StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3
StarLadder will be the first Minor in the ever growing list of tournaments this season. Teams will not only be playing for $300,000, but also for additional points that are awarded to the top 4 teams which will lead to direct invites to TI8 at the end of the season. Team Liquid received a direct invite to StarLadder and have won the last four tournaments they have attended. It started back in May with StarLadder and culminated in The International. While Liquid has not played an official match since TI7, the players have not been resting on their laurels. MinD_ContRoL in particular has been fiending a professional ladder league called FPL along with other members of the team.
The Chinese qualifier was home to one of the biggest upsets where Vici Gaming went through the entire lower bracket, defeating IG, EHOME, and the 3rd and 4th place finishers at TI7, LGD and LFY, to secure their place at StarLadder. Vici Gaming’s new team consists of the pubstar Paparazi, newcomer Ori, former LGD offlaner eLeVeN, legendary captain LaNm, and one of the best known supports in China, Fenrir.
In the SEA qualifier we saw the debut of Fnatic, Eternal Envy’s new team which consists of himself, Xcalibur, Ohaiyo, DJ, and Pieliedie. While they did not find much success, losing to Fire Dragoon and WG.Unity, they showed great tenacity as they took most of their matches to around 40 minutes no matter how poorly the early game went. With how different Xcalibur, Ohaiyo, and DJ’s last teams were it’s no surprise the team needs some time to adjust to its new lineup—but the talent on the team is quite evident. It will only be a matter of time before we see Fnatic qualify for some events out of the SEA region.
PGL Open Bucharest
The Second Minor in the circuit will be the PGL Open held in Bucharest. This event will be slightly different from most in that there will be no live audience. Just like the first Minor StarLadder, there are two direct invites and six teams that had to make it through the grueling qualifiers to earn their spot at the Minor. North American powerhouse Evil Geniuses were the first team to be invited with LGD being the other invited team. There was a bit of controversy during the SEA qualifiers as Fnatic was eliminated by time rating after tieing with HappyFeet and Mineski in their group 2-1. After the ruling that Fnatic would be eliminated due to time rating, PGL then states that they would not enforce this rule for the remaining regional qualifiers—making Fnatic the only team that would be eliminated in such a manner. However most people’s focus were on the invites and the upsets happening in other qualifiers.
Fear’s comeback from being the coach of EG to captain and support player was one of the most eagerly anticipated moves in North American Dota 2. When Fear stepped down from being an active player for Evil Geniuses roster due to health concerns, PPD, his former teammate and captain, had very high praise for him stating, “Fear is hands down the best Dota player I’ve ever had the privilege to play with. Whenever people would ask about our team’s dynamic, I always described him as the co-captain. I could always count on [Fear] to make a collected yet decisive decision.” The synergy that Fear has with the rest of the star-studded lineup of EG is evident in their games. If you add Sumail, Universe, and Cr1t to the equation you get arguably the most consistently performing team Dota 2 has ever seen.
In the qualifiers we once again saw Na`Vi claim the coveted spot in the CIS region while in China we saw another upset occur, this time from Vici Gaming’s sister team VGJ.Thunder. VG.J Thunder marks the return of Sylar and brings a monumental power shift in the Chinese Dota 2 scene. Vici Gaming, the winner of StarLadder’s CN qualifier was also present but fell to Invictus Gaming, claiming 4th place, which shows how competitive and deadly not receiving an invite can be.
ESL One Hamburg
The first Major of the season boasts a one-million-dollar prize pool and 1500 points (750 for first place). That’s 5 times more compared to the 300 points available at the first two Minors. Team Liquid received a direct invite to the event, a benefit of being the reigning champions. Newbee also benefited from their performance for most of the last season by receiving the second invite. Joining these two juggernauts will be Virtus Pro, Team Secret, Evil Geniuses, Keen Gaming, HappyFeet, and SG e-sports.
