The International 2013 Grand Finals actually managed to live up to the hype. The finals pitted Na’Vi and Alliance against each other in what surprised the vast majority of viewers as a Sweden versus Ukraine matchup. Alliance managed to pull out the win in a deciding game 5 that came right down to the wire. My excitement over the grand finals of the 2013 International was tempered slightly once I came back to Earth and remembered that Alliance was indeed favored by many to win the tournament and bring home the Aegis. While I would respond with “Alliance” whenever prompted to predict the champion prior to the preliminaries, I didn’t truly believe that anyone would knock the Chinese off the throne, nor could I ever have imagined that there would be no Chinese teams finishing in the top three. Teams of varying playstyles were trumped by Na’Vi and Alliance repeatedly and decisively. LGD.cn, a team who traditionally boasts a very consistent squad, and mesh and play together extremely well, seemed to be outclassed entirely by the pressure put forth across the entire map from Alliance and Na’Vi. Even iG’s frantic but controlled pace of play looked weak in comparison to Alliance’s precision and Na’Vi’s extraordinary play making.
But transcending the East-West rivalry that so prominently pokes its head out at any tournament labeled “International” was the grand finals matchup between Na’Vi and Alliance. Both teams came into the tournament as fan favorites, partially for being teams that aren’t from Asia, but mostly because Alliance just doesn’t really lose matches and Na’Vi’s aggression and ability to make something from nothing makes them possibly the most fun to watch out of any team in the world.
The series put on display a variety of games, some of which were over at the draft (I’m looking at you S4 for letting Na’Vi draft Batrider/Bounty Hunter/Alchemist/Io/Enigma), and some of which came down to the wire. It managed to showcase incredibly skilled solo and team plays, such as Dendi’s triple kill mid on Templar Assassin, and S4′s triple root as Puck to stop teleports in the final match, which allowed his team to split push down two lanes of barracks. The moment was so incredible when Na’Vi tossed out the GG’s and Alliance became TI3 victors that Liquid’s own Bulba was witnessed simultaneously shouting, crying, and hugging the person next to him, supposedly because he was so inspired by AdmiralBulldog and his iconic Furion play.
Perhaps the most symbolic play of the grand finals was Dendi getting bashed by Roshan, allowing S4 to not only finish off Dendi’s Templar Assassin, but to get the last hit on Roshan and the Aegis of the Immortal as well. Dendi had essentially just cleaned up a teamfight and was looking to snowball on that advantage. Additionally, it showed that S4′s contribution to his team isn’t necessarily through his mid-lane play, but rather through his mid to late game decision making and positioning, which allowed him to capitalize on Dendi’s low health and ultimately swing the momentum of the game back in Alliance’s favor. Finally, the play shows that really no matter what happens, Alliance just tends to win games. Even after getting cleaned up by a farmed Templar Assassin, the stars aligned, S4 made his play, and Alliance was back in commanding position. The story of Alliance at The International 2013 was their incredible decision making and absolute refusal to lose a series. They simply outclassed their opponents throughout the entire tournament on the back of smart, skilled play, both at the individual and team levels.
With Alliance and Western DotA on top of the scene, we now look forward to Asia’s response. Personally, I’m quite excited.
Image courtesy of Teamliquid