T1 esports accomplished what seemed like an impossible task. They took down Team Aster, the best Chinese DPC team, 2-0 to continue in the Animajor upper bracket.
The WePlay Animajor is on in full swing and we have the best teams matching up against each other. One of the weakest regions in the DPC went up against one of the strongest in today’s match. And the David vs Goliath matchup saw a massive upset. T1 esports took down Chinese favorites Team Aster with a 2-0 score and in a very dominant fashion. Here’s how the series played out and how the SEA team surprised some of the best players in the world.
T1 make their AniMajor Debut
With neither team having guaranteed qualification for The International 10 coming into the series, incredible tension was in the air since a victory here would guarantee qualification for TI, with only 4 teams having booked their tickets before this match.
Team Aster though were in a position where qualification was all but guaranteed, whilst T1 could not afford to drop the series.
To further add to the drama was the fact that these were the 2 Asian teams that had finished first in their regions. However, Team Aster showed a dominance in the strongest Dota 2 region. T1, on the other hand, was a part of the supremely competitive SEA region. Needless to say, T1 was the heavy underdogs in this matchup.
The moment of truth
The Game 1 draft saw Team Aster emerge as the heavy favorites with their opening picks. Having their favored the Mars and Phoenix duo whilst having the Monet Terrorblade seemed very comfortable for the Chinese team. T1, however, managed to end the draft in devastating fashion, picking up the Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon Morphling and somehow the final pick was Broodmother for Carlo “Kuku” Palad.
With 2 of the strongest heroes uncontested, T1 did not squander the opportunity that came to them on a silver plate. In true SEA fashion, T1 dominated the early laning phase. With Broodmother and Enchantress making the early lane impossible to play for Du “Monet” Peng, Team Aster was off to a difficult start. Things became much more difficult when T1 used a similar strategy to achieve the same success elsewhere on the map, leading to an early snowball, culminating in a heavy gold advantage for T1 esports.
No Kills, No Problem
Despite the game being very light on kills, it was constantly T1 controlling the map and encircling Team Aster. The SEA team gathered momentum and and pushed to threaten a lane of barracks.
Team Aster desperately tried to leverage their on paper farm advantage by going for a big defensive fight. Lin “Xxs” Jing caught 4 heroes inside his Arena of Blood, the Phoenix Supernova went off unimpeded, Monet used Metamorphisis to get off uninterrupted damage throughout all of it!
And nothing happened! They dealt almost no damage to the cores of T1. And although T1 chose to retreat from the fight, it was the beginning of the end for the side of Aster.
A Glimmer of Hope
Team Aster finally managed a more successful defense by catching out the Karl Matthew Baldovino Dragon Knight and dragging him out of position. At the same time as they were jumping him, 23Savage went deep into the base to find a kill on the WhiteAlbum Lina.
He succeeded, but the time it would take him to do would mean the Phoenix Supernova went off in his face, giving some hope that this may be where Aster could bring down their great foe.
Sadly, Morphling as a hero was too far ahead on farm, and 23Savage too good a player. He survived the attempt on his life and got out safely. This would be the last chance Team Aster would have to touch 23Savage, and the game would end shortly afterwards.
Not a fluke, T1 wins the second game as well
Game 2 had Aster drafting yet more teamfight, but this time with tower pressure in the form of Death Prophet for White Album. T1, undeterred, went for a lineup to challenge them early with Lifestealer and Magnus.
Expectations that Team Aster would be able to match the early fighting potential of T1 were quickly rebuffed when the laning phase appeared just as dominant for T1 as we had already seen in game 1. To make matters worse, the first tower to be taken with the Death Prophet Exorcism turned instead into her death, as T1 mounted a miraculous defense of the structure.
Unable to siege and acquire the much needed gold to advance their Death Prophet in the game, all hopes lay with Poyoyo on his Medusa. Though adept at the hero, the hero needs farm to be effective. Thus the focus for Team Aster was ensuring he had the space to farm and crucially ancient stacks for him to farm from.
T1 knew this as well.
Invading the Radiant triangle early on to not only preventing Medusa from farming, but getting extra gold for 23Savage as well in the process by taking the available creeps. Recognizing that they had to stop this at all costs, Aster found a good jump with the Xxs’ Mars yet again finding a 4 hero arena of blood.
Sadly, yet again they did not have enough effective damage. Despite being able to land their spell combos, the lack of farm and long ultimate cooldowns meant they could not fight against the sustain of the T1 draft.
Not just an outdraft, but an outplay
Similar to game one, once recognizing what would be needed to secure victory, T1 focused on baiting out all the ultimates from Team Aster before counter-initiating just as the spells wear off, and Aster are overextended.
A strategy with very small margins for error, and who’s error would be massively punished by a Medusa getting more gold to come back into the game.
From this fight, not only did T1 clean up the Tier 2 Tower in the bottom lane, they had also clearly rattled Team Aster. Who from this point would not be able to move cohesively on the map as a team.
T1 smelt blood, went for the jugular by picking off and out of position WhiteAlbum, and closed out the game.
T1 secure invitation to The International 10
Being more than just any normal victory at any normal tournament, a victory here at the AniMajor guaranteed T1 a direct qualification for TI! As only the 5th team in the world to achieve this feat, and doing so as underdogs, T1 would take our breaths away as they shouted in celebration!
Also being the first team with Indonesian players to attend an International, they carry both national and regional pride on their journey tp Stockholm.
Wisdom from Kuku
Despite the enormous win, both in terms of the game and ramifications for the team, captain Kuku was still humble in his attitude. Taking a moment to be interviewed, he shared his thoughts on what led to the victory.
Acknowledging his own limitations as a player, Kuku spoke about how he doesn’t have full confidence on his play on Broodmother, despite the hero’s popularity in the current meta. He took responsibility, and played a hero he isn’t comfortable on in order to give his team the best chance at victory. The hallmark of not just a great player but leader as well.
When asked what he though about his opponent’s approach to the game, he was willing to share insights uncommon from pro players in his position.
Some might call it a mistake or arrogance, but we can appreciate that having just won one of the biggest games of his life, secrecy would be the last thing on his mind.
Despite knowing coming into the tournament that a single series victory would lead to a qualification, Kuku was insistent on not allowing this to affect his teams’ mentality. Echoing the words of 23Savage who clearly has been taking cues from his captain.
With qualification for TI already secured, T1 can focus their attention entirely on this Major for now. The team will face the winner of Quincy Crew and Nigma on June 11.