Table of Contents
The Winners of StarLadder
The Losers of StarLadder
Looking ahead to the Kiev Major
Who's getting invites?
More on Liquipedia
As befitting the last tournament before the invites to the Kiev Major go out, the stakes were high during the last weekend. The additional pressure worked wonders on Team Liquid, however, as they swept the competition in Shanghai, dropping only 2 maps on their way to the gold. As disappointing as it must have been to miss out on the Boston Major, KuroKy & co. have struck back and firmly established themselves near the top of the Dota scene now. But it was not only Team Liquid that caught a second wind. Led by rOtK and the legendary duo of fy and fenrir, VG.J took center stage on their home turf. The grizzled veterans were evidently displeased by fans telling them they were washed up and just not up to par anymore. Dispatching not only their regional rivals Wings but also reigning major champions OG in the semis, these results revealed the massive potential this roster has. They might even be the strongest Chinese team at the moment—they certainly were the only team at Starladder that managed to put a (temporary) stop to Liquid’s rampage.
Team Liquid Ascendant
Besides our two finalists, there has been one more team whose stock must be on the rise after their performance in China. With the majority of their TI6 roster back within the fold, TnC took out not only iG.V but also upset Secret before inevitably falling to Liquid. For the SEA region the performance by the Filipinos must be a very reassuring sight after Fnatic’s roster imploded. While Faceless have been rebounding for a while now, with TnC also staking a claim to regional supremacy, there may be more depth in the SEA region than anyone suspected.
For iG.Vitality, nothing much seems to have changed. While they do hover near the top of the Chinese scene, they seem unprepared for interregional competition, even with their full roster in attendance this time around. After getting eliminated in the groups, it is back to the drawing board for them, as the Kiev qualifiers and DAC are rapidly approaching, with much higher stakes and prestige on the line.
Wings Gaming and Digital Chaos have had quite a fall now since they met during the finals in Seattle at TI6. Is Wings now just yet another victim of the TI-Winner’s curse? While they are of course still the feared TI champion, defeating rivals in style (just look at their Furion-Brewmaster draft in Game 1 against DC), their aura of invincibility has disappeared. They not only looked out of their element during the series against Liquid, but VG.J also conquered them rather easily. As another top finish eludes them in Shanghai just as it did at Genting, Wings have a lot to prove during the coming weeks.
DC’s case is a rather curious one. Many were initially leaning towards calling their TI run a fluke, but as they showed consistency with a top 4 finish at Boston and the gold in Genting, it began to dawn on most of us that DC was here to stay. Unfortunately for them, just as they seemed to have found their footing, it was yanked out under them again. After bombing out of Dota Pit and then failing to take down domestic rivals NP in the DAC qualifier, StarLadder proved to be another step down the drain. DC have a lot of work to do if they want to reverse the trend and catch up to other teams.
For Team Secret, their experience in Shanghai must feel like a very frustrating déja vu. With the amount of starpower assembled on their team and the expectations of a fanbase that has historically been accustomed to high finishes, the post-TI6 Secret simply has not delivered. Not only did they fail to make it to Boston, but even after shuffling their offlaner, their only win of note remains the ROG Masters (which could be considered a tier 2 field, at best). Just as Secret faltered at Dota Pit, so again were they upset by a team that had been considered weaker than the powerhouse from the European region. After failing to qualify to DAC Secret have all but guaranteed themselves a trip into the snake pit known as the European Qualifier for the Kiev Major. Right now, Team Secret is far from their old glory days.
OG’s loss to VG.J was probably the biggest upset of the tournament; but, these games felt like a perfect storm for the Chinese hometown heroes. Not only was OG missing their usual edge, but spurred on by the cheering crowd VG.J had also propelled themselves to a whole new level of play. Despite the unexpected loss in the semifinals, OG has little cause to worry. Not only did they look well and in control during the groups, but as defending Major champions there is no reason to fret over their potential invitation to Kiev. Only if they should suffer a similar fate during the upcoming DAC should their fans start to worry. Nevertheless, I have faith that their elimination here will serve as a wake-up call that the Dota 2 world certainly never rests; OG will not fall into complacency.
With the conclusion of Starladder i-League StarSeries Season 3, the last tournament before the invites to Kiev has finished. Let us now take a look at the potential invitees.
Looking Ahead to Kiev
I will be working under the assumption that there will be 6 invites and 10 qualifier slots, with the new (CIS & SA) regions only having 1 qualifier slot and the others retaining 2.
There are probably only 3 teams that are locked-in regardless of what criteria are used and these would be OG, Newbee and EG. A group consisting of the current Major champion and the 2 most stable, high-performing teams.
Now how to fill in the remaining invites? In terms of regional balance, it will probably be another European team, one Chinese team, and one Southeast Asian team. Now this is where our problems begin. To choose another Chinese team is a hard task, since, as the many online league results show us, anyone can take off games from each other. The Chinese Dota scene has also been quite quiet for the past month due to the Chinese New Year celebrations. With such hindering factors, I find it likely that Valve will just fall back onto Wings Gaming, as they are the most easily justified choice, despite their recent lack of results.
For the last 2 invites, the answer is more difficult. Regarding another European team, there should be only 2 teams in consideration: Team Liquid or Ad Finem. The former has a strong string of results with 2 LAN victories, but the latter took second place at Boston. While it would be a breach of tradition to not give the runner-up from the last Major an invite, the Greeks’ recent performance has shown little of the flashes of brilliance that carried them through their run at Boston; and, in terms of strength, TL is clearly the superior team at the moment. As for the SEA teams, it would be a tossup between Faceless and TnC who both have shown good LAN results (Dota Pit & StarLadder, respectively). Personally, I would rate StarLadder higher, since DotaPit had a best-of-one lower bracket that skewed the placings a bit.
It is my belief that DC could have also made the list if they had delivered a top 4 finish in Shanghai, but alas, DC probably lost the invite status they could have traced from their win at Genting. Similarly, Secret lost any chance at an invitation they may have had after failing to make it out of their group.
In summation, I soon expect us to be greeted by these invites to Kiev:
- Team Liquid
- TnC Pro Team