The announcement of a South American qualifier for the Kiev Major first announced was met with mixed responses. It was a landmark decision for the oft-ignored region, which had been customarily ignored or lumped into the greater North American scene when it came to tournament spots. Some praised Valve’s attempt at inclusivity and pointed out the benefits of highlighting the South American region on its own merits. Others ridiculed and criticized it as an artificial attempt to stoke international fervor without much justification. Overall, general sentiment among the community was that South America didn’t have the competition to feasibly make a dent at the Major. North America and Europe had far more deserving teams that were sadly stuck playing second fiddle to the top dogs. The only South American teams of note were Peruvian squads like Unknown, Not Today and Infamous.
Yet it wasn’t a Peruvian team who qualified from the region. The Brazilian team SG e-sports proved its mettle aby defeating Not Today in the deciding match of the qualifier to get to Kiev. It was considered a cool story of an underdog team that finally earned a chance at the Major. But even then, the response was measured. During the qualifiers, panelists were certain that better teams had been excluded as a result. Organizations like compLexity, NP, B)ears and Alliance had a better shot of being a real threat than this squad of unknowns.
In its own way, Valve mirrored those sentiments. At the Kiev Major, each of the teams was seeded in Swiss Bracket, and SG e-sports drew the top seed in OG. The rest of the world expected the South American team to cower in intimidation, but SG had other plans. In its first series of the group stage, SG shocked OG by striking first blood and taking Game 1 in a long affair before losing the following two games. The universe briefly thrown off-course, Liquid and Faceless corrected its axis by beating SG without dropping a single game.
That first game was a good showing, but in the end everyone came to the same conclusion: SG was not ready to play with the big dogs. Stuck with the worst seed of the bracket, SG was pitted against the top seed of the group stages, Secret. Puppey’s team looked completely dominant in games against Vici Gaming.J, Digital Chaos and iG and was in the midst of a long winning streak. After the group stages, knowledgeable viewers pegged Secret as one of the favorites to win, especially with a free win in the first round of the bracket.
The first game was a complete stomp. Secret wiped SG off the map, and it looked like the South American representative was destined to go home; Secret would seemingly continue its dominating streak. Additionally, the SG players were inexperienced on stage. They came into the series as the marked underdog, their group stage was a disaster, and the first game in the round of 16 made them look a level below their opposition. Mentally, they should have been broken.
They weren’t. SG rallied back in Game 2 and crushed Secret with Adriano “4dr” Machado being the integral player for the Brazilian squad. Game 3 was even more impressive as SG took Secret to the late game and triumphed in a battle of endurance. Secret tried to end the game but was unable to stop the Brazilians. SG e-sports had come up with the biggest upset of the tourney.
SG followed it up with a grueling match against Evil Geniuses. The first game was balanced on a knife’s edge. EG kept trying to close the game after accruing a considerable mid game lead, but SG refused to die. In a desperation move, SG smoked out to find a pick, but the move backfired and EG finally closed out the game after 66 minutes. The second game started off terribly for SG, but they stuck to the plan of having 4 protect William “hFn” Medeiros. The plan worked as hFn carried the game on Terrorblade’s broad shoulders; Otavio “tavo” Gabriel found multiple perfect blackholes to win crucial teamfights. It was the same story in Game 3. Once again SG had a terrible start but clawed its way back into the game and had chances to take the entire series. EG prevailed after SG went into the Roshan pit completely clumped up, setting up a 5 man Dream Coil into Overwhelming Odds. EG capitalized on the mistake and never relinquished the lead.
Despite the end of its miracle run, SG e-sports blew the doors off any expectations. Despite being a young team, it seems incredibly resilient to adversity. Repeatedly SG found itself in terrible situations, either down in series or down by huge margins in elimination matches. But each time they were able to create plays and find a way back into the game. Emilano “c4t” Ito is the captain and drafts around the strengths of his team well. Danylo “KINGRD” Nascimento is the playmaking 4 and is now famous for his taunting Undying. Tavo has proven himself to be a brilliant SK and Enigma player. 4dn is a stable mid player who is a second carry option for the team. The superstar of the team is hFn, and the team’s identity is built around his ability to carry on the more powerful safe lane heroes. Barring some of the more egregious errors they’ve made in terms of decisions, SG seems to have synergy comparable or exceeding many of the more experienced Dota 2 teams.
Before the Kiev Major, few people knew these players. They had been relegated to online qualifiers for the majority of their careers, with seemingly no chance of attending a LAN on the horizon. Once they found the chance, they seized it and showed the world what they could do on one of the biggest stages. I don’t know where this team ranks in the grand scope of the international scene, but they have proven they deserve respect. With a single quarterfinal finish at Kiev, they have made their mark on the Dota 2 world.
A new challenger has entered onto the international stage of Dota 2. Let’s see what SG e-sports does next.