Dota Pit League
Vici Gaming pulled off yet another incredible string of performances in the qualifiers for Dota Pit League which will take place in Split, Croatia in early November. VG won 7 straight games in order to qualify; they took down LGD Forever Young, Invictus Gaming, and LGD in convincing fashion. Vici Gaming has made a name for themselves as one of the teams to beat in China this season on the current patch and shows little signs of slowing down. Their path to qualification started with two interesting strategies revolving around Drow Ranger. LaNm realized in both games that LGD Forever Young were heavily dependant on long cooldown ultimates and drafted survivable heroes along with the Drow Ranger. After LFY’s ultimates were committed, Vici Gaming’s sustained team fight damage was amplified by the Drow Ranger which was more than enough to secure them the victory.
The next match against IG once again featured LaNm’s brilliance during drafting as IG went for heavy teamfight with a Monkey King, Magnus, Batrider, and Bloodseeker. LaNm responded with Faceless Void and Razor, two heroes that could be considered “anti-carries” that dealt with IG’s cores quite well. With Vici Gaming able to cut through the strength of IG’s heroes in both games they found themselves in the finals against LGD. An incredible performance by Paparazi’s Anti-Mage and Ori’s Storm Spirit in game 2 put them on match point after two hard-fought games. It was at this point that VG’s incredible depth of skill was once again displayed. Fenrir’s Lich was able to give a surprise offlane Death Prophet the space needed to take over the last game of the series as Vici Gaming took a 3-0 win over LGD.
Perfect World Masters
Vici Gaming maintained their spotlight as they also made their way through the Perfect World Masters qualifier, albeit taking a slightly different path. In contrast to their clean run through Dota Pit’s qualifiers, they were knocked into the lower bracket in the first round of the Perfect World Masters. This put them at risk of elimination every step of the way including a deadly Best-of-1 in the first round. The members of Vici Gaming rose to the challenge as they comfortably won their Bo1 and went on to 2-0 IG before facing VGJ.Thunder in their closest series of the lower bracket. Lanm and Ori used the classic combination of Invoker and Nyx Assassin, respectively, in the first game of the series to put them up a game. VGJ.Thunder answered back in game two, but only one Monster team would survive and VGJ.Thunder’s run would be put to an end after Vici Gaming came out on top in game three. Vici Gaming then went on to 2-0 Eclipse in the final match to secure a spot in the Perfect World Masters.
With half the season already done and dusted, the season’s hierarchy is beginning to take shape. While many of the established elite continue to dominate the standings, we have had quite a number of surprises in both regions of ProLeague.
Without a doubt, the most impressive first half of the season belongs to Misfits, who sit 3rd in the standings in North America just behind OpTic Gaming and SK Gaming. They split their series against the top 2 teams in the league while earning a clean 2-0 against LG. The Brazilian squad sit in 4th place behind them, though they do posses two losses more than Team Liquid, the 5th place team.
America’s great hope have a tidy 10-6 record, but their position in the league is far from secure. Map losses against Ghost and compLexity—both in the bottom 3—were unbecoming of a team that had earned silver medals at ESG Mykonos and ESL One New York. After receiving widespread praise for their play on Inferno, a dropped map against NRG was surprising to say the least. Liquid will have to find a way to close out their series and avoid more ties if they are to stay ahead of the pack. With games against Cloud 9, Misfits and Immortals still on their schedule, America’s team will have their mettle tested once again.
On the European side of ESL Pro League, it is difficult to overlook Fnatic’s great start to the season. They now sit at the top of the rankings with a 14-6 scoreline. Despite the recent changes — olofmeister and dennis have left, replaced by Golden and Lekr0 — they took the league by storm in the first weeks, showing little need for an adjustment period. The squad easily dispatched most of their opponents and only occasionally struggled to gain footholds on maps. They still have a couple of tough opponents to face, but their win against Astralis showed that they have the firepower to overcome anyone. All in all, their playoff spot should already be a lock.
In the bottom half of the EU division, it is starting to get worrying for a few teams that have been a staple of the league. G2 have been surprisingly underperforming, though they showed last season that a miracle run in the second half can still propel them up the charts. One of their key losses was against our own Team EnVyUs which, despite their timid form, have been able to take home both maps against their compatriots. The French squad will have to close out more maps in order to earn a spot at the LAN finals, as they have only managed to 2-0 one other team, HellRaisers, so far this season. Just two wins separate them from 6th place, but they must beat Heroic, BIG, NiP, and Astralis in order to climb back up the charts.
The Big House 7
The seventh installment of the Michigan tournament series, The Big House, offered some of the most exciting moments Melee has ever seen. Just last week, Smash fans were treated to an epic 10 game grand finals set between Adam “Armada” Lindgren and Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma at GTX. GTX offered a 30,000 dollar prize pool, one of the largest in Melee history, and was held in the Vivint Smart Home Arena, home of the NBA's Utah Jazz. It would take quite a spectacle to top GTX, but the community knew they were in for quite a treat come Big House weekend.
Day one featured an exhibition of the best regions in the world in a format known as “crew battles”, which would inevitably come down to Team Florida, led by Hbox, and Armada’s Team Europe. The captains, who were the favorites to take the entire tournament, showed no signs of letting up despite the competition being a side event. The two crews destroyed their competition, and if this was any indicator of what we’d see in singles, a repeat of the GTX grand finals seemed inevitable.
After Hbox’s Team Florida narrowly closed out the crews format, the more serious doubles tournament played out on day two. Armada, alongside brother and teammate Android, were able to trounce Team CLG 3-1 in the grand finals. This marked their fourth straight tournament win as a team, and silenced any doubt that they are the best team in the world. Team Liquid, comprised of Hungrybox and Chudat, placed an admirable fourth.
The final day of the tournament featured the highlight of the event: the top 8 of Melee singles. Due to two big upsets in the winners semifinals, Armada and Hbox, participants in the Grand Finals a week before, had to play for their tournament lives in losers.
After taking down Joseph “Mang0” Marquez and Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman respectively, Armada and Hbox moved on to play a back and forth five game set to advance to the Losers Finals. Once again, Hungrybox emerged victorious. Armada was therefore relegated to fourth, his lowest tournament placing in almost three years, a testament to the most consistent player to ever touch a controller. Hungrybox rode the momentum of his losers run to beat TSM’s William “Leffen” Hjelte 3-2, and Panda Global’s Justin “Plup” McGrath in two 3-1 grand finals sets. Two weeks, two titles for the world’s greatest Puff.
Check out the grand finals below.