This is the last chance pro teams have to secure a spot at The International, the biggest esports event of them all.
The final Major of the year is also the most important. This is the last chance pro teams have to secure a spot at The International, the biggest esports event of them all. Epicenter has all of the best teams in Dota 2 competing for their share of $1,000,000 and 15,000 Dota Pro Circuit points.
Epicenter’s first phase is over after 93 games in the two-day group stage. This isn’t The International, so the last place teams aren’t out already. Everyone is moving on to a seeded double-elimination bracket. Many of the teams that topped the charts aren’t who you’d expect either. There are quite a few storylines going on in Moscow, and many will end at the EPICENTER Major.
The main event starts today and continues on to the 30th, meaning almost a full week of competitive Dota. There will be plenty of games to bet on and lots of cool matchups you won’t find anywhere else. Let’s look at each individual group and see who triumphed.
The European juggernauts cannot be stopped. They were incredibly dominant throughout 7.21 and their momentum hasn’t been slowed a bit. There are only a few teams that can beat Secret, and many of them are either in the lower bracket or on the opposite side. Their perfect record in the group stage is a good omen. If you placed an outright on Secret, you should be very happy.
Royal Never Give Up doesn’t have as much experience on this patch, but that hasn’t stopped them from excelling in the group stage. They took down Fnatic in three games and paiN in just two. They lost pretty quickly to Team Secret though. This has been a great year for Chinese Dota with Keen and Vici seeing success. RNGU might get added to that list in Moscow.
The group stage was Fnatic’s first taste of 7.22 in a tournament, and their inexperience showed. I fully expected them to trail Secret into the upper bracket, but they lost to Royal Never Give Up twice. That’s not a very convincing performance. Iceiceice is still one of the strongest offlaners in the world, but the rise of carries has made his skills a little less valuable.
The current paiN roster has an interesting backstory; Chaos Esports Club bought their old team, then lost to an unsponsored stack called Butterfly Effec. Thus, paiN signed Butterfly Effec. That’s so far been the highlight of their competitive showings. They took a game off Fnatic, but just looked outclassed by RNGU and Secret.
I laughed seeing their record on 7.21, but seeing their group stage performance reminded me that Liquid is still a top tier team. Their two lost games were to Evil Geniuses and, surprisingly, Gambit. The loss of Matumbaman didn’t slow the team down much. w33 has a history with Miracle- and is a close friend of GH, so the transfer period didn’t last long. I’d like to see more than just his Windranger, though.
Gambit clawed their way through the qualifiers just like Virtus.pro, and they’re doing just as well as their bigger brothers. Gambit is another lineup that has stayed together for a while and they’re starting to see success. A lot of the team’s success comes from fng, the team’s Belarusian captain. The team has adapted to the meta very quickly and fng has found success in 7.22.
I had very high expectation for Evil Geniuses coming into EPICENTER. They’re the only team that can push Team Secret to the brink consistently since Virtus.pro has fallen off. Their group stage performance seems like almost a different team. Their match against Team Liquid started off strong, but they lost to a reverse 2-0 with a humiliating third game. The Americans are known for inconsistency, so hopefully they hit their peaks in the bracket.
There isn’t really much to say about Infamous. They got thrown into a very tough group and were punching above their weight class. Gambit snuck through to the upper bracket due to EG’s unpredictability, but Infamous will have no such luck. I’d like to see more of Black’s carry play, so let’s hope they can keep the lower bracket run alive.
Vici Gaming is the black sheep of China. While TI8 runner-up PSG.LGD and SumaiL-slaying Keen Gaming stole the spotlight throughout this season, Vici Gaming won DreamLeague Season 11 and qualified for The International in the blink of an eye. Their performance here at Epicenter proves it wasn’t a fluke. I look forward to their matches against their Chinese brethren. Vici still has some sibling rivalry to settle.
The juggernauts from the great white north aren’t what they used to be. Not too long ago, they were the only team that could stand up to Secret. However, the meta has shifted away from them. They rely heavily on RAMZES666 and No0ne, but carries are weaker than they’ve ever been. They still performed well, but this is was the easiest group in the tournament.
Alliance is known for their raucous fanbase, but many of them fell in love with the s4-led TI3 champions. Now, Alliance is a plucky gang of Scandinavians (and qojqva!) who refuse to kick players. It looks like both miCKe and the aforementioned German are here to stay, but the team had better performance with their old stand-in. They’ve stayed together for a long time, but maybe Madara is meant for the team.
The game I looked forward to most in this group was Forward Gaming vs Alliance. However, Forward lost so fast that the match never got to happen. They fell swiftly to Virtus.pro, but then took a game off Vici Gaming for a Russian souvenir. I still think this team has incredible peaks with many good players, but they just couldn’t hit the ground running at EPICENTER.
TNC Predator is an easy team to forget about, but they have a habit of catching top teams by surprise. Many fans of TNC first cheered for them at TI6. The Phillipino team wrangled favorites OG out of the lower bracket in one of the biggest Dota 2 upsets in history. Only Kuku remains from that old stack, but that same spirit went with TNC to Moscow.
The Kings of China were supposed to win this group stage handily, but they looked very shaky during their matches. They were upset by Ninjas in Pyjamas in the very first round and narrowly escaped losing to them again. I’ve long held LGD in the top six teams, but they’ve looked more and more fallible as we get closer to TI. Maybe NiP just has their number, maybe it was dumb luck, but it was definitely unexpected.
Ninjas in Pyjamas had a roaring start at Epicenter, taking down one of the favorites in their very first series. That momentum didn’t last very long though. They lost to TNC Predator 2-0 and couldn’t make lightning strike twice, falling to the lower bracket in a heartbreaking 1-2 series with PSG.LGD. ppd isn’t a captain to give up early, so I still expect a good run in loser’s.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Ana returning early this year made me think OG was going to return to form in time for The International, but that doesn’t look assured anymore. I’m sure PSG.LGD got a kick out of destroying them in two games. NoTail and the lads don’t have long until TI9 qualifiers, and there’s no way they’re securing an invite in Russia.
There have been tons of upsets in just the group stage of this tournament, with some surprise squads appearing in the upper bracket. TNC Predator and Gambit are my two teams to watch. The former is difficult to prepare for and the latter has home-field advantage. They’ve proven they can beat top tier teams, so my eyes will be on them.
As for the tournament’s eventual victor, Team Secret is looking unstoppable. Team Liquid doesn’t trail too far behind either. The other group winners, Vici and TNC, don’t quite have the experience of Secret or Liquid. It’s close, but Secret will have to be my choice. They were the only team to not drop a single game, and upset protection will be valuable in the main event.