WePlay AniMajor Playoffs: Day 1 Recap
The Playoff bracket of the Major kicked off on Wednesday 9th June, which would see 12 teams competing in the final stage of the tournament. With more than just money and pride on the line, the tournament also represented the final opportunity for teams to earn the much-needed points to qualify for The International (TI).
With only four teams having been confirmed at this stage, every single series from here on out carrying points as stakes, it mattered greatly exactly how you would perform here if you wanted to directly qualify on points for TI, and avoid the absurd regional qualifiers.
Day 1 of the Playoffs took place with the 1st round of the Upper Bracket.
Team Aster vs T1
Coming into this series, T1 were the team with everything to play for.
Team Aster had already secured mathematical qualification for TI no matter what would happen. So for them, victory here would only mean further building of momentum for TI. T1 however, could not leave this major without securing at least 1 series in the playoffs.
Although both teams had come 1st in their regions, the dominant path taken by Team Aster led to T1 being viewed as heavy underdogs, with many arguing Team Aster were favourites to win the whole tournament.
Moment of truth for T1
The games began with T1 being able to claim an extremely solid draft for the opening series. Somehow managing to pick up the “23Savage” Morphling in tandem with the “Kuku” Broodmother as the end of the draft. And although Team Aster had several signature heroes in the form of their Mars+Phoenix duo, and the “Monet” Terrorblade, T1 would never allow them the opportunity to utilize these heroes in the way we have seen from the Chinese juggernauts before.
From the moment the game began, “Xepher” on his enchantress ensured early victory. From giving “Kuku” the advantage needed to push “Monet” out of the safe lane, to helping to force an early tower push in the mid lane. This sustained pressure forced Team Aster to respond by trying to contain him on the map, giving space to “23Savage” to farm uncontested on the Morphling.
T1 were able to build up this farm advantage until it grew simply too large for Aster to contend with, which allowed T1 the opportunity to pickup the 2nd Aegis, and use it to bring a major push towards the side of Team Aster.
Lacking damage, survivability and farm, Team Aster were largely unable to control the double life “23Savage”, and losing a fight in their base led swiftly to GG being called afterwards.
T1 Take Flight
Unfortunately for Team Aster, the form they showed in game 1 would represent a bright spot for the day.
T1, buoyed from the strong victory in game 1, picked an extremely fast paced and aggressive line-up for the 2nd game to try and take the game quickly, heralded by the “Karl” Magnus beefing up the “23Savage” Lifestealer.
As dominant a game as T1 had in game 1, this would be doubly so. Winning all their lanes whilst this time giving “Whitemon” the Enchantress, T1 made the early game even more difficult than before.
To make matters worse, Team Aster had opted to pick Medusa for “Monet”, meaning that for a significant portion of the game, they had no access to additional damage which would help to actually threaten the T1 heroes.
T1 knew this too, so they were able to force fight after fight on the Team Aster side of the map. Eventually culminating in a huge fight around the bottom tier 2 tower, which allowed them to invade the base, and a 24-minute GG call shortly thereafter, and back to back flawless games with no deaths for “23Savage”
With a 2-0 victory secured, T1 now found themselves being the 5th team in the world to guarantee that they would be playing at The International.
Alliance vs PSG.LGD
For the first time in the tournament, we would have a chance to witness one of the Playoffs teams taking on one of the Group stages teams to have earned Upper Bracket berth.
PSG.LGD had been dominant in the group thus far, and had been the team to define the current tournament meta, erstwhile Alliance had proved during the DPC that they were one of the most stable and consistent teams on the circuit.
With both teams on 800 DPC points and mathematically confirmed, whoever would win here would suddenly find themselves guaranteed to attend TI, so the stakes were higher than ever.
Comfort picks galore
Game 1 took place with everyone in the game having a signature hero from the draft. However, Alliance made sure to secure the “Handsken” Lion and “fng” Winter Wyvern so they could apply early game pressure with these two supports to allow Alliance to start the game strongly.
Though this paid off very well and almost all the PSG.LGD heroes experienced that early pressure, the one who did not was the “Ame” Morphling. Who was still slowly building up a huge repertoire of networth.
Eventually PSG.LGD started to play much more carefully on the map, playing coyly and avoiding any and all engagements. This led to a very quiet portion of the game for both teams as Alliance was happy to use the time to also find farm on the “Nikobaby” Slark.
Alliance eventually realized however, that this was an arms race that they would lose. So the time had come to play aggressively on the map once more as they picked up the Eye of Skadi item on Slark to allow him to fight Morphling.
Unfortunately for the Alliance squad, PSG.LGD had simply grown too strong in the intervening quiet period. And Alliance, though throwing everything they had at them, could only kill the Phoenix. They would try again when their ultimates were available again and find Magnus well, but it cost them heavily to do this as they lost several heroes, some who had bought back, in the process.
From here on out, it seemed PSG.LGD turned a mental corner and started looking much more threatening on the map. Securing an Aegis shortly after this sequence of fights, they felt strong enough to force the final fight of the game, killing “Nikobaby” for the first and only time in the entire game, forcing a GG call from Alliance soon thereafter.
That was just the warmup
Game 2…was not close. Alliance, under a lot of pressure, thought they would be able to rely on the “Nikobaby” Faceless Void to carry to them to victory like he had many times before.
However, in this game there were few complications. Not only was the only source of damage into the Chronosphere coming only from the “fng” Ancient Apparition, but the PSG.LGD draft was playing at such a high tempo that they picked up a bevy of early items to deny the Faceless Void any true chance of doing damage.
With S4 playing Kunkka instead of a hero better able to initiate fights for them, Alliance found themselves over reliant on the “Limmp” Tiny to give them map presence, and once BKBs were available from PSG.LGD to counter his and “fng” impact; the game seemed beyond salvaging as the PSG.LGD heroes simply stopped taking damage.
From this point onwards, it was smooth sailing for the Chinese squad who were able to control the map and come in for the final fight which secured them the 2nd game, and more importantly secured them their ticket to The International.
What else happened?
Quincy crew took an unsurprising 2-1 victory over NoPing Esports in a Continental rivalry that secured Quincy Crew their qualification whilst putting NoPing in genuine danger of exiting the tournament unconfirmed for TI.
Though the games were topsy turvy with neither squad truly at their best, ultimately Quincy Crew were better for the money and booked their ticket to TI from this series.
The evening saw proceedings end with Team Nigma, thus far the team that looks closest to the Chinese leaders PSG.LGD in form, taking down Virtus Pro in an extremely dominant 2-0 set.
Although “Miracle” was found to have food poisoning earlier in the day, delaying the match. Ultimately, he was able to channel his physical discomfort into in-game flair. Across both games proving difficult to deal with and putting on genuine 5-star performances.
Virtus Pro would not feel that this series took away their hopes as they were one of the first teams to qualify for TI. Despite the victory, the journey for Nigma has only begun as they would need to secure Top 2 in the tournament in order to make their way to TI directly.
With all of this insanity settled, Day 2 of the Playoffs would prove to be very important for the journey’s of so many more squads with hopes of getting to TI.
The WePlay AniMajor continues on the Twitch Channel.