The International 12: A Gaimin Gladiator Story

The International; A tournament summoning the finest Dota 2 teams from across the globe, vying to make their mark on the coveted Aegis of Champions, engraving their accomplishment to the masses as the finest players to grace Dota 2’s always entertaining esports venture. The 12th installment of Valves International provided the opportunity for Dota teams to clash in the historic city of Seattle returning to the mecha of Dota and the possibility to change their lives, seizing all the glory that comes with it. The Gaimin Gladiators, a true juggernaut throughout the 2023 DPC season, becoming the winningest team in Dota 2 Pro Circuit history looked to continue their otherwise unstoppable season, providing a season of unrelenting power at the most opportune moment. After successful major victories in Lima, Berlin and Bali alongside DreamLeague and BetBoom championships; the Gladiators hoped to continue the narrative as the most dominant group the Dota world has seen thus far. With their attention turned to Seattle, and their hopeful path to the Climate Pledge Arena; the Gladiators mounted up ready for the war in the year’s final stop; The International 12.

The Road to the International began their early stages to hopeful International champions, with a group stage that provided interesting outcomes, not expected for some. Outlined in best of two group C play, the Gladiators faced off vying for one of four potential spots to be acquired on the first proving ground to the Seattle Convention Centre’ Summit and playoff play. In their initial path, China’s LGD Gaming, South America’s Beastcoast, North America’s Nouns and CIS’s Virtus Pro poised to make their way through, took to the groups in collective excitement starting the group stages off with a bang, hoping not to be the lone team going home.

Group Stage 

Series 1 - Gaimin Gladiators vs LGD Gaming

Accustomed to a new patch and the excitement of the always adapting meta that comes with it, The International provided exciting variations of play, often circumventing the teams mentality throughout. Looking to grasp a chokehold in the early stages comes tough to some, hoping to play with proper team cohesion alongside the stress of strategic play that comes with the world of professional Dota. Beginning their opening series against China’s premier organization LGD; the Gladiators looked to start off on the right foot, with only 4 best of two series’ to play every win matters; unfortunately for the season's best, the opening series didn’t provide the strong start they hoped for, as China’s LGD Gaming dictated the pace through and through. Losing their opening International series’ 0-2, the Gladiators played without rhythm looking to adapt to the ongoing tournament meta and style that was so prevalent in seasons past. In subsequent 38 and 34 minute losses, the Gladiators looked to change their narrative coming in behind and hoping for success in the tournament's opening stages.

Series 2 - Gaimin Gladiators vs Virtus Pro

After a shocking and unfortunate 2-0 defeat by the hands of the up and coming Chinese LGD Gaming roster; the Gladiators needed to adapt, and bring in the Gladiator mentality they’ve shown throughout their exceptional season. Turning their attention to Virtus Pro, the Gladiators made their mark, changing their early downfall and coming back in hopes of keeping their head above water. With a successful 2-0 series victory in fairly convincing fashion; the Gladiators kept up with the groups best hoping to stay on the upper side of the fast and unrelenting group stage portion. After 2-0 defeat to an admirable Chinese foe, the Gladiators made a mark defeating the up and coming CIS Virtus Pro roster adapting and maintaining pace notably; often needed for the back and forth nature of group stage qualification.

Series 3 - Gaimin Gladiators vs Nouns

With a current 2-2 series score, the Gladiators turned their attention to International 12 qualifying team Nouns, with many expecting a 2-0 series victory over a team circumventing some success; often noted as the third best North American adversary throughout DPC’s seasons past. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, the series' opening game was not to the start they desired. Nouns with interesting draft selections of Primal Beast, Ancient Apparition and last pick Ogre Magi; Nouns stormed into the series’ handing Gaimin Gladiators an early 29 minute defeat, not expected for many. Thankfully for the Gaimin Gladiators and fans alike; Game two provided an exact opposite finale. Adapting to Nouns early aggression and unique drafting circumstances; the Gladiators also pursued unique hero selection such as Sniper, alongside strong side lanes pressuring the often farm heavy North American playstyle. In a swift 23 minutes, the Gladiators pulled off a game two victory, continuing their group stage in an unconvincing yet stable fashion, and a 3-3 scoreline into their final series of the tournament's opening portion.

