Team Spirit are the second team to win The International twice
Two of the best Dota 2 teams in the world clashed in the grand final of The International 2023, with only one emerging victorious to lift the coveted Aegis of Champions. Lower bracket kings and three-time 2023 Major champions Gaimin Gladiators faced off upper bracket monarchs Team Spirit— one team hungry to reclaim their status as the best Dota 2 team in the world, the other seeking to claim that title after an impressive year-round performance.
Returning to reclaim the throne
Finishing the series in an astounding 3-0 sweep, Team Spirit crushed any hope for Gaimin Gladiators to punctuate their near-perfect 2023 season run with a TI championship. This win made the CIS squad the second-ever team to lift the Aegis twice, with the first one being Johann “N0tail” Sundstein’s OG.
Despite finishing with a second TI title to their belt, Team Spirit started the year in a bit of a rough patch. Midlaner Alexander “TorontoTokyo” Khertek’s departure left a void that was filled by Denis “Larl” Sigitov. This meant that the team had to figure out ways to fit this new piece into their puzzle. Team captain Yarostav “Miposhka” Naidenov stated in a Late Game interview that “the beginning of the year was when we were trying to figure out how to use each other,” explaining the contrast between their performances earlier in the year and their improvements leading up to The International 2023.
Finishing atop their cluster in The International 2023 group stage, Team Spirit breezed through the upper bracket of the playoffs, dropping only a total of two games leading up to the grand finals.
Fans were elated when an almost-hairless Illya “Yatoro” Mulyarchuk walked up the grand finals stage together with the rest of Team Spirit. Yatoro also shaved off his hair in 2021, when they claimed their first-ever The International championship against PSG.LGD.
— Team Spirit (@Team__Spirit) October 29, 2023
Almost a Quinnderella story
Gaimin Gladiators were poised to win The International championship title this year. From a strong start nabbing all three Major championship spots to an impeccable lower bracket run in The International 2023 playoffs stage, Quinn Callahan and crew were strong favorites to be the ones to lift the Aegis of Champions.
Unstoppable, the team stampeded through anyone they met in the lower bracket, including regional rivals Team Liquid. The two teams have met countless times, including all three Valve Majors. Liquid always came second to Gaimin, and the same thing would happen in both their TI runs. Gaimin knocked Liquid off of the TI main stage in a nail-biting 2-1 match to advance to the quarterfinals.
— Team Liquid Dota (@teamliquiddota) October 28, 2023
Chinese Dota 2 teams have always been the bane of the West. The region’s teams favor a farm-heavy team composition and use the other four heroes to create space for their late-game carry.
But what happens when an unstoppable force collides with an immovable object? Explosions. An explosion did indeed happen, as Gaimin Gladiators pummeled through China’s final hopes in Azure Ray and LGD Gaming. However, Gaimin found a way to flip that strategy over its head.
The European team would pick skirmish-heavy heroes and slowly pick off any roaming heroes, then proceed to shrink the Chinese teams’ control of the map by stealing resources and camping in their jungles. This strategy worked, with the Chinese carries left to coop up in their base while Gaimin steal all of the team’s resources.
During a pre-game interview, Gaimin coach Aske “Cy-” Larsen said that given the amount of time they had in between matches, they were only able to prepare for LGD Gaming, and not for Team Spirit. That proved to be true, as they made quick work of LGD, but were unable to do anything to stop Team Spirit’s snowball towards the Aegis.
If Gaimin had won the grand final match, they would have been the first team to start in the lower bracket and clawed their way up to lift the Aegis of Champions.
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