In the most evenly spread group at the EPICENTER Major, TNC Predator stood tall among the tough competition. LGD Gaming and Ninjas in Pyjamas had two intense sets, but eventually, LGD won when it mattered most.
In the opening series, NiP traded blows with LGD in the first two matches. Both games were quick 20-minute affairs that were completely one-sided.
NiP took the first game 22-5 in kills but were zoned out of game two by a Chen and Ember Spirit combo. In the decisive game, NiP were producing the zone play with Batrider and Sand King in their draft.
It was a 55-minute slog that kept things pretty clean, only having 57 kills, which is low for that length. NiP’s strategy worked and they edged LGD out while playing at a deficit in resources.
Meanwhile, OG and Predator had an absolute brawl in their series even as OG had to play without their ace and captain, Johan “N0tail” Sundstein. One of their coaches, Titouan “Sockshka” Merloz, stepped up to play for the defending International champs.
Game one went nearly 50 minutes and had more kills than the longest game between LGD and NiP. Both teams went offense heavy to start things off and OG had a clear advantage that broke down Predator over time. That likely had to do with OG playing a draft of heroes not often seen in the Southeast Asian Dota scene, exploiting a lack of matchup knowledge.
After a dominant late-game, OG got rocked in game two as Predator cut 15 minutes off the previous game’s timer and evened up the series. This set the pair up for one last clash, and it didn’t disappoint.
A 53-minute battle between two excellent teams that looked completely even came down to who blinked first. Unfortunately for OG, that misstep came when they went for mega creeps and they suffered a devastating wipe.
This let Predator clean up and move into the winners finals to face NiP. From there, the competitive matches just kept coming as both games NiP and Predator played went at least 56 minutes.
Game one had Predator pull out both a Dragon Knight and Wraith King to make a rare combo. That draft usually plays out better in a late-game scenario, something that NiP wanted to avoid with their own lineup.
As the game was drawn out, NiP lost their grasp on the match and the SEA team broke away for an extremely close win. The next game somehow got even closer than that, with Predator stealing the win right out of NiP’s hands despite being at a 45-30 kill disadvantage and down almost 30,000 in gold.
The upset-rich group stage continued as Predator claimed the top seed for the EPICENTER Group of Death over NiP. NiP then had to fight LGD once more after the Chinese team bested OG in a one-sided 2-0 rematch of The International 2018 finals.
The rematch played out exactly the same through two games, with both teams winning one game each. The only difference that mattered, in the end, was how LGD came out and ran away with game three after NiP had an amazing showing in game two.
LGD’s consistency in drafting good heroes and not being afraid to run back matchups several games in a row was what made the difference. Highlighted by the team picking up Chen for all three games, LGD blew NiP out of the water to squeeze into the last spot in the upper bracket.
EPICENTER matches resume on June 24 at 3am CT when VP clash with the top-ranked Team Secret in a matchup that’s happened several times in the grand finals this season.