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Updated on October 30, 9:12 a.m. (GMT+8): This article erroneously wrote that Team Spirit lost only one game at the main event to Team Liquid. Spirit had lost to Virtus Pro and Liquid. We apologize for the error.
Team Spirit gave Gaimin Gladiators a taste of their own medicine at The International 2023 in a one-sided grand final, sweeping their rivals 3-0 for their second Aegis of Champions.
Spirit was the final boss of TI12, ending their championship run with just two losses through the whole tournament — both in the main event against Team Liquid and Virtus Pro. Gaimin Gladiators were no slouches themselves, dropping just one game in their imperious lower bracket run — coincidentally, also against Liquid.
Spirit walks away with nearly half of TI12’s prize pool, a cut of more than US$1.4 million — a substantial decrease compared to recent years, and the lowest since TI3. More importantly, four of Spirit’s players join an exclusive club as two-time winners of The International, following the immortal OG rosters of TI8 and TI9. They also join two-time winner, Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling, who won TI5 with Evil Geniuses and TI11 as the coach of Tundra Esports.
All according to plan: Yatoro’s godlike Weaver gets game one win
It was a sign of things to come the moment the teams walked out. Illya “Yatoro” Mulyarchuk, already regarded as the best carry in the world even before the grand finals even started, came out with a shaved head, a throwback to his TI10 look — when he also won the Aegis.
Game one’s draft started off with a banger, with both teams electing to go off-script. Spirit picked up just the second Beastmaster at the main event, while Gaimin Gladiators’ opted for the Gyrocopter last pick — an old-school counter to Team Spirit’s first pick, Weaver.
But it was still Yatoro who got off to a flyer on his carry Weaver, getting six kills by the ten-minute mark with several aggressive moves on Marcus “Ace” Christensen’s Lone Druid, as well as roaming to every part of the map. Spirit seemed to place extra emphasis on shutting down Ace, whose Lone Druid has been a key cog in his team’s dominating lower bracket run that saw them drop just one game before the grand final.
All this was made possible by some solid rotations from Spirit’s support duo, Yaroslav “Miposhka” Naidenov and Myroslav “Mira” Kolpakov on Treant Protetor and Tusk respectively. Miposhka proved to be massive, tree-walking thorn in Gladiators’ side, leveraging Treant’s free pathing to get some fantastic angles on his opponents.
Yatoro did not slow his roll whatsoever, using his hero’s mobility to clean up kill after kill. He continued to amass Gladiators’ heads at a ridiculous pace en route to an 18/2/10 KDA performance — including some nasty fountain dives and one-shots against his opponents’ underfarmed cores.
With Gaimin securing some key items — Daedalus on Anton “dyrachyo” Shkredov’s Gyrocopter, and Aghanim’s Scepter on Quinn “Quinn” Callahan’s Pangolier — they opted for a desperate smoke to change their fortunes. Once again, it was Yatoro quickly shutting down Gaimin’s dreams and claiming game one for Team Spirit.
Time waits for no one — except for Yatoro’s Faceless Void in game two
In the second game, it was Denis “Larl” Sigitov’s Pangolier off to the hot start, winning his matchup against Quinn’s Primal Beast thanks to crucial TPs from Mira. He used that advantage for some great counter-initiations whenever Gladiators tried to go for a core kill, getting five kills in the first 10 minutes.
But unlike the first game, Spirit did not have as explosive of a mid-game, especially with greedier core picks on Magomed “Collapse” Khalilov’s Magnus and Yatoro’s Faceless Void. Gaimin capitalized on the slower pace, using Melchior “Seleri” Hillenkamp’s Nature’s Prophet and Quinn’s Primal Beast to get some key ganks off. Even dyrachyo’s Morphling managed to join the party regularly, turning Spirit’s heroes against themselves.
With both teams relatively even, the next major objective was the Roshan in the hopes of building up an advantage with the safety of the Aegis. Both sides smoked to the Roshan pit, and it was Quinn that bit first, popping his Black King Bar too quickly, then forcing an ill-fated fight that Spirit disengaged and countered with stellar spellcasting.
