Epicenter Major: NiP, Forward Gaming escape elimination
title image courtesy of Epicenter
Forward Gaming and Ninjas in Pyjamas pushed through the best of ones at the Epicenter Major, while SA and SEA squads paiN Gaming and Fnatic head home.
Fnatic vs Forward Gaming
Fnatic and Forward Gaming were up first on the chopping block. Draftwise, Fnatic had a fairly greedy draft, pinning their hopes on Abed ‘Abed’ Yusop’s Medusa to get them through the late-game, while a core Centaur Warrunner for Daryl Koh ‘iceiceice’ Pei Xiang would push them through the mid-game. Forward Gaming, like their namesake, went with a high mobility lineup focusing on delivering Yawar ‘Yawar’ Hassan’s Lifestealer through a Spirit Breaker and Ember Spirit.
Early on, the top lane became a focal point for both teams, with Fnatic running an aggro tri-lane in hopes to slow down Yawar. Forward countered with their own triple stack, and the two triplets jockeyed for position while the middle and bottom lanes were left to their own devices. Action kicked off at the first bounty rune top, as Forward secured the first kill. Fnatic would trade shortly after for, but it was clear that Forward’s lane was becoming a problem.
Transitioning to the mid-game, Forward pushed the pace as Jing ‘Sneyking’ Wu came online. With all that time in a solo lane, Sneyking’s rotations proved devastating as Forward surged ahead. Meanwhile, Fnatic felt very scattered with no real plan save for a Medusa late-game. Forward, however, had other plans and continued to pressure in a calculated manner, which it seemed none of Fnatic’s lineup could stop. 30 minutes in, Fnatic called it quits as Forward move ahead avoiding elimination, while Fnatic head home. Although Fnatic solidly qualified for TI, this performance looks troubling for the SEA squad.
Ninjas in Pyjamas vs paiN Gaming
In the second grinder match of the day, South American squad paiN Gaming took on Peter ‘ppd’ Dager’s Ninjas in Pyjamas. Draftwise, NiP looked to risk nothing, going with a very safe push lineup focused on pushing out lanes and taking objectives. On the other side, paiN drafted looking for a fight, picking up a Queen of Pain for Adrian ‘4dr’ Machado, hoping perhaps that he would get some momentum against NiP’s Razor in the middle lane.
In the early stages, NiP instantly threw a wrench in the middle lane matchup plans, putting Marcus 'Ace' Heolgaard’s Naga Siren against 4dr. Although 4dr would trade a kill early against Ace, the match stayed relatively even for the most. As the game moved on, it was clear the NiP had no intention of fighting until the late-stages and continually disengaged from paiN’s repeated attempts at fights--the South Americans would find a number of kills, getting ahead of NiP, but the networth stay even as Ace and the rest of the NiP were content to farm and push lanes.
In the contest’s middle stages, NiP continued to stagnate the game, and even picked up a great fight around 21 minutes in the paiN jungle claiming a three for one trade along with two buybacks. From there, NiP continued to close the noose, and the Brazilians side of the map became more and more cramped. At the half hour mark, however, paiN would finally find an initiation that they liked, with Rodrigo ‘Lelis’ Liposa's Doom jumping onto Ace’s Naga Siren. The result would be an even four hero trade. However, it was too little too late, as even with the fight, paiN still needed at least three or four more fights to actually sway NiP. In the final stages, NiP continued to close the noose around paiN’s base, and although the Brazilians would hold valiantly a number of times, a fatal misstep by 4dr would spell the end for paiN just under the 50 minute mark.
NiP and Forward Gaming move on, avoiding elimination. The lower bracket action continues tomorrow with Alliance and Infamous also trying to avoid elimination, while Evil Geniuses and OG meet in a fated rematch after a small scheduling delay, citing Johan 'Notail' Sundstein's health issues. As the last stop before TI9, matches are sure to be competitive, especially with the potential for a number of teams to be displaced in their TI9 invites.
Round 4 - Best of 3
Round 5 - Best of 3
Round 6 - Best of 3
Best of 5