Table of Contents
League Play Recap
Group Play Matchups
Check out StarLadder on Liquipedia
StarLadder in Kiev
After several intense weeks and nearly a hundred games, the third season of StarLadder is ready to start the most exciting part of the season: the live finals. The top seven teams arrived in Kiev yesterday and drafted their groups, the lines are drawn and the players are ready to begin the battle.
Reaching this point has been quite the tale already. With CLG being forced to withdraw after the league had started, and The Retry being disqualified for not showing to matches, the league had a difficult start. Once the round robin finished it was revealed that neither Quantic nor Evil Geniuses would be attending the finals and they were to be replaced by MYM and Absolute Legends, the latter of which had to pull out when travel arrangements couldn’t be made in time for s0ny to participate.
The tournament saw a last-minute change in sponsorship as well, when it was revealed that the former mousesports players would be traveling to the tournament funded by The GD Studio and had separated from their longtime sponsor.
That leaves us with seven of the most hardened teams in Europe ready to duke it out, with Empire looking unnaturally strong and Na`Vi playing decidedly average (as seems to be their calling card early on in tournaments). A best-of-2 group format means anything can happen and everyone has a chance yet, especially with one of the groups only having three teams. It is time for this event to bring it up a notch and show who will walk away the best in Europe.
Time for the StarLadder to really heat up.
StarLadder Online Group Recap
After weeks of hard competition the online portion of Starladder has come to an end, 14 teams have been battling it out for a chance to win fame, money, and honor. The top 8 teams are ready in Kiev to duke it out for ultimate victory in the Star Ladder Finals.
The results are as follows:
|1.||Team Empire||14 - 1||42p|
|2.||Moscow 5||12 - 3||36p|
|3.||Quantic Gaming||10 - 5||30p|
|4.||mousesports||10 - 5||30p|
|5.||Virtus.pro||10 - 5||30p|
|6.||Skånes Elit||10 - 5||30p|
|7.||Natus Vincere||10 - 5||30p|
|8.||Absolute Legends||9 - 6||27p|
|9.||Evil Geniuses||9 - 6||27p|
|10.||Meet Your Makers||9 - 6||27p|
|11.||Fnatic||5 - 10||15p|
|12.||Team Kharkiv||5 - 10||15p|
|13.||NEXT.kz||3 - 12||9p|
|14.||Darer||3 - 12||9p|
|DNF.||CLG||1 - 14||3p|
|DSQ.||The Retry||0 - 15||0p|
CIS strikes back
By far the most popular team in the CIS scene is Na`Vi. Champions of The International 1, runner-up of The International 2, and two-time winners of the StarLadder Series. For a while the future of CIS Dota was unknown; Na`Vi stood on top while the Old M5 and Darer posted marginal results. Yet this time it is not Na`Vi who is king of the hill, but rather the new CIS rosters. Stronger, faster, more aggressive, the teams Empire and Moscow Five are standing at the first and second position of the StarLadder. Empire went 15-1, losing only to a strong Moscow Fv, who themselves went 12-3.
Absolute Legends, the team which had both G and Vigoss, went 9-6 and while not the most impressive performance; they did manage to eventually secure themselves a spot. This team shows quite some instability and problems in team cohesion, some of their games it looked like they were winning based upon sheer individual skill alone, which they do not lack in any shape or form. Unfortunately due to issues AL has declined to attend the LAN finals.
Virtus.pro, after reforming their roster as well, the team of NS and Santa went a respectable 10-5 overall. While they do not look the strongest, give credit where it is due, this team has potential to improve as well. They are together with Quantic the team who have been experimenting with Thrall the Disruptor and have shown sparks of exceptional skill.
Natus Vincere. Called the Laziest team in Dota 2 by Puppey himself, they barely made it to the LAN finals in Kiev. Going 10-5 they did not put up the best performance but they got there either way. However let’s not kid ourselves, despite their lackluster online performance it is after all Na`Vi. Na`Vi are the defending champions and at LAN they perform at their absolute best, we expect them to once again step up their game and crush the competition.
