The second day of the The International (TI) 2023's Road to The International Playoffs on Sunday (22 October) saw four teams fall on the road towards the Aegis of Champions in the lower bracket while two others earned spots in the Finals Weekend.
North America's TSM kicked off the day by knocking out regional rivals Shopify Rebellion. However, their run was cut short by another regional rival in Nouns Esports, who ended up being the ones to carry the banner of North America onto the Top 8.
Meanwhile, three-time Major champions Gaimin Gladiators earned their place in the Main Event after scoring back-to-back sweeps over South America's Evil Geniuses (EG) and Eastern Europe's 9Pandas.
Here's how all the action in day two of TI 2023's Playoffs went down:
Lower bracket round 1
TSM 2-0 Shopify Rebellion
After playing second fiddle to Shopify Rebellion all season long, TSM proved they were the superior team as they soundly swept their regional rivals to extend their stay in the lower bracket.
Game one started with Shopify Rebellion taking a page out of LGD Gaming's book by picking a carry Dark Willow for Artour "Arteezy" Babaev. Meanwhile, TSM drafted a more orthodox lineup anchored by a more traditional carry in Chaos Knight for Enzo "Timado" Gianoli.
Both teams were on relatively even footing to start the game, but TSM won the pivotal midgame teamfights that gave them momentum while slowing down Shopify Rebellion's progression. In the end, the carry Dark Willow pick for Shopify Rebellion failed to have much of an impact as TSM took their first win of the series in 47 minutes.
Timado fueled TSM's 30-16 kill lead with an excellent line of 12 kills and six assists on just one death. Gainullin "kasane" Ilyas on Dawnbreaker also pitched in with eight kills and 13 assists on four deaths.
In game two, TSM opted for a couple of unorthodox picks of their own in a mid Magnus for Jonathan "Bryle" De Guia and an offlane Lycan for kasane. Timado rounded out the tri-core with Luna to give his team a powerful early power spike.
Meanwhile, Shopify Rebellion looked to survive TSM's early onslaught and take things late behind Arteezy's Morphling.
While Shopify Rebellion had a good start to the laning stage, everything fell apart at the 14-minute mark as TSM broke the game wide open. Shopify Rebellion simply could not muster a defense as TSM bulldozed their way to a 27-minute rout to secure the 2-0 sweep.
Timado led the way for TSM with five kills and five assists on just one death to pace his team's 14-8 kill lead. Bryle also added a clean 3 kills and 11 assists.
Despite their huge victory over Shopify Rebellion, TSM could not rest on their laurels quite yet as they still had to face another regional rival in Nouns Esports later in the day for the right to advance to the Main Event.
Gaimin Gladiators 2-0 Evil Geniuses
Up next was Gaimin Gladiators knocking out EG in a convincing 2-0 sweep.
Game one saw the three-time Major champions get off to a flying start behind Anton "dyrachyo" Shkredov's Weaver and Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard's Bristleback. Meanwhile, EG were forced to play keep-away to buy time for Crhistian "Pakazs" Savina's carry Dark Willow.
While EG were able to hold against a relentless onslaught from Gaimin Gladiators for over an hour, their stubborn defense was eventually broken after a 69-minute slugfest. Dyrachyo paced his team's 35-32 kill lead with 13 kills and six assists against nine deaths while Ace added 10 kills and 13 assists on six deaths.
In game two, the three-time Major champions looked to finish off EG with a hyper-sustain lineup anchored by Quinn "Quinn" Callahan's mid Necrophos and Ace's offlane Dazzle. Meanwhile, dyrachyo on Faceless Void provided the damage.
With all the healing from Gaimin Gladiators' lineup, Pakazs' Phantom Assassin did not have enough damage to win the fights for EG. And after 42 minutes, the South Americans were forced to concede the 2-0 series sweep and their end their run in TI 2023.
Quinn stuffed the stat sheet in the closeout game over EG with 17 kills and 11 assists on two deaths out of Gaimin Gladiator's 33-13 kill lead.
Lower bracket round 2
Nouns Esports 2-0 TSM
The third match of the day saw TSM lock horns with Nouns Esports to determine who is the best team in North America and who will advance to the Main Event. Despite the momentum from their prior victory over Shopify Rebellion, TSM fell to Nouns in two drawn-out games.
