As we move ever closer to the first Major of this season’s pro circuit it is now time for the second Minor held by PGL in Bucharest. With 300.000 Dollars up for grabs and the much coveted qualification points for TI on the line 8 teams will go head to head. Seeing as the top 2 from Seattle are absent this might just be the best chance for their challengers to secure some vital points on their own road towards the Dota world’s summit and we can be sure that the contest will be just as fierce as it has been the weekend prior in Kiev during the StarLadder Invitational. So get yourselves ready for some more action as the season heats up on the road to ESL Hamburg!
The American darlings find themselves in an unfamiliar situation this season. With the number of invites shrunk down to 2 they are forced to face their NA brethren on a regular basis for the much coveted spots to premier tournaments. Luckily for them PGL Open Bucharest turned out to be more of a chip of the old block as EG were directly invited. Nevertheless the Bucharest Minor will be a much needed proving ground for EG as their only meaningful preparation for Hamburg. Having lost the qualifier to the recently concluded StarLadder, there are 2 obvious missions for the American squad in Bucharest.
First off to show that not only complexity is a worthy challenger from the NA region and secondly that their elimination in the qualifiers was just a hiccup of a still well-oiled machine. The sheer talent and mechanical skill assembled on the team still speaks for itself as was showcased during NA FPL where the team took 4 of the Top 10 ranks, among them both the gold and the silver (thanks to Arteezy and Crit-). Now is the time to see if they have also gelled as a team, ready to take on the challenges of the new season under the “old-new” leadership of Fear. If EG are on form there is no doubt that they are among the favorites to take the championship at Bucharest.
One would think a Top 4 finish at TI would be a comfortable place to start into the new season. Unfortunately for LGD that only made them the third-best Chinese team and as such hardly a lock-in for the coveted direct invites to tournaments. With only a slight exchange in their roster to the TI squad (fy in for eleven, who left to Vici Gaming) LGD had a solid foundation to begin with. But as it has been proven time and again the Chinese region is a quagmire to qualify out of as the competition is infamously vicious. Missing out on Starladder and even the first Major ESL One Hamburg, makes Bucharest doubly so important for LGD. In order to secure the much needed points for next year’s TI, LGD will be determined to show their best and make it at least among the Top 4. But it is not only for their personal gains that they will be looking for a strong finish at the PGL Minor. Keeping the recent defeats of Vici Gaming and Newbee during StarLadder in mind, LGD have the unique chance of hitting two birds with one stone. A high placement or a straight-up championship will not only net them the craved after points but might just also establish them as the strongest Chinese team for a while. Regardless of the reason we can expect the TI fourth place to show up highly motivated, intent to show the rest of the world why China is always to be feared.
It has taken an entire Dota year with it’s members spread around the globe in various different teams until the Koreans of TI6’ MVP Phoenix have reassembled. Having taken the lessons from their year-long sabbatical to heart in order to strengthen themselves Immortals are now back in business. Staying true to the aggressive “Facerush”-style that made them into the crowd-favorites they are today, they have spiced up the competition in the NA region considerably taking not only the PGL qualifier but also the DotaPit one by storm. Bucharest is now their first LAN since they have reformed and been picked up by Immortals and will therefore be their first test against competition from outside their region. Will they be able to just run them over in their trademark style or will they have to dig deeper into their trick book in order to secure qualification points?
During their days as MVP.Phoenix they had built up the fearsome reputation of playing much stronger on LAN than during the online stages of tournaments, will that trend continue even while donning a new set of colors? There is much to prove for Immortals but if they hit their potential in Bucharest they might just take it all the way to the top.
At the first glance this name should be familiar to even novices of the South American scene as Infamous had managed to make it into the bracket at TI7, where they ended up being eliminated in a Bo1 by OG. While nothing to be overly proud of, it still showed that the newest region of the Dota circuit had the talent to make the cut. Double checking the roster however reveals that this iteration of Infamous is very different from the one that put on a commendable effort in Seattle. Having been hit quite hard during the roster shuffle, only position 5 player Accel is left from the previous squad. Infamous in turn then raided the team of Elite wolves acquiring 3 of their players to complete their roster. Since then they have constantly been head to head with the other regional heavy weights SG esports and (the now disbanded) DC.SA. Snatching their ticket to Bucharest in a 3-1 replacement match victory over SG their participation at the PGL Minor came as something of a surprise.
Nevertheless this is one of the only 2 chances Infamous have recently won to showcase their skill on the international stage as they have failed to make it out of the qualifiers for all other tournaments besides the Dreamleague Major later in the year.
