One way or another, Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen's career will end in the final day of The International 11 (TI11).
The TI7 champion led Team Liquid in securing a guaranteed Top 3 finish in the tournament and a place in its final day with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Chinese powerhouse Team Aster.
Despite starting from the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Liquid looked dominant during the Group Stage, taking the second seed of Group A with a 13-5 record. Aster also had a solid showing, finishing with the fourth seed of Group B with a 10-8 standing.
Liquid and Aster's first meeting of TI11's Main Event was in the first round of the upper bracket, where the Chinese team emerged victorious with a 2-0 sweep.
However, Aster were themselves swept by Tundra Esports in the upper bracket semifinals and got dropped to the fourth round of the lower bracket. Aster then earned their place in the Top 4 with a 2-0 upset over regional rivals PSG.LGD.
Meanwhile, Liquid carved a warpath through the lower bracket to earn a rematch with Aster. They first knocked out fellow Western European squads Entity and OG before outlasting South American hopefuls Thunder Awaken in an epic 2-1 slugfest.
Aster kicked off the series by giving midlaner Zeng "Ori" Jiaoyang Leshrac, the most successful hero of TI11's Main Event. Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao's Spirit Breaker is one of the best answers to Liquid's Broodmother pick for Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg, so the hero was picked up in the second phase along with Sniper for Du "Monet" Peng.
Aster's last pick was a surprise Underlord, a tanky offlaner for Lin "Xxs" Jing to protect Sniper and Leshrac.
For Liquid, Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi's Lich would be key to keeping the team alive against Sniper's physical damage. Lina for Michael "miCKe" Vu provided the team with all the burst damage they needed while Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen's Bloodseeker could deal some much-needed Pure damage against the Underlord.
During the laning phase, Sniper had trouble farming in the lane against zai's oppressive Broodmother. This led to Monet being significantly behind in net worth compared to the other cores. However Aster's support duo was well suited to hunt down all manners of bugs and insects and managed to swat Broodmother down a few times in the early game.
But it wasn't a loss for Liquid, as they were happy to sacrifice Zai's laning stage in order to secure farm for miCKe and MATUMBAMAN. By the 15-minute mark, Zai was bottom of the core's in farm but his allies were the top two.
Liquid was aware they had the two strongest heroes in the game on their side and they used their advantage to invade the Radiant Ancients to bring down four heroes.
Aster's draft needed time to get online, Sniper is one of the most farm-dependent heroes in the game and struggles when he falls behind. The Chinese team had to find some way to slow down the pace of the game.
BoBoKa and Xxs were pivotal in giving Aster a chance to come back, as the two heroes can gank targets from across the map, giving Aster several key pickoffs and swinging the net worth advantage in their favor.
After an action-packed first 20 minutes, the game entered a lull while both teams jockeyed to control the area around the Roshan pit. Aster managed to take the Outpost but it was still an incredibly messy fight when the two teams engaged.
While Boxi landed the killing blow on Roshan, Monet's quicker fingers let him snatch up the second Aegis of the game. Aster wanted to use their Aegis advantage to go high ground but Liquid had a solid base defense thanks to Lich's Frost Armor.
Unfortunately for the Chinese squad, they started splitting up once the Aegis expired, giving Liquid the opening they needed to bring down three of them, including Monet, who didn't have buyback. It was a fatal mistake that let Liquid go straight Aster's Ancient and take game one in 44 minutes.
Game two was a one sided-affair in favor of Aster, forcing the match to a deciding game three.
Crystal Maiden was picked for the third time in a row, despite losing the two previous games, with Aster's Yu "皮球" Yajun playing the hero. The bottom lane for Aster featured an interesting duo of Naga Siren for BoBoKa and Beastmaster for Xxs, two heroes adept at using summons to win trades in the laning stage.
Liquid went for their standard strong lanes, picking Undying for iNSaNiA and Tusk for Samuel "Boxi" Svahn. The biggest surprise in their draft was a carry Night Stalker for MATUMBAMAN, and it was only the second time the hero had been picked throughout the whole tournament.
Game three started well for Aster, as the offlane melee duo for Liquid had to play against Drow Ranger and Crystal Maiden, a nearly impossible matchup that led to Aster getting an early two kills in the lane.
Aster crushed zai's Pangolier in the top lane, leaving him with only 2,000 net worth after the first 10 minutes. But much like in game one, Liquid sacrificed zai's farm and, in return, miCKe and MATUMBAMAN were the two most farmed cores in the game by a significant margin.
Aster was focused on taking the bottom tier two tower when Liquid tried to bring down Roshan without being contested. While BoBoKa's usage of Song of the Siren wasn't the most effective, the fight ended up being an even trade between the two teams.
The trend for this series is that miCKe and MATUMBAMAN were leading in net worth, with the Aster cores all being reasonably farmed but significantly behind their counterparts apart from zai, who functioned as more of a utility core for Liquid.
The second fight for Roshan started the same way as the first, with zai rolling towards Naga Siren while his team secured the Aegis. While the result of the first Roshan fight was inconclusive, this time it was a clear victory for Liquid.
Liquid then took firm control of the game, they had taken multiple teamfight victories in a row, and with two lives on miCKe, Aster had no choice but to forfeit map control until the Aegis expired.
The draft for Aster was built to snowball early to give Monet's Drow Ranger time to come online and kill everyone else. However, the multiple Roshan victories by Liquid shut down Aster's mid game aggression and gave Liquid the momentum they needed to take the series decider in 38 minutes.
With their victory, Team Liquid have guaranteed themselves at least a Top 3 finish at TI11 as well as US$1.6 million in winnings.
They now advance to the lower bracket finals, where they will face the loser of the upper bracket finals between Team Secret and Tundra Esports for the second spot in the grand finals.
Meanwhile, Team Aster bow out of the tournament with a commendable 4th place finish and US$1.1 million in consolation.
With this match's results, the last Chinese team bows out of TI11 and guarantees Western Europe will reclaim the Aegis of Champions.
TI11's Finals Weekend will take place from 29 to 30 October in the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The penultimate day of TI11 on 29 October will kick off with the upper bracket finals between Team Secret and Tundra Esports, followed by the lower bracket semifinals between Team Liquid and Team Aster.
A new Dota 2 world champion will then be crowned on 30 October, which will start with the lower bracket finals followed by the best-of-five grand finals.
For everything you need to know about TI11, check here.
Team Liquid roster:
Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen
Michael "miCKe" Vu
Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg
Samuel "Boxi" Svahn
Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi
Team Aster roster:
Du "Monet" Peng
Zeng "Ori" Jiaoyang
Lin "Xxs" Jing
Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao
Yu "皮球" Yajun
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