Series 4 - Gaimin Gladiators vs Beastcoast

Day two provided Gaimin Gladiators a single series to cap off their group stage performance, in hopes of propping themselves higher than the rest and their final series against South America’s Beastcoast. Coming in with a 2-4 record with ties against Virtus Pro and Nouns; the final series for both provided many implications. Gaimin Gladiators looking for a 2nd place group finish, and Beastcoast on the brink of elimination; together with different variables yet both looking for late stage success and hopeful playoff contention. Gaimin Gladiators throughout for many didn’t look like the successor of seasons past, changed the narrative completely against the Peruvian Beastcoast squad. With strong early game team cohesion and a collective team performance; Gaimin Gladiators showed up when needed, completing the groups final series 2-0 and with a 5-3 group stage record, granting them 2nd seed overall. 

After an ebb and flow of the tournament's early stages, the team sustained their way through the groups lacking some previous strength but looking admirable throughout. Moving onwards to the newly formatted seeding decider match the Gladiators unfortunately did not have a decision in the matter, letting LGD Gaming and fate decide their opponent, with upper/lower bracket stakes waiting in the balance. LGD who selected 4th seeded Brazilian Keyd Stars; the Gladiators were presented with group D’s 3rd seed opponent, and one they’ve competed against variously in 2023; Talon Esports. After previous defeat by the hands of Talon at Riyadh Masters event earlier this fall, the seeding decider provided a strong path to Climate Pledge Arena and hopeful upper bracket competition, giving an upper hand to those that grasp the opportunity. Slated against South East Asia’s Talon Esports, this series seeding decider provided the best series in the tournament’s second phase, and the only three game series throughout.

Phase two: Seeding Decider - Gaimin Gladiators vs Talon Esports

After a topsy turvy group stage performance for both, Gaimin Gladiators and Talon Esports provided the most exciting seeding decider series this International event. Both poised with massive expectations, the teams hoped to continue their tournament lives in upper bracket contention, giving them one more life in a grueling and marathon-esque tournament structure. Gaimin Gladiators started off the series hot, winning in a constructed and coordinated manner. With strong team fight heroes of Puck, Phoenix and tournament favorite Muerta; the team looked locked in throughout. Yet, with the series opening victory, the South East Asian late game mentality came to play in game two. After immense early to mid game play by the aggressive Western European Gaimin Gladiator roster, the team unfortunately made their way to South East Asian playstyle, going to long and drawn out stages of farm heavy cores and strong late game team fights, much to the demise of the season’s best. After back and forth fights, almost breaking their throne, the Gladiators slipped up, giving Talon Esports a free road to victory. Turning the tide winning a 65 minute game two, narrowly taking the series with them the Gladiators looked distraught taking the wind out of their sails, not often seen. Talon Esports continued the momentum in game three, with strong play by 23savage’s unstoppable Morphling and strong teamfight heavy initiation of Earthshaker and Dawnbreaker, the Gladiators upper bracket lives turned grim, knocking them down in 2-1 series’ defeat. 

Regarded as an upset often seen in International’s previous history; the Gladiators needed to turn around the mentality and make a lower bracket run not yet seen in Dota’s professional esports structure. With high hopes of lifting the Aegis of Champions; the Gaimin Gladiators took the lower bracket as a comfort blanket, making a run for the ages, and in strong Gladiator like fashion. 

