A months-long tale of western rivalries escalates at ESL One Hamburg, the first Dota Pro Circuit Major, with a landmark victory for Virtus Pro—or, specifically, a loss for Team Liquid.
Liquid, the European TI7 champions, have finally lost their first professional match since August to the aggressive and versatile Virtus Pro. The CIS team will go on to the event’s playoffs and are already guaranteed Pro Circuit points, while Liquid need to take one more group stage series to earn such.
The two squads played a full spectacular best-of-three series after winning their way to the Group B placement matches. Liquid wasn’t shy about showing off their cores’ power, with Lasse Aukusti “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen playing a powerful Broodmother the second and third games.
But Virtus.Pro allowing picks such as the Brood, three games of Venomancer and a last-game Terrorblade showed that the CIS team was more confident in their own team’s aggression. In game one, they held control through powerful Queen of Pain and Lifestealer picks, though their Alchemist fell short in the tie-up game. Fortunately for VP, the game-three Troll Warlord paired with the infamously popular Necrophos proved to be too much for Liquid, even as the hopes of the late-game Terrorblade ticked on.
Team Liquid has had a hot streak since their TI7 run. At the event, they placed into the upper bracket, only to fall to Invictus Gaming in the first round of the double-elimination event. They then continued into a run through nearly the full lower bracket, minus the best-of-one first round, into the Grand Finals and, soon, victory. They’ve won twelve consecutive professional series through TI7, StarLadder i-League Invitational and ESL One Hamburg.
While Virtus Pro fell to Liquid in the lower brackets of TI7, they haven’t come out of the tournament any weaker for it. In fact, they decided to keep their full roster, a tough decision in what turned out to be another turbulent shuffle season.
Since the end of the massive annual tournament, they’ve fought through a number of qualifiers, including that for ESL One Hamburg as well as the AMD Sapphire DotaPit Minor. They’re also currently at the top of DreamLeague Season 8’s EU/CIS qualifiers with a 5-1 score, only dropping one game to OG Dota.
Now the question remains for these teams remains: Will Liquid pull off another lower-bracket run? Or has VP gathered the power to finally win a Valve event?