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Pre-Game: So, here we are after months of play across the world, it's grand final time. Team DK have emerged unbeaten during the LAN finals, but Team Empire come into this with a ton of momentum behind them after wiping out both Invictus Gaming and Evil Geniuses in succession.
It's worth mentioning that DK have a 1-0 advantage in this Best of 5 due to the Winner's Bracket advantage. Not only that, but they come in relaxed and refreshed - and having been able to scope out Empire across the five games they've played today.
Vilat is introducing the teams currently before we hop into the draft, with Empire clearly the home town favourites. So the question is readers, who's got this? Do you feel DK is too strong, or are the Empire ready to strike back?
DRAFT: Empire are not messing about and neither are DK, with respect bans back and forth. Empire ban Enchantress and Wisp, with DK removing out Dazzle and Batrider. This opens the way for Empire to go for Lycan. DK's double pick is the combination that absolutely ruined iG - Invoker and Centaur Warrunner. Empire respond by going for Puck. It's a brave choice for Empire to go for that Lycan, given how effective DK have been at shutting it down. Shadow Shaman, Sand King, Naga Siren and Dragon Knight are the next bans.
Ancient Apparition is the next pick for DK, heading for that global synergy again. Empire are going for an interesting choice now, with Vengeful Spirit their third choice. Oh wow! DK go for FACELESS VOID!. Not sure if anybody had that down as being picked, as Empire use the chance to get their Dark Seer. The final bans are Visage and Witch Doctor (Clearly a ban with Void in mind by Empire.) The picks are rounded out by Disruptor for DK and Leshrac for Empire. It's go time!
DK: Invoker (iceiceice), Centaur Warrunner (Mushi), Anicent Apparition (LaNm), Faceless Void (Burning), Disruptor (MMY)
Empire: Lycan (Silent), Puck (Resolution), Vengeful Spirit (Vanskor), Dark Seer (Mag), Leshrac (ALWAYSWANNAFLY)
2:00: Early action on the bot lane as Mushi takes some heavy harras from Venge and Lycan.
FIRST BLOOD!: Resolution gives up the first blood to LaNm on the AA with a haste rune, although he deserves a ton of credit for dodging a ton of killing blows in the midst of that where most players would have died - including a dodged sunstrike.
3:00-5:00: DK are off to a great start as Resolution gets killed once again in the midlane but then an engagement on top sees Burning barely escape at the cost of Mag's life, with the top T1 dropping in the process. Advantage DK in the very early stages.
8:00: EMPIRE KILL FOUR! Resolution, take a bow. Some insane plays by him in the midlane leads to four kills and getting a glyph out of DK, just after DK had got a fourth kill up. That really turns thing around. Triple kill for Resolution's Puck.
9:30 Resolution gets a kill on Mushi but then dies to the rather sick Chrnosphere/Sunstrike combination from DK. Kills are traded elsewhere, AA and Vengeful dying respectively. This is frantic action. The crowd is raucously chanting for the hometown Empire.
11:00- DOUBLE KILL! Resolution is on fire this game, getting a double kill on the Centaur and AA for no loss. DK however fail in a gank as Lycan wolves scout out a smoke, but they push onto the T1 bottom. Both teams are active around the map, with Empire securing the T1 mid in response.
The pace has slowed down for a brief minute or two, or has it? A big fight top goes horribly wrong for Empire with Puck, Leshrac and Lycan all dying. A very rapid response TP'wise to the gank on Burning's Void. That's three big kills for DK on two core heroes, while also slowing the momentum Empire had built. Burning also dodges a big gank soon after. He's top of the Net Worth chart and yet to die. That's scary on a Void.
21:00 Aghanim's sceptre on BurNing's Void reducing the cooldown on his ultimate making it a constant threat. Chronosphere on Silent's Lycan followed by static and kinetic field proves lethal combo for Silent who falls, and that's not even including the additional firepower DK have at their disposal. Team Empire loses 3 in exchange for 2 in Dire jungle.
26:00 Empire clearly need to deal with void to stage a comeback. However, they're still in the game with both teams having all tier 2s still standing. Both teams still even for gold, but DK have only a 4k gold advantage. Empire are playing it cool for now, waiting for the perfect opportunity to try to kill BurNing's void.
