The main event of The International 2017 has started, and it’s been a long day of ups and downs. While those in the Upper Bracket are allowed to bask in the luxury of best-of-three matches, the teams unfortunate enough to have been caught in the bottom half of the standings have no such cushion. There are eight teams in the Lower Bracket, all teetering on the edge of elimination as they face the best-of-one matches that will bring them one step closer to the lion’s share of $23 million in prize money, or send them packing.
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Team Secret v. Execration
Team Secret immediately moved for blood as soon as they dropped into the arena, nearly claiming first blood before 30 second mark when they ganked James, and actually claiming it at 50 seconds. It was almost akin to watching a threatened animal being backed into a corner and, in a way, it was. Team Secret knew that they were on the ropes, that one bad play could send them packing, and they were rightfully desperate to lay on the pressure.
Execration wasn’t allowed themselves to be bullied, though. After the initial shock of Team Secret’s aggression wore off, they regained their footing to even out the field. Unfortunately… That didn’t last long. Team Secret’s draft, in combination with their team coordination, put Execration 3k gold behind after a nasty team fight in the bottom lane at 13 minutes that had four of their team members killed, and the game spiraled out of control faster than anyone could keep up with. It felt like, in the blink of an eye, Team Secret had eight kills and a gold advantage that was creeping even higher and higher as they established total map domination, winning every team fight they engaged in, in the process. In 34 minutes, Execration’s Ancient crumbled.
Cloud9 v. Team Empire
While Team Secret’s match against Execration was frantic and fast, Cloud9 and Team Empire were ready to pace themselves. Both teams focused more on farming and preparing themselves for the mid game than they were intimidating their opponent, and spent the better part of 15 minutes running neck in neck. As the game transitioned out of the laning phase, it was Cloud9 who steadily asserted their dominance. A well-timed combo here, a long-practiced play there, a brief skirmish every so often to keep each other on their toes, and the promise of $10 million in winnings on the horizon was escaping Team Empire’s sight at an agonizingly slow pace.
Until it wasn’t. The clock ticked to 35 minutes, and Cloud9 was cornered in their base. The team that had such an advantage could no longer claim objectives or make a successful push into Team Empire’s territory, and defaulted to farming on their own turf. Meanwhile, Team Empire destroyed their towers one by one, and claimed the Aegis for Resolut1on at 39 minutes. Emboldened, Team Empire started pushing. With a 10 kill and 12k gold lead at 47 minutes, they had completely turned the tables. Cloud9 was too afraid to leave the safety of their base, only capable of defending what little ground they had left to their names. What had started to look like a hopeless game for them, was now their ticket into day two of the main event. After 62 minutes, Team Empire finally closed the game out.
Infamous v. OG
There’s a reason for OG being at The International 2017, and that’s because they have a unique, quasi-aggressive play style that allows them to manipulate their opponents early into the game. We have seen glimpses of this during the group stages, but OG’s performance during their match against Infamous was a perfect example of this strategy working out in their favor. OG was quick to lay on the pressure – just enough to intimidate Infamous, but not enough to overextend and risk a mistake. They established an early lead during the laning phase that they were able to maintain throughout the game, the divide between the two teams growing until OG was standing on Infamous’s doorstep at 27 with an 11k gold advantage and nine kill lead.
There was one thing OG struggled with, though, and it’s what they have struggled with during the entire event: closing the game. For as big of a lead as they had, on every front, every push OG made into Infamous’s base resulted in heavy casualties that left them fleeing the scene by the skin of their teeth. It took multiple attempts for them to finally destroy Infamous’s Ancient, and this will likely be their downfall once they are facing off against the more successful teams.
IG.Vitality v. Digital Chaos
While the desk talent of TI7 was sure to remind fans that this Digital Chaos wasn’t the same DC that were last year’s runner-ups, this year’s iteration of the team was intent on proving their worth and living up to the Digital Chaos name. They played a clean, almost predictable early game that earned them an almost 5k gold lead just 11 minutes in, partially due to IG.Vitality’s slow-burn draft. Even when a particularly unfortunate team fight at 15 minutes made it seem like they were losing control of the game, losing both their gold and kill lead in one fell swoop, they were quick to recover and bounce back into the game for a team fight at 19 minutes that took out the entirety of IG.Vitality’s roster. What marginal of a lead IG.Vitality had was quickly snatched away, and Digital Chaos continued to claim objectives in a steady crawl to IG.Vitality’s base until the game was over at around 35 minutes.