Royal Never Give up were the slight favorites heading into the China regional qualifiers for The International 2019, but it took a lot longer for them to actually earn their ticket than many fans thought it would.
They had a strong showing in the group stage, only losing to the eventual top seed, Invictus Gaming, and Newbee later on. Heading into the playoffs, it looked like they’d end up facing Invictus again in the winners finals.
Instead, CDEC Gaming, the youth team of LGD Gaming, continued to shock some of the more proven squads by upsetting RNG in the first round. That put RNG in the lower bracket, where they faced an early elimination against Invictus, who were knocked down by EHOME.
Invictus played well in the group stage, but their series against EHOME was a messy sweep that they never really had a chance to come back from. The same could be said for when the faced RNG. It was a sloppy showing that ended with the more practiced squad taking an easy 2-0.
With the shocking top seed now out of the way, RNG had to face the other early favorite, EHOME. CDEC pulled off another upset, besting EHOME in a 60-minute brawl and then cleaning things up to make it into the grand finals.
None of the matches in the lower bracket finals were very close, with most games being even until one team pulled away in the mid-game. But the two rival teams know each other’s playstyle well after having competed in nearly a dozen events this season.
RNG dominated game one and EHOME pulled away late to take the next match and force a decisive game three. In the end, EHOME didn’t have an answer for Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong in any of their matchups and that cost them. RNG finished the 2-1 win and ended EHOME’s season.
The series against CDEC was a completely different story than what happened with EHOME, especially when the younger team came out and destroyed RNG in the opening game. In less than 30 minutes, CDEC put up 32 kills while holding RNG to just seven and completely shut down Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng on his Leshrac.
RNG retaliated in game two by sweeping through lanes and giving CDEC no time to set anything up on the defensive end. Setsu picked up Leshrac this time and absolutely killed CDEC, helping RNG even the series at 1-1.
Game three was the first time one of their matches got truly competitive, but RNG pulled things out in the end. Setsu’s insane Sniper dealt a total of 51,359 hero damage and racked up 15 kills, while Du “Monet” Peng added 16 assists to help RNG put themselves one win away from TI9.
With Guo “Eve” Yuhang on Morphling and Guo “Xm” Hongcheng on Razor, CDEC proceeded to push the finals to a game five, taking down RNG in another one-sided contest.
Game five was probably the most intense match of the entire tournament, due to the stakes and how close it was. Both sides knew that a ticket to the biggest Dota tournament of all time was on the line and they fought an absolutely brilliant match.
CDEC controlled the game early on, but RNG fought back and started dealing some massive damage. The damage dealt in the game leaned heavily toward RNG by the halfway point, but CDEC was playing extremely smart and managed to avoid losing too many players.
Despite avoiding some crippling situations, RNG had CDEC on the ropes several times because of their late aggressive play. This set up an intense final few minutes where RNG clutched out the kills they needed and pushed the Aegis, completing an insane run through the lower bracket.
CDEC had an amazing tournament and several of their younger players will now likely be on the radars of a few teams when it comes time for roster changes in the offseason. Several of those talented players could end up making it onto other contenders for next season because of their play in the qualifiers.
RNG now join Keen Gaming, LGD, and Vici Gaming as the Chinese representatives at The International 2019, which begins on Aug. 15.