS squad finishing in the Top 4 with a 4th place position.

VP entered this Major as a team that really didn’t need another successful run at a Pro Circuit event. The team had already secured itself a direct invite to TI8, and at this point every event it attends is just another opportunity for the team to test and prepare itself for its run in Vancouver this summer. That being said, the team hasn’t let up in terms of its level of play since securing that direct invite, and the team wasn’t expected to suffer any drop off in front of its home crowd in Moscow. VP entered the EPICENTER XL Major projected to finish within the Top 4, and the CIS squad was able to match that prediction as it finished 4th overall at the event. The team looked about as strong as expected in the Group Stage of the event, taking its series against fellow Top 8 ranked teams Team Secret and Newbee, and bringing down OG and paiN Gaming in series in which VP was a heavy favorite. The only stumble for the squad in the Group Stage was its 1-2 loss to Na’Vi, particularly because of the fact that VP lost significant leads in both of its two losses to its follow CIS squad. Those losses could be chalked up to a loss of focus for VP, or maybe just as a result of the familiarity between two teams from the same region that have played a significant number of games against each other. Either way, the loss comes as more of a simple surprise than any cause for concern with VP moving forward. Within the Playoff Stage of the event, VP looked solid but not quite as strong as it has in other events. The team took one game off of PSG.LGD before losing that Upper Bracket series, and managed to pull off an incredible comeback victory over Mineski before being swept 0-2 by FlyToMoon to end its run at the Major. Even with the team’s struggles against PSG.LGD and FlyToMoon, VP still managed to finish in the Top 4 of the event overall and looked composed and confident across all of its matches in Moscow. No team is truly invincible, and for VP this performance at the EPICENTER XL Major was more about locking in the consistency and stability that it will need to succeed at TI8 this summer. VP will have a few more opportunities to show off its consistency before the end of the season, as the CIS squad will be attending both of the final Majors of the season. VP may have already punched its ticket to Vancouver, but the team wants to be as prepared as possible for its TI run, and these final Pro Circuit events will give the team the best chance to test itself a few more times before the Chaos of TI8 descends upon the Dota 2 world.

 

Team Liquid600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Place: 2nd

Winnings: $200,000 (Total) & 450 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

Team Liquid entered the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the top ranked teams in the Pro Circuit standings and a team on the verge of securing itself a direct invite to TI8. The team had also been the most consistent squad on the Pro Circuit stage, as the defending TI Champion had opened the season with nine straight Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events. A 10th Top 4 finish in Moscow was all the European squad needed to finally join VP as a direct invitee to TI8 this summer. With that goal within its grasp, Team Liquid came to to Major with an increased sense of focus and purpose, but the field of teams in Moscow was full of ambitious squads looking to deny the TI7 Champion its place in Vancouver.

Team Liquid was sorted in Group A for the Group Stage of the event, and found itself facing off against CIS squad Team Empire on Day 2. Game 1 saw Team Liquid struggle early, as Team Empire’s Io strategy exerted a high level of pressure on the team’s lineup. Strong performances from MATUMBAMAN’s Viper (16-6-18) and Miracle-‘s Terrorblade (9-4-16) helped Team Liquid extend the match as Team Empire was repeatedly stymied on high ground pushes. The CIS squad eventually tried to force the issue, and Team Liquid once again held its base and wiped out Team Empire, opening a path for the European squad to march across the map and bring down Team Empire’s base to secure a win. Game 2 played out in a somewhat similar manner, as Team Liquid once again trailed significantly in the mid-game stage. However, a huge fight around the Roshan Pit near the 24 minute mark swung momentum in favor of Team Liquid. Behind impressive showings from MATUMBAMAN on Lifestealer (10-3-15) and GH on Night Stalker (8-6-16), Team Liquid was able to hold off a few late-game surges from Team Empire and out scale its opponent to secure a 2-0 sweep in its first series of the Major.

Day 3 of the Group Stage presented Team Liquid with a formidable challenge, as the squad faced PSG.LGD in its second series of the event. Game 1 saw Team Liquid pick up a pair of farming cores in Lone Druid and Slark, alongside a high damage ganking trio of Axe, Witch Doctor, and Skywrath Mage. The strategy paid off immediately, as Team Liquid was able to consistently pressure the lineup of its opponent and establish a significant net worth lead throughout the match. PSG.LGD’s lineup had few answers to Team Liquid’s heavy damage output, and didn’t have the cores to keep pace with those of the European squad. Down two lanes of barracks and trailing by over 11k net worth at the 32 minute mark, PSG.LGD conceded defeat to give Team Liquid a 1-0 advantage in the series. Team Liquid picked up a team fight lineup in Game 2 of the series, with cores of Slark, Kunkka, and Magnus alongside Silencer and Sand King supports. Unfortunately, that lineup struggled significantly in the face of some early aggressive play from PSG.LGD. That early aggression had Team Liquid playing from behind throughout the match, and the European squad couldn’t find the right execution in team fights to really turn the game around. Without that team fight power, Team Liquid couldn’t hold back its opponent, as PSG.LGD pushed into its base and forced out a “gg” call to even the series. With the series on the line, Team Liquid looked for a high damage fighting lineup for Game 3 headlined by a trio of Morphling, Lina, and Doom. The European squad came out aggressive early, finding multiple pick offs and putting heavy pressure on the PSG.LGD cores. Miracle- put together an unbelievably strong performance on Morphling (24-0-6) as Team Liquid dominated the game and shut PSG.LGD down for the entirety of the match to secure a 2-1 win and remain undefeated in its Group Stage series.

With a 2-0 series record, Team Liquid entered Day 4 of the Group Stage as one of the leading teams in Group A, but the team had a chance to take a commanding position in the standings if it could claim another victory against CIS squad FlyToMoon. In Game 1, it became apparent that FlyToMoon wasn’t going to go down without a fight, as the CIS squad dominated the game from the very start of play. Despite a solid showing from Miracle-‘s Phantom Lancer (12-4-6), Team Liquid wasn’t able to control a team fight in the mid or late-game stages as FlyToMoon pushed the European squad back inside of its base. Team Liquid organized one final fight to defend its base, but didn’t have enough strength to hold back FlyToMoon in the end and conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw Team Liquid combine aggressive play with farming cores, as Gyrocopter and Lina picks were supplemented by a trio of Doom, Witch Doctor, and Night Stalker. The strategy fell flat early, and Team Liquid found itself trailing significantly in the mid and late-game stages. However, the team’s significant damage output finally came through for it late, as Team Liquid secure back to back team fight wins that allowed to rush straight into the FlyToMoon base to secure a huge comeback win to tie up the series. With that comeback win instilling the team with confidence, Team Liquid came out and absolutely dominated Game 3 of the series. FlyToMoon’s lineup was simply trampled under foot by Team Liquid, with the European squad out killing its opponent by a score of 46-9 with a combined stat line of 39-2-35 from its core trio that won the team the series in emphatic fashion.

After the win over FlyToMoon, Team Liquid was sitting on a 3-0 record that had it at the top of the standings in Group A as it prepared for a series against North American squad compLexity Gaming on Day 5 of the Group Stage. Game 1 proved to be a complete stomp for Team Liquid, as the European squad dominated the match and shut down compLexty Gaming. Team Liquid held its opponent to just seven kills in the match, and its core trio combined for a stat line of 30-4-35 in a decisively one sided victory. Game 2 saw Team Liquid combine a fighting and farming duo of Juggernaut and Viper with a heavy control trio of Underlord, Jakiro, and Naga Siren. Team Liquid got out to a small lead early, but compLexity Gaming’s cores continued to farm as the North American squad made a surge in the mid-game to take the net worth lead. However, Team Liquid still had control of team fights, and compLexity Gaming found its lead quickly wiped out as it was pushed back inside of its base. Team Liquid made one final push to end the match ,and compLexity Gaming didn’t have the team fight power to hold its base as the European squad secured itself a 2-0 win and another series victory.

Team Liquid came into the final day of the Group Stage guaranteed a spot at the top of the Group A standings and a place in the Playoff Stage as it faced off against Southeast Asian squad Mineski. The European squad opted for an Io strategy in Game 1, combining the hero with a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Kunkka, and Clockwerk. That lineup got the team out to a massive net worth lead in the early and mid-game stages, as Team Liquid’s aggressive play style inflicted significant losses on Mineski. Mineski managed to make a few surges in the late-game, but they were never enough to fully establish momentum for the team, and Team Liquid was quick to retake control and finally shut down its opponent to claim a Game 1 victory. Game 2 proved to be even more one sided than its predecessor, as Team Liquid completely controlled every aspect of the match. Mineski was held to just six kills in the match, and Team Liquid’s core trio combined for a stat line of 31-3-37 as the European squad simply ran over Mineski to complete a 2-0 sweep and finish its run in the Group Stage with a perfect 5-0 series record.

The team’s position at the top of the Group A standings allowed Team Liquid to advance directly to the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage and match up against fellow European squad OG. Game 1 saw Team Liquid opt for an aggressive style with its draft, picking up cores of Lifestealer, Lina, and Nature’s Prophet along with supports of Night Stalker and Witch Doctor. In the early stages of the match, Team Liquids aggression wasn’t gaining it much of an advantage, but as the mid and late-game stages came around the team’s damage output allowed it to take control of the match. With the team’s core trio combining for a stat line of 34-18-58, Team Liquid opened up a massive net worth lead that OG was completely powerless to overcome. Despite a valiant effort to defend its base, Team Liquid was able to break through those defenses and claim a win in Game 1. In Game 2, Team Liquid doubled down on the aggressive style as it combined cores of Viper, Troll Warlord, and Abaddon with Nature’s Prophet and Night Stalker supports. The aggressive lineup paid off immediately for Team Liquid, as OG’s cores were severely pressured and limited throughout the match. Team Liquid pushed its opponent further back towards its own base, establishing complete control over the map and over team fights. Facing Mega Creeps and trailing by over 26k net worth, OG finally threw in the towel to give Team Liquid a 2-0 win as the squad advanced to the Upper Bracket Finals.

With the team one series away from the Grand Finals of the Major, Team Liquid found itself facing up against PSG.LGD once again in a rematch of its Group Stage series against the Chinese squad. Team Liquid looked for a strong fighting lineup in Game 1, picking up cores of Morphling, Venomancer, and Underlord with Earth Spirit and Ancient Apparition supports. That lineup helped the team build up a small advantage early, but PSG.LGD was able to turn the tides and take near complete control of the game in the mid and late-game stages. The Chinese squad established heavy control of the map and even secured Mega Creeps, but Team Liquid continued to stave of defeat. Despite a strong performance from MATUMBAMAN’s Venomancer (11-6-22), Team Liquid couldn’t stop its opponent as PSG.LGD rushed the ancient and brought it down before the European squad could kill all of its heroes off. Game 2 played out in a similar manner to Game 1, with Team Liquid picking up a fighting lineup but failing to find the right situations to properly execute its team fight strategy. The European squad trailed throughout the entirety of the match, but a surge in the late-game stemming from a team fight win kept hope alive for the team. However, a subsequent fight around the Roshan Pit saw PSG.LGD wipe out Team Liquid and remove the team’s final chance for a comeback as the Chinese squad closed out the match and handed Team Liquid an 0-2 loss.

That loss to PSG.LGD dropped Team Liquid down into the Lower Bracket Finals, where the defending TI Champion faced off against a surging FlyToMoon squad. Game 1 saw the European squad caught off guard a bit, as the highly mobile lineup and heavy damage output from FlyToMoon put intense levels of pressure on Team Liquid’s core heroes. While Miracle-‘s Anti-Mage (8-6-9) was still able to secure a significant amount of farm, it wasn’t enough to hold back FlyToMoon’s aggressive pushes as Team Liquid conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. In Game 2, the European squad was in danger of going down once again, as FlyToMoon was able to build up a huge net worth lead heading into the mid and late-game stages. This time though, Team Liquid had the tools it needed to fight back, as the team’s core trio put together a combined stat line of 32-28-51 while GH’s Skywrath Mage (12-13-24) added in nearly 25k points of damage to pull off an incredible comeback victory that tied up the series. With the series down to a final match, Team Liquid opted for a fighting lineup, picking up cores of Terorblade, Viper, and Beastmaster along with supports of Nyx Assassin and Jakiro. The team got off to a strong start, but FlyToMoon was able to pull away slightly in the mid-game to take a small net worth lead. Team Liquid responded with a series of crucial team fights and pick offs, as the team put together a 12-2 run in terms of kills over the final seven minutes of play to secure itself a 2-1 win in the series and a spot in the Grand Finals.

Team Liquid found itself facing a familiar face in the final series of the Major, as the team played against Chinese squad PSG.LGD for the third time at the event. Game 1 saw Team Liquid combine a core duo of Gyrocopter and Death Prophet with a rotating and ganking heavy trio of Clockwerk, Lion, and Skywrath Mage. The European squad found itself trailing a bit in the early stages of the match, but picked things up in the mid-game stage as it was able to take a few team fights to wrest the net worth lead away from PSG.LGD. However, the late-game saw Team Liquid lose the control it had worked to hard to establish, as its Chinese opponent began to turn the tide with a series of team fight victories. Despite a solid effort from MATUMBAMAN’s Death Prophet (9-4-12), Team Liquid couldn’t stave of the Chinese squad as the team lost the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw the team pull out something a little different as the team drafted cores of Drow Ranger, Invoker, and Bane. Early in the match, it appeared that this gambit was failing for Team Liquid, as its opponent was able to set a faster pace that was punishing and pressuring the team’s cores. However, the mid and late-game stages saw the power of Team Liquid’s lineup finally come to fruition, as Miracle-‘s Invoker (19-3-11) began running away with the game. PSG.LGD had few answers to deal with Team Liquid’s power, and a series of poor and often ill-advised fights put the Chinese squad too far behind to mount a comeback effort as Team Liquid forced out a “gg” call to turn the Bo5 series into a Bo3. Team Liquid opted to roll the dice a second time in Game 3 of the series, picking up Invoker once again alongside Lifestealer and Doom cores. The strategy gave Team Liquid an advantage through the early and mid-game stages as the European squad built up a modest net worth lead. However, the late-game saw PSG.LGD make a surge as the Chinese squad found a few pick offs and a team fight win that helped swing momentum into its favor. Behind two incredible performances from Miracle- on Invoker (13-4-6) and MATUMBAMAN’s Lifestealer (10-3-10), Team Liquid won a key team fight late that allowed the squad to secure two lanes of barracks and a command lead in the match. Unfortunately, PSG.LGD wasn’t ready to give in just yet, and the Chinese squad caught Team Liquid off guard to win a team fight of their own that left Team Liquid’s lineup with no buybacks left. Without anyone left to defend its base, Team Liquid didn’t have the strength it needed to hold off PSG.LGD’s final push as the Chinese squad handed Team Liquid a loss and a 1-2 deficit in the series. The team looked for a mixture of control and damage in its Game 4 draft, picking up cores of Gyrocopter, Kunkka, and Axe alongside supports of Witch Doctor and Leshrac. That lineup was able to hold a small advantage through the early stages and into the mid-game stage, but that lead quickly evaporated in the face of PSG.LGD’s team fight power. The Chinese squad dominated fights across the late-game, and Team Liquid struggled significantly as it scrambled to get something going to turn the match around. Despite a solid effort from Miracle-‘s Kunkka (9-7-12), Team Liquid didn’t have the power to hold back PSG.LGD as the Chinese team secured the win and handed Team Liquid a 1-3 loss and a 2nd place finish at the Major.

