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Oh Alliance, where have you been hiding for the past few years? We’ve missed you, and by “we” I mean the loyal supporters who followed every important little footstep of your The International 2013 campaign, and who’ve followed you in possibly each and every event since.

Alliance beat Evil Geniuses 2-0 in the grand finals of the StarLadder i-League tournament in Minsk this past weekend to take home a prize pool of $120,000. Here’s a quick look at how it happened.

The group stage didn’t go according to plan for Alliance as they lost two out of their five possible games. They finished the group stage with an overall 3-2 standing heading into the weekend playoffs, where Team Secret would be waiting for them.

In my opinion, this was the closest Bo3 series out of the tournament as a whole. Alliance versus Secret echoed through the halls of the Minsk Arena as both teams ambled their way into their respective “war” booths. Alliance lost game one due to their poor draft and uncertain execution, which Team Secret punished in 35-odd minutes. Alliance then left their booth, disappeared into the shadows, filled up on “something” and came back with a determination many couldn’t comprehend. They didn’t smile, they made no eye contact, they just played the best Dota they have done since TI3. Alliance didn’t just pick the strong meta heroes – they picked heroes that became their online personas. AdmiralBulldog was given Lone Druid on both the remaining games, and Alliance wiped Secret off the stage in a dominant performance to win the Bo3 series 2-1.

Alliance had shrugged off any pressure they’d been under, showing us that the team we once lauded as role models were not just back – they were BACK!

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The semi-finals don’t need much of a mention other than the fact that match one between Alliance and Team Liquid was an excellent game. Team Liquid tried to cope with the strain from the Alliance train, picking up the Io to boost their team-fight potential against the strong Alliance mid-game. Excellent decision making from s4 (Alliance’s captain) resulted in the Io being blown up before Liquid had the chance to extend the team-fight longer than Alliance was comfortable with. The close match-up in game one then turned to complete obliteration in game two as Alliance wrapped up the series in a fast and furious 29-minute victory.

Dota 2 and CS: GO shared the same main stage for the grand finals, allowing time for only a Bo3 showdown between the blue-blooded Evil Geniuses and the comeback kids Alliance. After an intriguing opening ceremony, the countdown began with the Dota world readying itself for a real-life battle for Middle-earth.

Game one:

The battle for Middle-earth soon turned into the siege of Helm’s Deep, as Alliance picked the heroes they’d been strong with all tournament, picking up Nature’s Prophet, Puck and the ever-indestructible Wraith King. EG knew that a push from Nature’s Prophet would come and counter-picked with a Jakiro / Dark Seer combo. EG unfortunately were dominated early thanks to a roaming Puck and Nature’s Prophet.

Heading into the mid-game Alliance had all the map control, a major gold and experience lead, and most of EG’s outer towers. With no other choice after losing another important team-fight, EG were forced to call GG and move on to game two. Alliance took the game in 27 minutes, leading the series 1-0.

Game two:

The second game was a little closer, and by closer I mean EG were given an extra five minutes to put up a fight. EG chose a draft that had worked for them the whole tournament, choosing Batrider, Zeus and Witch Doctor to negotiate team-fights, allowing their Spectre free farm in the safe lane. To counter Batrider, Alliance were smart and picked up Vengeful Spirit and Night Stalker, allowing Alliance to restrict the vision of EG and making it almost impossible for them to get off a proper initiation. Again, map control was an issue for EG heading into the mid-game, as they kept losing their Spectre due to beautifully executed smoke rotations by Alliance.

Uncertainty began kicking in and EG were singularly caught out on too many occasions. They were battered and bruised, and after Alliance took Roshan the game was over. EG couldn’t withstand a core with one life, now they had to deal with two of them. EG missed so many of their item timings and with Alliance knocking on their door early, it gave EG too little time to adjust. It was amazing play from Alliance and after a 34-minute second game they left their booth, and the smiles returned to their faces as they lifted the i-League trophy.

Congratulations to Alliance for an amazing performance. Let’s hope they carry that determination though the rest of this season’s calendar.

The tournament and packed-to-bursting Minsk Arena brought me feverish chills with its exciting special effects, high-quality play and interesting analysis/commentary, and it ended the weekend on a beautiful note.

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