Main Event

Lower Bracket Round 1 - Gaimin Gladiators vs Evil Geniuses

After a 2-0 defeat to one of the tournament favorite’s in Team Liquid; Evil Geniuses looked to take on another one of the season’s best, hoping for another upset in the tournament's early stages and beginning rounds of the main event. Moving to in-person play at Seattle’s Convention Centre Summit provided fans and viewers alike to the first portion of main event play and qualification to the top 8 and mecha of Dota 2 at Climate Pledge Arena (previously Key Arena) and close acquisition to the Aegis of Champions and the respected individuals surrounding it. Game one was a barn burner, with both teams competing tooth and nail back and forth for anyone to take it. Thankfully to the side of Gaimin Gladiators the 69 minute grueling game went their way. With strong *very* late game calls and high ground coordination game one wasn’t the one sided affair people expected. Game two the team truly turned up the pace. With strong team fighting heroes of Necrophos, Faceless Void and life saving pick of Dazzle, the team truly vamped up their play taking game two into their own hands. After 42 minutes of control the GG’s rained out to the hearts of Gaimin Gladiators and their fans, a successful 2-0 and progression onwards in The Road to the International.

Lower Bracket Round 2 - Gaimin Gladiators vs 9Pandas

With one series victory needed to make it into top 8, Gaimin Gladiators and CIS’s 9Pandas took to the stage in hopes of making it their final destination. After a 2-0 defeat by LGD Gaming, 9Panda’s made their way down to the lower bracket, playing against a team that had their number in 2023’s DPC season. Round 2 provided no such change, as the Gaimin Gladiators showcased immense aggression not seen thus far into the tournament's early beginnings.In a 19 minute game one destruction; the Gladiators never looked back, with subsequent controlled and constricting play 9Panda’s would once again fall, losing game two in early 32 minute fashion.

With the win, Climate Pledge Arena, where all the Dota world would be watching, and continuing their path to ultimate glory. With the Aegis that much closer to claim, the crowds gathered eager for war, taking on the multitude of fans from around the world gathering in the special city of Seattle for the crowning of another International champion. First up on their path, a tournament underdog and crowd favorite; North America’s Nouns came to the stage.

Lower Bracket Round 3 - Gaimin Gladiators vs Nouns

After the exceptional opening ceremony, and team introductions the stage was set for Dota 2 brilliance. First up, Gaimin Gladiators and Nouns graced the stage, in the beautiful and astonishing stained glass theme surrounding the booth, with the finest Dota teams competing to their very best. Gaimin Gladiators once again favorites delivered on every measure. Dictating the meta with early game Weaver decisions alongside staple Pangolier and Chen picks; the Gladiators dictated game one throughout, never giving the underdogs a scent of success. Game two was much of the same, as Gaimin Gladiators and their signature early game lane aggression pushed the pace, never giving an inch to the otherwise slow and steady mid-late game farming of K1 and the Nouns squadron. Playing to their standards the Gladiators made The Internationals opening series a breeze, quieting down the otherwise North American hopefuls and the fans saddened by the outcome. With the win top 6 and progressions to Saturday’s Quarter Final play; and once again to the delight of many the season’s best DPC team and previous Major Grand Final compadre in Team Liquid. 

