Nigma and Team Secret faced off in the lower bracket of the ESL One Summer. A battle that was sure to bring exciting gameplay to fans saw Nigma win with a 2-1 score.

A matchup that has become storied in the history of Dota, the Lower Bracket at ESL One began with an epic clash between Team Secret and Team Nigma.

Shockingly, both teams had suffered shock defeats in the Upper Bracket of the tournament and would find themselves not competing for top honors as had previously happened between these teams, but instead trying to avoid elimination.

The tale of the tape.

Team Nigma had failed to qualify for TI at the WePlay AniMajor, losing in both Upper and Lower brackets to the eventual Grand Finalists on both sides, and thus will still need to play in the upcoming regional qualifiers. A further conundrum would present itself, in having to balance resting from their efforts at the AniMajor with still continuing to stay in form for the qualifiers.

Team Secret however have no such worries for their future. With TI qualification already secured, they can afford to approach this series, and frankly the tournament, with a recklessness that Nigma simply cannot.

The two teams have tended to bring the best out of each other when playing on the map itself. However nowhere is this rivalry power-up dynamic more evident than whenever we see drafting between Kuroky and Puppey, both having been pioneers in this regard.

With all to play for from Team Nigma, and nothing to lose for Team Secret, the game promised to be electric.

Game 1

Despite the AniMajor being behind us, it’s legacy would continue as the meta established there would persist. Nigma would play the Dragon Knight for Mind_Control whilst putting Miracle back on his Razor. This strategy was often seen for them at the major to create space for ILTW to carry the game on a big carry hero, in this case the Anti-Mage.

Team Secret erstwhile would pick up the Timbersaw for Zai and the ancient apparition for Puppey. With the Nyx Assassin also in tow for Yapzor and the Nisha Void Spirit, Team Secret had potential to crush the game before the Anti-Mage would even come online.

With elimination at stake, the game would begin!

Show your cards!

The game would get afoot with both teams feeling that early aggression wasn’t necessarily in their favour and decide to slow down the tempo to pick up needed farm and experience, another holdover from the Major.

Things would stay relatively quiet for some time, until Team Secret decided that their lineup was so much better geared towards early fighting that they should increase the pace of the game, and bound onto the Nigma side of the map.

Despite a Tier 1 Tower still being up in the midlane, Secret forced a fight underneath the Tier 2 tower which would result in a massive kill on the Miracle Razor. With Anti-Mage still needing a lot of time to farm, the damage potential of Nigma was only really available from Miracle, so killing him meant ending the fight for Nigma. Team Secret were also barely tickled in the engagement.

Given the sad state of affairs, Team Nigma were forced to try create space on the map by having Miracle and Mind_Control farm in dangerous parts of it. Team Secret unfortunately read this move, quickly killed Miracle and suddenly shrank the map once again. At this point, Miracle’s game was ruined and he would now be wholly reliant on his team for the foreseeable future.

Space created?

With Secret still having a Tier 1 tower still up in the midlane, Nigma desperately tried to bring it down to stop Secret from completely closing them in. This time Mind_Control joining in the move with his Elder Dragon Form to force the tower to go down.

Unfortunately, Secret were even more ready for this move, and with perfect positioning from Yapzor were able to stun Miracle and setup yet another kill on him, and allow the team to pick off everybody else one by one by one.

From here, Nigma seemed unable to do anything but hide away from Team Secret.

You simply can’t do anything

Although they found a token pick-off on the map once or twice, Anti-Mage was doing negligible damage even to larger mana pool targets. Nigma could simply watch as Team Secret soaked up the resources on the map until they felt ready for a decisive push.

That decisive push would come around the 28 minute mark. Team Secret with an Aegis in hand pressed onto the Tier 2 tower, and Nigma went for a hail mary shot to stop them before they got to the base. Though they could kill the Nyx Assassin and take the first life from the Matumbaman Phantom Lancer, ultimately they just did not have the damage to do more and would be destroyed by the rest of Team Secret.