Team Liquid came into the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads, with the European team holding the 2nd place position overall. The team needed just one more Top 4 finish to secure itself a place in Vancouver this summer at TI8. Prior to the start of play in Moscow, Team Liquid was expected to find that last bit of Pro Circuit success, as the European squad was projected to finish in the Top 4 range. The team hit that mark and then some as Team Liquid claimed a 2nd place finish at the event overall. The team looked absolutely dominant in its Group Stage matches, winning all five of its series while only losing games to 1st place finishes PSG.LGD and 3rd place squad FlyToMoon. Team Liquid was the favored team in pretty much every one of its match ups in that Group Stage, and the team was able to avoid any stumbles or upsets as it showed the level of consistency that we have come to expect from the team this season. The team’s performance continued to be impressive in the Playoff Stage of the event, as the team opened things up with a strong 2-0 win over an OG squad that had been looking incredibly strong in the Group Stage. From that point forward, the team had some issues in its final two series against PSG.LGD, but considering the performance that the Chinese squad put together in its first ever Major Championship run, its had to have expected any team to bring them down. Although Team Liquid didn’t get to hoist the trophy in Moscow, the European squad still got what it wanted out of the Major, as the team’s 2nd place finish earned it enough Qualifying Points to secure join VP as a direct invitee for TI8. With that goal now achieved, we might see Team Liquid take things a bit easy as it climbs down from the chaos and anxiety of the race on the Pro Circuit. On the other hand, the team only has two Pro Circuit appearances left this season, and Team Liquid could always opt to take the same approach that VP has and continue to test itself on the Pro Circuit stage as a way of further preparing itself for its TI8 run. Either way, Team Liquid put together an impressive showing at the EPICENTER XL Major, and the European power house can rest easy over the final few weeks of the season knowing that its place in Vancouver this summer is locked in.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $15,000

Team Secret entered the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the leading teams in the Pro Circuit standings, but the European squad made its way to Moscow with its eyes set on a even more prestigious prize than a Major Championship. A finish of 3rd or better at this event would earn the team enough Qualifying Points to lock in a guaranteed direct invite to TI8 this summer, a feat that only Virtus.pro had been able to manage prior to the start of the action in Moscow. Despite its high position in the Pro Circuit standings, Team Secret had been facing its fair share of struggles with inconsistency coming into the event. The team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage has fluctuated significantly over its last few event appearances, but the European squad entered the EPICENTER XL Major needing just one more strong run to secure itself a place in Vancouver this summer. Team Secret was in for quite a challenge though, as the field in Moscow was full of teams looking to make a late season push and deny the squad its TI8 invite.

Team Secret got its run at the Major started on Day 2 of the Group Stage with a match up against another Top 8 ranked squad in Newbee. The European squad looked for an aggressive play style with its draft, picking up cores of Lycan, Dragon Knight, and Doom alongside a Spirit Breaker support. The plan paid off for the team, as Team Secret’s aggression earned it an early net worth lead that it managed to hold throughout the rest of the match. Despite a few surges from Newbee, the Chinese squad couldn’t fully break through and take control of the match as Team Secret secured a win in its first match of the Major. Game 2 saw Team Secret struggle significantly, as its cores of Bristleback, Shadow Fiend, and Abaddon were all heavily pressured and limited by Newbee’s lineup. With its core heroes lagging behind, Team Secret was unable to fully combat Newbee’s team fight setup and conceded defeat to even up the series. In Game 3, Team Secret went back to the aggressive strategy that had served it well in Game 1, picking up the Spirit Breaker again alongside cores of Lone Druid, Dragon Knight, and Ember Spirit. The aggressive style paid off once again for the European squad, as Newbee was quickly forced into a defensive posture that it was never able to get out of. Team Secret’s tanky, high damage cores were able to cut a path through Newbee’s defenses as the team secured a 2-1 win in its first series of the Group Stage.

Day 2 saw Team Secret matched up against CIS squad Na’Vi as the team looked to keep its momentum going and improve its Group Stage record to 2-0. Game 1 saw the team take a big risk with a Techies pick, and that gamble backfired significantly. Na’Vi tore through the Team Secret lineup with heavy damage and early aggression that limited the team to just five kills and an quick loss in less than 23 minutes to open the series. Team Secret changed up its strategy in Game 2 of the series, picking up a tanky and high damage core trio of Chaos Knight, Ember Spirit, and Timbersaw that simply ran right at Na’Vi’s lineup. Behind strong performances by MidOne’s Ember Spirit (8-1-11) and YapzOr’s Rubick (7-0-11), Team Secret was able to establish control of the match early and shut down Na’Vi’s heroes to earn a quick victory of its own in just over 23 minutes of play. That win force a decisive Game 3, and Team Secret looked to combine damage and team fight power in its draft as it picked up Chaos Knight, Lina, and Tidehunter cores alongside an Earthshaker support. Unfortunately for Team Secret, that team fight power was never fully unleashed, as Na’Vi’s lineup was able to largely control fights and build up a significant net worth lead in the late-game. Despite a solid showing from MidOne on Lina (14-6-8), Team Secret couldn’t find the team fight execution it needed to overcome Na’Vi’s heroes as the European squad suffered a 1-2 loss to bring its Group Stage record to 1-1.

The loss to Na’Vi came as something of a setback for Team Secret, but the team looked for a chance to bounce back on Day 4 of the Group Stage as it faced fellow European squad OG in its next series. Team Secret looked to take early fights in Game 1 with a core trio of Timersaw, Gyrocopter, and Night Stalker. The aggression and early fights allowed the team to get out to a significant net worth lead as it continued to apply pressure to OG’s lineup. With the team’s core trio combining for a stat line of 30-6-49, Team Secret dominated the match to secure a 1-0 start to the series. Secret’s momentum would die after that initial victory, as the team was completely run over in the following two matches by OG. Team Secret was out killed by a score of 14-56 in Games 2 and 3, as OG dominated the matches from start to finish. The back to back stunning and one sided defeats led to another series loss for Team Secret as the team’s record in the Group Stage fell to 1-2.

Back to back loses had Team Secret in danger of missing out on the Playoff Stage as it entered Day 5 of the Major. The team needed a victory to get itself back on track, and the European squad looked to earn that much needed win against South American squad paiN Gaming. Game 1 saw Team Secret struggling in the mid-game stage, as its core trio of Lone Druid, Outworld Devourer, and Tidehunter needed some time to come online. However, once the team had its bearings things quickly turned around for the European squad, with Midone’s Outworld Devourer (19-2-7) leading a massive surge in the late-game that gave Team Secret control of the match. With its lineup fighting at its full capacity, Team Secret was able to sweep aside paiN Gaming’s final defense to secure itself  win and a 1-0 series lead. The team carried its considerable momentum over into Game 2 with a fighting lineup headlined by cores of Morphling, Dragon Knight, and Brewmaster. The team’s early aggression and team fight power quickly overwhelmed paiN Gaming’s lineup, as Team Secret held a net worth lead for nearly the entirety of the match. With Ace and MidOne combining for a stat line of 24-0-19 on Morphling and Dragon Knight, Team Secret was able to quickly earn itself a 2-0 sweep and improved its series record to 2-2 in a much needed win.

Team Secret was unsure of its status heading into the final day of the Group Stages, as the team still wasn’t fully secured a place in the Playoff Stage. The team seemed likely to run into a tiebreaker scenario regardless of it performance on Day 6, but a win in its final series against Virtus.pro would put the team in a much stronger position within those tiebreakers. Game 1 saw the team’s hopes for a victory take a significant hit, as the European squad was decimated by VP. Team Secret’s cores were heavily pressured and limited, and the team only earned itself 9 kills in the match as it was forced to concede defeat to VP in just over 23 minutes of play. With that rough loss putting it behind in the series, Team Secret looked for team fight power in its Game 2 draft, picking up cores of Juggernaut, Kunkka, and Magnus along with a Venomancer support. The strategy appeared to be suffering early in the match ,as VP’s lineup built up a small net worth lead and was controlling engagements for the most part. A surge in the mid and late-game stages kept hope alive that Team Secret could pull off a comeback effort, but the power of VP’s team fight lineup proved too much for the European squad to handle. Team Secret couldn’t hold back VP’s push as the CIS squad marched into its base and ended the game to hand Team Secret an 0-2 loss. That loss brought Team Secret’s final Group Stage record to 2-3, but the tiebreaker rules favored the squad as it earned the 3rd place position in Group B and a spot in the Playoff Stage.

That 3rd place finish in its group put Team Secret in the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage, where the European squad faced off against Southeast Asian squad Mineski in a Bo1 elimination match. Team Secret combined tanky and elusive cores with team fight control as it picked up cores of Troll Warlord, Ember Spirit, and Abaddon alongside Bane and Slardar supports. Very quickly though, it became apparent that Mineski wasn’t going to wait to let Team Secret build up momentum in the match. The SEA squad played aggressively with its lineup, forcing early skirmishes and team fights that Team Secret was not able to control. Despite a solid effort from MidOne’s Ember Spirit (9-6-6), Team Secret could not hold back the death ball lineup of Mineski as it marched its way across the map and established complete control of the match. The European squad attempted one final defense of its base, but those efforts failed and Mineski knocked Team Secret out of the Major with a finish in the 7th-8th place position.

Team Secret came to Moscow as one of the top ranked teams in the Pro Circuit standings, and had aspirations of finally securing itself a direct invite to TI8 with a successful run at the Major. Despite the team’s somewhat inconsistent play over the months leading up to this event, the team was still expected to compete for a Top 4 spot, although the projection for the squad had it falling just short of that mark with a 5th-6th place finish overall. Unfortunately for Team Secret, it wasn’t able to put together the performance that it needed to punch its ticket to Vancouver, as the European squad fell short of a Top 4 finish and its predicted outcome as well with a final position of 7th-8th in Moscow. While the team was able to defeat both Newbee and paiN Gaming in the Group Stage, its also lost its series against VP, OG, and Na’Vi in the process. The loss to VP doesn’t come as much of a shock as just about everyone on the Pro Circuit losses to VP in Bo3 series. However, the somewhat disappointing performance for Team Secret have to be in its 1-2 losses to OG and Na’Vi. It is true that both of those teams put together stronger performances than what we had seen from them in recent months, but the fact remains that a team ranked 3rd in the Pro Circuit standings should not struggle to the degree that Team Secret did in those series. The team got a stroke of good fortune as the tiebreaker scenarios put it on top in a four-way tie, but the team really didn’t do enough to distinguish itself from its group mates and entered the Playoff Stage with some significant concerns. The team’s lone match in the Playoff Stage didn’t do much to assuage those concerns, as Mineski simply dismantled the European squad and completely shut down its strategy. While the performance doesn’t look so bad for Team Secret at first glance, upon taking a closer look things become a bit less positive for the team. One or two games in the Group Stage made the difference between the team’s 7th-8th place finish and a scenario in which the team misses out on the Playoff Stage entirely. The fact that the team needed to rely upon the tiebreaker rules to survive the Group Stage doesn’t bode particularly well for it moving forward, but it isn’t time to panic just yet. The team is still closing in on enough Qualifying Points for a TI8 invite, and with the squad set to attend the final Minor of the season and two of the last three Majors of the season, Team Secret will have quite a few opportunities to reach that milestone. The issues of inconsistency will continue to linger around Team Secret following this rough performance in Moscow, but if the team can turn things around for one final Top 4 finish in the coming weeks, then it will have the security of a direct invite to TI8 to help it tackle that issue prior to the start of the action in Vancouver this summer.

 

NewbeeNewbee_logo

Place: 9th-10

Winnings: $10,000

Newbee entered the EPICENTER XL Major as a team that was enjoying a strong position on the Pro Circuit. As the 5th ranked team overall and the leading Chinese squad, Newbee’s chances of securing itself a TI8 invite were relatively strong as the squad made its way to Moscow. However, with one Minor and four Majors left on the schedule prior to the start of the EPICENTER XL Major, Newbee’s ticket to Vancouver wasn’t guaranteed just yet. There remained a host of teams on the Pro Circuit that were looking for an opportunity to make their mark on the international stage and potentially usurp a Top 8 position from the Chinese leader. With that in mind, the team came to Moscow determined to earn itself another Top 4 finish to bolster its position in the Pro Circuit standings and protect itself from any late season surges from competing squads. However, the Chinese leader faced an incredibly tough challenge in Moscow, as the field of opponents at the EPICENTER XL Major were not too keen on allowing Newbee to secure another successful finish on the Pro Circuit stage.

The team began its run through the Group Stage of the Major on the second day of the event with a match up against fellow Top 8 ranked squad Team Secret. Game 1 of the series saw Newbee struggle significantly throughout the match as Team Secret built up net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. Behind Sccc’s Death Prophet (10-6-17), Newbee was able to make a few surges in the late-game, but none of them were enough to fully turn the tide as Team Secret eventually broke through Newbee’s defenses and secured a win to open the series. Newbee came back with a vengeance in Game 2, picking up a core trio of Razor, Lina, and Tidehunter that presented a high level of team fight damage. That damage proved decisive for the Chinese squad, as Newbee dominated team fights and was able to out pace Team Secret in the late-game behind an incredible performance from Sccc on Lina (17-0-11). That performance led Newbee to its first match win of the Group Stage as the team forced a third game in the series. Game 3 saw Newbee opt for a team fight lineup, with cores of Troll Warlord, Outworld Devourer, and Centaur Warrunner alongside supports of Sand King and Warlock. Unfortunately for the team, this strategy didn’t work out, as Team Secret was able to exert more control over team fights and establish a significant net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. Newbee was never able to get the right team fight execution to turn things around, and without the ability to utilize its team fight power, the Chinese squad couldn’t hold back Team Secret as it lost the game and fell 1-2 in the series.

Newbee didn’t exactly get the easiest of opponents for its series on Day 3 of the Group Stage, as the Chinese squad faced off against Pro Circuit leader and three time Major Champion Virtus.pro. The Chinese squad looked for a strong team fight lineup in Game 1, picking up cores of Razor, Dragon Knight, and Tidehunter. While that trio helped Newbee keep even with VP in the early stage of the match, the Chinese squad quickly fell behind in the mid and late-game stages. VP’s damage output and team fight control overpowered that of Newbee and forced the team back into its own base, but the squad couldn’t hold VP off for long as  its defense failed to hand Newbee an 0-1 start to the series. Game 2 saw Newbee pick up a core trio of Luna, Razor, and Naga Siren, but it appeared that the second match of the series was going to go in a similar fashion to Game 1 as VP built up a significant net worth lead in the late-game. This time though, Newbee had the heroes it needed to properly scale into the late-game, as the Chinese squad began turning team fights in its favor and whittling down VP’s lead. Thanks to fantastic showing from Moogy’s Luna (9-7-16, 30.6k net worth) and Sccc’s Razor (17-5-20, 29.4k net worth), Newbee was able to take a series of fights against VP and march down the middle lane in a headlong rush that completed an impressive comeback and tied up the series 1-1. Newbee had shown an impressive level of grit and determination to force a third match in the series, but that final match proved to be a frustratingly one sided affair. VP was aggressive from the very start of the match, and Newbee’s cores of Terrorblade and Viper didn’t have the strength to fully combat that aggression. While Newbee attempted to extend that match, the Chinese team found itself down by nearly 30k net worth at the 36 minute mark, prompting the squad to concede defeat to take another 1-2 series loss.

