It was a grueling three rounds on the last day of the ESL One Manila Dota 2 tournament. Shanghai Major Finalists Team Liquid were poised to take it down - but could they defeat the real dark horse of Wings Gaming?
It was the final day of the ESL One Manila 2016 Dota 2 tournament, and only four teams remained to battle it out for the lion's share of the $250,000 prize pool. While the easy money was on the Shanghai Major finalists Team Liquid, it was actually the underdogs of Wings Gaming that would take home first place -- and the $100,000 paycheck that went along with it.
The powerful Fnatic squad has been crushing most of their competition lately, and they started the series off no differently -- picking up first blood a mere 5 seconds into game 1. While a trade up top evened the score to 3-3, Fnatic soon roared ahead again with a triple kill -- all before 5 minutes on the clock.
The teams traded tier 1s in several lanes, but by 10m the Chinese lineup of Wings Gaming had lost map control and every tier 1 tower. Fnatic pulled ahead to a solid 9-5 lead, and widened the gap even more by 15m, scoring twice Wings' kills at 12-6 (though their own tier 1 line had fallen in the meantime).
Fnatic's lead grew despite losing Roshan, as they claimed a 2-1 trade in the Pit, followed by a homerun fight in the midlane that gave them another 5-2 trade and kept the snowball rolling to19-9. By 22m, Wings' entire map had collapsed, and Fnatic was knocking on their front door, claiming bot tier 3 but getting pushed off before they could crater the barracks.
The killing calmed for some time until Fnatic formed up and scored a double in a midlane skirmish, downing Chen and Necrophos before turning the advantage into a free Roshan and his Aegis of the Immortal. Wings fired back with a pick and a tower, but when push came to shove around 31m into the game, Wings got shoved hard, suffering five casualties for no kills. Fnatic jumped on the opportunity and claimed victory at 32m.
This game started quietly, with first blood coming at a "late" 2:28 after Fnatic found a 3v1 against Wings' Doom. They pulled ahead again early, grabbing onto a 3-1 lead by 4m, though they lost Death Prophet soon after. A series of skirmishes broke out and saw trades all over, though Fnatic managed to keep their lead 7-4.
Eight minutes into the game, the match asked "Who ganks the gankers" as a surprise attack by Wings Gaming turned into them being surprised. But they were able to grind back to 6-8, and eventually brought it to an even 8-8 at just after 10 minutes with a series of well-timed picks and ganks.
The Chinese team pulled ahead by a single kill soon after, as Fnatic found themselves constantly hunted down and picked off one by one. It was soon 10-8 as the usually hyper-aggressive Fnatic lineup played reactionary -- and was punished for the misstep.
Fnatic did find their war faces though, grabbing two tier 1 towers for their effort, thus sweeping the entirety of Wings' tier 1s as well as a toplane tier 2 just before 18 minutes.
War broke out as Fnatic kept up the charge, and while they forced a buyback, Wings pushed them off and kept their 14-11 lead before they lost any in-base structures. Not having any of this aggressive sass, WG brutalized a team engagement 3-1 and claimed the bottom barracks of Team Liquid before being run off. They added to their pile of kills 23-14, though, as Fnatic's defense fell and they headed back into the fray -- claiming the midlane barracks as well for their trouble.
Wings finally backed out, resetting and claiming the rest of Fnatic's outside towers before pushing into Fnatic's toplane. While Fnatic raised their shields and attempted to defend their base, it was too little too late, and Wings claimed their first victory of the set 29-15 at a rather quick 25 minutes.
First blood came at 1:17 as Fnatic found themselves on the winning end of a 2v2. But the tables were soon turned. After a brawl down bottom and a greedy grab for the mid tier 1, Fnatic suddenly found themselves down 2-6. While Wings was eventually forced to deny a tier 1, Fnatic did likewise to their first tower topside.
Fnatic kept the demolition coming, though, claiming bottom lane's tier 1 and picking up two kills in the struggle. As they tried and forced the issue up top, however, Wings made them pay for nothing and pulled ahead 8-4...9-4...10-4 -- then took the fight to Fnatic's midlane tier 1. Fnatic held and claimed a kill of their own, but the powerhouses were on the back foot 10-5 at 14 minutes in.
More kills and towers went Wings' way. Fnatic's weakness when playing from behind really started to show, as their entire mid and bottom lanes were cleaned out just before Wings claimed a relatively uncontested Roshan. At 20 minutes, Wings drove up the midlane, though they were forced out after claiming most of the structures there. Fnatic's top tier 2 tower fell, and the noose began to tighten. They pushed Wings off their top structures twice, but the third time was the charm as Wings came out ahead 19-5 and destroyed everything there was to destroy topside.
