Second only to LGD in terms of the sheer strength of their lineup and their performance so far, Invictus Gaming came out of Group B with a single loss to their name, and thirteen lovely wins. Evil Geniuses, on the other hand, weren’t quite so indomitable, instead emerging out of Group A with a respectable eight wins to six losses.
But they came up against one another in the third quarter final of the International. You can watch it here, or dive below the jump for our very own words.
It’s difficult not to feel like EG had an uphill struggle here. Just like Orange before them, going up against a team that looks so unbelievably strong, with so few perceptible weaknesses, must do a little to sap your confidence. But they had the home crowd advantage against the Chinese team, which must count for something.
The first game opened with Invictus picking Morphling, Tidehunter, Venomancer, Templar Assassin and somehow being allowed to come out with a Dark Seer. He’s been almost unanimously banned for the entire tournament, so the move by EG to leave him free was a bold one, to say the least.
For their part, EG grabbed Chen, Invoker, Lone Druid, Leshrac and Keeper of the Light, a team that’s typical of the Western metagame in being extremely push heavy, looking to the likes of Leshrac and Lone Druid to utterly decimate towers while KotL can wipe out creep waves with a single illuminate.
From the off, the game looked to be in iG’s favour, with the Templar Assassin on Zhao performing incredibly well, going up against Invoker and just dominating with lovely splash damage from her Psi-Blades. She was getting kills without support, all the while Dark Seer and Venomancer grabbed a few up top. EG didn’t exactly go down easy, but it was fairly clear from the off that iG were in charge, commanding a sizable gold and experience advantage and eventually pushing down towers, to which EG had no real answer.
So onto game two then. The game that decides whether EG gets thrown into the Loser’s Bracket or gets one last chance to wipe out China’s second strongest team.
So they grabbed Enigma. They grabbed Rubick. They grabbed Tidehunter, Morphling and Crystal Maiden, giving them frankly a scary amount of crowd control in team fights, something that they were struggling with in the previous game.
iG went with Leshrac, Lone Druid, Invoker, Bounty Hunter and Sand King, grabbing a few of the heroes that really didn’t do all that much for EG. It was a bit of an atypical lineup for a Chinese team, with only the Lone Druid serving as a hard carry, something that they seem to favour heavily.
Only it didn’t matter. Not only was the game over in twenty minutes, it was completely beautiful to watch. An utterly dominating performance, leaving their opponents with nothing to do but stand back, a little shellshocked. Only it was iG that were the shellshocked ones. EG somehow managed to find every single gap that they couldn’t before, leading to a performance that you wouldn’t be able to recognise as the teams that fought the previous game.
Enigma’s Black Holes were the punctuation marks in every teamfight, forcing iG into disarray to either avoid them, or getting caught out and neutralised by them. And if that was the case, Tidehunter’s Ravage was the exclamation point that opened every one, ruining big chunks of HP and utterly neutering any attempt iG made to have a comeback.
Which means there was a third game. iG, looking so ridiculously strong, were now on the backfoot, trying to figure out just what the hell had just happened. The first order of business was to remove EG the opportunity to repeat the same lineup, so they banned Enigma and picked Tidehunter, along with Rubick, Luna, Night Stalker and Venomancer.
EG responded with Crystal Maiden, Invoker, Bounty Hunter, Morphling and Leshrac, and they came out of the gates with Leshrac and Crystal Maiden smoking up, heading to bottom lane and promptly ganking Venomancer within 45 seconds. It was incredibly bold, and a statement of intent; EG weren’t going to just sit back and let iG regain their poise. They were going to take the fight to them and make sure that if they won, they’d come away from it bloodied.
And, for the next ten minutes, that was the case. Every time iG tried anything EG were there with a response, grabbing a kill and leaving iG with an empty hand. It was incredible to watch, the kind of completely concerted effort that you rarely see in the Western game. They were moving as one, entirely focused, and iG were struggling to handle this new, tempered team.
And it took them about fifteen minutes to figure it out. Zhao on Luna was consistently farming well above anything reasonable, grabbing last hits like a machine. Fear on Morphling was almost keeping pace, but just about falling behing, and when Luna is one of the hardest carries in the game, the longer you leave her to farm the more dangerous she’s going to become. And as the game slipped into the twenty minute mark, iG found their stride.
The Ravages from Tide Hunter ruled the teamfights, with Ferrari’s Night Stalker finding every single kill he wanted, tearing up EG’s kill lead until the team’s were neck and neck. Only iG was pushing towers, and the gold differential was starting to pull away, if only slightly.
Then iG got Roshan, and the game started to turn. The Aegis on Luna meant they could rush into a teamfight with impunity, focusing down Fear’s Morphling before mopping up the rest. EG didn’t have the damage to match them, and ended up having to retreat more than they could fight. But they were losing towers, and waiting for iG to make a mistake was praying for rain in the Savannah; they were slowly expiring.
So they decided to take initiative, smoking up their entire team and heading for bottom lane just as Roshan was about to respawn. They knew iG would be going for that kill again, and if they could come out on top of a teamfight, they could wipe out the towers they needed, maybe take out a Barracks, both pushing the lane permanently and depriving Luna of some farm.
Only iG had the gems they needed to spot the gank before it came, and a prompt Ravage ruined EG’s chances of coming back, all but wiping the team, with only Morphling Wave Forming out of there to limp back to base. It was the pivot of the game, the one moment where EG might have been able to turn the tide, and after that they just put up a lacklustre defense before calling GG.
So iG will head on to meet the winner’s of Na’Vi vs DK, while EG will head down into the Loser’s Bracket after putting up an effort that no one could have predicted. Almost everyone assumed a whitewash, and to not give them one was impressive in its own right.