An epic game three between OG and Ad Finem in the Grand Finals of this weekend's premier Dota 2 tournament showed both teams were going to leave everything they had on the stage that night. While the superior OG eventually took the series 3-1, winning $US1,000,000 ($1,341,950), it wasn't before their Greek opponents could etch their names into Dota 2 history.
Facing off in a best-of-five series after both teams managed to convincingly win their respective sides of the bracket, it seemed like everything might go OG's way, with their Greek opponents struggling to mount a strong resistance to the winners of two previous Valve-sponsored Dota 2 Majors. Ad Finem had already lost to OG once before during the group stage, and after falling two games behind in the grand finals, their Cinderella performance seemed destined to end early.
— Matthew Bailey (@Cyborgmatt) December 11, 2016
But by game three, Ad Finem had dug their glass heels and refused to be pushed aside. An 80 minute struggle between both sides, even when most pro Dota 2 matches are won or lost within the first 40, saw the Greek up-and-comers take every beating OG could offer up and return it in kind.
Every time it seemed like the latter had solidified momentum on their side, the former would find a way to claw some back. A small team from a small island found a way to keep up with the superior OG despite being bruised, bloodied, and sustaining heavy losses fight after fight.
The already tense match hit a new level of suspense when Ad Finem's position one player, Omar " Madara" Dabachach, picked up a Divine Rapier during the 63rd minute — a hail marry play designed to catch OG by surprise and force them on to the back foot.
What makes a Divine Rapier so risky is that, despite being the most powerful item in the game, it's also incredibly expensive and is automatically dropped upon death, leaving it open to being captured by the enemy.
And that's exactly what happened. After a good team fight in which Madara, Rapier in hand, shredded OG, and was able to create time and space to decimate his opponent's base and secure Mega Creeps for his team, OG was able to get the jump on him as he retreated into the woods and win the Rapier in the process.
It was enough to give spectators in the theatre and at home whiplash with how quickly both teams seemed to be trading advantages. Especially when, minutes later, a perfectly time Echo Slam by Ad Finem's Earthshaker allowed the team to win the Rapier right back.
Sort of like watching two teams trade interceptions and fumbles in a close football game, each new development seemed more incredible than the last. Dota 2 is a game that gets less well defined the longer it goes on.
Heroes get more powerful, objectives become fewer and farther between, and players have to make decisions in circumstances they're less likely to have experienced before. That's why games that go 60 minutes, let alone 80, feel so much less scripted.
Some last minute cheekiness from Ad Finem eventually helped them secure victory.
Their Earthshaker, helmed by Verros "Maybe Next Time" Apostolos, used a shadow blade to go invisible and sneak into OG's base undetected to finish the job. By the time they realised he was there and tried to bring him down, it was too late. Ad Finem had won, forcing a game four, and an eruption of cheers and excitement from the audience.
— SirActionSlacks (@SirActionSlacks) December 11, 2016
It's easy to see the parallels to Rocky in Ad Finem's achievement. They came from almost complete obscurity on the international scene to making a big splash in one of the top tournaments of the year.
Prior to the Boston Major, the team had never competed in a Valve event before, much less won more than a couple thousand in prize money. But they left last night in second place with an extra $US500,000 ($670,975) in their pockets against opponents with far more experience at the top tiers of Dota 2.
— Nahaz (@NahazDota) December 10, 2016
But the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, in which a few thousand Greeks stood up to an invading Persian army of over 100,000, sacrificing themselves in the process, also feels appropriate.
Ad Finem didn't spill any blood tonight, and there's no narrative in which OG could be construed as villains, but the nerve and conviction alone that led the underdogs to hang on and beat back their opponents advance, one after another, was present everywhere you looked.
Even if Ad Finem doesn't ever quite have another night like that one, and there's no reason yet to believe they won't, their game three will go down as one of the best Grand Finals matches in the still relatively young history of the game.
You can watch the full match below.