With 4 heroes dead and Anti-Mage impotent, Team Secret bounded into the base and destroyed the throne shortly thereafter, securing an all important game 1.

Game 2

As game 2 went underway, Nigma would pick a 4 protect 1 strategy orientated around the ILTW Terrorblade being beefed up by the Kuroky Vengeful Spirit. Miracle found himself as the lynchpin of the draft on a Batrider which would be needed to push the team into successul territory.

Team Secret though, would go for something a bit more comfortable. With beefy Wraith King and Dragon Knight for Matumbaman and Zai, and the signature Clockwork for Yapzor, they seemed set to allow the Nisha Storm spirit as good a game as possible.

With elimination at stake for Team Nigma, this game would be do or die for their tournament hopes.

We need these lanes to go well…

To start the game, the laning phase was looking even better this time around than what game 1 did for Team Secret. Even more content to just farm, the responsility would be on Team Nigma to change the status quo because Team Secret were looking very comfortable.

The first big play would come from Nigma bringing in 2 additional heroes to secure a kill on Nisha. Despite how much effort it took to achieve this, ultimately they were rewarded with a kill and early acceleration for Miracle.

Still unable to break the tower for a while as Batrider, Nigma would play slowly to farm themselves until they decided to first group up and force out a tower in the midlane. Ready and feeling comfortable with fighting with the level advantage enjoyed at this point, Team Nigma would make the call to go middle.

Team Secret tried in vain to force them away from the structure, but the Dark Seer Vacuum into a Gh Spiked Carapace ruined the initiation from Secret, taking down 2 heroes very early in the engagement and forcing a retreat from Secret, and claiming a Tier 1 tower.

Now suddenly the dynamic of the earlier portion of the game flipped with Team Secret needing to be the team to play aggressively to change up the status quo.

The script has been flipped

Team Secret would bide their time before trying this, to accrue the necessary farm on their heroes. Nigma would pick up an Aegis in the intervening time and use it to pick up farm on their heroes as well. However, Team Secret would time when the Aegis was expiring and forced a full teamfight on their side of the map. Puppey jumped in first into the fight to force out the BKB from the ILTW Terrorblade.

Knowing he could buyback and use the radiant position of the fight to quickly come back, he put Nigma almost immediately on the backfoot. Nisha and Zai jumped the backline of the fight and removed the Nigma supports which made the fight therefore impossible.

Despite being able to bring down the Terrorblade in the fight, Team Secret would have to be able to try and find other opportunities like this, as it was far easier for Nigma to reset and force another push than vice versa.

Nigma would indeed reset and find a new damage item on the Terrorblade. Realizing that they had both the control and damage to take virtually any fight as long as they were in a good position to protect ILTW, they charged onto the radiant side of the map.

An unstoppable force

Being lucky enough to come across the Wraith King of Matumbaman, Nigma destroyed him extremely quickly. Nisha, desperate to get some revenge for his teammate, would attempt to use the newly purchased Aghanims scepter to do so. Unfortunately, he could only kill the Dark Seer with this move, losing his own life in the process and allowing Nigma to claim the tier 2 with no core heroes to defend it.

Now Roshan would be the next reward to claim for their efforts.

Team Secret would not make it easy for them however. Yapzor would somehow be able to steal away the Aegis, preventing ILTW from having the double lives for their upcoming push. However the power of the Terrorblade would prove to be too much even in these circumstances, and Nigma still demolished Secret around the pit, killing both Nisha and Matumbaman in the process.

It truly did seem like they were strong enough to go high ground even without the Aegis, so soon Nigma would make their way to the Secret base, intent on taking some racks.

Is this real?

They secured the lane of barracks without much fuss. However Yapzor was intent on using the Aegis he had in an effective way. Diving forward to put his body on the line and force a fight, he setup to allow for the respawn on the Storm Spirit right as the Ancient Apparition was in position for an Ice Blast. Catching all the core heroes of Nigma and the Kuroky Vengeful Spirit, Team Secret got a massive surprise boon for themselves.

With a Dragon Knight on their time, the time was now to push down middle and secure a lane of racks to even out the advantage.

