Screenshot via Twitch
After missing December's Boston Major and struggling the past few months to stay abreast of a tough European Dota 2 scene, it looked like Team Liquid might have to go through the gauntlet of European qualifying for the upcoming Kiev Major. Performing well at the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season Three finals was their best hope at avoiding such a fate.
Liquid took out The International 6 winners Wings Gaming, and Southeast Asia squad TNC Pro Team, on its way to the finals, where they faced VGJ, who knocked off tournament favourite OG 2-1 in the semifinals.
The home crowd in Shanghai, China was rooting for VGJ, a new Chinese all-star squad, but in game three a disconcerting silence fell over it.
And of course, it wouldn't be a finals without camera operator issues. This time, it was an intense focus on VGJ's desperate efforts to take down a tower, rather than Team Liquid destroying the ancient and winning the game.
Liquid went on to take the series, and a top prize of $US135,000 ($175,919). More importantly, the win at StarSeries almost guarantees them an invite to the upcoming Kiev Major. Though there are no strict requirements for being given a direct invite, as opposed to earning one through qualifiers, winning a major tournament right before a major tends to do it.
Team Liquid looked confident and self-assured, bolstered by new talent like Maroun "GH" Merhej, who had an impressive performance on Wisp in the final match of the series, alongside mid Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi's surprise Anti-Mage pickup. Liquid's struggles in the past -- finding room for cores, keeping pace with a faster tempo of Dota -- weren't apparent. They didn't look like the same team that fell in the Boston qualifiers, and just might be standing on center-stage again in Kiev in a few short months.