Empire catch a break killing IceIceIce's Invoker
34:00 Empire push DK's bottom tier2, proves successful managing to take out Invoker with a beautiful swap by Vanskor in the middle of BurNing's chronosphere. Empire lose two in the process but Silent's Lycan and puck manage to chase down Mushi's Centaur by running through bottom of DK's tier3 bottom and escaping tier3 mid. A good exchange for Empire but not enough to get them enough space to go for Roshan.
38:00 Empire start a skirmish in the Dire jungle taking out one of DK But BurNing shatters two of Empire's line-up and runs towards mid tier2 tower. With Void at 70% hp Empire decide to keep going for him but a triple hero stun by Mushi's Centaur was the setup for an entire team wipe. 25-15 for Team DK.
Mushi's Centaur stun catches 3, Empire lose whole team
IceFrog. We have a problem
43:00 BurNing's networth at 24K at this point with Butterfly, BKB, Crystalist, Sceptre and Midas. Mushi's Centaur with Shiva's Guard, Heart of Tarrasque and Blink Dagger. Team DK push Empire's tier3 top, Silent tries to split the ranks with his Lycan but BurNing's chronosphere catches three with Ancient Apparition's ultimate then fired straight in on Empire.
44:00 OH SO CLOSE! Empire looked like they finally had BurNing in the palm of their hands, with a nice Leshrac stun and focus-fire, but the BurNing's pops his BKB just at the last minute after saving it. Empire feel heartbroken.
BurNing pops BKB at 15-20% HP to keep himself alive
48:00 FInal fight near bottom rune spot. Mag managing to pull of a good wall as Dark Seer but against the damage of DK's repetoire of spells including AA's ultimate, Kinetic field and Meteor plus VOid - now with a Daedelus, the end was nigh. DK remain undefeated so far in the tournament and are one match win away from being the StarLadder IX champions.
Lifestealer. Lone Druid. Nature's Prophet. Clinkz. Mirana. Tiny. Morphling. Faceless Void.
Eight carries, eight wins for Burning and DK. It's match point, they're 2-0 up and Empire need three straight to take the title. Can they do it?
iceiceice looks primed and ready for game two.
DRAFT: DK once against respect ban out the Dazzle, alongside Lycan (Who is 100% pick/ban so far during the Starladder finals). This time, Empire remove the iceiceice Invoker alongside Batrider. DK opt for a first pick Ember Spirit, with Empire responding with the Shadow Demon and Mirana combination. The last pick of the first set is Rubick, seemingly more favoured in the Eastern scene. The second ban phase sees Empire remove the 'Enchauntress' and Wisp, while DK ban out Sand King and Clockwerk.
Empire go for the Doom, clearly with the hope of shutting down Ember Spirit. but DK have yet another ace up their sleeve, with the Elder Titan - a hero who combines extremely well with Ember. Shadow Shaman is next out for Empire, usually a DK hero, but this should provide more lockdown. Pugna is next for DK, which is bad news for Shadow Shaman and with this, Astral Spirit and Chains/Sleight combo, team-fights are going to be very messy. DK ban...Pudge? Not sure why, but I may be missing something there. Nyx Assassin is last for Empire and DK last pick the Lord of Avernus, Abaddon himself. Game Two is go!
Burning is on Pugna. So this would be his ninth unique hero win from nine games.
2:00 Mushi is running Ember Spirit mid, where an early go on him by Empire drops him lwo but isn't enough. Shadow Demon amd Mirana go on him again and bring him low again. This is not going to be a fun laning stage for him. Mag almost dies early on too.
Mushi isn't having a fun time in the midlane.
FIRST BLOOD! All the pressure finally pays off for Resolution and ALWAYSWANNAFLY as they get Mushi down in the midlane for the first kill. DK are undettered though as they get a return kill bottom on Mag's Nyx Assassin and do a ton of damage to the T1 tower.
First blood on Mushi!
5:00 Empire and DK trade on the top line with iceiceice's Elder Titan getting a kill on Vanskor, but dying straight after to Silent. There's a massive engagement on bottom where Resolution dies after some great work to survive on low health, great work by the Chinese team. Meanwhile, iceiceice dies up top.