Lower Bracket Quarter Final - Gaimin Gladiators vs Team Liquid

Often seen throughout the season, Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid came to the International with expectations alike for the two best teams throughout the 2023 season. Matching up throughout the DPC seasons, alongside every major grand final; the teams were ready to once again spark the rivalry, one team hoping to showcase as the best team in Western Europe and the lone representative thus far this International. After a close defeat by the hands of Team Spirit; Team Liquid came to play, pushing the Gaimin Gladiators to the knife's edge. Game one started out to the liking of Gaimin Gladiators dictating early game aggression they’ve been popular for throughout. Roshan is where the game turned critical for both. After an exceptional torrent by Zai fan favorite and Dota veteran, and subsequent team fight victory to the scaling Liquid roster, the game completely changed, providing Liquid a path to early series success. Game one victory went to Team Liquid and Gaimin Gladiators once against needed to fight #AgainstAllOdds. Time and time again this season, the team pulled their way back, formulating a strong team fight draft and signature heroes. With Phoenix and Muerta into the supports hands, Quinn Pangolier, Ace’s Lone Druid and a unique Razor pick for the aggressive and powerful Dyrachyo; the team drove their way through Liquids slower and scaling roster, bringing the series back overall in a win or die game two, and subsequent game three for all the marbles. For the last time this season; Team Liquid and Gaimin Gladiators duked it out with one team's International lives moving onward, hopeful to lift the Aegis all for their first time. Game three brought excitement and staple aggression once again for the Gladiators, last picking a Void Spirit to crowd's pleasant eruption. With strong rotation heroes of Nature's Prophet and a core hero moving the ranks in Weaver; Gaimin Gladiators continued their year’s past dominance over their Western European adversaries, defeating the likes of Team Liquid 2-1 in a quick 27 minute game three. The series proved to be an exceptional one, seen throughout the season as the two best teams in collective DPC points and standings. Fortunately the Gladiators continued the lower bracket success moving to Semi Finals next opponent. After a close 2-1 victory over BetBoom Team, China’s Azure Ray and International veterans came out to battle the new kids on the block.

Lower Bracket Sem-Final - Gaimin Gladiators vs Azure Ray

Azure Ray with Dota veterans known to many including Somnus, FY, Chalice alongside newcomers Lou and TianMing, took to the stage hopeful to the Chinese fans deafening the arena in support and solidarity. Though the fans' screams, chants and support rang throughout the Gladiators took the series by storm, swiftly shutting the blinds on the ray of light deemed China's most exciting team. In quick succession the Gladiators took games one and two in once again coordinated and aggressive nature. After a 22 minute game one victory, game two showcased much of the same. Draft became a thing of beauty garnering attention to aggression and map control. Picks seemed normal, until the last pick Huskar completely infatuated the crowd as fans belted out “ooo’s” and “aaa’s” alike for one of the craziest and downright oppressive heroes in Dota 2. The excitement continued, as the crowd witnessed a quick four kill early game scenario, almost impossible in professional Dota 2. Much to their success of game one, game two provided much the same, as the Gladiators waltzed their way to victory, making a path to the lower bracket final awaiting their opponent. With Team Spirit and LGD Gaming battling it out; Gaimin Gladiators would have to defeat both to lift the coveted Aegis of Champions; but first after defeat by Team Spirit another battle with LGD Gaming would need to be resolved.

Lower Bracket Final - Gaimin Gladiator vs LGD Gaming

After the opening group stage 2-0 defeat; The Gladiator collective competed in form, much to the dismay of their early group stage performance. With another Chinese representative entering the fray, the Chinese faithful chanted in unison hoping to see their region win The International after years of close hardship. Unfortunately for those backing the LGD banner; the Gladiators wanted to make history. Continuing the early game aggressive centric style, Gaimin Gladiators played to that key strength, looking to use it thus shown throughout the tournament. With more unique features such as the oftenly banned Primal Beast, and the lesser known Silencer pick; the Gladiators early game aggression seemed to work in game one’s opening stages. However, LGD Gaming, with key rotations by tournament favorite Spirit Breaker slowly but surely brought their team back. With successful picks and teamfight unison LGD and Gaimin Gladiators battled valiantly back and forth. After key roshan victories, strong catch potential and a staple unkillable Quinn Necrophos; the Gladiators hit LGD’s base just narrowly last hitting the ancient to game one victory. Game two provided much of the same, with early rotating heroes played previously such as Nature’s Prophet, a strong support in Dark Willow and a Queen of Pain counter pick mid-lane the game started and ended without a hitch. With collective outplays, dives, solo kills and team cohesion the Gladiators could not be stopped, slowly and methodically breaking down LGD’s base. With no buybacks and the base in the dusk, GG’s rained from the side of LGD and the Gladiators successfully turned a lower bracket run into a first in competitive Dota; The International Grand Final!

