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Star Series Season 9: Star Ladder Wars

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Tom Massez
Junior Product Manager
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The LAN Finals of the ninth installment of Star Ladder Star Series have come to an end. In this epic four day journey, we saw the rise and fall of champions as they battled it out for a prize pool of over US$220,000. The tournament saw teams from all over the world clashing at the Cybersport Arena in Kiev, with eight teams having made their way through the massive online leagues and qualified for this spectacular event.

A new (American) hope

Star Ladder had many stories, but perhaps the biggest was that of Evil Geniuses. The newly formed team finally had their chance to prove themselves at a LAN event. Missing their carry Clinton "Fear" Loomis due to elbow issues, the team headed to Kiev with a replacement: Cloud 9's EternaLEnVy.

The team started off well, better than many expected as they defeated all their opponents during the group stage including the likes of Invictus Gaming and Natus Vincere. In their first match of the playoffs, the team took down The International 3 champions Alliance in two spectacular games.

It was only when they faced the Chinese Team DK that they met their match. The combined strength of Universe, Arteezy, zai, ppd and EternaLEnVy wasn't enough to break through the might and tactics of the WPC ACE champions. The team dropped down to the losers' bracket and took on Team Empire for a chance at revenge.

Things ultimately didn't go Evil Geniuses' way, however, and their story ended in a third place finish. The American team has proved itself more than capable of taking on the best in the world, yet many are wondering if the team would fare better with a different, permanent carry.

Empire strikes back

Team Empire has had a stable roster for a while now, but they were still waiting for their big break. A third place at D2CL Season 2 and a second place finish at MLG T.K.O. Europe are impressive results, but nothing like winning a Star Ladder featuring teams from all over the world. Silent, Mag, VASKOR, ALWAYSWANNAFLYH and Resolut1on gave an incredible performance during the online season, defeating thirteen teams and only losing to two others.

Finishing in first place gave the team the confidence they needed to perform well at the LAN finals, or so they thought. The group stage started well for Team Empire with a victory over Korean team MVP Phoenix, who themselves showed much potential. However, things then went south for Empire as they lost to both DK and Alliance respectively.

Those two losses meant that the team had the start all the way in the back in the losers' bracket - one slip up and they were out of the tournament. Empire held their heads high, however, and in a performance few could hope for and even less could achieve, they defeated all their opponents.

RoX.KIS didn't stand much chance against the Russian and Ukrainian team, and they pushed on to defeat two The International Champions in a row. Neither Alliance nor Invictus Gaming could stop the mighty Empire, and after defeating a European and Chinese team, the American team was next.

A clash of titans occurred between Empire and Evil Geniuses, and after the dust had finally settled, it was Empire who emerged victorious. However, their mission wasn't over yet - an even mightier opponent stood in their way, and they weren't going to let the Ukrainian audience down. However, even with the crowd behind them, nothing had prepared them for this.

The return of Team DK

There were whispers of their return, but no one expected it like this. Team DK had a less then ideal year during 2013. The star lineup wasn't enough to bring home glory during the tournaments they faced. After an only ffifth place finish at The International, the team split up, with only BurNIng remaining. X!! returned to the team in September of 2013 and was joined by Mushi, iceiceice and LaNm.

The team set out to MLG Columbus to prove themselves, and prove themselves they did. Just falling short of glory, the team achieved a second place finish, but what followed was a return to former glory. Team DK went on a tear, achieving first place finish at both WPC Ace and G-League. Destined to show the world their strength, they qualified for the Star Ladder LAN finals and turned their eyes to Kiev.

DK's run through Star Ladder was perfect. Not a single map was lost and their opponents didn't stand a chance. Defeating Alliance, Empire and MVP Phoenix in the group stage, the team secured a position in the upper bracket. There they faced their fellow countrymen Invictus Gaming, but even they couldn't put a scratch on them.

Evil Geniuses stood in their way to the finals but they wouldn't for long. Team DK was more than happy to return the favor EternaLEnVy did them during MLG Columbus, and defeated the team in spectacular fashion. With a one game advantage they headed to the finals, where they would face the might of the Empire.

However, even the mighty Empire couldn't make a dent in the armor of Team DK. The team play from the Chinese team was immaculate, getting the best out of the worst engagements. In two beautiful games, they defeated Team Empire and took home the title of Star Ladder Champions. Many are wondering if we will see the same from DK as we did from Alliance last year, where they rampaged through the summer and claimed the Aegis of Champions at The International.

For more information about Star Ladder Star Series, be sure to head over to the official website.