A dramatic final day of groups at The International 2018 saw Group A won by the early leaders, while Group B was a more convoluted affair. Evil Geniuses and Team Liquid made light work of taking the top two positions in their half of the draw, followed by PSG and OG Esports, but behind VGJ Storm Group B was much closer.
One of the stories of day four was Winstrike, who started what was potentially their last day at TI8 at the foot of the Group A table. A tight map one victory over OG gave them hope of salvation, with Invictus Gaming at risk of dropping into bottom spot, and the fact Invictus had already completed their group stage programme meant there was nothing they could do if Winstrike could step it up.
As it was, Winstrike weren’t able to take the 2-0 which would have sent IG home, and played off in a best-of 3 for the final spot against their Chinese groupmates, with both teams going in on a 4-12 card. Eventually the series ended 2 - 0 in Winstrike's favour, with a heartbroken IG quitting out of game two after a disastrous start.
The result against Winstrike meant OG were never in serious danger of losing their top four spot, with Fnatic the most likely to disrupt and unable to do so, falling 2-0 to Evil Geniuses. There is no shame in losing to EG, and Fnatic have the pleasure of picking their first-round opponent, with VGJ Thunder in sixth and Mineski finishing seventh in the table.
In Group B, Serenity and paiN played off for the right to progress, with the two tied at 5-9 going into their last-place decider. The Brazilian side are fan favourites, and some had even tipped them to be a good dark horse pick, but their performance over the first three days was too inconsistent to feel they were a real threat, especially with the way teams like VGJ Storm played.
The Brazilians lost the first map in fairly convincing fashion, and needed to win the second to have any hope of making it to the main stage. Sadly for their fans, they weren’t able to draw level in the series, and ended up as the first team eliminated from TI8, a title nobody wants. Their draft versus Serenity was a real issue, with the team coming into the game woefully unequipped for what unfolded, although praise must also be given to the winners.
The aforementioned American arm of the VGJ organisation has looked incredibly impressive, despite drawing the likes of Newbee and VP in their group, and entered what was a dead rubber (for them) against Virtus.pro with a 12-2 map record, which might have showed in the performance. Earlier in the day they had comfortably 2-0’d Team Serenity to stretch their lead in the table, but seemed a bit lacklustre vs VP, losing 2-0.
There was one fly in the ointment for the group winners, who were found to have used two coaches in the draft for their group stage games. The ruling was that the team had acted in good faith, on bad information, but VGJ were still handed down sanctions for the first series of the main event, namely that they will not be allowed to use a coach during the draft and will have a level 2 draft time penalty.
Going into the final set of matches, only VGJ Storm knew where they would finish, which is a sign of just how competitive this year has been, after the 1-15 or 2-14 run some teams endured at TI7, with Newbee facing Team Secret and Vici up against OpTic Gaming. Vici lost their series, which guaranteed OpTic a place on the main stage regardless of results elsewhere.
The middle of Group B was where the real intrigue seemed to lie with one map left to play, as Newbee, Vici and Secret were all sitting at 7-8 and staring down the barrel of a tiebreaker. The second match in Newbee vs Secret was all important, with the potential for two very different scenarios, and in the end Newbee took the 2-0 to create a three-way, BO1 round-robin tiebreaker scenario in Group B to see who made upper bracket. This finished with Secret and OpTic into the upper bracket, and Newbee missing out, dropping into the lower bracket for the main event.
With Sunday a day off it’s a chance for the players and fans to recharge, but the action begins again on Monday with another set of potential classics. It will be interesting to see who the group winners select as their opponent, and how that changes mentalities, but for now it’s time to relax before what is sure to be a perfect storm of Dota 2.