In a clash of two Western European titans, Tundra Esports defeated Team Secret in an epic 2-1 slugfest to become the first team in the grand finals of The International 11 (TI11).
Before their thrilling showdown, both upper bracket finalists cemented themselves as the two most dominant teams of the tournament.
Tundra Esports dominated the Group Stage, claiming the first seed of Group B with a 14-4 record. All their losses notably came in 1-1 ties, being the only team in the tournament to never concede a 0-2 series loss.
Despite starting from the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Team Secret also flexed their muscles in Group B. They finished just behind Tundra with a 13-5 record, though they were swept by the former in their Group Stage encounter.
Both Tundra and Secret then run rampant in the upper bracket of the Main Event, with each scoring back-to-back sweeps en route to their upper bracket finals showdown. Tundra made short work of OG and Team Aster while Secret cruised through PSG.LGD and Thunder Awaken.
There was no better way to kick off this highly-anticipated match than a 67-minute slugfest.
Secret's draft in game one was designed to chase enemies down and get pickoffs with their supports: Disruptor for Clement "Puppey" Ivanov and Tusk for Bakyt "Zayac" Emilzhanov. Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok on Magnus and Remco "Crystallis" Arets on Monkey King had enough teamfight between them to win any clash if they both land their ultimates.
A lot of Tundra's strength comes from Neta "33" Shapira's performance in the offlane, and in game one, what better hero is there to establish map control with than Broodmother? Leon "Nine" Kirilin went for Outworld Devourer, an off-meta pick that only Tundra was able to utilize effectively.
Oliver "skiter" Lepko's Naga Siren then rounded out draft and would be responsible for saving allies caught in Secret's impressive teamfight ultimates with Song of the Siren.
It was an even laning stage as Secret focused their resources on shutting down 33 in the first five minutes, giving him less experience than expected. Tundra was fine with this trade, as Nine was farming well and Broodmother is a hero who can recover well in the jungle while Outworld Devourer needs a good laning stage to do well in the game.
33 wasn't the only player suffering in the laning stage, as Michał "Nisha" Jankowski had an uncharacteristically bad early game with one death to his name and nothing to show for it. Nisha's sacrifice wasn't in vain, as the other two cores on the team were leading in net worth, giving him a chance to come back through kills later on.
Tundra had no intention of pushing for mid game teamfights, as Nine had bought a Hand of Midas. Naga Siren is also a weak carry in that stage of the game and won't be able to do much for the team.
This greedy approach by Tundra, combined with 33's terrible early game, was very vulnerable to Secret's aggressive gameplay. The latter wasn't generous enough to wait for their opponents to recover and took the fight to them instead.
Secret had control of the game, but skiter was farming well and as the game went on, his Naga Siren emerged as a massive threat.
By the 30-minute mark, it was Tundra who had an 8,000 gold lead, their earlier greed had paid off once the storm had passed. Secret still had a dangerous teamfight lineup, but they were falling further and further behind in net worth. They also had to actually land their ultimates to win fights, something that was easier said than done when Tundra had multiple abilities to disengage from clashes.
Tundra got the second Aegis of the game and gave it to Nine. The combination of Song of the Siren and Astral Imprisonment made it difficult for Secret to pick off enemies at the start of the fight.
When Naga Siren gets online, the hero is able to control the map by herself and keep all the enemy heroes inside their base and that's just what skiter did. Secret had to rely on Resolut1on to Skewer someone into their base for them to win a fight.
It was a suffocating game for Secret, as they spent 20 minutes of the game entirely inside their base. They played exceptionally well to hold on but the draft from Tundra was almost unbeatable in the late game.
Secret, through a combination of skill, luck, and the grace of Gaben, himself managed to repel Tundra's push time after time. At the hour mark, Secret proved they can even take fights outside their base.
But in the end, despite multiple incredible base holds by Secret, Tundra's overwhelming lead was too much to withstand. Skiter was impossible to kill, especially with multiple saves on his team. It took 67 minutes but the game one win still went to Tundra.
Secret won game two thanks to an incredible performance by Resolut1on on Dawnbreaker, so they decided to stick with the hero in game three.
Zeus was the pick for Nisha, giving the team more global presence along with incredible magic damage. Zayac's Earth Spirit was responsible for starting fights and saving allies later on.
For Tundra, they went back to Martin "Saksa" Sazdov's Tiny to initiate and toss enemies out of position. They also snagged Enigma, the most contested offlaner in the patch, for 33 while giving Nine another of his off-meta mid heroes, Tusk.
Skiter would carry the game on another illusion hero, this time it was Chaos Knight.
The laning stage went well for Secret, Tundra had the same problem that they had in game two, they wanted to get pickoffs but had to be wary of Dawnbreaker's save potential. This wasn't an issue though if Resolution was the pickoff target, allowing Tundra to get a teamwipe 15 minutes in the game
Secret tried to force a fight after the teamwipe in order to take advantage of the Black Hole's long cooldown. Unfortunately, due to some amazing Armlet toggles from skiter, it turned into another victory for Tundra, making them the team who was significantly ahead by the 20-minute mark.
In game one, Nine saved his allies multiple times with Astral Imprisonment, in game three he could do the same with Tusk Snowball. Meanwhile, 33's Wraith Pact significantly hindered the damage output from Secret.
With all their summons, auras, and net worth advantage, Tundra made short work of Secret's middle barracks.
Secret was being crushed by Tundra's deathball, with their supports even having more networth than Resolut1on. It was the second time in the series that the Secret had no option but to huddle in their base and hope the enemy makes a mistake.
But even Dota Plus gave Secret a 0% chance to win, and Gaben knew what it was talking about as Tundra took game three and the first spot in the grand finals without breaking a sweat.
With their victory, Tundra have guaranteed themselves at least a second place finish and over US$2.4 million in winnings. Of course, they still have their sights set on the Aegis of Champions as well as the grand prize of over US$8.3 million.
Secret are not out of the race yet, as they fall to the lower bracket finals. There they will face another Western European juggernaut in Team Liquid, who defeated Team Aster earlier in the day, for the right to challenge Tundra in the grand finals.
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.
Tundra Esports roster:
Oliver "skiter" Lepko
Leon "Nine" Kirilin
Neta "33" Shapira
Martin "Saksa" Sazdov
Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu
Team Secret roster:
Remco "Crystallis" Arets
Michał "Nisha" Jankowski
Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok
Bakyt "Zayac" Emilzhanov
Clement "Puppey" Ivanov
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