EG won game 1 versus Nigma in the lower bracket of the WePlay Animajor.
The penultimate day of the WePlay AniMajor kicked off on Saturday with more elimination Dota to begin proceedings. Evil Geniuses would find themselves in contest with team Nigma in this top 6 matchup, from which winning would guarantee top 4 at the Major. For Evil Geniuses, this victory would only mean more form being built up for TI. With qualification already secured for the American squad, there was a little bit less pressure on them in the game.
Nigma though, are the only team left in the tournament who haven't qualified for TI, and to further increase the stakes, would need a top 2 finish to secure their slot. Elimination is simply not an option for them.
Game 1 started off with a draft that exemplified the strengths of both teams.
Evil Geniuses having very strong laning draft that had the potential to group up around the Arteezy Medusa when the time came.
Team Liquid though went for a draft that would allow them to play with an extremely high tempo draft that would come online early in the midgame.
The game started with Evil Geniuses deciding to play an aggressive trilane to ensure that their Medusa got as much farm as possible without taking pressure from Nigma. With this configuration, the thought process was that Evil Genuises would be angling towards the late game with Nigma prioritizing a strong midgame.
That idea would go out of the window as we saw that Evil Geniuses were willing to play extremely fast, rotating Arteezy into the midlane at 7 minutes into the game, to guarantee that they stop the aggression from Nigma, and getting bonus gold for the Arteezy Medusa.
Evil Geniuses would keep this style of play going throughout the game as they ensured that no matter what Nigma would try on the map, they would respond and reply in numbers to push Nigma into an uncomortable position.
Unwilling to allow themselves to be put into a position where they would be slowly closed out, Nigma made a very risky play by baiting in the bottom lane with the GH Phoenix, and using the time to try and reveal the Ivan Borislavov "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov blink dagger on the map.
The move paid off very well and netted them a kill onto Arteezy's Medusa far away from his team, immediately resetting the clock on what seemed to be inevitable Medusa dominance, giving them enough time to find more farm on the Igor "iLTW" Filatov Troll Warlord.
Breakneck Pace by EG!
With the 2 teams very closely matched, neither seemed comfortable sitting back and farming after their opponent grabbed an advantage, and EG immediately decided to make an aggressive move on the map once Arteezy respawned.
Recognizing that Troll would want to farm the dire jungle in the absence of the Medusa in the top lane, Evil Geniuses were able to make an aggressive move into the Jungle, isolate and then kill the troll. This not only gave them a free kill, but allowed them to secure the tower in the midlane. Evil Geniuses controlled large sections of the map.
This allowed them to start spending more time playing on the Dire side of the map. Nigma though, wise to this movement from EG decided to mirror this maneuver. They also used the time to sneak in a Roshan attempt whilst the rest of EG were none the wiser.
For a while it seemed that Nigma had done enough to stall out the aggression from EG. They forced a push onto the top lane which almost succeeded in bringing down an early Tier 3 tower. This attempt made EG abandon their efforts at controlling the map to come home and defend the base.
Defend and Delay
Despite losing their Aegis in a bad spot on the map, it was them who had spent the last few minutes pushing forward onto the EG side of play. All of this culminated in what looked like a perfect opportunity to kill a big target. As they saw what appeared to be a Timbersaw all by his lonesome. The bait being too juicy to pass up on, Nigma made the jump with Mind_Control on his Dragon Knight. Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi's Death Prophet was also on hand to supply further damage to kill Timbersaw.
Daryl Koh "iceiceice" Pei Xiang on his Timbersaw was not alone. Not only was the Fly Witch Doctor right nearby, but Cr1t was waiting in the wings with his own Blink Dagger. He revealed it by setting up a counter-initiation which caught both Nigma cores, allowing EG to easily clean up the fight.
We may have bitten off more than we can chew
From here, Nigma would do their utmost to avoid fights and play as far away from EG as possible. The main problem with his strategy was twofold. Firstly that EG had very good chase thanks to the Abed Puck so staying away from them was a near impossibility. Secondly, Arteezy continued to get larger and larger on his Medusa as time went on with Nigma having no real answer to this growing threat.
Desperate for a way back into the game, Nigma attempted to sneak one more Roshan to bring them back into the game. Recognizing that failure to do so would be like nails into their coffin. So it was all on the line here.
Nigma got to the pit with the Abed puck being dead without buyback. This was a prime opportunity to take the Aegis and goodies. EG would be loathe to let this happen for free, so they postured around the pit. But didn't want to jump in 4v5, not yet. Nigma of course would happily force a fight with a numbers advantage. They leapt at the opportunity, jumping the radiant highground. They took a very good looking fight, killing Arteezy and maybe giving themselves the chance to take Roshan!