Becoming the first team in The International history to start from Lower Bracket Round 1 to a Grand Final; Gladiators fought their way as they have thus far this season, looking to cap off an immaculate run for the ages. As the three time major champions have proven this year, grit determination and coordination alongside the drive to be champions has never been more desired and the Grand Slam is right in their path to grasp. With the defeat to LGD, Gaimin Gladiators had one more foe to vanquish, a previous International winner looking to become the second two-time champion; Team Spirit. As the strongest foe the Gladiators have seen thus far; the Grand Final much accustomed to the team, was their last fight of the year; hoping to make their mark as the most dominant team in professional Dota 2 ever. 

Grand Final - Gaimin Gladiators vs Team Spirit

 The Grand Finals stage was set; As John Patrick Lowrie, known for his voice of Earthshaker and Pudge, introduced the Grand Final adversaries ready for war, in the Climate Pledge Arena one final time. With the Aegis of Champions gleaming ready to be picked up, fans ready for battle and a nervous energy bombarding the building, the grand finals were mere seconds away to kick off and end an immaculate year of Dota 2. Both teams locked in as the final horn sounded and the grand finals were finally underway. Game one provided an interesting draft sequence with unique heroes such as Treant Protector getting through the ban phase, alongside a Beastmaster not often seen throughout. Gaimin Gladiators struck back with signature heroes, and a last pick Gyrocopter once again fairly new for sorts. With strong early cohesion, adapting to the Gaimin Gladiator aggression, Team Spirit maintained their strength noted by many as the team to beat. As they were, they forced the Gladiators hand, moving as a cohesive unit eventually giving Gladiators game one downfall. Game two felt much to the dismay of the Gaimin Gladiators line-up looking to counteract their typical early game aggression and sustained mid to late game timings with the decision of Morphling, and Wraith King. Unfortunately for them, Collapse Magnus and Yatoro Faceless Void came to play adapting to an otherwise lackluster start, turning the tides with key team fight initiations and ultimates that truly proved fatal to the Gaimin Gladiators strategy. With their backs against the wall the always determined Gladiators looked to fight back after an early 0-2 scoreline looking once again to defy all odds. Game three was different initially with strong early game adaptations and aggression and successful side lane pressure much to the pleasure of Ace and Dyrachyo alike. Providing a fairly substantial gold lead for much of the game's early beginnings; the Gladiators looked to crash the dagger into an otherwise undefeated heart. Unfortunately for the Gaimin Gladiators and the faithful an unprecedented over extension gave Team Spirit their way right back into the game. With a full team wipe, and successful scaling heroes of Dazzle, Chaos Knight and strong supportive cast of Grimstroke and Tusk; the game slowly turned to rubbish. As the base began to fall, the Gladiators tried tooth and nail to make any sort of comeback remarkable, unfortunately for them the upper bracket juggernaut and CIS powerhouse Team Spirit never provided that opportunity. As the fans and spectators began to cheer, and as Caps and SVG casted graciously the throne fell much to the delight of Team Spirit and the fans, adoring the situation. Team Spirit to all who watched their remarkable venture became International champions once again.

Though the heartfelt defeat at the end may have fallen just short, these Gladiators battled tooth and nail throughout not only The International but also a season of unwavering success becoming a household name the Dota world has come to know. Gaimin Gladiators have proven that though the road may not have ended with praise and glory; the now famous Gaimin Gladiators are not an organization to overlook. As the Dota world gives their praise to Team Spirit, we look forward to seeing the next steps the professional Dota 2 world has in store, and the Gaimin Gladiators faithful turn to the next year in hopes of similar success. 

Dota 2; one of the best esports to grace gamers and players alike, provided a season of ebbs and flows for everyone. We congratulate our team on an incredible International run and a DPC season to never forget.


Anton “dyrachyo Shkredov

Quinn “Quinn Callahan

Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Erik “tOfu” Engel

Melchior “Seleri” Hillenkamp

Aske “Cy-” Larsen

All our management staff and fans……thank you for being Gladiators.

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

We’ll see you next year! 



Keenan “Slakks” Flamand
Author / Creative Writer