Azure Ray tore up the script and scored redemption for Chinese Dota as they defeated Gaimin Gladiators in the tournament final.
Azure Ray has reverse swept Gaimin Gladiators in the Grand Finals of ESL One Kuala Lumpur. The Chinese team came back from a 0-2 deficit to defeat the three-time major-winning opponents in a full five-game series on Dec. 17.
In what felt like two different matches, Gaimin Gladiators initially looked like they would claim their seventh trophy of the year as the Chinese team, fresh of a victory over Team Liquid in the Lower Bracket Finals, struggled in games one and two.
But as it all seemed doomed for Azure Ray, they shocked Gaimin with a pure outdraft in Game Three, finishing things in a respectable 29 minutes. Having given Quinn "Quinn" Callahan his signature Pangolier in game four, fans and analysts could have been forgiven for predicting the series was about to end. But after a dramatic turn in fate, Azure Ray punched back hard, defeating the Gladiators to send it to match point for both squads.
In the final match-up, Gaimin struggled to get things going, while Azure dominated the map. One important fight at bottom-side Roshan pit closed the lead momentarily for Gaimin, but Azure Ray’s map awareness and dominance were too much. They take home the victory after a hard-fought match.
Azure Ray - a ray of hope for China?
For Azure Ray, this win over Gaimin Gladiators feels like redemption, not just for them, but for their entire region. Just 10 months ago, the validity and future of the Chinese Dota 2 scene was being questioned amid accusations of match-fixing within DPC events, with accused teams even making it to the Lima Major.
This was coupled with allegations that Chinese servers were so unplayable, that most pros had seemingly migrated to the Southeast Asian servers, although this has since been disputed.
China’s turnaround started, seemingly, at The International 2023, where LGD Gaming and Azure Ray finished third and fourth respectively. Now, with a win on LAN in Kuala Lumpur, China seems to have finally returned to its position as a powerhouse in Dota 2.
Gaimin’s incredible year of success
For Gaimin, it marks the end of one of the most successful calendar years of any Dota team in history. With 10 finals appearances, six Tier 1 event victories, and only two events out of 14 total where they failed to make the top three, there may never be another run like this in the game’s history.
Esports.gg spoke with Gaimin Gladiator’s Quinn ahead of this match, who talked about the death of NA, his home region. However, with Gaimin’s continued success, it seems unlikely that WEU will suffer a similar fate. A second-place finish, in what was the final Tier 1 event of the year is nothing for anyone to turn their nose up at.