T1 claimed their first Dota 2 title at a crucial time in the run-up to The International 10. Their Grand Finals of the ESL One Summer was versus Virtus Pro, and it was a brilliant finale.
Both these teams had already demonstrated in the tournament that they are the best in this field, with Virtus Pro coming into the Grand Finals from the Winner's Bracket, and T1 having dropped no maps to other teams except Virtus Pro. With this tournament being by far the most prestigous beyond TI, and with both rosters still searching for their first ever trophy, the stage was truly set for these 2 young teams to give us the best Dota possible.
Final Standings for ESL One Summer 2021 - Top 4
1st. $175,000 - T1
2nd. $85,000 - Virtus Pro
3rd. $45,000 - Alliance
4th. $25,000 - OG
T1's journey to the Grand Finals
Round 2 - T1: 2:0 Vikin.GG
Round 3 - T1: 2:0 Quincy Crew
UB Finals - T1: 1-2 Virtus Pro
LB Finals: T1: 2-0 Alliance - "T1 crush Alliance 2-0 to advance to the ESL One Summer 2021 Grand Finals"
As befitting a Bo5 Grand Final, both teams would use their drafts for the first game to experiment somewhat. Virtus Pro would continue to rely on the DM Kunkka for this game, however they would bring out a safelane Doom for Nightfall and a support Silencer to give them the ability to turn key fights. T1, despite having the Kuku Magnus to provide steroids to the 23Savage PA, would decide to place the Venomancer middle for Karl.
In the previous series played between the teams, both squads found their primary groove in the midgame so both teams were incentivized to play for that timing. However for Virtus Pro, they would have difficulty dealing with a lategame PA so they realized at some point that that they would need to be the ones pressing aggressively on the map.
Smoking as a unit, they moved to try kill the Karl Venomancer in the top lane and then take away the tier 1 tower. Unfortunately, the Doom was only able to apply his ultimate after the Venomancer used Poison Nova. Virtus Pro would attempt to retreat but the teleports incoming from T1 were fast enough to catch them in the attempt, and allow T1 to defend the tower and get crucial kills as well.
The map would continue from here relatively slowly still, but the game was slowed down a lot for Virtus Pro. They would still find an odd pickoff on occasion, but the PA late game was looming, so they needed a big win. Having caught vision of a Roshan attempt from T1, Virtus Pro decided that their win would come inside the pit and they went for wrap around onto the T1 high ground under cover of smoke.
Sometimes, just ignore 23Savage
Despite being able to find and kill the Winter Wyvern at the beginning of the fight, they could not do the same to 23Savage. A lesser team would have used this opportunity to run away, but T1 recognized that the buyback on the Wyvern could be used to take a good fight. Despite 23Savage being low on health, this situation ironically benefitted T1 as Virtus Pro would tunnel vision on killing the PA, which they would do successfully, but at the cost of their entire team.
On the bright side, T1 would need to go home to heal and so were unable to secure the Roshan. Virtus Pro would therefore have another bite at the cherry to take down T1 and secure the Aegis themselves. Finding T1 in the pit and stopping their attempt, GPK was also able to take the Aegis from T1. To top it all off, Nightfall found the Doom onto the Phantom Assassin. Although the Lotus Orb of T1 bounced it back to him also, this looked a great situation for VP.
Yet again though, they would Tunnel Vision onto 23Savage. With him being Doomed, he seemed mortal enough to chase especially for the double life Templar Assassin. This chase took them right past the Karl Venomancer though, who reminded them the cost of ignoring this hero and setup for his team to claim a few kills, pop the Aegis and also keep 23Savage alive.
This fight would put T1 clearly ahead in this stage of the game. And with them also having the draft advantage for the late game, T1 would very calmly finish a single round of items and then decide to take full map control with the outer towers on their kill-list. With the Tier 2 middle taken, Virtus Pro would try with Nightfall to zone them away from the Radiant highground to try and regain some of their farming areas.
Realizing that the 2 biggest heroes on the enemy side of the map were sitting together during this retreat, Xepher set up an amazing Winter's Curse to stall up both Nightfall and GPK. Despite VP attempting their utmost to bail them out of danger, it would not be enough and GG would be called in favour of T1.
Game 2 would see Virtus Pro deciding to go back to some comfort picks for themselves. Juggernaut for Nightfall, Lina for GPK and the Kingslayer Winter Wyvern were quickly entered into the VP draft. T1 would match this comfort by giving Karl the Maguns this game, so Kuku could play his signature Viper.
