DRX DRX Korea Rank #1 prevailed over 100 Thieves 100 Thieves North America Rank #3 to secure the third playoff spot at Champions, taking down a North American team for the first time in their history.
Earlier in the day, group D played out their opening matches, where XSET XSET North America Rank #2 and Copenhagen champions FunPlus Phoenix FunPlus Phoenix Europe Rank #1 found wins over XERXIA Esports XERXIA Esports Asia-Pacific Rank #2 and KRÜ Esports KRÜ Esports Latin America South Rank #2 respectively.
(Photo: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)
Day four kicked off with a match between XSET XSET North America Rank #2 and XERXIA Esports XERXIA Esports Asia-Pacific Rank #2 . As the second-place seeds from their respective regions going into Champions, both teams were eager to prove that their level of play was on par with their region's top dogs, OpTic and Paper Rex.
On Fracture, foxz raised eyebrows by picking Phoenix, only the second time the agent has been picked on the international stage in 2022. Thanks to six kills in two rounds from said Phoenix, XERXIA picked up a 2-0 lead. XSET bounced back with two of their own, but XERXIA extended to a 5-2 lead off the back of a thrifty. Again, XSET had an answer, and three rounds in a row tied the game at five apiece. After XERXIA's timeout, XSET even took the advantage, taking a 7-5 lead at halftime.
Another pistol round went the way of XERXIA, but they lost nearly all their guns in the subsequent anti-eco. With this economic advantage, XSET were able to pick up the next two rounds. A XERXIA round was followed by another two XSET rounds, putting the score at 11-8. With two bold defuse sticks, XERXIA got to double digits, but two crucial rounds went the way of XSET, and they squeaked through with a 13-11 victory.This is really only the seventh scrappiest round from Fracture.
XERXIA had another unconventional pick up their sleeve on Icebox as foxz brought out a Yoru. The Japanese agent has only been picked seven previous times on the international stage, and never before on Icebox. foxz immediately got value from his agent, and XERXIA picked up the first two rounds. XSET rallied back and took the lead with three rounds in a row, but after that the teams were inseparable. Rounds went back and forth all the way to the end of the half, where XSET found one extra round to take a 7-5 lead.
XSET took the second pistol, but XERXIA countered and took the anti-eco. With a streak of three rounds, XERXIA gained the lead and an economic advantage, but XSET struck back with a thrifty. With an important four-rounds streak, XSET made it to match point. Two more rounds went XERXIA's way, but Icebox drew to a close in round 23, and XSET wrapped up the series 13-10.
During a chaotic map of Icebox, both teams severely struggled to hold an advantage, and a total of five ecos were won. To put this stat into perspective, across all of yesterday's eight maps, only four successful thrifties were pulled off.
“There's something going on right now with the pistols and the low buy Stingers,” dephh said after the match. “It makes it quite troublesome to win gun rounds sometimes. I think it's a combination of the game being hard against pistols, and some strategy, like us slowing the rounds down.”Ah, so that's why they picked Yoru.
The reigning champions made their debut in Istanbul today. FunPlus Phoenix FunPlus Phoenix Europe Rank #1 , hot off their win in Copenhagen, were aiming to put on another strong performance to stake a claim at the title of best team in the world. Their first-round opponent was KRÜ Esports KRÜ Esports Latin America South Rank #2 , frequent titan slayers and the only team who has attended every international event.
As had often been the case throughout the year, FPX's travel situation for Champions had been hampered by outside circumstances, meaning ANGE1 was not able to travel to Istanbul at the same time as his team.
“Unfortunately, my team traveled the 24th, then I had to go the 26th, and I spent 72 hours to come here,” ANGE1 said. “We didn't prac for a week, we had only three days before officials to remember everything we had. Obviously [our practice] has been impacted, but we're already used to it. All year we've been limited in time, we've had a lot of problems around the team, so it didn't feel like anything special.”
KRÜ took an early lead to kick off Icebox, and it took FPX until round five to finally get on the board. They picked up a second round, but KRÜ continued opening up a gap, and with five rounds in a row they got up to a tally of nine. With the final round of the half going the way of FPX, KRÜ held a strong 9-3 lead at halftime.
The Latin Americans' lead quickly shrunk in the second half, as FPX picked up four rounds in a row. KRÜ managed to end their drought following a timeout, but three more rounds for FPX tied the game right back up at 10-10. Both teams got to 11, but KRÜ got to match point first. They looked poised to close out the map on the final round, but a 1v3 from Shao saved the map from the brink of defeat and sent it to overtime.
“Shao's clutch, it was just a common thing,” ANGE1 commented. “I see five or six of those a day. Obviously when it's an official match in such an important moment it feels much better, but I wouldn't say I was super surprised, Shao is the best clutcher in the world. No doubt.”
In overtime, the mental fortitude of Copenhagen's champions shone through. They won the first overtime round and forced their opponents to take a timeout. In the second overtime round, they prevailed again and wrapped up an Icebox map in 14-12 fashion when they had been down 9-2.One bullet per two enemies, that should be enough, yes?
