Team Secret took home the title, but who are the real winners and losers here?
The DreamLeague Leipzig Major has concluded, with Team Secret wasting no time in reclaiming their throne after their decision to skip the first Major.
Being the first Dota Major played on the Outlanders patch, there was certainly some whacky stuff as teams were still experimenting and figuring out how best to maximize their resources. It’s made for some truly entertaining games though, and the entire DreamLeague has been one of the most tightly-contested events. There were highs, there were lows, and here are the biggest ones.
Fnatic vs. Secret series
The upper bracket series between Fnatic and Secret was some of the best Dota of the tournament. The three-game series had everything, from tense Divine Rapier standoffs to some truly innovative plays executed by some of the best players in the world.
The first game showed the importance of itemizing and making plays to win, rather than not to lose. While Fnatic was on the backfoot the whole game thanks to MichaÅ "Nisha" Jankowski’s terrifying Morphling, the Southeast Asians didn’t just roll over and take it. Rather, they incessantly eked out whatever advantage they could, itemizing to take down the unkillable Nisha. They had confidence that they only had to do it once to swing the game fully in their favor, and to that end, held nothing back. It made for one of the most exciting cat and mouse battles during the tournament, and this time round, it was the mice hunting the cat.
The second game was filled with playmakers simply exhibiting their abilities to the fullest. While Nisha’s Morphling was a fantastic display of laning dominance and how to take over a map on your lonesome, Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon’s Morphling was a masterclass in spellcasting.
With Morphling’s ultimate, 23savage put on a mesmerizing showcase, using spells from friends and foes to hold Fnatic’s base against Secret’s assault. What looked like a surefire push with an Aegis of the Immortal quickly turned sour for Secret as 23savage pushed the boundaries on his mechanically intensive hero along with some welcome help from his allies.
In the end, for all of Fnatic’s plays, it was Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat that secured the game for Secret with a humongous Echo Slam and Ancient Apparition’s Ice Blast.
The third game was a clinic by Secret, demonstrating how to suffocate opponents from the map’s resources and demanding a constant, 100 percent effort from their enemies to keep up with them or suffer. Even then, Fnatic refused to give up, and Nisha stepped up to provide a game-winning play of his own.
While it’s clear that Secret improved throughout the tournament, their series against Fnatic just might have provided the impetus for them to go all the way. It was an admirable effort from Fnatic against the Major champions, and the true winners were the fans that managed to see one of the most high-octane series in recent memory.
Evil Geniuses’ tournament run
One game. One game from breaking a trophy drought dating back to 2018, where they won The Summit 9 before heading to The International 2018.
Even so, there were still tons of positives that could be taken from EG’s Major run. For starters, their runners-up placement practically guarantees their ticket to TI10.
EG came into this tournament off a heartbreaking sweep by Vici Gaming at the ONE Esports World Pro Invitational. They promptly vanquished their demons against the Chinese team off the backs of their superstar recruits in the offseason.
“Abed” Yusop and Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev have taken some time, but they have been seamlessly integrated into this EG squad. While no one doubts the pure skill that each of these players possess, Dota 2 can’t be won off mechanical talent alone. Their selflessness and ability to create space around the map have injected a breath of fresh air into Artour “Arteezy” Babaev’s play.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Abed and RAMZES have suddenly lost their ability to take over a game. Each player’s intense laning skills have saw them win some bad matchups, allowing them to snowball their lead into the mid-game.
For now, EG has once again cemented their place as perennial contenders. Will this be the season they finally end their trophy drought? It’s looking more likely with every game they play.
For the second Major in a row, no CIS teams have won a series on the main stage. They’ve won a singular game, courtesy of Na’Vi’s effort against Alliance in the upper bracket.
For many years, Virtus.pro has been looked to the gold standard as CIS Dota: a fast-paced, in-your-face aggressive style have led them to become fan favorites and perpetual challengers to the throne. Even when the rest of CIS had nothing, at the very least, VP remained one of the best.
Not any longer. The giant of CIS has fallen, and its fallen hard.
CIS Dota’s efforts to rebuild their rosters have stemmed from recruiting new, young pubstars, like VP’s Egor "epileptick1d" Grigorenko and Vitalie "Save-" Melnic, and NaVi’s Ilyas "illias" Ganeev, presumably hungry for success, who have practically zero experience in a competitive environment.
While people can look towards RAMZES and Danil "gpk" Skutin as success stories, as young as they are, even they cut their teeth in tier-two or tier-three teams before making their jumps to the big leagues. While it’s clear that these pubstars have skills, the undue expectations and pressure that comes from the highest level of Dota 2 have stemmed their abilities, and could potentially result in stunted growth.
It’s an admirable attitude to have, recruiting new blood into the scene. But, not everybody has the chops to make it at the highest level instantly, and that’s OK. If these teenage players need guidance and a lower-pressure environment to succeed, it’s up to the teams to figure out a way to ensure that they bloom and not wilt.
Nigma’s early exit
When Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi’s squad fell to the lower bracket, people were far from worried, and even expected it.
The kings of the lower bracket will inevitably rise from the ashes and storm to the grand finals, slaughtering all that stood in their way. That story didn’t happen, thanks to a surging beastcoast that had Nigma’s number at every turn.
It was rare to see Nigma’s teamfight, a long-lauded attribute of theirs dating back to the Liquid days, fail. It wasn’t that they were bad, per se, but rather that beastcoast was so damn good.
Regardless, a bottom half placing is nothing short of disappointing for the TI9 runners-up. They’ve grown increasingly reliant on Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi’s near-immaculate carry play and Maroun “GH” Merhej’s playmaking abilities.
There are few other teams with as clear as a cut between the one and two positions as Nigma, and while it might be a strategy that they are comfortable with, it’s certainly not paid dividends at this event. Maybe they are playing the long con and they will show up at TI again. It’s a little too early to tell, with 60 percent of the Dota Pro Circuit still yet to be played, but Nigma’s legendary players could easily be left behind.
Image via Dreamhack