After finishing the Group Stage as the top seed of Group A, Liquid will be looking to finally claim that elusive Major championship in Bali — and their 2-1 upper bracket victory against Chinese powerhouse PSG.LGD in on Wednesday (5 July) is a good sign.
But while Liquid's dominance is clear to see now, there were many doubts about how the team will perform in Bali after they bombed out of DreamLeague Season 20, which took place shortly before the Major, in 15th-16th place.
For Liquid offlaner Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg, the difference between the team's results in DreamLeague and in the Bali Major so far came down to the level of effort they put into competing.
"Coming into DreamLeague we were coming off a longer break, and we haven't played so much individually and pretty much none as a team. So we came into DreamLeague unprepared and we also really didn't have time to fix many things during the tournament, so we got last place," zai said during a press event ahead of the Bali Major Playoffs.
"I think when we put in effort we can be really good and when we get lazy we don't play so good. I think in the last tournament we were kinda lazy, intentionally so, we kinda took a break. That was probably our lowest point as a team with this roster. But now I think we're doing good."
The difference between Liquid lazily slogging through DreamLeague and being locked in at Bali is like night and day.
In DreamLeague, the team only managed to win five games out of 14 in that event's Group Stage, even getting swept in three of the best-of-two matches they played.
But in Bali, Liquid finished with a 12-4 record — tied with Group B top seed Quest Esports for the best of the entire Group Stage — and didn't concede a single best-of-two series. They have looked nigh unstoppable in their victories too.
On average, it took Liquid just under 34 minutes to take the games they won in the Group Stage, with their fastest victory against South America's Beastcoast notably clocking in at just 24 minutes.
— Team Liquid (@TeamLiquid) July 3, 2023
Throughout the Group Stage, Liquid made good use of their signature laning dominance to hit powerful midgame timings and eventually snowball to quick victories.
For their players, getting more reps in as they play more games and more tournaments — regardless how slow a start they may have — only serves to help the team build up strength over the course of both individual events and the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season as a whole.
"We just started to play more Dota, that's it. Talk more Dota and play more Dota," said carry player Michael "miCKe" Vu.
"For us, it's kinda good to start off slow and then build up faster, because when we take some time off at the beginning we avoid going from an event to the DPC [regional leagues] at 100% all the time. So we're just pacing ourselves in that way," added zai.
That pace is now starting to ramp up. Having already secured a direct invite to The International 2023 (TI 2023) before the Bali Major, Liquid are now looking to head into this year's world championship tournament with a Major title under their belts.
If Liquid can emerge as champions in Bali while also defeating rivals Gaimin Gladiators, who bested them in the Grand Finals of the last two Majors in Lima and Berlin, on the way, then it would make their victory that much sweeter.
"Some people in our team definitely wanted to play Gaimin Gladiators [in the first round of the upper bracket] while others were thinking more strategically. Certain people definitely wanted to play Gladiators mostly out of, you know, we wanna beat them. We're hungry," said team captain Aydin "Insania" Sarkohi.
With Gaimin Gladiators on the other side of the upper bracket, the earliest they could meet Team Liquid will be in the upper bracket finals (assuming they both avoid falling to the lower bracket).
For carry player Michael "miCKe" Vu, another showdown with their biggest rivals is all but inevitable, and Liquid can't wait to get their revenge.
"We'll meet them again in the finals, it's all good," said miCKe.
The Bali Major Playoffs will take place from 5 to 10 July and will follow a double-elimination format. All Playoff matches will be a best-of-three except for the Grand Finals, which will be a full best-of-five series.
While the competing teams in Bali are fighting for their cut of the US$500,000 prize pool, they have their eyes set on a share of the 3,500 DPC point pool.
Those DPC points will go towards securing all-important direct invites to TI 2023, this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual multi-million dollar world championship tournament that will be held in Seattle this October.
For everything you need to know about the Bali Major, check here.
Team Liquid Dota 2 roster:
Michael "miCKe" Vu
Michał "Nisha" Jankowski
Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg
Samuel "Boxi" Svahn
Aydin "Insania" Sarkohi
William "Blitz" Lee (coach)