The first day of the WePlay! Bukovel Minor Group Stage saw Geek Fam and Royal Never Give Up (RNG) breezing past Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) and Team Spirit in Group A. In Group B, Fighting PandaS pulled off an upset against Nigma Esports while Gambit Esports easily outclassed FURIA Esports.
The day ended with Nigma easily eliminating FURIA, but the tournament favorites are now looking very vulnerable.
Geek Fam dominate NiP, 2-0 (Group A match 1)
NiP opened the first series of the day with a core duo of Slark for Nico “Gunnar” Lopez and Templar Assassin for Jason “TANNER” Weedon, while Geek Fam countered with a last pick Huskar for Karl “Karl” Jayme to partner the Gyrocopter of Marc Polo “Raven” Fausto.
Despite Geek Fam having the early snowball lineup with the Huskar, NiP came out of the laning phase with the lead thanks to a 8-1 kill advantage at the 16-minute mark. However, Geek Fam’s cores were still able to lead in farm in spite of the huge deficit their team was under.
With their lineup in fighting shape despite the huge kill gap, Geek Fam capitalized on a string of missteps from NiP to open up their base with their five-man deathball lineup. While the North American squad was able to get some rebuttal kills as their opponent were on the retreat, their Ancient was already left exposed.
A desperate bid to claw themselves back into the game saw Tanner snatch the Aegis from a Geek Fam Rosh attempt, but he was killed twice in the ensuing fight. That eventually gave the Southeast Asian squad the opening they needed to close out the game in under 40 minutes.
NiP looked to bounce back in the second game with Gunnar on Morphling and Tanner on Shadow Fiend, while Geek Fam opted for a tri-core of Razor for Raven, Outworld Devourer for Karl, and an offlane Night Stalker for Carlo “Kuku” Palad.
The laning phase ended with both teams on relatively even footing, but an ill-advised dive by NiP into Geek Fam’s Tier 1 tower to take down Kuku ended in disaster. While the North American squad did get the kill on the enemy offlaner, Karl was able to teleport in and get a Triple Kill in rebuttal, thus giving him the momentum he needed to start taking over for his team.
Despite their best efforts, NiP simply could not stand up against Geek Fam in a straight-up five-on-five fight. The Southeast Asian squad later found their opportunity to break open their opponents’ base when Gunnar overextended during a skirmish in the midlane.
Both Raven and Karl scored Triple Kills in back-to-back teamfight wins for Geek Fam, which then allowed them to secure the 2-0 sweep over NiP after 35 minutes.
RNG breeze past Team Spirit, 2-0 (Group A match 2)
RNG opened the second series of the day with a strong tri-core of Phantom Lancer for Du “Monet” Peng, a mid Puck for Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong, and an offlane Abbadon for Su ‘Flyby” Lei. Meanwhile, Spirit opted for a 4-protect-1 lineup headed by Igor “iLTW” Filatov on Terrorblade and Egor “Ergon” Kozlov on a Quas-Wex mid Invoker.
RNG come out of the laning phase with a significant lead, as all their cores were able to have a good start in the lanes, while only iLTW was the only one with sufficient farm on the side of Spirit. Xue “September” Zhichuan’s Position 4 Disruptor was instrumental in winning the early fights and heavily swinging the momentum in RNG’s favor.
With Spirit’s game plan in disarray, it didn’t take long for RNG to take a commanding lead in the series. The Chinese team closed out game one in just 23 minutes, with September notably finishing with a 10-2-13 KDA.
Spirit drafted yet another 4-protect-1 lineup for game two, with iLTW on Antimage this time and Ergon on a mid Magnus backing him up. RNG countered with a high-damage core duo of a carry Tiny for Monet and Outworld Devourer for Setsu.
RNG came out of the laning phase with a big lead thanks to their strong laning heroes. That allowed them to take map control early, as they took down all of Spirit’s Tier 1 towers down by the 12-minute mark and claimed a lane of barracks a mere 15 minutes into the game.
Despite Spirit’s best efforts to defend, they looked utterly powerless as RNG easily secured the 2-0 series sweep in just 17 minutes.
Fighting PandaS upset Nigma Esports, 2-1 (Group B match 1)
FP opened with a strong ranged core duo of Drow Ranger for Jacky “EternalEnvy” Mao and Jonathan “Bryle” De Guia on Shadow Fiend. Meanwhile, Nigma ran with an off-meta core duo of their own of Arc Warden for Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and a mid Lina for Aliwi “w33” Omar.
Nigma came out of the laning phase with a significant lead, as w33 crushed Bryle in the mid lane while Miracle was given enough free farm to get a nine-minute Hand of Midas.
Bryle was able to back from his horrendous start to the game to lead his team in farm, as Nigma started to slow down the pace of the game. That just played into FP’s plans for a turnaround, however, as their lineup eventually got strong enough to take the fight to their opponents.
Even if Miracle was handily topping the net worth charts, Nigma was unable to take on the FP lineup in a straight-up five-on-five engagement so they opted to split-push and draw the game out further. However, Nigma got repeatedly caught out by their opponents and were put up against the ropes.
