Epicenter Has Set The Stage for TI9

The last Major of this year’s Dota Pro Circuit was filled with upsets, crazy brackets, and a winner no one expected

Kenneth "Brightside" Williams
Freelance Esports Writer
3rd Jul, 2019·☕️☕️ 8 min read

The last Major of this year’s Dota Pro Circuit was certain to be a doozy, but I don’t know if anyone could have predicted the bracket. There were a ton of upsets with an underdog winner and the clear frontrunners getting knocked out early in the playoffs.

We also got to see plenty of matchups outside of Grand Finals that we won’t see again until The International. The Alliance versus Gambit battle for a TI invite turned out to be a stomp. I’d love to see Gambit make their way through the qualifiers and set up a rematch against Alliance in Shanghai, though.

We’ll break down more of the crazy upsets and wild strategies later. For now, let’s analyze the tournament’s champions.

Tournament Winner: Vici Gaming

Vici Gaming

Final Placing: 1st
Losses: None

When Vici won The DreamLeague Season 11 Major earlier this year, I wrote it off as a fluke. There have been a ton of Chinese teams this season and Vici wasn’t even in my top three going into this event. However, they proved me wrong in dramatic fashion. If you put an outright on Vici, you’re either a genius or a fool. Either way, you’ve made some money.

While everyone had their eyes on TNC Predator and Team Liquid, Vici took the event by storm. They topped their group heading into the bracket with just one peculiar loss to Forward. They started in the winner’s side and never dropped a set. They finally capped off their run with back-to-back victories over the newly renovated Team Liquid.

Their absolute tear of a run was made possible thanks to the incredible drafting skills of Fade. He kept things unpredictable until the very end with Mars and Leshrac in the Grand Finals. His ability to draft according to the metagame while still countering opponents was crucial.

Two Major victories mean that Vici has had the same success this season as Team Secret. PSG.LGD and Keen might have stolen the spotlight earlier this year, but Vici is now the Chinese favorite to win The International.

While the Grand Final was an insane five-game slobber knocker, there were plenty of other amazing matches at Epicenter. Let’s break down the most high-stakes of them all; Alliance vs Gambit.

Featured Match: Alliance vs Gambit

Both Alliance and Gambit are lovable teams. They’re not quite at the top level, but they can spar with teams like Evil Geniuses and Liquid and get a few hits in. They’ve both stayed together for a while and have an emphasis on building a team rather than buying one.

Alliance’s spot on the Dota Pro Circuit leaderboards put them just outside of the direct invite range. If they got 6th at Epicenter, they’d be invited. If they didn’t, they’d have to slog through open qualifiers.

What’s the twist? Gambit was in the exact same circumstance, and they’d be playing against Alliance to secure 6th place for themselves. This match was a battle for a direct invite to the biggest tournament in esports history. The pressure was on, and Gambit won their last engagement with Alliance at ESL One Birmingham.

The first game started off strong for Alliance. Boxi’s monster Timbersaw did wonders against Afterlife’s signature Doom by cutting his max life into thirds every 4 seconds. The toplane domination led to tons of supports rotating. Boxi had made so much space that their greedy Lifestealer and Storm Spirit draft made liftoff. The game ended 25 - 8 for Alliance, with 13 kills to Boxi’s name.

The second game was anything but straightforward. Gambit’s captain fng looked for heroes to combo with his Grimstroke, but didn’t really find a combo. Instead they picked up Tidehunter for the team fights and called it a day. Alliance, meanwhile, had a damage-filled lineup including Storm Spirit, Dark Willow, and Morphling. They also sported the terror of the meta, Warlock.

Both teams showed off their teamfight wombo-combo at the traditional 15-minute Roshan standoff. Neither team backed down, but Alliance struck first. That single teamfight prevented Gambit from hitting their mid-game peak in time to close off the game. The second match of this series was full of fantastic teamfighting and stellar support play from both fng and Taiga. If there’s one game you see from Epicenter, it should be this one.

Alliance winning is just as surprising as the opposite, but the speed with which they did it was incredible. It was the most hyped series for the event, and game one made Alliance look like they were smurfing. The second game saw Gambit put up more of a fight, but the match was already solved by 40 minutes. It’s wasn’t exactly an upset. If you’re looking for one of those, turn to…

Honourable Mention: OG vs Evil Geniuses

This matchup looks like a Grand Final from 2017, but it actually happened in just the second round of the lower bracket. Evil Geniuses had gotten upset in the group stage, but they found an easy opponent in OG for their first round.

OG wasn’t exactly in their best form for Epicenter. The team has fallen hard since winning The International 2018 and many players have written them off. Even after ana’s return, the team was far from a favorite. Evil Geniuses, meanwhile, were destined to do well in Moscow. They took Team Secret to the brink at ESL One Birmingham and the new 7.22 patch suited their playstyle perfectly. The odds for OG to win were tiny. EG was supposed to have it in the bag.

OG’s misfortune doesn’t stop there; Notail, the team’s captain and fan favorite, had fallen ill and wouldn’t be able to compete. They had Socksha, their coach, as a stand-in. The last time OG had a coach step in, they won The International. Even with Socksha’s apprehensive Tweets, fans at least wanted something cool to happen.

Something cool did happen. Ana managed to carry against Evil Geniuses in a game at a Major with an 0-10 Clockwork. In his defense, Socksha is not an active player and shouldn’t be held to the same standards as Notail. However, he did very poorly.

OG won regardless. Twitch chat was filled with flower emojis as they took Evil Geniuses down. If you put money on OG, congratulations. The odds couldn’t have been more stacked against them.

Featured Player: Ori


This tournament saw some incredible players waltz into the limelight. w33, just days after joining Team Liquid, helped land a 2nd place finish at a Major for a team in a rut. RAMZES666’s godlike carry play helped land a bronze medal in Moscow. Socksha, even though he went on a reverse-Godlike streak, played competitively for the first time in years and took down both Team Secret and Evil Geniuses.

But the title of MVP has to go to Ori. Vici’s mid was the scariest player at the tournament and wasn’t afraid to take on unusual matchups. His Monkey King and Death Prophet both did fantastic in the Grand Finals and his Leshrac took Liquid by surprise. His incredible performance led Vici to the Grand Finals and his mastery of eclectic picks led them to win the event. That’s why he’s my Most Valuable Player of Epicenter.

Best Bet

OG to beat Team Secret 2:0 (Odds: 8.2)

Following the theme of OG being underdogs and creating some major upsets, if you bet on them to beat Team Secret 2:0 you would be laughing. Team Secret (who I picked to take out the tournament) dropped into the lower bracket after a somewhat surprising loss to and matched up against OG in the second round of the lower bracket. OG had just beaten Evil Geniuses as underdogs, and they came into this as even bigger underdogs. The odds for OG to win the match head-to-head were 4.2, compared to Secret’s 1.21, which was the biggest difference in head to head odds in the whole tournament. For OG to 2:0 Secret (with the odds at a whopping price of 8.2) was out of the question, yet they pulled it off. If you had faith in Ana and the boys to get the job done, you would be very happy right now.

Goodbye ‘til TI

Many of these team are taking a well-deserved break after their performance in Moscow. We won’t see any of the invite teams until The International 2019 in August, but that doesn’t mean Dota is taking a break. The rest of the pro circuit will be competing in the open and closed TI qualifiers as well as a myriad of other events.

There’s no break for professional Dota, and we’ll be covering every major event including The International. Check back soon for our coverage of the qualifiers.


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