The European qualifiers have raged on over the past two days, leaving us with an unexpected contender cementing themselves as the first grand finalist for the coveted TI10 spot. Tundra Esports shattered expectations and now await their opponent to be decided in the lower bracket final. We also witnessed the first high-profile elimination from the EU qualifiers as Team Liquid fell at the hands of Nigma.
Just days ago we suggested that Tundra Esports were unlikely to get too far in the qualifiers, but maybe they could bring about a surprise elimination of one of the big boys in the lower bracket. But Tundra turned that idea on its head – tearing through the upper bracket without dropping a single game, even to respectable opponents OG and Liquid.
This surprising turn of events left their strongest opponents to battle through the lower bracket. The big names finally met in the lower bracket as Liquid faced off against Nigma. There has always been tension between the two teams, with Liquid fighting to break away from the shadow of their predecessors while Nigma aim to cement their independence from the org they defined their careers with. However, there was far more than a rivalry at stake here, as the loser would say goodbye to their chances of going to TI10.
Liquid started the series strong with an oppressive victory over Nigma. Samuel “Boxi” Svahn provided us with a blast from the past, bringing out a classic Axe build with no Aghanim’s Shards or Manta Style in sight. The good old Blink-Blademail combo produced seemingly infinite space for Michael “Micke” Vu’s Luna to farm, leading to him being 6-slotted at just 37 minutes. The sheer power of Liquid’s Luna and Lone Druid walked over Nigma, allowing them to tear down the ancient unopposed.
Game 2 went drastically differently as Amer “Miracle” Barkawi took over the game with his Storm Spirit after repeatedly forcing Boxi’s Pangolier out of lane. This left Micke to play without an inch of space, and unable to accomplish anything with his Chaos Knight, leaving him as another target for Nigma’s cores to prey upon. After the score reached a demoralizing 41-8, Liquid tapped out, sending the series to sudden death to avoid elimination.
Game 3 would be one of tension and team fights. Liquid claimed early map control while rallying around Boxi’s Timbersaw - at just 15 minutes, Liquid had taken Nigma’s safe lane tier two and filled their jungle with offensive wards. But Nigma would repeatedly break free of this map control thanks to the global presence of Nigma allowed them to make surprise attacks and swift escapes while farming and pushing aggressively. As Nigma played everywhere that Liquid wasn’t, they built a steady gold lead and gradually reclaimed map control.
After giving away a free Roshan kill to allow Miracle to rat some rax, it looked like Liquid could take control once more. However, after masterfully dodging Liquid all game, Nigma’s cores had become a powder keg of physical damage, amplified by IO’s Overcharge and Solar Crest. It took just one more team wipe before the fuse was lit and Nigma forced down the ancient in seconds, leaving them to fight one more day for their place at The International.
Despite the end of their time in this DPC season, Liquid gave us some truly spectacular moments at this qualifier, including a base defence that we’ll never forget. Captain and hard support Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi took game one against Chicken Fighters into his own hands with two Divine Rapiers on his Ancient Apparition, allowing him to turn a seemingly hopeless 2v3 defense into a decisive victory. This is a clip you seriously have to watch:
Nigma will rematch against OG once again, the final time these titans will clash for this DPC season. However, the matchup we expected to be the grand finals, will shockingly be the lower bracket final. Tundra will take on the winner of this series for the final chance to claim a coveted TI10 spot.