After FP was able to claim mega creeps, Nigma desperately tried to contest FP’s ensuing Rosh attempt to try and claw themselves back in the game. That ended disastrously for the European squad, with FP seizing on that opportunity to take game one of the series despite their slow start.
Nigma looked to bounce back in game two with a much more active core duo of Ember Spirit for Miracle and Templar Assassin for w33, while FP ran with Drow Ranger for EternalEnvy and Shadow Fiend for Bryle once more.
FP had a much better laning phase compared to the one they had in game one, but Nigma still came out with an advantage that they did not squander this time. Miracle put on a stellar performance in the ensuing midgame fights, notching kill after kill as his team took a commanding lead.
FP looked to give themselves a better fighting chance by attempting a smoke gank on Nigma in the middle lane, but that only gave their opponents the opening to tie the series up after 23 minutes.
In the deciding game of the series, FP went for a tri-core of Phantom Lancer for EternalEnvy, Storm Spirit for Bryle, and an offlane Abbadon for Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu. Meanwhile, Nigma opted for an unusual carry Clinkz for Miracle to go with Templar Assassin for w33 and Underlord for Ivan “MinD_ControL” Ivanov.
The laning phase ended with both teams on relatively equal footing and content to trade pickoffs well into the midgame, but that played into FP’s hands as Bryle was beginning to snowball out of control.
The questionable Clinkz pick for Nigma had little impact on the ensuing fights, as he and the rest of his team could do little to stop Bryle from taking over and giving FP a decisive lead.
While Nigma did their best to repel their opponents’ relentless assault on their base, FP eventually closed the game out after 34 minutes to pull off a 2-1 upset over the tournament favorites.
Gambit Esports outclass FURIA Esports, 2-0 (Group B match 2)
Gambit opened game one with a tri-core of Bloodseeker for Kiyalbek “dream`” Tayirov, Magnus for Danil “gpk” Skutin, and Dark Seer for Shachlo. Meanwhile, FURIA ran with a 4-protect-1 lineup headlined by Terrorblade for Leonardo “RdO” Fernandes, with Henry “Murdoc” Felipe on Kunkka to back him up.
FURIA came out of the laning phase with a slight advantage, as dream was underleved and had his farm slowed down while RdO was free to farm to his heart’s content. Gpk picked up the slack for his team however, as he led Gambit in aggressive maneuvers around the map and racked up most of the kills they got.
Gambit seemed more than alright with letting the enemy Terrorblade continue to farm even as his teammates were repeatedly getting killed while making space for him. The one time Terrorblade joined his team in taking a fight by the bottom Outpost, however, they got teamwiped and allowed Gambit to easily secure the game one win after 31 minutes.
FURIA picked up Terrorblade for RdO once more in game two, with Murdoc on Ember Spirit as a secondary core this time. Gambit countered with a facerush lineup headed by dream on Ursa, gpk on Templar Assassin, and Maxim “Shachlo” Abramovskikh on an offlane Tiny.
Gambit held the lead after the laning phase again and never looked back, as Dream took over the top lane while Gpk was given free rein to farm mid. With their lineup online, Gambit rampaged across the map and racked up kill after kill on FURIA’s heroes.
While RDO’s Terrorblade was once again allowed to farm while his teammates were being slaughtered, he could do little to stop Gambit from eventually securing the series sweep in just under 24 minutes.
Nigma eliminate FURIA, 2-0 (Group B elimination match 1)
Miracle Ember, w33 Lina / RDO safelane Magnus, Murdoc Viper, NS-ART offlane Night Stalker
Nigma opened the last series of the day with a high-damage core duo of Ember Spirit for Miracle and Templar Assassin for w33. Meanwhile, FURIA opted for a tri-core of a safelane Magnus for RdO, Viper for Murdoc, and an offlane Night Stalker for Felipe “NS-ART” Costa.
The laning phase ended with both teams on relatively even ground, with FURIA seemingly getting the edge over their opponents in straight-up teamfights. However, Nigma slowly pulled ahead as their cores got more farm and racked up pickoffs around the map.
Miracle’s Ember Spirit swung the game heavily in Nigma’s favor, as his daring initiations gave his teammates space to take down Furia’s lineup in the crucial teamfights.
FURIA did their best to defend their base from Nigma’s onslaught, but the latter was eventually able to grind out a 47-minute victory in game one of their elimination match.
FURIA looked to take it late in game two, with RdO on Morphling, Murdoc on Magnus, and NS-ART on an offlane Night Stalker once again. However, Nigma countered with a last pick Huskar for w33 to exploit their opponents’ weak early game and put Miracle on Slark as a lategame insurance.
The surprise Huskar pick worked out perfectly for Nigma, as FURIA could do little to stop w33 from leading his team in claiming a lane of barracks a mere 20 minutes into the game. It didn’t take long for them to force the GG call from their opponents and securing the series sweep.
FURIA is the first team to be eliminated from the Bukovel Minor, and will be going home with US$12,000 and 40 Dota Pro Circuit points in consolation.
Meanwhile, Nigma will be trying to keep their tournament hopes alive in the Group B Decider Match where they will face off with the loser of the match between FP and Gambit.