Gaimin Gladiators, formerly Team Tickles, have been crowned the champions of the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) Winter Tour Regional Finals for Western Europe after they pulled off a massive 3-1 upset over top-seeded Team Liquid in the tournament's grand finals on Monday (14 February).
The Gladiators have been the biggest surprise of this season, practically coming out of nowhere and taking arguably the most stacked region in the circuit by storm.
Comprised of Russian carry Anton "DyrachYO" Shkredov, Czech midlaner Miroslav "BOOM" Bičan, Danish offlaner Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard, German support Erik "tOfu" Engel, and Dutch captain Melchior "Seleri" Hillenkamp, the squad started the season as Team Tickles and took the spot of Vikin.gg in Division I of the Western European regional league.
Team Tickles managed a surprising second place finish in their division with a 5-2 record, beating the likes of OG and Tundra Esports while only losing to Liquid and Team Secret. The roster was then signed by Gaimin Gladiators shortly before the Regional Finals.
The Gladiators started the Regional Finals strong with a 2-0 sweep over Tundra before getting swept themselves by Liquid in the upper bracket finals. The Gladiators then swept OG in the lower bracket finals to force a rematch with Liquid in the best-of-five grand finals.
Despite their previous loss to Liquid, the Gladiators prevailed in their grand finals rematch thanks to their superior drafts and surgical execution. Here's a breakdown of the grand finals:
DyrachYO's Templar Assassin dominates game one
The Gladiators entered the grand finals with guns blazing, going for an aggressive tri-core of Templar Assassin for DyrachYO, Ember Spirit for BOOM, and Spirit Breaker for Ace while tOfu on Grimstroke and Seleri on Bane brought up the rear.
The Gladiators made good use of their aggressive draft and applied constant pressure on their opponents, with Ace constantly setting up pickoffs with Charge of Darkness while both DyrachYo and BOOM dished out tons of damage from long range.
Liquid were eventually overwhelmed by the aggression and called GG after 31 minutes of action.
The Gladiators held a 38-21 kill lead at the end of the opener, with DyrachYO's Templar Assassin notching a game-high 16 kills and 12 assists against just three deaths.
BOOM's Storm Spirit seals the upset in games three and four
After Liquid took game two and tied up the series, the Gladiators found their winning formula to close out the series: pick Io and Wraith King for Seleri and DyrachYO to serve as an unbreakable front line while giving BOOM Storm Spirit and letting him wreak havoc.
Liquid opted for a heavy teamfight composition in game three with Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen on Luna, Michael "miCKe" Vu on Leshrac, and Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg on Mars.
The Gladiators countered with some teamfight of their own, with Ace on Tidehunter and tOfu on Rubick flanking their team's winning trio.
Liquid were in control early after Samuel "Boxi" Svahn on Weaver scored an Ultra Kill in a protracted skirmish by the river at the 15-minute mark.
However, the Gladiators' draft showed its strength during the midgame clashes, where Seleri's Io sustained his teammates as they rampaged through Liquid's lines.
BOOM's Storm Spirit led the way with 12 kills and 16 assists against just two deaths as the Gladiators scored a pivotal victory in the 35-minute game three.
Liquid stubbornly let the Gladiators draft their winning trio of Storm Spirit, Io, and Wraith King in game four, looking to match their opponents in the midgame with MATUMBAMAN on a carry Templar Assassin, miCKe on Ember Spirit, and zai on Centaur Warrunner.
Ace on his offlane Lycan and tOfu on Disruptor managed to shut down MATUMBAMAN during the laning stage and blunt Liquid's power spike. With their opponents lacking momentum, BOOM scored two Triple Kills as he led the Gladiators in dominating the midgame teamfights.
While Liquid were able to mount a stubborn defense of their base, they were only able to hold until the 33-minute mark as the Gladiators overwhelmed them and forced the GG call.
BOOM once again stole the show on his Storm Spirit, notching a series-high 18 kills and 12 assists against only two deaths to secure the 3-1 series victory for his team.
With their victory, the Gaimin Gladiators claimed the grand prize of US$50,000 and 250 DPC points while Liquid settle for second place and US$25,000 and 130 DPC points in consolation.
Both squads now share the top spot in the DPC point leaderboard for Western Europe with 430 points apiece.
The Winter Tour Regional Finals will take place across the weekends of 11 to 13 February and 18 to 20 February, with three regions competing in each weekend. It will feature the Top 4 teams of the DPC's six regions competing for their cut of a US$100,000 prize pool and all-important DPC points.
For everything you need to know about the Winter Tour Regional Finals, check here.
Gaimin Gladiators roster:
Anton "DyrachYO" Shkredov
Miroslav "BOOM" Bičan
Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard
Erik "tOfu" Engel
Melchior "Seleri" Hillenkamp
Team Liquid roster:
Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen
Michael "miCKe" Vu
Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg
Samuel "Boxi" Svahn
Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi