Who are the champions of the European region? No really, who is on top? DreamHack Summer, ESL Leicester, and Blizzards Summer Championship have all seen the European crown change heads this year. DreamHack Valencia was no exception, with the former top dogs, mYinsanity, not even making it to the finals, getting absolutely demolished in the semifinals by a team who wasn't even on the radar. Well done in that regard, Fnatic.
Diving into the first day, we saw the top dogs of each group, mYinsanity and Dignitas, barely make it out of group play after being picked apart by the revamped Team Liquid and Fnatic squads, respectively. While both of these two underdogs have consistently been a top-8 team in the European scene, they have never been anywhere near as good as mYinsanity and Dignitas. The fact that both of these two teams could climb to the top of their groups with 2-0 finishes is a testament to their hard work and improvement as a whole. It's also an incredibly positive sign for the state of the competition in their region.
With as good as the group stages were on the first day, it's a little insane how one-sided both of the semifinal matches were on Friday. Looking at the first matchup, mYinsanity had pretty good control over the entire match until a minor blunder late in the game allowed Fnatic to grab an objective, and push towards a keep, while simultaneously getting the middle fort to under 10% HP, which led to them winning the first match. The next game in the series also saw mYinsanity take control, only to lose it as the psychological health of the team waned from the epic throw in Game 1. By Game 3, mYinsanity was so tilted that they did not remotely look like the same team that's terrorized Europe in the past, and got completely destroyed. The second semifinal series of the day proved to be just as one-sided, with Team Dignitas dismantling Team Liquid in devastating fashion. While Team Liquid did demonstrate some early glimpses of hope against the juggernaut that is Dignitas, their 6-minute boss strategy early on in Game 1 was poorly executed and essentially gave Team Dignitas a 1-0 series lead just after the 10-minute mark. This speedy win really built momentum for Dignitas and helped them steamroll Team Liquid, 3-0 for a ticket to the Grand Finals.
Fnatic and Dignitas have never been more close in skill than they are right now. Historically, Dignitas has been far and above Fnatic. During group stages, however, Fnatic was able to beat Dignitas 2-1 in an extraordinary series that featured a 40 minute Tomb of the Spider Queen match. With just a tiny separation heading into the Grand Finals, the atmosphere was intense from the start.
Game 1 saw Dignitas with a small, but firm lead the entire match. This was mostly due to Fnatic drafting a relatively low damage team with Kael'Thas as their only assassin, as well as Fnatic's Pontus "Breez" Sjogren having a tough time landing his Mosh Pit ultimate on, well, anyone. Game 2 saw Fnatic in the lead until Dignitas made an epic play, rushing Fnatic's core and stealing a win. Game 3 was one of the most exciting games of the day, lasting over 32 minutes, with Fnatic ultimately edging Dignitas out thanks to some insane damage dealt by Dob "Quackniix" Engstrom on Lunara, for a 2-1 lead. Game 4 was the turning point for the down-but-not-out Dignitas squad. They took care of business in the draft and had a domineering presence in the game, sealing the win in just under 20 minutes. The story of this match boiled down to just two words, "Living Bomb". Finally, as we approached Game 5, Fnatic made some peculiar draft picks in both a solo tank Diablo and a Valla selection for their assassin. Both of these lackluster picks were proven to be perfectly acceptable in the capable hands of Fnatic, but a grave mistake was made late in the game where Fnatic failed to secure level 20 prior to contesting the objective. This allowed Dignitas to secure the Immortal and open up a direct route to the core. Later in the match, Dignitas used that open area to sneak three of their members down to the core and start attempting to end the game. Meanwhile, Dignitas Joshua "Snitch" Bennett, on Falstad, managed to fly to his allies to help them all-in the core and clinch the series.
With that move, Team Dignitas earned the 2016 DreamHack Valencia title, and more importantly, secured a spot at the Fall Championships later this year, with a whopping $1,000,000 on the line.