Opening day of the EPICENTER Major playoffs kicked off with a series between the two top teams in the world, Team Secret and Virtus Pro.
Virtus got the best of Secret in their last meeting at DreamLeague Season 11, but the pair of top-level teams have traded blows back and for this entire Dota Pro Circuit season. Unsurprisingly, this series was another classic in which Virtus eventually prevailed.
Game one lasted almost an hour as both sides struggled to gain an edge over their opponents. Virtus managed to grab some key kills during a Roshan fight, though, forcing Clement “Puppey” Ivanov to buyback after getting killed.
Virtus ended up losing that team fight, but they ultimately built a resource advantage that helped them finally gain some ground. The match came down to a few more fights that Virtus came out on top, which allowed them to secure the win.
Going for something odd for the second game’s draft, Secret decided to pick up both Phoenix and Spirit Breaker right after Virtus used them to take game one.
Both sides kept picking each other off at different times, specifically Puppey and Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan, who were focused on during fights. The match came down to a single kill difference,though, with Secret clutching up while attacking Virtus at their Aegis for the victory.
Despite Secret’s success in game two, Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev and RodjER carried their team to an absolute shutout of Secret in game three. In fact, Secret only managed to get one kill during a skirmish before they were forced on the defensive and eventually overwhelmed.
This win put Virtus in a great position to overtake Secret in the DPC rankings—well, until Team Liquid crushed that idea.
Liquid and their new roster had a strong group stage and continued to play well against LGD Gaming in their first series of the playoffs. LGD had a decent draft, but they gave Liquid’s Aliwi “w33” Omar his Windranger. That pick worked for Liquid four separate times during the group stage, and the good results continued in game one.
It was a slow crawl until about the 26-minute mark, but that is when Liquid started hitting their stride. Liquid steamrolled the Chinese team in the final minutes to take the 1-0 lead.
LGD learned from their initial mistake and banned both Windranger and Wisp, the latter of which was used by Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi, to torch them last game. It led to a much closer match between the two teams, but Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi stepped up to carry his squad.
Using Ember Spirit, Miracle- went 14/5/18, dealing 44,165 in hero damage and helping to push Liquid over the edge near the 44-minute mark.
This set Liquid up to face Virtus to see whose hot streak would stay hot and push themselves to a top-three finish in the final Major of the season.
Both teams drafted well, but again, the duo of Miracle- and w33 got to play their highly successful pairing of Gyrocopter and Windranger. It ended like most of the previous matches did, with a convincing Liquid victory.
Miracle- went 6/0/8 and w33 went 6/0/6, which helped Liquid end the match under the 25-minute mark.
Virtus returned the favor in game two by piling on the kills and winning the lanes against Liquid’s lineup. The CIS squad focused on KuroKy and Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov during those fights, and essentially forced the other Liquid players to try and protect them.
That opened up enough room for Virtus to finish a strong 43-23 win and tie things up.
The final game ended up being a repeat of the first, with w33 having a great outing on Templar Assassin. He finished with 10 kills while working off of Maroun “GH” Merhej’s Clockwerk, who had 14 assists, and Miracle-‘s Juggernaut to finish out the series in a 23-minute match.
This win guarantees Liquid a top-three finish at EPICENTER even after changing up their roster just before the tournament. So far, it looks like w33 has indeed been a seamless fit with the TI7 champs.
Matches will pick back up on June 25 at 3am CT when Vici Gaming and Gambit Esports face off.