Team Liquid topped Group C of the MDL Chengdu Major Group Stage with a rout of Chinese Team Aster and an upset against North American favorites Evil Geniuses (EG) to secure a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.
EG outclass Team Adroit, 2-0 (Group C Opening Match)
EG began their campaign at the Chengdu Major against Southeast Asian Team Adroit. Game one saw both teams run with high-mobility core duos, with EG picking Faceless Void for Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Ember Spirit for Abed Azel “Abed” Yusop while Adroit had Bloodseeker for John Anthony “Natsumi-” Vargas and Slark for Mc Nicholson “Mac” Villanueva.
While Adroit didn’t flinch against their more heralded opponents and were aggressive early, EG was able to weather their advance and apply pressure of their own. Adroit were sent reeling by EG’s continued assault, and were forced to call GG after 34 minutes.
The SEA squad pinned their hopes on Natsumi’s Phantom Assassin, empowered by Marvin “Boombacs” Rushton on Magnus, to tie the series up for them while EG put Arteezy on Leshrac and Abed on Outworld Devourer. Despite Adroit having a farmed Phantom Assassin and Arteezy having a limited impact on the game, Abed dominated in teamfights to secure the series for EG.
Liquid rout Team Aster, 2-0 (Group C Opening Match)
Meanwhile, Liquid went up against Team Aster in the other opening match of the group. The Chinese squad opened with a strong core duo of Leshrac for Song “Sccc” Chun and Templar Assassin for Kee Chyuan “ChYuan” Ng, while their opponents pulled out Huskar for Maximilian “qojqva” Bröcker and Drow Ranger for Michael “miCKe” Vu.
While Aster were able to survive the midgane power spike of Liquid’s Huskar-Drow duo, the European squad was still able to remain strong in the lategame and grind their opponents to submission after 53 minutes.
Aster picked up the Drow Ranger for themselves in game two, but Liquid countered with Lycan Leshrac, along with some off-meta picks in Mars for Samuel “Boxi” Svahn and Vengeful Spirit for Tommy “Taiga” Le.
With Aster’s Drow strat taking time to come online, Liquid pressured their opponents early and often — with Mars and Vengeful Spirit key in winning the fights. Aster eventually succumbed to the onslaught, conceding the game and the series after 34 minutes.
Liquid upset EG, 2-1 (Group C Upper Bracket Match)
With momentum from their previous sweep of Adroit fueling them, EG went into the first game of their series against Liquid with a confident Alchemist pick for Arteezy against a core duo of Leshrac for miCKe and Templar Assassin for qoqjva.
While Liquid had a good laning phase, Abed’s Invoker was able to cause enough mayhem around the map to give Arteezy space to farm his core items. Once the Alchemist came online, there was little Liquid could do as EG cruised to a victory in the first game of the series.
Game two was more of a drawn-out affair as both teams picked up lategame hypercarries, with miCKe on Antimage and Arteezy on Arc Warden. Both teams remained on relatively even footing well into the midgame, but it was key pickoffs on EG’s teamfight control heroes in lategame clashes that let Liquid tie the series up after a 52-minute grinder.
With Liquid rolling with a Drow Ranger strat in the deciding game, EG opted for a strong melee tri-core of Chaos Knight for Arteezy, Kunkka for Abed, and Lycan for Ramzes. While the laning phase ended with both teams relatively even, EG predictably started taking over come midgame as soon as their cores hit their timings.
Despite a huge gold and XP deficit, Liquid was able to stall the game out long enough for miCKe on Drow Ranger and qojqva on Razor to outpace the EG cores. Boxi on Puck was instrumental in that effort, as he deftly combined his hero’s plus-90 damage talent with the bonus attack speed from Drow Ranger’s Trueshot Aura to split push and turn the pressure on EG.
With tension mounting, Arteezy led his team on an ill-advised dive on Liquid’s top barracks and was killed without buyback — thereby giving Liquid the chance to complete the upset and secure an Upper Bracket berth.
Liquid joins TNC Predator, Vici Gaming, and Invictus Gaming as the first teams to secure a spot in the Upper Bracket of the playoffs. Meanwhile, EG will be waiting for the winner of the Losers’ Match between Adroit and Aster to see who they will face in the Decider Match for the last Upper Bracket spot for Group C.