Azure Ray Reverse Sweeps Gaimin Gladiators to Win ESL One Kuala Lumpur 2023
In what is arguably the perfect conclusion to both the 2023 calendar year and the commencement of a new Dota 2 competitive season, Azure Ray and Gaimin Gladiators delivered one of the most thrilling grand finals in tier one Dota 2. Despite appearing helpless with two crushing losses to kick off the grand final, the Chinese team staged a remarkable comeback in the next three games, securing a 3-2 victory and earning the prestigious title of ESL One Kuala Lumpur 2023 champions. The Azure win marks the first tier one tournament victory for the organization, and it denies Gaimin its seventh tier one win in 2023. The grand final ends with Azure winning $300,000 USD in prize money and 4,800 EPT points and Gaimin taking $175,000 and 3,600 points.
Gaimin Gladiators vs Azure Ray: Match recap and highlights
In game 1, Gaimin outdrafted Azure, with tOfu having a strong game on Silencer and DyrachYO getting his hands on Alchemist against a lineup that was not poised to do much damage to him. The laning stage started slowly, but towards the conclusion, Gaimin had some important kills that helped it win the first 10 minutes. Xm's woes were exacerbated when he was outplayed on Queen of Pain in the mid and top rotations by Gaimin's supports. Azure had little damage to counter Gaimin's attack and tapped out in 28 minutes with only five kills to the opposition's 28.
In game 2, Azure chose an unusual tri core of mid Slardar, carry Abaddon, and offlane Doom. Meanwhile, Gaimin picked a highly meta lineup that was equally good against Azure's team on paper. Gaimin made another good start, winning the midlane with Quinn's Pangolier. XinQ got some clutch kills on Windranger, but otherwise, it was a fairly one sided game against Azure, who was outplayed in all departments and lost in 28 minutes.
In game 3, Azure avenged the first two losses with a commanding victory. With a last pick Storm Spirit, Xm was activated, and the team brought numbers to Gaimin's usual early attempt to grab control. Gaimin also looked to be a touch complacent in the early phase, whereas Azure's performance was flawless as it maintained momentum throughout. As clinical as it comes, Azure won in 29 minutes with 30 kills to Gaimin's five.
Game 4 was the most competitive of them. Gaimin, in typical fashion, jumped ahead thanks to Quinn's Pangolier top-tier gameplay early on, but the Azure Ray supports gave their all to find a way for the cores to become stronger. XinQ was especially a menace on Nyx Assassin, as he ran about looking for kills for the squad. Azure Ray played the teamfights to perfection, also punishing DyrachYO's aggressive play at times. It became challenging for Gaimin's cores who lacked BKB to fight back with tonnes of burst magical damage built on Azure, and the series was leveled at 2-2 after a 40-minute game.
In game 5, Azure countered Quinn's Pangolier with a last pick Outworld Destroyer. The hero's performance has been inconsistent over the year, but Xm excelled in the game. DyrachYO's Faceless Void, on the other side, had a difficult game, with three saves on Azure’s composition of Shadow Demon, Outworld Destroyer, and Naga Siren. The first 20 minutes were rather quiet, but Azure's lineup had farmed enough items to make teamfighting difficult for the opponents. The team won in 37 minutes, with 27 kills compared to Gaimin's five.
Here are some highlights of the series.
Azure having easily fallen to Gaimin 2-0 in the upper bracket final, and despite being in a very similar scenario in the grand final, defeated Gaimin's early map control plan and adjusted its drafting approach to achieve the comeback. The last time a reverse sweep occurred at this level of Dota 2 was at the Singapore Major 2021, when another Chinese team, Invictus Gaming, faced a similar predicament after two rough losses but came back to win the tournament.
Chinese Dota 2 had one of the most challenging years but Azure has provided a source of happiness for its fans as they conclude the year and now anticipate the approaching competitive season. For Azure Ray, having recently been put together as a team after veterans left, the collaboration could not have started better.
As for Gaimin, it will be pleased that it has maintained its form throughout 2023, despite the loss. Despite emerging second here, it was arguably the most dominant year by a competitive Dota 2 team with six tier one victories and two second place finishes, one of which came at The International 12.
The top Dota 2 teams in the globe will now have some time off with the new year approaching before returning next month for the DreamLeague Season 22 qualifiers.