With an 0-2 series record, Newbee entered Day 4 of the Group Stage in need of a win to avoid falling into a dangerous situation in the Group B standings. The team got a bit of a break from playing Top 8 ranked squads, as the Chinese squad’s opponent would be South American squad paiN Gaming. Game 1 saw Newbee pick up cores of Troll Warlord, Queen of Pain, and Sand King along with supports of Sand King and Nyx Assassin as the team attempted to employ a combination of nuke damage and team fight control. After a somewhat slow start, the Chinese squad hit its stride in the mid-game stage as it managed to swing momentum in its favor with a solid team fight win. However, the squad couldn’t hold that lead for long, as a team fight lose around the 28 minute mark crippled the team and allowed paiN Gaming to retake control. Newbee was unable to put together another solid fight, and the Chinese squad conceded defeat to lose the opening match of the series. Game 1 was rough for Newbee, but Game 2 of the series proved to be a nightmare for the Chinese squad. Its tanky fighting lineup was quickly overwhelmed by paiN Gaming’s aggressive and mobile lineup, as Newbee’s cores were heavily pressured and limited in terms of their farm. With paiN Gaming up by over 10k net worth at the 20 minute mark, things were looking bleak for Newbee, and the Chinese squad threw in the towel just three minutes later to lose its third straight series.

The team’s three straight losses to open up its Group Stage play in Moscow had Newbee in serious danger of missing out on the Playoff Stage as it entered Day 5 of the event. The team needed to win its series against CIS squad Na’Vi if it wanted to have even a chance of advancing out of the Group Stage of the Major. To that end, the Chinese squad came out with a team fight oriented lineup in Game 1 centered around a core trio of Gyrocopter, Lina, and Tidehunter. Despite a few rough skirmishes early, Newbee was able to dominate the match from the mid-game stage onward with its team fight power. Behind an impressive game from Sccc on Lina (16-2-3), Newbee was able to out kill Na’Vi 12-2 over the final 17 minutes of the match to secure a one sided victory and claim a 1-0 series lead. Game saw those roles reversed, as Newbee built up a small lead early but quickly lost control of the match in the mid-game stage to Na’Vi. Newbee’s lineup couldn’t build any momentum for itself as Na’Vi took the better of almost every engagement and closed out the final 15 minutes of the game with a 14-3 kill score to tie up the series 1-1. With the series going to a decisive Game 3, Newbee looked to combine damage with control in its lineup, picking up cores of Phantom Lancer, Venomancer, and Tidehunter alongside supports of Shadow Shaman and Leshrac. The two teams fought almost constantly throughout the early and mid-game stages, and Newbee was able to maintain a net worth lead despite suffering significant losses in those fights. The Chinese squad slowly began to establish control over the map, but Na’Vi manged to draw out the game significantly through smart team fight selection and occasional pushes of its own against Newbee. Over 70 minutes into the game, Na’Vi was finally able to break through with a team fight win that swung the net worth lead into its favor, but the advantage wouldn’t last long. With Sccc’s Phantom Lancer (14-6-12, 55.1k net worth) leading the way, Newbee quickly responded with a team fight win of its own that helped the team retake momentum and finally break through Na’Vi’s defenses to secure a 2-1 series victory.

Unfortunately for Newbee, its series win against Na’Vi was not enough to keep it in contention for a Playoff spot, as the Chinese squad entered the final day of the Group Stage with no way of avoiding elimination. All the same, the team went into its series against European squad OG looking to claim one last victory in Moscow. Game 1 did not go well for Newbee at all, as OG’s Alchemist pick put the Chinese squad behind from the very start of the match. Things only got worse as the game went on, as Newbee’s team fight power never seemed to fully come together and the squad was pushed further and further into its base. With only nine kills and facing a net worth deficit of over 23k at the 32 minute mark, Newbee conceded defeat to lose the opening game in the series. Game 2 saw Newbee pick up a core trio of Slark, Outworld Devourer, and Omniknight, along with strong team fight set up in the form of Sand King and Disruptor. Through the early and mid-game stages of the match, it appeared that Newbee was in for another loss, as OG’s Io strategy had the European squad enjoying a comfortable net worth lead. However, Newbee managed to turn things around late with solid showings from Moogy on Slark (17-2-13) and Sccc on Outworld Devourer (13-3-10) that allowed the team to dominate late-game team fights. With its momentum shattered, OG couldn’t hold back Newbee’s march as the team broke through its defenses and secured a comeback win to tie up the series. Newbee maintained that momentum heading into the final match of the series, as the team picked up cores of Medusa, Gyrocopter, and Puck in its attempt to claim a victory in its final series of the Major. That trio proved to be insanely effective, as Newbee played aggressively early and built up its net worth lead through the mid and late-game stages. With Moogy putting together an unbelievable performance on Gyrocopter (20-5-16), Newbee coasted to a win in a somewhat one sided match to secure a 2-1 series win. That win improved Newbee’s Group Stage record to 2-3 (6-8 overall), but the team still fell short of advancing to the Playoff Stage as it finished in the 9th-10th place position in Moscow.

Newbee came into the Major as one of the leading teams in the Pro Circuit standings and the highest ranked team from the Chinese region on the Pro Circuit as a whole. However, those positions weren’t set in stone for Newbee, and the team was in need of a strong showing in Moscow if it wanted to make progress towards locking in both a TI8 invite and its status as the top Chinese team. Coming into the event itself, the team was expected to compete for a Top 4 spot but fall just short of that mark with a 5th-6th place finish. The Chinese squad missed that prediction by an alarming margin as the team finished near the bottom of the Group B standings and ended up in the shared 9th-10th place position when all was said and done at the Major. That kind of rough performance from a Top 8 ranked team comes as a bit of a shock, especially for a Newbee squad that had been one of the more consistent teams on the Pro Circuit this season. The team’s record at the event looks bad at first glance, but thing may not be as bad as they seem for Newbee as a whole. The team’s 0-2 loss against paiN Gaming immediately jumps out as a point of concern, as Newbee is a squad that should not be losing to a team that is still adjusting to its recent roster addition. That series is the most egregious issue for Newbee, but the team did manage to win its series against OG and Na’Vi, although coming into the event both of those series would have been ones that Newbee would be heavily expected to win. However, its two losses to Team Secret and VP were both 1-2 affairs in which Newbee stood a solid chance of winning. If the difference between elimination and a spot at the top of the Group B standings came down to the team not winning one more game against VP or Team Secret, then the situation is not quite as panic inducing is it may seem at first. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the poor performance that Newbee put together at the Major, and the Chinese squad is going to have to regroup and play significantly better in the coming weeks in order to avoid slipping down the Pro Circuit standings. The good news for Newbee is that it is going to have quite a few opportunities to make up for this setback before the season is over, as the team is set to attend all three of the remaining Majors on the Pro Circuit schedule. This stumble in Moscow is certainly a cause for some concern for Newbee, but the Chinese squad has both the opportunity and the talent to bounce back and get back on track in its quest to secure an invite to its fifth straight TI.

 

Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) 668px-Natus_Vincere

Place: 11th-12th

Winnings: $5,000

Na’Vi entered the EPICENTER XL Major as the team that was probably in the worst position relative to its Pro Circuit ranking. The CIS squad was ranked 10th coming into the event, but its performance across both Pro Circuit events and regional qualifiers had confidence in the team at dangerously low levels. Even with the weight of its poor performances seeming to drag the team down, Na’Vi still had an opportunity to turn its late-season woes around with a strong showing in Moscow. The teams 10th place ranking still had it in a position where it could potentially compete for a Top 8 spot, but in order to do that the squad would need to pull off a truly impressive transformation at the Major. The team had not quite shown the capacity for that kind of performance on the Pro Circuit stage since its roster changes in February, but the Dota 2 world held out hope that Na’Vi had one last surprise in store in Moscow.

The CIS squad kicked off its run in Group B with a series against European squad OG on Day 2 of the Group Stage. Game 1 saw Na’Vi’s recent struggles continue, as the team’s cores were heavily pressured early and its support duo wasn’t able to make many successful rotations in the face of OG’s aggressive play. The CIS squad had not answer for 7ckingMad’s Gyrocopter as the team quickly lost control of the map and were pinned within its own base. With its final attempt to break the OG siege failing, Na’Vi conceded defeat to open the series 0-1. In Game 2, Na’Vi attempted to change things up and play aggressively themselves with cores of Sven, Razor, and Legion Commander. Early on, that strategy appeared to be working, as Na’Vi held a small net worth lead and was building up momentum and duel damage for GeneRaL’s Legion Commander (9-5-8). Unfortunately, Na’Vi couldn’t build up a big enough lead to finish OG off, and the European squad’s tanky cores made a comeback in the late-game that the CIS team was unable to fend off. With the momentum shifting out of its favor, Na’Vi took one last fight in an attempt to turn the tide, but those efforts failed and the CIS squad was swept 0-2 by OG.

Day 3 presented a tough challenge for Na’Vi, as the CIS squad went up against one of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads in Team Secret. Game 1 s aw Na’Vi employ an Io strategy, pairing it with a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Skywrath Mage, and Beastmaster. The plan worked to incredible effect, as Team Secret was unable to counter the early damage output that Na’Vi brought to fights. Na’Vi out killed its opponent by a score of 23-5 as the CIS squad claimed a victory in just under 23 minutes for its first win of the Major. Na’Vi looked for a team fight lineup in Game 2 of the series, picking up cores of Dragon Knight, Outworld Devourer, and Beastmaster alongside supports of Elder Titan and Vengeful Spirit. However, this lineup proved unable to stand up to the early aggression of Team Secret, as the European sqaud took the fight to Na’Vi as quickly and as often as it could. Na’Vi’s lineup fell behind early, and despite a valiant effort from GeneRaL’s Beastmaster (3-1-4), the CIS squad couldn’t pull off a comeback effort as it trailed for the entirety of the match and conceded defeat in a little over 23 minutes of play. With the series on the line in Game 3, Na’Vi went for a greedy draft, picking up cores of Gyrocopter, Tinker, and Beastmaster but throwing a Doom into the mix as well. The lineup found its footing in the mid and late-game stages of the match, as Na’Vi pulled away with a significant Net Worth lead. Behind an impressive performance from Dendi on Tinker (9-4-18, 25.8k net worth), Na’Vi was able to control team fights across the late-game stage to shut down Team Secret and secure a 2-1 win over the European squad.

That win over Team Secret had the team entering Day 4 of the Group Stage with a 1-1 record and a shot at securing a Playoff spot, but it would have to go through fellow CIS squad and Pro Circuit titan Virtus.pro in its next series. Na’Vi attempted to employ the same greedy strategy it used against its previous opponent, picking up cores of Chaos Knight, Lina, and Leshrac with a Doom support. This time the strategy fell flat, as VP’s rugged team fight lineup proved too much for Na’Vi to punch through. With VP controlling team fights and the map, Na’Vi was pushed back into its own base with few options to spark a comeback effort. The team attempted one final defense of its base, but VP was able to sweep past it to hand Na’Vi a loss and a 0-1 deficit in the series. In Game 2, Na’Vi went for a different tactic, picking up cores of Slark, Windranger, and Axe along with supports of Leshrac and Jakiro. The new strategy didn’t appear to be working well, as the fast pace and numerous team fights in the early and mid-game stages were all tipping in VP’s favor. However, a late-game surge finally allowed Na’Vi to turn the momentum of the match around and begin taking control of team fights. VP was forced onto the defensive, but Na’Vi’s renewed strength proved too much to be held off as Na’Vi’s final push secured it a win and tied up the series 1-1. Game 3 saw Na’Vi go to a fighting and diving composition for its lineup, picking up Slark, Zeus, and Brewmaster cores alongside supports of Slardar and Vengeful Spirit. The team’s aggression backfired on it early, as VP was able to absorb and counter its early attacks and build up a net worth lead. However, Na’Vi didn’t give up on its plan, and the mid-game stage saw it hit its stride and being shifting the balance of power in its favor. A 14-3 kill score over the final six minutes of play swung things decisively in Na’Vi’s favor as the team pushed into VP’s base and secured a win in less than 24 minutes to pull off a 2-1 win over the Pro Circuit leader.

With wins over two of the top teams in the Pro Circuit standings, Na’Vi entered Day 5 of the Group Stage with a fair bit of confidence as it matched up against Chinese squad Newbee. Na’Vi picked up a fighting lineup with cores of Morphling, Viper, and Slardar, but that trio ran into some issues in the mid and late-game stages. Newbee controlled team fights in those stages, and closed out the final 15 minutes of play with a 12-2 kill score to hand Na’Vi a loss to open the series. Game 2 saw Na’Vi go with  high damage lineup with cores of Gyrocopter, Templar Assassin, and Slardar along with Leshrac and Vengeful Spirit supports. Newbee held a small lead in the early stages of the match, but Na’Vi was quickly able to turn things around and take decisive control of the game. Na’Vi held absolute control over the course of the mid and late-game stages, and ended the game on a 14-3 run in terms of kills to tie the series and force a third match. Na’Vi opted for a heavy team fight lineup for Game 3 of the series, with Gyrocopter, Zeus, and Doom being supplemented with Warlock and Slarder supports. The Na’Vi lineup was able to secure a high number of kills early one, but those kills were not enough to stop the Newbee cores from farming as the Chinese squad held a lead throughout almost the entirety of the match. Newbee slowly established control over the map, but the CIS squad continued to fight and extend the game as it looked for its opportunity to spark a comeback. Unfortunately, Na’Vi wasn’t able to sustain a surge long enough to truly wipe out Newbee’s momentum, as the Chinese squad eventually broke through the CIS squad’s defenses to end the series.

The loss to Newbee may have halted Na’Vi’s winning streak, but the team still had a chance to reach the Playoff Stage if it could win its final series against South American squad paiN Gaming on the final day of the Group Stage. Na’Vi looked for a high damage lineup in Game 1 of the series, picking up cores of Morphling, Batrider, and Slardar along with Lina and Vengeful Spirit supports. That early damage helped Na’Vi build up a net worth lead over the first 15 minutes of the match, but the mid-game stage saw paiN Gaming make a surge of its own. The South American squad’s team fight power came online, and Na’Vi was not fully prepared to deal with it as the momentum of the match shifted significantly. Na’Vi lost control of the net worth lead and the map, and a final team fight loss sealed the match as the CIS squad went down 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw the team look for a tankier team fight lineup, with Medusa, Death Prophet, and Sand King cores supported by a duo of Disruptor and Earthshaker. The lineup failed from the start of the match, as paiN Gaming played an aggressive style that heavily punished Na’Vi’s draft. The team fight power for Na’Vi never fully came online, and paiN Gaming was able to control fights and push Na’Vi back into its base. Out killed 26-8 and trailing by over 15k net worth at the 23 minute mark, Na’Vi conceded defeat to lose the series 0-2. The loss put the team’s Group Stage record at 2-3 and a four-way tie in Group B, but the tiebreaker rules put Na’Vi at the bottom of the Group B standings as the CIS squad finished its run at the Major with an 11th-12th place finish.

