TI11: Upsets Form Unbelievable Final Four
Less than 12 hours separate us and the final two days of The International 11 (TI11), set to take place within the Singapore Indoor Stadium between October 29th and 30th. With the first four days of the main event now complete, the tournament itself will transfer venues for the first time in International history.
Only four squads remain in contention for the Aegis of Champions: Team Secret, Tundra Esports, Team Aster, and Team Liquid.
By all measures, only Aster was ever expected by the community and experts alike to even make it this far. Team Secret and Team Liquid in particular both came all the way from the last chance qualifiers — an absolutely unprecedented outcome given how both teams had such poor showings in the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season.
Tundra Esports, on the other hand, don’t exactly have the kind of out-and-out star power that other rosters in the tournament do. While their players like Wu “Sneyking” Jingjun and Adrian “Fata” Trinks have been around for years, the rest of the names on their lineup don’t necessarily jump out at spectators.
Nevertheless, they now sit one best-of-three series removed from appearing in the Grand Finals, if they can defeat Team Secret along the way.
Full of Surprises
For these teams to have even made it to the final stretch took a ton of incredible twists and turns throughout the main event itself.
First was the unceremonious end of Evil Geniuses’ campaign, going completely winless in the playoffs after finishing first in their group quite convincingly. The Boys in Blue simply fell apart in the two playoff rounds they played, with the South American squads Thunder Awaken and beastcoast in particular quickly figuring out their one-dimensional strategy.
This resulted in a record of 0-4 for EG; not how they had envisioned going through the playoffs after scoring 14 wins in the group stage. Indeed, their troubles at the main event of The International continue to plague them, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not they will ever perform up to their potential when all the cards are on the table.
Then there was the shocking, appalling, and downright dreadful loss that defending champions Team Spirit suffered at the hands of BOOM Esports. It was bad enough that Spirit had to start in the lower bracket, but for them to bomb out of the playoffs in one fell swoop was something that not even the most cynical fan could ever imagine.
It was just something no one could have predicted, not after the way Team Spirit dismantled PSG.LGD in the Grand Finals of the Arlington Major. This team was supposed to at least make the top six at TI11 based on their performances prior to the event, but here they are now, disgraced and left to wonder just what had hit them.
BOOM Esports could not keep up the momentum gained from such a stunning victory, though, as they faced LGD in the next round after the latter had been sent to the lower bracket by Team Secret. Just like clockwork, LGD had choked yet again at TI11, only this time it was way before the Grand Finals had even been in reach. Aster’s efforts were more than enough to put them away for good, marking the end for LGD way ahead of where most expected them to finish.
This marks the third straight year that this immensely gifted and talented roster will come away without the Aegis of Champions in their hands. And with Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida announcing his retirement from professional Dota 2, one has to wonder what will become of this roster going forward.
The upsets do not stop there, believe it or not. ESL One Stockholm champions OG lost two straight games in the upper bracket to Tundra, failing thereafter to get past Team Liquid in the elimination rounds. While it’s certainly true that this particular OG roster has plenty of potential and time to win more tournaments in the future, it’s still a shame that they didn’t quite live up to the standards they set for themselves in their debut DPC season.
And Then There Were Four
But regardless of how anyone remaining in the tournament got here in the first place, one thing’s for sure: the last two days of the event will be unlike anything that the Dota 2 community has ever seen before.
For one, there are two players still in the running for a second Aegis of Champions: Secret’s Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and Liquid’s Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen. Puppey stands a chance to cement his legacy as the greatest Dota 2 player of all time, if he can lead his team to the Grand Finals and secure another title as the owner of an esports organization.
MATUMBAMAN, of course, undoubtedly seeks to prove that he’s still got what it takes to win at the biggest stage in Dota 2. Getting kicked from Team Liquid (now Nigma Galaxy) after winning TI7 with captain Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi has put a chip on this man’s shoulder, and showing them that he can win without their help would make capturing a second championship all the sweeter.
For the rest of his teammates in Liquid, nothing would mean more to them than winning TI11. Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi would instantly become a legend among team captains should they triumph over the rest at Singapore. Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg would finally have an International title to his name after playing at the highest level for years. And Michael “miCKe” Vu as well as Samuel “Boxi” Svahn would have the breakout performances of their lives if they can pull off such a feat.
Then, as mentioned before, Tundra’s Sneyking and Fata have been at this whole pro Dota 2 thing for a very, very long time. But neither of them have had the honor of hoisting the Aegis on the International main stage. To win with the rest of Tundra Esports would be the culmination of a decade of hard work for these two in particular.
Finally, there’s Team Aster: a squad formed by a Chinese Dota legend in Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei, and coached by another in Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng. The two were once at the top of the competitive food chain as part of Team DK, which fell short of the lofty expectations placed upon them at TI4. This is their chance to make up for what they were unable to do eight years ago, albeit not as active players.
Of course, we can’t forget about Du “Monet” Peng, Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang, Lin “Xxs” Jing, and Ye “BoBoKa” Zhibiao either. These four players in particular have been mainstays of the Chinese scene for the last several years, and are all skilled enough to win it all at TI11. Relative newcomer Yu “皮球” (“pi qiu”) Yajun would soar to absolute stardom in an instant as well, if he can be the backbone for his team from the hard support position despite his lack of experience at The International.
There’s a great deal at stake for the Final Four here at TI11. With plenty of individual stories to follow, there’s sure to be a lot of drama yet to unfold in Singapore over the next two days.
The last stretch of TI11 begins October 29th, starting with Team Aster versus Team Liquid at 12am ET. Catch the dramatic conclusion to this epic tournament on the official Dota 2 International Twitch stream.