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Upper bracket grudge match between OG and Evil Geniuses, Resolut1on vs. Iceberg in an elimination match and the two biggest powerhouses of the East and the West meeting in the upper bracket—The International 2018 keeps on delivering.
The laning stage went even in the first game of the series, but the signature VGJ.Storm Drow Ranger proved to be a lot more successful than a surprise Lycan pick from Winstrike come midgame. An early Crimson Guard for VGJ.Storm further exacerbated the damage problems Winstrike were facing, despite a Zeus pick and the NA squad confidently marched towards victory.
Winstrike failed to adapt in the second game, once again allowing Storm take their Drow, now paired with Weaver rather than Mirana. Despite a good laning stage and a decent gold lead 10 minutes into the game, they once again got crushed in the midgame and never fully recovered. VGJ.Storm showed that their group stage performance wasn't a fluke and that they can execute their strategy almost perfectly. The question remains—is it going to be enough in their next game and have they prepared anything else?
These teams went 1-1 during the group stage, but Vici Gaming definitely came into the series as the underdogs. In Game 1 Paparazi Terrorblade managed to keep up in farm despite a very hard lane and midgame started dead even. The ease of teamfight execution was on the VG's side, however, and they naturally took a lead 15 minutes into the game and slowly and in a very disciplined fashion started dismantling Team Secret. The game was filled with incredible plays from both sides and we definitely recommend watching it.
Second game had very similar lineup from Vici Gaming, but Secret opted for more lane presence and managed to completely snowball out of control. 10k advantage minute 15 was insurmountable for the Chinese squad and for the first time this TI we had a game three.
Enigma, Phoenix and Invoker for Team Secret in Game 3 and a Huskar+Oracle for Vici Gaming: gloves were definitely off for the last match of one of those teams. Laning stage didn't go incredibly well for Vici Gaming, since they were looking to get a big advantage early on and snowball. That allowed greedier Team Secret lineup to confidently survive until midgame where they outplayed and outmaneuvered LaNm and his squad. They will go on to play VGJ.Storm.
China's last hope vs. the Champions unaffected by TI curse—this series was a treat from start to finish. Both teams were playing amazing Dota, setting the bar incredibly high. Game 1 had a lot of back and forth until, once again, PSG.LGD managed to find one single opening, one single over-extension and immediately punished it with a no-hesitation highground push.
Second game we saw a switch of Io+Gyro allegiance, now being in the hands of the EU squad, while Phantom Lancer+Earthshaker went to the Chinese squad. Liquid finished their draft with Alchemist and LGD immediately answered with a Bloodseeker pick, which ultimately won them the game. Maybe definitely took a page out of Sumail's book, hunting Miracle's Alchemist the same way he was hunted in their match against EG. Not only did it ruin Alchemists game, but also created so much space for Ame's PL that the economic advantage was impossible for Liquid to overcome.
The game many were looking forward to. OG got destroyed 2:0 by EG during the group stage, but the main event is different. Or is it?
First game had a Drow lineup from OG with a Topson Invoker. The EU squad were relentless, taking early lane of barracks, shutting down Sumail's Templar Assassin and never letting Arteezy's Phantom Lancer to fully come online. Every initiation from EG was met with a Tornado combo-breaker from Invoker and the NA team never managed to achieve anything in this game.
Lycan + Arc Warden last picks for OG against Drow, now on EG's side. EG started game off slow, with both Arteezy and Sumail lanes lost heavily. OG were in firm control 20 minutes into the game, but several overextensions and macro mistakes, coupled with an amazing play from Sumail's Gyrocopter allowed EG to get some momentum back their way. With their triple Necronomicon strategy OG didn't have a way back into the game and slowly, but surely crumbled.
The draft in the third game clearly showed how disappointed and frustrated OG were after their game 2 loss, opening up with an unusual Io+Spectre in the first phase. Evil Geniuses got their signature Gyrocopter and Enchantress. With an incredibly greedy draft against the kings of the laning stage, there was never really a chance for the EU team, with Sumail running rampant on his Tiny with a backup of s4 Enchantress 10 minutes into the game.
The only one believing in OG was Dota Plus, but it turns out AI is much better at predicting match outcomes than humans. Despite all odds, despite a 20k gold deficit, despite Sumail's best efforts OG managed to stabilize, compose themselves and start their recovery. Fight after fight, sometimes trading, sometimes finding a clean pick-off OG clawed their way back into a better and better situation, eventually equalizing and overcoming a mountain no one expected them to climb. This game wasn't as clean as PSG.LGD vs. Team Liquid with teams doing considerably more mistakes, but it will certainly go down in history as one of the most exciting matches of this TI.