It's time for the final ESPN Esports Award - team of the year.
In 2017, esports pushed the envelope far beyond expectations -- from outside investments and mainstream appeal to grassroots moments and new, exciting players hitting the scene, it was certainly a year to remember.
While that's all well and good, success -- championships, rivalries and climactic matches -- is what teams are looking for at the end of the day. Today, we look over the clubs that made it rain gold in 2017 and the one team that stood above all the rest to win ESPN's Esports Team of the Year.
Team Liquid (DOTA 2)
Team Liquid's win at the International 2017 capped a 7-year odyssey for captain Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi. In the 2017 season, the already formidable Team Liquid roster added former OG star Amer "Miracle-" al-Barkawi to the squad. After feeling its way through the changes in the early part of 2017, Team Liquid saw strong tournament finishes, including wins at Starladder and EPICENTER 2017. Of the teams that were contenders for the title, only Liquid was the most fluid, using different laning configurations and adaptive strategies to power through every team set before it. For its history-setting run, flexible strategies and satisfying book-ending, Team Liquid deserves a nomination for the team of the year award.
At TI, Liquid made history twice: First, for winning the Aegis of Champions; and second, for being the only team to do so by sweeping its competition 3-0. Its dominating performance in TI, despite a lower bracket fall early in the playoffs, is important in the manner of its enshrinement as International champion. Throughout the year, Team Liquid faced off against a resurgent Chinese Dota scene, a Virtus.Pro squad that looked absolutely domineering and an OG team that looked to redeem the sins of the season prior. --Paolo Bago
Samsung Galaxy (League of Legends)
A feeling of inevitability set over the 2017 League of Legends World Championship as soon as SK Telecom T1 locked in Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon as its top laner over Park "Untara" Ui-jin. While the team was thinking ahead to a probable final against Longzhu Gaming en route to a fourth World Championship title, Samsung Galaxy, the South Korean team that looked the shakiest in groups, eliminated Longzhu by adapting a more bot-lane-focused strategy.
It's not just that Samsung eventually stopped SKT's win streak or that it swept the Telecom giant 3-0. Throughout the bracket stage, Samsung only dropped one game and had to go through two South Korean teams for the title. Samsung wasn't even the team expected to be the third Worlds representative from South Korea, yet it won by carefully adapting from stage to stage, learning from mistakes and adjusting. Adjustment was why most, including myself, expected SKT to win its third straight Worlds title (fourth overall). It was the mark of the SKT dynasty. With Samsung's flexible yet strong performance, it's now just the mark of an excellent team. --Emily Rand
Lunatic-Hai might have not come out with a win in the final tournament of APEX this year, but with the strongest and most consistent performance across the board as well as some of the members dominating at the Overwatch World Cup, it's hard not to put Lunatic-Hai in contention as one of the best teams. Having persevered throughout the year through different meta shifts and adapting to most of its mistakes, these are all the signs of a top team. --Steven Nguyen
FaZe Clan (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
After a year of disappointing group stage exits for FaZe, the addition of Finn "karrigan" Andersen reversed its fortune. After a handful of promising events, karrigan recruited superstar Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, which turned FaZe into a world-class team for the first time since its inception. After two more roster moves in the summer, adding Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer Gustafsson and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, FaZe became the most talented team in the history of Counter-Strike. In the months that followed, the new roster won two international tournaments in undefeated fashion: ESL One New York and ELeague Premier. These two performances might well be the most dominant back-to-back events by any team in the history of Counter-Strike. As the only team to remain a contender across the entire season as well as the most improved team of 2017, FaZe is more than deserving of the nomination for team of the year. --Sam Delorme
MVP/KSV Black (Heroes of the Storm)
The 2017 BlizzCon Heroes of the Storm champion has had one of the best years of all-time in that game. In the South Korean Heroes Global Championship Pro League, the team took second in the first phase, followed by a fourth and second finish internationally at DreamHack Summer and the Eastern Clash. But its undefeated 14-0 first place in the second phase of the South Korean HGC Pro League ignited a hot streak that led it to its Global Championship Finals finish at BlizzCon.
MVP and its sister team MVP Miracle were bought outright before BlizzCon by South Korea and Silicon Valley esports org KSV, which also had bought into the Overwatch League months prior. Now KSV Black, the team's streak continues, as it bested Team Dignitas in the finals of the Heroes of the Storm Gold Club World Championship in December. --Jacob Wolf
And the winner is: Team Liquid (DOTA 2)
Excerpted from 2017 ESPN Esports Awards: Why Team Liquid is team of the year:
Team Liquid's 2017 run is a lesson in actualization. Here was a team with all the talent and pedigree of a champion, but whose early struggles had them fighting their own demons. Once Liquid conquered the fear that turned their fluid play into languid actions, they were a team that could not be stopped by even the most polished teams. Where other teams in DOTA 2 simply operated on their expected mean, Liquid came together and quelled the storm to claim their real potential. The International Champions.
2017 marks the end of a seven-year odyssey for team captain Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi. The Dota 1 veteran himself said it best: "I sat at home, trying to figure out what's next. Eventually I turned my obsession towards another goal: Winning the next International." 2017 was the story of Team Liquid conforming to the form of their vessel. The form of a champion. We look forward to seeing what they can do in 2018 as a fully realized championship team waiting to make history once again.