An exciting and hard-fought 3-2 victory for Team Liquid over lower-bracket Chinese juggernauts Newbee marked the end EPICENTER, and the end of an extremely dominant LAN showing for the European team.
Team Liquid had a clear plan in mind in Game 1, and their execution was perfect. They picked Riki, Zeus and Lycan, which combined for great control, damage and push. Newbee had a slight lead for the quiet first 20 minutes of the game, but after a couple of punishing fights where Newbee weren't able to use either Supernova or Chronosphere, Liquid were suddenly taking barracks and Newbee had to call GG.
Game 2 was a battle of the Radiances, with MATUMBAMAN's Lone Druid facing off against Mu's Alchemist. This time, Newbee took an overwhelming lead in the mid game, and by the 30-minute mark, as they took a second set of barracks, Mu had more than doubled the net worth of Liquid's top farmer. The game lasted just a few minutes longer before Liquid tapped out.
By Game 3, Newbee had found their rhythm. They took another fast victory, relying on teamfight ultimates Exorcism and Ravage, backed up by the always solid Beastmaster and Hao's Juggernaut. They quickly overwhelmed Liquid and took things to match point.
But Team Liquid weren't finished. Their draft in Game 4 was much more solid — FATA's Alchemist was given plenty of space to farm while Jerax's Earth Spirit ganked around the map with Mind_Control's Slardar landing fantastic Blink/Crush combos and setting up for big damage from MATUMBAMAN's Gyrocopter. When Liquid saw an opening at the 34-minute mark, they went for the high ground and forced a deciding Game 5.
Game 5 looked a lot like Game 1, but this time Newbee had Mu's Alchemist and Hao's Venomancer keeping them in the game. Team Liquid had the insane pushing power of Beastmaster on their side, plus Dragon Knight to melt buildings, and Newbee were on the defensive before even taking the Tier 1 tower mid. Newbee could only hold high ground so long, and after a die-back back by Hao and a huge four-man Ice Blast from KuroKy's Ancient Apparation, Team Liquid had done it.
The win caps off a dominant run for the European squad. They started things off Thursday with a clean group stage performance, beating both compLexity and OG 2-1 for top seed out of Group A. They coasted their way through the upper bracket of the tournament, knocking down Evil Geniuses and OG in a pair of 2-0 victories that paved the way to the Grand Finals.
It's a triumphant moment for a team that have fallen short of first place for several months. After beating recent Frankfurt champions OG in The Defense Season 5 LAN, it looked like Liquid were on top of Europe. But though they reached third place in WCA 2015 and 2nd-4th in SL i-League Season 1, and the Grand Finals in both The Shanghai Major and ESL One Manila, they couldn't quite clinch another LAN win — until now. A boost of confidence ahead of The Manila Major may be just what the doctor ordered.
Annabelle "Abelle" Fischer is a writer for theScore esports with a love for Dota 2, birds and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter.