Team Liquid Are Your Supermajor Champions!

June 10 2018

After every iteration of the International, talk of curses eventually surface pointed at the direction of the winner. Superstition is one of the most fascinating parts of fandom, and the TI Curse is one of the most steadfast rules of Dota. The winner of the most recent International invariably falls into a slump, unable to replicate the heroic feats of yesteryear. Some squads have even disbanded even before having the opportunity to defend their crown. Such is the virility of the TI Curse that no one has ever won the event twice.

Two monthly later, we won StarLadder StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3, the first minor of the inaugural Dota Pro Circuit season. Curse broken? Perhaps. As a DPC minor, the event only offered a handful of points that in retrospect would barely make a dent in the standings. It foreshadowed another successful year for the most successful team in Dota, yet another curse would hold true throughout the season — Team Liquid could not win a major.

In 2016, KuroKy, MATUMBAMAN, and MinD_ContRoL placed second in two majors in Shanghai and Manila. 2017 was even worse; Liquid didn't even attend the Boston Major. Despite the team's struggles at Valve's biggest regular season events, Team Liquid still managed to claim titles at DreamLeague, StarLadder, and Epicenter, before the team's crowning glory at TI7.

With one curse down in the very first minor of 2018, it was inevitable that the other prevailing curse would finally fall — right?

It took a while, and it took the title of SUPERmajor to do it, but Team Liquid has finally won a Major. Close calls at DreamLeague Season 8 and Epicenter XL suggested that it would once again not come, and a crushing first hurdle exit at the penultimate major of the season had all but drawn the curtains. Instead, Team Liquid rose to the occasion in Shanghai during the very first Supermajor in Dota 2. The Supermajor was Liquid’s last opportunity to prove themselves before TI8 and they did it in a brilliant fashion. With a depth of strategies, including a pocket Drow strat in the finals, Team Liquid went through the tournament only dropping a single game until the grand finals where the team 3-2’d their rivals, Virtus Pro.

The rivalry between Team Liquid and Virtus Pro has always given some of the best games that have ever graced competitive Dota 2. Whether it be in the lower bracket of TI7 where records were shattered, or at the Bucharest Major where VP claimed their 2-1 victory over Liquid in the semi-finals, both teams savored the opportunity to best the other best team in Dota 2. It was only fitting that at the last DPC tournament of the year, Liquid and Virtus Pro faced each other in the finals.

The tournament began with worries that Team Liquid had begun to lose their competitive edge after being eliminated by paiN Gaming at ESL One Birmingham, and losing a Bo1 match against TNC at DAC. Liquid’s first match was against Team Spirit and after losing the first game they adapted in the draft and quickly proved they were not in any kind of slump, beating Team Spirit in just 18 minutes in game 2 and winning the series 2-1. From there they went on to 2-0 Newbee and secured their upper bracket slot in the main event.

Liquid was immediately confronted by their past as they found themselves matched against TNC in the first round. It was during this series that you could truly get a sense that something had changed after TL’s loss at Birmingham. They quickly took control of the games, wracking up 40 kills in 35 minutes in game 1, and 24 kills in 20 minutes in game 2. The series took less than an hour to complete and Liquid was in control every minute of it. The same can be said of their next match against Team Secret. While Secret has given Team Liquid trouble in the past, the boys played with unrelenting aggression at a pace which Secret was unable to cope with. MC dominated the first game going 14-3-7 on his PotM, ending the game in 30 minutes. Not to be outdone, Miracle's Tinker pick took control in game 2 and claimed victory in 26 minutes. With the series also wrapping up in under an hour it seemed like Liquid had returned to form but the true test still lay ahead of them in the form of PSG.LGD in the upper bracket finals.

The Chinese favourites to win the tournament — and even TI8 — were expected to put a stop to our run, or at least slow us down. Instead we saw a masterclass drafter in action and KuroKy’s Chen halted PSG.LGD’s plans with Bloodseeker before they could start. Facing a panicking PSG.LGD in the second game Liquid once again wracked up 50 kills in 42 minutes, drawing PSG.LGD into a bloodbath that they had no hope of winning. The incredible amount of pressure TL applied in their games forced mistakes from their opponents and they were quick to capitalize on every one of those errors.

After making their way to another Major finals Team Liquid still had to rid themselves of the “curse” that had plagued them, the curse of never winning a Major title. Of course to the players there was no such curse, it was just Dota. GH had shared that he wanted to win it for Miracle-, and the whole team just wanted to prove that they could do it, that they would be going into TI8 at their peak.

Virtus Pro was all that stood in their way and it could not have been a more fitting finals for Team Liquid to prove that they were indeed the best Dota 2 team in the world, even after numerous patches which changed the Dota 2 landscape into something unrecognizable from their TI7 win.

The finals themselves were tense. Each team exchanged blows in the first game with Liquid eventually coming out on top with Miracle’s TA and MATUMBAMAN's Visage carrying the team. However Liquid had won the first game while giving up more deaths to VP, proof of how close this finals would be. Every win would come at the cost of Team Liquid fighting tooth and nail to earn it from VP. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th games were all fairly one sided, with each team drafting a key hero that secured their victory almost from the get-go.

The 5th and final game however was the closest draft of the grand finals and the game itself lived up to the expectation that either team could win. VP relied on a late-game Medusa pick while Team Liquid once again picked up the Templar Assassin and Visage that had worked so well for them throughout the tournament. The key turning point was the final fight, where after Virtus Pro had used Ravage, Stone Gaze, Ghost Ship, and most of their other abilities, GH healed the entire team back to full hp with his Aghanims Naga Siren which proved to be too much for Virtus Pro to handle and forced them to concede.

With only two more months before TI8, the Supermajor has set the bar for who is expected to do well and Team Liquid have made a solid case with their win in Shanghai. Could they will be the first team to ever lift the Aegis above their heads twice, let alone back-to-back? While the win at a Major brings with it a sigh of relief, it also showcases a resilience and strength of will that has survived bitter disappointment and the the threat of complacency. Despite having already won TI7, Team Liquid still wants more. Winning once put us in the history books. Win twice and defend our crown — only then would we be the greatest.

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