In Dota 2, there are no seasons, no relegations and no league tiers. Teams instead have their eyes on the biggest event of the year—and in esports: The International. After months of preparation, eighteen teams qualified for a grueling week-and-a-half event, but only one could emerge with the $10.8 million crowd-funded top prize.
This year, two curses were upheld: the East-West flip-flop curse, and the 'no repeat winner' curse. None other could do so with such persuasiveness and prowess as Team Liquid, the winner of this year’s Championship.
Team Liquid has sponsored champions in games such as Starcraft, League of Legends and more, but none of the organization's Dota 2 iterations have come this far in official Valve events. Formerly, Liquid's Dota squad was American, but this European one took the crown in a more volatile and profitable environment.
The current roster had varying success throughout the pre-championship season. They performed well in the grand Russian event Epicenter, but failed to do as well in the Dota 2 Asian Championships. Still, their victory was foreshadowed in their victory at DreamLeague Season 7’s Atlanta finals, where they took first over other international teams.
To claim the Aegis of Champions today, they had to fight through a pool that kept the world at the edge of their seats. Four out of the six top teams were Chinese, and the other two were Liquid itself and Virtus.Pro, regional rivals. Their final battle was against Newbee, and it was certainly a show.
Newbee originally entered the tournament as one of the Chinese favorites to win, given its consistent, strong presence throughout the competitive season. However, anything goes at TI, and LGD and LFY quickly rose to the top of their groups during the off-stage matches. LFY specifically went undefeated until the last day, though at that point they had already secured the top Upper Bracket slot for the main event.
But Newbee came back with a vengeance during the main event when they met LFY during the Upper Bracket Finals, which determined the first Grand Finalist. The match was an explosive back-and-forth between the two Chinese teams, during which Newbee showed absolutely spectacular teamfights and took the spot.
The next day, the scraps of LFY were left to Team Liquid for the taking in the lower bracket finals. Essentially, if Liquid could take down LFY, the slayer of the group stage and upper bracket, it seemed they would have a chance against Newbee. After all, LFY took down Newbee 2-0 in the group stage, and the upper bracket 2-1 Newbee victory was hard-fought. With exciting plays and unusual strategies by Liquid to take down the Chinese dark horse, Liquid eventually took the series 2-1 before the Grand Final later that day.
Above: The final moments of the Grand Finals.
The Grand Finals, then, were set: Newbee, the slayers of the dominating team, versus Liquid, the up-and-coming assassin which kicked and stomped through the lower bracket to perform on the final day.
The dominating snowball style of Team Liquid shone in each game of the Grand Finals. For instance, about half an hour into the second game, the Alchemist played by Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi began to ruthlessly slice into Newbee’s base, taking an aggressively objective-focused approach to the situation. It took about two minutes and an Aegis, but on one hand for Newbee, the Alch was finally dead. On the other, Newbee lost the very last of their entire bottom lane, tower and barracks, opening the lane for creeps to move in and start harassing them. This approach carried over into all three games as Liquid worked to control all factors of the game towards the final objective: taking down the Ancient.
In the final game, a series of incredibly coordinated slam-downs by Liquid were the highlights that might have won the European squad the grand prize. But the most impressive—and game winning—was one final Juggernaut slash by Miracle-, superpowered by a Double Damage rune that helped to wipe out the entirety of Newbee.
Most notably, the series was a 3-0 finish in favor of Liquid—the first time a team has completely swept a Valve event final. The team claimed their Aegis of Championship, popped open a bottle of champagne, and quickly departed to celebrate the historic win.