The first Minor of the 2017/2018 competitive season, Starladder iLeague Invitational #3, is officially under wraps, with Team Liquid emerging victorious. During their impressive run through Starladder, Liquid’s only loss came in the grand finals vs Mineski. In addition to the first trophy of the new season, Liquid take home $135,000 in prize money and 150 pro circuit points.
Given the sound thrashing that Liquid gave Mineski in their first meeting, the first game of the grand final showed massive improvement from Mineski. They dipped into their bag of strategies and broke out the classic Bane and Mirana combination. The Nightmare into Sacred Arrow combination locked down one lane for Mineski, freeing up Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong’s Clockwerk to roam and secure the other two. Mineski never took its foot off the gas after taking an early lead. A small slip up in the mid-game gave Liquid a small window of hope, but all it took was a few minutes of calm and careful play for Mineski to reassert their commanding lead. With a massive 30,000 gold lead, Mineski were able to carefully pick apart Liquid and force a GG call in Game 1. This was a huge win for Mineski. Not only was this revenge for Mineski’s previous encounter with Liquid in the group stage, but this was Liquid’s first loss of the entire tournament.
The series continued to excite in the second game. Both teams dug a bit deep for some unconventional picks. Mineski took Arc Warden for Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang, a departure from his normal offlane role, while Liquid picked up Lion for Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi. Liquid got off to the explosive start this time thanks to some exceptional movement around the map by Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov’s Natures Prophet. Despite Liquid having a pretty sizable lead, Mineski were still able to put up a decent fight. Eventually, these fights started to look less and less scrappy and Mineski started to edge their way back into the game. Their major hurdle would be Amer “Miracle” Al-Barqawi on his Terrorblade who had gone unchecked for most of the game, and by 31 minutes he was level 25 and six-slotted. Mineski held out admirably for another 14 minutes, but in the end Liquid was able to brute force their way to a win and even up the series.
In Game 3 both teams decided to put a bit of their reputation on the line in addition to the normal stakes. Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung pitted his Anti-Mage, undefeated so far at Starladder, against the now-legendary Invoker of Miracle. The early-game looked nearly flawless for Mineski. They were getting repeated kills on Miracle, while Mushi was left to his own devices in the safe lane. Mushi farmed up a quick Battle Fury, and Mineski looked like they were about to take a lead in the series. The Liquid comeback happened in almost the blink of an eye. Miracle found and stopped two retreating Mineski heroes, letting the rest of Liquid take an early melee barracks and even up the game. Soon after, Mineski was on the back foot. Riding the momentum from their comeback, Liquid stormed down the Mineski base. This game was another fantastic example of what happens when you slip up even a little bit against this Liquid squad. The smallest foothold is enough for them to get back into a game and grind out any opponent.
With its tournament hopes on the line, Mineski opted to put their fate in the hands of Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng’s Alchemist. In response, Liquid adopted an aggressive strategy with Miracle on Anti-Mage as a backup plan. Liquid’s aggression did its job, delaying NaNa’s Radiance until 17 minutes. Even with Radiance, Mineski were just too far behind by that point. Only three minutes later, Liquid were steamrolling the Mineski base and taking an entire lane of barracks. Mineski looked shaken after their Game 3 loss where victory was all but theirs, and it showed through to their performance in Game 4. After a thrilling series of back and forth Dota, this was an unfortunate note to end on for Mineski. Mineski took home $60,000 in prize money as well as 90 pro circuit points.
Liquid’s victory at Starladder is the team’s fourth consecutive LAN victory, including the ultimate prize of The International 7 earlier this August. The post-International period is usually a time for the winner to step back and take some time off, but Liquid have hit the ground at a full sprint going into the 2017/2018 competitive season. Their next tournament appearance will be October 26-29 at the first Major of the season, ESL One Hamburg.