DreamLeague Season 21, the last Dota 2 tournament of the year before The International (TI) 2023, kicked off on Monday (18 September) and featured 12 of the best teams in the world fighting for their cut of a US$1 million prize pool.
Three-time Major champions and DreamLeague Seasons 19 and 20 winners Gaimin Gladiators, three-time Major finalist Team Liquid, and TI 2022 champions Tundra Esports (now with two-time TI champion Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen) were all considered to be among the biggest favourites to win the tournament.
However, all three teams suffered rough starts and are now at risk of not even making it past the Group Stage. In contrast, the three Eastern European teams in the tournament enjoyed strong starts, with 9Pandas even going off to a perfect 4-0 start.
Here's how all the action in day one of DreamLeague Season 21 went down:
The DreamLeague Season 21 Group Stage split the 12 participating teams into two single round-robin groups of six teams each.
Team Liquid, Tundra Esports, Entity, 9Pandas, Talon Esports, Shopify Rebellion were in Group A while Group B featured Gaimin Gladiators, Quest Esports, OG, Team Spirit, BetBoom Team, and Evil Geniuses (EG).
Group A saw 9Pandas get off to a perfect 4-0 start after they soundly swept Liquid and Southeast Asia's Talon Esports. Both those squads also lost their other match to get into a 0-4 hole, with Liquid getting swept by Entity while Talon fell to Tundra.
Despite their strong start against Talon, Tundra faltered in their second match of the day and were swept by North America's Shopify Rebellion, who ended with a 3-1 record after splitting their series with Entity.
Over in Group B, Gaimin Gladiators stumbled out of the gate after getting swept by Riyadh Masters 2023 winners Team Spirit. The three-time Major champions managed to recover somewhat by forcing a tie with OG, who were coming off a sweep over EG.
Spirit went on to split their second series against fellow Eastern European squad BetBoom Team to finish the day with 3-1 records apiece.
Meanwhile, Quest Esports fell to 1-3 after getting swept by BetBoom and managing a tie with EG.
With the DreamLeague Season 21 Group Stage only taking place over the course of three days, there's not much room for error for the teams as a bad start could very well lock them into an early exit.
After day one's results, Liquid and Talon are most at risk of getting eliminated early from Group A. Meanwhile, Gaimin Gladiators, EG, and Quest are locked in a struggle to avoid finishing in the bottom two spots of Group B.
Here's how all the matches in day one of the DreamLeague Season 21 Group Stage went down:
Team Liquid 0-2 9Pandas
Tundra Esports 2-0 Talon Esports
Shopify Rebellion 1-1 Entity
Tundra Esports 0-2 Shopify Rebellion
9Pandas 2-0 Talon Esports
Team Liquid 0-2 Entity
Gaimin Gladiators 0-2 Team Spirit
BetBoom Team 2-0 Quest Esports
Evil Geniuses 0-2 OG
Gaimin Gladiators 1-1 OG
Team Spirit 1-1 BetBoom Team
Quest Esports 1-1 Evil Geniuses
Here are the standings after day one of the DreamLeague Season 21 Group Stage:
Shopify Rebellion: 3-1
Tundra Esports: 2-2
Talon Esports: 0-4
Team Liquid: 0-4
Team Spirit: 3-1
BetBoom Team: 3-1
Gaimin Gladiators: 1-3
Evil Geniuses: 1-3
Quest Esports: 1-3
DreamLeague Season 21 is split into two phases: the Group Stage, taking place from 18 to 20 September, and the Playoffs, scheduled from 21 to 24 September.
The Group Stage will split the 12 participating teams into two single round-robin groups of six teams each, where they will be fighting to be among the eight squads advancing into the Playoffs. All matches in the Group Stage will be a best-of-two.
The Top 4 teams in each group will advance to the Playoffs, with the Top 2 teams earning an upper bracket berth while the third to fourth-placed teams will have to start in the lower bracket. Meanwhile, the bottom two teams of each group will be eliminated early.
The DreamLeague Season 21 Playoffs will follow a double-elimination bracket format, with four teams starting in the upper bracket while four others will be seeded into the lower bracket. All matches in the Playoffs will be a best-of-three except for the Grand Finals, which will be a full best-of-five series.
With almost all of the participating teams in DreamLeague Season 21 set to play in TI 2023, it will also serve as the undercard event to this year's Dota 2 world championship tournament.
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.