Starladder iLeague Invitational 2 - A peek at the first head to head matches
Starladder iLeague Invitational 2 begins only two weeks after the conclusion of the Kiev Major - meaning there is little time for teams to prepare to try and make a name for themselves at the first major LAN of the new season. A championship title here presumably awards the team a direct invite to the premier Dota 2 event of the year - TI7.
Eight teams are in the process of charting their course to the championship title. Split into two groups of four, two teams from each group will be granted access to their hopeful path, two teams will see their journey cut short at the group stage. The first matchups of the Starladder iLeague Invitational 2 group stage will set the stage deciding who will most likely be the frontrunners and who will be counting on a second wind to favor them.
Invictus Gaming vs TnC
Although these two teams have not faced off in at least the last six months, the mental fortitidue and attitude will be key factors here as iG ride their positive momentum and TnC grapple with internal issues and pressure. For iG, the grind never stops. In the last month alone, they've played 41 matches - winning more than half of them - heavily dominating their series wins to be a consistent top contender. Following their impressive run through the Kiev Major - ultimately taking 3-4th place, the team is on track to be a contender in the Summit 7 Chinese qualifiers.
Underdogs at the Kiev Major, TnC managed a stunning performance in the group stage, but to the disappointment of many, were knocked out in the first round of the main event. The team fell just short of qualifying for the Manila Masters when they dropped to the new rising force of Clutch Gamers 3:1 in the Grand Finals. Seeming to buckle under the intensifying pressure of the upcoming TI7 season and struggling to take one of the much-needed qualifier spots, the team suddenly announced their withdrawal midpoint in the lower bracket of Epicenter SEA qualifiers to address team issues.
Verdict: Invictus Gaming is likely to be the real contender here
VGJ vs Alliance
These two teams have never locked horns before but VGJ has the momentum of frequent competitive matches against some of the biggest contenders in the scene behind them. The Kiev Major gave them a commendable 5-8th place finish, bookmarking them as a team to keep an eye on. Following the Kiev Major, they entered into the Epicenter China qualifiers coming within inches of advancing to the grand finals but ultimately falling in the upper bracket finals to LGD and then being knocked out of contention in the Lower bracket finals by LGD. Forever Young. On the up and up, this team is starting to take shape.
A stroke of luck shifted Alliance in the main event only a week before the start date. When Mousesports withdrew due to heavy scheduling, the Swedish team were dropped into their spot for a chance to make a huge impact on their status and hopefully force Valve's hand in writing a direct invite to TI. The team will struggle to make this a reality- having played only 12 matches in the last month with a 50% win rate, the Swedes will need to step up their game and re-tool their strategy in a big way.
Verdict: VGJ will more than likely come out ahead
Team Liquid vs Team Faceless
These teams have gone head to head in two different events over the last month. Team Faceless upset the Europeans and shocked the world when they flat out knocked out Liquid in the brutal Lower Bracket round 1 elimination series of DAC 2017. Meeting face to face again at Kiev Major, Team Liquid exacted their revenge on the Signagporean team, sweeping through them 2:0 in the group stage with relative ease.
The Europeans have been laying low since Kiev Major, playing only one series in DreamLeague Season 7 so far - perhaps honing their strategy and skill set. With a lineup stacked with talent and the MMR to back it up, this team has the ability to turn the odds in their favor.
Team Faceless continues to throw around their strength and power in the SEA region, on course for another qualifier spot to add to their long list as they are currently cruising through the upper brackets for in the Epicenter SEA regional qualifiers.
Verdict: While these teams ended up neck and neck at Kiev Major with commendable 5-8th place finishes - Team Faceless will need to pull out one of their thrilling upsets to stake a claim over Team Liquid again.
Newbee vs Vega Squadron
With these two having yet to meet in an official series, this could end up being one of the tighter races of the first match ups, and it's fair to say that Newbee continues to be a solid and menacing presence in their own scene. Vega's perfect run gave the CIS team the highly coveted SL iLeague LAN spot. They had revamped their roster for the new season building around Semion "CemaTheSlayer" Krivulya and started out in DreamLeague season 7 at the same time with the same precision and flush with talent. Despite tapering off a bit since their debut, the CIS sharks are dark horses in this race.
Verdict: Newbee's consistency could be a point of contention for the team as Vega will have more ability to prepare for the contest, having more access to their style and strats.