The International is finally here, the stage for the best DOTA 2 teams going head-to-head to hail winners for another year and lay claim to DOTA2’s highest tier trophy, the Aegis of Champions.
The event stream starts and immediately we’re welcomed by all familiar panellists from the past two weeks getting the show started. A magical feeling is there with everyone. SirActionSlacks is here with all his goofiness alongside Tsunami, and lo&behold Kaci is back this year as well. Purge is updating everybody with the numbers and giving the latest stats. A little introduction, and then team members finally start to arrive for their big day.
As soon as the beginning is rounded up, we’re off! A whole Musical Theatre Orchestra is set up to play a beautiful DOTA 2 soundtrack for the Opening Ceremony, and Gabe rage-throws his headphones at his monitor screen because a guy used his own chatwheel to flame him. We’re welcomed by the big man himself to The International. The magical sight is worth beholding.
Time for the highest-tier DOTA 2 matches.
Gaimin Gladiators VS nouns:
Our first matchup is revealed and it is between the teams from NA in the lower bracket, Gaimin Gladiators versus nouns and the pre-game phase of game 1 begins.
The first bans include Primal Beast, Ancient Apparition, and nouns ban Muerta straight away. The first picks are Brewmaster on nouns and Weaver on Gaimin Gladiators. The phase moves to conclude with bans from Gaimin Gladiators including Pheonix, Chaos Knight, Naga Siren, Faceless Void and Bloodseeker at the last. They have furthermore picked Grimstroke, Chen, Tidehunter and Pangolier. On the dire side, the nouns’ ban list includes Bristleback, Dazzle, Centaur Warrunner, Enchantress, Necrophos and lastly Kunkka. They go on to pick Nature’s Prophet, Dark Willow, Earth Spirit and Terrorblade. Cap and SVG cast the game.
nouns get First Blood for Gunnar on Earthspirit by killing Seleri on Chen at the bottom river rune. Gaimin Gladiators retaliate by pushing hard with some strong aggression. They take over the river and take down the Mid Tier 2 Tower just before minute 16. Tide keeps front lining and they even take the Tier 3 Mid Tower in the 19th minute, 6k Gold lead for Gaimin with the score 14-10. They keep the pressure on nouns with their momentum and take the first Roshan Aegis. nouns don’t have an answer for such early aggression and their barracks go down at Mid and Top. They manage to hold off by killing both enemy carry to take a small breath. They hold a respectable front but the Exp and Gold difference is too much and Gaimin Gladiators wipe them out and take Mega Creeps at Minute 31. They take down Roshan once again for one final push and take game 1. Ace on Tidehunter was exceptional never backing down.
Gaimin Gladiators on Dire pick Dazzle, Tiny, Chen, Lone Druid and Alchemist and ban AA, Pheonix, NP, Dawnbreaker, Willow, Lina and Riki. On the Radiant side, nouns pick Spectre, Grimstroke, Tusk, Dark Seer and KOTL and ban Necro, BB, Primal Beast, CK, LS, Weaver and Bloodseeker.
Moo on Dark Seer kills Seleri on Chen for First Blood. Gaimin Gladiators don’t slow down this time around either, with barracks taken just before Minute 20. nouns do give an honourable fight, but they still don’t seem to handle the strength of the Gaimin Gladiator Hero lineup.
Gaimin go to Top-6 at TI and nouns are eliminated.
Virtus Pro Versus BetBoom:
The next matchup brings the Eastern European region teams Virtus Pro and BetBoom.
The phase starts and BetBoom bans BB, Spirit Breaker, CK, Treant Protector, Templar Assassin, Doom and Dawnbreaker and picks CW, Pugna, Monkey King, Vengeful Spirit and Invoker. Virtus Pro bans Muerta, Dazzle, Storm Spirit, Willow, Enchantress, Necro and Primal Beast and picks Pheonix, Grimstroke, Kunkka, Spectre and Lina. The game starts with Castors Trent and Lyrical.
First Blood is at Top Lane, Minute 3 with Save on Pugna killing Kiritych on Spectre. The early game is close between both teams, but BetBoom comes out winning team fights and starts building up a lead on Gold and Exp. Virtus Pro doesn’t back down but just comes shy of winning team fights as BetBoom has countermeasures to turn the team fights. Radiant doesn’t make any mistakes with their lead and BetBoom holds a 16k Gold Lead at Minute 29. Virtus Pro go on the defensive in their base and BetBoom starts to take advantage of all the Map space, farming up and not letting the lead dwindle, taking multiple Roshans and getting bigger and bigger. Virtus Pro fails to defend the Top Lane Barracks at Minute 36. BetBoom proceeds to take the Bot Lane Barracks next and goes on to convincingly win the first game just before Minute 45.
