A Break in the Armor: Riyadh Masters 2023

As the Dota 2 competitive season continues to thrive, the Gaimin Gladiators turned their path to one of the largest esports tournaments added to the world of competitive gaming. After becoming back to back to back major champions alongside varying A-Tier championships; the Gaimin Gladiators had the pleasure of attending ESL and Saudi Esports Federation’s Riyadh Masters event; in hopes of continuing their winning ways. Already qualified to Dota’s most prestigious event, The International 12; The Gladiators took to Riyadh with hopes of mastering their play and continuing their long and grueling practice schedule in hopes of acquiring the true end goal later this October; The Aegis of Champions. With a whopping $15,000,000 dollars at stake the path has never been more treacherous with the best Dota 2 teams hoping to change their lives in the beautiful city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

After the initial Play-In Seeds duked it out in the tournament's early beginnings; The Gaimin Gladiators steadied their course, beginning in the tournament's second stage with matches against their Group A counterparts. Amongst them Western European’s OG and Quest Esports, China’s PSG.LGD and Xtreme Gaming, Eastern European representation in Team Spirit and 9Pandas, and South American’s lone Evil Geniuses roster finalized the Group A competition. With six total spots on the line (four upper bracket and 2 lower bracket) the Gladiators hoped to continue their A-Tier play in hopes of contending for another 2023 championship. After a mediocre Group A performance narrowly maintaining their upper bracket path with an 8-6 record and 3rd place Group A finish; the Gladiators turned their attention to where they do their best work; Playoffs. After their 3rd place finish, the Gladiators played the year's continuous battle with their Western European counterpart Team Liquid in the opening upper bracket quarterfinals.

Gaimin Gladiators vs Team Liquid - Upper Bracket Quarterfinals 

A tale as old as time, especially this 2023 season; Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid battling on the toughest stages, with plenty of money and virtue swarming about. With Gaimin Gladiators coming out on top in the teams previous competitive history; Riyadh was an unfortunate circumstance for the year’s most dominating team the competitive Dota ecosystem has seen in quite some time. After a solid initial 42 minute game 1 victory, the tape looked to continue on repeat; but Team Liquid capitalized and finally struck back, not often seen throughout the year’s playoff match-ups. With successful back to back wins, Team Liquid finally made a crack in the otherwise undamaged armor of the year’s most impressive team; pushing them into the grueling and unforgiving world of lower bracket play.

With the loss Gaimin Gladiators turned their attention to another Western European adversary Tundra Esports; often resurfacing against one another with the dominant venture of Western Europe's regional contenders.

Gaimin Gladiators vs Tundra Esports - Lower Bracket Round 1 

Even as tough as Team Liquid has been this season, Tundra Esports was equally as unforgiving. Playing throughout varying occasions this season, The International 11 winning Tundra Esports looked to maintain their stance as a titan within both the region and the world. As titan’s and gladiators battled in the lower bracket round 1 play; the competitive nature easily surrounded the match-up that had a sense of high stake games that easily could’ve begun later down both’s tournament road.Competing close and tight knit, the Gladiators slayed a promising Tundra roster, winning both games in close contending fashion. Winning a 63 minute game 3 pushed the Gladiators onwards, clutching up as the Gaimin Gladiator roster often does with ease.

As they moved on regional play looked to continue, as the up and coming Quest Esports maintained pace with the defying Gladiator roster, who matched up in the second round of lower bracket contention

Gaimin Gladiators vs Quest Esports - Lower Bracket Round 2

Once again making their stance late in the year; Quest Esports have become the new kids on the block. Making headway as one of the newest and somewhat dominant rosters the hardcore demographic of Dota 2’s play has become, Quest Esports looked to push past naysayers hoping to make a stance not often seen in professional Dota 2. With a lower bracket round 2 on the line, Western European teams once again duked it out looking to continue their road in Riyadh. Gaimin Gladiators stood tall, once again knocking off a promising contender. Winning the series 2-0, but in close lengthy fashion; The Gladiators maintained form hoping to make an exciting lower bracket run to keep their winning ways on the line.

Gaimin Gladiators vs BetBoom - Lower Bracket Quarterfinals 

Continuing their path in lower bracket play, the Gladiators turned their task to Eastern Europe’s BetBoom roster in the tournament's lower bracket quarterfinals. BetBoom, who narrowly maintained pace in the DPC race for TI12 contention, qualified by the skin of their teeth in the year’s final DPC spot. Looking to flip the page on an otherwise successful yet topsy turvy DPC season BetBoom looked to push past a Gladiator in its wake. The series started off on the right path, winning an early 38 minute contest that gave them the early leg in the race. Yet as we’ve seen time and time again the Gladiators took no prisoners, amplifying their game and winning out the series in tried and true and true form completing the series 2-1 in their favor.

The lower bracket run looked promising for the year's major champions, hoping to add another trophy to the cabinet. Yet, with their consistent play the Gladiators ran into a team not many believe to be of top tier contention. That team was Talon Esports.

Gaimin Gladiators vs Talon Esports - Lower Bracket Semifinals 

Qualifying as the 8th overall team via DPC points; the South East Asian Talon Esports looked to change the narrative surrounding the SEA region often noted as being a sub-par region that’s become of it these past several years. Being one of the top tier teams within the region and with promising potential however Talon Esports hoped to turn the tides, on a team who haven’t seen defeat. After a successful 4th place finish at the year’s earlier DreamLeague Season 20, losing to the likes of the Gaimin Gladiators the lower bracket semi final was different for both teams alike. With scrappy back and forth play, both teams competed at will, looking to push past boundaries as a Gladiator in the world, and as a potential contender breaking out of an otherwise lackluster region. David vs Goliath as some would call it, ended with Talon Esports on top. With 3 exciting back and forth games the Gladiators finally received a break in their armor, not yet seen this 2023 year. 

After another memorable run in the year’s most exciting Tier 1 tournament, the Gladiators graciously bowed out with a respectable 4th place finish, losing to a Talon Esports roster who showed immaculate Dota throughout. Winning graciously this year, the Gladiators may have received a small break in the armor, but are poised to continue their path to greatness looking to win when it truly counts. With the year winding down, every team looks to restructure and reset for the year's end goal of becoming The International 12 champion.

Congratulations to Team Liquid on their Riyadh Masters 2023 victory, and to the lovely city of Riyadh for their hospitality. For more information on Gaimin Gladiators Dota 2, and all our professional esports teams stay tuned here for recaps, blogs and content in all our esports ventures. Thank you for reading. #AgainstAllOdds



Keenan “Slakks” Flamand
Author / Creative Writer