With nearly twice the gold, Wings seemed unstoppable as they claimed defender after defender, and barracks after barracks by 26 minutes. With mega minions coming and most of their defense destroyed, GG was called as Wings pushed up and onto the Ancient at 26:27, winning the series 2-1.
Don't let their team graphic fool you. Liquid, finalists in the Shanghai Major, were anything but the dark horse headed into the tournament -- though you'd be hard pressed to tell as a 1-1 exchange just over 5 minutes into game 1 gave Empire the first blood. Another kill was Empire's 3 minutes later, but the Liquid squad picked up a mid tier 1 to rally back.
After a losing exchange 2-4, Liquid picked up a top tier 1 at around 13 minutes -- though it was in exchange for the Roshan that Empire grabbed uncontested. Soon after, Empire claimed a solid 3-1 trade, pushing themselves up 8-4 and claiming two outside turrets while they did it.
At around 18 minutes, Liquid managed to come away up a kill, as a midlane brawl turned out 4-3 their favor. A greedy hunt from Empire paid off, but Liquid made them answer for it, and soon narrowed the score to 11-12, favor of Empire.
The Empire struck back as Liquid got a little greedy themselves, and though they managed to keep almost even at 15-17, they came ahead way up as nearly all of Empire's outside towers fell.
The next battle broke out just shy of 28 minutes, and Liquid pulled ahead on kills 18-17 with a huge pick. On the back of their momentum, they brought the fight to the Empire, pulling ahead 24-17 as they assaulted the base from the midlane. Empire defended their Ancient about as well as the Death Star, and at 30:25 Liquid took it.
A much earlier first blood, Empire found a kill on Witchdoctor at a minute and a half. Liquid's Death Prophet died soon after -- but not before picking up a triple kill of her own, and after a few more trades the score was set at 3-6 by 7m.
Liquid found an earlier tier 1 top tower, as the majority of the squad battled Empire down in the bottom jungle. Liquid was punished quickly, however, and Empire scored some much-needed gold as they brought the score back to 7-7 a little after 10 minutes in. The message was clear: Empire was going to make Liquid bleed for every inch of the map.
A few minutes later the tides turned, as Liquid's seemingly indestructible map crumbled a bit, their tier 1 top and entire midlane getting wiped off the face of the map by a strong push from Empire. The same push propelled Empire into a 9-8 lead.
A massive fight at Roshan broke out, and at 18 minutes Liquid claimed a 4-1, bringing the score back into their favor 12-10. Empire tried for Roshan again at 23m, but backed off to push different objectives -- a decision that would come back to haunt them as Liquid turned a pick on Batrider into an Aegis of the Immortal, and a 12-15 lead their favor. Empire lost 2 more bodies topside just after 25 minutes, and while their top and mid lanes had been totally cleaned out, Liquid claimed more than a few structures of their own -- finding Empire's entire tier 1 finished by 27 minutes.
A two-prong push forced Empire to group bottom (and forced a deny on one of Liquid's few remaining outside turrets), but they couldn't stop the push as Liquid destroyed their bottom lane tier 2. While Empire claimed a top lane tower themselves, they also soon forced out Liquid's bottom lane offense.
Two more Liquiders fell by 31 minutes, leading to the death of their last outside turret as Empire's rushed the bottom lane, keeping two towers ahead. Unfortunately, they were still two kills behind at 17-19, favor of Liquid.
Liquid grabbed another Aegis at 34 minutes, finding a few picks as they climbed to 17-22 before driving down toplane and turning a knock on the door into a full-fledged wrecking ball as Empire's defense fell 0-5. The GGs start rolling across chat, and the Radiant Ancient died at 36:33 as Liquid claimed the set 2-0, and moved on to the finals against Wings Gaming.
Radiant: Wings Gaming
Picks: Bounty Hunter, Batrider, Queen of Pain, Phantom Lancer, Keeper of the Light
Bans: Enchantress, Earth Spirit, Death Prophet, Lycan, Earthshaker
Wings started the show off strong, showing no fear in the face of the Shanghai Major finalists. They scored first blood as Vengeful Spirit fell to a 2-man gank just above midlane at 2:24, and the Chinese underdogs blazed out of the gates to a 4-1 lead only 5 minutes into the game.
By 10 minutes, the story was the same -- Wings exploiting their lead to claim Liquid's top tier 1 and scoring a few picks as they murdered their way to a 10-5 score, though they'd lost two tier 1s of their own.
Liquid wasn't about to go quietly, though, and roared back, claiming Wings' entire bottom lane and Roshan by 16 minutes. Though Wings Gaming had only two of their outside turrets left, Liquid remained way down in the kill count at 8-13 as Wings' mid-game dominators ran the show.
