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The path to Kiev has already begun, with the Open Qualifiers well underway around the globe. But as we wait for the final results of these clashes, let’s take a look at what we know so far of the regional qualifiers to the Kiev Major!
The CN qualifier is full of secondary teams, as big names like xiao8 and DDC will have to make it through the open qualifiers. These secondary teams have proven to be in good shape, but not as good as the directly-invited teams.
Controversies aside, the SEA region is on the upswing, with internationally competitive teams like TNC and Faceless. No matter who secures the two spots to Kiev, they will likely challenge for a top result at the tournament.
CIS is a region full of high quality talent, but these talents are scattered through multiple teams. It is probably the most contested spot in all of the the Main Qualifiers.
Europe has two favorites, as Secret and B)ears have shown strong performances in their recent matches; but with the experience gathered by Cloud9 and NiP squads, this will not be an easy trip for these two favorites.
America is, well, complicated. In the North, it’s hard to see anyone but NP grabbing the spot, but with Envy at the wheel, you just never know. Meanwhile, in the South, the mystery is even more complex. For sure, a Peruvian squad is the favorite to win the qualifier, but first they need to make it out of the Open Qualifiers. Can Brazil grab dominance in another Valve game? Or Peru will reign supreme?
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In the north part of the continent, NP is the favorite to win the ticket to Kiev; due to both DC and EG being already invited, and NP’s recent performances, including a victory in the DAC 2017 NA qualifiers over DC. compLexity should be the next one in the list, but they will have to beat the competition in the Open Qualifiers before getting any hopes of securing a ticket to Kiev. That puts the odds against Freedom and Onyx, who have yet to prove their worth in, well, almost any competition. But for some of the players in those teams, hope is the last thing they will abandon. They would rather abandon many of their pub matches before that.
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One of the most controversial regions is a complete mystery given the multiple rosters swaps and the inconsistency of SA teams. The best talent coming from Peru – probably Not Today’s current roster - will have to make it through the Open Qualifiers before facing the Brazilians on SG e-sports and Midas Club Elite. Even if the Brazilians have proven to be worthy opponents, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which a non-Peruvian wins the qualifiers. It’s mostly just a matter of finding out which ones can advance out of the open qualifier.
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While China was on the receiving end of three direct invites to the Kiev Major with Wings, Newbee, and VG.J all being invited directly, it would be a mistake to think none of the remaining teams will be competitive on the world stage. After the Boston Major, the current iG.Vitality was formed and immediately showed promise, winning WCA 2016 3-2 over VG. They went on to take 2nd place at the Dota 2 Professional League Season 2 and earned their spot in both DAC and StarLadder Season 3 through qualifiers. The toughest competition for iG.V to take down will be their brother-in-arms Invictus Gaming. While BurNIng has not been the terror he once was during the golden age of safelane Anti-Mage, he has shown to still be highly competent along with his new teammates. iG took a respectable 4th place at Dota Pit and qualified for DAC in first place after going 5-0 in their qualifier group.
LGD, LGD.FY, CDEC, Vici Gaming Potential, and Cavalry will also be fighting for their chance to make it to the Kiev Major. Many recognizable names are scattered throughout the teams, as they look to regain past glory and prove they still have what it takes. With Wings, Newbee, and VG.J out of their way momentarily, this might be the best chance they have to make their way through the qualifier to a claim a spot for themselves.
As far as open qualifier teams go, VG claimed the first open qualifier slot, beating out Newbee Boss in the semi-finals and EHOME.Keen in the finals 2-1. They feature END, Yang, and DDC, and can not be overlooked with their potential for causing upsets and taking one of the spots for Kiev.
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While SEA may not have received any direct invites to the Kiev Major, the region is filled with teams who have outperformed expectations during LAN events. Team Bazaar (formerly Warriors Gaming.Unity), who made it through the open and main qualifiers during the Boston Major, upset Wings in the group stage and made top 8 before losing a hard-fought 2-1 series to OG. At Dota Pit, Team Faceless managed to put a stop to DC, VP, and iG’s tournament lives in a brutal best-of-one lower bracket, coming in 3rd place overall. TNC managed to overcome Team Secret and iG.V during Starladder and secured themselves a 3rd/4th place finish as they lost to the tournament winner Team Liquid. While Fnatic is no more, their 4th place finish at TI6 is just another in a long list of examples of what the region is capable of when the right players get together and play to their potential.
