Ok, we officially have no idea what's going to happen in the EU DPC anymore. After the first week, it looked like we'd get the same sort of results as we saw at the end of last year. Maybe there would be some interesting positional battles in the standing. And now, after four weeks, here we are. There are four teams tied for fourth place. And they're only one win off being second. Or one loss off being last. The EU DPC has evolved into absolute madness. With just five play days left, only one team can feel secure at the top. For the other seven it could end in a ticket to the major or relegation. My lord, this is going to be awesome!
In the early laning phase it looked like VikinGG was in for another struggle. While BOOM managed to get the edge on Topson in the midlane, the real worry was the farm on Khezu's Death Prophet. The Rubick - Luna combo was efficient both in keeping the German offlaner from getting last hits as well as killing him whenever he fell low. Much thanks to this strong lane setup, OG grabbed an early lead. Their draft was just quicker. It seemed like VikinGG was destined to lose yet another game based on tempo.
After 15 minutes OG's gold lead had ballooned to 6k gold and it became clear that Shad would have to have a monster game if his team was to stand a chance. The potential was definitely there. His team mates had died a lot but Shad's farm had been pretty much uncontested up until point and he hadn't fully died once. No kills for him did mean that his Radiance wasn't as quick as it could have been but 20 minute armlet-radi isn't bad. The difference in fighting became immediately obvious. VikinGG chose a weird angle of attack after a smoke movement that didn't result in anything. They crept up behind OG, who were pushing the Dire tier 3 tower bottom, but were spotted by a ward, losing the element of surprise. It looked like a back-breaking fight at first but in the confusion, MidOne got separated from his team allowing Shad to quickly burst through his HP pool not just once, but twice. While the official score of the fight was 2 kills for both sides, VikinGG got out ahead thanks to the big kill on the Aegis-carrying Luna.
Dire was still too far behind for this one fight to turn the tide but it allowed them to stabilize. It allowed them to pick of three BKB's as well. And suddenly, OG weren't looking too scary anymore. OG did still have a stranglehold on the map, though. VikinGG had no tier 2 towers left so every movement outside of their base was scary. Losing one, or two, big heroes at this point would probably mean game over as OG could easily just walk up their high ground and grab a couple of lanes worth of barracks. VikinGG had to be close to perfect. And for the next 10 minutes, they were. Or at least as close to it as can be expected at this level of play. Their decision making was great. They weren't overreacting to the annoyance of Ceb's Nature's Prophet constantly pushing in lanes and took towers of their own.
VikinGG kept, slowly, creeping closer and closer to OG. It's something we've seen often. When you have a top team, like Team Secret, playing a lower rated team. The "better" of the two will often bring out the faster draft, trying to choke out their opponents. There is, usually, a comeback from the underdogs but they lose in the end as all that's required to drop the match is a single lost teamfight. Coming back seems to be very possible but turning a comeback into a lead is very hard. That was NOT the case in this game. VikinGG played absolutely beautiful Dota from the 20 minute mark to the end. They were walking along a bottomless abyss but navigated perfectly, turned the game around, and took the lead in the series as a result.
We had high hopes for this game. Game one was a nice comeback from VikinGG but, interestingly enough, it wasn't a very exciting game. Well it quickly became clear that this wasn't the game we were looking for. Topson's Void Spirit absolutely CRUSHED the Ember Spirit of Boom in the midlane, allowing OG to move around the map without being challenged. And move around they did. 10 minutes into the game, OG had an insane 9k gold lead. They were reclaiming their place as a top dog on the EU DPC ladder and weren't about to give VikinGG a chance to come back.
Honestly, the series was a quick dismantling from OG as we saw VikinGG withered in front of our eyes. At this point no one one, us included, could see what was to come in game three. OG just looked too strong.
The big problem for VikinGG became the sidelanes. While Ceb was harassed over and over again in the bottom lane, Shad was unable to really turn that HP advantage into a networth advantage. Five minutes in, he was ten last hits behind MidOne in the toplane. And we saw in game 2 how OG can play when they decide to play fast. So attention had to be given to MidOne. An early rotation from BOOM top allowed for a kill on the Gyro but they paid a hefty price for it as they soon after lost their mid tower. OG, again, came out of the laning phase way ahead of VikinGG.
But unlike in previous games, VikinGG put up a fight. They stepped up, showing OG that they weren't going to be pushed around. Instead they met OG with rotations of their own. OG tried to pressure Shad multiple times but they either took too long to find the kill or they countered with a kill of their own on another part of the map. And this was crucial as it didn't allow OG to reach that critical mass of advantage. OG had the lead but it never felt like it was enough to completely run the map.
And OG wasn't expecting that. They expected that VikinGG would crumble under the pressure they put on. Instead it was OG who started falling under their own weight. A very aggressive move on the bot lane meant that they lost their Ember Spirit. Then their Nyx Assassin. And finally, VikinGG dove behind the tier 1 tower mid to claim the Gyro. All three kills were completely avoidable. Just like that VikinGG had stabilized. Over the next couple of minutes, teams backed off, waiting for some items. Around the 20 minute mark OG had picked up a BKB on the Gyro, a Vanguard on the Underlord, and a blink on Nyx Assassin. On VikinGG we saw Agh's come out for both Shad and Boom while Khezu picked up his Blink Dagger.
Even though the items coming out could be considered even, OG was still slightly behind. Topson had picked up a Maelstrom just before he lost his life to over-aggression. At that point he realized he needed a BKB and that's not an item you farm up in the blink of an eye. And that cost OG. At first, it looked like they would be able to delay the game while Ember got his BKB but they fell at the finish line. Topson was less than 200 gold away from finishing his item when VikinGG initiated onto the Nyx Assassin in the bottom lane. And instead of accepting a single death, OG ran head first into the fight. Ceb ubered bot with Topson and the ensuing fight was a disaster for the reigning TI champions. While Ember got out alive, and purchased his BKB, they lost three. And the match turned.
Even though the fight didn't win VikinGG much in terms of real estate on the map, it won them plenty of time. Time they could use to get their own BKBs up. OG had lost the small upper hand they had and seemed to be unable to do anything in the next fight. OG tried their best to come back with a rapier on the Gyro but it was quickly lost after OG tried to sneak in a Rosh and the game was over.
In Game 3 we saw the VikinGG that we saw for the later part of 2020. A team that wasn't a one-trick pony. A team that played the game similarly to the top teams in the world and won because of it. And they just made the EU DPC incredibly interesting as a result.
Series MVP: Shad
While game 3 of the series might not be a contestant for game of the year, it was definitely an interesting game to watch. It was the only game in the series where both teams hit their power spikes at about the same time, meaning that fights came down to good play rather than an item advantage.
Well what can we say? Secret's still undefeated in the EU DPC and at this point we're starting to ask ourselves who's possibly gonna catch up to them? They lose a single game here and there but Puppey's bag of tricks is the deepest in Dota. Maybe the Chinese teams will have a solution?
Graphics: Julmust / DreamHack
Graphics: Julmust / DreamHack