The year’s biggest Dota 2 tournament brought an historical first for the competitive scene as OG took home the gold, becoming the first team ever to win two International titles.
Fielding the same team they won TI8 with, OG came out strong from the word go, posting an unbeaten 6-2-0 score in their group with more points than any other team in the tournament.
The group stage saw Ninjas in Pyjamas and Chaos Esports Club sent home without a win to their name. The rest of the bracket went predictably, with one major exception – Team Liquid, the TI7 champions, only finished 7th in their pool. That left them in the lower bracket for the main event – things weren’t looking good for the European team.
Play-offs: Upper Bracket
As the play-offs began, the upper bracket quickly became a two-horse race between OG and LGD. OG cut their way through Newbee and managed a narrow 2-1 win against Evil Geniuses – relying on Topson’s early-game pressure to keep EG on their toes and maintain the momentum.
LGD, meanwhile, were highly impressive, smashing their way through the Russian giants of Virtus.pro, and sweeping up fellow Chinese team Vici Gaming without sustaining a single loss.
It was anyone’s guess who’d win between these two teams but LGD had plenty to prove. This semi-final match-up was a repeat of TI8. On that occasion LGD lost 2-1 and they’d have to avenge that defeat for a chance at the jaw-dropping US$15.6million first prize.
Things started off promisingly for LGD, taking an early win. In the second match, LGD felt confident that they could deal with Alchemist and neglected to ban him – this was to prove a fatal error on their part.
Displaying trademark camaraderie and unorthodox hero picks, OG made sure history repeated itself, winning the reverse sweep for another 2-1 victory against LGD in the semi-finals. Whilst the Chinese team went to the lower bracket, OG progressed to the final, with the chance to win the Aegis of Immortals two years in a row.
Play-offs: Lower Bracket
Many of the tournament’s hype moments came in the lower bracket.
While South American teams usually struggle at Internationals, Infamous rose to the challenge and wiped out Newbee 2-1, sending the Chinese team’s new roster packing their bags. Virtus.pro, too, suffered a fall from grace in the same round. Once one of the most feared teams of the competitive scene, the Russians were smashed out of the play-offs as soon as they entered them, suffering a devastating 2-0 loss against Royal Never Give Up.
But perhaps the most exciting story from the lower bracket was Liquid’s comeback. After a shaky start in the group stage, they had a steep mountain to climb. They’d have to win six rounds in a row to even have a chance at this year’s Aegis – but never ones to shy away from a challenge, they went at it full force.
They stomped their way through Fnatic, TNC Predator, Royal Never Give Up, EG and Team Secret, all without sustaining a single loss. From there, they had one more hurdle to overcome – they’d have to get past LGD, sent into the lower bracket by OG in the semi-finals.
LGD took the first match by storm, but as happened against OG, they couldn’t sustain their momentum well enough. Liquid took LGD apart piece by piece in the second game, winning several crucial battles one after the other with peerless co-ordination, driving LGD to defeat. Though LGD still managed to make a valiant effort, Liquid’s defence of the high ground allowed them to gain the push they needed to tie up the series.
In the deciding match, LGD seemed to have lost confidence, making a few mistakes that Liquid were only too happy to capitalise on. With such a heavy early-game advantage, Liquid were able to close the series out, much to the dismay of the Chinese fans in the audience, ensuring that TI9 would produce a two-time winner.
In the most tense bout of the tournament, OG faced off against Liquid – the champs of TI8 and TI7 battling for the TI9 throne and the prestige of being the first team to win two Internationals.
With w33 on Meepo, Liquid had the advantage in the first match, skilfully denying OG the high-speed pace they seemed to prefer. Even so, OG managed a near-comeback, but Liquid eventually crushed through Mid to take the win.
The second match saw OG on incredible form. With Topson on Monkey King, they smelled blood in the waters, and made sure Liquid were on the retreat for almost the entire game. Creating unbelievable pressure, OG pursued their enemy mercilessly, not giving Liquid a chance to breathe – and inevitably tieing up the series.
The third match saw Topson ruin Liquid’s day once again, this time on Pugna, with Liquid unable to counter the hero in any way. With four kills in just shy of 10 minutes, Liquid had no chance, ending the game at a lightning-fast 23 minutes. Now 2-1 down, Liquid were on the verge of elimination – they had to win the next two matches.
OG began the fourth match with an Io pick. Liquid replied by mimicking OG’s deathball comp – but they underestimated OG’s creativity with builds. While ana‘s Io was instrumental to the team’s effort, spectators and commentators alike were confused by Topson’s item choices.
Diffusal blade on Gyrocopter isn’t something you see every day – but he wielded it to devastating effect, using the hero’s AoEs to nuke Liquid’s health and mana bars simultaneously. With ruthless effectiveness, OG drove Liquid all the way back to the ancient, securing the win and the Aegis for themselves.
OG will again be the team to beat in the next competitive year following this unprecedented achievement.
Proving that unorthodox builds and teams can work even at the highest levels of play, OG’s victory may deliver a more diverse meta for the next year of play – and with new heroes Void Spirit and Snapfire announced, it’s bound to be an interesting one.