The qualifier itself promises to be a close contest. While Faceless and TNC are the favourites, they face stiff competition from Team Bazaar, Clutch Gamers, and Mineski. Geek Fam, Execration, and Rex Regum Qeon are also more than capable of taking games off the other teams. That being said, Team Faceless currently have a record of 88-17 inside of SEA. With iceiceice regaining a bit of his Vici Gaming form, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Faceless don’t claim one of the two spots to get to the Kiev Major. This would leave the rest of the teams fighting for the last spot; if it comes down to that, TNC, Bazaar, and Clutch Gamers are the most likely three to contest it to claim it for themselves.
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In the western European division, team compositions are either mononational (or, in Elements Pro Gaming’s case, near-mononational) or comprise of citizens of at least four different nations. While a nice throwback to WESG for top-three placing teams Alliance and Cloud9, they score no extra points for consistency of origin. In fact, it is the multinational teams that are most likely to survive the qualifier, as all eyes will primarily be on the drama-tinged Team Secret and the emergently dominant B)ears. Both teams have representatives from the TI6 iterations of Fnatic and MVP.Phoenix, as well as Dota veterans with FATA- and Puppey to guide their young talent into the limelight.
While the frontrunners are generating the most buzz, there are serious contenders nipping right at their heels. Sure, the infusion of most of the original NiP squad into the shambling corpse of Alliance has yet to produce the kind of success that compLexity enjoyed when they nearly made it past the TI6 play-ins. And, yes, replacing KheZu and YapzOr on syndereN’s Escape Gaming-turned-NiP squad with the old Fnatic.EU duo of Trixi and H4nn1 has yet to yield fruit. These old dogs have plenty of tricks, however, and sleeping on them would be a loss worth kicking oneself over. On the subject of long timers, the ever-present heatseekers of Alternate Attax and Cloud9, who have been mainstays in the online-only tier 2 tournament scene, and the persistent Balkans in EPG round out the invite list as teams looking to stage a late winter bloom in much the same way the former Ad Finem squad rose up from mediocrity.
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Out east in the CIS qualifiers, the favorite to claim the lone slot at Kiev is clearer than in Europe, but still not guaranteed. The disgraced Boston Major favorites, Virtus.pro, have not been as visible as they were in the past: their qualifier run for DAC was cut short by connectivity issues at their team bootcamp, and while their run at ESL Genting placed them at top 4, their early exit at Dota Pit may have some reconsidering their place in the global pecking order. Behind VP are more classic CIS organizations: Vega Squadron, Team Empire, and the fan favorite Natus Vincere. Vega has kept the community scratching their heads as to why such a powerful roster has time and time again failed to produce decent results, while Team Empire has been slumming it in online only tournaments, with their only achievement as of late being their DAC qualifier win. Na`Vi enters this qualifier still with clouded expectations for their latest iteration: is the infusion of western European talent enough to bring this storied club back into the discussion? It has yet to be seen, with their recent failures to qualify for DAC and StarLadder.
Behind the big ticketers are a handful of familiar talent making up Effect, Team Spirit, and Friends, as well as the newcomers in Comanche, the organization most famous for almost knocking Team Secret out of the open qualifiers for TI6. Effect, formerly Rebels, made it to D2CL season 10’s semifinals, where they lost to Friends, and the finals of the DAC CIS qualifier, where they lost to Team Empire. Team Spirit is the new home of rising star Iceberg, as well as the breakouts-turned-big-names DkPhobos and fng, and rounded out by long timer VANSKOR and ascended Pugna-based meme victim, Bzz. Like Vega, they have the names and the talent, but have yet to put together a real statement performance. Finally, the D2CL season 10 champion Friends look to convert the momentum from their win in mid-February into the fuel they need to qualify for Kiev. By assembling former players from big-ticket organizations like VP and Empire, yoky- and his buddies are aiming high to start their comeback to relevance. While these four teams may not be the most likely to end up at the Major, expect them to take the opportunity to show off their best this weekend.