Tundra Crushes All at TI11, Win First Title
The world of competitive Dota 2 welcomes a new champion at The International 11 (TI11): Western Europe’s Tundra Esports. The squad, led by 15-year veteran Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu and coached by former International champion Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling, ran roughshod over their rivals in Singapore, dropping just a single map on their way to capturing the Aegis of Champions.
Throughout the main event, it seemed like nothing could stand in their way. They dictated the pace of the whole tournament as soon as they clinched first place at the group stage, making other teams look like they were years behind the metagame that they had understood and taken hold of from the get-go. Only Team Secret, their eventual opponents in the Grand Finals, were able to even make them bleed at all by beating them once in the upper bracket of TI11.
MATUMBAMAN’s Swan Song
Before the Grand Finals, though, Team Liquid faced off against Team Secret, in a battle for the last slot in the final round of the playoffs. For the former, it was about proving that their decision to leave their former organization Alliance to join Liquid was the right one. It was also about Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen’s last dance at TI11, as he had announced his intention to retire from professional play at the main event itself.
For Team Secret, on the other hand, it was another chance for the storied organization to finally make the Grand Finals of The International. Indeed, team captain and owner Clement “Puppey” Ivanov was one of two remaining former champions when the final weekend rolled around, alongside MATUMBAMAN, who won with Liquid at TI7.
The rest of the roster had plenty to play for. Michal “Nisha” Jankowski had been playing at a high level for a few years, but had yet to win an International despite his immense talent. Offlaner Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok, no stranger to the big stage after coming in second place at TI6 with Digital Chaos, likewise wanted to finally obtain the championship for himself.
Newcomer Remco “Crystallis” Arets sought to put the world on notice as one of the best carry players on the planet. And of course, there’s Baqyt “Zayac” Emiljanov, formerly of Virtus.pro. This man had been grinding away in the Eastern European scene for years, and now had found himself with a shot at ultimate glory.
Unfortunately for Team Liquid, their miracle lower bracket run was not to be. Though they were able to bounce back from a hard loss to Zayac’s Nyx Assassin in the first game, Puppey’s extremely farmed Enchantress was more than enough to put the series to bed in Game 3.
Still, for a squad that had to go through the last chance qualifier to even play at TI11, this effort was more than admirable. In fact, this roster has plenty of reason to believe they can run it back in the next Dota Pro Circuit season, after they find a suitable replacement for the outgoing MATUMBAMAN.
As for MATUMBAMAN himself, he can now kick back and relax after a storied pro Dota 2 career as former International champion, with four other top five finishes at the world championship event. He will go down as a legend of the game, having been a fan favorite for so long.
Tundra went into the playoffs at TI11 with an obvious swagger in their steps. They flexed their incredibly deep hero pool at the event without hesitation, picking whatever heroes they enjoyed playing and utilizing them to the absolute peak of their potential. Moreover, their playstyle was as clinical as it could be: clean, calculated, and almost flawless.
Disposing of teams like OG and Team Aster in the upper bracket, Sneyking and his crew brushed aside everyone in their path to the Grand Finals. Leaving a trail of absolute destruction in their wake, they cruised past their rivals in a manner reminiscent of OG’s dominance at TI9.
Their understanding of the metagame was just otherworldly, and their execution unmatched. To put things into perspective, they refused to pick Leshrac, one of the tournament’s most contested heroes, even up until the final game of the event. They didn’t even ban the hero, either, content to let others try their hand at the flavor of the month.
The result? Not a single loss against Leshrac at the main event. It was as if they dared everyone they faced to choose the easiest path, only to show them that they didn’t need the “forbidden fruit” in order to succeed. Instead, Tundra simply played their brand of Dota, whether or not the opposing team picked overpowered heroes.
In the words of carry player Oliver “skiter” Lepko, Tundra certainly thought that they could win it all at TI11, but noted that they didn’t think “it would be so easy”. Indeed, every single member of the squad unlocked a level of power in Singapore that few even thought they possessed.
Their newfound strength would manifest in a clean sweep of the Grand Finals against Team Secret, three games to none. Tundra were in complete and utter control of the series from start to finish, both in terms of their drafting and their gameplay.
The first game saw them immediately setting the tone for the matchup, grabbing most of their comfort picks and destroying Secret’s gameplan without breaking a sweat. Skiter was able to get his hands on his Naga Siren, while Neta “33” Shapira played the offlane Tidehunter. 33 in particular was just unstoppable throughout Game 1, thanks to the ridiculous damage reduction from Wraith Pact, Mage Slayer, Pipe of Insight, and Kraken Shell.
Team Secret had no answers to Tundra in the first game, even after picking three of the most coveted heroes in the tournament in Leshrac, Enigma, and Pudge. They looked utterly lost and unable to put up a fight, which would eventually carry over to the next two games.
Game 2 was when Tundra really put the pedal to the metal. Drafting Arc Warden for Nine in the middle lane, they shrugged off a commendable recovery by Secret in the laning phase, after Puppey and his squad lost the laning stage early on. The Bristleback pick on the side of Secret just didn’t matter at all in the late game, with things like Sneyking’s Sun Ray (as Phoenix) and the supreme synergy between Nine, skiter (as Chaos Knight), and Martin “Saksa” Sazdov (as Marci).
The third game looked a lot closer than it actually was, with Nisha in particular practically carrying the entirety of Team Secret on his back and then some. His Ember Spirit was the sole damage dealer on the team throughout most of the game, keeping Tundra at bay with his fantastic performance on the hero. True enough, the rest of his teammates struggled mightily against the heroes on the side of Tundra, with 33’s Beastmaster being a nasty thorn in their side.
Alas, not even Nisha’s heroic play could prevent the inevitable. With skiter’s Medusa bearing down upon them, there was little that Secret could do to save the game, and therefore, the series. The second title thus eludes Puppey once more, but considering Team Secret’s consistency over the last three Internationals (fourth, third, and second), we’re sure this won’t be the last we’ll see of him at the event.
As for Tundra, this couldn’t be a better end to their long campaign this DPC season. After plenty of ups and downs throughout the year, they now celebrate as the new kings of the Dota world. Sneyking in particular is now an International champion after playing for 15 years, and with so, so many different teams throughout his career. For him to have persevered this long is a testament to his dedication and drive to become one of the best players in the world.
Saksa also finally gets his International title, after coming so close to winning six years ago. As one of the most versatile support players to ever grace the game, he is a hundred percent deserving of this result at TI11
The same goes for 33, whose incredible skill and game sense have both been on display since his time under Peter “ppd” Dager’s tutelage in OpTic Gaming. Winning here proves many times over that he is absolutely one of the most dangerous opponents to face out there.
And then, there’s skiter and Nine, the two members of the roster who had their first appearance at The International this year. What a story for these two, comparable to even those of players like Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen. Capturing the Aegis of Champions without any prior experience at The International is no easy feat, but they showed poise and confidence beyond what their resume would suggest.
With TI11 now over, the teams can rest and prepare for the upcoming DPC season.