TSM FTX and Tundra Esports went head-to-head in the upper bracket final of the ESL One Dota 2 Stockholm Major on Saturday.
The winner of the match would secure their spot in the grand finals and guaranteed themselves a Top 2 finish in the tournament and for TSM, enough DPC points to qualify for The International 11 (TI11).
The two teams have only played against each other once before, during the GAMERS GALAXY 2022 Dubai Invitational. Tundra Esports were able to dismantle TSM in Dubai, winning their lone game against each other there in just 17 minutes.
It was a different story in Stockholm, however, as the upper bracket finals went the distance. It was an impressive display from both teams, but ultimately it was TSM that took the match and the first spot in the Major finals.
Saberlight pops off in game two
Tundra Esports started strong in the series, taking game one convincingly with a kill score of 38-13.
TSM adjusted their draft in game two and focused on picking durable supports. Kim "DuBu" Doo-young took Enchantress while team captain David "MoonMeander" Tan picked Doom. Expect support Doom to ruin pubs in the near future.
Jonathan "Bryle" De Guia and Jonáš "SabeRLight-" Volek played space-making cores in Puck and Night Stalker, respectively. Enzo "Timado" Gianoli rounded up the draft with Templar Assassin, one of the best farming carries in Dota 2 right now.
Similar to TSM, Tundra Esports also took a farming carry in the form of Medusa for Oliver "skiter" Lepko. The Western European squad realized they needed a hero who can withstand TSM's aggression and picked Pangolier for midlaner Leon "Nine" Kirilin.
The rest of Tundra's draft was different though. Instead of focusing on tanky supports, Tundra preferred heroes who could disable their enemies.
Grimstroke was picked up for Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu while Martin "Saksa" Sazdov played Shadow Shaman. Neta "33" Shapira rounded out the draft on offlane Necrophos.
TSM are one of the best teams when it comes to picking the right supports for the game — it's what allowed them to defeat OG earlier in the tournament.
Tundra, on the other hand, had somewhat odd picks. Puck was picked during the first phase of the draft yet Tundra still decided to go for fragile, low-mobility supports that could be easily bursted down.
The laning stage went evenly for the two teams, with a small advantage going to TSM. But once the teams started to rotate around the map, the North American squad showcased the strength of their lineup by securing key kills thanks to their mobile cores.
After two kills in the 14-minute mark, TSM started to take over the map. Tundra's lineup wasn't able to repel the high-paced draft and slowly ceded more and more map control. The supports, in particular, suffered in game two, as both Sneyking and Saksa had 10 deaths each in the first 26 minutes.
TSM continued to put pressure on Tundra when they sieged the enemy's high ground. SabeRLight and Bryle gave up their lives to kill 33 and both of Tundra's supports while forcing them to use their buyback. TSM's ability to weave in and out of fights was a massive problem for Tundra's backline.
Thanks to their superior draft, TSM won the second game of the series.
SabeRLight's itemization was on point, as he rushed a Black King Bar to more effectively take down Tundra's supports.
He also purchased a Nullifier, the perfect item to counter the multiple Ghost Scepters on the enemy team. The offlaner for TSM got 18 kills in game two, the highest kill count of the series, with 13 of those kills being on Sneyking and Saksa. The two players suffered as they had 30 deaths combined.
MoonMeander and Dubu, on the other hand, only had nine deaths between them, proving yet again the importance of drafting good supports for the game.
Tundra punished SabeRLight in game three but failed to deal with TSM's supports
The final game of the series saw TSM stick to three of the same heroes they picked in game two: MoonMeander's Doom, Dubu's Enchantress, and Timado's Templar Assassin.
Bryle took Pangolier for the mid lane, a suitable space-making core. The big difference in TSM's draft in game three was the offlane Enigma, a big change from Night Stalker in game two.
Tundra also made some draft adjustments, particularly in terms of their cores. Instead of Medusa, skiter took Gyrocopter, another farming core that deals area-of-effect damage. Nine picked the mid Mars to control enemies while 33 focused on winning the lane again, this time with Viper.
For Sneyking, the team picked Io to make him focus on sustaining allies. Saksa played the Position 4 Monkey King. Tundra ditched the idea of picking supports with lockdown and instead focused on high mobility supports that provide a lot of vision.
Another adjustment that Tundra made was to shut down SabeRLight in the early game.
It was clear that the team saw the TSM offlaner as an important target after his performance in game two. Tundra killed SabeRLight six times in just the first nine minutes of the game, the highest kills on a core player in the first nine minutes in the Major so far.
It was a fantastic start for Tundra in the early game, as they secured all four starting bounty runes, shut down SabeRLight, and took an early 2,000 gold advantage by the end of the laning stage.
Despite Tundra's advantages, however, they still had two big problems facing them in game three.
The first was TSM's teamfight ability, thanks to Enigma and Pangolier. Tundra knew they couldn't win a five-versus-five engagement and tried to focus on pickoffs instead.
That's when Tundra's second problem emerged — the team lacked the damage necessary to bring down TSM's heroes quickly.
After the laning stage ended, Tundra was only able to get four kills in 22 minutes. This lack of damage was apparent when Tundra rotated three heroes to kill MoonMeander's Doom and not only failed to bring him down, but also lost three heroes for their folly.
In the end, it was another win for TSM as they took the series 2-1 and sent Tundra Esports to the lower bracket finals.
The North American team now holds second place in the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) point leaderboard with 1280 points, only behind PSG.LGD's 1400. Both teams have secured a spot for themselves at the next International.
For Tundra Esports, the team will play against OG in the lower bracket final. Both teams were sent to the lower bracket by TSM and will need to defeat one another in order to earn their rematch.
TSM FTX Dota 2 roster:
Enzo "Timado" Gianoli O'Connor
Jonathan "Bryle" De Guia
Jonáš "SabeRLight-" Volek
David "MoonMeander" Tan
Kim "DuBu" Doo-young
Tundra Esports roster:
Oliver "Skiter" Lepko
Leon "Nine" Kirilin
Neta "33" Shapira
Martin "Saksa" Sazdov
Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu
Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.