There are only two days left of The International’s group stages, which means time is running out for teams to secure their places in next week’s main event. Things haven’t been looking promising for HellRaisers and Cloud9, who have made their home at the very bottom of the standings, while LGD.Forever Young has been the only undefeated team of TI.
Virtus.pro (2) v. HellRaisers (0)
As opposed to their normal drafts, Virtus.pro didn’t start out their day with a very aggressive lineup, and didn’t immediately look for blood once the game started. It didn’t stop Virtus.pro from securing a kill and XP lead by the end of the laning phase, but it wasn’t the kind of domineering beat down that we would be expecting from a VP v. HellRaisers matchup. It also took over 20 minutes for VP to gain a significant gold advantage, and they seemed content with drawing things out and letting HellRaisers do their own thing. Despite this, it still felt very much like Virtus.pro’s game, as HellRaisers played as if they had already given up. HellRaisers played very brokenly, consistently getting caught in traps laid out for them, and played the entire game on the defensive. To no one’s surprise, VP took the win before the 38 minute mark with 30 kills and a 32k gold lead.
Game two… Did not start out as expected. This is likely due to VP’s laidback mindset going into the match, but HellRaisers managed to secure both a kill and gold lead before the nine minute mark without much difficulty. The lead was mediocre, and they weren’t exactly making a ton of progress as time went on, but the worst-performing team holding seven kills and 2k gold over one of the most dominating teams in their group was still impressive. That lead only continue to grow as Virtus.pro more or less dropped the ball, going into 14 minutes with 10 kills and a 4k gold lead. HellRaisers were severely punished after an attempt to 5 v 1 lil in the jungle at 15 minutes quickly turned against them, as the rest of VP was lurking around the corner and managed to pick off four of HellRaisers’ members before moving on, but it still wasn’t enough for Virtus.pro to gain any momentum. When it came time to make their push at the 40 minute mark, it failed and Virtus.pro went for broke. They went for the reverse sweep, split pushing up to HellRaisers’ base while they had four men down and dealing as much structural damage as they could. It seemed like the game had utterly turned against HellRaisers, who found themselves scrambling to defend their turf, almost completely wiping a second time in their own base, as opposed to going on the offensive. Unfortunately for them, HellRaisers still hadn’t learned their lesson about making greedy plays. As opposed to playing things safe and playing defense for a while, HellRaisers decided that they had to up their aggression and bully Virtus.pro into calling GG, which backfired dismally, and Virtus.pro claimed the win just seconds after HellRaisers lost the team fight.
Newbee (0) v. LGD.Forever Young (2)
First blood was drawn when Newbee made the mistake of engaging in a team fight at five minutes, where LFY claimed two of their members to set the pace for a slow build. One would have thought that LFY had learned their lesson last night when it came to getting cocky, but they still made the mistake of losing their Medusa at 12 minutes when they got too close to Newbee’s base too early. Meanwhile, Newbee understood that they would have to play the game carefully if they wanted to walk away with a win, but they played cautiously to a fault. By being too hesitant to apply any pressure, Newbee opened themselves up to being cornered into their base while LFY pushed them around in team fights and claimed objectives. The game ended in LFY’s favor at 33 minutes.
Game two started with Newbee with an early lead, and it looked like LGD.Forever Young would finally see their undefeated record become tarnished with a bitter loss before finally climbing their way back onto the board to even the playing field out by 11 minutes. From then, LFY was able to pry the advantage out of Newbee’s hands to gain control of the game. It wasn’t the same absolute control that fans were used to seeing, so far, but it provided FLY with the comfort and stability they needed to start moving in to the Radiant’s side of the arena to tear down tier one towers. The entire time, Newbee was hot on their heels to take critical team fight kills to keep LGD.Forever Young at bay. At 20 minutes, though, Newbee had lost all control and could do little more than prolong the game until LFY took the win at 36 minutes.
Invictus Gaming (2) v. Cloud9 (0)
Cloud9 was able to quickly put pressure on IG during the early game, besting them in fights during the laning phase that granted them a moderate lead that they were able to maintain into the mid game. It was a team fight at 17 minutes that finally granted Invictus Gaming the momentum they needed to turn the tables, which they used to move to the high ground to destroy a rack and tier three tower in one go. It was a textbook example of overextending, which left them three men down in the retreat when Cloud9 pushed them out, but it was a significant blow to Cloud9’s defenses. They were still down in kills, and only had a slight gold advantage, but it was all IG needed. They pressed harder and harder against Cloud9’s defenses until, at 42 minutes, the game was over.
The laning phase ran pretty standard, with the most interesting event being Cloud9’s Aui_2000 getting punished at one point when attempting to steal some farming. Later, by 17 minutes, IG had double of the kills, but Cloud9 was boasting the better net worth from dealing more structural damage in the lanes. It wasn’t until 23 minutes in that IG would finally gain total numerical advantage, and they started eyeing the possibility of a 2-0 series finish. The rest of the game progressed in a similar manner to their first game, with IG coming in to demolish the bottom tier three tower and barracks after a devastating team fight at 32 minutes. With Cloud9 cornered between a rock and a hard place, and the ground crumbling beneath their feet, GG was called at 50 minutes.
