rOtk lives up to his word, VG progress

Vici Gaming went head-to-head with Alliance in the D2L semifinals today, taking a 2-1 victory and moving on to the grand finals. We summarize the action to keep you up-to-date as the D2L grand finals rapidly approach.
Shots fired: rOtk lays down the gauntlet for his close friend

Game 1

At first, game one appeared to open with a typical draft. Alliance removed Enchantress, who VG has played or banned in two-thirds of their games through late December. VG responded with an honorary Nature's Prophet ban. The draft continued without surprises as VG picked up Outworld Devourer for the laning advantage and pure damage to counter the mid Dragon Knight. However, Alliance's third pick was a Treant Protector, a hero Akke had never before run in a professional game. Continuing a core-heavy draft, Alliance also picked up a Viper.

Lastly, Alliance drafted a complete dark horse when they secured a farming Tuskar for their final pick, bringing Tuskar's recorded games in the history of competitive DotA 2 up to a mere thirty.

The pregame was passive, with VG taking time to scout their own forest. They, along with the audience, did not know what to expect from the Tuskar. As the laning phase began, VG fielded Luna and Venomancer in the safe lane with a jungling Chen--playing right into Alliance's aggressive trilane who took first blood on Sylar's Luna only one minute into the game. Wisp's jutted into lane from the fog cover by tethering onto Treant in coordintion with Tusk's ice shards, demolishing Luna as Venomancer was forced to watch from under the tower.

The Trio walk away from their First Blood on the Luna

Attempting to respond, VG rotated Chen into lane a minute later, but Alliance showed their superior game sense and fell back, waiting for another opportunity to strike. Meanwhile, S4 managed to keep an impressive hold on his lane against Super's OD, maintaining nearly even creep scores.

Three minutes into the game, the Alliance found their stride and set the pace for the remainder of the laning phase, killing Sylar again the same way they did the first time. This opened up complete lane domination, ending in several back-to-back kills on Luna Venomancer under the shadow of the tier on. Surprisingly, VG did not adapt and made no attempt to rotate Luna out.

VG had their first break in the top lane with an incredible set of TP reactions, Clockwerk landed some solid cogs, allowing VG to take out Treant and force Alliance to retreat without losing any heroes themselves.

Nevertheless, at ten minutes, there was a 2500 gold and one tower advantage going Alliance's way. One minute later, Alliance invaded between VG's mid tier one and tier two, taking the fight 3 for 1 and helping themselves to the tier one tower while they're at it. Super managed to grab the Wisp with a one-man Sanity's Eclipse to open the fight, which left VG without any significant team presence as the rest of Alliance rolled in.

Even before EGM reached level six yet, and Alliance had a three tower advantage and double VG's kills. They pushed through the tier 2 bottom just short of 13 minutes before VG had taken a single tier 1. The game had simply gotten out of their control. From this point forward VG had no control, and they were forced to call GG after they failed to contest Roshan, leading to their own team being wiped and solidifying Alliance's first game win.

After the game, rOtK stated that VG had never seen this strategy and were simply unable to adjust well. In the future, he says, they'll be able to adjust better to this strategy.

Game 2

After a few significant game delays due to technical problems, game number two began with a much more typical draft from both teams. VG continued to honor-ban Nature's Prophet, and draft a mid-game transition strategy. They attempted to get quick levels and push hard with Venomancer/Pugna, using Bounty Hunter for tempo control. They also grabbed their most-played hero: Rubick (for fy).

Alliance drafted extremely typically, aiming to make space for Bulldog's Lone Druid by playing an aggressive mid game with Loda's Weaver and Akke's Chen. Giving Admiral Bulldog sufficient farm is the name of the game for their strategy.

As the game commenced, this was emphasized as Alliance threw a curveball at VG by sending Loda to the suicide lane on Weaver; allowing Bulldog to safelane farm with a semi-rotating support assisting him. Shadow Demon (EGM), however, did not plan on staying in lane for long. Meanwhile, VG fielded a defensive trilane with rOtK's Bounty Hunter offlane and Super's Dragon Knight mid.