With teams such as Empire and M5 on the rise we can see that Na`Vi no longer stands alone and that CIS is ready to take their rightful position back in Western Dota.
Skånes Elit, captained by Wagamama and formerly known as Infused. With 10-5 Skånes Elit has made it to the LAN finals in Kiev as well while playing some of the most innovating Dota in Starladder. Skånes Elit has perhaps used Wisp the most and Mini plays it to its maximum potential. Using Treant Protector, Juggernaut, Chen and Wisp to beat teams such as Na`Vi they have become known for their innovative strategies and unconventional play. After receiving 3 losses from BVM they went on and crushed most of their competition, managing to bargain for rematches and secure their spot at the finals. We are looking forward to Kiev, if only for the unconventional play that this team brings to the table.
Meet Your Wolves
MYM (previously known as Wolves) just barely would not have made it, after head to head it was not enough for them to secure a spot to the LAN finals despite going 9-6. However Quantic and EG have both declined to attend and as such MYM will be traveling to the LAN finals in their stead. MYM have been putting up a pretty good performance, though some people may have almost even forgotten about Calculus but he is ready to put his mark back on the scene.
A Team Transformed
The former mouz had a rough start, going 1-3 they got their act together as Black^ returned and sweeped the competition, going 10-5 in the end. Yet some of these teams are still missing their chemistry, the click, the right concoction, sometimes they look brilliant, yet they are unstable. As of early this week there was some question as to their participation, but after The GD Studio stepped in it was decided they would be making an appearance, albeit without their former sponsor.
At the LAN finals in Kiev the question remains, will it fizz, or will it bang?
The Lesser Ones
For ones to shine others must not, such is the case of the new Darer, NextKz, Kharkiv(now known as Eclypsia) and FnaticRC. Fnatic and Kharkiv went 5-10 while Next.KZ and the new Darer went a disappointing 3-12. Kharkiv and the new Darer are relatively new teams nevertheless, so they might still be looking for that chemistry, that undefined spark that can catapult a group to the next level. Never forget that Artstyle is on Kharkiv. Any team which has Artstyle will surely pull out some interesting shenanigans, it just did not happen this time.
CLG and the Retry
Pgg and his squad were disqualified for failure to show up to games while CLG withdrew for personal reasons related to studying and work.
In the end the following teams will be attending Starladder LAN.
The GD B Team (ex-mousesports)
Meet Your Makers
The GD B Team (ex-mousesports)
Meet Your Makers
My prediction is that Empire takes it. While this looks very obvious if you look at the league stats, it is not the fact that they won but rather how they won – in utterly devastating fashion in most cases. Moscow Five went 12-3, an excellent record. Yet Moscow Five look a lot less convincing in their wins. The Empire squad is still untested on LAN and this will be a chance to prove themselves. The crew formerly known as MouseSports still has an unstable roster, I can see them taking games off people but not win the entire thing. Virtus Pro looks solid but is outmatched by the other participants. Hopefully we will see some nice strategies coming out from Skånes Elit, their play in games where they used a standard lineup was not amazing but was enough to secure them a spot to the finals. If any team is going to pull out an excellent pocket strategy, this is the team to look for.
The real question mark for us all is Na`Vi. They have been looking weak once again, yet they do so in the beginning stages of every tournament and destroy everyone on LAN in with utter dominance. I daresay that Empire is not that easy to destroy and that Na`Vi will have to fight hard for not only the title of StarLadder Season 3 Champion but also for the unofficial title of CIS top dog.
Teams have dropped out, teams have chosen not to go. Yet the Starladder Finals in Kiev will be something to look forward to, do we see a new CIS champion rise? Do we see Na`Vi defend their title as the Starladder Champion? Do we see Skanes surprising with their strategies and will we see Bamboe Doto? All we can do is wait and see.
