After a historic tournament that saw some of the greatest teams in Dota 2 history meet at The International 10, Ben "Noxville" Steenhuisen reflects on the tournament and the snowball of events that led to Team Spirit being crowned champions.
Expect the unexpected
It’s been a few days since The International 10 ended, but the shellshock hasn’t really worn off. Coming into the event Team Spirit were, going by many analysts’ power rankings, a middle-of-the-pack team. Nobody expected them to crash and burn into last place, but at the same time, they were certainly not the favourites to win. With Pinnacle, they were priced around 54.00* and were part of a muddled cluster of teams who were fighting to sneak into the top eight.
Their group draw seemed difficult - they were drawn alongside two of the top-tier favourites (PSG.LGD and Team Secret) and two other teams who many thought would make the top eight (Vici Gaming and Elephant). When Elephant stumbled in their group stage matches, Team Spirit took the opportunity with both hands and snatched a ride into the upper bracket. It was unexpected, but no alarm bells were ringing for the other teams - there was no indication of what was to come.
Their upper bracket adventure was short-lived. Their first series was against Invictus Gaming (IG), winners of the Singapore Major. Game one saw IG take firm control with a 10k gold lead and great map position; however, one poor fight swung everything - a rampage for Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk and suddenly Team Spirit went straight for the throne . Games two and three saw similarly good starts for IG, but a less cavalier attitude from them saw Team Spirit shut out of the game twice in a row, knocking the team down to the lower bracket.
From the depths of the lower bracket
After 19 games and being placed in the lower bracket was really when Team Spirit’s International story truly began. Every victory means a huge increase in prize money, but also insane pressure, as after every series the loser is eliminated. Looking back at the IG series, Fnatic must have felt like a casual Tuesday workout session for Team Spirit. The two teams had already met in the group stage, with Spirit winning 2-0 over Fnatic. This time, the result was the same, only the victory was even faster.
OG were up next and in a similar fashion to the IG series, Team Spirit had to come back from a large gold deficit to win the first game. Game two was a tightrope - neither team held a significant advantage until nearly 20 minutes in when Team Spirit started winning every fight and OG were powerless to stop them. The two-time TI champions would fall, ending their journey for a third TI title.
Virtus.Pro had been a nightmare for Team Spirit the entire year long and were the nemeses of so many Eastern European qualifiers and tournaments. The teams knew each other well and it showed by how close the gameplay was during their series. All three games were long slugfests where eventually one team won the war of attrition. The final game saw Virtus.Pro’s Carry, Egor "Nightfall" Grigorenko, often restricted in the fights by Doom whilst “Yatoro” and Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO" Khertek played exceptionally , taking Team Spirit into the top four.
Credit: Official Dota 2 Youtube channel.
The rematch between IG and Team Spirit was nothing like their initial encounter. In both games, there was a long stalemate as fairly even trading and fighting meant that no team got more than a ~2500 gold lead over the other. When the stalemate finally broke in game one it took 13 minutes for Team Spirit to get out of control and seal the deal, whereas in game two, it took over 20 minutes for IG to finally tap out of the series and the tournament.
Against the odds
The momentum for Team Spirit was now increasing and global support for them was skyrocketing. They were just two match series away from the Aegis but two of the tournament favourites stood in their way. Team Secret were up first, and they were so clean in their execution in the first game that it looked like Team Spirit’s hopes and dreams were dead. In game two Team Spirit threw away a huge lead but went for a swift ending (very reminiscent of their sole win over IG in the upper bracket previously) after a Team Secret misplay.
It worked out, forcing a game three decider. Like so many of Team Spirit’s games before, this was extremely close until a huge mistake by Team Secret, who overextended themselves and were heavily punished. From there, Team Spirit’s lead grew and grew until they found themselves in the grand final.
Credit: Official Dota 2 Youtube channel.
PSG.LGD were comfortably awaiting any challenger in the grand final. They were not, however, expecting to get utterly crushed right out of the gates. Their draft for game one began a bit unconventionally with Io and Ursa , and they needed to have very specific timing to be effective, which just didn’t happen. Team Spirit lead 1-0.
Game two and three were both run of the mill games for Team Spirit − a very close opening 20-25 minutes followed by one side winning a fight and the other crumbling under the presssure. In this case, Team Spirit were the former and PSG.LGD the latter. Team Spirit lead 2-1.
Game four was where PSG.LGD showed everyone their pedigree in one of the most clinical victories of the event. They won by a 23-2 scoreline and only their Support players died (and only once each). It looked like PSG.LGD had found their groove and both teams buckled down. Although both teams had already guaranteed themselves $5.2 million each, the final game of this series would effectively be for $8.0 million and the glory of being named the best Dota 2 team in the world. PSG.LGD took an early lead − a far more substantial lead than in the tightrope-style games we’d seen Team Spirit in so many times before − but not an insurmountable advantage.
PSG.LGD had one sloppy fight but it took Team Spirit almost 10 minutes after that to swing the advantage around in their favour by the same amount. Four major fights in favour of Team Spirit somehow sealed the game, series, and championship for them. Somehow, through a crazy series of events, and in one of the greatest snowballs of Dota 2 competitive history, Team Spirit became the winners of The International 10.
*Odds referenced in this article are historical and are no longer available.