Na’Vi entered the Major as a team with a litany of issues that had yet to be fully resolved, but the CIS squad still had a chance to turn its season around if it could pull off a strong showing in Moscow. Coming in to the event itself, the team wasn’t expected to accomplish much, with Na’Vi projected to miss the Playoff Stage with a 9th-10th place finish. Unfortunately, the team fell short of even those meager expectations as it finished at the bottom of the Group A standings in the shared 11th-12th place position. On paper, a finish at the bottom of the standings gives the impression that Na’Vi played poorly at the Major, but that’s not necessarily true when you look at its series in Moscow. The team’s overall record ended up hurting it in the tiebreakers, but it is important to remember that the CIS Squad was still in a four way tie for a Playoff spot that included two Top 8 teams in Team Secret and Newbee. Na’Vi held its own and managed to win its series against Both VP and Team Secret and even took a game off of Newbee for a 5-4 record against Top 8 ranked teams at the Major. However, the issue for Na’Vi at this event was once again a startling level of inconsistency, as the team failed spectacularly against both OG and paiN Gaming. Both of those squads were still dealing with recent roster changes, and the hopes were that Na’Vi’s more stable lineup could put together solid showing against them. However, Na’Vi looked out of sorts in those series and posted an 0-4 record that significantly undermined its positive showing against the more established Pro Circuit teams. This is where the frustration must be setting in for both Na’Vi and its fans, as the squad is far from incapable of playing at a high level. The team has displayed the strength of its lineup multiple times over the last few events it has played, but the consistency is just nonexistent for the CIS squad. The good news for Na’Vi is that this performance in Moscow will not be the team’s final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. Na’Vi will be attending the final two events of the season in the ESL One Birmingham Major and the China Dota 2 Supermajor. By that time, the team’s odds of reaching a Top 8 position may not be all that high, but those opportunities to end its season on a high note will keep hope alive for Na’Vi as it looks to overcome its recent struggles and turn things around before the TI8 Qualifiers.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $30,000

OG had not been having the greatest of times on the Pro Circuit heading into the EPICENTER XL Major. The departure of Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok and long-term stand-in status of coach Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs had the team in a strange position as the European squad looked to turn around a particularly trying stretch on the international level. While the team had lost its eligibility for invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, OG had a significant opportunity to get itself back on track and prepare for the Open Qualifiers with this appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. The team may not have cared about the Qualifying Points available in Moscow, but the chance to right the ship and test itself against some of the best teams on the international level was crucial for the team as it looked to build up momentum over the final events of the season.

OG found itself sorted into Group B for the Group Stage of the Major, and the European squad faced off against another struggling team in Na’Vi on the second day of play in Moscow. OG picked up an aggressive draft in Game 1 of the series, taking Nature’s Prophet and Night Stalker in an effort to set a fast pace and create space for the team’s cores. The plan worked to great effect for OG, as the team established a lead early and held it throughout the entirety of the match. Behind an incredible performance from 7ckngMad’s Gyrocopter (16-0-1), OG swept past Na’Vi with a 24-9 kill score as it secured a win. Game 2 was a much more tightly contested affair, as OG actually found itself behind in the mid-game stage as Na’Vi played a more aggressive style early. However, the late-game saw the European squad hit its stride, as N0tail’s Phantom Lancer (12-3-10) led the team to a significant lead as OG wiped out Na’Vi to lock in the 2-0 sweep in its first series.

OG’s win in its opening match had the team holding a fair bit of momentum as it entered Day 3 of the Group Stage and a match up against South American squad paiN Gaming. Game 1 saw OG pick up a core trio of Lone Druid, Razor, and Leshrac in an attempt to overwhelm its opponent with high damage and pushing power. OG built up a lead early in the match, and only paiN Gaming’s Troll Warlord managed to keep the South American squad in the match. However, the mid and late-game stages saw OG out scale that Troll Warlord and the rest of paiN Gaming’s lineup, as s4’s Leshrac (13-3-9) and 7ckngMad’s Razor (10-2-13) both put in fantastic performances to help the team claim its third straight match victory. OG looked for heavy amounts of damage in its Game 2 draft, picking up cores of Gyrocopter, Morphling, and Doom. Once again, OG was able to establish control of the match early, as the European squad set a comfortable pace that kept paiN Gaming’s heroes on the defensive. PaiN Gaming needed to buy time for its cores to catch up in the late game, but OG refused to let up on the pressure. Behind a strong showing from N0tail’s Morphling (14-4-15), OG was able to close out another 2-0 series sweep to jump out to a 2-0 series record in Group B.

Day 4 of the Group Stage saw OG looking to take a commanding position in the Group B standings as it took on another European squad in the form of Team Secret in search of its third series victory. Game 1 saw OG struggle significantly against its fellow European team, as its lineup was heavily pressured and shut down by an insanely aggressive draft from Team Secret. Despite extending the match past the 40 minute mark, OG was never able to put together a strong enough fight to turn things around as the team suffered its first loss of the Major. After its tough loss in Game 1 of the series, OG flipped the switch in Games 2 and 3. The European squad dominated Team Secret with back to back fighting lineups that forced early engagements and decimated Team Secret’s cores. OG out killed Team Secret by a score of 52-14 as the team secured back to back wins in just a bit over 51 minutes of total game time to keep its Group Stage record perfect at 3-0.

With a 3-0 record, OG entered Day 5 of the Group Stage with a strong chance of earning itself a spot in the Playoff Stage and even contending for one of the top two positions in Group B. However, the team was in for a significant challenge as it took on Pro Circuit leader and TI8 direct invitee Virtus.pro in its next series. The team looked for a tanky fighting lineup in Game 1 of the series as it opted to draft cores of Chaos Knight, Death Prophet, and Brewmaster. However, this lineup proved largely ineffective against VP’s draft, as the CIS squad quickly took control of the match from the mid-game stage onward. OG’s team fight power allowed it to extend the match somewhat, but it was never able to actually turn a fight in its favor decisively, and VP eventually broke through the team’s defenses to hand OG a loss and an 0-1 deficit in the series. Game 2 saw OG look for a more aggressive lineup, as it combined high damage cores of Sven, Lina, and Beastmaster with Ancient Apparition and Tusk supports. Once again though, OG face significant struggles against VP’s heroes, as the European squad trailed for almost the entirety of the match. The team’s high damage output wasn’t enough to secure more than a couple of kills in fights, and the squad’s significant losses in those engagements eventually put it too far behind to mount a comeback effort as the team lost the series 0-2.

Coming into the final day of the Group Stage, OG still wasn’t guaranteed a place in the Playoff Stage as the team prepared for its final series against Newbee. A win would get the team into the Playoff Stage, but a loss would leave it dependent upon the results of the other Group B matches that day. The team got off to a strong start in the series, as it picked up a core trio of Lone Druid, Alchemist, and Dark Seer against the Chinese squad. That trio combined for a stat line of 16-3-37 as OG shut down Newbee’s lineup in a wire to wire victory to open the series. Game 2 saw the team try an Io strategy, combining the support with cores of Luna, Shadow Fiend, and Slardar. The mobility of the Io and the high damage output of its cores allowed OG to build up a sizable net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages as Newbee’s team fight power was slow to come online. However, the momentum for OG eventually stalled out, as Newbee mounted a furious comeback effort and dominated a series of late-game team fights to wipe away OG’s lead and seize control of the game. Those repeated team fight losses left OG unable to defend its base as Newbee secured a win and tied the series 1-1. With the series having gone to a third and final match, OG opted to take a big risk with a Techies pick along a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Dragon Knight, and Sand King. The plan did not work at all for OG, as the European squad found its lineup pressured early and often by the aggressive play from Newbee’s heroes. The team trailed for nearly the entirety of the match and never manged to make any sort of surge or comeback attempt as OG conceded defeat to lose its final Group Stage series 1-2. The loss dropped OG’s record to 3-2 overall, but that record managed to keep OG out of tiebreaker scenarios as it locked in a spot in the top two of Group B.

That top two position afforded OG a place in the Upper Bracket for the Playoff Stage, where the European squad found itself in a Bo3 series against defending TI Champion Team Liquid with a guaranteed Top 3 finish on the line. OG drafted a core trio of Lone Druid, Windranger, and Axe in Game 1 of the series as it looked to combine team fight power with farming capabilities. Early on the two teams remained even, but in the mid and late-game stages it became clear that OG’s lineup couldn’t keep up. The team was finding kills across team fights, but not enough to prevent Team Liquid from pushing and controlling the map in the aftermath of those fights. Despite OG’s best efforts and an impressive showing from s4’s Axe (15-8-12), OG wasn’t able to hold back Team Liquid’s final push as the team fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 proved to be a mostly one sided affair, as OG’s fighting lineup was largely overwhelmed by an aggressive strategy from Team Liquid. OG’s cores fell significantly behind their counterparts on Team Liquid, and the team was never able to get itself into a position to properly fight back and stop its momentum as OG lost the match and the series to drop it out of the Upper Bracket.

The team’s loss may have removed it from the Upper Bracket, but OG still had a chance to keep its run in Moscow alive as it faced CIS squad FlyToMoon in a Bo1 elimination match in the Lower Bracket. The European squad picked up cores of Razor, Alchemist, and Axe in this match, but early on the team was struggling to deal with the aggressive play of FlyToMoon. The CIS squad was applying significant pressure early, and OG found itself relying on its Alchemist to carry it through into the mid-game. From that point, thing got intense in the match, as the two teams found themselves trading fights back and forth as the net worth lead fluctuated wildly between them. Despite a strong performance from 7ckngMad on Alchemist (10-8-17, 50.4k net worth), OG lost control of the match late, giving FlyToMoon the opening it needed to take fights and push into the OG base to secure the win after over an hour of game time. The loss brought OG’s time at the Major to an end with the European squad finishing in the 5th-6th place position at the event.

OG came into the Major as a squad that was not looking particularly strong on the international level, as the team’s performance at recent Pro Circuit events had been less than ideal. Even with the team’s stretch of troubled play over the last few months, the team was expected to perform relatively well in Moscow with a projected finish in the 7th-8th place range. The squad managed to actually surpass that prediction, as the team put together a strong Group Stage run and finished just shy of a Top 4 finish in the 5th-6th place position at the Major. The team displayed a level of strength that had been lacking in its most recent Pro Circuit appearances, as the squad won its Group Stage series against Team Secret, Na’Vi, and paiN Gaming. While both Na’Vi and paiN Gaming were squads that weren’t expected to do all that much in Moscow, the team’s victory over Team Secret served as a highly encouraging sign for the team moving forward. With the team destined for a run through the TI8 Europe Open Qualifier this summer, the fact that the team managed to take a Bo3 series against the second highest ranked team in the region in Team Secret has to instill a significant degree of confidence in OG. The team’s Group Stage losses to Newbee and Virtus.pro don’t come as much of a surprise, and neither does its 0-2 loss against Team Liquid in its Upper Bracket series in the Playoff Stage. Even the team’s loss to FlyToMoon in the Bo1 Lower Bracket matches is more of a minor disappointment as opposed to any cause for concern, as the CIS squad put together one of the more impressive and unexpected runs that we’ve seen on the Pro Circuit in recent times. Nothing short of a Top 4 finish was going to be enough to even start the debate of whether OG is back in the discussion of the world’s best teams, but right now OG’s goals are a bit smaller in scope. The team is looking for stability in addition to quality performances, and while this showing in Moscow produced the latter, it has yet to be seen if the squad can reclaim the former over the final events of the season. The team will have more than enough opportunities to see if it can achieve that stability and consistency on the international level again, as OG will be competing at all three of the final Majors of the season. If the team can maintain the level of play that it just showed the Dota 2 world at the EPICENTER XL Major, then OG should be one of the favorites to advance out of the Open Qualifiers and compete with its fellow European squads for a spot at TI8.

 

Team Empire 600px-Team_empire

Place: 11th-12th

Winnings: $5,000

Team Empire came into the EPICENTER XL Major with a new look, as the team had only recently made the decision to take on a new player in the form of Aybek “Naive-“ Tokaev. A roster change this late in the season came as something of a shock, as well as a significant risk for the CIS squad. The changes to the Team Empire roster forfeited the team’s eligibility for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, meaning the team was destined for the Open Qualifiers if it wanted to earn a spot in Vancouver this summer. With those rather considerable consequences coming into play and the EPICENTER XL Major serving as the team’s final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, Team Empire was looking for a chance to show the Dota 2 world that it’s new lineup had the talent and potential to overcome the risk stemming from forfeiting its invite eligibility. A strong showing on home soil in Moscow would have been a strong statement for Team Empire to end its season, but the field at the Major provided a particularly difficult test for the CIS squad.

Team Empire found itself placed in Group A for the Group Stage of the Major, and the CIS squad faced a formidable challenge to kick off its run with a series against defending TI Champion Team Liquid. Team Empire picked up a core trio of Luna, Dragon Knight, and Beastmaster in Game 1 of the series, but also added an Io in an attempt to add mobility and utility for those high damage cores. The strategy appeared to be working in the early stages of the match, as the CIS squad took the better of early fights and skirmishes and held a small Net Worth lead. Team Liquid was able to rely on its combination of Terrorblade and Viper to extend the game, but Team Empire was able to hold off a few late-game surges with the help of a fantastic game from Naive-‘s Luna (16-5-10, 25.6k net worth). Team Empire looked like it was in a position to slowly siege Team Liquid’s base and wear down its opponent, but the CIS squad got a bit impatient. A failed high ground attempt wiped out Team Empire’s momentum and allowed Team Liquid to seize control and march all the way across the map to snatch a victory away and steal Game 1. Game 2 played out in an eerily similar manner, with Team Empire’s high damage heroes built up a lead with early pressure and team fight power. Once again though, Team Liquid would turn things around, as a fight in the Roshan Pit around the 24 minute mark swung things away from Team Empire. Despite a few final attempts to take the better of team fights, Team Empire could not reclaim its lead as it was pushed further and further into its base and eventually conceded defeat to lose the series 0-2.

Day 3 of the Group Stage provided Team Empire with an opportunity to bounce back from its tough opening loss, as the CIS squad faced off against compLexity Gaming. Team Empire went into Game 1 of this series looking to rely on a core trio of Viper, Arc Warden, and Pangolier, but that strategy quickly fell apart. The team’s North American opponents wasted no time applying heavy pressure through an aggression play style that had Team Empire on the defensive early. CompLexity Gaming quickly established control of the map and built up a sizable Net Worth lead, leaving Team Empire to attempt to hold its base and buy time for its core heroes to make a comeback. That strategy appeared to be working to some effect, as the team managed to significantly extend the game. However, Team Empire eventually attempted to push outside of the friendly confines of its base, and that play quickly turned against it. CompLexity Gaming picked off Team Empire’s heroes and secured back to back team fight wins to finally break through the CIS squad’s defense and secure a win in Game 1. Game 2 of the series would not last nearly so long, as Team Empire once again struggled early. The team fight lineup of compLexity Gaming proved too strong for Team Empire to handle despite a solid showing from Naive- on Phantom Lancer (7-2-2). The CIS squad could never build up much momentum for itself as compLexity Gaming secured multiple team fight wins and marched down the middle lane to hand Team Empire another 0-2 loss.