Sadly, Arteezy had buyback. Once utilized on the Medusa, there was simply nothing left in the tank for Nigma. They had committed everything to killing him the first time. With EG having won the 2nd round of the fight, Roshan fell shortly afterwards. This led to EG picking up all the goodies, going highground and forcing the GG call minutes later.
What's next for EG?
With Game 1 in the bag, EG would be looking to make this a quick 2-0. Meanwhile, Nigma would be putting their hopes, dreams and TI Qualification into game 2 to force a decider.
Game 2 presented us with a much more proactive draft from Nigma, with heroes that had more potential for matching Evil Geniuses in the early game pace.
Having ILTW Ember Spirit and the Miracle Morphling as their primary cores, but with Mind_Control on Mars to allow to press a lot faster tempo on the map when compared to game 1.
Nigma started the game with an early game where they found themselves falling behind on overall last hits in the lane. To try help them with this, Nigma forced aggression on both sidelanes and secured 2 early kills.
Nigma went on to get a lot more out of the early game, and had planned to push the Tier 1 tower middle however Andreas Franck "Cr1t-" Nielsen and Tal "Fly" Aizik were immediately positioned to counter this play.
Not only being able to keep Cr1t alive during the attempt on his life, but also being able to find and secure two additional kills for the Abed Puck and accrue even more gold for him. This not only stalled the middle lane push, but eroded most of the early game advantage that Nigma gained.
Keep the flame burning!
EG, having played the game in a more aggressive fashion, tried to keep the tempo going by ganking on the Nigma side of the map to further their advantage on the map by yet again killing ILTW. This time around though, Nigma were prepared for this move and were able to counter the attempt by responding with the whole team in tow.
Evil Geniuses were not deterred though, and soon thereafter decided to make a similar move which paid off massively by being able to to take out the Miracle Morphling, and claim the Tier 1 tower in the middle lane for their efforts.
Nigma, not in the moood to allow this game to slide further against them, made the immediate counter play by taking out Abed when he was aggresively farming the radiant jungle, which also allowed them to potentially go for a push into the EG Tier 1 at last.
EG were forced to use the iceiceice Tidehunter Ravage to keep the tower alive, but that would mean that EG could not fight for a significant portion of time thereafter.
At this point, it seemed like Nigma were trying to still recover farm on ILTW since he was dying over and over again. However, Evil Geniuses were intent on making sure to keep Ember Spirit depressed throughout the contest.
With Abed online once more, they immediately moved with the Puck to ensure that ILTW was brought down once more. So although EG had expended these resources and couldn't take another fight; the objective of ensuring that ILTW was finding nothing on the map was accomplished, buying more time for EG once more.
We're in trouble...
Nigma, finding themselves on the backfoot, attempted to go for a 'hail mary gank' to the top side of the map. Sadly, this move seemed to be one that could not succeed for Nigma, as their jump attempt found them running directly into massive sustain and tankiness from EG.
Unable to take that engagement, Nigma would find themselves deeply worried about their ability to continue to take any engagements and kill ANYONE at all.
Picking up BKB on ILTW, they forced a fight targeted at the EG supports. Although this did ultimately cost them the Ember Spirit's life, it allowed Nigma to force a buyback from the Lion. Overall it was a net positive for Nigma.
Unfortunately, this positive state of affairs would soon come to an end.
Miracle was farming with very Strength attributes near his tier 3, but EG would pounce on him and successfully kill him to start the fight. EG would pounce on him, bring him down, and find themselves starting a fight on the radiant high ground.
Morphling had to buyback and the thought was that Nigma would at least force them back from the base.
EG thought were extremely patient. With Iceiceice's Tidehunter holding his Ravage, the team was waiting until his return into the fight to engage him. EG were ready and waiting for Miracle to overcommit and for the BKB on Ember Spirit to off cooldown.
Once those 2 things happened, the Ravage was let rip and there was no further fight available for Nigma.
Soon afterwards, Team Nigma called GG and are now no longer a part of the WePlay Animajor. They will compete in the TI qualifiers for Europe which will also see other top tier teams such as OG and Team Liquid.
The dream is over
Now eliminated, many questions abounded about Team Nigma who were called as favorites coming in the series. The team has had a successful run so far from the Wild Card stage up until the playoffs.
Coach Roman "rmN-" Paley gave some insights about the team mentality coming into the series. in the post-game loser's interview.
"EG came to play today, I don't think we came to play"
Being very cavalier about their state of affairs coming into the series, rMn gave due regard to their opponent's strengths.
Now that the team was out however, the focus would need to turn towards the future. With TI qualifiers looming, rMn would give insight into what his team took away from the series.
"I learnt a lot about drafting"
With Team Nigma now en route back home, we will see how they fare in the upcoming TI WEU Qualifiers. At the same time, Evil Geniuses are looking to proceed at the WePlay AniMajor, still gunning for the top spot.