Despite losing the fight, Gladiators did enough to push Spirit back, and capitalized on Roshan’s moving to the other pit to sneak the Roshan for themselves on the opposite side of the map. This proved pivotal in the next teamfight, where Gladiators’ multiple lives — including Wraith King’s reincarnation — were the difference maker in outlasting Spirit’s heroes.
Spirit took some time to lick their wounds, but continued to roam the map whenever their big teamfight skills in Faceless Void’s Chronosphere and Magnus’ Reverse Polarity were up. These spells were instrumental in bringing down Gladiators’ tanky cores, locking them down for Spirit to pour in damage from range. Fortunately, Erik “tOfu” Engel salvaged one fight with a tremendous Dead Shot on his Muerta, taking down Yatoro’s Faceless Void to alleviate some pressure.
Gladiators tried to capitalize on Yatoro’s death immediately, moving to the top part of the map to try and take down stray Spirit heroes. The Major champions found Spirit surprisingly willing to fight back, and were not quick enough to eliminate their opponents’ fighting chances before Yatoro managed to respawn and turn with Chronosphere.
Gladiators were made to rue their mistakes, for Spirit did not waste any time in moving towards the Dire base. The Western European team was not able to summon forth a passable defence, and Yatoro once more cleaned up his opponents — adding another one to his long list of TI main event rampages.
Spirit finishes TI12 with style in spectacular comeback
For the first time this series, it was Gaimin Gladiators that got off to a solid laning start in game three. Despite Spirit countering Quinn’s Pangolier with Dazzle in the midlane — which went terribly for the Pango — Gladiators won their top and bottom lanes convincingly.
This meant that their Brewmaster and Spectre had a lot of space to operate. Ace used his economical advantage to buy a quick Radiance, which proved difficult for Spirit to fight into Meanwhile, dyrachyo joined in whenever he could on Spectre, trying to accelerate the game against Spirit’s double Hand of Midas.
All the fighting meant Larl, despite a crushing lane win, felt pressured to join several early fights, delaying his Aghanim’s Scepter greatly while Quinn’s Pangolier caught up. Gaimin did not let up the pressure, consistently leveraging their Ace’s tanky Brewmaster to face tank fights, Pangolier and Muerta to set up any potential initiations, and Spectre and Ancient Apparition’s global potential to secure kills. Spirit could only farm, with all three cores desperate for farm in any part of the map they can stay in.
Gaimin built up a tidy economical advantage — 10,000 at the 22-minute mark, and a 96 percent chance to win according to Dota Plus — but was quickly punished in their eagerness to push the advantage. An ill-advised dive into Spirit’s bottom tier two was answered with a massive teamfight loss.
Fortunately for Gaimin, Yatoro was also eager to push the pace with a newly-picked up Shadow Blade on his Chaos Knight. Spirit’s carry charged into Radiant’s triangle, and Gaimin seized the opportunity to collapse onto Yatoro’s position and take him down, then wiping out the rest of Spirit trying to back up their carry.
An undeterred Spirit continued to farm out the map with their tri-core, gaining on Gaimin’s net worth lead. Collapse’s Spirit Breaker was especially annoying, constantly pushing out the waves and even setting up fights on his own with Charge of Darkness and Shadow Blade.
With two Shadow Blades on their cores, Spirit refused to commit to any big teamfights, instead content to farm out the map and employ a run-and-gun mentality if they can catch out any Gladiator that strayed too far from safety. The Spirit Breaker’s potential to weave in and out of fights proved pivotal in a massive Roshan fight, repeatedly Charging down key heroes in Gladiators’ backline.
The Gladiators had their hands full, and everything spiralled out of control just so quickly. It felt like Gaimin had so little time and opportunities to respond, before Spirit seized their opponents by the jugular and refused to let go.
In what would soon to be the final game of TI12, Gaimin did not let go, but Spirit would not be denied. The comeback was swift and decisive — and Spirit completed the clean sweep in explosive aplomb.
You can watch the full games on Dota 2’s official YouTube and Twitch channels.
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