With the group stage - and the first round of the upper bracket - coming to a close, Gfinity wanted to give a full preview of the playoffs for ESL One Hamburg before the weekend began. The remainder of the event will be played out at the Barclaycard Arena from the 25th of October till the 27th.
Group Stage Wrapup
The groups saw few surprises, with group A being dominated by Vici Gaming and Alliance and group B taken apart by TNC and Gambit. All four teams were headed into the playoffs where they faced off in the initial best-of-three phase, which was played offline.
The lower bracket was filled out by Beastcoast and Virtus Pro from group A, and WAR and NiP from Group B. The Ninjas were fortunate enough to come through the group in part due to a default win against Quincy Crew - who themselves weren’t much of a contender due to the fact. Interestingly enough, WAR (Wind And Rain) managed to draw against every single one of their oppositions in the best-of-twos that they played except for NiP. They were also the only team to take a game off of TNC.
The first round of the upper bracket was then played out away from the arena - with TNC going up against an Alliance who had just won Dreamleague Season 12 off of Nikobaby’s beautiful performances on carry, and Vici Gaming being matched up with Fng’s Gambit. Despite Alliance being on a hot run of form in the past few weeks, with analyst Blitz saying that they’d really found their identity after being formed from a band of rejects, they were quickly wiped off of the server 2-0 by TNC. Interestingly enough, neither game saw Alliance taking the gold lead at any point throughout the entire game, which really paints a picture of how the game went.
Gambit facing off against Vici was much more interesting. Both games seemed to have played into Vici’s hands nicely as they started off with a convincing lead, but both games saw Gambit having a draft that fought well in the mid-game and outscaled the later on the game went. Gambit’s picks played towards a significantly punishing style of DOTA, with heroes like the Necrophos, Legion and Anti-Mage picked up across each game in the series.
With the group stage summary done, let’s move on to the actual meat of the story.
Predictions - Complete Bracket Draw
The favorites to take the entire tournament away are - to nobody’s surprise - TNC, Vici, Alliance and Gambit. Vici and Alliance have already been relegated to the lower bracket, and we wait to see whether or not TNC can pull through up against Gambit to make the finals.
Immediately, the TNC vs Gambit game in the upper bracket finals seems to be a stylistic nightmare for Gambit. Gambit’s been prioritizing picks throughout the tournament that let them fight on an even ground later on in a game, even if they’re somewhat rolled over in the early game. This works against teams that aren’t able to spot their window, but TNC’s play is picture perfect against this. TNC like to play a combination of two incredibly aggressive cores, who are split across either offlane and mid, or offlane and safelane. The remaining core is their mid-late game guarantee who is largely left to farm and contribute only when possible.
Almost every single game that TNC has played so far in the tournament, has seen the exact same picture painted against the better teams. There’s a flat gold and experience lead for the first ten to twenty minutes of a game, and then right when the fifth lategame-guarantee-hero kicks into a particular timing window, TNC is able to decimate teamfights and establish vision control like no other. Their vision heavy style of gameplay is truly noticed in their beastmaster offlane picks - a hero which isn’t traditionally seen as an aggressive offlaner, but in their hands is able to completely take control of the enemy jungle early on.
In contrast, Gambit who rely on being able to get to a point where their lineup can outscale and outlast through either sheer tankiness, or by virtue of their heroes, is inherently weak against window-based teams. Unless TNC make an uncharacteristic mistake in their series against Gambit, or we see some radically different play from Gambit, we don’t see the CIS side taking it away. The one caveat is whether or not TNC let through the Fng Undying.
The question then comes through, about who makes their way in from the lower bracket to the grand finals. Gambit is likely to be able to offer a repeat of what they had earlier should they be playing up against Vici Gaming, but Alliance could throw a wrench in it all. Alliance - with their heavy reliance on Nikobaby and getting him farmed up to a comfortable level - generally excel in late game and scaling situations. As has been historically true, teams that rely heavily on their safelane and have a lane dominating mid player like Limmp, do particularly well in the stage of the game that Gambit will be wanting to capitalize on.
This is largely an even matchup, but the real contest will come through on the efficacy of Shachlo in the offlane and how well he’s going to be able to do. Gambit should be prioritizing picks like a Legion Commander or Bristleback, something which can effectively take control of a fight in the midgame when Nikobaby wants to start to make trouble. Limmp has traditionally been a player who doesn’t quite perform to the same level mid-game as he does early on in the laning phase, so putting Gpk on a high-impact mid hero which can continue to outfight Alliance should be the way to go. Watch out for OD to be banned by Gambit, and potentially a Tiny ban to come through from Alliance later on in the draft.
The final verdict for us has to be Gambit to take the series though regardless of whether they face Alliance or Vici. From the two, Alliance has a much better chance of winning it out - but anything less than a 2-1 would be very surprising.
Finally, we expect the finals to be won by TNC should they go up against Alliance. The raw difference in skill and experience on a finals stage is too high for us to discount here, and while Alliance has shown themselves to be clutch at Dreamleague - it’s a whole different thing to be clutch against a team which relies heavily on knowing their exact advantage.
Should TNC find themselves matched with Gambit though, that’s anybody’s game. Despite Gambit having lost to TNC before twice (in this scenario), they’re a team which is veteran savvy. The adaptations that could come through in their draft would be what makes or breaks the game, and there’s a world where they take it. Should it have been a best-of-three, we’d actually go as far as putting them in as favorites, but we’d still edge it out 3-1 to TNC because of the sheer length of a best-of-five scenario.
A quick shoutout to WAR has to be given, as Wind and Rain could be a dark horse to eliminate Vici Gaming and move forwards, but we don’t expect them to be able to win in the lower bracket’s third round.