In a remarkable turn of events, Vega Squadron pulled off the unthinkable upset, eliminating the TI5 Champions, Evil Geniuses, in a 2:0 sweep during the first round of ESL One New York. Vega Squadron will move on to the semifinals to face Invictus Gaming at 20:00 CEST later today.
It’s the classic story of David and Goliath: the underdog that is diminutive in presence in stark comparison to the sheer enormity and power of the giant.
With the giant’s experience, accomplishments and the sum of its deft parts being stronger as one, there was never a shadow of doubt as to the outcome of this match-up.
Only for the world to be stunned into silence when the victor emerges unscathed in the form of the improbable hero, David.
First official tournament for the TI5 champions ends in a first-round loss
ESL One New York was EG’s first official tournament since triumphing as champions at The International 5, in August. They had been THE premier team of the NA scene and among the top contenders in the international circuit in the months leading up to The International. After dropping to the lower brackets at TI5, the Grand Finals were remarkable in every way. Evil Geniuses bested CDEC, 3:1, thus becoming the first North American team that has ever won The International.
Citing that it was in the best interest of the team, Evil Geniuses made a sudden, unexpected roster change in the post-TI shuffle. They let go of Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling, transferred Clinton “Fear” Loomis to the support role and picked up Artour “Arteezy” Babaev – a move that would appear to make the team impregnable.
Everyone was expecting greatness from the NA Goliath during their first official tournament of the new season, at ESL One New York. The betting odds were favoring them, the live audience was heavily supportive, and the community as a whole was hedging on them as grand finalists, if not the winners.
Vega Squadron surge forward, roster stability pays off
Vega Squadron on the other hand was a clear dark horse, an underdog that not many gave much weight to, to carry home top results amidst contenders such as Evil Geniuses, Team Secret, Virtus.Pro, and CDEC.
The squad surprised many when they surged forward, showing strong performances in the TI5 European qualifiers and grabbing the Wild Card Series slot for the biggest tournament of the year.
Although they failed to advance in the main event of TI5, the squad remained committed to each other and did not fall victim to post-TI roster changes. They have continued to show strong performances and development of their potential ever since.
The team had fought long and hard for their ticket to ESL One New York. After besting MFF and Na’Vi, 2:1, in the European Qualifiers, they defeated NiP, 3:1, in the qualifiers’ grand finals to punch their ticket to attend. The moment would become pivotal for Vega Squadron, as a means to redeem themselves.
But as fate would have it, the CIS team was seeded against the TI5 champions and despite their potential and strong performances, they still seemed to be leagues away from their set opponents.
Vega’s superior team play coordination and EG’s questionable drafts
The most prominent factors that stood out during this match up were the stellar performances displayed by Vega Squadron and the interesting drafting choices Evil Geniuses made.
Vega Squadron seemed to have a superior team play coordination that could only be credited to their stability and commitment to forming cohesion as a team. Their movements, rotations, setups and reactions all seemed to be perfectly timed and their strategies were perfectly executed. Communication between players looked smooth and effortless.
EG’s drafter and captain Peter “ppd” Dager has often been hailed as creative – the key to the team’s success. The drafting in this particular series against Vega Squadron was questionable. During the first game of the series, EG went with a so-called “TI5 draft” – a lineup that was arguably more efficient in the 6.84 patch – and in the second one, they tried to counter Vega’s lineup with a couple of surprising drafting choices. It was clear from the very beginning that it would either be genius or blunder. Paired with role changes and a new composition with short period of time to synchronize, the drafting did not yield the desired results.
Summary: Evil Geniuses (0:2) Vega Squadron
In the first game of the series, EG drafted Naga, Wyvern and Sandking – a so-called “TI5 draft”. Vega Squadron took on Broodmother and Ember Spirit. The game was relatively even from the start, with both teams being able to take the advantage or lead at any time, until Vega managed to pick off Clinton “Fear” Loomis’ Naga Siren and take the Roshan uncontested. Pavel “9pashaebashu” Hvastunov’s Ember Spirit ended up being too much for EG to handle and Vega were able to upset the NA giants in the first game.
The second game of the series saw Andrey “Mag” Chipenko on his signature Broodmother. As a counter, EG chose an Axe for Sumail “SumaiL” Syed Hassan. The Axe was played on mid and proved to be much weaker against Queen of Pain mid. The game was much more heavily one-sided in favor of Vega than many expected and, in less than 30 minutes, the rising CIS team eliminated the TI5 champions, with a 22:8 score.
ESL One New York semifinals
Vega Squadron will continue in the ESL One New York semifinals at 20:00 CEST to face Invictus Gaming. All eyes will be on this David as they face another team that is often referred to as a Goliath of the Chinese scene.
Vega Squadron roster:
Semen “Cema” Krivulya
Pavel “9pashaebashu” Khvastunov
Vladimir “no[o]ne” Minenko
Andrey “Mag” Chipenko
Aleksey “Solo” Berezin