In China both Vici Gaming and VGJ.Thunder made it to the quarterfinals but lost to LGD and LFY respectively. In SEA, Fnatic had a tough first match against Mineski, one of the favourites in the region after the roster shuffle with Mushi and Iceiceice teaming back up together. However against most expectations Fnatic came out on top and 2-0’d Mineski, once again showing the potential the fledgling team has. Fnatic was eliminated by Clutch Gamers 2-1 in the semi-finals but every time Fnatic plays you can see the improvements that are being made.
In North America Evil Geniuses faced off against VGJ.Storm in the finals. VGJ.Storm is the North American squad of VG and consists of some very old names in the NA scene. VGJ.Storm took down Digital Chaos 2-1 in the semi-finals to get their match against EG while EG had to beat the Korean team Immortals, and then Complexity in the semi-finals, to reach the finals. EG proved they were still the team to beat in North America as they went on to 3-0 VGJ.Storm and secure their spot at the Major.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
The ELEAGUE Premier tournament began in earnest last month, with the group stage of the competition wrapping up by the end of September. The pre-playoff groups have already given us a lot of great games, and the intense competition has resulted in some of the best teams in Counter-Strike dropping out early.
In Group A, Faze cruised into the playoffs with wins over RNG and Na`Vi. The three teams left fought in a free-for-all, yet G2 prevailed in a bloodbath, sending them into the bracket stages. One week later, Group B provided as many thrills! North took the MVP trophy on Day 1 by coming out of the storm by the slightest inch, culminating in a thrilling 22-20 overtime victory against Immortals. Fnatic didn't waste much time on the second day's Bo3 matches, winning out 2-1 over Mouz, and 2-0 over Immortals.
Just as expected, Group C’s matches offered the explosive play we have all come to expect out of Virtus.pro, EnVyUs and Cloud 9, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Cloud 9 wreaked mass chaos on Day 1, winning out 16-6 over NiP and 16-2 against EnVy—score lines only the biggest C9 fans could have predicted. In the final match of the group, NiP went up 1-0 on Cobble against EnVy, only to struggle in the next two maps. EnVy grasped Cache and Nuke with both hands to earn a challenging comeback for their ticket into the playoffs.
Saving the best for last, Group D was arguably the group of death. Astralis sprinted out of Day 1 with 16-11 and 16-2 victories over Team Liquid and Heroic, respectively. On Day 2, fans witnessed a show as all 6 maps were played to decide the last team to advance. SK prevailed 2-1 against Team Liquid after the latter had dominated map 1, in order to take their place versus Heroic in a do-or-die Best of Three. Heroic capitulated on Overpass to fall 0-1, but they fortunately found their stride in maps 2 and 3. The two wins they needed turned out to be a breeze, and they sent the Brazilians home to earn a spot in the Top-16.
Heroes of the Storm
With BlizzCon fast approaching and invites to the HGC Grand Finals nearly decided, the European branch of the HGC had their final qualifying bracket in order to decide the European Playoff Seed. Team Liquid entered the gauntlet in the Round of 4, and unfortunately that is where their journey would end abruptly. Against Wish Esports, who had earned their chance through the Crucible, Team Liquid skipped to the lead after Game 1 on Towers of Doom, only to surrender two straight games and match point. Though the Liquid boys struck one back to force a deciding Game 5, Wish closed things out on Infernal shrines to advance.
In the end, it was Team Expert that earned a golden ticket, completing the field for the HGC Grand Finals which starts on October 26th, 2017.
League of Legends
The grand spectacle of the League of Legends World Championships is in full swing, with 12 teams already seeded into the main event. This past week, the play-in rounds for the Top-16 were concluded with very few surprises: Cloud 9, Fnatic, 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports and Team WE all advanced with only 3 map losses between them. Fnatic cruised through the first play-in round despite the blemish of a loss—though it did come in a meaningless final game after they had already earned top seed. Rekkles and his crew brushed off that minor slip in the second play-in round by wiping Hong Kong Attitude off the board 3-0 in just under 100 minutes. Caps and Rekkles combined for 34 kills and just 6 deaths, and Cap rightfully earned MVP honors for the series.