Team Secret are off to a great start to the Western European regional qualifier for Dota 2's The International (TI) 2023 after they swept regional rivals OG, 2-0, in the upper bracket quarterfinals of the qualifier's double-elimination bracket on Monday (28 August).
Remco "Crystallis" Arets and Armel "Armel" Tabios were crucial to Secret's victory over OG. Crystallis notably carried the team to an incredible comeback win in game one before forming a one-two punch combo with Armel to seal the deal in game two.
Secret started the series with a late game-oriented draft anchored by Crystallis' Phantom Assassin while Armel on Queen of Pain and Saieful "Fbz" Ilham on Brewmaster made space. Meanwhile, OG opted for a strong midgame lineup headed by Artem "Yuragi" Golubiev's Terrorblade.
OG came out swinging and shut down Armel on the mid lane, forcing Secret to play defensively and focus on farming in the meantime. As a result, OG steadily took over the map and whittle down Secret's base defenses, all while Armel and Fbz ventured out into the dangerous parts of the map and tanked ganks multiple times to give Crystallis the safe farm.
It took 57 minutes for Secret to finally turn things around, sparked by a Divine Rapier pickup for Crystallis and a huge teamfight win where he kept throwing Stifling Daggers from a safe distance before Blink Striking in to finish off the weakened OG heroes.
Secret just kept rolling from there, with Crystallis getting a Rampage in the final teamfight of the game at the 57-minute mark before OG called GG after 63 minutes of action.
Crystallis finished game one with a stellar statline of 17 kills and eight assists on just one death, notably dishing out a whopping 72,000 damage throughout the game.
With OG looking to tie things up in game two, Clement "Puppey" Ivanov threw a curveball in the draft by first-picking Gyrocopter then shifting it to a support pick for himself after OG drafted counters. Instead, Secret relied on a dual carry setup with Crystallis on Ursa and Armel on Templar Assassin.
Despite their loss in game one, OG still went on the offensive early behind Yuragi's Sven and Bozhidar "bzm" Bogdanov's Death Prophet. However, Secret had better answers for their opponents' mid game-centred strategy this time around, outmanoeuvring most of OG's gank attempts while pulling ahead in farm.
Once both Crystallis and Armel came online, Secret became the ones to take the initiative and proceeded to dominate the ensuing teamfights with the overwhelming damage output from their carry duo. After a 32-minute teamfight, Secret had a gold lead of over 23,000 and were already knocking on OG's door.
Secret would put the final nail on OG's coffin not long after, picking off Yuragi off a Smoke of Deceit gank before scoring a teamwipe immediately after that forced the GG call after 35 minutes.
Crystallis had another excellent performance in game two, racking up 12 kills and eight assists on just one death to pace Secret's 26-14 kill lead. Armel also pitched in with a solid nine kills and 12 assists against three deaths.
With Secret's victory over OG, they have advanced to the qualifier's upper bracket semifinals on Tuesday (28 August), where they will be facing Entity.
Should Secret defeat Entity, they will then advance to the upper bracket finals, where they can claim the first of two slots in TI 2023 for Western Europe. Western Europe and South America were both given one additional spot in TI 2023 through the regional qualifiers back in June as part of a revamped format for this year's world championship tournament.
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. With the qualifiers for North America, China, South America, and Eastern Europe now concluded, Western Europe and Southeast Asia will then close things out from 27 to 31 August.
China's Azure Ray, North America's Nouns Esports, Eastern Europe's Virtus.pro, as well as Vivo Keyd Stars and Thunder Awaken from South America were the first five teams to earn a spot in this year's world championship tournament for Dota 2 through the regional qualifiers.
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.