Just short of two minutes, EGM and Akke smoke gank toward mid, but were revealed by rOtK under protection of Shadow Walk. In a stroke of luck, EGM dropped a sentry ward just as rOtk arrived, allowing EGM to disrupt him and take the first blood. Super was left alone as the dire supports returned to the Jungle, carrying rOtK's head. The next attempt at 3:30 ran similarly, but this time Bounty Hunter narrowly escaped the range of disruption as he is dusted. He managed to warn Super of the gank attempt, sending EGM and Akke back to the jungle without a kill.

Perfectly timed Sentry revealed and trapped the roaming rOtK

However, Loda could not suffiently farm against VG's trilane; he had killed just three creeps by 5:00 and his tower was about to drop. Alliance used their Glyph, but did not rotate to defend the tower as it fell. S4 teleported in just as the tower dropped, too late to save the lane but not too late to land a two-man Dream Coil near the secret shop, giving Alliance a double kill for their lost tier 1 tower.

Akke died in mid lane seconds later, giving VG their first kill. At 6:00, VG led in gold but Alliance led in experience. Bulldog remained more or less uninterrupted in his farming as the VG's wandering eyes started looking for quick towers.

After a few minutes of relatively little activity, VG pushed bottom again instead of rotating, they took the tier two at around 8:00. Alliance, unable to contest VG's superior early game push and teamfight, try to push the tier one top in exchange, but were forced back before the tower even reached half health.

VG's five man lineup and push was starting to feel unstoppable. They continued a heavy four-or-five-man push to keep Alliance on the back foot. Even with two towers, VG actually only held a 1500 gold experience at the time.

Pugna (Sylar) rushed a very early meckanism with his safelane farm, and got it by 9:00. They took another uncontested tower, this time the tier 1 mid. Bulldog was left almost completely unharassed, as was Loda, but VG took another free tier two as they push through mid at 10:30. Bulldog sats on 70 last hits in 10 minutes. Was that fast enough to turn the momentum of this game, though?

Bulldog's farming would amount to an obvious Radiance, but until he got it, Alliance had no response to the VG four-man rotations. Vici Gaming, was starting to completely fall behind in terms of levels. Their four-man rotations were costing them significant EXP; at 11:00 they were 4,000 XP behind. Twelve minutes in, Alliance was down to a single outer-tier tower as they traded off their tier one top for VG's tier one bottom (Alliance's first tower). Shortly after, Alliance lost their last outer tower, completely unable to find a defense against Vici's strong push; upon killing the Spirit Bear and forcing Bulldog back, VG took their first tier three.

At 17 minutes VG held a stagnant gold lead but continued to lose experience as they stayed grouped while Alliance continued to split farm, aiming for late game. EGM dropped fy/Sylar and while he distracted three heroes, Bulldog farmed his Radiance bottom. Unfortunately for his team, his TP was on cooldown as VG pushed into their base.

Puck jumped in with a silence, died, and moved in with an immediate buyback. Loda dropped to a long stun, and Bulldog moved in with the Radiance damage. The bear fell and was resummond as VG retreated. ROtK sneaked another kill from Alliance's ranks as his team fell back, but Puck grabs the Rubick as sneaking around the secret shop. Alliance now had the kill advantage and kept all of their racks.

Alliance couldn't do enough damage to force back VG when they pushed in for a 23 minute tier 3 tower. However, S4 landed a strong Waning Rift/Illusory Orb combo to force VG out while Bulldog and Loda died, saving their top racks and buying additional time. They were simply running on borrowed time, hoping to keep the game going long enough for their superior late game to pull them out.

VG continued to push the top lane every 100 seconds or so, waiting each time for DK's ult. Alliance gave up the top melee racks at 26 minutes in exchange for four of VG's heroes. Alliance still held the experience lead, although a 12,000 gold lead was in favor VG. VG was only down two towers, but Alliance was starting to feel stronger: the gold lead had--for the first time in the game-- begun to swing back in Alliance's favor although it was still 10,000 away from even.

Alliance pushed out their lanes and tried to force an engagement at the mid tier one. Running as a five man with superior levels, they engaged, but were unable to take any heroes during Loda's BKB. Meanwhile, Radiance wielding Spirit Bear kept lanes pushed out to give Alliance space to engage.

