They take home the $45,000 prize and look set to dominate in the pre-TI7 LANs


It seems group-stage success was a good indicator of performance in the recently concluded StarLadder i-League Invitational #2 – as  both grand finalists were teams that topped their respective groups.

Team Liquid came up against Invictus Gaming in their semi-final match in a hard-fought best-of-three that was full of back-and-forth nail-biters. Meanwhile, TNC Pro Team also worked their way into the grand finals through defeating Newbee in a convincing 2:0.  And what a Grand Final it was – stretching all the way to five games and seemingly developing its own ‘mini-meta’ the series was a joy to watch for fans of either team.

Game 1 was a one-sided stomp in favor of team Liquid, with Carlo “Kuku” Palad’s Ember Spirit on the mid-lane never able to get off the ground due to heavily focused rotations from Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi’s Tusk, and Marc Polo “Raven” Luis Fausto’s Lycan struggling in-lane. Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi easily took the game over with his Terrorblade, and TNC were forced to call GG in 25 minutes.

Most of the analysts started doubting TNC after such a hard loss, but the team proved to be very resilient – turning the tables and coming in with a very strong Game 3. Though the opening bans still played out the same way, this time TNC had drafted themselves a heavy stun-oriented lineup, picking Leshrac  and Sven first, followed by Sand King, Nyx Assassin and completing it with the Queen of Pain for Kuku, while Liquid pulled out minimal disables and ultimately an ineffective Phoenix pick. TNC’s picks proved highly successful as they could easily focus control on a target and score pick-off after pick-off. Raven’s farm efficiency and the constant jungle creep stacks kept him on top of the net worth for most of the game, while Kuku focused on creating chaos around the map – netting a 21/1/15 KDA by the end of the game. Miracle- going for a risky glass-cannon Shadowblade build while trying to pull off some unnecessarily flashy plays also caused him a few deaths.

In game 3 TNC decided to switch things up and play the late game, picking up Spectre and Tinker to help draw the game out. Liquid answered with a sunstrike-enabling line-up, picking Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Borislavov the Earthshaker and put KuroKy back on his signature Tusk – MinD_ContRoL was able to accrue so much farm for himself due to a 1v1 versus the Nyx Assassin, and by the time he could execute a full combo, he was enabling Miracle-‘s Invoker to score sunstrike after sunstrike – TNC’s lineup couldn’t stall long enough for Raven’s Spectre to come online, and they ultimately lost the game.

The back-and-forth series continued in Game 4, when the opening picks and bans finally switched up for TNC: they opted to ban out Maroun “GH” Merhej’s Keeper of the Light, and the Earthshaker – while also picking up Io for themselves. They picked Sven for Raven once again, while also drafting additional enablers to compliment the hero, such as Ogre Magi for the bloodlust and Batrider for additional crowd control. Team Liquid’s final pick, the Templar Assassin, was quite questionable considering all the refraction counters on the TNC lineup, and the pick did prove ineffective, as TNC were able to take their early advantage and snowball the game from there. Raven earned a 14/0/11 KDA and another impressive performance on Sven.

The final game of the series was probably the closest game as well – with no-one totally steamrolling the laning stage. The early game looked good for TNC, with early rotations from Samson “Sam_H” Enojosa Hidalgo’s offlane Slardar helping them net kills. However, the Io deny pick for Timothy “Tims” Randrup couldn’t be fully utilized this game due to not having a truly effective partner hero, and the TNC lineup didn’t have answers for Liquid’s last-pick Enigma who would eventually build into a BKB. The ballsy first-phase Invoker pick for Miracle- also proved effective, and once Liquid had reached critical mass, TNC could no longer stop them.

It was a hard-fought series, but ultimately only one team could come out on top.  Today Team Liquid was the better team. TNC Pro Team is looking very good coming into the busy Pre-TI7 season, reaching a Grand Final with this being their first LAN with a new captain, and taking down some impressive teams along the way. The depth of strategies TNC has shown also leaves room for so much potential – they’ve certainly shown they’re no one-trick pony here.

This is only the beginning, however. We all know this is only one step closer to The International.

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