The 2017-2018 Dota 2 season’s first major event kicked off on Thursday morning with the beginning of ESL One Hamburg. As expected from one of the esports world’s premiere organizers, it was a well-produced, polished event that was full of top-notch Dota 2 action.
The event began with four best-of-ones to breeze through the first group stages round. The standings at day’s end read as follows:
But how did the actual games shake out? Here’s how:
Day 1 started off with Group A’s Newbee vs. Fnatic. On paper, it was a gross mismatch between the TI8 runner-up and a Southeast Asian team that hasn’t successfully qualified for a tournament yet. In execution, it was even worse. A questionable draft by Fnatic led to early lane dominance for Newbee, which was converted into well-timed item purchases. That put them in position to pressure early high-ground objectives, which they secured with very little difficulty en route to a handy 31-minute win.
The second Group A game, between Evil Geniuses and Team Secret, was the complete opposite as it panned out to be a competitive game on every level. The first 28 minutes were pure dominance by EG, as they manufactured pickoffs around Artour "Arteezy" Babaev’s Clinkz and controlled the lanes brilliantly. Then the game turned on a dime. A four-for-nil team fight at Roshan was converted into a quick mid barracks for Secret and from there, EG just collapsed. With one lane pushing in naturally, Secret kept things tight around EG’s base and when it tried to venture into its jungle, a smoke gank led to a game-sealing five-man wipe.
Like Group A, Group B kicked off with an old-fashioned stomp as TI7 champions Team Liquid put the boots to Brazil’s SG E-Sports. While fans and analysts alike were taken aback by Liquid taking Spectre (the least-picked hero in Dota 2 since the 7.00 patch) with its last pick, the favorites posted a fairly routine “Liquid”-style game, with high-impact Broodmother and Chen play. There were a number of different times where Liquid could have sealed the game up, but it opted instead to slowly, safely squeeze the life out of SG E-Sports before going for the throat at 33 minutes.
In the final game of the day, Keen Gaming’s coming out party was ruined by the ever-merciless Virtus Pro. The upstart Chinese team stunned fans when it beat out established elites like LGD.Forever Young and Invictus Gaming for a spot in ESL One Hamburg and was tasked with not only performing under the brightest spotlight of the team’s existence, but silencing the critics that labeled their presence a fluke.
Well, they didn’t do that.
After a reasonably competitive laning phase, Virtus.Pro flipped the switch and absolutely dominated Keen in team fights. Each time they came together, VP would walk away with three-for-one exchanges or better, with Keen slipping further and further away from victory each time. At 29 minutes, they had enough and called the GG.
Day 2 Preview
That was the end of Day 1 of ESL One Hamburg competition. Day 2 will feature three best-of-three series, and they’re all quite compelling.
First, the first-place team for both groups will be decided with Newbee vs. Team Secret and Team Liquid vs. Virtus Pro. Those are two matchups that could have been reasonably picked as the potential grand finals to this tournament, promising high stakes action between high-level teams.
The final series of the day, however, will see a team sent home as Evil Geniuses takes on Fnatic.
That’s an important series at face value, given its place in the tournament, but there are interesting stories between the lines there for both teams as EG continues to stumble following its TI7 flop and Fnatic struggles with Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao at the helm. Both teams need some level of success at this tournament, but only one of them will get it.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding ESL One Hamburg outside the game, as OpTic Gaming captain Peter “ppd” Dager tore into organizers for not giving players a dedicated area to practice ahead of the event. That’s a valid gripe, but ESL One certainly didn’t slack when it came to keeping the players comfortable.
Immediately before the event, players took to social media to show off some of the treats ESL had ready for the players.
First and foremost? Custom Mercedes-Benz cars for each team to enjoy during the tournament, emblazoned with their logos and colors. Even better, the MVP of the winning team will get to keep their ride for good, upping the stakes even higher than the 750 DPC points and $500,000 prize.
Mercedes-Benz wasn’t alone in delivering team-branded fun, though. Players were also surprised with unique cans of Pringles potato chips to snack on ahead of the group stages. Granted, “Pringles” does carry some less-than-positive (NSFW language included) connotations in old-school gaming circles...but here, it just seems to be a nice gesture from one of the event’s big sponsors.
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