Image courtesy of EPICENTER
The European teams are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, as Team Empire and Newbee risk an early elimination without a single series victory to show for.
The meta continues to evolve and surprises continue to hit the fans and spectators, as teams battle out in the group stage of EPICENTER XL. Although Techies did not return today, holding a 0% winrate after only two games, some new heroes saw the light of day. Slark and Windranger returned to professional games with decent results, while Morphling, Leshrac and IO remained heavily favoured and impactful.
The CIS squad were desperate for a victory today, having lost both of their previous series in the group stages. The formidable Chinese team was, by no means, willing to hand them a free series. They made a spectacular comeback in the first game, despite losing all of their lanes, swinging the net-worth disparity by 20,000. Empire was resilient, pushing the series to a third game by winning their first match of the tournament. Unfortunately, it was not enough to get them out of the bottom of the group. LGD steamrolled them in the deciding game with Lu “Somnus丶M” Yao’s Tinker.
The Major-winning SEA team really needed to step up today after falling to the bottom of the group in the first few days of the event. The key hero in their team-fight strategy was Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong’s Naga Siren, which they picked in all three games. Not banning the hero may have cost the NA team the series, despite the fact that they won the second game quite handily. Mineski’s first series win of the tournament now puts them in a decent but volatile middle position in their group.
The series between the leaders of the group would turn out to be one of the closest and most intense series of the day. Anyone who watched the first three days of the group stage matches wouldn’t underestimate the CIS underdogs, despite the fact that they were up against TI7 winners. They debuted Windranger to the tournament, a mild surprise, considering the hero has been ignored by most professional teams for the longest time. The buffs to the hero in the recent patch certainly seemed to help, as they took the first game with the hero in a core position.
The second game was a fantastic display of FlyToMoon’s fearless playstyle, as they almost took the series against Team Liquid undefeated. However, the EU team managed to turn around the net-worth disadvantage in the last 5 minutes, despite being down two lanes of barracks, and survived to play another match. They took no risks in the third game, giving Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi his fearsome Morphling who gave a flawless performance once again.
Secret started off strong in this series, taking the first game in a dominant fashion with a flawless performance on Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard’s Timbersaw. OG did not lose their motivation, as they breezed past their opponents with a push heavy lineup in the second game. Taking the melee barracks in all three lanes and virtually securing Mega creeps, they forced the ‘GG’ out of Team Secret.
Usually, the third game of a series is the longest and the closest, owing to the fact that neither team wants to give up easily. The situation this time was the complete opposite, as OG decimated the Major winners, thanks to an outstanding performance by Gustav “s4” Magnusson’s signature Leshrac in the middle lane. Taking two lanes of barracks and securing the series in a mere 21 minutes, OG have clearly risen from the slump they were in.
The series may have been the one chance for the Chinese squad to recover in the group stages, considering that they were going against arguably the weakest team in the group. It seems Newbee’s slump continues to cost them heavily, as they now stand on the brink of elimination, after losing to the Brazilian squad in two straight games. Pain Gaming is one of the few teams that has made a support Leshrac work, and they should be glad they did, as they now have some potential for advancing to the playoffs of the event.
Anyone who thought Na’Vi’s victory over Team Secret yesterday was a fluke, or a result of the latter’s risky Techies pick, was proven completely wrong today. The three-time Major winners of the season, Virtus.pro, were heavy favorites coming into the series, topping the group until today.
The second “el-Classico” of the tournament started off in VP’s favor, using the new and improved Wisp to their advantage. Some have debated whether the hero is the strongest in the game right now, as it holds the title of the top-contested one at the event. The second game lasted for a massive 50 minutes, with VP gaining a sizeable lead in the mid-late game. Na’Vi held their composure, making calculated movements and swung the game in their favor, pushing the series to a third game.
Na’Vi made the same risky pick that cost FlyToMoon their series earlier today, a core Zeus. The panelists seemed to have predicted right, as they had a terrible laning phase. In an unpredictable series of events, they swung back, making successful ganks on their Slark and taking the middle lane of barracks. VP crumbled under the pressure and called it quits in just 23 minutes, bringing the day to a shocking end.
The group stages continue tomorrow, kicking off with the first series between Mineski and Team Empire at 10:00 local time (09:00 CEST).