Team Aster went the distance and won StarLadder ImbaTV Dota2 Minor with a commanding 3-1 win over Alliance in the grand finals, which were played earlier on Sunday. March 8. With that, the Chinese roster pocketed US $75,000 in tournament winnings, 140 DPC points and the final ticket leading to ESL One Los Angeles Major.
StarLadder ImbaTV Dota2 Minor began on Thursday, March 5, in Kyiv, Ukraine, and it marked the third Dota2 Minor tournament of Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season. There were a total of eight teams in attendance, who battled it out for the largest slice of US $300,000 in tournament winnings and a ticket leading directly to the ESL One Los Angeles Major.
Present at the tournament were Gambit Esports, forZe Esports, business associates, CR4ZY (former Fighting PandaS), Alliance, Team Aster, BOOM Esports and NoPing e-sports. By the end of the group stage, Team Aster, BOOM Esports, Gambit Esports and Alliance clinched a top-two seed and a direct promotion into the playoffs.
Team Aster entered the final stage of the tournament with a perfect 2-0 record from the group stage and they managed to carry over the momentum into the playoffs, where they defeated Alliance (2-0) in round one to which they added another clean sweep against Gambit (2-0) and booked a spot in the grand finals.
After losing their opening fixture against Team Aster, Alliance faced off against BOOM Esports in the lower bracket, where they had no difficulties securing a clean sweep and later destroyed Gambit Esports in the lower bracket finals to book a rematch with Team Aster in the finals.
The StarLadder ImbaTV Dota2 Minor grand finals took off on Sunday, March 8, at Kyiv Cybersport Arena and although many expected to see a close and exciting bout, it was more the latter rather than the former. Besides game three, when Aster lost due to the anti-mage pick, the Chinese roster made little to no mistakes and completely outclassed their European counterparts en route to secuting a ticket for LA Major.
In game one of the series, Aster picked up Death Prophet and used its pushing strength to its full potential, as they methodically took down one objective after the other, while Alliance's single-target lineup struggled to keep up with the pressure of their Chinese adversaries. Due to their subpar team composition Alliance also struggled to achieve any notable success in teamfights, where they were constantly shut down by Aster's Morphling and Death Prophet. Although Alliance had their moments and even got themselves in a lead at around 25-minute mark, their goals fell flat as they had to admit defeat to Aster, who made one last push at 37th minute to seal the first match of the series.
In a bid to bounce back Alliance decided to make some changes to their draft for game two. Nikolay “Nikobaby” Nikolov got handed his signature champion Medusa, while Linus "Limmp" Blomdin picked up Dragon Knight, which proved to be quite an effective champion for Alliance in their previous matches. Despite the changed draft and two signature heroes in the hands of their players, however, Alliance fell flat once more. What’s more, game two of the series was even more one-sided as the first one.
Aster's mid laner Kee Chyuan "ChYuan" Ng had a phenomenal performance on Storm Spirit, ending the game with a perfect 8/0/8 KDA, while Song "Sccc" Chun made sure to leave a mark as well with an equally impressive 6/1/7 on Arc Warden. Alliance's win conditions Limpp and Nikobaby got completely shut down, as they struggled to make an impact on the game and finished the match with 0/5/1 and 2/3/1 KDA respectively.
Game three of the series saw Team Aster pick up Shadow Shaman, Mars, Shadow Fiend, Chen and Anti-Mage, while Alliance responded with Jakiro, Death Prophet, Lifestealer, Dark Seer and Nyx Assassin. All the spotlight was on Sccc and his Anti-Mage pick, which is known for his ability to take over the match by himself, however, that was not the case here. The game was relatively close from the start and while Sccc did his best to farm and get ahead, Aster as a whole struggled to keep up the pace of Alliance's strong physical damage and control lineup.
Although Aster got themselves in a respectable lead by the 29th-minute mark, they made a crucial mistake at 30th minute, when Sccc died at the hands of Alliance, who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and demolished Aster's base to pocket their first win of the series and hand Aster their first loss of the tournament.
Despite their strong performance in game three, Alliance failed to carry over the momentum into game four. By picking up Orcale, Death Prophet, Faceless Void, Mars and Winter Wyvern into Shadow Demon, Outworld Devourer, Centaur Warrunner, Io and Gyrocopter, Alliance found themselves on the back foot, as they had no response for the bottom lane Io-Gyrocopter combo, which allowed Aster to take over the match from the first minute.
Aster won the fourth match of the series in just over 32 minutes, thanks to Sccc's impressive display, which saw him finish the match with 11/1/7 KDA, while all four remaining members did their part in securing a comfortable win. ChYuan ended the series with 4/0/7, Lin "Xxs" Jing with 6/1/11, Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao with 2/2/15 and Pan "Fade" Yi with 1/2/15.
Despite being recognised as one of the favourites to claim the spoils at StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor, Aster went above and beyond everyone's expectations with their phenomenal performance, which saw them lose only one map throughout the whole tournament. Although a respectable name in the Dota2 scene, Aster truly assembled a new Chinese juggernaut during the offseason.
Earlier in January, Aster pocketed a ninth-12th place finish at DreamLeague Season 13 Leipzig Major, which was slightly underwhelming, however, with the addition of Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng as their coach, Aster seemingly found the right recipe for success.
Alliance, on the other side, entered the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor as the top favourites, however, failed to live up to the expectations. In all fairness, it was not so much due to their poor performance, but rather the raw strength of Aster that prevented Alliance from reaching the summit. That said, Alliance are still a respectable team and arguably one of the best teams when it comes to teamfights, however, even that proved to be inefficient against the new and improved Aster, who deservingly secured themselves US $72,000 in tournament winnings, 140 DPC points and a ticket for ESL One Los Angeles Major.
ESL Los Angeles Dota2 Major is slated to begin on Sunday, March 15, at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. It will mark the third Dota2 Major of the DPC season with 16 teams in attendance. In the lineup, we will also see the new-look OG, who have made some major roster changes since Anathan "ana" Pham announced his extended break from the competitive scene. Shortly after OG also parted ways with Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka who announced his retirement on January 26, while Sébastien "Ceb" Debs decided to step down from the active roster. As their replacements, OG signed Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan, Yeik "MidOne" Nai Zheng and Martin "Saksa" Sazdov to for a new roster, which will be chasing their third consecutive International title later in August in Sweden.