Key Arena literally shook from the sound of 17,000 voices crying out in unison.
"EG is going to need a miracle here!" Blitz screamed moments before EHOME took their upper barracks.
EG desperately sent out nuke after nuke, but with Universe and Fear waiting to respawn, the American squad didn’t have the physical damage needed to stop EHOME’s offensive. eLeVeN's Beastmaster soaked an Ethereal Blade and triple Dagon combo (the third of which was purchased just moments before) before dying, but his team rotated mid and erased the remaining barracks, finally sending Mega Creeps against their opponents at the 71-minute mark. In any other game, this would have been a guaranteed win.
But not this time.
Having already spent buybacks on all of their cores — but also knowing that Evil Geniuses had no buybacks themselves — EHOME charged their Tier 4s, knowing that any single kill against EG would guarantee them the win. If EG fell to only two heroes, there wouldn't be the manpower to fight Megas when the first wave arrived, especially considering that they had invested 22,860 gold (more than a fifth of their overall resources) on burst damage alone.
EG knew that their key to victory lay in taking out heroes fast, hitting hard and regrouping. In other words, they needed to pick EHOME off one hero at a time.
Then came the moment that will be marked as the start of EHOME’s now historic loss. iceiceice dove into EG's base to secure one of the core kills that would ensure an EHOME victory, but the rest of his team chose to back off, leaving him without any stuns to help in dealing damage or cover his retreat. Another Ethereal Blade and triple Dagon burst him down — zai's creative build, working together with SumaiL's playmaking abilities, were enough to overcome the hero's prohibitively high armor.
Realizing his Fountain charge was too deep, the EHOME carry tried to beat a frantic retreat, his adrenaline-fueled fingers desperately seeking escape. In that last spasm, his almost 10 actions per second were nearly equal to the total input of the entire Radiant team. zai perfectly executed a Force Staff into Dagon coup-de-grace, and like so many high-aggression playmakers before him, iceiceice died trying to be a hero.
The game still looked good for EHOME. Evil Geniuses had only one source of AOE damage, SumaiL’s Mirana, whose constant Starstorms and Mjollnir could only keep one lane safe from Mega Creeps. Everyone knew there was no hope for EG if they couldn't push out now. You can count on one hand the number of times a team has won an official match against Megas more than a few minutes after their last barracks fell — Alliance had done it, but with a much better defensive draft. Almost always, comebacks against Megas involved wildly uneven skill levels between teams.
That’s when Universe and zai started to spearhead the unthinkable.
On respawn, iceiceice bought an unrevealed Level 4 Dagon, hoping to punish zai's Ghost Scepter and remove him from the fight. zai had been EG’s true engine of success in the last several minutes, as he was able to save allies with Disruption, clear waves with Shadow Poison, and reduce iceiceice's mobility with multiple Demonic Purges, which had led to the Timbersaw's death just a minute prior.
What happened next was too quick to follow in a single view-through. eLeVeN spent Primal Roar on Fear's Axe in an attempt to catch him off-guard. Fear was invisible, unaware that he was standing on a well-placed sentry ward put up by EHOME to defend their base from a Moonlight Shadow all-in push. EHOME's goal was to create enough time for the freshly respawned iceiceice to get to the fight, but their attempt failed when zai's Disruption saved Fear from Fenrir's Warlock ultimate followup. EHOME had over-invested without getting the returns they needed.
It cost them everything.
Universe landed a perfect Chronosphere, catching eLeVeN on one side and just the corner of LaNm's Ogre Magi on the other. Without LaNm, EHOME had no stuns to slow EG down during the Chronosphere (making him, in many ways, the highest-priority target).
SumaiL ignored the Warlock’s Golems, spending his Ethereal Blade and Dagon to ensure that eLeVeN was dead before he could use his second Primal Roar. zai, whose positioning continued to be perfect, used his Dagon from the low ground, waiting until he was close enough to initiate with Force Staff if need be but far enough back to be an impossible target.
zai was the most vital component in the effort. Anytime SumaiL was in trouble, zai had to be there to save him. Anytime SumaiL got an opponent low, zai had to be there to finish him off. zai was the engine, while SumaiL was the rails. Wherever Sumail went, zai followed, to ensure success.
iceiceice finally reached the fight, but EG retreated directly down the lane after baiting out both his Shiva's Guard and BKB. The early BKB activation was an attempt to protect himself from Ethereal/Dagon, but was cast at the same time that EG invested those cooldowns on eLeVeN. With that misread, iceiceice would spend the rest of the fight vulnerable, with few trees for maneuvering, and the entire 75-minute game on the line.
old chicken's Juggernaut tried to knock zai out with an Omnislash, but RNG was not on his side. Although he was successful in pushing EG farther back, his attacks bounced to the now approaching Radiant creeps. zai held in the wave, attempting to force old chicken to land within the narrow hitbox for an approaching Sacred Arrow.
