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Dota 2

Singapore Major Wild Card Stage: Nigma Out, Team Liquid Advances

Michael Hassall

The ONE Esports Singapore Major may only be in the Wild Card stage, but the event has already had its share of landmark moments. A considerable number of substitutes, many due to coronavirus, the first major offline event in over a year, and the first Major streamed in 4k at 60fps—Big stories are coming out of Singapore seemingly every day.

Boxi Team Liquid

Boxi and Team Liquid scraped into groups after a successful Singapore Major Wild Card stage

And with the conclusion of the Wild Card round, we now have a few more stories. Namely, the dismal performance of Team Nigma, the flip-flop quality of Team Liquid, and the surging power of the Chinese scene.

Failure to Launch

It was never going to be an easy tournament for Team Nigma. Having to deal with playing with a substitute at the last minute is difficult. And for it to come after a relatively weak season that saw them barely scrape the playoff spot is even worse.

But being a weak-looking team in one of the best divisions in the world is fine if you show up at the Major. With one extra spot in the Group Stage, there was every chance for Nigma to turn up and make the most of things.

However, as matches kicked off, things were decidedly not in Team Nigma’s favor. As predicted, teams focused Roman “rmN-” Paley, in his stand-in role. Primarily a support player, stepping in at offlane was never going to be ideal, even if the team kept things criminally simple for him.

What was worse in games such as the opening bout with Team Liquid. There rnM-‘s lane was largely ignored because his opponents were confident he could never scale into the carry his team needed. Ultimately over two days of matches, Team Nigma won just a single game and was the first team eliminated from the Major.

With all this negativity does come some light at the end of the tunnel for Team Nigma. In playing Mars during their final game of the tournament, Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi has now played every single hero in the game competitively. What’s more the team set records with their Phoenix performance in their sole win of the tournament—44 assist, the most ever on a Phoenix in pro play.

Still, there’s a lot of work for Team Nigma from here. They’re clearly still a special stack, but there are only so many problems a team can have and still win. And playing a Major with your coach as a substitute seems to be the limit for Nigma.

Which TL is Playing Today?

There are two Team Liquids. There’s the record-setting, flawless executors who’ve played more games together than any other stack at this event. Then there’s the other Team Liquid, who over-commit to losing lanes at the expense of their other cores, draft directly into counter picks after the fact, and lose all focus after a loss.

On day one, we got to see the first Team Liquid. At points, it looked like Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi was playing a bot game to practice his camp stacking. His record amounts of jungle management gave his team disgusting amounts of gold. This meant that even when pushed in their lanes or struggling, his squad could rely on a steady stream of income, and never fall too far behind.

Ultimately this kind of solid play led to a 3-0 start to the tournament, picking up wins over now first-place PSG.LGD, Team Nigma, and T1. But for the second day of Wild Card competition, the less reliable parts of TL were on full display. Two quick losses to both AS Monaco Gambit and Vici Gaming set the team up for elimination, despite their stunning start to the event.

However, with everything on the line, Team Liquid was able to pull out a win against Gambit in the tiebreaker. A hugely promising move, showing the stack learns quickly from its losses, and could yet go far in this tournament.

Regional Domination

It’s been a long time coming for international competition. From just casual observation, it was clear that the Chinese region was something special. When thinking about whether teams like PSG.LGD and Vici Gaming could match up against out of region opponents, it was more a question of how decisively they’d win, not if victory was achievable.

Chinese teams have come here to play, or at least once the rust got shaken off. PSG.LGD lost their opening series in perhaps the biggest upset of the Wild Card stage. Team Liquid was able to best the LGD stack simply by out farming them across two impressive games. Similarly, Vici dropped a game against an already practically eliminated Team Nigma.

But apart from these two hiccups, both squads have looked unbeatable. Vici’s perfect execution against T1 and then PSG. LGD’s dismantling of Gambit. Besides the one-sided scoreline, the head-to-head between VG and LGD was the best game of the tournament so far. A masterclass on the region’s style.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Singapore Major hasn’t disappointed yet, but it feels like it’s on the edge of disaster. With rumors of positive tests at the event, and the field of competition was decimated by a huge number of substitutions. 4k presentation and high-level international games will do little if the event overall is looked back on as a disaster. Despite a successful Wild Card stage, it’s already time to put several asterisks next to the eventual winners’ name in this Major.