With the team still without a single match win entering Day 4 of the Group Stage, Team Empire came into its series against PSG.LGD looking to turn around its poor performance. Game 1 saw the CIS squad pick up a strong fighting lineup, with cores of Morphling, Gyrocopter, and Sand King supported by a duo of Skywrath Mage and Disruptor. The squad used its lineup to exert heavy pressure on PSG.LGD early, and that aggression paid off significantly for it as the kill score was 16-3 in its favor in the first 15 minutes of play. That aggressive style gave Team Empire a lead heading into the late-game, but PSG.LGD wasn’t ready to go down that easily. The Chinese squad extended the game and delayed Team Empire’s progress until eventually its lineup hit a power spike that turned the momentum of the game. Team Empire lost the team fight control that had been serving it so well, and PSG.LGD was able to push down the middle lane and force a final fight that wiped out the CIS squad’s lineup and forced it to concede defeat. In Game 2 of the series, Team Empire opted to double down on the aggression it displayed in Game 1, picking up a Legion Commander along with Lifestealer and Leshrac cores. The team’s aggression worked out once again in the early and mid-game stages, with Legion Commander finding multiple duel wins and the CIS squad establishing map control. This time around, PSG.LGD didn’t have the cores it needed to extend that match as its team fight power couldn’t stand up to Team Empire’s strength. With its core trio posting a combined stat line of 28-8-36, Team Empire secured its first win of the series and the Group Stage as it tied things up a 1-1. In Game 3, Team Empire looked for a different take on its previous aggressive lineups, as the CIS squad picked up a combination of control and high damage with cores of Terrorblade, Zeus, and Axe along with supports of Skywrath Mage and Shadow Demon. Unfortunately for Team Empire, it wasn’t able to get off to the strong start it had enjoyed in the previous two matches, as the team’s aggression led to some significant losses early. The lack of pressure gave PSG.LGD’s cores plenty of time and space to farm, and Team Empire couldn’t keep pace over the course of the match.Trailing by over 20k net worth, pushed back into its own base, and facing down Mega Creeps, Team Empire threw in the towel to lose the series 1-2 and remain without a series win in the Group Stage.

Day 5 presented a “do or die” scenario for Team Empire, as the CIS squad needed a series win against Mineski in order to keep its hopes of reaching the Playoffs alive.  The team looked to be aggressive in Game 1 of the series as it picked up cores of Troll Warlord, Lina, and Legion Commander alongside supports of Leshrac and Spirit Breaker. The two teams remained evenly matched for the most part in fights, but Team Empire held a small Net Worth lead heading into the late-game. However, Mineski swung momentum in its favor late, controlling team fights and pushing Team Empire back into its base. Unable to hold off the pushes from Mineski, Team Empire conceded defeat to lose the opening game of the series. Game 2 saw the CIS squad pick up a high damage roaming lineup with Juggernaut, Queen of Pain, and Magnus cores supported by a duo of Bane and Slardar. The strategy for Team Empire wouldn’t pan out though, as Mineski took the lead early and never looked back. The CIS squad never managed to establish and momentum for itself, and Mineski was able to control and map and annihilate Team Empire’s base to hand the team an 0-2 loss.

By Day 6, Team Empire had already been eliminated from Playoff contention, but the CIS squad still had a chance to secure its first series win of the event against fellow CIS team FlyToMoon on the final day of the Group Stage. Team Empire picked up a core trio of Monkey King, Sniper, and Dark Willow in Game 1, but early on it was apparent that the team’s lineup was going to struggle. FlyToMoon played aggressively early, severely limiting farming opportunities for Team Empire and only give up support kills in return. FlyToMoon put together a kill score of 17-2 over the final 16 minutes of the match to secure a win over Team Empire. Game 2 saw Team Empire pick up a fighting lineup with cores of Gyrocopter, Templar Assassin, and Beastmaster alongside Ancient Apparition and Sand King supports. Early in the game, it appeared that FlyToMoon would repeat its Game 1 performance, as the CIS squad built up a Net Worth lead with a faster pace. Empire made a few surges in the mid and late-game, but FlyToMoon was able to quickly reclaim the lead in those instances. However, FlyToMoon attempted to force a final fight to seal its win that Team Empire was able to win. Team Empire turned the game around, wiping FlyToMoon and its buybacks to take a comeback win to even up the series 1-1. Game 3 saw the team roll the dice with a Spectre core alongside Puck and Pangolier to try and claim the final match of the series. The gamble did not pay off for the team, as FlyToMoon held the lead for almost the entirety of the match. Depsite a few strong surges from Team Empire, the team was not able to fully complete a comeback effort as it was pushed further and further back into its own base. A last ditch team fight actually gave Team Empire a chance to extend the match as FlyToMoon was defeated trying to force a high ground push. However, the subsequent push from Team Empire went poorly, and the CIS squad left itself unable to defend its own base as it lost the series 1-2. The loss dropped the team to an 0-5 series record (2-10 overall) as Team Empire finished at the bottom of the Group A standings and 11th-12th at the Major overall.

Team Empire came into the EPICENTER XL Major looking for a chance to test its newest roster addition and show its strength on the Pro Circuit stage. The addition of Naive- had forfeited the team’s eligibility for TI8 invites, which inadvertently put a heavy level of pressure on the young talent to prove his worth and skill in his first and last Pro Circuit appearance of the season. Coming into the event, the team had been projected to finish in the 7th-8th place position, surviving the Group Stage but falling in the first round of the Lower Bracket. Unfortunately, the CIS squad fell significantly below that goal with an 11th-12th place finish that saw Team Empire fail to win a single series in its group. With teams like Team Liquid, PSG.LGD, and Mineski in Group A alongside Team Empire, the squad wasn’t expected to compete for one of the top spots in the group. However, it was at least expected to compete for something in Moscow, and the fact that it finished without a single series win is concerning for it moving forward. The team’s losses to Team Liquid, PSG.LGD, and Mineski didn’t come as much of a surprise, as those squads represented some of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams and were expected to defeat Team Empire by a wide margin. The concerning aspect of Team Empire’s struggles have to be its losses to compLexity Gaming and FlyToMoon, two squads that were not so staunchly established in the Pro Circuit hierarchy at this stage in the season. If there were any teams that Team Empire and its new roster was going to have the best chance of defeating it was those two, but instead the CIS squad posted a 1-4 record across its series against those opponents. Overall, Team Empire did not look particularly strong at the Major, but that doesn’t mean that the CIS squad doesn’t have some positives to take away from its time in Moscow. The Major was a big opportunity for Naive- to display his strength and show the Dota 2 world why Team Empire was willing to take a chance on him. On that front, the team found some measure of success, with Naive- posting an average stat line of 6.83 kills, 4.17 deaths, and 10.08 assists per game. Those numbers don’t exactly blow one away, especially compared to the performances of some of the other big names in the Group Stage. However, it’s important to remember that Naive- isn’t a big name at all, and for a carry player in his first Pro Circuit appearance of the season, this performance was an impressively consistent showing that should have the team feeling at least somewhat encouraged moving forward. With Team Empire no longer having any scheduled appearances at Pro Circuit events, this showing in Moscow was the last we’ll get to see of the team before the TI8 Open Qualifiers this summer. While the squad’s performance on the international level was nothing to write home about, the team has enough talent and positives to work with to spark a run through the Open Qualifiers and potentially compete for a spot in Vancouver this summer.

 

compLexity Gaming 727px-Col_big_logo

Place: 9th-10th

Winnings: $10,000

North American squad compLexity Gaming came into the EPICENTER XL Major with a lot of unanswered questions surrounding it. The team’s roster changes in March had forfeited its eligibility for TI8 invites, and the squad had still yet to announce a long term addition to its roster coming into the event. With Martin “Saksa” Sazdov serving as a stand-in for this trip to Moscow, the team had a complete roster, but it was unclear if that lineup will be the one that the team plays with in the TI8 Open Qualifiers. With that uncertainty surrounding it, it was hard to say just what the team would be able to gain from its performance at the Major, but a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage this late in the season certainly wouldn’t hurt the North American squad heading into the TI8 Qualifiers.

CompLexity Gaming began its run in the Group Stage on Day 2 with a series against CIS squad FlyToMoon. Game 1 saw the North American squad take a big risk with a Techies pick alongside cores of Lifestealer, Queen of Pain, and Sand King. Unfortunately, the Techies didn’t pay off for compLexity Gaming, and its overall strategy proved ineffective in the face of FlyToMoon’s team fight power. The North American squad put together just nine kills in the match and trailed by over 16k net worth before conceding defeat in only 21 minutes of play. In Game 2, compLexity Gaming went with a farming and team fight oriented lineup headlined by cores of Lone Druid, Puck, and Underlord. That trio helped the team push and fight in the early stages of the game, but that effectiveness dropped off significantly as the match went on. Despite an impressive performance from Limmp on puck (11-7-14), compLexity Gaming fell behind FlyToMoon and lost control of fights in the late-game stages as the CIS squad handed it an 0-2 loss to begin the Group Stage.

The loss to FlyToMoon put compLexity Gaming behind heading into the third day of the Group Stage, but the team had a chance to bounce back as it faced another CIS squad in the form of Team Empire. The team opted for high damage heroes in its Game 1 draft as it picked up a core trio of Luna, Venomancer, and Doom. That trio proved highly effective against Team Empire’s considerably weaker team fighting lineup, and compLexity Gaming quickly took a net worth lead that it held throughout the match. While the CIS squad did manage to extend the match and buy time for its cores, it wasn’t enough to mount an effective comeback effort. With its core trio posting a combined stat line of 29-7-30, compLexity Gaming closed out a wire to wire win to go up 1-0 in the series. Game 2 saw the North American squad put together an aggressive play style early as the team managed to earn several kills in the laning stage. However, the Team Empire cores had largely avoided those ganks and managed to continue farming, leading to a mid-game surge from the CIS squad that briefly earned it the net worth lead. However, the team quickly overextended itself, and compLexity Gaming was able to split its opponent up and wipe it out to decisively retake the lead. That team fight victory gave compLexity Gaming the strength to overcome Team Empire’s final defense and claim a 2-0 series win.

Day 4 of the Group Stage saw compLexity Gaming match up against Southeast Asian squad and DAC 2018 Champion Mineski. CompLexity Gaming picked up a tanky trio of cores in Game 1 of the series in Phantom Lancer, Dragon Knight, and Razor. That trio was met with significant success, as the team held even with its opponent early but dominated the mid and late-game stages. Despite this lead, the North American squad couldn’t quite finish off a win, as a high ground push went disastrously and opened the door for Mineski to pull of a stunning comeback win. In Game 2, compLexity Gaming looked to avoid the same mistakes that cost it the previous match, as it picked up a highly aggressive lineup headlined by Chaos Knight, Templar Assassin, and Night Stalker. The team again built up a significant net worth lead early, but this time compLexity Gaming managed to maintain its hold over that lead throughout the game. The team’s core trio put together a stat line of 18-8-45, and Saksa put together an incredible performance on Jakiro (13-3-21) as well to help the North American squad close out a wire to wire win and force a third match in the series. Game 3 saw the roles reversed for the opposing teams, as Mineski was the squad to pull away in the early game. The SEA squad’s team fight power proved too much for compLexity Gaming to contend with as compLextiy Gaming fell further and further behind in terms of map control and net worth. Despite a strong showing from Zfreek’s Leshrac (10-5-5), compLexity Gaming wasn’t able to turn the momentum of the match as it conceded defeat just shy of the 43 minute mark to lose the series 1-2.

The team entered Day 5 of the Major looking for a win to improve its 1-2 series record, but the team faced a significant challenge in the form of defending TI Champion Team Liquid. Game 1 of the series was an absolute disaster for compLexity Gaming, as its Io strategy fell flat almost immediately in the face of Team Liquid’s aggressive play style. The North American squad earned just seven kills in almost 26 minutes of play as Team Liquid simply ran them over to claim the first match of the series. Game 2 saw compLexity Gaming look for a stronger team fight lineup, as the team picked up a core trio of Troll Warlord, Venomancer, and Brewmaster. That lineup kept the team relatively close with its opponent through the early and mid-game stages and even had it sitting on a small net worth lead. However, the late-game stage saw Team Liquid seize control of team fights and shut down any momentum that compLexity Gaming had been enjoying. With its advantage wiped away and Team Liquid pushing into its base, the North American squad conceded defeat to suffer a relatively quick 0-2 loss to the TI7 Winner.

The loss to Team Liquid had compLexity Gaming sitting in a position where it was already eliminated from Playoff contention at 1-3. However, the team still had a chance to prove itself for the sake of its own confidence as it faced off against PSG.LGD in its final series of the Major. The North American squad mixed things up in its Game 1 draft, as it once again went with a Techies pick alongside cores of Faceless Void, Lina, and Pudge. Unfortunately for the team, its gambit did not pay off, as PSG.LGD quickly took control of the pace of the match and established a significant net worth lead. CompLexity Gaming continued to try to force team fights, but was unable to ever win one as the team surrendered 55 kills to its opponent in just 34 minutes of play to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 played out in pretty much the exact same fashion, as PSG.LGD took the fight to the North American squad early and often. CompLexity Gaming had few answers for that aggression, as its team fight power once again fell short in the face of the Chinese squad. Though the team was able to draw the match out for over 40 minutes, compLexity Gaming never held a net worth lead and was eventually defeated inside of its own base to end the game and give the team an 0-2 loss. That final defeat ended the team’s run at the Major with a 1-4 series record (3-8 overall) that earned it a place in the shared 9th-10th position at the Major.

CompLexity Gaming came into the EPICENTER XL Major in a strange position on the Pro Circuit, as the team was no longer eligible for TI8 invites and was still sporting an incomplete roster. With the team’s roster issues still lingering and its performance on the international stage having dropped of late, the team was not expected to be a significant threat in Moscow. Entering the event, compLexity Gaming was projected to finish at the bottom of the Group A standings in the 11th-12th place position, but the North American squad was at least able to beat out that bleak prediction with its finish in the 9th-10th place position in Moscow. While that bit of good news goes compLexity Gaming’s way, it comes as one of the few positives to take away for the team from a performance that was about as weak as had been expected. With squads like Team Liquid, PSG.LGD, and Mineski in Group A, compLexity Gaming would have needed a miracle to come close to competing for a top spot in the Group Stage. Additionally, the team’s roster questions made it hard to have much confidence in the team defeating the two CIS squads in the group in FlyToMoon and Team Empire either. The only series win that compLexity Gaming was able to earn came from a 2-0 sweep against Team Empire, a team that somehow managed to look even less stable and confident that the North American squad as it failed to win a series in Moscow. Aside from that series and a lone match win in its series against Mineski, compLexity did not look impressive on the Pro Circuit stage. While the team wasn’t expected to do much better at the event, it is still disappointing to see these struggles from a team that was looking like a leading squad in its region and a potential competitor in the Pro Circuit rankings earlier this season. With this less than ideal performance in Moscow, Dota 2 fans have seen the last of compLexity Gaming on the international stage this season, as the North American team will not be attending any further Pro Circuit events. The next time we hear from compLexity Gaming will be this summer as the team begins its trek through the North America Open Qualifiers in search of a spot in Vancouver for TI8.

 

paiN Gaming PaiN_Gaming_2017

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $15,000

South American squad paiN Gaming came into the EPICENTER XL Major still searching for its first success on the Pro Circuit stage this season. The recent addition of Aliwi “w33” Omar to the lineup gave the team a new look and potentially new strategies as the squad looked to put together a strong showing in its first LAN appearance since the roster change. The South American squad had already forfeited its TI8 invite eligibility earlier in the season, so the Qualifying Points that were up for grabs in Moscow were not of particular concern for paiN Gaming coming in to the Major. Instead, the team was looking for a chance to display its newfound strength with w33 in the lineup, and to challenge itself on the international stage in preparation for the team’s run through the Open Qualifiers for TI8 this summer.

