PSG.LGD has been one of the most dominant teams in the Animajor. Xiao8’s drafting and the players’ skill ensured the Chinese team is now one step away from the Grand Finals. Nigma will have to make a lower bracket run starting with their next match against Evil Geniuses.

If anime has taught us one thing, it’s that not all matches are made equal. While the WePlay AniMajor Playoffs has featured nothing but thrilling matches thus far, none can come close to the title fight of Day 3. In what was being hailed as a “preview of the Grand Finals”, the two most dominant teams were set to clash – Nigma vs PSG.LGD.

At this point, Nigma need no introduction. Their run here has been anything but straightforward. Nigma has not only played the most amount of matches, but have seemed to face setback after setback. In game though, the situation is completely opposite. The Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi led squad has stormed through their games thus far, and are arguably in their best form since TI7.

As for PSG.LGD, they’ve quickly become the trendsetters and fan-favorites of the tournament at the moment. Between the free-flowing play reminiscent of TI6-winning Wings, and their calculated drafts courtesy of legendary coach Zhang “xiao8” Ning – they look absolutely unstoppable.

Nigma and PSG.LGD had faced off once already in the Group Stage, which ended in a 1-1 draw. In fact, both teams were neck-in-neck the whole way, finishing top two. It was a showdown between TI-winners across the ages, and just like TI, only one team can prevail.

Game 1 – PSG Execute An Absolute Masterclass of a Plan

While PSG.LGD allowed Nigma to get their hands on a draft they’ve had success with so far, xiao8 had a plan cooked up just for them. Nigma snapped up all of their all-stars: Rubick for Maroun “GH” Merhej, Igor “iLTW” Filatov’s Spectre and Kuro’s insane Lion. To flatten out the the early lane advantage Nigma loved so much, PSG.LGD 2nd picked a sleeper Undying 5 for Zhang “`y” Yiping.

The early game as a result was uncharacteristically quiet for Nigma. Despite drafting for their signature “run-at-you” style of Dota 2, their plan was completely neutered by Zhang “Faith_Bian” Ruida’s immovable Tidehunter. Any early fight Nigma tried to take saw them run headfirst into the big fat watermelon, who halted them in their tracks.

On top of that, Nigma’s lack of good Tombstone hitters made any counter-engage futile. Just like that, the team that had ended games at 16 minutes were forced to sit around for the first 20. Sure, Nigma managed to take the early towers. Try as they might though, they just couldn’t feel good running into the massive teamfight of their opponents.. Of course, that was all just according to PSG.LGD’s Keikaku.

The 20 Minute Winged BKB Monster – Ame Has Come To Play

With Wang “Ame” Chunyu’s Terrorblade quietly farming up a storm, he hit a ridiculous 20 minute timing with Sange and Yasha and Black King Bar. From there, the game got surgical – and Nigma were the unwilling patients.

A world-class team is not so easily defeated, and Nigma finally bucked the courage to make a move on the map. Unfortunately for Nigma though, as most surgery patients know – moving on an operating table is advised against for a reason. PSG.LGD proceeded to completely dismantle them even without their Ravage.

With the gold lead at 14K for PSG.LGD at only 26 minutes, the Nigma draft could not keep up. PSG.LGD easily marched into the Nigma base, and shattered their buildings. Despite signs of life and a last ditch attempt from Nigma, the merciless meatgrinder of LGD executed them in front of their throne.

Nigma bounce back in Game 2

Even at TI, especially with your backs against the wall, you go for your tried and tested. Nigma know that pearl of wisdom all too well. In response to the now first-pick Undying, they picked yet another set of their signatures. GH’s iconic Wisp paired with iLTW’s Gyrocopter has won them many a game, and they were hoping this combo would do the trick here.

For PSG.LGD, they responded with a different style of draft altogether. With Ame on a Drow Ranger this time, and Cheng “NothingToSay” Jinxiang on a Storm to back him up.

