The Dota International Semi-Finals: Pubstomp and The Big Upset

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You’ve got a little time left. Just a little, before the finals start to emerge, these thrashing, unruly beasts that could go either way, in matchups that no one could really have predicted, a week ago. The International is wide open, and last night the Semi-Finals pretty much rewrote everything I thought was going to happen in this tournament. 

And so, naturally, I headed straight for the pub before anything started. The Star of Kings, up near King’s Cross, was the host of the inaugural Pubstomp, a meeting of Dota fans cramming together in a single room in the upstairs of a London pub, with all the curtains closed and the heady musk of excited spectators hanging in the air. Dota 2 was projected on the screen, and after the Quarter Finals the day before, excitement was palpable. 

Things kicked off with the Loser’s Bracket, throwing Orange Esports against EHOME, the team which gave Na’Vi such a run for their money in last year’s final, but despite their valiant effort against LGD in the Winner’s Bracket in the Quarter Finals, Orange was unable to come away with a victory, taking home $25,000 and getting kicked out of the tournament.
Then it was Tongfu against DK, both teams playing extremely hard, but with DK getting the victory, leaving Tongfu $25,000 richer, but out of the tournament. After so many games on Friday, it was almost refreshing to be straight onto the Winner’s Bracket so quickly, and first up was LGD against Zenith.
Zenith were sublime in the Quarter Finals, with Iceiceice being particularly noteworthy, but heading up against LGD and their incredibly intimidating unbeaten streak meant that at the beginning of every match you’re going to be more than a little daunted. They went with Iceiceice on Luna, and Beastmaster, Leshrac, Tidehunter and Shadow Shaman providing support for that hardest of carries.
It was also a lot of teamfight potential, so when LGD answered with Nature’s Prophet, Morphling, Chaos Knight, Engima and Ancient Apparition, it was clear that they had no qualms meeting like for like, and with all those horribly effective AoE ultimates, it was impossible to say who had the stronger lineup.
Except LGD had the stronger game, coming out strong and only getting stronger. Despite fighting hard, Zenith were never really anything but a response team, putting out fires when Xiao’s Nature’s Prophet started pushing lanes. The game was over after 40 minutes of commanding performance from LGD, leaving Zenith just one more chance to stay in the Winner’s Bracket.
So they opened by grabbing Lycanthrope, a hero who has been almost exclusively banned so far, but has become less and less of a threat as he’s given a little more play time and shown to not be nearly as effective as everyone fears. But in the hands of Iceiceice, he could work wonders, and backed up by Slardar, Shadow Demon, Templar Assassin and Leshrac, he had a pretty solid support network aiming at keeping him alive, and even a semi-carry in TA, should he underperform.
So LGD went with Nature’s Prophet /again/, before throwing Lone Druid Sylar’s way, along with Chaos Knight, Venomancer and Lina, picking a team with a huge amount of burst damage, as well as more than a little utility and map control with Nature’s Prophet’s teleports and Venomancer’s wards.
It was another long game, and one that LGD weren’t nearly so in control of, slipping up more than once, especially when Zenith grabbed an early teamwipe against them with a wonderful teamfight down on bottom lane. But, as they always seem to be able to do, LGD brought it back, came together and pushed straight down the middle, winning later teamfights and grabbing Roshan whenever he came up. Zenith called GG and LGD moved onto the Winner’s Bracket final.
Which brings us to Na’Vi vs iG, a matchup that’s theoretically much closer, but with the way Na’Vi have been playing, and the strength of iG’s game so far, might look a little one sided. And, from the way the first match went, it looked like it was all she wrote for Na’Vi.
Sixteen minutes. That’s all it took for iG to whitewash last year’s champions, winning teamfight after teamfight without ever giving them a chance to regroup, farm, or do anything but concede. They hadn’t even really placed themselves in a winning position before Na’Vi trotted out the GGs, making it seem that the team from the Ukraine wanted to just put the game behind them and move on to the second.
Which, when they immediately gave away Naga Siren and Dark Seer to iG, brought up the question of whether they’d just given up. Two heroes with such a strong teamfight, able to neutralise and cluster enemy teams without much trouble, meant that things were looking dangerous for Na’Vi.
So they picked Rubick, and they picked Enigma, giving them a little more teamfight, but still putting them in a bad position. And then Juggernaut came out, a completely surprise pick despite the hero being very popular in China. He barely sees any play in the West, and is a mid-game carry at best. Na’Vi rounded out their picks with Shadow Shaman and Enchantress, leaving them with a surprisingly versatile team.
iG then grabbed Tidehunter, making an already scary teamfight scarier, along with Puck for mid lane, and Lina to support. Things were definitely looking in the Chinese team’s favour, and, from the beginning of the game, things went their way. They grabbed a few kills, Na’Vi replied with a few tower destructions, and everything was looking a little quiet.
And then iG smoked up, heading for a gank on bottom lane with Ravage and Siren’s song. Na’Vi looked like they were going to get wiped, only when the Ravage hit, and when the teamfight started, Rubick instantly grabbed that Ravage, turned it against iG, and Juggernaut proceeded to slice and dice the entire enemy team. What should have been a wipe in iG’s favour went the other way, leaving their entire team down and Na’Vi free to push at their leisure. It was an incredible turn around, and one that would dictate the entire game.
Once Enigma got a BKB, iG were all but done, every single teamfight starting with Siren’s Song, only for Enigma to throw down the Black Hole, Rubick to steal the Ravage and Juggernaut to do what Juggernaut does best. It was completely unbelievable to see a team that should have been /so/ strong in team engagements be completely declawed, rendered all but impotent in the face of sublime play from Dendi on Rubick, and LightofHeaveN on Enigma.
25 minutes in, the game went to Na’Vi, and iG, like against EG, looked like they were on the ropes.
Third game. Na’Vi grabs Chen, Anti-Mage, Queen of Pain, Enigma and Leshrac. iG go for Venomancer, Luna, Tinker, Dark Seer and Enchantress. They’re both playing for their place in the final, both playing to go up against LGD and maybe, just maybe, unseat then from their winning streak.
Only iG have had the wind cut from their sails. Unlike against EG, where they doubled down and came back stronger, Na’Vi didn’t have just one round in their chamber. They were firing on all cylinders, coming out with a beautiful performance from Dendi on Queen of Pain, and LightofHeaveN’s Enigma being consistently in the right place at the right time. Even with a Tinker, even with a Dark Seer, even with an Enchantress, iG couldn’t push lanes effectively, and couldn’t win teamfights when they needed to.
And, despite there not being a first blod until /thirteen minutes/ into the game, it was already too late by that point. It was the dam breaking, and Na’Vi just kept them coming, grabbing 14 before the half an hour mark, and leaving iG with just 3.
It only takes a pair of kills at the 32 minute mark to open the door, and Na’Vi rush through it, heading straight down the middle before grabbing a heavy double kill with Black Hole, leaving iG with nothing to do but GG up and hope they can make it through the Loser’s Bracket.
So it’ll be Na’Vi vs LGD in the Winner’s Bracket finals. And that’s where they’ll be pushed just about as hard as they could ever be.