It only takes a glance at the final bracket of Europe’s premier Dota 2 tournament to know that the playoffs are going to be hotly contested.
League play for DreamLeague Season 2 came to a close yesterday and the top six finishers are awaiting the final push. The affair is classic Europe versus North America, with Evil Geniuses and Cloud9 securing the top two seeds for NA in style. The reward for their performances is an automatic berth into the semifinals of this coming weekend’s double-elimination playoff.
But the title won’t come easily, even for regular champions Evil Geniuses. Several sides showed surprising creativity and resilience over six days of competition, leaving the playoffs wider open than expected.
Chief among them is 4 Anchors + Sea Captain. The Finns pushed veteran teams to their limits thanks to Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen’s Slark and Jesse “Jerax” Vainikka’s brilliant support play. While their playstyle was noted for sometimes being overly-aggressive, their ability to string together multiple small victories into an overwhelming advantage put them on the competitive map quickly.
Unfortunately for the Finns, their first-round matchup is a team who’ve found their rhythm in recent weeks. Since his removal from Natus Vincere, Artem “FNG” Barshak has made a name for his unofficial team, Virtus Pro Polar, through creative drafting and support play. Of equal note is carry player Alexander “DkPhobos” Kucheria, whose slippery maneuvering on Puck put many games out of reach for recent opponents.
On the other side of the bracket, Team Tinker looks dangerous as ever. After an unfortunate lull in their results, Max “qojqva” Broecker and Per Anders “Pajkatt” Olsson Lille in particular put lesser sides down with ruthless efficiency, helping the team finish third in league play. They face a favorable matchup in Virtus Pro, a Russian side that barely squeaked into the playoffs with a surprising upset over Cloud9 in the final game of the week.
But as has become commonplace for Western Dota, most eyes are focused on Evil Geniuses. The team’s drafting, a particular strength for the team thanks to Peter “PPD” Drager, has kept their opponents guessing. This is particularly true in tournaments, where mental momentum can end a series before it even begins. A 2-0 loss to Cloud9 in the last day of league play may be on their minds should the two meet, but the series’s experimental draft —featuring a support played as a carry—could be seen more as high-level practice than a barometer of their respective strengths.
With over $40,000 at stake for the winner, the plays will be big, the competition will be fierce, and the drafts will be cunning. If Europe hopes to keep North America from hoisting the check however, then one simple rule should be etched in their minds: ban Terrorblade.