Before TI rolls around, ESL One Fall is the final tier-1 Dota 2 event players will get to see.
The tournament is loaded with numerous heavyweights of the Dota 2 pro scene from various regions. Not all of them made it to TI this year, as the region-locked slot systems caused a bottleneck in more competitive regions.
The fact that many of them have the mettle to hold their ground at the highest level of Dota 2 play was proven again with arguably the poster boy of TI rejects: Tundra Esports.
Are Tundra Esports taking after OG with their maverick Dota 2 drafts?
Tundra Esports were the finalists of the TI Qualifiers for the West European regional slot against OG. OG came out on top, but Tundra gave them a run for their money.
The shocker was that Tundra midlaner Leon "Nine" Kirilin almost paralleled OG's Topias "Topson" Taavitseinen with his off-meta starters - like Winter Wyvern mid.
Going with what many would consider a 'pub build' and then running it successfully in the upper echelons of the Dota 2 pro circuit is a trick OG has been famous for these days.
But Tundra's Nine pulled off that trick again today by almost taking the ticket to TI off of two-time TI winners OG. Proving his skills are no fluke in the process.
Nine did it in the ongoing ESL One Fall, against a team that won ESL One Summer back in June, no less. His tool of choice in the first game of the best-of-two Dota 2 series against T1, was even more unheard of: Keeper of The Light mid.
Keeper of The Light is almost exclusively seen as a fourth or fifth position pick. While his Illuminate waves can be a nuisance in any sidelane, no one expects a core KOTL with three Null Tallismans running in for an under-tower gank.
Nine's 'meme pick', a shocking switch of positions between an expected Pangolier mid and KOTL support, was padded out with an even more outrageous Dragon 5 build.
Dragon 5's reputation in Dota 2 as a perfunctory pub build item has so far been backed up by the item's relative absence from the pro scene. Yet, this is an item Nine also built in the second game as Void Spirit.
While Tundra Esports' ingenuity and bold strides towards experimental drafts was well-rewarded, T1 has run into a rut. They are yet to win a single game of Dota 2 in this tournament, cowering at the bottom of the league table.
Note: The article reflects the opinions of the writer.