South American hopefuls Thunder Awaken kicked off the Main Event of The International 11 (TI11) in style, as they scored a massive 2-0 upset over North American juggernauts Evil Geniuses (EG) in the first round of the upper bracket.
EG were the overwhelming favourites to win the opening match of the Main Event, as they dominated the Group Stage and finished atop the standings in Group A with a 14-4 record.
Meanwhile, Thunder Awaken secured an upper bracket berth as the third seed of Group B with a solid 10-8 record. They were notably the first-ever South American team to start the Main Event of TI in the upper bracket.
Thunder Awaken making the upper bracket was an admirable feat, but most expected EG would quickly knock them down to the lower bracket. The South American hopefuls quickly proved their doubters wrong.
EG kicked off the draft for game one by going for their patented position 5 support Sven for Tal "Fly" Aizik. Sven is currently one of the best heroes at negating the enemy's physical damage, forcing Thunder Awaken to go for a mixed-damage lineup.
EG then went for multiple armor-shredding heroes, picking their undefeated carry Shadow Fiend for Artour "Arteezy" Babaev alongside an offlane Tidehunter for Egor "Nightfall" Grigorenko.
Thunder Awaken adapted well to the early Sven pick and went for multiple cores that don't rely on physical damage to hurt enemies.
Zeus for Herrera "Darkmago" Gonzalo has enough magic damage to bring down the entire enemy lineup in long engagements. Crhistian "Pakazs" Casanova on Bloodseeker also had the perfect carry pick due to the hero having multiple abilities that deal pure damage.
The South American squad started the game with first blood on Nightfall, which made it 19 games in a row that they secured the first kill of the game. They often pick strong lanes to win the early game and they are renowned for their ability to take fights.
Both teams did a good job of balancing their aggression along with farming the map, however it was EG that was slightly better at farming the map, giving them a small networth advantage.
Thunder Awaken had superior late game supports while the cores of EG scaled slightly better as the game dragged on. The value of Andreas "Cr1t-" Nielsen's Silencer is significantly mitigated by Black King Bar while Fly's support Sven also isn't worth much when the enemy drafts magic and pure damage.
The insane magic damage from Darkmago was a big problem for EG, forcing Nightfall to buy a Pipe of Insight for the magic resistance along with a surprising Mage Slayer on Arteezy. When EG could kill Darkmago first in a fight, they easily destroyed Thunder Awaken.
In the end, the game came down to the carry-to-carry matchup, as Pakazs and Arteezy were leading the networth graph for the entire game while the other cores were significantly further behind.
Pakazs put on an absolute masterclass when the two teams clashed at the 42-minute mark, as he somehow survived EG's initiation and then danced around the fight on low HP landing crucial hits when needed.
Thunder Awaken had complete map control after that and EG lacked the damage to come back, allowing the South American squad to take the first game of the series after 47 minutes. Pakazs led the way for his squad, notching a series-high 15 kills and 10 assists against just two deaths.
Game two saw EG going for a similar draft as game one, with a focus on Arteezy's Shadow Fiend while the remaining members of the team bring in the utility. The support duo for EG was much better this time around, with plenty of control coming out of Fly's Clockwerk and Cr1t's Marci.
Aggression was the name of the game for Thunder Awaken. They picked Tiny for the second game in a row, although this time it was for Darkmago on the mid lane. Lion made one of his rare appearances, played by Farith "Matthew" Puente, an excellent pairing for Rafael "Sacred" Yonatan's Dawnbreaker.
Overall, it looked like a similar situation to game one, Arteezy's Shadow Fiend scales amazingly late game but he was facing three good late-game cores and a lot of control from Thunder Awaken.
The game started well for EG as they took first blood, the first time in 20 games that someone took the first kill against Thunder Awaken.
EG then had a superior laning phase this time around, keeping the South American squad's aggression at bay. Once the game entered the 10-minute mark, both teams decided to up the tempo and a blood bath happened across the map.
Both teams prioritized the laning stage and early teamfight, which led to a lot of action after the laning stage. Between the two teams though, it was Thunder Awaken who came out ahead in every engagement, thanks to the mobility coming out from Dawnbreaker and an early Blink Dagger on Tiny.
EG felt constricted the entire game, they couldn't split push due to the presence of Dawnbreaker and they couldn't smoke for kills due to the saves from Thunder Awaken.
While game one was an even affair, game two was just a plain beatdown that ended in just under 30 minutes. Darkmago paced Thunder Awaken's dominant 35-11 kill lead to help push his team forward in the upper bracket.
With their massive victory over EG, Thunder Awaken have guaranteed themselves a Top 6 finish, the first time that a South American team secured such a placement in TI.
They now advance to the upper bracket semifinals against the winner of the other upper bracket opening match between PSG.LGD and Team Secret.
Meanwhile, EG get dropped to the lower bracket much earlier than most would have expected. They will be fighting to stay in TI11 in the second round of the lower bracket against the winner of the first round match between Beastcoast and Hokori.
TI11 will be hosted in Singapore from 15 to 30 October and features a revamped format and a longer schedule.
The tournament will begin with a Group Stage from 15 to 18 October, where 20 teams will fight to become among the 16 squads to advance to the Main Event.
TI11's Main Event will be a double-elimination bracket and is split into two phases, the first being held from 20 to 23 October while the second will take place from 29 to 30 October.
For everything you need to know about TI11, check here.
Thunder Awaken roster:
Crhistian "Pakazs" Savina
Gonzalo "Darkmago" Herrera
Rafael "Sacred" Yonatan
Farith "Matthew" Puente
Jose "Pandaboo" Padilla
Evil Geniuses roster:
Artour "Arteezy" Babaev
Abed "Abed" Yusop
Egor "Nightfall" Grigorenko
Andreas "Cr1t-" Nielsen
Tal "Fly" Aizik
If you're a fan of Dota 2 both as a game and as an esports title, check out our Dota 2 page. From news to results, to the latest game meta or builds, as well as player interviews, there's something for everyone.