It’s day two of The International 2017’s main event, which means that the lower brackets are no longer best of one. Now, teams facing elimination have the luxury of best of three matches, providing them with a feeble safety net as they claw their way into another day.
Does that mean that the competition will be easy? Absolutely not. It’s time for every team to pull out the tricks they had been saving because, now, the stakes are even higher than before.
Latest Update: 02:22 EST
Team Secret (1) v. Team Liquid (2)
Again, like yesterday, Team Secret dropped into the arena with a bloodthirst that really shouldn’t be surprising me anymore. Before the first 20 seconds of the game had passed they had spilled first blood, and were already getting a second kill before 50 seconds. They made a quick habit of jumping Team Liquid’s members while they were attempting to farm, who could do little more than try to get away while three opponents bored into them. They were forced to slow down when Puppey ran out of mana, but Team Liquid wasn’t able to take advantage of the time granted to them to keep a primarily kill-fueled gold advantage from getting too out of control. By 11 minutes, Team Secret had secured an eight kill and 5k gold lead, most of those kills thanks to a roaming Puppey’s aggressive use of Spirit Breaker.
Put simply, Team Liquid was almost disgustingly outplayed. There was no critical moment that led to Liquid’s defeat at 27 minutes, so hopeless that GG was called before even the last rack crumbled. Team Secret was always one step ahead of Team Liquid, always intimidating Liquid with spontaneous skirmishes. Team Secret’s draft was more focused on laning, lacking a hero that could really punish Team Liquid for in the late game, but their synergy and team composition was still wholly superior.
Team Liquid forced Team Secret to slow their roll and play out a more “proper” laning phase, but it didn’t stop them from being caught off guard by Secret’s players, who continued their typical group gank play style. It is arguable that Gh’s determination and use of Night Stalker was what brought Team Liquid back into the game, thanks his high kill participation and refusal to back down in front of Puppey’s Alchemist. While Team Secret was winning the vast majority of the team fights, it was Team Liquid who boasted a consistent gold lead.
Liquid had stabilized and, emboldened, they inched their way through the Dire territory to claim objectives. It did lead to them making risky plays, such as a kamikaze play to sacrifice one player to destroy a ranged rack, but they played them in a manner that was still wary and wasn’t overextending. At 30 minutes, Team Secret had lost their barracks, were waiting for multiple players to respawn after a hectic team fight on the steps of the Dire base, and were down 17k gold. It wasn’t an absolute reversal of game one, it wasn’t a total steam rolling, but it was made clear that Team Liquid was the one holding control of the game. After a team fight at the Dire shrine that killed three of Team Secret’s members, Team Liquid made another push at 33 minutes and forced a game three after 34 minutes.
With a fire lit under their seats, Team Secret returned to game three with a refreshed mindset. They were neither as relentless in the early game as game one, nor as easily pushed around as game two. By contrast, something happened to Team Liquid that made them very passive and pliable, which opened them up to being pushed around the map like ragdolls. While it didn’t have the same fiery start, the early and late game ran very similarly to game one, laying on the pressure at every opportunity to keep Team Liquid at bay while they farmed.
Yet, if there was any chance for Team Liquid to turn the tides, it was when they stole the Roshan kill and gave the Aegis to Matubaman around the 20 minute mark. The fight in the pit killed three of Team Secret’s players and gave Team Liquid the slight net worth advantage that they needed, and it was suddenly Secret that was on the defensive.
Cornered in their base, Team Secret forfeited their top racks to keep their team alive for another battle, only for Team Liquid to curve around to destroy the mid barracks. The game was completely out of Secret’s control. All they could do was fight Liquid back, desperately hold them at bay until they were able to come up with a strategy that would buy them another day at TI7. When Team Secret failed to steal another Aegis again, almost 10 minutes after their first attempt, Liquid rushed down mid to tear their way through the barracks they failed to destroy the first time. After 35 minutes, Team Secret was sent home.
Team Empire (2) v. Evil Geniuses (0)
Team Empire started losing their lanes very, very quickly, and without any spectacular plays on EG’s behalf. Whether it was because they were feeling the pressure, or couldn’t work their draft to the best of its ability, Evil Geniuses found themselves farming Team Empire’s lanes in the early game without much difficulty. An unfortunate team fight for EG had them receding to their own turf on the Dire side of the map, but the two players that fell by Team Empire’s hand didn’t cost them the small gold lead they had accrued. It was a lead that they nearly lost on the final leg of 17 minutes, when a fight with Team Empire threatened to put them at a disadvantage, and the game turned into a tug of war between the two teams as they fought to establish dominance over the other: Team Empire in kills, EG in gold advantage.
An Echo Slam on Arteezy’s Winter Wyvern was what finally turned the game against EG, as it prompted a brief skirmish between Team Empire and Evil Geniuses that ended with EG being chased back to their base, only one tier two tower in the top lane to protect them. Team Empire had secured their lead, and they trampled all over Evil Geniuses’ territory like they owned it while Evil Geniuses’s synergy crumbled, their behavior scattered. It would be criminal to not chalk a lot of Team Empire’s game one success to fn’s Ember Knight and Ghostik’s Bat Rider, and the team knowing their limits as to not overextend.
A team fight at 44 minutes that wiped out three of EG’s team members opened up an opportunity for Team Empire to attack Roshan, a chance they had been waiting for patiently, and they claimed the Aegis for fn for the edge they needed to close in on Evil Geniuses’ base. With EG on the ropes, fans only had to play the waiting game until the game ended at 60 minutes after a heart-stopping final team fight.
15 seconds passed before fn spilled first blood, an omen for the rest of the game.
Again, Evil Geniuses had an easy start to game two, virtually neck in neck with Team Empire but having a marginal numerical lead. It was bizarre, really. Game two followed such a similar pattern to game one that, when Evil Geniuses tried to push up Empire’s steps just like they did in game one, that I found myself almost disappointed to see Evil Geniuses start to collapse under Team Empire’s foot in the same manner as before. Team Empire won a couple of team fights that gave them an edge over their opponents, Evil Geniuses hissed and spat while being corralled in their base, and Team Empire made a number of blitz-like plays to destroy various base structures.
Which was why the late game was so unbelievably exciting. Somehow, despite everything being so obviously stacked against them, Evil Geniuses evened out the playing field until it was anybody’s game. All either of them needed was one good team fight to make their push.
It was depressing – heartbreaking, really – to see Evil Geniuses crumble in the blink of an eye. Almost literally, a blink. That one team fight ended in Team Empire’s favor, and then the game was over.