The early game would be extremely important for both midlaners. With relatively static heroes in other roles, both heroes would need to move around the map early to engage fights and create space for their team.
Ironically, both players would go smoking into the bottom part of the map to reveal a new item, Eul's Scepter for the Lina and Blink Dagger for the Magnus.
Although the heroes both caught vision of one another at the same time, the reaction from the Virtus Pro was simply out of this world. The Magnus was able to blink directly atop Lina, but the instant Eul's would prevent any kind of aggressive play. To make matters worse, Kingslayer setup the Lina to land hero Light Strike Array on 2 seperate heroes with his Winter's Curse. So now T1 would need to beat a hasty retreat lest they lose more.
Unfortunately for T1, this would not be the final time that the Curse would create that kind of setup for Virtus Pro.
This is...a very hard game
Despite being stronger in fights, Virtus Pro would go ahead and dodge fights all across the map as they stayed in close proximity to each other and farmed. However, VP would show that there was method to their madness as all they wanted was to find key items on their heroes. Once they had the Juggernaut SnY+Battlefury, and having Blink Dagger on DM's Centaur, the time had come for a team smoke.
It would already have counted as a successful smoke to simply kill Magnus in the river. However, Virtus Pro was able to find incredible success by being able to continue running forward until Kingslayer found an incredible Winter's Curse. With 3 heroes held in position, the LSA from Lina and the Omnislash from Juggernaut would easily clean up the rest of T1. Granting a full team wipe for VP, and a gold advantage for VP.
T1 would now find themselves in the same situation they had placed VP in during the first game. Very behind, and trying to dodge as many fights as possible to eke out whatever farm they could. In the meantime VP cleaning up the base, destroying the outer towers and claiming map control.
Eventually, it seemed that T1 felt that they had enough strength to try find a fight as a team. Relying on the Karl Magnus to find an initiation, the idea was to pump damage atop the RP targets to finally find a favourable kill.
Having no damage available to come close to killing the strong cores on VP, T1 would quickly falter. Nightfall would throw an Omnislash at them, literally cutting T1 down in seconds, and sending their pieces back to the fountain. From here, VP would recognize how far ahead they were and begin posturing to go secure their first lane of barracks.
T1 would equally recognize that they simply could not harm Virtus Pro unless they caught multiple heroes within the RP. Karl would need to prepare himself on the high ground, ready for an instant jump during the attempted push. He would find the Skewer on both Lina and Enchantress, 2 of the squishiest heroes on the VP side and potentially giving the opening for T1 to turn the whole game around!
Yet another incredible Winter's Curse from Kingslayer prevented the RP from connecting. VP, escaping the killzone, would use BKB on Lina to stand strong inside the base and help to kill all the T1 cores instead of dying herself. Karl, reading the room, would just throw his RP on the floor instead in a vent of frustration.
Though T1 would buyback on heroes in this fight, the end was already in sight. As mega creeps spawned against them, T1 would call GG and see game 2 go the way of Virtus Pro.
Going into game 3, Virtus Pro would get a strong early fighting draft with yet more comfort picks. With Wyvern picked again for Kingslayer and Timbersaw for DM, Virtus Pro were looking to have even stronger lanes than game 2.
T1 would get themselves Spectre, Puck and Leshrac as their cores. With a terrifying midgame draft with strong scaling for the late game, T1 would simply need to avoid being completely rolled over in the laning phase.
T1 get rolled over in the laning phase
DM's Timbersaw killed Spectre alone in lane and found multiple kills on the Hoodwink support. GPK won mid, and rotated to kill the bottom tower at 7 minutes, killing Spectre again in the process. Nightfall was finding freefarm on his Faceless Void. It literally could not be a worse way to start the game for T1.
As Virtus Pro would look to commit for the middle tier 1 tower, T1 would bring their Leshrac and Nyx to finally try punch back.
Kingslayer on Winter Wyvern yet again showed us why Virtus Pro prioritize giving him this hero. Saving the Timber, securing the tower, and setting up to kill the defenders. From here it would really go from bad to worse for T1. No matter what they wanted to try on the map there was an answer for it from the Virtus Pro.
All downhill from here
Try to split us apart with Leshrac and Spectre? We have enough damage to kill both heroes without having to commit more than 3 heroes at a time. We can do this on any side of the map. Did we mention we would also do it at the same time?