Silent grabs a kill on iceiceice.
9:00 Revenge for Mushi! Another gank on him in Midlane gets turned arund by a good TP in by LaNm, leading to a death for Vanskor. Burning meanwhile is making use of Pugna's strength early on, with the T2 tower on the toplane suffering heavy damage. Resolution then gets destroyed by a big gank, with the T1 mid likely to fall as a result.
11:00 This is going disasterously for Empire, they've been caught well off guard by the Elder/Ember combination, sleight of fists is just annhiliating supports with ease as DK get another two kills. Can they weather the storm?
Pugna melts down yet another tower.
13:00 DK focus their attentions top now, with Vanskor suffering another death to Sleight of Fists. Empire come in but Nyx and Shadow Shaman die very quick, in trade for MMY's Rubick and iceiceice. DK aren't done though, they come back for more, killing Resolution but in exchange for LaNm with Mushi barely escaping in a very lengthy engagement with good play from both sides. That could've gone much worse for Empire, who also get the deny on the tower.
16:00 Burning is proving a large nuisnace, pushing the T2. Empire go for the trade with a T1 mid but DK are quick to respond as always and turn it back, killing Shadow Shaman in the process.
18:00 Big plays! A three for two trade off the back of a great three man impale from Mag for a great initation. Empire are fighting and not making it easy for their opponents, who are still finding good trades even in bad fights. A lot is relying on Doom here, the only hero who is yet to die. However, as I write that he gets caught out with ALWAYSWANNAFLY which DK will surely transition into Roshan.
Mag with an excellent three man impale
20:00 Scratch that thought, Empire double buyback and DK wisely back away from the pit.
The gold situation is telling a lot of the story of the game, as you can see below.
23:00 DK are going into Roshan. Empire are a little slow to respond, although they get the kill on Rosh, but not the Aegis. Doom used on Ember, but no follow up. Resolution dies as does Silent and that's both core heroes down for Empire and the Aegis is with DK. It's a big win for the Chinese team and they have all the momentum behind them now.
Doom explodes under heavy burst.
26:00 DK go highground and get the T3 mid, and Silent falls, a crucial death. MMY stole arrow to secure that kill, great work. Mag with a big impale, but it's not enough, It's a dieback on Doom! Another death, DK are here to stay in the base it looks like. It's mid racks and so many kills and buybacks, how can Empire come back?! They move down to the bottom T3 and Empire simply can't defend, they're too far behind and die too easy. Another T3 down and DK finally leave the base, but the damage is done. It'll have to be one hell of a comeback to recover from here.
DK apply heavy pressure to the base as Empire struggle to fight on.
30:00 DK are knocking at the door again, this time the final T3 on top. The supports on Empire can't hold up to the Natural Order and Sleight of Fists/Flameguard/Searing Chains damage. MMY is hitting a ton of arrows that he stole on Rubick. The fight breaks out truly and Mushi finally dies but just remnants straight back. Four dead and GG! DK WIN 3-0 AND ARE THE STARLADDER IX CHAMPIONS!. A spirited performance by Empire, but DK were just far too strong, not only for them - but every single team this weekend.
What a performance by DK this weekend - no weak links in that team with DK showing great flexibility in draft and play - Burning and MMY showed off such versatility, Burning playing nine different carries to nine different wins while MMY played many heroes including Wisp, Meepo and Rubick. There's plenty more Dota to come in the next few months, with many questions - Can anybody stop DK? Can Empire continue and establish themselves as the #1 team in Europe? Will Alliance and Na'Vi recover? Will we see a new patch to shake things up?
Thanks everybody for reading the live blogs for this and every game as well as Malystryx and Emeldavi for helping during game 1 as well as the amazing pictures for game two provided by Meliora.Infinitum! Feel free to discuss the series below as DK take home over $80,000 dollars in an unbeaten streak to win Starladder.
This article was written by Jamie Donovan, joinDOTA's writer.SohNata first experienced Dota during the TI3 finals and has been hooked ever since. A massive fan of European Dota, he's probably one of the people with more tickets than wins.Location: Warwickshire, UKFollow him on @SohNata.