EG not only met that challenge but cleared it in spectacular fashion, picking up two of the best players in the world in their respective roles, the offlane and support/captain. To replace Universe EG picked up s4, the TI3 champion and winner of the Boston and Kiev Majors; EG’s offlane would be in safe hands with him. To fill the captaincy they acquired Fly, the four-time Major winner and former captain of OG, the team that had not only shown the world what Miracle- was capable of, but Ana as well. Fly’s ability to bring out the best in his players was well known, and he carried with him the experience that EG required.
These pickups also served another important purpose, as EG’s roles would be returning to normal. Suma1L would be going back mid, a move that caused havoc for EG’s opponents in the qualifiers for The International. With the midlane returning more to the way it used to be, a pure 1v1 with very little outside interference, Suma1L has had his full talent unleashed. Very few players can match up against him in the midlane and even fewer have a chance if the matchup doesn’t favor them. Suma1L is an extremely aggressive mid player who pushes his hero to the limit in order to bully the enemy out of the lane; he can often be found farming behind the enemy’s tier 1 tower if it means he can zone them from the creep wave. While this does open him up to being ganked by enemy supports, that is extremely difficult to do in the current meta as it would mean leaving one of the sidelanes exposed.
The edge this gives EG in the laning phase on its own is monumental. As we saw during Dota Summit 9, EG would crush their lanes by splitting the attention of the opposing support players. They would need to both help their mid lane and try to stop the pressure that was being applied in the safelane and offlane by EG’s dual lane setup. The result would usually be that EG would win two lanes while coming out even in the third. Even if one of EG’s cores was being caught by enemy rotations, the time the other two had to find farm was worth it and they would slowly pull ahead despite being down in kills.
The DPC season brought with it many ups and downs for EG, but the way they’ve played after acquiring s4 and Fly brings real hope to TI8 with them. Every member of the team plays with a renewed purpose, perhaps due to the leadership style employed by Fly. Arteezy and Fly meet the challenges of playing in the safelane against dual lanes meant to disrupt farm almost perfectly, rarely letting the pressure interrupt Arteezy and even netting him kills which increase his net worth instead. It’s a testament to both of their skills that they have been so quick to match wavelengths.
On the other side of the map s4 and Cr1t have been paired together numerous times and while they have only played together for a brief time, they too show teamwork that would make you think they had played together for years. Cr1t’s Pudge, Earthshaker, and Dark Willow have all had their impact felt in recent weeks. Key hooks and fissures cut off the enemy’s retreat and keep his allies safe at the same time, while his Dark Willow assassinates unsuspecting targets with nothing but a Blink Dagger. Cr1t has always been one of the stand out 4 position supports and when he is allowed to shine he may even be the best in the world, giving contention to players like GH.
Another thing working well for EG has been their drafting. Fly has brought back a little bit of his Major winning style of picks with Phoenix and Treant Protector and mixing them with current meta heroes like Necrophos and Storm Spirit to great effect. The result of Fly’s experimentation is not only a successful tournament run at The Summit, it also raises questions about how they will draft at The International, an advantage that no other team attending will have. Fly has carte blanche and that’s a terrifying prospect when you want to try to prepare to face a team as strong as EG is on paper. This isn’t to say that EG plays flawlessly, but the advantage they gain from the draft (as we saw at The Summit) is that they don’t need to.
They can react to their opponents with ease, while the opposite at the moment is not true as no one quite knows how they like to play yet. We’ve seen s4 play Magnus to empower his allies and be used as a utility core with the sole purpose being initiation and buffing Arteezy and Suma1L. In the same series that will change and he’ll be playing an aggressive push-oriented Pugna while they sacrifice Arteezy and leave Suma1L to win his lane on his own. Most importantly we’ve seen EG on the same page no matter how they decide to approach the game. This was a key component that had been missing recently and it’s easy to tell the difference just by watching them play. While everyone will be expecting Team Liquid, VP, LGD, and Team Secret to do well at TI8, EG has fallen off everyone’s radars. It’s bizarre to say but EG might be entering TI as the most underrated team.