A rumble in the jungle found Liquid losing nearly all of their defenses, and tier 3 towers traded on top and bottom -- though Wings Gaming claimed a melee barracks and two kills in addition.
Liquid started their rallying Roshan just before 30 minutes into the game, but Wings was ready, and claimed three kills as they rushed to defend -- as well as the Aegis of the Immortal.
By 35 minutes, things were looking grim for crowd favorite Team Liquid, as their base had suffered heavy losses and the squad was more or less trapped inside. The siege went long until 38 minutes when the teams collided, and while Wings suffered several buybacks, so did Liquid. When Wings was up ten kills, 28-18, they pushed the 5v3 fight for Liquid's base, claiming several more structures, kills...and the game at 31-18. The Ancient fell at 39:16.
It was Liquid's turn to claim first blood, just before 2 minutes, showing Wings that they weren't going to go quietly in this set. Picks happened around the map, trading one for one for one for one, and by 10 minutes the score was a dead even 4-4, as Liquid's Earth Spirit pulled them back in from a slight early deficit.
A rumble in the top lane around 12 minutes finds Wings pulling way ahead, coming to an 8-5 lead and claiming the tier 1 mid tower soon after. Not bad for underdogs.
Though Liquid tried to defend, Wings found both a few more kills and the tier 2 top tower by the midgame at 16 minutes, and though Liquid was keeping in the game, their map control is crumbling quickly.
Wings certainly had a game plan -- react, and let Liquid make mistakes. The plan seems to pay off, as by 21m Liquid had lost nearly all of their outside towers, and found themselves on the losing side of a 17-10 scoreboard.
Wings claimed Roshan's Aegis at 26 minutes into the match, and were up 7 kills (19-12), and had lost only a single tier 1 tower. Liquid defenders fell mid lane, then top lane -- and while they bounced back to defend their turf, they were soon down even farther at 23-17.
Wings regrouped and pushed up mid lane. Liquid was waiting, but the Cinderella story wouldn't be stopped, and Wings Gaming claime the entirety of the mid lane base structures to complement their total destruction of Liquid's top lane before being forced away.
Another Aegis at 37 minutes and three kills deeper by 40, Wings seemed unstoppable. Liquid's bottom section of their base crumbled, leaving their last line of defense destroyed. Wings Gaming swooped in for the kills, and carried off their second victory as Liquid packed it in for Game 3 at 41:31.
Team Liquid claimed first blood before the countdown's even finished, though Wings quickly fired back, leading to a tied score at 1-1 before 10 seconds into the game. Soon the lead widened 3-1, favor of Wings, as Liquid pushed up into the mid lane and was mercilessly punished.
It was bloodbath in what would be the final match of the tournament, as a series of skirmishes and battles left the former series favorites Team Liquid up 7-6 by 4 minutes.
While the game quieted for a few moments, the bloodshed soon picked back up as Liquid lost their tier 1 top lane tower, though they punished Wings for still having all their buildings. Soon enough, the score was 11-8 as Wings' Alchemist fell to a roving killsquad.
Deaths and kills never seemed to stop, as Liquid climbed to 12 kills, then 9 deaths, then 13 kills as they were forced off of Wings' tier 1 mid tower. The body count rose higher and higher, ending 17-12, favor of Liquid, by 15 minutes. And they'd even claimed two of Wings' towers for their trouble.
As the brawl continued mid lane and Liquid widened their lead 20-13, then 25, it seemed as if resident heroes Team Liquid may run away with the game. The hope grew as they climbed to 29-15 by 30 minutes in, though Wings' tier 2s were still holding strong.
As for the Chinese squad, they'd been waiting patiently amidst all the deaths, and found a way to punish Liquid 3-0. The Wings began to fly high as Liquid's push up into bottom lane was successfully defended, giving them 3 more kills and a free Roshan (as well as several other objectives), leaving Liquid only two outside towers as the comeback continued.
Wings' Alchemist soon went on a rampage straight through the Liquid base, claiming a kill near Liquid's tier 4 towers as his squad continued the destruction just outside. Though the kill count was 31-25, the Chinese line-up seemed to control the entire map as Liquid bled structure after structure, teamfight after teamfight.
Wings came to the bottom barracks on Team Liquid's side of the map, and claimed what they came for before rotating mid. The Liquid squad showed up to defend, but the kill count rises to 33-30 (favor Liquid) as Wings claimed the mid lane barracks as well.
At 40 minutes, and Liquid was making a last stand. They finally downed the nearly unstoppable Alchemist, but not his buyback. As defender after defender fell, Wings finally pulled ahead 38-40 just before they finished dominating the Shanghai Major finalists Team Liquid, and won the third (and last) game of the series at 42:50.
And with that, you have it - and the new champions of Dota 2's ESL One Manila tournament: