Starladder 13: Learning to Love Rat Dota

Jan 22, 2016

When the Shanghai Major invites were announced, many felt that Team Liquid had been snubbed by the decision to award Alliance a direct invite. “Alliance only won at WCA because it was a new patch,” the fans cried. “Liquid has beaten Alliance in three head to head matchups!” I’ll admit, I was one of these individuals. I figured that Starladder would be a watershed moment for [A]. They wouldn’t make it out of the group stage, fanboys would cry “B-but WCA!” and the question as to whether Liquid or Alliance deserved the direct invite would be settled. Well, I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong.

The Starladder organizers remade the match schedule after snowstorms prevented Alliance from arriving in Minsk on time.  Starladder 13 kicked off with an explosive match between Secret and Virtus Pro. While VP dominated the early game, they seemed to fall off at the end. Thanks to some clutch support plays by PieLieDie, Secret were able to gain control in the late game and take the win from VP.

Unfortunately, Secret went on to lose games to Vega Squadron and Liquid, placing third in their group. Ultimately they were the only team to put up a fight against well-rested Alliance, narrowly losing to [A] in the round of 6. I’ve been a reluctant Secret bandwagoner since the dissolution of EternalEnvy-era Cloud9. It’s getting hard to deny that they have seemed a little off kilter since Frankfurt.

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Alliance is B[A]ck at Starladder

After dropping games to NaVi and Team Spirit on Day 1, Alliance’s future in the tournament looked shaky. Their travel plans were interrupted due to weather and they were forced to play the first day of Starladder with very little warm-up time. It seems that all Alliance needed was a good nights’ sleep.  Upon their arrival on the second day they started dominating the tournament. [A] 2-0ed Liquid in the Semifinals, thus ending the contention over Shanghai invites. They ended up winning in a B03 finals by taking two games in a row off Evil Geniuses.

According to statsman Nahaz, Alliance’s win at Starladder boosted their rank by ELO rating from #12 – #1. Nahaz breaks it down in an excellent video here:

Some of Alliance’s signature heroes like Lone Druid have been buffed in 6.86 and are competitively viable again. Lone Druid went from being never picked to a priority for several teams and is one of AdmiralBulldog’s best heroes. However, s4 played his signature Puck hero in several Starladder games. Puck is generally considered not a great pick at the pro level. He made it look easy, dominating Sumail of EG at mid in the Grand Finals. EG tried to throw [A] a curveball by picking Jakiro, another hero that’s rarely seen in the current meta. AdmiralBulldog absolutely dominated the game, going 11-1-10 on his other signature hero, Nature’s Prophet. In Game 2 Alliance picked up Lone Druid for AdmiralBulldog and Chen, another strong hero in this meta, for Akke. [A] was ahead in gold and XP from the beginning and won the game in 34 minutes.

Perhaps I shouldn’t feel too badly about Secret’s current slump. After all, Alliance fans had to wait two years before their team returned to glory. It’s hard to not want to be an [A] fan after their stellar performance at Starladder. Well played to [A], glad to see the TI3 champs back with their old roster. You can check out English VODs on Starladder’s channel Alliance’s future is looking rosy indeed, at least during the duration of the 6.86 patch.

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Kara Jacobacci
Kara has been following professional DotA2 since the TI4 qualifiers. When not watching matches on Twitch, she can be found working (or attempting to find work) as a geologist and enjoying nature.
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