Pro Breakdown: With their Arlington win, are Spirit the best in the Dota 2 world?
This is Pro Breakdown, a series by Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia where we talk with pro players, coaches, experts, and other personalities about anything and everything in the region's esports scene.
The Dota 2 PGL Arlington Major has concluded, with Team Spirit defeating PSG.LGD 3-1 in the grand finals to claim the mantle of Arlington Major champions, as well as the grand prize of US$200,000 and 820 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) points.
More importantly, the Arlington Major was the last chance for teams to secure a coveted direct invite to The International 11 (TI11), Dota 2's marquee million-dollar world championship tournament.
We sat down with Singaporean Dota 2 veteran and Nigma Galaxy SEA coach Nicholas "xFreedom" Kelvin Ileto Lim (@xfreedom on Twitter) to break down what happened during the Arlington Major.
You previously ranked Team Spirit as one of the Top 3 teams in the Arlington Major, but did you expect them to actually end up winning the tournament?
xFreedom: My mind was saying Team Spirit but my heart was saying PSG.LGD. I did expect Spirit to make it to the finals but I thought PSG.LGD would take the series.
Was the fact that Team Spirit won the epic, 75-minute game two of the finals the biggest reason why PSG.LGD lost?
xFreedom: I don't think PSG.LGD were affected by the 75-minute game. It was more like Team Spirit were prepared and had a good warmup since they previously defeated Team Aster in the lower bracket finals.
Aster play very similarly to PSG.LGD, it's also a flashback to TI10, where Spirit came from the lower bracket and rode that momentum in the grand finals.
Is there even an advantage from going to the finals from the upper bracket anymore? It seems like coming from lower bracket is better since it gives the lower bracket team lots of momentum.
xFreedom: You can say yes or no, it depends on how you're feeling mentally. But I felt like in Arlington, PSG.LGD didn't play before the series, their blood wasn't pumping. They had to take a beating first to really get going.
I also feel like in the two best-of-five series they played, PSG.LGD wasn't quite themselves. They played incredibly in the best-of-three's and were favourites to take it cleanly.
So it's more like PSG.LGD crumble under pressure in high-stakes games while Team Spirit level up?
xFreedom: I wouldn't say PSG.LGD crumbled under pressure. But from a coach's perspective, I think a best-of-five's drafting series is very different from that of a best-of-three, and that was the difference-maker.
In a best-of-five, you can really tell how your opponent is picking and banning. You can see what they want to pick, what they don't want to play against. You don't have as much time in a best-of-three.
I'd say Team Spirit are very good at adapting to a loss. If they play something and lose, they try something new. If you look at PSG.LGD, if they had lost with something, they will still try it the next game.
Who do you think was the MVP for Team Spirit? Do you have a single player in mind or was it more of a team effort?
xFreedom: I'd say the MVP for Team Spirit was their overall better team cohesion and confidence.
But if I had to pick one player, it would be [Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO" Khertek], his rotations were really on point. TORONTOTOKYO won game three of the lower bracket finals with Tiny by himself. He just got levels and went bottom and crushed [Du "Monet" Peng's] Troll Warlord until he had no game.
With all that said, who do you think are the best team in the world: Team Spirit or PSG.LGD?
xFreedom: Comparing the two, Team Spirit performed the best at Arlington but I did think PSG.LGD were the better team until the grand finals.
Aside from Team Spirit, was there another team that impressed you at the Major?
xFreedom: I think Entity impressed me the most because they reminded me of the [Heroes of Newerth] meta. If you look at the heroes they picked, I think their main focus was teamfights and if you don't win a teamfight, you can't go high ground.
They also played a lot of teamfight 'zoo' heroes. In one of their games they were down by a lot and they focused on putting out the fire and had a good comeback after that when they hit their timings.
On the other side of things, was there a team that disappointed you?
xFreedom: I'd say it was [Royal Never Give Up (RNG)], they didn't deliver on expectations.
I'd say it's mainly on the four members of RNG [excluding stand-in Anathan "ana" Pham]. It was a team-wide issue, they have big personalities on the team.
They picked well, all the meta heroes, but they couldn't work together well.
You previously said China is strongest region, would you still say that despite China not winning the Major?
xFreedom: PSG.LGD and Aster finished second and third, so I think that's a very good sign that the region is really up there.
I'll say China is probably the best region, and they were even missing one more Chinese team, which could have taken points from other regions during the Group Stage.
If China mostly lived up to your expectations for them, was there a region or team that you think underperformed?
xFreedom: I'd say North America as a region underperformed, and for a specific team I'd say Tundra Esports.
They look like they have issues to fix. They weren't like the Tundra from before, ever since Riyadh, and it snowballed to the Arlington Major.
When people say North American Dota they automatically think Evil Geniuses (EG). Since North America underperformed again, what do you think is main problem with EG?
xFreedom: EG's problem is that they win lanes and they somehow can't close out the game. Though I still think they did better than last season and they improved. Let's just hope EG eventually becomes the EG we all know.
The team probably needs to be more daring to do things with their farm. They can't just hope to outfarm their opponent each game, you gotta fight sometimes.
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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