TI7: Empire has fallen, Liquid are doing it
Team Liquid found themselves facing Team Empire here in the Lower Bracket, after losing 1-2 to Invictus Gaming in Day 1 and winning against Team Secret 2-1 in Day 2. After eliminating Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses, many were wondering if Empire could have a dream run in the Lower Bracket with Roman 'Resolut1on' Fominok standing in as their carry player. Unfortunately, their journey was put to a stop after losing 2-0 to a focused and determined Team Liquid.
Team Empire decided to give Maroun 'GH' Merhej's his Keeper of the Light and had a plan going into game one. They drafted aggressive heroes (Bounty Hunter, Puck & Weaver) that were able to get onto the KotL easily, hoping to shut down GH's impact on that hero. However, Kuro 'KuroKy-' Salehi Takhasomi responded extremely well with his draft, picking Spirit Breaker, Necrophos and Beastmaster. These heroes allowed Liquid to fight Empire early on, not allowing the lineup with the Bounty Hunter to snowball in the early game. Moreover, these heroes provided the single-target lockdown, which is extremely effective to deal with a single core lineup that Empire ended up having.
Both teams were quite evenly matched during the laning phase, but a great rotation by Resolut1on's Weaver around the 11-minute mark secured Empire two important kills in the mid lane. Resolut1on was having an insanely good game, even getting a Beyond Godlike streak 20-minutes into the game. Things were looking good for Empire here in game one when they team-wiped Liquid just shy of 23-minutes. However, as mentioned earlier, Empire had a 1-core lineup relying heavily on Weaver and Liquid had an excellent lineup to deal with it. Liquid threw everything they had (Reaper's Scythe, Roar, Spirit Breaker's Charge) onto Resolut1on and it was more than enough to bring him down every fight. Without the Weaver, Empire simply lacked the damage to kill off any of Liquid's hero. This became a bigger problem when GH got his Aghanim's Scepter. The sustain that came from his Illuminate heal during day time allowed Liquid to break Empire's high-ground and win the team-fights. Eventually, Empire were forced to tap out at the 34th minute, giving Team Liquid the 1-0 lead.
Empire started the game well again, as they put a lot of pressure onto Amer 'Miracle-' Barqawi's Huskar in the mid lane, killing him twice in just 7-minutes. On the other hand, Liquid tried to disrupt Resolut1on's farm on the Anti-Mage using the strong duo of Dark Seer + Slardar. Despite the pressure, Reso maintained the highest last hits and net-worth throughout the early portion of the game.
The game quickly transitioned into a 4-protect-1 strategy for Empire, with all of Empire creating space for their stand-in carry – Resolut1on. The Anti-Mage kept split-pushing throughout the mid-game, not wanting anything to do with the 5-man death-ball of Liquid. However, this also meant that Empire was in no position to fight and they kept dying repeatedly to the non-stop aggression from Team Liquid. Despite Resolut1on being the highest net-worth in the game, there was no answer to the Oracle-Huskar combo that Liquid brought. At 22-minutes, Team Empire took a bad fight outside their base which lost them four heroes and this quickly transitioned into a bottom set of rax for Team Liquid.
Things were looking grim for Empire but a pick-off on KuroKy-'s Oracle gave them some signs of life. Empire knew this was their chance to make a play. They smoked out of their base, hoping to get a catch on any of Liquid's hero which would have enabled them to take Roshan with the numbers advantage. However, a 3-man crush by GH's Slardar pretty much destroyed Empire's dream at staying alive in the tournament. With Aegis and Cheese secured, Miracle's Huskar led his team into Empire's base, finishing up whatever buildings that stood in their way. Despite Resolut1on's best efforts, there was simply nothing he could do against the 5-man deathball of Liquid and the GG was called 30-minutes into the game.
Team Empire are eliminated from The International 2017 in 7th/8th place while Team Liquid moves on to face Virtus Pro later today in yet another elimination match.
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