Two upper bracket matches and four bo1 eliminations—the first day of the main event is always brutal, but it never fails to deliver some of the most exciting Dota. Teams are coming out of their groups and for the first time in the tournament we get a chance to see some of the matchups we waited so long for.
Optic Gaming clawed their way into the upper bracket, going 5:0 on their final day, but their run was immediately stopped by the TI7 Champions, Team Liquid.
It looks like being on stage didn’t work in favor of Optic, with noticeable jitters from some of the players—some very uncharacteristic mistakes cost them the first game of the series against textbook Alchemist from Liquid.Miracle- with a 12-minute Radiance.
Second game lasted roughly the same amount of time, but it looked a lot closer, at least until the very last 3 minutes of the game. Team Liquid found a great opening after the second Roshan kill and took their first lane of barracks. Buyback retaliation from Optic and the following turn-around from Liquid left Optic’s throne wide open and allowed them to advance through the upper bracket.
Both teams came into the tournament as favorites, but both looked incredibly shaky during the group stage, so naturally everyone expected some very back-and-forth Dota. Well, we got it.
The first game showcased why Virtus.Pro is one of the tournament's favorites and why it had the most DPC points coming into the International. They had a hold on the game for what feels like 90% of its duration, but one mistake from them allowed PSG.LGD to show that there is a reason they are in the upper bracket and that Chinese Dota still has hope. Less than 3 minutes after being almost 10k down, PSG.LGD were pushing Virtus.Pro throne and VP had to tap out.
Loss in the first game reflected on the VP approach in the second game, and for the first time in a long time we got to see that Virtus.Pro is, after all, a CIS team, and not in a good sense. Reckless approach, unnecessary aggression and over-extensions—these giants have plagued the region for a very long time, but Virtus.Pro always managed to tame them. Not on the first day of The International 2018, however. PSG.LGD were convincing, relentless and disciplined and they dismantled the CIS squad in a choreographed manner intrinsic to top tier Chinese Dota.
Two highly unpredictable teams facing each other in a bo1—how could the tension be any higher? Team Serenity took an early lead during the laning stage, Fnatic staged a massive comeback in the midgame, Serenity turned it around with a surprise BKB and a great back-and-forth began. It is sad to see Fnatic go so early, since their games are always entertaining, but maybe their fans will find something familiar in Team Serenity—after all, what team goes for a risky push less than a minute after buying back? Serenity went 1-1 against Optic during the group stage and now both teams will get a chance to prove themselves.
The SEA derby: these teams faced each other so many times during the qualifiers, but the stakes have never been higher. An early-game lineup from TNC was met with a greedy SF and Spectre core combination from Mineski. Mineski were playing from behind for the whole game, holding highground, split-pushing and tactically allowing their support to die. It payed off big time at the very end, where one convincing fight off the back of a DD rune allowed them to overturn a 15k gold deficit and take full control of the game.
A beautiful back-and-forth between Winstrike and one of the more aggressive Chinese teams. Almost even laning stage, massive net worth swings and constant action—it was Dota at its best, at least for the viewers. An incredibly close game ended with the CIS squad eliminating the vice-champions of TI7 and advancing to the second round of the lower bracket. While many teams allow their nerves to get to them on stage, it looks like Winstrike only gets stronger under pressure. It is going to be interesting to see how they will perform in their next match against either OG or VGJ.Storm.
China vs. China. RoTK vs. Mikasa and probably one of the last times we get a chance to see two sister teams battling it out at the International—rules won't allow for it next year. First phase Terrorblade pick definitely shows how well these teams know each other and how much they've trained together. The game also defied all expectations of a slower paced Chinese Dota, with constant rotations and small skirmishes between two teams. In the end the older team prevailed, despite amazing performance by Sylar's Terrorblade. Vici Gaming will face the loser of EG vs. Team Secret on Day 3 of the main event.