Team Empire in Numbers
Thanks to Dota-Academy and shostakovich we are here to bring some interesting statistics considering the new CIS force and the team to look out for at StarLadder season 3 Finals.
Since StarLadder Season 3 started, Team Empire has an incredible record of 18-3, not only do they win their matches, but they do so in convincing fashion.
Disclaimer: these statistics encompass matches played outside of Starladder aswell unless stated otherwise. Bear in mind that the sample size of the new Empire is small, they have only played 21 games since StarLadder has begun and went 18-3. Individual hero performances on a game to game bases are not included, only the end result.
Empire's Chaos Knight and Wisp possess an impressive 80% winrate (8-2). Wisp plus heroes like Sven, Chaos Knight and Tiny fits easily into Empire's option for aggressiveness and shutting down the enemy by sheer force. Curiously, the numbers also show that teams banned Wisp against Empire only four times and the only time Wisp was used against Empire was in the match won by M5.BenQ. Templar Assassin is another hero with the same characteristics: possess a massive winrate of 78% for Empire, but is rarely banned or picked against them.
It's very uncommon to see Empire going into the late game. The average game time of 37 minutes suggests that Empire has a preference for fast and furious games where the enemy has to fight all the time. Empire has yet to lose a game against Antimage, they have 80% winrate against Naga-Siren and 60% winrate against Morphling. Naga Siren is the carry they picked the most, with great success (6-0, 100% winrate). Their winrate with Anti-mage, however, is only 40% (2-3).
In favor of Team Empire speaks their numbers with core heroes like Windrunner and Leshrac, very popular picks on the scene right now and by far their most picked heroes. With Empire, both heroes are nearing 70% winrate, and against them, Empire has 62,5% winrate against Leshrac and 50% against Windrunner. Empire also has strong winrates against other core picks: 83% against Tidehunter, 77% against Rubick, 70% against Chen,
Maybe the best way to fight Empire is to fight aggressiveness with aggressiveness. Against heroes like Sand King and Queen of Pain, Empire has only 20% and 25% winrates respectively. Invoker is another hero which Empire struggles against, having only 42% winrate.
- Scandal, the solo mid of Empire is 7-2 with Templar Assassin.
- BlowYourBrain, not only does have a 100% winrate with Naga Siren, he has it as well with Chaos Knight.
- Goblak, not only proficient with Jungle heroes like Chen and Enchantress but also plays a very nice Keeper of the Light, winning all 4 games with him.
- Funn1k, his Wisp has a 60% winrate. If you eliminate the games of Ex-Darer however he is left with a previously mentioned 8-2 record. Hopefully we get to see more of this in the coming days.
- Silent or SS, look out for his Windrunner and Leshrac. Windrunner has fallen off for a lot of teams in the offlane in favor of heroes such as Tidehunter or Beastmaster. Nevertheless when Funn1k mans the wisp Silent is the one who goes offlane on his Windrunner. Silent is 6-2 with Windrunner, 6-0 with the new Empire.
Empire has chosen quite a variety of heroes. One noticeable hero pick is the Obsidian Destroyer by Scandal in this D2L game against Dignitas(formerly PotM Bottom). Dignitas gets absolutely demolished in the laning phase by the uncommon picks such as Obsidian Destroyer, Keeper of the Light and Bane Elemental. All the while Empire gave away nothing during the draft because they simply picked Windrunner and Naga Siren. While they have only used the OD once, it shows that they are not avert to picking unconventional heroes to catch their opponents off-guard.
Empire is the team to look out for at the StarLadder finals, be prepared for off-beat strategies and strong play.
The Knight Strategy
OmniKnight, Dragon Knight, Holy Knight, Chaos Knight and Leshrac. Using the tankiness and pushing capability of these heroes EG has gone 2-0 with this strategy in StarLadder. Look for this strategy in the games EG vs Na`Vi (seen above) and EG vs Darer.
