The International 5 – Part VIII – The Wildcard matches

I didn’t get to update this blog yesterday because I wanted to do a piece on TI5’s first matches. The Wildcard matches kicked off TI5 by deciding the last two teams that would compete in the main event. A nice warm up for the viewers and an interesting little peak at the playstyles that could come to define the next couple of weeks for the players.

Taking place between the 2nd place finishers of the continental qualifiers, Vega Squadron (Europe) CDEC Gaming (China) Team Archon (Americas) and MVP.Phoenix (South East Asia) those who lost get nothing but those who won are guaranteed to win at least $50,000 which would already be most teams biggest prize to date. Already the stakes were high for the teams. Even being in The International is considered a highlight of many players careers, and, of course, all the teams involved, even losers, get to experience Valve’s near legendary hospitality, which I may touch on in a later post.

However, down to business. I consider the Wildcard matches to be a mini-tournament of sorts. All taking place in one day, it has its own prize and the difference between 2nd and 3rd is immense. However, there were 5 Bo3s due to be played that day and so, to make sure it gets done in one day, the first two took place simultaneously, as did the subsequent 2 matches. Of course, because of this, I didn’t get to watch them all, but I got to take a peak at most. CDEC vs Vega was the first match I watched and, having seen Vega play extremely well a few months ago in not only the EU Qualifiers, forcing Na’Vi into a 5th game in the Bo5 series for the direct invite, but also fighting and winning against top European teams in other tournaments, I expected an exciting match. As a result I was disappointed not only by Vega losing to CDEC 2-1, but more importantly both seeing CDEC and Vega play very poorly. I felt that Vega’s draft had little in the way of crowd control and, more importantly in this meta that emphasises team fights, they had very little teamfight impacting heroes, going more for a ganking strategy. It was for this reason that I think CDEC won, Q’s drafts being very well thought out, very balanced and with a heavy importance put on lockdown and control.

The game going on concurrently was MVP.Pheonix vs Team Archon. I don’t think anyone would dispute that Archon were the underdogs in every match they played. A lot of people were incredibly surprised that Team Tinker aka Mousesports didn’t win, or even get 2nd place, in the American Qualifiers, and, as a result, it wasn’t the strongest team that made it through in my opinion. With that being said, Archon played very well, but again were out-drafted by their Eastern opponents. They picked very risky early game drafts which will win the game quickly or lose the game in 45 minutes. Unfortunately for them 2/3 times the latter was true, though I commend them for their performance. I also feel that MVP’s experience greatly helped them, and clearly their communication was top notch, executing many well timed combos with incredible precision. QO played 3 amazing games as well, always knowing where to be and playing high-risk/high-reward heroes like Templar Assassin.

Vega vs Archon unfortunately spelled the end for the American team’s dream, Vega winning 2-0. Vega’s drafts were much better in this game, whilst Archon struggled to find a combo that could work for them. Mag really is the story of Vega after yesterday, much like QO for MVP, he was rarely caught out of position and seemed to always know what he needed to do. Sadly for their next match it was not enough, MVP out-drafting them almost completely. In my opinion, during game 2, there were many times when Vega was in a game winning position with an incredibly farmed Ember Spirit but, wanting to play it safe so as to not throw away their chances, they played it too safe and their window of opportunity passed them by. MVP also picked up a fantastic counter to their team in the bristle back, March in the offlane throughout the 3 game series playing exceptionally well.

Of course, talking about this we have missed the CDEC vs MVP.Phoenix match, a game which I didn’t get to watch any of. Taking a glance at the drafts it seems that neither has any great defaults. The first games looks like it had a lot of aggression from MVP with the Spirit Breaker and Storm Spirit combo, with a Gyrocopter in the safelane to farm away. CDEC’s draft, however, offers a lot of counter initiation from the Clockwerk and Lion and with Bounty Hunter and Viper present to run people down, if MVP made mistakes they were going to pay dearly for them with track gold and their lives. MVP in the 2nd game went for another aggressive lineup, running a QoP of Pain in the mid with a Sven & Io combo to carry. CDEC looked to outpush them with a Broodmother and Gryocopter being able to punish relocates when Sven would be out of the lane, allowing either of their cores to push hard while Puck brought teamfight to their lineup in the mid. Both solid drafts but, in both cases, I give CDEC the edge and, winning 2-0, CDEC managed to secure first place and went on to the group of their choosing.

We say goodbye to Vega and Archon for now. It must be heartbreaking to get so close to your dream to have it snatched away. However, from a spectators point of view, no one team played particularly well. There were standout players but, if MVP or CDEC wish to do well in this competition, they seriously need to up their game.


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