Team Liquid opened the group stage with a scary game loss to Keen Gaming. This was especially worrisome because of how quickly Liquid fell out of the previous Major. They weren’t about to let it happen twice though and won four straight games against Keen to make it through to the upper bracket. Barring their loss to VP in the winner’s match, Liquid looked stronger in every game they played, eventually taking down keen in only 23 minutes in their final game of groups. In Group C, PSG.LGD had a similar, but smoother, experience. They placed second in their group following a 4-0 game score over Mineski and a 0-2 winner’s match loss to rival Vici Gaming. Last, but certainly not least are the Evil Geniuses. They breezed through Group D, easily dispatching coL and OG for a perfect 4-0 game record. It was great to see Arteezy on-form again, he averaged 12.5 kills per game and only died twice in four games!
The good news going into the playoffs was that three of our championship-caliber teams were in the upper bracket. The bad news was that we had a guaranteed teamkill lined up in Evil Geniuses vs. Team Liquid. It ended up being a close series with Liquid winning the first game before EG brought it back in the next two. The last game of the series between these two teams began rather strangely, with Team Liquid attempting to gank the mid tier 1 tower. Not a hero at the tower… the tower itself.
All of the games were relatively one-sided, showing off how important the draft is when both teams have such high-caliber players. While Liquid may have fallen to the lower bracket, at least another member of the Monster family was able to move on to the upper bracket semifinals. Elsewhere in the upper bracket we saw PSG.LGD matched up against Team Secret. While this clash of titans eventually went the way of Secret, it was not without a fight. PSG.LGD lost in 3 games, with their one win coming off the back of Maybe’s heroic effort on his iconic Storm Spirit. This would be one of Team Secret’s only 3 losses during the entire event with the other two coming from EG and Team Liquid.
Team Liquid and PSG.LGD’s first lower bracket matches went about as you’d expect, with them facing off against Pain Gaming and Complexity, respectively. Liquid and PSG.LGD were both obviously in another class entirely from their competitors, this skill gap led to straightforward 2-0’s for both matches. In the next round, though, they would find real tests. PSG.LGD found themselves matched up against the Major Powerhouse, Virtus.Pro, while Team Liquid drew the current Major champions, Vici Gaming. PSG.LGD’s match against Virtus.Pro was a tour de force. Maybe & co. knocked Virtus.Pro out of the tournament without losing a game, a feat that few teams could lay claim to. Meanwhile, Team Liquid’s skills were pushed to the limit against Vici Gaming. Liquid scraped by with a 2-1 scoreline, going from being dominated in game 1 to barely winning game 2 to dominating Vici in game 3. The relief was visible on the face of each Liquid player after such a series. Liquid’s performance this season had become a question mark for their critics and this match went a long way towards reestablishing their status at the top of the Dota circuit.
Returning to the upper bracket, we saw Evil Geniuses triumph over PPD’s Ninjas in Pyjamas for a spot in the upper bracket finals. Despite strong drafts from PPD in this series, sometimes the skill gap between two teams is too much to overcome. EG outplayed NiP in two of the three games, on both an individual level and in terms of team coordination. This was EG’s best performance of the year thus far, as normally they would make a long run through the lower bracket to top 3 — but not this time. In Paris, they found themselves in the winner’s bracket finals against Team Secret, which proved to be one of the best matches of the tournament. This was a wild series, with Secret pulling out a Meepo strat for MidOne, a player with a record of 0 competitive matches as Meepo. Unfortunately, despite an incredibly close game 3, EG were knocked down to the lower bracket finals.
The second to last day of the tournament was a long one. PSG.LGD were set up against NiP and Team Liquid found themselves facing OG, with the winners of each series playing against each other at the end of the day. While PSG.LGD are certainly the better team on paper, NiP and captain PPD are never to be underestimated. We saw this in full force when in game 1, NiP pulled out a Meepo strat, much like Team Secret did against EG. While NiP were able to steal the first game away with the Meepo pick, PSG.LGD proved to be the superior team as they easily won the next two games while preventing any sort of cheese from NiP. Once it became clear that NiP needed these pocket strats to win, PSG.LGD’s path forward became clear. Team Liquid’s match, on the other hand, involved no such shenanigans. Rather, Liquid continued to follow their formula of “Lose game 1, then win the series.” By game 3, it seemed that Liquid had figured out OG as we saw a complete dismantling of the current TI Champions (Miracle’s 23-1 K/D headlined a 46-9 score).
Sadly, we reached the point that we often do in tournaments, where there are mostly Monster Energy teams left, and they’re forced to knock each other out. PSG.LGD and Liquid played an amazing series against each other, with Liquid narrowly edging out victory. While PSG.LGD were looking for more than 4th place, this was a pleasant return to form for China’s best team. Liquid had apparently come a long way since their 1-2 loss to EG in the upper bracket and took the next series in two quick games. Unfortunately for Arteezy and the rest of his squad, EG’s string of 3rd place finishes continue, but given their amazing consistency it is only a matter of time before they lift a Major trophy.
The Grand Final saw one of the classic matchups of Dota: longtime friends, teammates, and rivals, Puppey and Kuroky would be leading their teams into the toughest match of the tournament. Liquid took an early lead in the series with an incredibly dominant performance in game 1. This wasn’t just any kind of dominant, this was “Miracle- got a quadruple Rampage” levels of dominance. Sadly, that didn’t carry through the rest of the games and Secret ended up taking the series 3-1. Still, this tournament was a great success for Liquid. It finally felt like they got their groove back after all the issues they’ve had this year and they earned enough points to secure their invite to TI. With the curtain closing to the MDL Major we now have four teams that have secured their invite to TI9 and still one Major to go.