Striving to put their mark on the dota world stage, we can expect Infamous to be highly motivated to use one of their few chances to show that the South American region is stronger than one would think. But even then a bracket stage appearance would already come as quite the surprise, then again we thought the same of SG Esports during the Kiev Major...
Team Secret seemed to be the success story of the post roster shuffle. After replacing KheZzu and MP with Fata- and Ace, they went on to absolutely demolish the European scene, taking qualifier after qualifier with seemingly no defeat in sight. All seemed well and on track for Secret, but the recently concluded Starladder have shown cracks in the fassade. Stumbling a bit over a surprisingly strong Na´Vi in their group, Secret had to take the extra mile and battle it through the loser’s and decider match to make it out of the group. While the revenge against Na´Vi must have been satisfying it proved to be the peak of Secret’s run as they ran into a rampaging Team Liquid that dispatched of them handily. While sobering a loss to the reigning TI champions is hardly something to be ashamed of, as TL had looked almost untouchable during Starladder and Secret have had a good run themselves, not only eliminating Newbee in the groups but also rallying to overcome Na`Vi in the rematch.
But for a team that had dominated the european scene almost since it’s inception, a semi-final finish is not what they were aiming for. Bucharest now gives them the chance to go further than that. If they can keep up their current form and with no Liquid in attendance to throw a spanner in the works, the PGL Minor could be the first tournament victory for Secret since almost a year back (ROG Masters 2016).
There are few team that have been declared “dead and trash” as often as Na`Vi has been. But regardless of that Dendi & co. have always bounced back and shown that it is far from over for them. Reforming (yet again) in the TI-aftermath, Na`Vi had been off to a strong start taking several qualifiers but then stumbling during the Major qualifier to Virtus.Pro, who are determined to not lose their chokehold on the CIS scene. Na`Vi’s performance at the just concluded Starladder seems to be following a similar trend. Surprising the majority of spectators by taking down Secret in the groups, Na`Vi looked to be right on track for a Top 4 finish and the first points of the season. Unfortunately for them, with the goal in sights, they fell down again, losing a competitive series to complexity before being swept by a Secret that was out for vengeance, earning Na`Vi nothing besides a decent showing.
With Bucharest approaching now, Na´Vi have another chance to make good of the promise they have shown so far and we can be certain that they will give their best to finally return to the upper echelons of the Dota 2 world. Although they are in the same group as formidable challenges EG and Mineski, Na´Vi certainly have the potential to cause the upset if they play to their highest potential.
The newly anointed kings of South East Asian Dota 2 have had a very successful start into the season. Assembling a strong mixture of veterans and newer players with superb skill, Mineski have defeated their regional challengers in almost all qualifiers. With Mushi and iceiceice as grizzled backbone leading rising stars Jabz, ninjaboogie and NaNa there seems to be little competition left for them in their home region. Although the failure to qualify for the first major in Hamburg stings, Mineski can balance that out by placing highly in the other tournaments they have qualified for. Having already begun just that during Starladder Mineski come into Bucharest with a strong record. While they did not win Starladder they were the only team to not only take a map against TL, but also the closest to make the TI champions actually look mortal beings not completely out of reach of their competition.
Now that the immovable object barring the way is not attending, Mushi, iceiceice & co will be attending Bucharest with every intention of taking a gold medal home right here and now. Should they be able to maintain the form they had in Kiev, there is little doubt that they will make it far again, further entrenching themselves in the top of the Dota 2 world.
For VG.J Thunder the importance of the PGL Minor in Bucharest can hardly be exaggerated. With the cutthroat nature of the Chinese region, every chance to grab some qualifying points has to be savored as it could prove to be difficult to have another chance. VG.J Thunder has a lot to prove in Bucharest as most of their players have never had the chance to break into a tier 1 team (with the exception of Sylar and coach rOtK) and therefore are very much so blank papers in terms of international achievements. With only Freeze remaining from the pre-TI7 VG.J this is very much so a new team that have never played a LAN together before making it difficult to gauge just how strong they actually are. During the qualifiers they managed to beat Seattle’s 3rd place LFY, which certainly is nothing to be dismissed out of hand, but then again VG.J Thunder has had no other successes during the other qualifiers. It remains to be seen just how much of that is owed to the difficulty of playing in the chinese region or if VG.J’s qualification for Bucharest was just a freak occurrence.
Thankfully for VG.J Thunder the standard to be considered a strong Team from China is not too difficult at the moment as Newbee and Vici Gaming have both just bombed out of Starladder. For setting an exclamation mark it should already be sufficient if VG.J make it out of their group into a Top 4 finish. More realistically the chinese hopes should be resting on LGD however as there is little to suggest that VG.J Thunder is ready for the international stage yet. Obviously we might just as well be surprised.