DotA2 Starladder review!

After the Frankfurt Major and surprising win from OG, we didn't have too many great tournaments to look at in the end of the last year. Luckily, new year has brought us new big tournament in Dota 2 and that is StarLadder i-League Star Series.

The 13th season of the StarLadder Star Series was organised along with ImbaTV, who organised the i-League tournaments last year. This time, they’re bringing their forces together for a great final tournament in Minsk, Belarus where 12 teams had to battle for the prize pool of $ 300 000 from 13th to 17th of January. The original format for qualifying for the tournament looked like this: Four teams from the Europe & CIS Qualifiers, one team from the Last Chance EU Qualifier, three teams from the China Qualifier, one team from the Americas Qualifier and one team from the SEA Qualifier among with two teams that would receive a direct invite. But sadly, since Ehome (who was one of 3 china qualifiers) pulled from the tournament among with team OG, who had scheduling conflicts. The Starladder admins made their decision to give direct invites to three teams that finished in top placements of the Last Chance Qualifier: Team Secret, Team Liquid and Na’Vi. Below, we give you the recap of the whole tournament:

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First two days of the tournament could only be watched throughout various streams, since the arena in Minsk was closed for public for the group stages. The group system was put like this: 2 groups with 6 teams battle against each other in Best of One games. First place goes directly into semifinal matches, second and third place go to quarter finals matches and 4th-6th place teams are out of the tournament.

THE GROUPS

Group A was seen as the less interesting group from the 2 because most people have already guessed (and correctly) that Evil Geniuses and LGD Gaming would go directly into the main bracket, whereas Alliance, Team Spirit, Na’Vi and Fnatic would battle for the third and final position. The day has started without many surprises: EG had beaten Na’Vi and LGD have taken the scalp from Fnatic. For LGD, it was a start of a great in streak of 4-0 in first four games beating Fnatic, Team Spirit, Evil Geniuses and Na’Vi before finally failing to the RAT kings, Alliance. The crown game of the 4 for LGD was against holders of the Aegis, EG, where RoTK has once again shined on his Dark Seer, making that game 10th win in a row without losses for LGD in this patch and challenged ppd’s drafting with an unusual Morphling pick for Sylar. The third place was taken by the Alliance in their last match against EG, who have lost both games against the teams that have gone alongside them in the main bracket. Although, Alliance didn’t need to have it that hard, since they have lost a 20 000 gold lead in just a minute against Team Spirit, who, incidentally has only beaten Alliance in the whole main tournament. Although a bit expected to be the last team in group out of 6, Goblak has proven to be a fierce drafter on top of Iceberg’s MVP performance that got them into Shanghai Major, which gave them a bit of hope to go into the main bracket.

Group A standings:

PLACE

TEAM

WIN/LOSE RATIO

1

LGD

4-1

2

Alliance

3-2

3

Evil Geniuses

3-2

4

Fnatic

2-3

5

Natus Vincere

2-3

6

Team Spirit

1-4

Group B was the group that no one knew which 3 teams would pass into the main bracket. Liquid was in great form in the qualifiers, as was Complexity. Wings Gaming has received a huge confidence boost from the 4th place at World Cyber Arena, where Team Secret was eliminated in the group stage, with only one series that they have won and 2 lost and of course, the CIS magnates Virtus Pro and Vega Squadron. Just as LGD rushed through Group A, that performance was replicated by Team Liquid. They won their first three matches and were the only team that had no fears of being kicked out in the second day. Liquid then were defeated by Wings Gaming, in a series that they basically already won. It was once more proven how teamplay is often the crucial part of the game. Other teams were having some shaky performances, especially Virtus Pro and Team Secret. Virtus Pro could have been another one of the 4-1 teams if they wouldn’t have lost their huge net worth advantage against both Team Secret and Vega Squadron. In their last game against Vega, they had a whooping 20k gold lead, almost all buildings from the enemy team destroyed and victory seemed almost certain. But, mostly because of Chen and Ember Spirit, Vega Squadron has held them off over and over again before taking Virtus Pro’s Ancient and their place in the main bracket.

Group B standings:

PLACE

TEAM

WIN/LOSE RATIO

1

Team Liquid

4-1

2

Vega Squadron

3-2

3

Team Secret

3-2

4

Virtus Pro

2-3

5

Wings Gaming

2-3

6

Complexity Gaming

1-4

THE MAIN TOURNAMENT

Day 3 of the tournament has brought us 2 best of 3 matches of the quarter finals: Vega Squadron versus Evil Geniuses and Team Secret versus Alliance. Vega and EG clashed in two matches, both resulting in victory for the only US team remaining in the tournament. Vega tried to beat them with 2 different strategies, but Universe’s Faceless Void was too much for them to handle. On the other side, Alliance has beaten Team Secret 2-1 and moved to the semifinals against another European powerhouse, Team Liquid.

In the semifinals, LGD Gaming faced EG and and Alliance had to battle against Team Liquid. Evil Geniuses did beat LGD in game 1, thanks to having better lategame heroes and more control in their picks. The second one went to LGD, mostly because Elder Titan is not a hero that can be utilized very well in the current meta. The last game was taken by EG, who went to the grand finals. Team Liquid, on the other side was supposed to be the grand finalist, where lots of people were hoping

for a grudge matchup (Arteezy vs Kuroky), but Alliance said no. With S4’s dominating Puck and Batrider positioning and disruption, among with impressive plays by Akke (especially the First blood against Mind Control’s Dark seer) Team Liquid had absolutely no chance to take even one game and lost 2-0 in the end.

The grand finalists were now ready to battle for the first prize of $120 000 at 11 in the morning CET in utterly cold Minsk. Alliance has stuck to some of their most notable heroes (S4 on Puck and Admiral Bulldog with the Nature’s Prophet), while ppd picked Luna for Arteezy in order to disrupt possible Relocate ganks from Nature Prophet, Io + 1 other hero. That strategy failed miserably: Suma1l was completely lost in the mid lane, Arteezy didnt’ have any survivability against them, and all other EG players followed their example, which resulted in a sub-30 minute victory for Alliance. The second game was almost as difficult as the first one. Arteezy got Spectre, a hero that isn’t as strong early in the game as other carries, hoping that Alliance won’t go again with the early aggression they showed in game one. In only four minutes, Akke has taken the first tower with his Chen and Admiral Bulldog’s Lone Druid got a Hand of Midas in 9 minutes, despite being the first kill of the game, courtesy of Zeus. Alliance secured their game with taking tower by tower, rendering Arteezy virtually useless, who ended up having 0-10 score in both games. Finally, at 34:43, EG has called “gg” and that sealed a second Victory for Alliance.

WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED

First and foremost: Alliance is b[A]ck. Lots of us have questioned their invite to the Shanghai Major, with nothing but a WCA victory behind them to reinforce it. Yes, WCA is a big tournamet by prize pool, but the teams that played there weren’t as competitive as the teams here in Minsk and the game was played on a patch that was released days before the tournament. At Starladder they have proven that they don’t need sneaky plays in order to win. Two years after the TI3 victory, the team that won it all has been brought back and they look even more terrifying than back in 2013. Right now, they look to be one of the top contenders to secure the victory in Shanghai, which is only a month and a half away from us. The funniest thing is: 2 days before the tournament, Alliance had their flights delayed and weren’t even supposed to be there. Power Rangers were to compete as their standin, but Alliance gave their best, shuffled the play order a bit and they made it to the tournament after all. Luckily for them, and all of us Dota 2 enthusiasts, they made it safe and sound to rock the world of this game once again.


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