The Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017 Main Event kicked off on Friday in Shanghai with the 12 teams from the group stages squaring off for a shot at the first-place prize of $235,898. After the group stages and a few days of well-earned rest, the teams moved from their practice rooms and onto the main stage of the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center to do battle once more.
No Surprises in the Upper Bracket
In the first match of the day, OG played as though the group stage had never ended. Looking every bit the tournament favorite, OG swept Newbee aside 2-0. Fortunately for the rising Chinese team, Newbee's fall from the upper bracket ensures a top-six finish and a second lease on life in the lower bracket.
The hometown heroes, Invictus Gaming, took down an upstart Team Empire 2-1 in the second match of the day, bringing a previously tame crowd roaring to life. Team Empire, thought to be the weakest team at the tournament, was thought to only be in Shanghai because Virtus.pro was forced to withdraw in the regional qualifier. Defying the odds and baffling the analysts, Empire had a strong showing during the group stage to come out in the top two of Group A, placing it in the upper bracket to start. Despite the shocking success, Empire was easily handled by Invictus Gaming, led by a strong performance from veteran Xu "Burning" Zhilei.
Lower Bracket Brings the Excitement
The lower bracket matches switched to the dreaded best-of-one format, in which eight teams enter and just four teams leave. Many teams predicted to finish top two in their group fell into the bottom bracket, creating volatile matchups for the elimination matches.
LGD Forever Young -- the third-place team in Group A -- was allowed to select its initial opponent and chose Invictus Gaming Vitality. In an embarrassing turn of events, LGD.FY displayed the inexperience that accompanies youth in its main stage debut by receiving a thorough trouncing to get bounced from the tournament.
Not to be outdone, Team NP, which impressed many with a standout performance during group stages, also lost in humiliating fashion. Facing off against Vici Gaming J, Team NP looked to have the game well in hand until making a series of questionable decisions in an attempt to close out the game quickly and, in true EternaLEnVy fashion, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The most anticipated best-of-one was a grudge match between Evil Geniuses and reigning International champions and home-crowd favorite Wings Gaming. Through the use of a split pushing strategy so effective it evoked memories of TI3 Alliance, Wings looked to be on the verge of eliminating the last North American team from the tournament. Abandoning their usual calculated approach, the boys in blue threw caution to the wind and went all-in on a middle lane push. With overwhelming teamfighting prowess, EG quieted the crowd and lived to fight another day.
The last game of the day was a showdown between the two best best-of-one teams in the tournament, Team Liquid and Team Faceless. Pulling out its ace in the hole strategy, previously used against Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid drafted a Naga Siren as a late-game insurance policy. Staying true to its roots, Team Faceless drafted an aggressive lineup and kept Liquid on its heels the whole time. Never letting up, Team Faceless kept the pressure until Liquid cracked.
The action will continue Saturday night in the lower bracket with Invictus Gaming Vitality taking on Vici Gaming J at 10 p.m. ET.