If paiN Gaming was looking for a challenge, the team certainly got its wish as it played in the first and only series of Day 1 against Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro. Early in Game 1, paiN Gaming was struggling significantly, as VP had built up a big lead in terms of net worth. However, the team held out and extended the match until its lineup was able to turn things around in the late-game. Behind strong performance from w33’s Visage (14-10-13) and Tavo’s Beastmaster (11-5-15), paiN Gaming managed to hold its ground and turn the tables on VP to steal a win to open the series. The team’s momentum from that victory would quickly dry up though in the next two games of the series, as VP came back with a vengeance to dominate the rest of the series. The South American squad was decimated in two straight matches, being out killed by a score of 18-70 as VP simply ran through the team to hand it a 1-2 loss in the opening series of the Group Stage.

PaiN Gaming picked things back up on Day 3 of the Group Stage, as the South American squad faced OG in its second series of the event. The team looked for an aggressive style in Game 1 with an emphasis on roaming and ganking potential as the team picked up a core Dark Willow alongside supports of Chen and Sand King. That roaming potential didn’t pan out much for paiN Gaming, as the team was forced to rely on hFn’s Troll Warlord (5-3-4) to keep itself alive in the mid-game stage. Unfortunately, the team became too reliant on that Troll Warlord pick, and OG’s superior team fight strength overwhelmed the team as it fell into an 0-1 hole in the series. PaiN Gaming looked to combine pushing power with team fight setup in Game 2, picking up a core trio of Terrorblade, Kunkka, and Omniknight with Sand King and Nature’s Prophet supports. The team enjoyed a small advantage in the laning stage, but quickly lost its momentum in the face of OG’s heavy team fight damage. The South American squad attempted to extend the game hoping for a late-game surge from Terrorblade and Kunkka, but the team fight power of OG allowed it to push through paiN Gaming’s defenses and secure a sweep of the series.

With an 0-2 start to its Group Stage campaign, paiN Gaming entered Day 4 of the event in need of a strong performance to turn things around and keep itself in the hunt for a Playoff spot. The team was set to face top ranked Chinese squad Newbee in this round of the Group Stage, another team that had gotten off to a rough 0-2 start to the event. PaiN Gaming hung its hat on a trio of tanky or otherwise elusive cores in Game 1 as it picked up Lifestealer, Templar Assassin, and Underlord to lead its lineup. Early on the team was out in front, but Newbee’s team fight power quickly turned the tides of the match as the South American squad found itself trailing through the mid-game and into the late-game stage. However, paiN Gaming continued to push out across the map during this period, and that map control forced Newbee to look for fights to slow down its momentum. One such fight in the middle lane provided paiN Gaming the opportunity it was looking for, as the squad broke through Newbee’s team fight setup and marched into its opponent’s base to secure a victory to open the series. PaiN Gaming took that momentum and rolled into Game 2 with it, as the team picked up a high damage lineup headlined by Luna and Lina picks. That damage combined with an aggressive play style ran roughshod over Newbee’s lineup, as paiN Gaming held its Chinese opponent to just eight kills and secured a win in just over 23 minutes of play to earn its first series victory of the Major.

The South American squad moved from one Top 8 ranked opponent to another, as paiN Gaming faced off against European squad Team Secret on Day 5 of the Group Stage. Game 1 saw paiN Gaming get out to a solid lead in the mid-game behind a core trio of LIfestealer, Templar Assassin, and Beastmaster. However, the team’s lineup couldn’t quite establish enough control over the game to shut out Team Secret completely. Despite a solid performance from w33’s Templar Assassin (9-6-9, 23.4k net worth), Team Secret was able to turn momentum in its favor with a series of strong team fights and pushed through paiN Gaming’s base to take the series opener. The late-game struggles for paiN Gaming carried over into the start of Game 2, as the South American squad was quickly overwhelmed by an aggressive strategy from Team Secret. PaiN Gaming found itself out killed by a score of 6-30 as its lineup simply couldn’t string together anything positive in the match and lost its base in under 30 minutes of play to fall 0-2 in the series.

With a 1-3 record in the Group Stage, paiN Gaming came into the Day 6 of the Major in desperate need of a win in order to advance to the Playoff Stage. The team played a squad in a similar situation to them in the form of CIS team Na’Vi in its final series of the Group Stage. PaiN Gaming picked up a core trio of Luna, Templar Assassin, and Abbadon in Game 1, but early on the South American squad was playing from behind as Na’Vi established a relatively fast pace to open the match. However, the team fight power of paiN Gaming came through in the mid and late-game, as hFn’s Luna (10-2-7) led the way and helped the South American squad take control of the match. Na’Vi sought out one final fight in an attempt to stave of defeat, but paiN Gaming was able to win that fight and secure itself a win to go up 1-0 to start the series. After its victory in Game 1, paiN Gaming looked to quickly establish control over the second match in the series with a high damage lineup led by Luna and Lina cores. The gambit payed off for the team, as hFn’s Luna (9-0-11) and w33’s Lina (6-2-6) lead the team in a route of Na’Vi that saw the South American squad hold the net worth lead for the entirety of the match. The win for paiN Gaming improved the team’s record to 2-3, and the tiebreaker rules pushed the team into the 4th place position in Group B and a spot in the Playoff Stage.

PaiN Gaming found itself in the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage, where the South American squad faced off against FlyToMoon in a Bo1 match to determine which team would survive and advance to the second round. PaiN Gaming looked for a combination of damage and team fight setup in its draft, picking up cores of Luna, Lina, and Beastmaster alongside supports of Sand King and Jakiro. Unfortunately for the team, that strategy didn’t work out, as FlyToMoon’s aggressive style put the South American squad on the defensive from the very start of the match. FlyToMoon established control over the map fairly quickly with Phantom Lancer and Tinker, limiting opportunities for paiN Gaming’s cores to farm. With its lineup significantly out paced and trailing by over 22k net worth, paiN Gaming conceded defeat to bring its run at the Major to an end with a finish in the shared 7th-8th place position.

PaiN Gaming came into the EPICENTER XL Major fresh off of a significant change to its roster in the addition of w33. With its new player and new look, the South American squad came into Moscow looking for a chance to fully integrate w33 into its lineup and test its capabilities on the international level. Coming into the event, the team’s limited experience with its new member had expectations set about as low as possible, with paiN Gaming projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 11th-12th place position. The South American squad showed the Dota 2 world that it wasn’t in much need of an adjustment period as paiN Gaming blew past that prediction to finish in the 7th-8th place position. The team showed flashes of incredible confidence in its play in the Group Stage, as the team was able to take 2-0 wins over both Na’Vi and Newbee and even took a game off of VP as well. In those victories, paiN Gaming displayed an ability to play both an aggressive, fast paced style and a slightly more methodical team fight strategy to fantastic effect. Even the team’s Group Stage losses don’t look all that damaging either, as the team lost two of its series to Top 3 ranked squads in VP and Team Secre. It’s other loss to OG doesn’t come a much of a surprise considering the run that the European squad made to finish near the top of the Group B standings. While the team’s performance in the Group Stage probably didn’t blow anyone away, it was still an impressive showing for the team that got it into the Playoff Stage after the tiebreaker rules were applied. Unfortunately, paiN Gaming didn’t show the same level of strength in its Bo1 against FlyToMoon as it had in the Group Stage. The high damage fighting lineup that had served it so well in its Group Stage matches fell flat in the face of the CIS squad’s heavy aggression, exposing something of a weakness in a strategy that the team employed on a frequent basis. Even with that loss, the team put together a run in Moscow that should have fans feeling highly encouraged and hopeful through the final events of the season. There’s even further good news for paiN Gaming though, as the team will have another chance to show its strength on the Pro Circuit stage later this month at the ESL One Birmingham Major. With the TI8 Open Qualifiers on the horizon, this strong performance in Moscow and the chance to challenge the world’s best teams in Birmingham should have paiN Gaming sitting in a strong position as it prepares to face its regional rivals this summer for a spot in Vancouver.

 

PSD.LGD PSG LGD

Place: 1st

Winnings: $500,000 (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

PSG.LGD entered the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the most successful turn-around stories on the Pro Circuit. The team went from being a leading team in the standings to one of the weakest in its region, and then back to a Top 8 ranked squad all in the course of a handful of months. Coming into the event, the team had aspirations of climbing even further up the Pro Circuit standings, hoping to move itself up from its 8th place ranking and into a more comfortable position over the final events of the season. After its 2nd place run at the DAC 2018 Major, the team was feeling confident that it would at least have a shot at another Top 4 finish in Moscow if it could maintain its recent level of play. The Chinese squad was in for a tough challenge though, as the field of teams at the Major was fill of squads looking for make late-season surges up the standings or otherwise deny teams like PSG.LGD from gaining ground themselves.

PSG.LGD got its run at the Major started on Day 2 of the Group Stage, as the Chinese squad faced off against Southeast Asian leader Mineski. Game 1 saw the team pick up a heavy amount of team fight power and damage with a core trio of Luna, Leshrac, and Tidehunter. Early on, that lineup wasn’t finding much success against Mineski, as the Southeast Asian squad established a faster pace and built up a modest net worth lead in the mid-game. However, the team fight power of PSG.LGD came together in the late-game, as the Chinese squad dominated the final few fights of the match to wipe away Mineski’s lead and secure a win in Game 1 of the series. Game 2 saw the roles reversed for the two squads, as PSG.LGD was the team to start out strong and build up a mid-game advantage. However, Mineski’s lineup had the advantage in team fights in the late-game stage, as PSG.LGD couldn’t hold on and lost multiple fights in a row and were forced to concede defeat to even up the series. In the final match of the series, PSG.LGD picked up a heavy amount of damage and team fight power with a core trio of Luna, Viper, and Beastmaster along with supports of Vengeful Spirit and Rubick. That lineup wasn’t able to pull away from Mineski through the early and mid-game stages as the two teams remained relatively even. Behind strong showing from Ame’s Luna (8-1-11) and Maybe’s Viper (9-1-13), the Chinese squad was able to take control in the late-game and dominated the final fight of the match to shut down Mineski and secure a 2-1 victory in its first series of the Major.

Day 3 of the Group Stage saw PSG.LGD go from one Top 8 ranked opponent to another, as the Chinese squad faced off against TI7 Champion Team Liquid. The team opted for an aggressive fighting lineup in Game 1 centered around a core trio of Monkey King, Viper, and Brewmaster. That lineup proved ineffective for the Chinese squad, as Team Liquid got out to an incredible start and held the net worth lead throughout the entire match. Despite an admirable effort from Ame’s Monkey King (9-4-7), PSG.LGD couldn’t mount a comeback as it lost Game 1. Game 2 saw the Chinese squad flip the script, as PSG.LGD was the squad to establish an aggressive posture early in the match. Behind an incredible performance from Maybe on Queen of Pain (18-3-8), PSG.LGD dominated the match and never gave its opponent a chance to bounce back as the Chines squad evened up the series. With the series on the line, PSG.LGD picked up a core duo of Terrorblade and Viper along with a ganking trio of Beastmaster, Clockwerk, and Chen. Unfortunately, the lineup couldn’t gain much ground against Team Liquid, as the European squad established control of the match very early on and didn’t let up throughout the entire match to hand PSG.LGD a 1-2 loss in the series.

With a 1-1 series record, PSG.LGD entered Day 4 looking for a win as it took on a struggling Team Empire squad. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad trailing against Team Empire, as the CIS squad held a sizable net worth lead in the early and mid-game stage. Behind strong showings from both Ame on Terrorblade (8-4-15, 20.4k net worth) and Maybe’s Leshrac (9-6-10, 27.6k net worth), PSG.LGD was able to turn things around late and break through Team Empire defenses to secure a Game 1 victory. In Game 2, the Chinese squad faced some significant struggles in the face of Team Empire’s aggressive strategy. The team’s heroes were constantly pressured and picked off as team Empire built up a massive net worth lead. Down by over 25k net worth and with its cores lagging too far behind its opponent, PSG.LGD couldn’t hold back Team Empire’s push as the CIS squad even up the series. Game 3 saw the roles reversed, as PSG.LGD was the team to come out aggressively early and dictate the pace of the game. Behind an impressive showing from Maybe on Tinker (17-3-15, 24.1k net worth), the Chinese squad jumped ahead by a massive margin and shut down Team Empire’s lineup to secure itself a 2-1 win in the series.

Day 5 of the Group Stage gave PSG.LGD a chance to put itself in a commanding position in the Group A standings as the team played CIS squad FlyToMoon. Game 1 saw PSG.LGD control the game for the majority of the match as the Chinese squad dominated FlyToMoon. With solid efforts from both Ame on Luna (7-2-12) and Maybe on Kunkka (13-1-12), PSG.LGD broke through the final defense attempt from FlyToMoon to secure a victory to begin the series. The Chinese squad was able to repeat its impressive performance in Game 2 of the series, as PSG.LGD once again jumped out to a significant lead early. Behind a big game from Maybe’s Storm Spirit (15-5-11), the Chinese squad once again dictated the pace of the game and kept the FlyToMoon lineup from ever putting together a strong enough stretch to take control away as PSG.LGD swept the series 2-0.

As the team entered the final day of the Group Stage, it was already guaranteed a spot in the top two of Group A. However, the team still came into its series against compLexity Gaming looking to put together one last display of strength before the Playoff Stage began. Game 1 saw the team do just that, as the team absolutely dismantled its opponent as four its its five players had double digit kills in the match. Fy’s Skywrath Mage (17-3-17) led all players in terms of total kills as PSG.LGD simply ran compLexity Gaming over for a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw the team put together another strong performance in another stomp of compLexity Gaming. Once again, fy’s Skywarth Mage (10-8-19) provided a massive damage source for the Chinese squad as the team pulled away early and never looked back to claim a 2-0 victory in an incredibly one sided series.

The team’s position as one of the top two teams in Group A advanced PSG.LGD directly into the Upper Bracket in the Playoff Stage of the Major, where the Chinese team faced a tough challenge in the form of Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro. The team looked for a combination of damage and control in its Game 1 draft, hanging its hat on a core trio of Luna, Kunkka, and Axe. PSG.LGD kept things close through the early and mid-game st ages, but the Chinese squad was able to take decisive control of team fights in the late-game stage to swing momentum in its favor and secure a win in the first match of the series. Unfortunately, the team’s momentum didn’t carry over into Game 2, as VP came back with a vengeance to absolutely dominate the Chinese squad. PSG.LGD trailed for nearly the entirety of the match, and even a team fight win and a big surge in the late-game wasn’t enough for the team to turn things around as the series was tied at 1-1. In the final match of the series, PSG.LGD was the doom that played aggressively, combining a core trio of Slark, Storm Spirit, and Doom with strong rotating supports in Shadow Shaman and Tusk. The strategy paid off, as PSG.LGD was able to get out to an early lead and keep the cores of VP pressured and harassed. While VP was able to make a small surge in the mid-game stage, Ame’s Slark (13-1-4) and Maybe’s Storm Spirit (6-5-7) were able to help the Chinese squad maintain control and close out the game to win the series 2-1 and advance to the Upper Bracket Finals.

PSG.LGD’s would get the chance to redemption in the Upper Bracket Finals, as the team faced off against Team Liquid for the second time at the event with a place in the Grand Finals on the line. The team looked to replicate the success that it had in its last match against VP in Game 1 of this series, picking up cores of Lycan, Storm Spirit, and Sand King along with supports of Nyx Assassin and Shadow Shaman. After a few issues in the early stages of the match, PSG.LGD exploded in the mid and late-game to take a massive net worth lead over Team Liquid. The damage output of Maybe’s Storm Spirit (16-5-6) and Ame’s Lycan (9-5-11) proved too much for the European squad to handle as PSG.LGD dominated the final half of the match to ecure a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 proved to be pretty much the exact same scenario for the Chinese squad, as the team again built up a significant net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages and kept Team Liquid’s team fight power largely in check throughout the match. Ame’s Slark (18-3-16) and Maybe’s Queen of Pain (10-5-24) led the way once again, as the star duo helped PSG.LGD establish full control over the pace of the game and shut down Team Liquid to pull off a 2-0 sweep and secure itself a place in the Grand Finals.

