After two weeks of the hectic Dota 2 TI11 schedule, the Aegis of Champions has finally been crowned. The UK-based Tundra Esports lifted the shield in their very first TI appearance, pulling off a near-perfect campaign.
Tundra Esports came into TI11 carrying zero expectations, and the lack of pressure seems to have had an empowering effect. They were the best in the tournament by a fair margin but somehow never managed to kick their underdog status right up until the end.
Tundra has displayed grit, calm, and prodigious skill to snatch the title away from much more experienced Dota 2 TI11 teams. During the round robin they dropped just four maps – though not a single series – and in the Main Event, lost only one in the upper bracket final against Team Secret.
They coasted through the playoffs, sweeping OG and Team Aster 2-0 in the first two rounds of the upper bracket. In the upper final they came up against eventual finalists Secret, and surged past them 2-1.
Puppey calls Tundra ‘cheaters’, rivalry ahead of the finals intensifies
The rivalry between Secret and Tundra Esports hit its peak heading into the final. Secret’s founder and member Clement ‘Puppey’ Ivanov, while conceding that Tundra did have five skilled players, labeled them all a ‘bunch of cheaters’ in an upload to his YouTube channel.
‘They’ve always did s**t like tactical pauses,” he said, “and I’m sure they are abusing the crowd sounds and the commentators’ voices. I’ve been suspicious throughout the group stage, now I’m sure. [They’re a] cheating, disgusting team.”
Cheaters or not, there’s no disputing the fact that Tundra broke Dota 2 wide open in this tournament. Their dominant showing and historic win at TI is akin to OG’s thrilling bid for the title back in 2018 with a set of bright-eyed, hopeful youngsters.
TI11 final sees tactical masterclass from Tundra
Tundra’s strategic moves set them up with an early advantage in the first game of the final. They did everything right, starting right from the drafts. They went for the Naga Siren-Tusk combo, with Tidehunter chosen as well to provide the initiation requirements allowing Secret’s Michał “Nisha” Jankowski’s to choose the Leshrac. This seemed like a tricky move and a downright risk considering the importance of the match, but Tundra seemed confident that they had figured out his counter.
The Leshrac didn’t end up doing much good for Team Secret, and they didn’t appear to gain much from the controversial Leshrac pick either. Secret’s carry Remco “Crystallis” Arets’ picked Pudge, who failed to gain traction as Tundra’s gank-heavy lineup ran riot all over the lanes.
At the 28th minute a Rosh fight broke out, and within ten minutes, Tundra were able to seal the game. Secret were completely out-drafted, and Tundra’s never-say-die approach worked out perfectly, resulting in them taking the first game.
The commentary panel pointed out that drafting Wraith Pact and Mage Slayer would not only mitigate Secret’s Leshrac, but pretty much negate him as well – and soon, it became clear that Tundra were not taking a risk but executing an impeccable, foolproof plan.
Secret stick with Leshrac despite trailing 0-1
In the next game, Nisha went for his signature pick Morphling. Resolut1on picked Leshrac this time around, and the two of them plus Bristleback made Secret’s intentions very clear. Tundra’s draft, comprising Arc Warden, Visage and Chaos Knight was more focused on clearing objectives.
Secret had a better start to the game, but overall both teams preferred to take things slow, showing confidence in their late game. Twenty-five minutes in, and most towers were still up, but a technical glitch introduced a pause into the game.
Upon resumption, Tundra started to make a move toward the barracks. Visage, Marci and Chaos Knight dealt heavy physical damage, and Tundra were able to secure the ancient and take their lead up to 2-0.
The third game saw both teams draft aggressively. Secret blundered ahead with Leshrac again, despite his threat being so effectively countered, as well as Naga Siren and Ember Spirit. Tundra picked out Medusa, Pangolier and Beastmaster to form the core of their lineup.
Both teams were pretty much even during the laning phase, up until Tundra went on the offensive and would not allow Secret to take down any of their heroes. Tundra sealed the game in the 44th minute, creating history by claiming the Aegis of Champions shield for the first time and claiming its $8.5 million prize.
What happened to all the TI11 favorites?
This edition of TI has been as dramatic as it has been unpredictable. The three favorites – PSG.LGD, OG and last year’s champions Team Spirit were nowhere near the expectations of the Dota 2 TI11 betting markets. After an underwhelming run at the playoffs, PSG.LGD were eliminated from the lower bracket after losing 0-2 to their up-and-coming rivals Team Aster.
They were outplayed by North American teams Evil Geniuses and Team Liquid. In addition, they received two more points due to Royal Never Give Up’s forfeiture imposed by a COVID positive case in their camp, and still only finished as third seed out of ten.
They were first flattened by Secret 2-0 in the upper bracket, then scrambled past BOOM Esports and beastcoast before Aster showed them the door.
Team Spirit also crumbled in the very first round of the loser’s bracket. An ordinary group stage where they finished in the bottom half was followed by BOOM wiping the floor with them in the lower bracket Round One. OG too looked like a shadow of their former selves.
They never really recovered from the drubbing handed to them by Tundra in the upper bracket, and it was all they could do to scrape past Gaimin Gladiators until Team Liquid dealt their campaign a critical blow.
Underdogs shine at TI11
On the plus side, teams like Secret, Aster, and Liquid proved that complacency will be a team’s undoing and that no one stays at the top for very long. South American teams beastcoast and Thunder Awaken deserve a shout, too for upping the quality of play at the tournament.
Secret has been drawing ever closer to the TI title year after year, and this is the closest they’ve come yet. After finishing in 5th-6th place in 2018, they ended fourth in the 2019 season. When they returned to TI in 2021 they seeded third and have now completed the series as runners-up.
This pattern strongly suggests that next year will be the one – but they probably shouldn’t count those chickens before they hatch, given how TI is the great leveler of favorites and underdogs alike. Secret will leave for home now with a $2.46 million dollar prize.
Another team that impressed at TI11 was the North American Team Liquid, who, along with Secret, had to make it to the tournament through the Last Chance Qualifiers. They’d been in the news even before the start of the tournament, ever since their star player and former TI winner Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen announced that he would retire after the tournament’s conclusion, irrespective of the result.
Liquid surpassed all expectations with the TI11 odds stacked against them, seeding second in their group during the round robin and eventually finishing in third place. They clawed their way through four elimination rounds before being knocked out in the lower bracket final 2-1 by Team Liquid, and eventually took him a $1.7 million prize.