There were no huge surprises at the China Dota 2 Supermajor as the top four sides corresponded to the top four in the DPC Rankings – Team Liquid, Virtus.pro, PSG.LGD and Team Secret.
Furthermore, the two top teams were matched in the Grand Final but it was the second-placed team in the Rankings, Team Liquid, who won their first Major of the season by defeating Virtus.pro.
Road to the Grand Final
Team Liquid topped Group A, despite losing their first game to Team Spirit. However, they managed to turn things around to secure a 2-1 series win before enjoying a clean 2-0 sweep against inconsistent Chinese side Newbee. This secured Team Liquid a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.
Liquid were incredibly strong throughout the knockout phase, consecutively beating TNC, Team Secret and PSG.LGD 2-0 to reach the Grand Final.
The Grand Final was a real highlight for Dota fans as the two most impressive teams throughout the DPC season were pitted against each other.
Prior to the Grand Final, Liquid were nearly invincible, having only lost their opening game, while Virtus.pro had been taken down by PSG.LGD in the Upper Bracket. However, they did come back strongly and secured a place in the Grand Final through the Lower Bracket, even getting their revenge on PSG.LGD by beating them in the Lower Bracket Final.
The main battles of the Grand Final happened in the drafting phase. Apart from the last game, where it seemed that both teams had an equal chance of victory, the team that outdrafted generally claimed the win.
Liquid took Game One thanks to their superior team fight and snowballing potential in the mid game despite the relatively even laning stage. Following this, Virtus.pro held the initiative in Game Two as their higher tempo line-up gave them victory in a similar manner.
It was Liquid’s decision in Game Three to pick a high pace line-up while Virtus.pro shuffled things around with a late game focus featuring Morphling. Team Liquid never gave this hero any breathing space though and achieved an easy victory to make the score 2-1.
Virtus.pro quickly learned from their mistake and switched back to strong laning heroes for Game Four. Team Liquid did not seem to lose the draft too badly, but nevertheless Virtus.pro were the much better team and displayed an equally dominant performance to level the scores.
In the deciding game, Team Liquid managed to get the fast line-up while Virtus.pro picked a late game roster despite their lack of success with this strategy previously. The game was highly contested in the laning stage and even at the mid game no team was out in front, which benefited the Russian squad. Liquid, however, managed to win several team clashes and push Virtus.pro to their base. The Russians defended desperately but Liquid pressed on relentlessly and after several pushes it was all over.
Insatiable for success
Team Liquid’s desire to win their first Major of the season was highlighted by their aggressive and dominant play, with the team asserting control right from the start.
Liquid are equally capable of either outdrafting or outplaying their opponents. Their most common line-up features strong laners with high pushing potential that peaks in the mid game. The laning stage is a crucial point where Liquid build their advantage to enable to snowball in the mid game. As such, early rotations by the support players (more often GH) are essential to either help teammates or apply pressure and shut down enemy heroes in the lanes. The pushing line-up allows them to switch their attention to eliminating objectives on the map – destroying towers or killing Roshans. The team can also play late game line-ups, but this is not their preferred playstyle.
The roles of the players
Team Liquid possess a roster of highly skilled individual players, who have learned to play together over the course of the last year.
Pulling the strings is KuroKy, the maestro of the team who has a vision of how he wants his side to play. Without necessarily being a dictator, he is known for his persistence, which does spill into stubbornness on occasion. His influence was significant in the Grand Final, largely due to his drafting. This does not mean, of course, that he lacked notable individual plays – his last-second saving teleports with Chen were a pleasure to watch whenever he was on that hero.
Having versatile players who are willing to play the sacrificial role, such as MinD_ContRoL and MATUMBAMAN, is essential to the team’s strategy. The Bulgarian offlaner is quite adept at providing space and Beastmaster, one of the heroes on whom he excels, is currently back in the meta. He can play either single lane or as part of a dual lane and has the ability to secure solo kills when pitted one-on-one against another player. MinD_ContRoL can also be seen doing suicidal pushes to provide space for his carries.
In terms of roles, MATUMBAMAN is probably the most versatile player in the team. He can play a hard carry with farming priority, a sacrificial carry whose aim is to fight early and engage the enemy team alongside his teammates to provide space for Miracle-, and on some occasions he can even be deployed as an offlaner. In this tournament MATUMBAMAN played heroes with significant pushing power, such as Visage, Death Prophet and even Beastmaster. His Visage was arguably the most impressive, utilising the Familiars well in team fights.
Miracle- is the star of the team and considered by many to be the most skillful player in the Dota 2 pro scene. Having most impact with playmaking heroes, Miracle- needs to have a good laning stage to gain momentum and as a consequence to snowball and wreak havoc in the enemy ranks. He has just the skillset to do this on his own if not ganked in the laning stage as he can win one-on-one battles against any player. His exploits with snowballing heroes in team fights are breathtaking, but nevertheless, if the strategy requires him to play a secondary role, he can successfully do this as well.
GH’s performance was key to the team and he was arguably the MVP of the tournament. His aggressive rotations were paramount to Liquid getting safe lanes or securing an early advantage to snowball in the mid game. The current meta seems perfect for his approach as the roaming position 4 is back after several months of being out of use and GH thrives there. His initiation and securing of a considerable number of ganks with aggressive initiators such as Windranger and Naga Siren was what gave the team their early advantages.
Breaking the curse
Few can complain about the stylish manner in which the Supermajor wrapped up the newly introduced Dota Pro Circuit. While undoubtedly tough in terms of the number of events the teams had to play, the series of tournaments has laid the foundations of a fairer qualifying system for The International.
Team Liquid claimed the last trophy of the circuit against an equally impressive team in a Grand Final which could very well be repeated on the stage of TI in two months’ time. No team has ever won back to back TI titles, but Team Liquid are already defying the odds by breaking the post TI curse. In recent years, winning TI has inevitably resulted in a subsequent slump in form (Alliance, Wings Gaming and EG come to mind) but Liquid have won some Minor events this year and finished 2nd at DreamLeague Season 8, ESL One Genting and EPICENTER XL. Consequently, when combined with their tactical nous and sheer drive, they could become the first team to win back-to-back Internationals.