Wisp + Tiny
Wisp Tiny, perhaps made famous by EHOME.LaNm has also seen some play. Wisp works extremely well with Tiny, as shown by Empire. Empire showcased Wisp leveling his Spirits first and then literally Spiritbombing the opposing team when Tiny throws him into the fray in this game against EG.
Dendi and Pudge, BFFs
Pudge, Dendi, what more do I have to say? In this game against Darer, Dendi once again shows why the Chinese banned Pudge against the Ukranian superstars at the International.
Disruptor, the new support hero on the block, with 1800 glimpse range, aoe silence, an impenetrable pit and a damage over time spell that gives vision he is a hero to look out for. Virtus.Pro.NS plays a very mean Disruptor in this game against Mousesports. Virtus.Pro gains extra bonus points for having a Lifestealer on their team as well.
Skånes Elit with its entertaining and innovating lineup consisting of Wisp, Juggernaut, Treant Protector, Chen and Leshrac in this game against Na`Vi, building forth on the Juggernaut healing ward strategy that Na`Vi themselves popularized. Note that this was before 6.75, the patch that made everyone remember the biggest hippy still exists.
Group A: CIS civil war
By picking Na`Vi, Team Empire intends to win the remaining match on their group and avoid fighting the TI2 runner-up on the semi-finals.
If we are to make predictions based on recent performances on online tournaments, Empire is the favorite to take the first place, with Natus Vincere and Virtus.Pro tied for the second place. However, LAN play is often a far cry from the internet-based alternative. It's a radically different experience to play in the safety and cozyness of their homes and in front of an audience. The game changes completely when players are exposed to pressure and the most experienced team in this case is Na`Vi. Empire has yet to show strong performances in LAN as a team though it's likely that they'll be strong. Goblak is a very experienced captain, and each player individually has good experience on LAN.
Predictions: Empire and Na`Vi top two while Virtus.pro's tournament ends.
Group B: Russian Doto, best Doto?
M5, MYM, Skånes Elite, GD B Team
M5 will be fighting against Skånes Elite, ex-mousesports and MYM. Based on the recent performances, M5 is one level ahead of the three other teams, with Skånes Elite and the GD B Team fighting for second place, with MYM a clear last. When we think about the experience factor, M5 and MYM are in the same spot as Empire: still need to show strong performances on LAN as a team. Skånes Elite is almost the same team that got sponsored by Infused last year, only changing one player. GD B Team changed a lot from that squad that got the second place in last StarLadder, but they still have very skilled and experienced players on the team.
Prediction: M5 and GD B Team to make it through.
Empire vs Na`Vi: The head-to-head statistics points that, in a total of three matches played by these two teams, Na`Vi won 2. But Empire won the last one and is on a better form right now. It's very hard to make any prediction here because it's next to impossible to ban against these teams, as they have very versatile players that enables them all sorts of strategies. Given the nature of a 3-team group and bo1, this match can either have no importance at all or being an anticipated finals. Because of the recent performances, I will give an edge to Empire.
Na`Vi vs Virtus.Pro: Virtus.Pro won their recent exchange in the groupstage and Na`Vi best form is still to be found. Hey, did I tell you already that the bo1 factor makes this group something really crazy? Na`Vi experience as a team should be able to allow them to pull a win, even if they're not in the best shape. This match will be the best change for Virtus.Pro to pull a DTS and kill the titan that has been dominating the scene for a while.
GD B Team vs Skånes Elite: the head-to-head statistics points to a massive 13-4 score in favor of GD B Team. With M5 being one level ahead in terms of recent performance and being the favorite to grab the first place in the group, this matchup can decide who will go to the semi-finals. After being promoted to B-players on the GD Team, SingSing, Bamboe and the rest must be pumped to continue their winning streak against Skånes Elite. On the other side, Skånes Elite can always surprise everyone with some strange pick or strategy to surprise The GD B Team and take advantage of the best-of-2 environment.