Team Secret has won the Shanghai Major by defeating Team Liquid 3-1 to win its first Dota major and take home $1.1 million in prize money. It's a win that not only cements Secret's dominance of professional Dota over the last six months, but continues the trend of Western Dota's dominance over Eastern Dota.
Secret has had a very real monkey on its back dating back to the dissolution and reformation of the team after The International 5 in August. The team beat the best in the world in mid-major events, but was stunned by OG in Frankfurt, taking home second in a disappointing loss. It remained to be seen whether Secret could take the next step and grab a major win, or whether they would become the extremely good team that had a tendency to fall short. Those fears have been blown out of the water.
The domination in Shanghai was complete an efficient. In the main event they finished with a 9-3 record against a brutal road that included OG, Evil Geniuses and two series against Team Liquid. This was not a case of Secret walking through an easy bracket and beating one good team, they needed to fight for this. Here's how the Grand Final series broke down:
Game 1: Team Secret defeats Team Liquid
Secret: Outworld Devourer, Slark, Tidehunter, Lion, Enchantress
Liquid: Faceless Void, Invoker, Necrophos, Phoenix, Witch Doctor
A relatively slow start quickly gave way to a torrent as Secret asserted their dominance in Game 1. Many believe Puppey is the best captain in professional Dota, and his pick/ban stage in Game 1 proved that. He set Secret up to have a variety of different ways to win, while Liquid were wholly reliant on massive multi-hero Chronospheres to try and win.
We've seen this before and we'll continue to see it: A handful or twigs is better than a big stick when it comes to professional Dota, and that's exactly what happened. Small pokes here and there that whittled down Liquid. At 20 minutes they were down 6-0 in kills, this snowballed to 14-3 at 30 minutes and then 24-9 by the 40th.
The team fight was too much for Liquid to counter, especially with an engagement like Tidehunter brings to the table.
Game 2: Team Liquid defeats Team Secret
Liquid: Lycan, Invoker, Oracle, Beastmaster, Tusk
Secret: Ursa, Death Prophet, Dark Seer, Lion, Winter Wyvern
This was a very different game from top to bottom. Team composition changes vastly for Liquid, which opted to take a more aggressive team fight approach to Game 2 and saw it pay immediate dividends. Lycan and Invoker got too much farm for Secret to counter and a successful series of ganks saw Liquid up in kills 5-1 at the 11 minute mark, and build a lead.
Secret wouldn't back down, however. Slowly they began clawing their way back out and at 24 minutes the sides were even on kills and almost at parity in net worth after a huge team fight in the Rosh pit saw Liquid lose four of their key players while Secret only lost supports.
The attrition game favored Liquid's lineup and they played smart. After taking the top lane barracks they were happy to sit back and let things unfold without over committing. Liquid perfectly baited a team fight in the top lane jungle that Secret fell for. All the while the bottom racks were being ravaged by Liquid's carries and a pseudo backdoor secured Game 2.
Game 3: Team Secret defeats Team Liquid
Secret: Doom, Clinkz, Invoker, Nature's Prophet, Disruptor
Liquid: Outworld Devourer, Tiny, Tidehunter, Lion, Io
Secret moved to a hyper-aggressive team composition in Game 3 and it caught Liquid by surprise. They passed on control outside of Invoker in order to max their pickoff potential. We've seen the Tiny/Io pairing before in major competition with OG using it to great effect in Frankfurt, but it's a risky play that has inconsistent returns.
Liquid showed their cards early with a first pick Io and early game the teams were a dead heat. This turned around the 15 minute mark as Secret began racking up kills and asserting their will.
The gold graph for close for much of the game, but Secret was simply better at playing objective-based Dota and winning fights were needed. The swing and the gold swung Secret's way hard, and by the 40-minute mark they had over a 20,000 gold lead.
w33's Invoker ran roughshod over Liquid in the late game and helped secure another win.
Game 4: Team Secret defeats Team Liquid
Secret: Doom, Slark, Windranger, Lion, Beastmaster
Liquid: Faceless Void, Drow Ranger, Invoker, Tusk, Dazzle
This game was a disaster for Liquid from first pick. They returned to a similar comp as the first game, which also meant a return to the same problems that caused them to lose. Everything hinged on being able to get big, multi-hero Chronosphere's and Secret is simply too good to let that happen. This was an unbalanced mess of a game, which was disappointing given how good the series had been.
In the blink of an eye the game was over. It took just 25 minutes for Secret to run through Liquid and secure its first major championship.
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The success of Shanghai is a matter of perspective. The organization and production was a complete mess, but in the end the games themselves were fantastic. Perhaps more emblematic was the continued collapse of Chinese Dota. Disappointed crowds witnessed LGD, EHOME and ViCi Gaming all get eliminated early, while Europe and North America keep running through their brackets.
The next major will take place in Manilla in June. Crowds in the Philippines will be energetic, loud and it should be a great event. Eastern teams have some soul searching to do in the next three months, because right now it's hard to see teams beating the dominant quartet of Secret, Liquid, Evil Geniuses and OG — all of whom have been dominating the competition.