At 30:00 VG moved into the Rosh Pit to force an engagement. Alliance was aware as Roshan's HP running dangerously low, but as they moved in, Loda gets killed immediately. He buys back and moves toward Roshan as his team battled. Pugna grabbed Aegis as Alliance tried to engage a second time, but could not contest and lost three heroes. VG moved into the base and took the last Tier 3 Towers while Puck and SD respawned. VG moved into Alliance's Base and while Alliance killed two heroes, between Aegis and DK's tank, they was unable to sustain the fight and eventually fell, calling GG at 33:30.The damage just wasn't there, and VG's lead was too significant to overcome. Super ended the game unkilled with a record of 5-0-11

The series will reach a game #3.

Game 3

This draft, Alliance ran a tankyard, aiming to stack negative armor from Dazzle, Slardar and Bristleback, along with the survivability of a high-HP team with Abaddon and Dazzle, to make long fights to wear VG down.

VG drafted their highest-priority hero for the last month: Enchantress (whom they picked or banned in more than two thirds of their games since mid-December). They would be fielding superior lane presence and a stronger ganking lineup, presumably hoping to pick and push through the early and mid game to victory.

This time, Vici Gaming was the side to mix up the laning phase, sending Slyar to mid on the Lone Druid to counter S4's Outworld Devourer and bringing Super to safelane farm the Storm. With Enchantress in the nearby jungle, this semi-trilane could lead to early kills. Alliance opted for a 2-1-2, hoping to maximize their experience and get their negative armor spells up as quickly as possible for a smooth mid-game transition.

From the start, the lanes did not go Alliance's way: top lane was completely zoned out, desperately trying to gain levels. Meanwhile, mid lane went the way of Sylar, who managed to handle S4's OD extremely well. rOtK kept a decent hold on his lane, not giving up too much, and managing to get his levels.
S4 backs away in mid lane

An early gank attempt on EGM's Abaddon appeared to be first-blood material but ended in a perfectly executed self-deny, despite a well-placed smoke rotation from VG's Enchantress. The victory didn't taste sweet for long, as a two-man Gale led to Storm and Venomancer taking First Blood against Abaddon, then cleaned up the Bristleback, giving VG unequivocal victory in the top lane. Loda did manage to keep himself on top of the last hits'chart throughout the early game but it was a small consolation as both mid and top began to slide out of Alliance's control.

The early game continued relatively uneventfully until 10:20, when a three-man smoke wound through Alliance's secret shop and led to another top-lane wipe and a free tower. VG kept forcing the issue on the tier two, but Alliance mass-reacted and forced VG back. Loda managed to grab Clockwerk and the Spirit Bear. ROtK cogs were uncharacteristically slow, trapping Slardar in with him; resulting in a lost fight and VG's top tier one tower dropping.

Shortly after, Loda got caught out pushing into the bottom tier one while Sylar took Alliance's tier two tower mid. At this point, VG began to take a significant advantage.

Fenrir had his eyes on Roshan, playing a particularly cheeky Medallion of Courage plus Plague Wards game. However, Loda spotted him in the woods to the West of the Rosh Pit and moved in for the kill. VG reacted immdiately and managed to turn the situation around into a four-man wipe, followed by a free Roshan within 17 minutes.

The kill on Bristleback makes it a 4-man Wipe

Sylar's radiance came out at 17 minutes with a 10,000 gold lead and a 7,500 experience lead. Alliance was looking extremely weak--they felt the need to keep up pressure because they did not have a team that could play late from behind, but they also didn't have their core items up. They were up against a rOtK and a hard place, and they threw out smoke attempt after smoke attempt but came up with nothing to show... or less.

Alliance was being forced to work as four or five since every time one of them moved away from the pack, he was picked off by Clockwerk or Storm. Loda died in just such a way at 18:30, followed by his tier 2 bottom tower. VG pushed into the Tier three, forcing out a glyph and then retreated.

Just after 20:00, VG took a tier 2 top and successfully engaged Alliance, losing only one hero and bringing the kill count up to 16:4 in favor of VG (along with nearly 20,000 gold advantage). Alliance moved forward with another smoke attempt, hoping to find anything to give them a foothold. It proved insufficient and shortly after, a trans-river hookshot led to a full team wipe against Alliance, who called GG right after.

Alliance will move to the loser's bracket while Vici Gaming will move on to the Winners Bracket Finals against either Fnatic or, who are playing this evening. ROtK stated he hopes to play against Fnatic, but only time will tell which teams will move on to the pinnacle of the D2L playoffs.