Attempt to keep your tower alive in the top lane and maybe turn a small engagement around? The Wyvern Curse should quickly show you the folly of such attempts. Not only will you fail to save the tier 1 tower, you're also going to lose the life of the Karl Puck which will put him even further behind.
T1 were clearly becoming very desperate indeed for any kind of success on the map. An aspect of their draft ignored so far was the potential for Spectre to join fights from afar. Having access to the Manta Style, Echo Sabre and Blade Mail, 23Savage felt strong enough to lend his strength to a smoke attempt by T1.
T1 found the initial catch on the Winter Wyvern and burst him quickly. However he immediately bought back which should have signaled the retreat for T1. Instead they charged on to try burst the Faceless Void, who obviously turned around with a Chronosphere that caught Puck and Leshrac. Despite both of those heroes having Aeon Disk, it would not save them as the rest of VP collapsed in, cleaning up all 4 heroes still left in the fight.
Like candy from a baby
At this point, T1 was incredibly far behind in gold but still not giving up. Trying to play themselves into the Roshan pit, the Aegis might well have given them a final way back into the game.
Save says no. Somehow, a Lion playing into Puck, Nyx Assassin and Spectre managed to find an earthspike to steal away the Aegis instead.
T1 was truly broken after this, as VP would careen onto the Radiant side of the map minutes later to take their base, and force the GG call.
With game 3 secured, Virtus Pro would go into Game 4 one game away from being your ESL One Champions.
For T1, this was now the last roll of the dice to stay in the tournament. T1 would take no chances and give themselves the 23Savage Lifestealer in tandem with the Kuku Axe, a combo which had been dominant in the SEA SPC season.
Although Virtus Pro would allow GPK and DM to reprise their roles on Lina and Kunkka, their decision to play Nightfall on the hard carry Abaddon would raise several eyebrows going into the game. Since they picked this herolast overall, it was either they knew something we didn't, or were still confident to experiment.
Tournament winning experiment?
As the game started off, the Virtus Pro lanes were looking very good for them, though not to the same degree as game 3. Being able to kill the offlane Axe and mid Viper in lane, whilst still getting farm for DM, it seemed VP would have another recipe for success in game 4.
Exiting the lanes with Abaddon having a healthy amount of farm, they picked up Radiance on the hero early and annoyed T1 heavily with it. Placing the Abaddon in a forward position, he was soaking up most of the damage meant for the rest of his squad. This not only allowed him to always be present to shield his team, but allowed them the chance to chase down some of the initiating heroes.
T1 would find themselves having a hard time finding a fight which would allow them to jump targets behind the Abaddon without him being able to save them.
Fortunately for T1, Virtus Pro would make an incursion into the Dire jungle to find a quick potential kill, but would only come across the Warlock during this move.
With time and spells expended on him and VP finally spread out, this would allow T1 would enter the fight with their cores and start to slowly pick off VP. The patience displayed by T1 would allow them to play the edges of the fight for a very long time, chipping away at VP and finally pushing their cores into a bad position in the fight.
The tide has turned
With the Kuku Axe presenting a way to always give them the edge if he found the space to jump, T1 would not be content with simply finding one good fight and would try bound for another.
An odd fight would break out where T1 would have to try enter their own jungle with VP situated on the high ground, holding the area around the Outpost. Despite knowing how bad a position this was, T1 felt that they would be able to take the fight because of Whitemon's Warlock dropping Chaotic Offering, stunning several heroes on the high ground.
Little did they know that the Disruptor was ready with Static Storm to apply against the T1 squad. Despite killing the GPK Lina, T1 found themselves losing all 3 of their core heroes and giving some hope back to VP.
T1 would take stock of the situation, and realize that this game was more akin to game 1 than games 2 and 3. That similarity being that they had a certain advantage the longer the game went. Making it worse for VP was they could only rely on GPK for lategame, but the Lina had been having a torrid time of things with her own farm.
T1 would then slow the game down, slowly farm their items and then wait for a moment to slowly advance into the VP side of the map.
T1 speed things up
As they decided to bound forward on T1, Captain Kuku would decide to do his best impression of TI Winner Ceb, by having his Axe catch out the GPK Lina on the highground, allowing his team to kill her and gain a numbers advantage.