Digital Chaos (2) v. Execration (0)
With Puck, Sand King, Silencer, Sven, and Nature’s Prophet, Digital Chaos easily had the stronger of the two drafts for game one, and it helped them secure the first two kills of the game six minutes in. Yet, for what they lacked in draft strength, IG made up for in team coordination to keep the overall map control even. Eventually, though, something had to give and it was Digital Chaos who stepped up to the plate to make smart choices to utilize their draft to the best of its ability. For as hard as Execration fought, as much as they kicked and screamed in the arena, they fell short on too many fronts to keep the match from spiraling out of control. After a team wipe that forced Execration to use buybacks, Digital Chaos took the first game of the series at 45 minutes.
Execration drafted much smarter this time around, with Sand King, Keeper of the Light, Dragon Knight, Earthshaker, and Venomancer against DC’s Puck, Lycan, Silencer, Tumbersaw, and Spirit Breaker. A good draft isn’t everything, though, if you let yourself get outplayed. Execration moved less like t a team and more like five individual players doing their own thing in solo queue, and it wasn’t long before Digital Chaos had every lead they needed to shut Execration out. At 24 minutes, DC had been maintaining a 10+_ kill and 4k gold lead, and things only got worse for Execration as they lost more and more ground. DC closed out the series at 42 minutes with a solid 2-0 score.
Newbee (2) v. HellRaisers (0)
HellRaisers must have woken up on the right side of the bed, this morning, because we saw another promising start to the series from them. For the first 15 minutes of the game they were able to maintain a steady lead with plenty of gold advantage, even with Newbee doing everything they can to tear them down before things got too out of hand. HellRaisers did a solid job with carefully selecting the fights they wanted to engage in, punishing mistakes Newbee made, and tearing down tier one and tier two towers as the opportunities presented themselves. Granted, the gap between the teams wasn’t that large. By 22 minutes Newbee was down only one kill, with most of HellRaisers’ advantage being in their 3k gold lead. A risky decision to go for Roshan at 23 minutes opened them up for an attack from Newbee, who took both the kill and gold lead after taking out three of the five of HellRaisers’ players, and it served as a reminder that HellRaisers was still too susceptible to overconfidence. With HellRaisers knocked off balance, Newbee swooped in to keep the pressure on. In 10 minutes the game was completely turned around, with Newbee holding the Aegis and a lead of 10 kills and 16k gold over HellRaisers. HellRaisers had been dismantled. The game was over.
After being given a chance to gather their thoughts, HellRaisers returned to the arena as a reassembled team that was ready to make another attempt at claiming what would be their second win of TI. Newbee wasn’t about to give them a chance. While HellRaisers were holding their own in combat, Newbee established a quick lead in net worth that slowly, but surely, grew as the game progressed. 15 minutes in, and HellRaisers was down five towers thanks to Newbee’s fast-paced draft of Sniper, Bounty Hunter, Shadow Shaman, and Puck. Emboldened by their net worth advantage and a lack of structures outside of their base, Newbee made a dangerous attempt to make their first assault on HellRaisers’ base at 22 minutes. It nearly got the lot of them taken out, even if they claimed two of HellRaisers’ own, but Newbee was getting impatient. Newbee waited to kill Roshan at 29 minutes before making another push into HellRaiser’s base, forcing 33 to use a buyback while his teammates waited to respawn, and Newbee only managed to wipe HellRaisers and destroy their Ancient by the skin of their teeth.
LGD.Forever Young (1) v. Digital Chaos (1)
Game one kicked off with a rather awkward draft from LFY, who spent the entirety of their reserve time in the drafting phase to finally settle on Dragon Knight to counter DC’s Queen of Pain-Sand King mid selections. It looked like they were sacrificing laning advantage for structural damage, a questionable trade-off at best. LFY struggled during the early game, thanks to this; they only kept a very marginal net worth lead of under 1k, while Digital Chaos was a few kills ahead. The kind of momentum we had been seeing from LFY took ages to finally get going, taking almost 15 minutes for LFY to slowly start to pull ahead, but, once they found their mojo, LFY was able to claim control of the map and clear out Digital Chaos’s tier one and two towers. Their familiar fast-paced aggression returned, and DC was pressured into staying clumped together while farming their own jungle just to ensure that they weren’t caught off guard and picked off one-by-one. They had a shaky start but, by 27 minutes, LGD.Forever Young was back to their normal selves and closing out the game.
