The slipper was a perfect fit in Manila.
Wings Gaming completed its run by defeating Team Liquid in the finals of ESL One Manila 2016 in a dominating 3-0 sweep that few saw coming. The team came into the tournament without much fanfare: a Chinese team that looked to prove its worth on the big stage — a familiar story.
But Wings Gaming drafted unique lineups, played aggressively and put up a brick wall for defense. The team innovated styles around certain heroes such as Invoker, Keeper of the Light and Bounty Hunter, constantly confusing opponents that could not plan against it.
There will be critics and counter points to Wings Gaming’s accomplishment, but the truth is, the team is a major winner and proved it belonged.
Team Liquid plowed its way into the grand finals with a convincing set against Team Empire. The game plan flowed perfectly — Adrian “Fata-” Trinks and Lasse “Matumbaman” Urpalainen were the undisputed kings of farm and net value — the support rotation dominated the early and mid game. Team Liquid overwhelmed Team Empire and played its style and pace regardless of what kind of resistance was presented. Both games ended before 38 minutes and, as a result, looked lopsided.
On the other side of the bracket, Wings Gaming recovered from a crushing Game 1 defeat by Fnatic and took the set with superior drafting and execution. The team played smart and forced Djardel “DJ” Jicko Mampusti and Wai “Net” Pern Lim to play the role of the carry with all the rotation attention dedicated to Yeik “Miduan” Zheng Nai.
Wings Gaming was an enigma. It drafted comfort picks (Bounty Hunter and Witch Doctor) and Chu “Shadow” Zeyu and Zhou “bLink” Yang played magnificently. Fnatic looked lost throughout the set after Game 1.
The perennial underdog of the tournament checked off everything from a picture-perfect Cinderella story: pocket picks (Treant Protector and Keeper of the Light), unpredictability in drafting and style of play, and a never-say-die attitude.
Wings Gaming killed off giant after giant with snowball victories and close defeats — it was the best team over the entire field. The rematch against Team Liquid proved that its close set was hardly a fluke. Wings Gaming showcased superior mobility and bullied the Team Liquid stars into uncomfortable scattered fights or defenses over objectives.
With the aid of better grouping, pocket picks, and the stellar play of both its core players, the grand final showed different results than its first matchup against Team Liquid.
The star players that needed a highlight were bLink and his Invoker and Li “iceice” Peng’s excellent rotations. Both performed superbly, whether it was a lone pick-off, trade from Peng’s Earthshaker, or bLink’s ridiculous disruption in team fights and initiation. They were a constant thorn in Team Liquid’s side.
Wings Gaming drafted different lineups and setups to complement Invoker’s versatility and prioritized a hero that focused on vision. But the bottom line was simple and it was a common theme throughout the tournament: Wings Gaming could not be countered or figured out.
Always the bridesmaid, Team Liquid had another great showing in a major tournament, but another second-place finish. Team Liquid played championship-level Dota 2 until Wings Gaming brought everything to an abrupt halt. A 3-0 sweep in the finals and nothing more than ‘what ifs?’ for the favorites of the final four teams.
Team Liquid was great in Manila, but couldn’t keep up with the pace and rotational support that Wings Gaming created; instead of forcing the opponent to run its speed, it was the opposite effect.
Throughout the tournament, Matumbaman and Fata- ran roughshod on opponents in overwhelming farm numbers and kill participation. The team was a finely tuned engine with speedy rotations in the early game, crisp decision-making in terms of objectives and when to push, and team fight execution.
It just didn’t work in the finals.
For Team Liquid fans, this was a speed bump. The consistency the team brought was nothing short of amazing and Team Liquid should remain as a top three team in Dota 2.