Meanwhile, Fear's Axe slowed iceiceice down in the base, staggering his charge and forcing him to split away from old chicken. Although iceiceice secured the kill on Fear, he now had to make another difficult decision: would he move forward to cover old chicken, or stand his ground and regroup with his supports? If he charged out, he could secure his team's primary source of physical damage. If he stayed back, he could secure his team's only source of disable and slow. He could not do both.
SumaiL threw the arrow. zai held position and said a quick prayer. old chicken's Omnislash landed him directly on the Sacred Arrow, without even a frame to cast Blade Fury. Iceiceice made his decision.
He charged out to zone EG away from old chicken, who used his Manta to dodge a Starstorm and retreat. zai and SumaiL retreated from iceiceice, drawing him away from his base. EHOME's movements were panicked, erratic and uncoordinated, giving EG the opening they needed.
Off-camera, Universe secured a fortunate bash, stopping LaNm's stun mid-cast and allowing him to kill the hero before EHOME's cores had a chance to recover from their over-extension. Universe then used the extra time to kill Fenrir, who had already cast his ultimate and as such was little more than a Fatal Bonds. That left EHOME with only two defenders against three attackers, with ppd near the river in a sprint to meet his team.
That lucky bash allowed Universe to save his Bloodthorn for old chicken, whose arguably unnecessary use of Manta to dodge Starstorm and zone zai left him with only his Black King Bar to dispel the silence. He retreated away from a one-on-one fight with Universe, wasting his magic immunity on the way to the Fountain.
For the second time, iceiceice chased too far. He pursued SumaiL and zai halfway to the Radiant base — and ran into ppd, with his Dagon. Alone against three EG heroes, he stood little chance, and went down almost instantly.
old chicken, now the last member of EHOME alive, used Boots of Travel to try and backdoor EG's base. But ppd was able to teleport home, because he had walked out to the fight with iceiceice. old chicken took down a Tier 4 and used Blade Fury to give himself magic immunity, then purchased a Desolator at the Radiant Fountain shop. With the negative armor, he could be a real one-man threat to towers and even the ancient. Maybe if he could force EG back to their base, the mega creeps would push out from his own base and give him enough time for the rest of his team to respawn.
It was a brilliant attempt, and the crowd vocalized their astonishment. There's never been such a disaster at The International, and even with soundproofing it's certain that players could feel the crowd's energy, literally, as it washed over the booths.
The rest of EG teleported home. old chicken managed to dodge the Ethereal Blade with Manta Style, but he had no remaining magic immunity, with both Blade Fury and BKB on cooldown, and he fell a second later to Starstorm.
"That was the hold of a lifetime!" Blitz exclaimed, barely able to make himself heard over the roaring bleachers.
Universe purchased a Divine Rapier, striding up to the Tier 4s and single-handedly reducing them to rubble. Although EHOME had two heroes up by now, they weren't able to stand against SumaiL's aggressive zoning and burst damage. All EHOME could do was watch as they suffered the worst throw in International history.
Had iceiceice stayed back and allowed the Mega Creeps to work against EG, using his team and respecting the way EG had built to ignore the armor component of his effective hitpoints, the game could have gone a different way. If old chicken hadn't used his Manta Style to dodge the Starstorm, he may have been able to take Universe in a fight.
Yet, even with EHOME's errors, it was EG that won the game. If they hadn't hit every skill shot in the final clash perfectly — including SumaiL's Sacred Arrow into old chicken's Omnislash, zai's Disruption save on Fear and Universe's two-man Chronosphere — their opponents would have had the chance to regroup and potentially take the fight. EG played every opportunity exactly as they needed to. It was the greatest comeback in the history of The International, and it proved just how dangerous these defending champions still are.
Watch out, Wings. Here come the defenders of the West.
Ryan "Gorgon the Wonder Cow" Jurado writes about Dota 2 and freelances for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.