Game two presented another off the wall drafting selection from LFY: a Pugna-Pudge combo. I was reminded of LFY’s pick and ban experiments from the night before, and wondered if they were using DC as a guinea pig for a strategy they would want to try out during the main event. Whatever their reason was, Digital Chaos stuck to their comfort picks and took LFY through a rodeo of a game. While things started out well for LFY at the start, struggling against DC but still maintaining a slight lead for the first 10 minutes, Digital Chaos had almost seamless team coordination on their side. It wasn’t long before the game had been eased over into DC’s favor, holding 21 kills to LFY’s 8, and a solid 5k net worth lead at 17 minutes after a team fight around a Radiant tier two tower had LFY wiping. Finally, LGD.Forever Young had found a team that could knock them off balance. DC won a team fight against LFY when LFY attempted to interfere with their claiming of the Aegis at 32 minutes so, once Roshan fell, they rushed down mid in an attempt to storm LFY’s base while they had four players down. It failed, as LFY respawned too quickly for any of them to deal any major structural damage, but LFY wiped in a team fight at 36 minutes and GG was called. LGD.Forever Young’s streak had been ruined.
OG (1) v. Invictus Gaming (1)
There was nothing terribly spectacular in the first few minutes of game one, but it’s worth mentioning that Invictus Gaming showed a very promising trend early-on where they were quick to punish OG for any mistakes they made. At the same time IG was careful to establish as much vision as they could before the 10 minute mark, but it felt like they weren’t doing much after that. This could be due to the fact that their draft had more split push potential than anything else, but there was still a noticeable lull in game progression. It allowed OG to reclaim some lost ground, taking what marginal lead IG had for their own by 19 minutes. From there, things went out of control at a rapid rate, with OG taking that small lead and turning it into a substantial five kill lead and 8k net worth advantage within the next couple of minutes. Invictus Gaming was soon backed into a corner as OG destroyed their tier one and tier two towers, and it was clear there was no way they could take the game back.
Game two showed a more promising draft for IG, which clearly paid off when Invictus Gamign was seeing a five kill and 3k gold lead just 10 minutes in. Simply put, IG played a cleaner game than OG, who still put up a solid fight but couldn’t catch up to the pace being set by their opponents. There were a handful of skirmishes in the lanes where OG showed the skill and aggression that got them to The International, but they were simply outplayed time and time again. With an enormous 31 kill and 55k gold lead, IG took game two at 44 minutes.
Cloud9 (1) v. Execution (1)
Game one played very close for the first fifteen minutes. Both Cloud9 and Execration tugged the rope back and forth, looking for an opening to pull hard enough to send the other team face planting into the dirt. It wasn’t until about 17 minutes in that Execration finally started to gain traction, and they immediately took control of the game. It wasn’t an absolute steam roll, as Cloud9 was rather close behind Execration for a good percentage of the game and was capable of displaying bouts of aggression to keep Execration on their toes, but the momentum Execration had gained made it impossible for Cloud9 to try to turn the tables. Cloud9 eventually crumbled under the pressure being placed on them, and Execration took the win at 47 minutes.
Game two was very, very long (though not as terrible as Team Empire’s two-hour match against IG Vitality), so we’ll start with the draft picks. Cloud9 chose Lich, Doom, Faceless Void, Medusa, and Batider. Execration chose Sand King, Puck, Witch Doctor, Ursa, and Anti-Mage. And things took a rather slow start with a lot of failed attempts at bagging kills, first blood not being drawn until Fata on Medusa killed James’s Puck in the mid lane at seven minutes. Cloud9 was able to get some headway by 17 minutes, where they had a total of five kills on Execration and a 3k gold lead, which was when the ball finally started to roll. Cloud9’s advantage steadily grew, thanks to a strong draft and a synergy we hadn’t yet seen from the team since the start of group stages. At 27 minutes (I know a lot of my time markers are sevens, I don’t know why) they had an 8k net worth advantage and a 13 kill lead, which could be partially blamed on Execration basically tower diving.
While they were still a mile ahead of Execration in kills, Cloud9 steadily began to lose their gold advantage when Execration took an Aegis off of Roshan at 44 minutes, following it up by some late game farming. At 53 minutes, C9 had lost their gold advantage entirely and were facing a lot of pressure from Execration as they started to really put their all into team fights that were taking out important parts of C9’s lineup. Less than ten minutes later, Execration managed a 13k gold lead. It was anyone’s game, but it was leaning heavily in Execration’s favor as Cloud9 was finding them dangerously close to being backed into a corner with no way out. It was their high ground defense that kept Execration at bay long enough to pull themselves together, something easier said than done considering they were down a bottom rack and Execration was showing no sign of letting up. At 65 minutes, a team fight near the Dire base forced both Raging Potato and LeumiK to use their buybacks, lest they be out of the game for 90 seconds, and the two teams brawled their way through the mid lane.
There were a few quiet minutes after this, both Cloud9 and Execration too skittish to risk a team fight, until 73 minutes in when Execration engaged in a fight they couldn’t win and lost three of their five players without any buybacks. Cloud9 saw their window of opportunity and ran for it, closing out the series at 74 minutes.