Azure Ray are the first team to qualify for Dota 2's The International (TI) 2023 from the regional qualifiers after they defeated Xtreme Gaming 3-1 in the grand finals of the tournament's Chinese regional qualifiers on Monday (21 August).
Azure Ray were only formed back in early May as the former PSG.LGD trio of Lu "Somnus" Yao, Yang "chalice" Shenyi, and Xu "fy" Linsen came out of retirement in a bid to qualify for this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament.
Rounding out the squad were former Ybb Gaming standouts Lou "Lou" Zhen and Jiang "天命 (pronounced tiān mìng)" An as well as veteran coach Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng.
Azure Ray showed promise in the last leg of the 2023 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season, finishing fourth in the Summer Tour regional league for China and in the Top 8 at the Bali Major. However, they did not earn enough DPC points to earn a direct invite to TI 2023 and had to fight for their spot in the tournament through the regional qualifiers.
Blitzed through first two rounds
Azure Ray blitzed through the first two rounds of the qualifiers' double-elimination bracket, defeating Team Bright, 2-1, before sweeping Invictus Gaming, 2-0, to get their first shot at Xtreme Gaming in the upper bracket finals.
Despite losing the first game of that match, Azure Ray pulled off the 2-1 reverse sweep to become the first team in qualifiers' grand finals. Xtreme then defeated Team Zero, 2-1, in the lower bracket finals to get a rematch with Azure Ray for a spot at TI 2023.
The finals started with a 46-minute slugfest, where Azure Ray pulled off a late game comeback behind Lou's Terrorblade, who finished with eight kills and nine assists against three deaths.
Chalice also put up seven kills and 14 assists against four deaths to add to Azure Ray's 32-24 kill lead in game one.
Xtreme were quick to strike back in a 47-minute game two behind a perfect showing on Morphling from Daniel "Ghost" Chan, who finished with a clean 20 kills and 11 assists.
The pivotal game three of the series saw both teams neck-and-neck for much of the game before Azure Ray pulled ahead in the late game to take a commanding 2-1 series lead after 36 minutes of action.
Lou, who was on Terrorblade for the third-straight game this match, led the way with 10 kills and nine assists on just one death. Somnus also paced Azure Ray's 34-28 kill lead with eight kills and eight assists on six deaths as Lina.
Support duo plays key role
While Azure Ray's core players hogged the spotlight in their first two wins, it was the support duo of fy and 天命 that played key roles as the team secure their spot in TI 2023 in a 29-minute rout in game four.
Fy on Clockwerk and 天命 on a support Invoker dominated the laning stage, making key rotations that heavily slowed down Xtreme's cores while giving Lou, Somnus, and Chalice all the space in the world.
Azure Ray's cores didn't waste the golden opportunity provided by their supports, as Lou on Morphling and Somnus on Queen of Pain proceeded to dominate in teamfights en route to the 3-1 series victory.
Somnus racked up a game-high 14 kills and 10 assists on just two deaths to fuel Azure Ray's 40-18 kill lead in the closeout game. Lou also pitched in with 11 kills and seven assists on two deaths.
With their victory in the regional qualifiers, Azure Ray will be the second Chinese team in TI 2023, joining directly-invited squad PSG.LGD.
TI 2023's regional qualifiers will run until 31 August, with the competition being split into three five-day phases where two regions will compete in each phase.
The qualifiers for North America and China kicked off the competition and will both conclude on 21 August. The qualifiers for South America and Eastern Europe will follow from 22 to 26 August while Western Europe and Southeast Asia will close things out from 27 to 31 August.
TI 2023 will be hosted across multiple weekends from 12 to 29 October in Seattle, the United States. This year's tournament also features a revamped format split into two distinct phases, called 'The Road to The International' and 'The International' itself.