After Southeast Asia's Talon Esports sent three-time Major champions Gaimin Gladiators to a lower bracket start yesterday, North America's Nouns Esports pulled off their own huge upset by claiming an upper bracket berth over defending TI champions Tundra Esports in a 2-0 sweep on Monday (16 October).
Nouns notably trounced Tundra with back-to-back unorthodox drafts anchored by an offlane Witch Doctor in game one and a mid Ogre Magi in game two.
The offlane Witch Doctor for David "Moo" Hull was the key piece in a huge burst damage draft for Nouns that also featured Naga Siren for Héctor "K1" Rodríguez, Earthshaker for Nicolas "Gunnar" Lopez, Clockwerk for Rodrigo "Lelis" Santos, and Ancient Apparition for Luke "Yamsun" Wang.
While Tundra's draft also had its fair share of firepower in Oliver "skiter" Lepko's Sven and Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen's Earth Spirit, they could not bring it to bear against a high-octane Nouns lineup.
While game one had a relatively slow start, Nouns broke the game wide open at the 17-minute mark when they turned a gank attempt by Tundra into a clean four kills. The North American squad then promptly secured map control and slowly but surely pushed Tundra back into their base.
After Nouns started pulling back after taking Tundra's middle set of barracks at the 38-minute mark, the defending TI champions gave chase in the hopes of sparking a comeback. But that only ended in disaster for Tundra as they were caught in a huge barrage of spells by Nouns, with Moo's Witch Doctor even getting an Ultra Kill as he was left free to channel Death Ward.
Tundra called GG not long after, giving Nouns its first unexpected win of the series in just under 39 minutes.
Moo fueled Nouns' 31-14 kill lead with an excellent 13-kill, 11-assist performance on three deaths. K1 and Gunnar also had seven kills and a combined 27 assists against four deaths between the two of them.
Nouns threw out another unorthodox pick in game two in the form of a mid Ogre Magi for Gunnar, who headed a strong scaling lineup that also had Chaos Knight for K1, Brewmaster for Moo, Dark Willow for Lelis, and Phoenix for Yamsun.
Tundra looked to match Nouns in the late game with a tri-core of Faceless Void for skiter, Invoker for Topson, and Dark Seer for Neta "33" Shapira.
Nouns came out swinging in the laning stage behind a stellar early game showing from K1, who shut down Tundra's offlane and freed up his supports to make moves across the map. Tundra looked to regain their footing around the 12-minute mark with a gank on K1, but his teammates were quick to reinforce their carry and turn the engagement to a teamwipe.
With Tundra left hamstrung by a disastrous early game, Nouns had all the space in the world to farm up and outscale their opponents. This is where the mid Ogre Magi pick shined, making good use of Multicasted Hand of Midas to quickly farm up and become a nigh-unkillable meat shield in the frontlines.
Nouns then relentlessly besieged Tundra's base and claimed Mega Creeps by the 40-minute mark, but the defending TI champions refused to go down without a fight and put up an admirable defense.
Despite Tundra's best efforts to repel Nouns and mount a comeback, the North American squad simply had too much firepower for them to overcome. In the drawn-out final clash of the game around the 47-minute mark, Nouns took advantage of some sloppy plays from a beleaguered Tundra squad to eventually close out the series in just under 49 minutes of action.
K1 put up 12 kills and five assists on two deaths to pace Nouns' 27-20 kill lead in the closeout game. Moo added six kills and 13 assists on four deaths while Gunnar had four kills and 13 assists while tanking seven deaths.
With their huge upset over Tundra, Nouns have secured an upper bracket berth in TI 2023's preliminary Road to The International Playoffs.
While the defending champions are not out yet, their campaign for a second-straight Aegis of Champions will have to continue in the treacherous lower bracket.
The Road to The International Playoffs will take place from 20 to 22 October in the Seattle Convention Center's Summit. It will feature the 16 teams that made it out of the Group Stage fighting to be among the eight teams making it to The International proper.
On 20 October, the eight upper bracket teams will face off in four best-of-three matches. The four winning teams will advance to the upper bracket of The International itself while losing teams will have to continue fighting in the lower bracket of the Playoffs.
The lower bracket of the Playoffs will be played from 21 to 22 October, featuring 12 teams pitted in eight best-of-three matches. Eight teams will be eliminated in this stage while four teams will advance to the lower bracket of The International proper.
The Top 8 teams in the Road to The International Playoffs will then advance to The International Main Event, which will be hosted in the Climate Pledge Arena from 27 to 29 October.
For everything you need to know about TI 2023, check here.