BetBoom picks a roster of SB, Willow, Undying, Invoker and Wraith King versus Virtus Pro’s roster inclusion composed of Muerta, Grimstroke, Tusk, Doom and Kunkka. Meta heroes like CK and BB were two of all the bans.
The First Blood comes at Bot Lane with Kiritych securing it with Grimstroke over Pure’s Spirit Breaker. Virtus Pro come in strong, taking the lead, earning a good couple of kills and turning team fights to their advantage. The score sits at 12-3 at Minute 15 in their favour. BetBoom turns aggressive but Muerta proves a considerable foe, not allowing them to push into Virtus Pro in fights. BetBoom takes to the corners, finding openings in the map and slowly targeting wandering enemy heroes in the same manner, and takes map control little by little. Using this, they came ahead with some good farm. The game becomes even at minute 40.
BetBoom does not slow down, getting pickoffs and pushing Virtus Pro into their base, and now it suddenly turns the opposite day. Both teams remain respectful of the other, and so minutes go on with farm building on BetBoom, and a Rapier coming online on Muerta. This allows Virtus Pro to hold their ground and not let the game end, and soon the 60th-minute crosses. Both teams get to the late game, and it’s still undecided which side with win. Virtus Pro still stands with most of its base gone, so they are looking to make something work. Muerta finds herself trying to rat out the top Dire Barracks and unfortunately is caught out, losing her Rapier. Wraith King on BetBoom has a rapier of his own and the 70k Gold lead is just too much. VP hold an honourable front line next to their throne, but the damage is enough for BetBoom to win their second game.
They push to the Top 6 of The International, and Virtus Pro are eliminated. It truly feels that TI is underway now with the long and close second game.
Team Liquid Versus Team Spirit:
With the Lower Bracket matches done for the day, it’s now time for the Upper Bracket. The next matchup is between fan favourites, Team Liquid versus Team Spirit.
Game one has bans on Bristleback, AA, Spirit Breaker and on most meta picks that TI has seen. Team Liquid manages to grab Muerta as a first pick going along with Grimstroke, Tidehunter, Sven and Magnus as the last pick. Team Spirit goes with Pheonix, CK, Willow, Kunkka and Axe. The favourite casting duo Synderen with Sunsfan start their commentary.
There is no time to wait and the game already gets intense before the Minute mark, First Blood goes to Team Liquid which jumps in from the lower Secret Shop side and secures it on Micke playing Sven, killing Mira’s Willow. The whole Radiant Team is here so they manage to push in and take Pheonix’s life as well. The score starts 2-0 in Liquid’s favour at Minute 0.
Team Spirit hold an edge with more pressure and pushing power and use it to take Mid and Bot Towers fast. Liquid tries to contest it and they go somewhat even with the farm for the first 20 minutes. An initiation happens at Bot, Sven initiates on Axe but his team isn’t close enough and Team Spirit quickly takes him out and goes full offensive. Team Liquid does try to make something happen, but Magnus ends up on the high ward cliff and is stuck and taken out. Muerta is left alone and stands no chance either. Three down on Liquid, Spirit gets space to get Roshan, and the lead builds up for them. They use it to get all of Bot Lane including the Barracks and Liquid now needs some defence play. Spirit uses all the map control to farm up and go in to secure their first win at TI at Minute 40, score 14-38 when GG is called.
Game two has SB, Pugna, Muerta, Weaver and Pangolier on Liquid’s side and Shadow Demon, Pheonix, Spectre, Earth Spirit and Tide on Spirit. First Blood close to the Minute start at the bottom Jungle Rune goes to Spirit’s Mira on SD taking out Micke on Weaver. Liquid does get Tide to even the score right there and then.
A very even game for the first 10 minutes. Liquid takes a clutch fight at Minute 16 and makes room to get a 6k Gold lead at Minute 22. Team Spirit holds their ground for a while but then slowly starts to get pushed back as they cannot take team fights with Team Liquid’s Gold and Exp lead. Liquid starts getting Map control, and they build up their lead to push. Team Spirit gets a few good picks, but Liquid doesn’t lose their momentum and takes out Top and Mid Barracks with a 26k Gold lead. The fight at Bot Barracks goes in Spirit’s favour and so they manage to get a few more minutes in the game, but Liquid come back by getting Mega Creeps at Minute 53 and wins the game.
It’s a win each for both teams and Game 3 is up.
Game 3 brings some new hero faces as Spirit picks Grimstroke, Weaver, Invoker, Tiny and Nightstalker and Liquid picks Brewmaster, Willow, Disruptor, Riki and Specitre.
Weaver is alone at the Bot Jungle Rune and doesn’t stand a chance against 3 Liquid Heroes. Insania on Disruptor gets First Blood by taking Yatoro out at the rune spawn. The game is even throughout Early Game, with both teams getting kills and pickoffs and the intensity doesn’t die off. Nothing less than what a TI Game 3 should be. Half an hour passes and it’s still an even game. A janky team fight at the Top Roshan high ground comes to Spirit’s favour as the trees separate Team Liquid from Riki who diebacks, and suddenly Spirit sees an opening to take the lead. Liquid still manages to hold and make Spirit respect their strength, but with the Gold lead and Exp building up, Spirit claims Roshan and uses it to push hard. They take down the Top and Mid Barracks. Liquid still manages to make things work and the game goes back to even coming into Minute 50. Unfortunately for Liquid, their forced Initiation at Bot Lane doesn’t work out and Spirit take out 2. Liquid doesn’t have buybacks and it’s 5 vs 3. Team Spirit come out victorious.
Team Spirit goes on to the Top 3 at TI and Team Liquid drops to the lower bracket, setting their match against Gaimin Gladiators.
LGD Versus Azure Ray:
The Upper Bracket matchup between two CA region teams is underway. Azure Ray stands as the underdog team and LGD as fan-favourites.
AR picks Bristleback, Shadow Demon, Clockwerk, Weaver and old granny Snapfire. LGD get Muerta, Magnus, Willow, Vengeful Spirit and Night Stalker.
Five minutes in, and still no First Blood, both teams trying to make no mistakes. Then suddenly the heat builds up and both sides start going all out. Azure Ray holds their ground with Bristleback but LGD doesn’t dwindle in their farm either. Half an hour almost passes, and LGD manages to get a fast kill on Bristleback once. Then once again, and a third time as well, hinting that LGD knows very well how to counter the hero if he is found alone anytime. The kills on Bristleback take their toll on Azure Ray, who does manage to hold up a good front but still can’t manage to get kills on LGD now. Amplification on LGD alongside their Muerta just doesn’t allow Bristleback to survive. LGD pushes hard at mid, kills two, kills Bristleback again, and opens up the map and the match to get ahead. Azure Ray seems to lack in the offence department and only manages a single kill after the turnaround. LGD takes Roshan, pushes and wins the first game at Minute 47.
Azure Ray’s picks are Weaver, Grimstroke, Tusk, Dawnbreaker and Earth Shaker. LGD’s picks include Brewmaster, Rubick, Spectre, Puck and Witch Doctor.
First Blood goes to LGD’s Niu playing Brewmaster at Bot Lane by killing Lou’s Weaver. Azure Ray to come back with some power and get a few good kills and a small lead. LGD doesn’t back off either. Minute 20 and it looks like an even game. The game covers many team fights that come on even, with LGD just a little ahead in skill and luck. They convert their little buffs to a good 13k Gold lead and now push hard. Azure Ray gives a good fight but isn’t able to defend. With a huge Spectre at minute 43, kills come easy to LGD, and they close the game off convincingly against Azure Ray.
LGD joining Team Spirit at the Upper Bracket as a part of the Top 3 at this TI and Azure Ray comes to the Lower Bracket for their matchup with BetBoom ahead.
And that concludes the first day of DOTA 2’s The International 2023 event. An amusing Late Game with Pyrion Flax and Jenkins is also for those who still want some entertainment after the matches. Overall, although with a smaller prizepool, The International comes again with much quality DOTA 2 matches, a beautiful venue, and an overall great start to a great event.
Check out the latest standings over here and more about DOTA 2 and The International. More DOTA 2 tomorrow and the day after.
Here is a picture of Gabe to end your long and arduous read.