It turns out that PSG.LGD’s next opponent would be the same as its last one, as the Chinese squad found itself facing off against Team Liquid one last time with a Major Championship on the line in the Grand Finals. Game 1 saw the Chinese team look for a mix of mobility and damage as it picked up cores of Morphling, Ember Spirit, and Axe. The team’s lineup found success in the early stages of the match as it was able to find kills and exert pressure on the Team Liquid lineup. However, the mid and late-game stages saw the team begin to slip up a bit as Team Liquid won a few team fights and worked their way into a position of strength. PSG.LGD was able to rally though, and with its core trio combining for a stat line of 33-17-39, the Chinese squad reclaimed control of the match and managed to push into Team Liquid’s base to secure a win in the opening game of the series. In Game 2, it looked as though PSG.LGD had a shot at a second straight win in the series, as the team got out to a significant lead heading into the mid-game stage. However, the power of Miracle-‘s Invoker quickly turned the tide of the match in the late-game and gave Team Liquid an edge that it turned into a sizable net worth lead. Despite an impressive performance from Maybe’s Windranger (15-7-7), PSG.LGD wasn’t able to make a rally in the late-game as the team lost all of its barracks and conceded defeat to even up the series at 1-1. Game 3 saw the team put together  strong fighting lineup headlined by a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Death Prophet, and Beastmaster. Early on the Chinese squad faced some significant issues, as Team Liquid established a sizable net worth lead in the mid-game stage. Behind strong showing from Ame’s Phantom Lancer (10-6-10) and Maybe’s Death Prophet (10-7-8), PSG.LGD was able to swing momentum in its favor and take the net worth lead in the late-game. However, a poor team fight around the 37 minute wiped out the team’s lead and allowed Team LIquid to take down two lanes of barracks. With the game on the line, PSG.LGD took one final desperate fight in an attempt to hold back Team Liquid, and that fight turned into a pivotal win for the Chinese squad. Team Liquid was left with few heroes alive and no buybacks remaining, allowing PSG.LGD to march down the middle lane and secure a win to go up 2-1 in the series. With the team just one win away from a Major Championship, PSG.LGD looked for damage and control in its draft, picking up cores of Slark, Death Prophet, and Doom with Tusk and Shadow Shaman supports. Early on, the team’s lineup was playing from behind a bit, as Team Liquid held a small net worth lead heading into the mid-game stage. From that point on though, it was all PSG.LGD, as the Chinese squad dominated team fights and seized control of the match. Behind two monstrious games from Ame’s Slark (12-0-16) and Maybe’s Death Prophet (13-5-16), the team was able to keep Team Liquid contained  and build up its lead more and more. Team Liquid took one final fight in an attempt to hold off PSG.LGD’s lineup, but the Chinese squad would not be denied as it wiped out that last defense and secured itself the win to take the series 3-1 and lay claim to the title of Major Champions.

PSG.LGD entered the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the Top 8 ranked teams in the Pro Circuit standings and a contender for a direct invite to TI8 this summer. The team had been enjoying some success on the Pro Circuit stage, and a Top 4 finish in Moscow had the potential to move the team even higher up the standings and claim the position of highest ranked Chinese team. Coming into the event, the team was projected to finish within the Top 4 range, and the Chinese squad was more than able to live up to that prediction with its 1st place finish at the Major. The team displayed an impressive level of strength in the Group Stage of the event, taking four of its five series and only losing to Team Liquid. While the team came into Group A as one of the favorites to place at the top of the group, the squad played with a consistency and confidence that you want to see from a squad looking to move up in the Pro Circuit standings and claim a spot as one of the world’s strongest teams. Once the team reached the Playoff Stage of the event, its play somehow was raised to an even higher level as it faced the two highest ranked teams on the Pro Circuit this season. The team defeated VP and took back to back series against Team Liquid in the Playoff stage while only losing two matches. After seeing the team reach the Grand Finals of the previous DAC 2018 Major, the squad looked like it was ready to take that next step and become one of the leading teams on the Pro Circuit stage, but this dominant performance in Moscow removes any lingering doubts regarding the Chinese squad. With this victory, PSG.LGD moves from 8th to 4th in the Pro Circuit standings, and has usurped the title of highest ranked team in China from Newbee. The amazing thing for the Chinese squad at this point is that the team may not be done climbing up the standings just yet, with PSG.LGD scheduled to attend two more Majors before the end of the season. With those events on the horizon for the team, the goal shifts from remaining within the Top 8 to securing a direct invite to TI8 outright. Given the fact that the team has two more chances to perform on the Pro Circuit stage, that goal is almost guaranteed so long as the team can continue to perform anywhere close to the caliber that we’ve seen across these last two Major appearances. The future is bright for PSG.LGD, as the team secures the first ever Major Championship for the Chinese region and has put itself into a position to claim its place in Vancouver in the coming weeks.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $30,000

Mineski entered the EPICENTER XL Major in a newfound position of strength on the Pro Circuit following its breakthrough victory at the Dota 2 Asia Championships Major earlier this month. With that success on the Pro Circuit stage, Mineski was transformed from a team looking to break back into the Top 8 in the standings into a squad looking to close in on a direct invite for TI8. While the SEA squad needed a 1st place finish to secure that invite outright in Moscow, a final position between 2nd and 4th would allow the team to significantly reduce the number of Qualifying Points that it needed to punch its ticket to Vancouver. With the allure of a direct invite on the line and the chance to become just the second team to win multiple Majors this season, Mineski made its way to Moscow looking for another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage.

Mineski began its run at the Major on Day 2 of the event with a match up against another Top 8 ranked squad in the form of Chinese team PSG.LGD. Mineski picked up a high damage trio of cores in Game 1 with Gyrocopter, Tiny, and Omniknight picks, and those heroes helped the team build up a net worth lead in the mid-game stage. The SEA squad looked to be in control, but despite a strong showing from Mushi’s Gyrocopter (10-3-6), PSG.LGD was able to turn a series of late-game fights and march into the Mineski base to hand the team a loss to open the series. Game 2 of the series saw the roles reversed for the teams, as Mineski was the team to trail in the early and mid-game stages. However, another impressive performance from Mushi on Luna (8-1-8) helped the turn swing momentum in its favor late as the Southeast Asian team took its turn to pull off a comeback win. With the series on the line, Mineski opted for a high damage lineup in Game 3, combining cores of Terrorblade, Lina, and Omniknight with supports of Tiny and Disruptor. The two teams remained even with each other throughout the mid-game stage, but a critical team fight loss in the Roshan Pit late crippled Mineski and gave PSG.LGD an opening to push through the team’s final defense an hand the SEA squad a 1-2 loss in the series.

After the tough loss in its first series, Mineski looked to turn things around on Day 3 of the Group Stage as the Southeast Asian squad took on CIS team FlyToMoon. Mineski looked for early team fight power as it picked up a core trio of Gyrocopter, Viper, and Pangolier. In the early and mid-game stages of the match, the team’s lineup wasn’t able to break away from its opponent. However, the late-game stage presented the team with an opportunity to begin controlling fights and out farm its opponents. With Mushi once again leading the way with an incredible Gyrocopter game (18-1-15), Mineski took decisive control of the match and forced FlyToMoon to concede defeat for a 1-0 advantage in the series. Mineski again looked for team fight power in its Game 2 draft as the team combined cores of Wraith King, Shadow Fiend, and Centaur Warruner with supports of Leshrac and Undying. That lineup afforded the team a significant team fight presence and net worth lead through the mid-game stage and into the late-game. However, the FlyToMoon lineup eventual hit the power spike that it was looking for, and the CIS squad brought Mineski down in three straight team fights to pull off the comeback to tie up the series. Game 3 saw Mineski pick up a trio of tanky, survivable cores in Outworld Devourer, Dragon Knight, and Underlord, but the team struggled significantly against the team fight strength of FlyToMoon. The control and magic damage of the CIS squad proved too much for Mineski to counter, as the team lost fight after fight in the late-game stage and eventually conceded defeat to lose the series 1-2.

After a pair of 1-2 series losses to open up its run at the Major, Mineski entered Day 4 of the event in need of a strong showing and a win against compLexity Gaming to turn things around and avoid falling further down the Group A standings. Mineski looked for team fight power in Game 1, drafting a core trio of Gyrocopter, Death Prophet, and Tidehunter alongside supports of Naga Siren and Vengeful Spirit. That fighting lineup did not look strong across the majority of the match, as compLexity Gaming built up a significant net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. Despite the sizable deficit that the team was facing, Mineski continued to fight and search for the right team fight scenario to get itself back in the match. Behind an impressive performance from Mushi on Gyrocopter, Mineski was able to find its opening, taking a crucial fight that allowed the team to push straight into compLexity Gaming’s base and force out a “gg” call from the North American squad. Mineski’s comeback effort in Game 1 prompted the team to go for a slightly different tactic in Game 2, with a core trio of Tiny, Invoker, and Nyx Assassin. The strategy failed for the Southeast Asian squad, as its attempts at aggressive play backfired and compLexity Gaming was able to dictate the pace of the match. Mineski trailed in terms of net worth for the entirety of the match, and with the team behind by nearly 22k net worth at the 33 minute mark, the squad conceded defeat to bring the series to a third and final match. That third game saw Mineski return to a team fight oriented draft, as the team combined cores of Gyrocopter, Centaur Warrunner, and Lone Druid with a support duo of Disruptor and Naga Siren. The result was a match that was decisively in Mineski’s favor for nearly the entirety of play, as the team dominated team fights and held the cores of compLexity Gaming in check across the mid and late-game stages. Behind strong showings from Nana’s Gyrocopter (10-5-14) and iceiceice’s Lone Druid (10-1-12), Mineski was able to close out the win to secure its first series victory of the event and improve its record in the Group Stage to 1-2.

With its win over compLexity Gaming, Mineski had managed to get the ball rolling in the Group Stage, but the team needed to keep its momentum going with a win over Team Empire, which entered Day 5 of the Group Stage with an 0-3 record. Game 1 saw Mineski pick up a fighting lineup with cores of Gyrocopter, Dragon Knight, and Pangolier alongside some roaming and ganking potential with Vengeful Spirit and Nature’s Prophet supports. Mineski found itself at a small disadvantage in the mid-game stage, but for the most part the two teams were remaining relatively close in terms of kills and pace. However, the late-game saw Mineski swing things drastically in its favor, as the SEA squad’s cores combined for a stat line of 29-10-40 and helped the team win multiple team fights to seize control of the match and close out a Game 1 win. Mineski looked for team fight damage in Game 2 of the series, with a lineup headlined by Troll Warlord, Death Prophet, and Tidehunter. The Southeast Asian team forced engagements early and were able to impose its will over Team Empire from the very beginning of the match. Mineski led throughout the entirety of the match, and Mushi’s Troll Warlord (8-0-10) and Nana’s Death Prophet (4-0-9) led the way for the team as it suffocated the CIS squad and forced a “gg” call to claim a 2-0 series sweep.

Entering the sixth and final day of the Group Stage, Mineski knew that is was already secured a spot in the Playoff Stage, but would end up playing in the Lower Bracket regardless of its final series against Team Liquid. All the same, the team looked for a win over the TI7 Champion in the hopes of securing a more favorable match up in the Playoff Stage. The team switched things up in its Game 1 draft, picking up a Meepo and shifting Mushi into a support role. The strategy didn’t work all that well for Mineski, as LIquid played aggressive from the start of the match and heavily pressured the SEA squad’s lineup. Despite Jabz putting in a quality performance on the Meepo (11-5-12), Mineski trailed for nearly the entirety of the match as Team Liquid handed them a loss in the opening match of the series. Mineski and its players return to their normal roles in Game 2, but that swap didn’t do much to help the team defeat Team Liquid. Mineski earned just six kills in the match as Team Liquid completely stomped its lineup, and the Southeast Asian squad conceded defeat in just under 21 minutes to close out an 0-2 loss to Team Liquid. That loss left Mineski with a 2-3 series record in the Group Stage and a 4th place position in the Group A standings.

That 4th place position put Mineski in the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage, where the Soutehast Asian squad found itself playing Team Secret in a Bo1 elimination match. Mineski came out with an aggressive fighting lineup that combined a core trio of Gyrocopter, Death Prophet, and Pangolier with Nyx Assassin and Lion supports. The lineup was able to quickly establish control of the match, with Team Secret’s lineup not having the damage or sustainability to compete in early fights. Behind an insane performance from Nana on Death Prophet (18-2-14) Mineski was able to secure a surprisingly one sided win that knocked Team Secret out of the Major and allowed the Southeast Asian team to advance to the next round.

Mineski’s victory over Team Secret earned it another Bo1 elimination match against a Top 8 ranked squad in the form of Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro. Mineski looked to go back to the tried and true team fight damage lineup that had been serving it well throughout the event, drafting cores of Troll Warlord, Lina, and Tidehunter along with Leshrac and Lion for further control and damage. The strategy worked amazingly well for Mineski, as the team dominated the game from the very start of the match and built up a sizable net worth lead heading into the late-game. However, a late-game team fight turned against Mineski when Solo’s Oracle pulled off an amazing save on Ramzes666’s Luna that shifted momentum into VP’s favor. Mineski was unprepared to deal with the team fight loss, and VP was able to push directly down the middle lane to pull of an incredible comeback win that ended Mineski’s run at the Major with a 5th-6th place finish.

Mineski came into the EPICENTER XL Major as a team sitting near the top of the hierarchy in the Pro Circuit standings. The team was coming off of its impressive and somewhat unexpected win at the DAC 2018 Major, and had a chance to shorten the gap between itself and a TI8 invite with a solid performance in Moscow. Coming into the event itself, Mineski was one of the favorites to advance deep into the Playoff Bracket with a projected finish inside of the Top 4. The team put together a solid showing at the Major, but wasn’t able to repeat its Championships run from Shanghai and fell just short of its predicted outcome with a finish in the shared 5th-6th place position. While the team managed to survive the Group Stage and advance to the Playoff Stage, it did not look nearly as strong as it had in Shanghai when it won its first Major of the season. The team’s only two series victories came against compLexity Gaming and Team Empire, two teams that combined for a 1-9 series record in their group. Against Team Liquid, PSG.LGD, and FlyToMoon, the three squads to place in the Top 3 at the event, Mineski faced some significant struggles. To the team’s credit, Mineski was able to take one game off of both FlyToMoon and PSG.LGD, but the SEA squad couldn’t close out those series in situations where the team was more than likely favored to win based on the match up. Once the team advanced to the Playoff Stage, its play picked up a bit, as the team looked composed and confident in its Bo1 victory over Team Secret. That confidence carried over into its strong performance in its next Bo1 against VP, but the Southeast Asian team made one or two small mistakes that the Pro Circuit leader was able to exploit to snatch victory away from Mineski. As a whole, Mineski wasn’t able to replicate the success that it earned in Shanghai, but to be honest the team wasn’t necessarily expected to. The team was predicted to compete for a Top 4 spot in Moscow, and one that front it managed to get close enough to that goal to maintain confidence in the squad moving forward. Mineski may have missed the mark in Moscow, but the Southeast Asian leader will have a few more chances to perform on the Pro Circuit stage as it will be attending all three of the final Majors of the season. With that many opportunities coming up for Mineski, all it needs to do is remain consistent in its level of play and the Southeast Asian squad will continue to be in the running for a direct invite to Vancouver.

