With the thundering of the clouds amidst the heavy rain, ESL One Birmingham came to its end. This thunderstorm heralded the coming of the end of this first DPC season and a mass of controversial changes, throwing chaos into the mix as many tried to obtain their Internet points. Virtus.Pro have done it again, winning all of the ESL One Majors in the DPC as they put a quick and class end to OpTic Gaming’s hopes for a Major win with a 3-0, making an undefeated run. The tournament saw some of the greatest upsets and underdog stories, yet there was no doubt of a lingering dissatisfaction with the final stages of the tournament.
We can see the effect of the tournament on DPC as Fnatic’s inability to overwhelm paiN in the 3rd place match crushed their TI invite chances while OpTic’s crushing defeat against VP also left them with points just shy of a TI invite. Simultaneously, Mineski’s chances have improved with VP’s victory, but with OpTic replacing OG in the upcoming Supermajor, very specific circumstances have become a possibility which will leave Mineski just shy of an invite.
That said, we shall proceed to dissect the chaotic and penultimate tournament of the season with a peculiar and unfavourable format and dramatic changes after its conclusion.
As with prior ESL events, the groups featured double elimination brackets with Bo1s to start them out. However, rather peculiarly, there were 3 groups with an eventual tiebreaker between the first place of each group. This allowed for swift eliminations on the first day of the group stages and lead to the elimination of half the teams by the end of the groups.
Group A presented a number of upsets and opened the tournament with a thriller of a game between Fnatic vs EG. This game determined the banning of Io throughout the rest of the tournament as EE’s Morphling with Dj’s Io brought about an immensely imbalanced base race through backdoor despite a mostly even game throughout, with Fnatic ultimately coming out on top. The Io talent and Dj’s ability to farm on the hero proved too much for EG to handle as even the extra time bought by the Glyph of Fortification proved meaningless.
We also saw the consequent elimination of EG by Team Spirit with effective and easy-to-execute drafts from the CIS squad. This had more or less sealed the deal for EG’s roster as MiSeRy and Fear found themselves teamless, announced on the last day of the tournament after much speculation.
As expected, VP came out on top in the group, with Fnatic having to power through a rather more intense series against Team Spirit to find their place in the playoffs.
Group B, on the other hand, went against many expectations as we saw Vici Gaming out after day 1 and Liquid falling at the hands of paiN, meanwhile OG, who had had lacklustre performances throughout the season came out on top of the group without dropping a single game. The TI7 champs eventually found themselves eliminated when going up against paiN yet again, the former proving to be a bit of a kryptonite, but cementing paiN’s status as a crowd-favourite underdog.
Credit: ESL | Adela Sznajder
Group C also brought on some upsets as the slightly controversial NA team OpTic Gaming found themselves coming out on top albeit an intense series vs Mineski. Meanwhile, Newbee saw themselves out of the tournament with a rather odd series vs LFY as they were turned on their heads, stomping the first game with Lesh but losing the next two to Lesh, including an extremely close and heart-racing Game 2. Thus, we saw LFY and Newbee out of the tournament at the end of the group stages, leaving the playoffs without a single Chinese team.
The first place decider match so as to determine which two of the top teams from the three groups would be seeded into the semifinals were swiftly concluded as VP displayed their prowess again, utterly crushing their enemies while OpTic found their success against OG, allowing them to claim the other semifinal slot.
With the doors to Arena Birmingham open to the public, we saw a continued streak from paiN in the quarterfinals as they put Mineski down in two quick games with the total game time lasting just over an hour. Clean execution and a flawless Slark game for hFn determined the fate of Game 1 while Game 2 saw Mineski going for a rather more unorthodox draft as they soon found out, what with losses in all three lanes and some visibly unpunished overextensions from paiN. However, that does not take away from Mineski’s attempts to pull the game back as they had an excellent fight in the bottom lane before conceding defeat.
On the other side of the bracket, we observed the European favourite OG go up against the global maverick Fnatic, where you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. A little RNG and superb execution found OG ahead after Game 1 as Fnatic’s last pick Ember Spirit failed to do much while n0tail and 7Mad took over the game on Lone Druid and QoP respectively. Game 2 had looked a little grim for Fnatic at first but off of some insane plays from Dj’s Sand King and Abed’s constant ganking pressure, they pulled it around as OG’s Medusa started finding the Fnatic lineup all too much to handle. N0tail’s valiant efforts to keep threatening high ground with his Lycan were insufficient, and Fnatic soon closed out the game as OG ran out of buybacks.
Game 3 was a display of class from Fnatic as they prioritised the mid lane and the offlane, sacking the Morph to come back later, with OG’s unequal timings becoming a bit of a downfall for the team as Chen fell off while Lesh and DK failed to accomplish much, leading to a decisive victory for Fnatic to close out the series.
Despite riding the hype of the crowd, paiN fell at the hands of CIS giants VP in similar fashion with how Mineski had fallen at their own hands the day before. While the games proved exciting for viewers what with two hyper-aggressive teams constantly making moves against each other, the gap in skill and experience simply stood out as VP decimated paiN, slotting themselves into the Grand Finals.
On the alternate side, we saw Fnatic and OpTic make quick work of each other in the first two games, leading to a deciding Game 3 where poor laning and first pick core Kunkka slowly spelled the downfall for Fnatic. Nonetheless, Fnatic put up a strong front, shown as ppd later described the game as “getting a little crazy towards the end when playing against EE”. Thus, we had VP vs OpTic for the Grand Finals of ESL One Birmingham.
With the Russian Bears going up against the American Salt Lords, there was much external tension between the two, but there were little expectations for OpTic’s chances against VP’s consistently superb performances throughout the season. That said, Game 1 reflected a brilliant outdraft and outplays from the side of VP as they persevered through slightly tricky situations in the laning phase and executed their strategy beautifully, with their cores evading death itself.
Game 2, on the other hand, proved to be the bloodbath that was hoped for in a Major Grand Final. As OpTic came out on top in the early game off of strong laning setups, they pushed their advantage to seize map control but the game quickly began going back and forth as the Kunkka came online. This game also showcased the strength of Venomancer in its ability to whittle down the enemies’ HP such that they would be unable to organise a push even after a winning fight despite a lineup with cores focused on pushing. As the action-packed game continued to unfold, VP managed to grab the mid rax pushing them into a slightly more comfortable position, eventually allowing them to push for more and come out on top at the end of it all.
WIth OpTic’s morale mostly crushed, Game 3 ended up being a bit of a workshop from VP on how to survive lanes and snowball. RAMZES’ performance on Slark, widely considered a weak laning hero, against the KotL + Beastmaster dual lane, was excellent as he kept up in farm and came to snowball with an early Shadow Blade pickup. WIth OpTic hemorrhaging kills in the same area several times, they came to recognize their defeated state of mind as they called GG, bringing the series, and the tournament, to an end.
With the end of the tournament came a series of controversial news as the results proved lacklustre for many. In particular, OpTic’s chances at a TI invite were renewed as they were set to replace OG at the China Supermajor amidst massive roster changes. EG said goodbye to long-time cornerstone Fear and tryout captain MiSeRy while bringing in legendary captain Fly and Swedish genius s4.
Simultaneously, paiN Gaming came to prove that the South American region was not one to be dismissed easily, as the addition of w33 proved instrumental to their success. WIth mostly the same players that were in SG e-Sports at the Kiev Major the year before, they came out as arguably the biggest winners of the tournament with a new fan base, further respect for their ability, and becoming the pride of the SA region.
Current DPC rankings can be seen here