What We Learned from ESL One Hamburg 2018

Team Secret experimented and entertained their way to an exciting win over Vici Gaming in the Grand Finals of ESL One Hamburg 2018.

That particular five-game series served as a fitting end to arguably ESL’s best Dota 2 tournament just yet. However, for a tournament that’s not even part of the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit, ESL One Hamburg 2018 surprisingly taught us a lot about the current state of Dota 2’s competitive scene.

Join us as we dive head first and discuss all of the things that we learned from the action-filled week of Dota 2 that we just had.

Team Secret Are In Top Form

ESL One Hamburg 2018

While this isn’t the first time that Team Secret have started a season on a good note, this could potentially be their best season yet. (Team Secret)

Winning PVP Esports Championship was great, but it was a trivial win in the grand scheme of things. However, winning ESL One Hamburg 2018 changes everything for Team Secret.

Having swapped out two of their cores for the second year in a row, Team Secret looked like a better team on paper that took top 6 at The International 2018. But, as Team Secret would know all too well from personal experience, an all-star lineup is useless if you’re not winning, and boy have they started off the season on a good note.

Ludwig ‘zaiWåhlberg has been a seamless fit in his return to Team Secret, while Michał ‘Nisha‘ Jankowski has been as good as advertised. However, as great as both of their latest additions have played so far, it was Yeik Nai ‘MidOne‘ Zheng that stole the show at ESL One Hamburg 2018.

MidOne dominated his lane more often than not and more importantly, rotated and created enough space for Clement ‘Puppey‘ Ivanov’s extremely greedy, experimental drafts to work. Unsurprisingly, the second-ever 10K MMR player was awarded the Mercedes-Benz MVP trophy for his efforts.

Armed with a better understanding of the meta and proof that their wonky ideas work, Team Secret head into the Kuala Lumpur Major with a good shot at going for LAN title No. 3 just barely three months into the season.

China Are Taking Things Much More Seriously

ESL One Hamburg 2018

With another year as a pro player under his belt, Zhang ‘Paparazi’ Chengjun can only continue to get better going forward. (ESL Dota 2)

Vici Gaming didn’t win ESL One Hamburg 2018, but boy did they put on quite the show. They may not have been as unorthodox as the eventual champions, but they showcased the kind of high level play that should put the rest of the world on notice.

With the way Vici Gaming are playing, PSG.LGD may not be the best Dota 2 team in China for long. Team Aster may also force themselves into the conversation sooner rather than later.

Given the fact that China bombed out at The International 2018 and is set to host The International 2019, it’s not surprising that Chinese teams are coming out of the gates running as opposed to waiting until a few months before TI to get themselves going.

If they keep this up, we could see a repeat of TI7 where 4 of the Top 6 teams hailed from China, only this time, we’ll see a Chinese team hoisting the Aegis of Champions.

Virtus.Pro Need Some Figuring Out To Do

ESL One Hamburg 2018

For whatever reason, Virtus.Pro just aren’t meshing as well as they should this season. (Virtus.Pro)

“Win lanes, win games.”

That’s long been the unofficial motto of Virtus.Pro.

Whether it was through outplaying their respective lane matchups, or aggressively bullying or downright killing their opposition, Virtus.Pro always found a way to come away with an advantage in the first 10 minutes of the game and use that advantage to snowball to a win.

That wasn’t the case at ESL One Hamburg 2018.

While a third-place finish is nothing to scoff at, it’s not what you’d expect from them when you consider how well they performed all of last season, and how they have not looked the same since TI8. In particular, Vladimir ‘No[o]ne‘ Minenko continues to be on a slump as he no longer seems to be the terror he once was in the middle lane.

Simply put, Virtus.Pro aren’t just gelling together, and with only a week left until the Kuala Lumpur Major, the 4-time Major champions will need to figure out why if they want to make a deep run against better competition in Malaysia.

The SumaiL Effect

ESL One Hamburg 2018

Widely considered as one of the best laners in the world, SumaiL’s presence was severely missed by Evil Geniuses at ESL One Hamburg 2018. (Evil Geniuses)

If in case there was any doubt, Syed Sumail ‘SumaiL‘ Sumail is the most important player on Evil Geniuses, and it’s not just because he’s the only remaining member of the squad that won The International 2015.

His lane prowess and mechanical skill affords Evil Geniuses the luxury of drafting knowing that they are going to win their lanes 9 times out of 10. That kind of cushion was obviously missing at ESL One Hamburg 2018, with SumaiL at home and Quinn ‘CCnC‘ Callahan standing in.

This isn’t a knock on CCnC. He’s a great player, but he’s not SumaiL.

Without SumaiL to force enemy teams to make the necessary rotations and help their mid players out, Evil Geniuses could not operate with the same amount of space that they’ve had since this current iteration formed, and that ultimately led to their rather low 5th-6th place finish.

Luckily, Evil Geniuses will have SumaiL back for the Kuala Lumpur Major. But, just in case they needed any reminder why they need the 19-year-old prodigy, they need only to look back to how badly they performed at ESL One Hamburg 2018.

Setting a New Standard

ESL One Hamburg 2018

ESL One Hamburg 2018 was a great example of why ESL deserves to host a Major this season, despite their shortcomings last season. (ESL Dota 2)

It was never a secret that ESL Knew how to put on a good show, but we’d be doing them a disservice if we didn’t say that they exceeded everyone’s expectations this time around.

From the weatherman segment of Kevin ‘Purge‘ Godec, to how well they filled the time in between matches by engaging the crowd and bringing in someone like Eri ‘Eri‘ Neeman to play the role of stage host, as well as their excellent use of the overlay system, layerth, to deliver in-depth stats in a way that you would’ve expected from TI, ESL went all in despite their tournament not being part of the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit.

If this was ESL’s way of showing Valve on what they’re missing out on — rumor has it that Valve has chosen not to give ESL any Major to host this season — then they’ve definitely been successful.

Hopefully, other tournament organizers take note and try to one-up ESL. Because, if that happens, then we, the viewers at home, will be in for quite the treat going forward this season.

What do you think was the biggest takeaway from ESL One Hamburg 2018? Do you think it was the best ESL One event yet? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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