 

FlyToMoon FlyToMoon

Place: 3rd

Winnings: $110,000 (Total) & 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

FlyToMoon entered the EPICENTER XL Major as a team with limited experience on the Pro Circuit stage, as the event in Moscow served as just the second Pro Circuit appearance for the CIS squad. After fighting its way through the Madness Qualifier for the event, the team was searching for its first ever success on the Pro Circuit stage as FlyToMoon had aspirations of adding its name to the list of squads in the Pro Circuit standings. With the team sitting as one of just three teams eligible for invites to the TI8 CIS Qualifier, FlyToMoon was already relatively secure in its position heading into the final events of the season. However, the CIS squad had hopes of reaching even further beyond a regional qualifier invite as the team looked to earn a Top 4 finish in Moscow and potentially move into a position to compete for a Top 8 spot in the standings.

FlyToMoon found itself facing its first opponent in Group A on the second day of the Group Stage, as the CIS squad opened its run at the Major with a series against compLexity Gaming. Game 1 saw the team employ an Io strategy, combining the hero with cores of Dragon Knight, Templar Assassin, and Beastmaster. The lineup proved incredibly effective against compLexity Gaming, as FlyToMoon got off to a strong start and held the net worth lead throughout the match. The aggressive play from the CIS squad kept its opponent’s cores in check and gave compLexity Gaming no time to set up for its Techies pick as FlyToMoon claimed its first victory of the event. Game 2 played out in a similar manner, though the match went on for significantly more time than its predecessor. FlyToMoon once again came out aggressively and applied heavy pressure to the compLexity Gaming lineup as the CIS squad built up a sizable net worth lead. Behind impressive performances from Iceberg’s Shadow Fiend (15-3-13, 38.1k net worth) and nongrata’s Clockwerk (9-4-23, 19.8k net worth), FlyToMoon was able to sweep past compLexity Gaming’s final defenses to earn a 2-0 sweep of the series.

Day 3 of the Group Stage saw FlyToMoon run into a tough challenge in the form of Southeast Asian squad Mineski in its second series of the event. The CIS squad picked up a core trio of Juggernaut, Mirana, and Night Stalker in Game 1 that helped the team keep things relatively even throughout the early and mid-games stages. However, the late-game saw Mineski’s team fight power come online, and FlyToMoon had little that it could do to counteract it. Down by over 15k net worth and two lanes of barracks just shy of the 40 minute mark, FlyToMoon threw in the tower to suffer its first defeat of the event. In Game 2, it looked as though the team was in for a repeat of its Game 1 loss, as the team lead early but fell behind significantly in the mid-game. This time though, FlyToMoon had the damage output it needed to control fights in the late-game as Icerberg’s Lina (14-4-8, 30.3k net worth) and nongrata’s Doom (10-5-13, 18.6k net worth) helped the team overcome Mineski’s lineup and secure itself a win to tie up the series. With the series on the line, FlyToMoon looked to be the aggressors in the match, with a team fight setup draft that included cores of Faceless Void, Leshrac, and Doom alongside supports of Ancient Apparition and Spirit Breaker. The two teams held even through the early phases of the match, but in the mid and late-game FlyToMoon’s team fight power proved stronger than that of Mineski as the CIS squad pulled away and began to force its Southeast Asian opponent into a more defensive posture. With the team’s core trio combining for a stat line of 33-13-66, FlyToMoon was able to overcome the final defense attempt of Mineski to secure a 2-1 win and another series victory.

FlyToMoon’s back to back series wins to open up the Group Stage had the CIS squad feeling fairly confident heading into Day 4 of the event, but the team was about to run into its toughest challenge yet as it took on defending TI Champion Team Liquid. FlyToMoon didn’t appear intimidated by its opponent in Game 1 of the series, as the team played aggressively from the very start of the match and built up a significant net worth lead over it European opponent. FlyToMoon denied Team Liquid any opportunity to establish itself in team fights, and successfully made a final push into Team Liquid’s base to force a “gg” call and win the series opener. Game 2 looked like a repeat situation for FlyToMoon, as the team once again employed an aggressive style that say it leading for nearly the entirety of the match. FlyToMoon was keeping Liquid largely contained, but a small series of mistakes in the late-game opened an opportunity for the European squad as it claimed back to back team fight wins to wipe out FlyToMoon’s net worth lead. With most of its heroes dead and buybacks low, FlyToMoon was unable to hold of Team Liquid’s final assault as the European squad pushed down the middle lane to complete a comeback win that tied up the series 1-1. After losing its lead in Game 2, FlyToMoon looked a bit shaken up heading into the final match of the series, and Team Liquid took advantage of that weakened state. FLyToMoon’s lineup only managed to secure eight kills in Game 3, as the CIS squad was losing in terms of net worth from the very beginning of the match. Trailing by a kill score of 8-46 and behind by over 28k net worth, FlyToMoon threw in the towel and took its first series loss of the Major.

At 2-1, FlyToMoon still stood a strong chance of making it to the Playoff Stage, but the team was in for another difficult challenge as it faced off against Chinese squad PSG.LGD on Day 5 of the Group Stage. FlyToMoon hoped to take the fight to its opponent in Game 1 with a core trio of Gyrocopter, Outworld Devourer, and Tidehunter. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work in the team’s favor, as PSG.LGD was the team to play aggressive early and put the FlyToMoon cores in a weakened position throughout the course of the match. Despite a solid showing from Iceberg on Outworld Devourer (10-6-2), FlyToMoon could never make a sustained surge to shake PSG.LGD’s control of the map and the Chinese squad handed the team a loss to begin the series. Game 2 played out in a similar fashion to Game 1, with FlyToMoon once again attempting to draft a team fight lineup with cores of Faceless Void, Zeus, and Beastmaster along with Ancient Apparition and Spirit Breaker supports. Unfortunately for FlyToMoon, the strategy was no more effective in this match, as PSG.LGD was the more aggressive team again and built up a sizable net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. The late-game saw PSG.LGD fully unleash its team fight power, as FlyToMoon was out killed by a score of 15-3 over the final six minutes of play as the CIS squad was forced to call it quits and surrender for an 0-2 loss in the series.

With a 2-2 series record after its loss to PSG.LGD, FlyToMoon entered Day 6 of the Group Stage guaranteed a spot in the Playoff Stage. The question for the CIS squad was whether that spot would be as the 3rd or 4th seed from Group A, as the team prepared for an all-CIS match up against Team Empire. FlyToMoon dominated the opening match of the series, coming out with early pressure on Team Empire’s cores that set the team back significantly moving into the mid and late-game stages. With impressive showings from both Silent on Venomancer (12-1-13) and Icerberg’s Templar Assassin (12-2-7), FlyToMoon had little difficulty closing out a win in Game 1. FlyToMoon looked to combine early aggression with high amounts of damage in Game 2, picking up cores of Luna, Leshrac, and Puck alongside Shadow Demon and Night Stalker supports. The plan worked well for the most part, as FlyToMoon controlled the pace of the game throughout most of the match. However, the CIS squad had difficulties breaking through the high ground defense of Team Empire in the late-game, which prompted the team to attempt to force its way through. The move proved ill-advised for FlyToMoon, as Team Empire held its ground and inflicted massive casualties on its opponent that left FlyToMoon unable to hold against the subsequent Team Empire rush into its base. With most of its power expended in the high ground attempt, FlyTOMoon was forced to concede defeat to complete Team Empire’s comeback win and even up the series at 1-1. In the third and final match of the series, FlyToMoon managed to put itself in a similar situation to the one that it lost in Game 2, with the team holding a significant late-game lead over Team Empire. The team once again lost a critical fight in the late-game that nearly wiped out its net worth advantage, but this time the team was able to recover from that team fight loss. With its core trio combining for a stat line of 36-24-55, FlyToMoon was able to hold off Team Empire’s retaliatory push and close out a win to claim a 2-1 series victory and the 3rd seed in Group A.

That 3rd seed put FlyToMoon in the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage, where the CIS squad faced off against South American squad paiN Gaming in a Bo1 elimination match. FlyToMoon was able to make relatively quick work of paiN Gaming with the help of a draft that combined heavy damage output from Phantom Lancer, Tiner, and Doom with a controlling support duo of Bounty Hunter and Witch Doctor. FlyToMoon held the net worth advantage throughout the entirety of the match, and paiN Gaming was never able to put itself into a position where it could force a fight to turn the tide of the match as the CIS squad claimed a win to advance to the next round.

FlyToMoon wasn’t done with Bo1 matches just yet, as the CIS squad faced off against OG with a Top 4 position on the line. FlyToMoon employed a similar strategy to the one it used in its previous match, combining tanky and elusive cores in Phantom Lancer, Death Prophet, and Doom with supports of Bounty Hunter and Witch Doctor. The two squads traded punches throughout the match, with the lead fluctuating back and forth frequently but for the most part staying in FlyToMoon’s favor. Behind key performances from Icerberg’s Death Prophet (18-7-19, 31.2k net worth) and Silent’s Phantom Lancer (17-3-19, 36.6k net worth), FlyToMoon was able to chip away at OG’s defenses, eventually earning Mega Creeps and a commanding lead in the match. OG continued to hold out though, pushing the game past the hour mark and holding its own against the Mega Creep pushes until FlyToMoon finally broke through in one final assault to knock the European squad out of the Major. With that win, FlyToMoon secured itself a Top 4 finish, but the CIS squad was looking to keep its momentum going and advance even further up the standings.

The team’s ambitions led it into an all-CIS confrontation with Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro in the next round, as both teams sought to secure themselves a spot in the Lower Bracket Finals. FlyToMoon looked to get aggressive in Game 1 with a trio of mobile heroes in Night Stalker, Chen, and Windranger to back up a core duo of Leshrac and Gyrocopter. The strategy proved incredibly effective, as VP’s lineup was not prepared to deal with the heavy aggression and pressure that it was hit with.  With Silent’s Gyrocopter (15-2-14) having a huge game and nongrata’s Night Stalker (9-4-22) helping to maintain the team’s fast paced style, FlyToMoon established complete control of the map and forced a “gg” call out of VP to take a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 saw FlyToMoon shift focus from an aggressive style into a more team fight oriented draft, as the team picked up cores of Faceless Void, Leshrac, and Spirit Breaker alongside supports of Ancient Apparition and Treant Protector. That lineup helped the team jump out to a significant lead in the mid-game stage that put FlyToMoon in a position of power in the match. VP made a couple of surges in the late-game that briefly lost FlyToMoon its net worth lead, but in both instances the squad managed to reestablish its hold over the game. Behind absolutely monstrous performances from Iceberg’s Leshrac (26-10-28, 27.9k net worth) and Silent’s Faceless Void (17-3-24, 28.8k net worth), FlyToMoon was able to break through VP’s final defense and earn itself an impressive 2-0 victory over the CIS leader.

The team’s win over VP brought it just one series away from a spot in the Grand Finals, but FlyToMoon would have to fight through Team Liquid in order to reach that goal. Game 1 of the series saw the CIS squad pick up a lineup with heavy damage output centered around picks of Gyrocopter, Storm Spirit, and Doom. The strategy paid off for the team, as FlyToMoon had the early damage and mobility it needed to punish the more team fight and farming oriented lineup of Team Liquid. The CIS squad held the net worth lead for nearly the entirety of the match, as its core trio put together a combined stat line of 53-12-59 on its way to a surprisingly one sided victory to open the series. Game 2 saw the team try for a similar lineup, as it picked up cores of Templar Assassin, Death Prophet, and Doom alongside supports of Tusk and Witch Doctor. It looked as though the team was on the verge of sweeping the TI7 Champions, as FlyToMoon built up a huge net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. However, Team Liquid’s damage output and team fight power eventually came together, and the European squad was able to turn the tables on FlyToMoon with a decisive team fight late in the match. That fight wiped out FlyToMoon’s lead, and the CIS squad’s attempts to hold off the subsequent push from Team Liquid proved unsuccessful as Team Liquid completed a comeback victory to take Game 2 and tie up the series. With its momentum shattered in Game 2, FlyToMoon came into Game 3 looking for an answer to Team Liquid. The CIS squad opted for an unorthodox draft, picking up cores of Vengeful Spirit, Shadow Fiend, and Doom alongside Leshrac and Clockwerk supports. The lineup had its issues early, but towards the mid-game stage it appeared that FlyToMoon was hitting its stride and on its way to establishing some control over the map. However, Team Liquid quickly struck back with a series of fights and skirmishes that sapped away FlyToMoon’s strength and allowed the European squad to push into its base and secure a sizable net worth lead. FlyToMoon attempted one final defense of its base, but by that point Team Liquid was too strong and too far ahead to be stopped as the European squad knocked FlyToMoon out of the Major with a 3rd place finish overall.

FlyToMoon entered the EPICENTER XL Major as a team that had not found any success on the Pro Circuit stage in its relatively short existence. However, the team still held a goal of proving itself against the Pro Circuit’s best teams, and a 1st place would have given the team enough Qualifying Points to contend for a Top 8 spot. The CIS squad was not expected to come anywhere close to that kind of performance in Moscow. In fact, the team wasn’t even really expected to advance out of the Group Stage, with the squad projected to fall close to the bottom of the standings at the Major with a 9th-10th place finish. That prediction proved to be a wildly inaccurate underestimation of the team’s capabilities, as FlyToMoon put together one of the most incredible runs of the season in front of its home crowd to claim a 3rd place finish at the Major. The team looked fantastic in the Group Stage of the event, claiming wins against Team Empire, compLexity Gaming and Mineski in Group A. While Team Empire and compLexity Gaming weren’t exactly the most formidable opponents in the field, the win over a Mineski fresh off of its Major Championship at the DAC 2018 Major came as a huge accomplishment for the CIS squad and an indicator of just how well the team could perform on the Pro Circuit stage. Even its losses to PSG.LGD and Team Liquid were fairly impressive, as the team put up a decent fight against both squads and even took a match off of Team Liquid. The team’s performance in the Group Stage had fans and analysts looking at the squad with a sense of cautious optimism heading into the Playoff Stage, and the CIS squad was able to prove that its previous success hadn’t been a fluke. The team’s win over paiN Gaming may not have come as a huge surprise to many, but its subsequent victories over OG and VP, the two teams that topped the Group B standings, displayed the team’s impressive strength. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t take down Team Liquid in its rematch in the Lower Bracket Finals, but the team’s run at the Major was one of the most impressive we’ve seen on the Pro Circuit this season considering the team wasn’t expected to make it out of the Group Stage in the first place. The team put together a performance reminiscent of Ad Finem’s  legendary 2nd place run at the Boston Major in 2016, and showed the Dota 2 world that FlyToMoon has arrived in the CIS region. Unfortunately for FlyToMoon, the CIS region is where the team is going to remain for the rest of the season, as the EPICENTER XL Major was the squad’s final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season. However, the team is now essentially guaranteed an invite to the TI8 CIS Qualifiers, and if FlyToMoon can maintain this level of performance in that upcoming qualifier, then the team has to be one of the favorites to claim the region’s spot in Vancouver this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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