As they continued to fight, GPK would buyback to ensure that he can help out his team.
Sadly, this would be his downfall, as upon return he walked into a perfect 3 hero Berserker's Call from Kuku, which would allow T1 to completely rout the fight. From here on out, they had complete control of the game
From here on out, they had complete control of the game. With the Lina really unable to provide much threat and Abaddon presenting none at all, T1 would build up a massive lead against VP. Seeking an Aegis to cap off the game, T1 would feel strong enough that they could defend the approach to Roshan with only their Nyx Assassin.
Much to all our surprise, we discovered that even killing the Xepher Nyx Assassin was completely off the table for Virtus Pro at this point, as despite throwing almost everything they had at him, it only served to paint bigger targets on the Abaddon as T1 jumped him quickly and immediately ran down the midlane towards the VP base.
Despite finding an interesting attempt to hold their base, even killing both Karl and Kuku, the state of the game was too far out of reach for VP. With their heads already primed for game 5, Virtus Pro would call GG on game 4, resetting their advantage and having it all be to play for in the finale!
A finale of note and a game for the ages.
With only one more attempt to etch your name into the trophy, both teams would rely on heroes that they garnered massive league success with. All except one hero, the Kuku Broodmother.
He had previously not played this hero at all since early 2018. Upon this hero receiving a suite of buffs, he picked it up twice to play in the DPC, losing resoundingly both times. He was able to find success with it at the AniMajor however that was one success against a clearly flailing Team Aster, so it was difficult to judge how good he was on the hero. To make matters worse, it was not the easist game for the Brood to play, so Kuku would need to perform extremely well to find success here.
With all cards on the table, and the pride of being a champion for the first time on the line, it all came down to this!
The Moment of Truth
Things started off fairly slowly at first, however Virtus Pro had learnt from the series and realized that the games they win are they games they dominate early and they attempted just that.
Finding themselves making a lot of early kills happen, VP were finding decent farm advantages on every role relative to T1. Whilst Nightfall was freefarming the top lane, DM was complicating life for Kuku having swapped lanes and muscling Broodmother into the jungle. It seemed to be going so well for VP, until the captain of T1 decided to strike.
As VP tried to kill the Karl Leshrac, Kuku was transitioning smoothly into the river from the jungle. Kuku found himself 2 kills, one on the Invoker, and then setup shop with a spider army to pressure that middle tower.
Not long afterwards, the tower had fallen, and Kuku immediately made his way back towards the bottom part of the map to pressure and secure the tower there as well. Despite his own musings that he doesn't think his Broodmother is good, Kuku was able to open up so much space for his team in the space of a few minutes that the VP farm advantage was upended.
Unwilling to allow the game to turn into a sheer Broodmother game, VP rotated to the bottom part of the map and attempted to force Kuku away from this area. T1 responded quickly and in numbers, bringing all their cores to the fight.
T1 struck first by killing the Kingslayer Oracle , and chasing to try find further casualties. Despite landing multiple hero impales from Xepher, and 23Savage finding a 3 hero Chronosphere, the damage was simply lacking to bring down core and all they gained were the VP supports.
Though VP lost no core heroes, the danger level of T1 was beginning to make them uncomfortable. And if they were prepared to dive past the Tier 2 now, they would do so later on as well.
Battle of the supports
The next several minutes of the game would be a farmfest although not without several close calls on both sides. The dynamic of the game would see both sides landing their stuns, but just lacking the critical damage to tick targets over into death.
Key to both teams ability to absorb pressure was the supports on both sides. Namely, Kingslayer Oracle making sure that the dispels on aggressive spells were always present and Whitemon Warlock always applying heals.
As they got stronger on their cores, T1 felt that they could take a fight and secure the tower denied to them earlier.
This approach started out so well for the side of T1, with Xepher finding a 2 hero Impale on Timbersaw and Lion, followed by a Chaotic Offering Golem dropping on both their heads. whilst his team dodged the Invoker Cataclysm entirely. It could not seem more perfect for the SEA hopes, however their indecision about which spells to commit atop the Timbersaw meant that both he and Lion managed to walk away from the chain disables without dying.
Desperate to fix this oversight, T1 committed forwards but only found a Save Lion that was living up to his name. Catching a 2 hero earth spike under the Tier 2 onto the Void and and Leshrac. It was child's play to finish these heroes off with the spells of VP, and they defended the lane and kept the game further alive.
