OMEGA League is probably the most exciting tournament we’ve seen in 2020. It’s not just the $500,000 prize pool — the biggest pot for an online tournament Europe’s ever seen — that brings the hype. It’s the production quality from WePlay. It’s the fact that we have EG joining the EU scene, saving it from the monotony of seeing the same teams play each other every week. It’s the fact that you can get promoted and relegated. All these factors combined helps us feel a little bit more normal, in these abnormal times. Even if it’s just for a few hours a week.
And with the group stage now done, it’s time to look forward to the playoffs. At the time of writing this, we still don’t know who of Liquid and 5men will make the bracket due to technical issues during their series but we’ll do our best to set expectations for the bracket.
Just glancing over the teams starting off in the upper bracket should give you goosebumps. These teams are probably the four most popular teams in the western Dota scene and anything but a top finish would be disappointing to them. That being said, Team Secret is — once again — the favorite to be the team left standing at the end of the tournament. Secret had a short dip in performance at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown but ever since then, they’ve been unstoppable. And when we say unstoppable, we’re not joking. 6 straight tournament wins. 88 game wins and only 11 game losses during those tournaments. All grand finals have been 3-0’s. In fact, Secret shut out their opponents in 17 out of their 23 bracket series. That’s insane. We’re supposed to hype up the bracket here but we also have to be realistic: Dota belongs to Secret right now. And we don’t see that changing.
This isn’t helped by the somewhat uneven form of the other teams in the upper bracket. Team Nigma, who won their group, can be seen as a big challenge but they have two things working against them: they haven’t looked AS dominant as Secret — Nigma only recorded one 2-0 win in the group stage — and they’re still missing Kuroky, who’s recovering from surgery. If they want to beat Secret, they need to field their full roster. Easy as that. Their first round match against OG should prove to be interesting, though. OG have also shown off quite a few swings in form during the group stage. They came out 2nd in Group B but had an horrific last weekend, losing both series 2-0. There’s no shaming them for their loss against Secret — for reasons we’ve gone through above — but their series against Team Liquid showed worrying tendencies. They got manhandled by a team that had been struggling all tournament. The series against Nigma will be a microcosm of their tournament. If they win, they might make the finals. If they lose, it could be a quick 2-and-out.
That leaves EG... Where do we start? Inconsistency is the name of the game for Fly and his team. EG went from being absolute rockstars after two series to looking lost closer to the end of the group stage. It boggles the mind that a team can beat Nigma — in a great series that you all should go back and watch — one day and then get swept by NaVi just three days later. Then they bounce back against Alliance and lose to VP. Again, all in the span of one weekend. If they want their game against Secret to be anything but a blowout, they really need to bring their A-game. And even then, it’s a stretch to imagine they’ll topple Puppey & co. And that’s dangerous for EG. If they keep playing down to their opponents, the lower bracket is the last place they want to be.
If you’re anything like us, you tend to have an internal ranking of teams. A ranking that doesn’t necessarily change — right away — with roster changes. Instead it slowly goes up or down over time depending on an organization's performance. Sort of an “organization stock” ranking. And looking at the lower bracket, we’re struck with a feeling of balance. The teams in the upper bracket should all be there. And the teams in the lower bracket also all look right. Might be that NiP is missing but their stock is basically in a free dive since the orgs inexplicable removal of SoNNeikO earlier this summer. Virtus.Pro definitely belong in the playoffs of a tournament but they’re still trying to recover from their huge roster shakeup after TI9, and we’re not even sure they’re on the right track. The two remaining players from the old roster — Noone and Solo — have all shown that their previous success was a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. We’re not trying to flame either of them — they’re quality players — but when was the last time you saw Noone really dominate the midlane? He’s still capable of it, we just don’t see it nearly as much as we used to. Perhaps it’s due to the patch but that’s not the only problem. When’s the last time you saw a beautifully orchestrated match from Solo? So whoever they may face, they have their job cut out for them.
Speaking of their — yet unknown — opponents, who will that be? Even putting our bias aside, it’s hard to see a world where it ISN’T Liquid grabbing that last playoff slot. Even though they had a very rough patch in the middle of the tournament, the three attempts at games yesterday showed that they are a class above 5 men. At least when it comes to the laning stage. While 5men managed to climb back a little bit in attempt #3, and had a player close to the top of the networth chart, Liquid still won the other two lanes handedly. Still, 5men cannot be written off. The team crushed the qualifiers and pushed Nigma to a game 3 in the group stage. However, we feel like as time went on they just got figured out. VP is praying to play 5men but will probably prepare harder for Liquid.
The other match in the lower bracket is interesting in more ways than one. It’s not just about advancing in the bracket but also about a team trying to establish their place in a higher tier. Vikingg is a team that has shown incredible growth over the summer. The team formed, without anyone really noticing, at the beginning of the year and have slowly but surely kept on climbing the ranks ever since then. Since the start of COVID they’ve actually managed to upset teams like Alliance and Secret but that was at the very start of “lockdown season” where the top teams reportedly weren’t scrimming very much and weren’t taking online tournaments as serious as they should have. Still, with the lack of LANs Vikingg haven’t had a chance to climb the tiers. A win here would probably put them in the spotlight. Maybe not as a contender but at the same level of all the other teams making it to the lower bracket playoffs.
And while Vikingg is fighting to climb, Alliance is fighting to stay in the limelight. After an incredible start to the 2019/2020 season, Alliance have fallen back a little bit. Much thanks to a very strange move when they kicked 33 and Fata for s4 and an (at the time) unknown player. The s4 for 33 switch was the main reason why the roster change happened and looking back, you have to question Alliance’s decision. At the time the change happened 33 was maybe not as dominant as when he first broke out on the scene with Optic but he was still playing well. He was that threat that took some attention off Nikobaby — the true star of the team. S4 hasn’t really been able to fill those shoes. The former TI winner is definitely still a good player but his contributions from the offlane haven’t been big enough. The one upside to the trade was the procurement of fng, a player that has always been criminally underrated and underrecognized. If Alliance wants to stay relevant in the highly competitive EU region, this is a must win for them. Otherwise Vikingg will leapfrog them.
PredictionsSo after all this, what’s our predictions for the first weekend? Let's start with the easy one. Secret will beat EG. Probably 2-0, because that’s what Secret does in the playoffs. Nigma vs. OG is much harder to predict as the game will be decided on both teams form the day of. We still think Nigma will eek out a 2-1 victory but game three can definitely go either way.
In the lower bracket, we believe VP will be able to take down 5men — if 5men makes it through — 2-0, just as they did in the group stage. If the CIS team have to go up against Liquid, the story will be different. Liquid finally got rolling in the last week of the group stage and is the only team to have taken a game off Secret, so far. Hence we believe Liquid will triumph, 2-1.
Vikingg vs. Alliance is a matchup that will be decided in the draft. A lot of teams have decided to not challenge Vikingg in the draft. Most notably, they’ve let Aramis have his Spirit Breaker. If Alliance lets these key heroes through the draft, they’ve lost. But we believe both s4 and fng are smarter than that, so we’ll go with Alliance taking the series 2-0.
Graphics: Julmust / OMEGA League
Graphics: Julmust / OMEGA League