In what was perhaps the best series we’ve seen in the tournament so far, Spirit leave the ESL One Fall Winners dumbfounded.
There would only be a single match for Day 3 of the tournament, but boy was it one to watch. After being beat down by LGD just yesterday, Tundra were hungry to prove their ESL triumph wasn't just a fluke. On the flipside were Team Spirit, who have time and time again looked game to take out any team they're put up against.
Of course, with the ingenuity Tundra had shown as of late, many favored the EU contenders. Tundra had already beaten Spirit 2-0 in the Group Stage of that tournament, and many were anticipating the same result. However, if we've learned anything from the past two TIs, and teams like Ad Finem, one thing should be clear. Never count out the underdog.
Game 1 - 4th Time's The Charm for Team Spirit
In the face of a formidable foe, it's important to stick to your guns. This was clearly Spirits plan from as early on as the draft. It was clear they had done their homework on Tundra too. On top of grabbing their winning support duo of Bane and Dark Willow, they also answered Tundra's Gyrocopter and Lycan with a Monkey King for Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk. Straying away from their usual madness, Tundra would pick up the classic Faceless Void-Invoker combo to close their draft.
The entirety of the early game boiled down to one simple aspect - the mid Power Runes. Thanks to smart rotations from Tundra's supports to secure them, Leon "Nine" Kirilin's Quas Wex Invoker wreaked havoc on Spirit's sidelanes. Not to be outdone, Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO" Khertek's Ember Spirit would answer with rotations of his own.
Crucially, a single mistake was all it took for Tundra to secure Roshan - an unfortunate self-cliff from TORONTOTOKYO. The tide was clearly in Tundra's favor, and they knew it. Just like any good team would, they pushed that advantage hard. The thing is, Spirit were no strangers to playing from behind. They knew exactly where and when to punish Tundra for their hubris.
Although Tundra had control of the map, Spirit would repeatedly found pick-offs on the Tundra heroes out of position. Between Monkey King hovering in trees, the Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov Magnus and his Horn Toss into Skewer, and even Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov's clutch Fiends Grips, Spirit routinely crushed any momentum Tundra might have had. Sure Tundra were ahead, but there was nothing they could do with that advantage.
The Buyback Wars Begin
It was slow, and not the prettiest, but Spirit had begun to claw their way back into the game. The Magnus Empower meant they were never far behind in gold to boot. In response, Tundra would utilize buybacks to win important fights - namely for the 2nd and 3rd Roshan.
Almost like committing daylight robbery, Spirit would slip into the Tundra lines - knock out heroes and dip. The repeated pick-offs never ended, effectively neutralizing any advantage Tundra had hoped to gain again and again.
As the fourth Roshan rolled around, both sides knew that it would be the decider. The Tundra plan was simple - bait out the Spirit ultimates, then swoop in and take Roshan for themselves. Even in the face of the Chrono-Cataclysm, and multiple buybacks, Spirit were determined not to be the ones caught sleeping.
Thanks to their insane teamfight coordination, and a clutch Nightmare from Miposhka, Spirit would wipe the tide of Tundra clean out of the game. With all 5 Tundra heroes dead without buyback, the game was basically over. The Adrian "Fata" Trinks-led side would be forced to watch helplessly as Spirit crushed their Ancient in one fell swoop.
Game 2 - The Tundra-Aegis Curse Continues
As with every important match professional teams play - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Spirit would draft with this principle in mind, picking up Bane, Magnus and Willow yet again. This time, they would also get their hands on the signature TORONTOTOKYO Void Spirit.
In the same vein, Tundra were confident their opener was not the problem. They grabbed the Gyro Lycan opener again, with a Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu Shadow Demon alongside it. Following the same theme of a slippery carry, the hero of choice for Oliver "skiter" Lepko would be Slark. In response, Spirit would shift the Magnus to carry, and last pick a Collapse Sand King.
The second bout would start off shakier for Spirit, with Nine's Ember even getting a early kill-trade on TORONTOTOKYO in lane. With stellar rune control once again thanks in part to 33's Wolves, Nine looked off to a hot start. Of course, Spirit would not take that sitting down, and went full Tokyo Revengers.
Spirit would proceed to eliminate Nine 3 times within the span of 5 minutes, slamming him into irrelevance. Still, a timely catch onto Collapse would give over the first Rosh to Tundra.
With skiter leading the charge, Tundra forged forward towards Spirit's buildings. Still, just like in Game 1 - the Aegis seemed to infect Tundra with some sort of madness.
In the exact fashion as the game prior, Spirit's killer instinct would force suboptimal moves from Tundra. Between buybacks, overextensions and questionable fights - Tundra looked completely out of sorts.
Again, even with Aegis in tow, Tundra simply had no way to force the issue.
Collapse - "Where Do You Think You're Going, Tundra?"
Thanks to Tundra's complete lack of catch, Collapse and TORONTOTOKYO were completely free in the fights. Between the Agh's Upgraded Burrowstrike and Resonant Pulses, the sheer amount of control from Spirit was too much for even the Slark to Dark Pact off.
To combat this glaring weakness, 33 would even buy a Scythe of Vyse on his Lycan. This surprise pick-up was enough to catch the seemingly immortal TORONTOTOKYO offguard, and gave Tundra an opening.
As if the games could be any more similar, the deciding battle would once again be at the Roshan Pit. Somehow, the ensuing fight was even more chaotic than the one that ended the first game.
With Nine's dieback, Tundra had to turn tail and run. And they would've gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for that damn meddling Sand King.
Just like that, Spirit would barrel down mid and slam the door shut on Tundra's hopes at another Grand Final, sweeping the series 2-0.
Spirit move on to face PSG.LGD in the Grand Finals!
While Tundra go down without taking a game off Spirit, this is a series where the score doesn't tell the full story. Still, it's undeniable that the spark of madness that had won Tundra ESL One Fall was sorely lacking.
More so for their opponents than Team Spirit themselves, this win here is a reminder of the fact that this young squad packs a deadly punch - and should never be counted out.
It should be noted that LGD has already had a run in with Spirit in ESL One Fall as well, where they ultimately came out on top 2-1.
The Grand Finals of the OGA Dota PIT Invitational will be one that is a clear signal of what we might see at TI10. Can PSG.LGD continue their streak of dominance even with their coach standing in? Or will CIS's great hope rise up to the challenge?