Can VP deal with these arachnids?
Xepher had decided early on that the item to build on his Nyx Assassin was the Aghanim's Scepter. Realizing the potential of the burrow Mana Burn with 2 melee strength cores, as well as Impale against the supports and Spiked Carapace vs the Nightfall Radiance.
Burrow would also allow for the Nyx to position in the fights in such a way that would be very difficult for VP to isolate and deal with, as the team was lacking in burst damage. To compound this, Kuku had a suite of defensive aura items which would mean further sustain for T1, and more time being spend in the Burrow.
Wanting to reveal this Aghanim's, T1 would smoke up around their own jungle, plop down the Nyx Burrow near the river, and wait.
They would not have to wait too long as VP had made their own aggressive smoke, intent on securing the Roshan area for themselves. Nyx was able to find a stun on both Lion and Wraith King from within the Burrow which seemed to setup for good follow up. T1, though, could not bring in their big hitters without knowing where the supports were. As Save tried to flee, he was accosted by a Chronosphere. Kingslayer desperate to save his ally, shockingly walked into as well despite not being initially caught.
Both supports had no choice but to immediately buyback for fear of Roshan being taken. However, they would now longer be afforded any mistakes, as getting caught out a single more time would mean an eternity in the fountain, and certainly a lost Aegis.
We must hold the line!
T1 would also have this knowledge, and would simply farm until their abilities came back off cooldown to try for Roshan again. With VP really unwilling to give up the Aegis, they would keep throwing in damage spells to dissuade T1 from being able to finish off Roshan.
T1 though had their own Nyx Assassin sitting outside the pit in Burrow, acting as an Anti-hero defense platform. Spending more time Burrowed than moving, the constant spell usage of Mana Burn and Impale made moving into the pit itself a very difficult prospect.
Eventually though, VP would try to force their way into the pit with disastrous effects. Being unaware of the state of the Roshan at that point, Nightfall and Save leapt into the bit to try steal the Aegis similar to how they had done so in Game 3. Unlike that game though, the Roshan was still fairly healthy.
Realizing the mistake, VP tried to flee but Nyx was able to isolate the Lion first , and force a 4v5 as Save had no buyback available.
Desperate, DM would try to steal the Aegis and also distract T1 from Nightfall. Though he did manage to kill Roshan, he failed in his primary objectives and was forced to abandon his carry Wraith King as he was surrounded by enemies. As the most important hero for VP would fall, the momentum of the game would now be decidedly in T1's favour.
With Aegis in tow for 23Savage, T1 would do what they had done best in not just the series, but the entire tournament. Utilize an Aegis to continue to grow an existing farm lead into an insurmountable one.
VP's final dice roll
Over the duration of the Aegis, everyone on T1 would be freely farming the map. VP, unwilling to confront them in a fight that they would lose, would bide their time until the Aegis would expire and then try take a fight at that moment.
That moment would seem to come during a Tier 2 tower push in the top lane for T1. T1, though, had just picked up a raft of items, Leshrac Bloodstone and 23Savage Skadi in particular, to make such a fight near impossible for VP, as not only did they lose several heroes in exchange for merely 2, GPK dealt barely any damage with his Cataclysm spell, which would prove to be a problem as he had invested massively into his own Aghanim's Scepter with Refresher Orb.
The damage issues would continue as T1 would have the strength for heroes to not only survive ganks from Invoker, but often not even falling to half health from a full invoker spell combo.
Eventually T1, not scared of the VP lategame and in no rush themselves, would catch win of Roshan respawning and go to take the final Aegis of the game.
Once ready with the item on the Leshrac, the push was on from T1.
Is this actually happening?
As they were moving for the midlane though, they somehow caught and killed Invoker without buyback available.
This was like giving T1 the greenlight, as it was time to secure their first lane of racks.
It turns out that this would be the only lane of barracks they would need to claim, as 23Savage found a perfect 3 hero Chrono to lock down the Timber, Wraith King and Lion, with no buyback on 2 of them.
As he killed the Lion and his team controlled the Wraith King, Virtus Pro could do nothing but simply watch as T1 would demonstrate their dominance in the base. With no buybacks, no damage, and no options, Virtus Pro would soon throw in the towel and call GG!
T1 will claim the ESL One crown, their first ever tournament victory, and much needed momentum leading into TI! Congratulations to the team and we hope they can carry SEA hopes even higher!