Unfortunately, their excitement about a possible turnaround got the best of them and they ended up overextending into the Nigma base during their high ground attempt. Nigma were able to kite them around and about so effectively, that they killed the Wraith King and bought time for the Terrorblade respawn. Team Secret now out of damage and options, fled the base, but now found that their options for victory were slipping through their hands.

This just tickles

Team Nigma would feel full confidence in the strength of their Terrorblade. After taking a 2nd lane of structures in the bottom lane, they would move to the top side of the map with their Terrorblade standing far too big and strong for Team Secret to deal with.

Winning the fight and forcing out the GG call, Team Nigma would buy themselves one more chance to remain in the tournament and taking us to a deciding game.

Game 3

Team Nigma would steal away winning strategies from the Major winning team PSG.LGD, and pick an Axe for the safelane for ILTW whilst Miracle played Templar Assassin in the midlane. Team Secret, intent on matching the intrigue of the draft would pick a Leshrac for Nisha and buildin up to an Alchemist pick for Matumbaman.

With what we had already seen, and elimination on the cards, this game promised to be incredible.

The moment of truth

The early game would start out slowly for the first few minutes. Secret were playing an aggressive trilane, so this meant the lanes involved much more fighting than the previous games. This was benfitting Nigma as they weren’t losing out on these trades and doing well elsewhere on the map.

Team Secret would attempt to do what Nigma had done to them in game 2 and gank Miracle in the midlane, however Nigma were ready for this. Not only managed to keep Miracle alive at the last moment, but turning the fight thanks to the Phoenix Supernova going off in a perfect position.

Cleaning things up and killing 4, Nigma would suddenly find themselves ahead in game even against an Alchemist, and still holding Team Secret to 0 kills.

Can time buy you money?

Team Secret, although they struggled to even reasonably threaten support heroes on the side of Nigma, still managed to find ways to poke at their opponents and buy Alchemist time. Mind_Control in particular struggled to deal with the Witch Doctor of Puppey, who solo killed him on more than one occassion.

Team Nigma though, understood that they had slowed down the item timings on the Alchemist enough that he only had a Battlefury and Sange&Yasha at 16 minutes, decent timings on other carries but meaning Alchemist was very weak.

Exploiting this, Nigma would stop their attempt to sneak a Roshan, and rather smoke to find a favourable fight.

This is our map now.

In a fight that could not be more perfect for them if they tried, Nigma got onto the high ground and simply dismantled Team Secret. Though Yapzor’s Enchantress was out, Secret made the decision to still posture around their triangle to try jump back in for a fight.

Though ready with their stuns, Nigma spread out very effectively so they could still deal damage without facing multiple disables from the enemy. This also meant that Zai was yet again in this game unable to find a good Arena for his team, as throughout the game Nigma had made sure to position around him and deny him the chance for a good initiation.

Having taken yet another good fight and losing no heroes, Nigma wasted no time in pouncing onto Roshan and finishing what they started earlier.

Gaben’s Moustache Shellacking

Having the Aegis, having a gold advantage versus Alchemist, and Team Secret lacking damage meant that Nigma would immediately push down middle. Team Secret truly did their best to mount a token defense of the high ground, at a moment seeming to have drawn caution out of Nigma after they took the melee barracks, however it was just bait.

ILTW was simply waiting for them to overextend and once they did, he found the Berserker’s Call on both Nisha and Matumbaman to allow Miracle to dish in the damage to bring them both down.

With nothing left in the tank and no more options for how to deal with these Nigma heroes even a single time, Team Secret would call GG and were out of ESL One Summer 2021!

The story continues

Nigma’s road would still continue, as they will continue to remain one series away from elimination themselves all the way until the end of their run.

The Tournament will continue with the lower bracket on the ESL One Twitch Channel!

Stay tuned to esports.gg for the latest Dota 2 news and updates.

Sean

Sean "Snare" Rihlamvu

Snare is a die-hard gamer who has immersed himself in all things esports. Whether it be writing, casting, analyzing or hosting; he brings his infectious passion to everything he does.