The most anticipated rematch between TNC Pro Team and Team OG did not turn out the way TNC fans desperately wanted it to turn out.
The four-time Valve Major champions finally redeemed themselves from the haunting elimination they suffered at the hands of TNC Pro Team at last year's The International. The infamous upset became the first step in a meteoric rise to stardom for TNC but one miraculous series does not mean that TNC have necessarily surpassed Fly and N0tail's tandem.
This year again, TNC found themselves facing off against OG, in almost the exact same bracket placement as last year, and even on the same date as last year (August 10). It practically felt destined.
But then, despite the hype the narrative-rich match up produced, the series was pretty one-sided. Team OG came in with their minds set on winning, rather than avoiding elimination, as Fly said in the post-match interview. Despite Kuku having his signature Queen of Pain or TNC's throwback strategy with a Shadow Demon + Luna combo, Team OG was simply one step ahead in terms of draft and execution.
JerAx God versus T-God
What I thought many overlooked however was the showdown between east and west's Earth Spirit gods. Both JerAx and Tims had their turns using the hero and the result as to who played the hero better this time was pretty evident.
JerAx exhibited more than just plain mastery with Earth Spirit during the first game. From exposing smoke ganks to creating space, JerAx was by far the best contributor to OG's first best-of-three win at the stage of KeyArena.
The aggressive early smoke into bounty rune contest has been a staple TNC strategy since they acquired 1437 as their captain. With the right lineup, nailing this strategy can easily put a team ahead of their enemies even before the creeps spawn. On the other hand, it can also be countered just by the enemy being at the right place at the right time.
JerAx knew so well about TNC's opener that he made an all-chat "It's a disastah!" emote after popping the smoke rotation. The same disaster struck the phoenix boys during the 22nd-minute mark of the game -- while the rest of OG was trying to push Dire's bottom tier one tower, JerAx, again, was on the high ground, blocking any possible smoke attempt.
But aside from just denying sneaky smoke attempts, JerAx also repeatedly ran deep into TNC's jungle to be the bait. He knew very well that TNC would give chase so he lingered at the stairs between the medium and hard camp, letting TNC champ at the bit a little, before actually trying to escape into a ready ambush.
As simple as these plays may seem, their impact to the game when combined are actually significant. JerAx' clever movements around the map and perfect read of TNC's movements puts him in a league yet above that of TNC's Tims, or even most of the world's best position-4s.
That isn't to say that Tims didn't do much of the same when he got his turn on his signature hero, but the score speaks for itself.
Either way, whether it's between OG and TNC, or between JerAx and Tims, this rivalry is just beginning.
But you know what? Neither of them is LFY's Ahfu. That guy is clearly a different entity when playing Earth Spirit.