If the teams have one thing in common, it’s their superstar mid players. The emphasis on Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and NothingToSay was evident from the 3v3 brawl in mid to kick the early game off.

Despite dying early, NothingToSay showed his tenacity as a top-tier player, and got the ball rolling in LGD’s favor with perfect rotations. Even against LGD’s early advantage, Nigma banded together for a smoke and secured a pivotal pickoff on Ame to claim the first Rosh. With Aegis in their hands, Nigma surged forward and beat down PSG.LGD thanks to insane saves from GH.

The Nigma Train Just Doesn’t Stop Rolling Forward

With the game firmly in Nigma’s control, yet another pick onto Ame’s Drow Ranger blew the road to high ground wide open. PSG.LGD knew the fight here was crucial, and expended costly buybacks just to fend them off.

With buybacks on Mars and Drow expended, PSG.LGD tried to stabilise with a Rosh of their own. Throughout the whole game so far, Nigma had put Miracle’s TA on a pedestal. It was perhaps this focus that caused PSG.LGD to forget the true carry – ILTW on his Gyro.

With razor sharp instincts, the TI7 winners saw their chance to win right in front of them. They bought back in force, and surged into the PSG.LGD base. Despite NothingToSay’s best efforts, and a clutch Lotus Orb from Zhao “XinQ” ZhiXing, Nigma destroyed the Ancient before LGD could even respawn, evening the series 1-1.

Game 3 – The Ame Phantom Lancer Final Boss

In the decider match, Nigma stuck to their bread and butter. They picked duo healing supports in Wisp and Oracle, and the iLTW special – Terrorblade. PSG.LGD on the other hand approached the draft with a brand new plan. With Death Prophet for objective pressure, they rounded out their draft a perfect Phantom Lancer pick. Instead of countering the PL, Nigma doubled down and last-picked Broodmother even in to a Sand King. The game was on.

Even with early outplays from both sides, PSG.LGD could not match Nigma’s sheer tower pressure. Between Terrorblade’s Metamorphosis and Brood. PSG.LGD’s buildings stood no chance. The thing is though, PSG.LGD’s draft didn’t care – they were playing to overwhelm in the team fights. When Nigma walked into their triangle – LGD made them pay.

Despite Nigma’s pressure, LGD punished every tiny mistake, completely crushing Nigma in the fights. Between their single-target focused heroes, Nigma simply could not vanquish the Ame PL.

The Well-Oiled PSG.LGD Machine Kicks into Overtime

From there, the game quickly slipped out of Nigma’s grasp. With everyone but Terrorblade firmly behind, the advantage from the supporting cast of PSG.LGD quickly overwhelmed their opponents.

In a last ditch effort to claw the game back from sure defeat, iLTW opted for a desperation rapier. Unfortunately for the last EU hope – it just wasn’t enough. LGD quickly executed the Terrorblade, even through all the heals – and sent Nigma packing to the Lower Division with a final score of 2-1.

The Fight Isn’t Over Just Yet

PSG.LGD played a phenomenal set of games today, and in doing so have advanced to the Upper Bracket Finals of the Playoffs. Their opponent will be the winner between the upcoming Quincy Crew and T1 game. Even with their win, they remained humble – with Faith_Bian insisting that LGD doesn’t feel like favorites, and it still can be anyone’s major in his winner’s interview.

As for Nigma, their run is far from over. In true anime fashion, the hero only gets stronger with every defeat. As we’ve seen time and time again in Dota 2 history, there is no captain who learns better than Kuroky. As we’ve heard from Miracle- before, the Upper Bracket isn’t quite Nigma’s style anyways. They will have to face off against NA’s last hope Evil Geniuses in the Lower Bracket tomorrow.

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Mike Tsang - Writer of the Month: April

Mike Tsang

Writer of the Month: April | Twitter: @permasneeze | Twitch: permasneeze

Mike is a digital content producer from Singapore who lives and breathes Dota 2. When he's not playing or watching the game, he can be found slurping ramen or sleeping next to his cat.