On Bind, FPX took the first two rounds, but gave up the bonus. One round to FPX followed by a streak of four for KRÜ put keznit and company at a lead of 5-3. FPX rebounded and leveled the score with a pair of rounds, but KRÜ broke the tie in the tail end of the half to take a 7-5 lead.
FPX tied the game back up at seven apiece by winning the first two rounds, and took the lead by taking the bonus as well. KRÜ managed to find a thrifty to get on the board, but FPX were untouchable on their defense, illustrated by a round 17 play where ANGE1 crept up short to peek into three players, get a pick and walk away with his life.
“I think I was screaming like a girl,” ANGE1 said about the moment. “It was a lot of action, I was being peeked from both sides and I don't know how I killed Sage in that moment to be honest. I was ulting at the same time, trying to molly, jumping around, smoking, that was approximately how I felt.”
With a pair of full buy rounds, KRÜ pulled the game back to a 10-10 tie, but FPX had built up a large economic advantage over their opponents. They reestablished a lead and got to match point with two more rounds. A final B-site hold was the nail in the coffin, and FPX closed the series out with a 13-10 on Bind.ANGE1 strolls into KRÜ and gets away with it.
For the final match of the day, DRX DRX Korea Rank #1 and 100 Thieves 100 Thieves North America Rank #3 had a chance to secure the third playoff spot. In a matchup of veterans versus rookies, only one team would prevail, while the other team would be sent down to the decider match to face the winner of FURIA FURIA Brazil Rank #3 and FNATIC FNATIC Europe Rank #2 for the second group D playoff spot.
Yesterday, all five of 100 Thieves' players played from isolation due to several COVID cases within the team. Today, three players were cleared and took the stage alongside DRX, while Asuna and stellar still competed from isolated rooms.
“These matches feel weird, it's hard to get adrenaline going because you're in a room all by yourself,” Asuna noted. “It's kind of hard to feed off one another, so it just feels like another online game.”
DRX got the ball rolling on Breeze by winning the opening pair of rounds. 100 Thieves responded in kind with two rounds of their own, but DRX converted multiple clutches in the following three rounds to take a 5-2 lead. 100 Thieves took a timeout, but they found themselves on the wrong end of two more rounds. 100T clawed back in the game in the closing stages of the half, taking three rounds and putting the halftime score at 7-5.
100 Thieves took two rounds to kick off the second half, and their opponents called an early timeout at 7-7. However, 100T blitzed the B site to take the bonus as well, and at a 9-7 score, DRX took another timeout. This timeout helped them get on the board at the very least, but 100 Thieves continued racking up rounds, and they achieved match point in round 21. However, DRX found their footing in the second half at the last minute, and three rounds in a row brought the map to overtime.
On defense, 100 Thieves picked up the first round of overtime and got to match point. After a timeout, DRX pulled the game back by winning a defensive round of their own. In round 27, it was DRX's turn to take an advantage thanks to a big round from stax , and they forced 100T into a timeout. Another successful defensive round tied the game back up at 14 each.
100 Thieves got another match point and a chance to close out the game, but DRX tied it back up as the war of attrition raged on. Another match point went DRX's way, but 100 Thieves staved it off to set the score at 16-16. Round 33 is where DRX got their third and final match point, and they walked away from a marathon map of Breeze with an 18-16 victory.In overtime, strategy goes out the window, and players rely on pure instinct to come away with rounds.
DRX made the first move on their Fracture pick and took the opening two rounds. 100T responded in kind, taking the lead with three rounds in a row. DRX responded yet more ferociously, and at 6-3, both teams took back-to-back timeouts. Nevertheless, DRX's momentum couldn't be stopped, and they rocketed towards a decisive 9-3 half.
With just 10 HP, BuZz survived to grant DRX a crucial pistol round. 100T were forced to take a risk with the round deficit they had, and they successfully found their fourth round with a force buy. However, DRX found a massive thrifty in the following round to send their opponent's economy spiraling. With their economy on the brink of collapse, 100 Thieves found a critical pair of rounds to keep themselves in it.
Momentum was now on the side of 100 Thieves, and as DRX were already out of timeouts, they had no way of pulling the brakes. 100T racked up five rounds in a row, bringing the round differential to just two. However, DRX got themselves to match point with a round 21 thrifty, and in the following round they stopped 100T at the door of B site. After two nerve wracking maps, DRX managed to close out the series with a 13-10 on Fracture.You simply cannot out-trade DRX.
DRX advanced to make another playoff appearance, but for the first time in their history, they did so by beating a North American team after losing to teams from that region on three previous occasions. “Taking 100 Thieves down gives us that mental edge,” BuZz said after the match. “It's gonna give us a lot of confidence moving forward when facing other North American teams.”
Thus far, we've seen every team play their first matches on the Champions stage. Starting tomorrow, we will see the first teams get eliminated from the biggest tournament of the year.
Tomorrow's matches are: