Image by Dota2ti on Instagram
Three North American teams in top8 is an achievement for the region and a testament to all the hard work and talent that went into making the region so competitive. But today... Today all three would be tested against some of the most decorated teams and players in the history of Dota.
Optic Gaming won a single game against Virtus.Pro during the whole season—odds were definitely not in their favor, but they were confident in their game. Letting Io+Gyrocopter through in the first game could be considered a sign of this confidence from the North American squad and this confidence payed off big time during the laning stage. Surprise Huskar pick for CCnC absolutely destroyed No[o]ne's Dragon Knight, forcing him to jungle very early into the game. He never really came online and with VP playing 4vs5, Optic Gaming had a firm grip on the game and took the first lane of barracks 30 minutes into the game. Two minutes later they forced a shameful GG from the CIS powerhouse and doubled their amount of victories against them this season.
Bloodseeker and Broodmother from Virtus.Pro and an Alchemist+Drow Ranger strategy from Optic Gaming. With a one game advantage, PPD decided to try and beat Virtus.Pro playing their signature heroes. Turns out Drow Ranger can actually lose on the main stage, when she is not paired with any other right-clicking ranged cores. By no means was it a clean game from Virtus.Pro and Optic fought back time and time again, but in the end the more conventional and thought through draft prevailed.
In game three we finally saw Virtus.Pro we got used to throughout the season. They were fast, aggressive and yet, calculated. CCnC Lina had a great start in the midlane, but with other lanes suffering, Virtus.Pro were able to free up their extremely mobile supports and leverage this advantage into map control, constant kills and a steadily growing economic advantage. 25 minutes into the game VP won, after a series of unsuccessful buybacks from Optic Gaming.
One of the biggest surprises of The International 2018 going against veterans of Dota—this match might have not been hyped up as much, but both these teams made it into top8 and showed some beautiful Dota.
Game 1 started with a first phase Drow Ranger ban from Puppey, respecting the most successful strategy of VGJ.Storm in the tournament so far. They also managed to sneak in a last pick Meepo. Both Secret's Meepo and Storm's TA struggled in the very early game, but MidOne's Clinkz smartly rotated from lane to lane, making TA's game harder and making Meepo's game a lot easier. Secret played fast and precise Dota and VGJ.Storm didn't get a mistake from their opponents they direly needed to even start playing.
Medusa vs. Terrorblade was the headline for the second game with both teams going extra greedy in their last picks. Game would be very reminiscent of yesterday's game 3 of EG vs. OG series, if it wasn't for these massive hard carries on both sides. Team Secret took an early lead, but VGJ.Storm staged a comeback in the midgame and gained a massive advantage that looked insurmountable. Team Secret held highground, fought tooth and nail, but weren't gaining momentum and if it wasn't for a single support pickoff on the enemy Dark Willow, they would never be able to get back into the game. This single pickoff on a support allowed them to get third Roshan and take a single good teamfight, exhausting all their resources, but finally recovering economically. With Net Worth dead even between two teams it came down to execution and Team Secret managed to get the upper hand through patience and experience.
The last hope of NA Dota vs. the last hope of the CIS. Not long ago Virtus.Pro would be considered a clear favorite in this matchup, but recent trends have shown that EG are not to be trifled with. That said, Virtus.Pro came into the series after a hard, but certainly morale boosting victory against Optic, while EG were just defeated by a team no one expected them to lose to.
Game 1 we saw a Sumail Storm Spirit, who was the main hero for the NA lineup. They had a superior laning stage and impeccably dodged all attempts from Virtus.Pro to teamfight. This allowed them to find occasional pick-offs with their mobility and gain economic advantage, while farming up their Storm Spirit. And we know what happens when Sumail's Storm Spirit has a good game. EG took an early lead in the series.
In the last game for the CIS squad we saw glimpses of their former glory, with early aggression, good support rotations and strong laning presence. That wasn't enough to prevent Sumail from once again lifting off on his Alchemist. Coupled with two failed early game teamfights, Solo and his squad lost all chances of winning the game and going to game three, despite holding their highground for more than 40 minutes.
EG will advance in the lower bracket and will play the winner of Team Liquid and Team Secret series. The last hope of the CIS is out, NA moves on.