In game one, TSM drafted a strong midgame lineup led by Timado's Luna, Bryle's Pangolier, and kasane's Bristleback. Nouns looked to take things late behind Héctor "K1" Rodríguez's Naga Siren, Nicolas "Gunnar" Lopez's Earth Spirit, and David "Moo" Hull's Brewmaster.
Things looked good for TSM early on as they were able to slow down K1's progression and start their midgame snowball. However, botched teamfights cost them their momentum, allowing Nouns to stall things out and eventually prevail after 57 minutes.
Gunnar paced Nouns' 34-13 kill lead with 13 kills and 16 assists on two deaths. K1 also pitched in with four kills and 15 assists on just one death while Rodrigo "Lelis" Santos on Skywrath Mage added nine kills and 21 assists on two deaths.
Game two saw Nouns once again look to a late game win behind K1's Phantom Lancer. Gunnar reprised Earth Spirit while Moo ran with an offlane Dazzle to get their carry through the early to midgame.
TSM opted for another high-tempo lineup with Bryle on Primal Beast and kasane on Beastmaster, but now with Timado on Muerta to match the opposing Phantom Lancer should things go late.
While TSM held early momentum once again, they could not force a decisive fight against Nouns, who were content to play keep-away and let the game devolve to a slow, low-kill farm fest. Despite TSM's best efforts, Nouns outmaneuvered them in almost every turn before taking a decisive teamfight in the 68-minute mark that secured them the 2-0 series sweep.
Gaimin Gladiators 2-0 9Pandas
Gaimin Gladiators then ended the day by punching their ticket to the Main Event at the expense of 9Pandas in one of the most one-sided series of the tournament so far.
Game one was the fastest game of TI 2023 so far as Gaimin Gladiators punished a greedy 9Pandas draft and got their first win of the series in just 19 minutes of action. The support duo of Erik "tOfu" Engel on a support Muerta and Melchior "Seleri" Hillenkamp on Chen shined in game one, shutting down 9Pandas all across the map to give their core players free reign to wreak havoc.
Dyrachyo on Chaos Knight put up six kills and five assist on two deaths to pace his team's 20-5 kill lead in game one. Quinn on Kunkka also had a clean four kills and seven assists while Seleri notched a spotless three-kill, 10-assist line.
9Pandas had a better showing in game two, but Gaimin Gladiators still emerged victorious in a 32-minute rout to claim the 2-0 series victory.
Gaimin Gladiators once again punished a greedy draft from their opponents with a high-tempo tri-core of Terrorblade for dyrachyo, Primal Beast for Quinn, and Bristleback for Ace. While 9Pandas were able to score some early kills on Ace, they could not stop Gaimin Gladiators from stomping the rest of the lanes and eventually finishing the series up 29-14 in kills.
Quinn put up a clean five kills and 21 assists in the closeout game while Ace had a game-high eight kills and nine assists despite six deaths.
With today's results, Nouns Esports and Gaimin Gladiators have guaranteed themselves at least a Top 8 finish as well as US$76,000 in winnings. They will be playing in TI 2023's Main Event in Climate Pledge Arena from 27 to 29 October.
Meanwhile, Shopify Rebellion and Evil Geniuses exit TI 2023 in 13th-16th place with US$46,000 in consolation. TSM and 9Pandas bow out in 9th-12th place and will take home US$61,000 for their efforts.
The final day of the Road to The International Playoffs will feature the following matchups:
Lower bracket round 1:
BetBoom Team vs Vivo Keyd Stars
Tundra Esports vs Entity
Lower bracket round 2:
Talon Esports vs winner of BetBoom Team vs Vivo Keyd Stars
Virtus.pro vs winner of Tundra Esports vs Entity
The Road to The International Playoffs will take place from 20 to 22 October in the Seattle Convention Center's Summit. It will feature the 16 teams that made it out of the Group Stage fighting to be among the eight teams making it to The International Main Event.
The International Main Event will be hosted in the Climate Pledge Arena from 27 to 29 October, where this year's Dota 2 world champion will be crowned in the Grand Finals on 29 October.
For everything you need to know about TI 2023, check here.