The Grand Finals of Epicenter 2017 saw the champions of the 7.06 meta in a lopsided showdown. Team Liquid, the gold finishers at StarLadder i-League Invitational #2, clobbered Evil Geniuses, the Manila Masters grand champion, 3-1, in a fast-paced best-of-five series.
Just like the Manila Masters, Epicenter too was a pivotal pre-TI premiere LAN tournament which features the best Dota 2 teams and how they understand the current meta. With two of the 7.06 champions clashing for the Grand Finals, you can expect to be nothing short of spectacular.
The 7.06 Meta Showdown
Many times we’ve discussed how the 7.06 patch redefined the whole gameplay of Dota 2. Deny now gives you experience, Shrines won’t be available until the 5th-minute mark, extra melee creep spawning at the mid lane for the first 15 minutes, etc. All these stuff made the laning phase the most important part of the game. And in case you were living under a rock for the past couple of months, let the Epicenter Grand Finals be your TL;DR.
In all of the games played at the best-of-five Epicenter Grand Finals, none of which reached the 40th-minute mark. The longest game would have been Evil Geniuses’ sole win which ended at 38 minutes and 39 seconds. The shortest, on the other hand, was Team Liquid’s first win--EG tapped out 14 seconds after the 17th-minute mark.
In four games, we’ve witnessed how these two champions utilized the meta--a showdown between Captain Andreas "Cr1t-" Nielsen and Captain Kuro "KuroKy" Takhasomi. Looking at their drafts, none of which picked an item-dependent hero nor a late game-oriented one.
Save for the second game, Bristleback, which was 100% of the time picked at the first phase, was the go-to hero of both teams. However, it was Team Liquid who utilized it the most as Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen’s Necrophos countered Artour “Arteezy” Babaev's Bristleback in the first game--the only time EG picked the hero.
More than their successful Bristleback strategy, Liquid’s triumph was significantly backed by Kuroky’s understanding about EG’s hero pool. Puck and Sand King, two of the game’s strongest laning heroes and apparently EG’s most successful picks too, were banned by Team Liquid in almost every first phase pick of the game.
The #BleedBlue boys were one of the best teams to utilize Puck as it can be picked by either the most consistent offlaner in the universe or by one of the best mid laners in the world. It was only until the last game when Liquid let Puck go through. But it was not the best Puck game for EG as it was only crushed by the tanky combo of Ursa and Bristleback. Out of Team Liquid’s 36 total kills, 27 of which came from their devastating frontlines.
The Middle Lane Showdown
“He who controls the mid lane, controls the game,” the other half of Philippines’ most explosive casting duo, Marlon Marcelo, said while the showdown between the world’s best position 2 players at the Epicenter Grand Final unfold before his eyes.
In two of Team Liquid’s LAN tournaments after the 7.06 patch has come out, they have appeared, and won, in two grand finals. The same goes for Evil Geniuses, except they failed to clinch their latest grand final stint.
Aside from their gameplay and individual mechanical skills, the recipe for success of both teams has one thing in common: Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi and Syed Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan. This means that if the NBA has transitioned itself into the era of Point Guards, Dota 2, on the other hand, is now living in the era of mid laners.
It was during the first game of the Grand Finals which made this more evident. Miracle, on his Sven, was seen outplaying SumaiL’s world-renowned Storm Spirit thanks to Team Liquid’s deadly rotations.
A couple of seconds after the 10th-minute mark, SumaiL’s Storm Spirit already died thrice in the hands of Team Liquid. While Miracle’s Sven only scored a single kill on his mid lane counterpart, he ended the 17-minute bloodbath with a deathless scoreline, 11/0/10.
Mid lane was also the name of the third game. Miracle’s Invoker was wreaking havoc on EG’s heroes thanks to his global Sunstrike kills. In less than 18 minutes, Miracle was already able to score 5 Sunstrike kills including a crazy First Blood on SumaiL’s Mirana (8:20 mark on the VOD).
It was another deathless game for Miracle’s Invoker as he ended the 29-minute dominance with a 14/0/9 KDA. While some might argue a mismatch on how Miracle is undoubtedly a god with Invoker while SumaiL is using a less meta-favored Mirana, both still possess mastery towards laning.
Sure, the showdown between the best mid laners of Dota 2 ended rather in an anticlimactic way, but the Epicenter 2017 Grand Final still is a remarkable reminder on how the meta has evolved. And so far, it looks like Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses has this one figured out.