The regional qualifiers for Dota 2's The International 11 (TI11) has concluded its North American leg, with Soniqs Esports punching their ticket to Singapore by going undefeated in the final day of competition on Monday (12 September).
Regularly placing in the top 3 alongside TSM and Evil Geniuses (EG), Soniqs were already the heavy favourites heading into the qualifiers, with the other two having previously secured direct invites to TI11.
The team performed as expected to start the qualifier, scoring back-to-back 2-0 sweeps over felt and 5RATFORCESTAFF to meet Nouns in the upper bracket finals.
In a surprising turn of events, Soniqs got swept by Nouns and were dropped to the lower bracket finals.
After taking out Wildcard Gaming in two games, including a 58-minute marathon in game two, Soniqs earned a rematch with Nouns for the coveted spot in TI11.
How Soniqs won the final series of the qualifier
Nouns' draft in game one of the finals focused on winning the mid-game and snowballing to victory.
Nicolas "Gunnar" Lopez on the mid Tusk along with David "Moo" Hull's Timbersaw would run down Soniqs, aided by Jacob "Husky" Fifik playing Omniknight and buffing them both.
Nouns' idea worked and they were able to take a lead in the laning stage, however they couldn't grow their advantage due to Quinn "Quinn" Callahan's Batrider stifling their aggression.
As Nouns dove into the Soniqs' triangle and secured three kills, Quinn showed up in time and avenged his team with a Double Kill that included Nouns carry Guilherme "Costabile" Costábile.
Quinn did a fantastic job of controlling Nouns and preventing them from taking over the map.
Nouns' draft was designed to continuously fight on the enemy's side of the map and slowly push Soniqs into their base, something that Quinn countered beautifully.
Nouns did lack one thing in their draft, and that was strong teamfight abilities.
Soniqs on the other hand knew they could win the late-game due to Rodrigo "LESLÃO" Santos playing Enigma, arguably the strongest team fighter in Dota 2.
The Enigma pick proved its worth 25 minutes into the game, as LESLÃO landed a three-man Black Hole that sucked up any chance of Nouns winning game one.
Nouns continued to hold on for 20 more minutes, but it was in vain, as Soniqs kept growing their networth advantage and taking control of the map due to their superior teamfight.
While game one was a close battle between the two teams, the same couldn't be said for the second game of the series.
Both teams decided to upgrade their teamfight abilities in game two, as Nouns picked up Earthshaker for Zakari "Zfreek" Freedman while Soniqs took the classic Mars-Phoenix combo for LESLÃO and Arif "MSS" Anwar.
Soniqs came out way ahead in game two, as they had a 4,000 gold advantage at the 10-minute mark and kept shutting down Nouns' members.
While both sides focused on teamfights, it was much easier to execute for Soniqs. Zfreek couldn't land a good Echo Slam until he bought Blink Dagger at 29 minutes into the game.
When the two teams clashed during the mid-game, the cores of Soniqs already had Black King Bars and used it to completely avoid the Echo Slam from Zfreek.
Meanwhile, Nouns could do nothing to withstand the combined strength of the Mars-Phoenix combo and lost three heroes while only bringing down Quinn.
Game two ended up a one-sided affair as Soniqs rolled over Nouns with a massive 54,000 gold lead and a 47-12 kill lead.
Yawar "YawaR" Hassan had a stand out performance on Phantom Assassin, as he secured 23 kills while only dying once in the game.
It was do-or-die for Nouns in game three and, to their credit, they put up a fantastic performance in the final game of the series.
The team went for a similar draft to game one, focusing on maximising their aggression with Ember Spirit and Timbersaw on Gunnar and Moo.
Soniqs also stuck to their guns, picking Enigma for the second time as well as Marci for the third time.
MSS played Marci beautifully, as he and Quinn managed to kill Gunnar three times in the first eight minutes of the game, greatly nullifying the impact of his Ember Spirit.
Nouns struggled in the early game but they had no intention of throwing in the towel.
They turned an attempt at taking the mid-lane tower into a full-on team wipe thanks to Moo and Gunnar doing an excellent job of juggling Soniqs aggression.
That said, Nouns victory at the 16-minute mark was the last time they would manage to kill any of the enemy cores.
Their draft relied on them having a networth advantage as the team lacked damage to burst people down.
These damage issues became more and more apparent as the game dragged on, culminating in Nouns fighting Quinn five-versus-one and still being unable to bring him down.
With that, Nouns realised they had no chance of taking the game and tapped out six minutes later.
Quinn was a beast in game three, dealing the most damage in the game while only losing his life once and taking down members of Nouns 14 times. With their 3-0 victory, Soniqs earned their ticket to Singapore.
Not all doom and gloom
Despite falling short of a spot in TI11's Group Stage, it's not all doom and gloom for Nouns and Wildcard Gaming.
They will also head to Singapore to participate in the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), along with the second and third place finishers of every regional qualifier.
TI11's regional qualifiers will be held from 3 to 17 September across the DPC's six regions: Western Europe, China, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, North America, and South America. The qualifiers will be played in three batches, with two regions playing in each batch.
The first batch of qualifiers from 3 to 7 September featured Eastern Europe and South America. BetBoom Team won the Eastern European qualifier after soundly sweeping Outsiders in the grand finals.
The second batch China and North America took place from 8 to 12 September. Royal Never Give Up won the Chinese regional qualifier.
Finally, the last batch of qualifiers for Western Europe and Southeast Asia will be held from 13 to 17 September.
Three teams will fly to Singapore out of each qualifier. The winner of the qualifier will earn a spot in TI11's Group Stage while the second and third-placed teams will have to earn their spot in the LCQ.
For more details on the TI11 regional qualifiers, check here.
For everything you need to know about TI11, check here.
Soniqs Esports roster:
Yawar "YawaR" Hassan
Quinn "Quinn" Callahan
Rodrigo "LESLÃO" Santos
Arif "MSS" Anwar
Adrian "Fata" Trinks
Nouns Esports roster:
Guilherme "Costabile" Costábile
Nicolas "Gunnar" Lopez
David "Moo" Hull
Zakari "Zfreek" Freedman
Jacob "Husky" Fifik
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.
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