With ESL One Fall 2021: Bootcamp Edition entering its final phases, it’s only fitting we saw a rematch of one of the hypest matches of the Upper Bracket: Virtus.pro versus PSG.LGD
Just days after PSG.LGD and Virtus.pro faced off for the first time at ESL One Fall 2021: Bootcamp Edition, the two regional behemoths would clash again in the lower bracket finals. Having last met on the opening day of the playoffs, with VP taking the victory, the teams met again for a chance to head to the finals.
In that initial clash, it had been LGD's mid lane Spirit Breaker that had stolen the show. Even if the hero's success didn't live up to the hype, but since that match, it's become clear that stand-in Zhang "xiao8" Ning has a lot more to offer the team than just meme picks. Meanwhile, Virtus.pro's undefeated streak in the tournament was abruptly stopped by a hugely impressive-looking Tundra Esports.
Small Mistakes, Big Victories
With the first match kicking off, Virtus.pro was not ready for LGD to have any of the more fearsome picks they've had at ESL One Fall. So in banning out Clinkz and Spirit Breaker, the team forced LGD onto more standard heroes. Meanwhile, VP was able to pick up reliable heroes they favored, including Winter Wyvern, Lina and Tide Hunter.
With LGD forced into more conventional late-game scaling heroes, albeit with an added Night Stalker twist. VP quickly scored two kills using the tri-lane pressure to start the match, leaving the Tidehunter to subsist alone in the bottom. The team leveraged this to a quick early-game lead.
But as the match went on, the potent effect of LGD's comp started to come online. With Sven and IO marching around the map and picking off VP's heroes, the perfect team fights for Virtus.pro stopped materializing. For a composition built around their perfect execution, VP just had no way of creating opportunities to fight.
From here, LGD could split across the map, push every lane at once, and force VP to chase them. However, this allowed VP to get onto Wang "Ame" Chunyu, and burst him down. With Ame's Sven dead, LGD had almost no more damage. As the number of fights increased, though, VP just couldn't execute flawlessly every time. Once the mistakes started being made, LGD was able to win three huge fights in a row and close out the game.
Win Lanes, Easy Game
Virtus.pro was clearly not happy with their opponent's supports last game and opted to ban away the Night Stalker and Io, leaving LGD to pick up Clinkz and Earthshaker. However, even with Zhang "xiao8" Ning on the Clinkz mid he'd been formidable on this tournament, LGD fell behind quickly.
With Virtus.pro picking up first blood again, and then turning around LGD's tri line by getting two early kills, the game started to snowball quickly. Xiao8 was punished in lane by Danil "gpk" Skutin's Batrider, which promptly began to scale out of control. Able to control and kill his lane, and then roam and farm, gpk was an unstoppable monster by 15 minutes in.
Couple this with Zhang "Faith Bian" Ruida struggling in the offlane and Beastmaster Zoo on the loose, and what followed was a demolition of LGD. The worst beating we've seen LGD take at ESL One Fall. Xiao8 attempted to salvage things by hard-pushing lanes, but VP shoved waves, took out barracks, and never felt out of control. Game two quickly goes to Virtus.pro.
Virtus.pro Falls Apart
LGD was definitely impressed by the Clinkz from game two and picked up the hero again. Since it was the only net positive from game two, that's not super surprising. But with the Pangolier and Keeper of the Light picked, it wasn't immediately clear whether Clinkz was mid, carry, or something else. VP's lineup was more vanilla: Another Winter Wyvern, a Viper pick, and a return to Lina.
More dismal laning to start the final match put LGD instantly behind. And for the early game, it was more of the same, with VP's solid laning securing them a starting lead. But as xiao8's Pango started to ramp up, LGD was able to begin to grab towers. What's more, they could catch their opponents out and burst them down.
However, LGD's questionable decision-making had started to affect their team fighting. Time and again, they'd trade awkwardly, losing their cores to save supports.
But even with these suspect fights, LGD was quickly able to turn the game in their favor. The high-risk, high-reward playstyle of the Chinese squad allowed them to snowball. And these small team fight victories quickly became a 12k gold lead. Meanwhile, Virtus.pro struggled as the game fell out of their hands. Without the ability to cleanly engage fights, they couldn't take back control. Trapped on their high ground and killed on cooldown, VP lose the series after a dramatic series.
Virtus.pro have once again struggled to replicate their early success in a top-tier event. They started out so strong, but seemed to fall apart the minute things didn't go their way. LGD, on the other hand, are scary intense. The team didn't miss a beat with a stand-in at mid. And they broke out new and inventive picks all across the tournament. We're set for an incredible grand final between LGD and Tundra at ESL One Fall.