The 11th Star Series final played out this weekend, and one team clearly stood out above the rest.
Team Empire was dominant in their performance at the Star Ladder Star Series playoff final, running through the upper bracket without a scratch before defeating ASUS Polar in the grand finals.
Team Empire entered the Ukrainian event on a recent hot streak that included titles in October and December won at the Excellent Moscow Cup and Esportal Dota 2 League Invitational, respectively.
At each event, Empire had to overcome ASUS Polar, formerly Virtus Pro Polar. And this time around the Polar squad would again find themselves unable to stop Team Empire, losing to the Russian and Ukrainian side by a margin of three games to one in the grand final set.
Empire went into the grand final with a one game advantage as their reward for a dominant upper bracket run that included clean sweeps of Fire, Natus Vincere and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Of the six victories composing that run, only one took longer than 34 minutes to achieve, and none went as long as 40.
The most frequent sight during Empire’s championship performance was Maxim “Yoky” Kim playing the devastating melee hero Axe. Kim was allowed to choose Axe in six of Empire’s first seven games of the tournament, all of which were victories.
Kim’s performance was enough to strike such fear of the character into his opponents that in each of Empire’s three games that Axe didn’t make an appearance he was the very first character banned by the opposing team.
The event also constituted a much better showing for the third-place team, Ninjas in Pyjamas. The former Lajons squad had debuted under their new moniker at the second I-League final, where they finished in last place after losing to LGD Gaming and, more disappointingly, MVP Phoenix.
American team Fire produced a minor improvement of their own over their most recent international performance, where they finished last in the final of the fourth Dota 2 Champions League. The Americans were able to defeat Hell Raisers in the lower bracket before falling to ASUS Polar, who would also go on to eliminate Ninjas in Pyjamas after having lost to the Swedes in the upper bracket semifinals.