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Road to the finals
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StarLadder i-League Invitational #2 kicks off the post-Kiev tournaments leading up to TI7. Eight teams will compete over the $100,000 prize pool in Shanghai, China from the 18th to the 21st of May. Almost all of the teams appearing at StarLadder seem to have made the decision to not change their rosters in the lead up to TI7 and will be competing with the same members we are familiar with. iG will look to build on their DAC win and top 4 finish in Kiev; Liquid will try to build their foundation and figure out an approach to the game that makes sense for them; and Newbee will aim to finally win an international tournament, which has escaped the grasp of the current roster. Every team will be aiming to win their first tournament of the season and build on their momentum at the most critical time of the year. StarLadder will be our first glimpse into what we can expect in the weeks and months ahead, especially with 7.06 upon us.
VG.J is by no means a bad team by results alone; their losses have mostly been very tough series where they happen to come out on the losing end more often than not. fy has had a couple of performances that remind us why he was so feared during his time on the old Vici Gaming and Agressif fits the team’s needs as a carry very well. While they may not be a favourite over a team like iG, they have the capability to go toe to toe with anybody present at StarLadder i-League Invitational #2, and maybe even take down iG themselves.
While Sccc and Uuu9 quickly made a name for themselves after joining Newbee as two of the best core players in the world, their struggle to win a tournament before TI7 might put extra stress on them leading up to the event. This makes Newbee’s placement here at StarLadder all the more important when teams like OG and VP are not present. The support duo of Kaka and Faith has worked very well, and the experience between the two should be able to lead the team throughout the game. However, the changes to the game after 7.00 might have been impacting Newbee, and specifically Kaka’s approach to the early game more than we realized.
Burning has looked at home in the post 7.00 patches and with Q, the former captain of CDEC, leading the team, his skills are being put to very good use. Each member of iG has carried their own weight and contributed to some incredible victories and some great highlight reel material. While we might not have known much about Op, Xxs, or Boboka (or how to pronounce his name), we’ve all been very thoroughly introduced to how exceptionally well they can play their roles. Whether it be Boboka’s Monkey King, Xxs’s Magnus, or Op’s Lina, you can expect iG to be the ones dictating the pace of their game.
Therein lies the problem for Liquid: while they are capable of beating every team at StarLadder if they play on the level fans of the team expect of them, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. While Miracle and MATUMBAMAN are two of the most individually skilled players in the world, the transition period of getting used to playing with each other has taken much longer than anticipated. Recently, we have begun to see signs that Liquid has started to mesh, the players are feeling more comfortable, and a win here at StarLadder would further reinforce their position as one of the top teams in the world.
Raven, Sam_H, and TnC’s former captain Kuku are the remnants of the TI6 iteration of TnC who managed to take down the omnivorous giants known as OG. With the addition of ryOyr and Tims, the team has continued to play exceptionally well outside of SEA, but struggle to consistently make it to the tournaments. Raven has been a very stable carry for TnC, often being able to farm even in contested lanes and almost always having a noticeable impact when the game reaches the later stages. Along with Kuku, TnC fields some of the best talent from the SEA region; while they might not be the favourite in their group, they could definitely cause some upsets in Shanghai and possibly find their way to the finals.
In SEA, Faceless has stumbled slightly in their qualifier attempts as Clutch Gaming managed to take them down in the winner bracket and grand finals of the EPICENTER qualifier; Faceless also failed to make it out of their group for The Summit 7 qualifier. While this might be cause for some concern, they have also qualified for The Manila Masters and have still looked quite strong against the other top teams in the area. While inconsistency does hurt Faceless during their tournament performances, when they are prepared and play as a cohesive unit, we have seen them take a game off OG with incredible ease, and make short work of “better” teams in high pressure Bo1 matches.
Since Alliance rarely make it through the stacked EU qualifiers for tournaments, their appearance here is all the more important. Good results could lead to potential invites in the future to other tournaments, which would offer a much needed opportunity for practice with TI7 right around the corner. Even more so because of a recent announcement on Alliance’s site which states we might see a different group of players after the roster lock if they are unable to see a way to win together. Unfortunately for Alliance, their group seems quite stacked with iG, TnC, and VG.J standing in their way; but perhaps Alliance can surprise us much in the same way that SG e-sports and TnC did before them.