The Perfect World Masters marks the first tournament of the new season worth DPC points in China. Ten teams will compete at the Minor for $300,000 and 150 qualifying points will go to the winner. One team in each group will be eliminated while the rest will move on to the playoff bracket. The playoffs will be double elimination with the first round of the losers bracket being a bo1. The grand finals will be a bo5 and all other matches will be a bo3.
Pushing Team Liquid to the edge should only be the beginning for VG.
Very few teams improve after a single pick-up. Resolution joining OG did not prevent the 4-time Major winners from seemingly accelerating downwards. Even fewer teams can do so when the pick-up is a player who only spent his time in the wilderness of open qualifiers and small-prize tournaments, which are ignored by more established ones for fear of wasting their time.. A few Chinese teams tried picking up lesser known players after their apocalyptic performances in the Shanghai and Boston majors. In most cases they did not work out either. So it has been extraordinary for Vici Gaming to pick up Ori and see things start to recover for them, even if it is going slowly. They rose from irrelevance to almost qualifying for TI. Ori not only helped the team. He led the charge.
But it would take more than a single player to totally revive the fortunes of a once great team. Therefore a reshuffle was necessary. Players who are either too old and past their prime (like Hao) or too immature and not up to scratch (like hym) had to go. But their replacements are really exciting: highly individual skilled carry players who can easily be argued to be the best for their position in China (Yuno and Eleven) coupled with experienced, highly sought-after supports (Fenrir and LaNm). FY’s departure is a loss in a sense but there was no evidence to say he would be better than Eleven or LaNm; and the result at Dota Pit has repelled many doubts as well.
Ever since Maybe was vested with the power and responsibility to decide whom to play with at LGD shortly after TI6, we knew all the attention would be permanently fixed on their mid player. There will be no more quarrelling or scapegoating on who should take the blame if LGD falters again. It all fell on a pair of young shoulders.
This risky strategy eventually paid out. 4th place at TI is still some way away from their ultimate goal, but it is also undeniably an impressive improvement on what they achieved in TI6 (still slightly worse than TI5). Yao seems to have found another bright point in his career, and this time he has done so without the help of Xiao8. He seemed to want to catch up his best friend’s achievement. LGD can be the team with which he fulfills that wish.
Against that background, FY’s joining as their offlaner seemed an even more brilliant move. Position 4 has given him some farm and experience in game to shine from to time, but the overall image we currently have is a limited stage for an unhappy artist placed in the wrong place. The 2nd place at PGL is a well-earned result for a well-honed team. Offlane is where Linsen belongs.
FY also helped Maybe in diverting some of the attention away from himself. As another controversial figure for the die-hard Chinese Dota fans, FY can attract the media attention as Maybe still has the power he was promised by Ruru. With longer periods of being praised and criticised in equal measure, he can help the team strengthen itself to deal with the pressure that can come from being expected to be the best.
It has become a cliche to say that the worst place to get in a competition is second, as indeed it is more frustrating to see the top prize taken away from up close rather than from far away. LFY did not get second at TI. They were even considered to have had a better chance to knock down Liquid in the Grand Finals and distort the entire pattern of TI winners. But they did not earn the chance. As the second best Chinese team throughout the year they were again denied by Newbee in a TI whose script strangely followed that of TI5.
However, it would be a mistake for LFY to worry too much about how to only win against Newbee in this tournament. Secret and Mineski are bigger problems with players who have years’ worth of experience dealing with Chinese teams. They have also better proved themselves in post-TI7 tournaments. The potential first meeting might set the tone for rivalries in the months to come.
There are also snipers like SG and Vega hiding in the shadows, waiting to surprise any of the home teams with their elaborately prepared ambushes. LFY should ensure they stick to their strategies. The most important thing for LFY is knowing that playing their own strength is what brought them to where they are now. Experience from DDC and Super, tenacity from Monet and Ahfu, and individual virtuosity from Inflame are all qualities to make for a great team. Flexibility and variation are welcome. But as we recently learnt from DPL, being oneself is the key to beat the teams that were once dominant over you.
Shortly before the last day of TI7, Sumail told everyone around the world that he did not want Newbee to win the tournament as that will make Newbee the first team to win TI twice and Faith the first individual player. He got his wish in what was later described by KPII as ‘an enjoyable experience for everyone except for five people’. It should be certain more than five hearts were broken by the final standing of TI7. But it is also true that Newbee was not quite there yet.
ESL Hamburg presented an unprecedented opportunity as Team Secret took out Liquid. But Newbee again lost when it mattered, to a draft that might well be designed and picked up by Liquid: Broodmother, Necrophos, and Bloodseeker. This pain is not helped by the results at Dota Pit: Vici’s win over them means SGamers would now mock them for ‘being not even that good against fellow Chinese teams’. And Vici’s spirit in forcing Liquid’s hand in the finals is probably what would have carried Newbee over the line at TI.
Therefore, a tournament like PW Masters in which Liquid is not competing would only shut up some of the critics even if Newbee win it, as Newbee will always be held responsible for their losses by the fans. Another loss to Mineski or Secret, who should be treated as their biggest threats, would again kindle the powderkegs on Weibo and SGamer. They can ignore them, but nothing will be better than an overall victory, albeit a victory that would be somewhat bitter.
Team Secret head into China with renewed strength and determination. After Puppey’s win at the Shanghai Major his team has faced setbacks and a string of what could be considered bad luck. After TI7 Ace and FATA- joined the team with Fata moving out of his mid role to play in the offlane. Just watching Team Secret play you could tell the changes had vastly improved the team. Fata’s transition to the offlane gave Secret an incredible initiator who could also farm and transition himself into a late game core if that is what the team needed. Their 2nd place finish at the ESL One Hamburg Major, and subsequent 2nd place standing in DPC points says more than enough.
While Secret is in 2nd place now for the DPC they understand that other teams could catch up just as easily as they set themselves apart from the competition. Without a doubt Secret will look to not only replicate their finals appearance but amend their loss in Hamburg with a win in China. Granted the point difference between winning this Minor and finishing 2nd at the Major is still enormous.
Team Secret should by all means be a shoo-in to make it to the playoff stage as they go up against Newbee, Mineski, LGD, and Kinguin. While they will aim to top their group the reality of the situation is that they must only do better than their fellow European team Kinguin, a task which Secret is more than capable of. From there we will see how far Secret is able to go in the bracket.
Complexity has been the overshadowed little brother of the North American region for a long time. Always trailing behind EG trying to prove that they too had what it takes to compete at the highest level. At times they even did just that but due to how bright EG shone it was still difficult to see Complexity as anything more than an underdog that managed to be, at best, 2nd in their region. However that narrative has begun to change. the return of the Limmp + Chessie duo along with Moo have brought Complexity up to their highest point in years.
The last time Chessie, Limmp, Zfreek, and Kyle played together they had a consistent string of decent tournament placings which usually saw them end up anywhere from 5th-8th at major events. While that would have been a welcome improvement on its own over Complexity’s struggles to make it out of NA qualifiers they have taken it a step further. Complexity is already one of the few teams with DPC points, albeit tied for 8th with Immortals and EG. Given a little more time we may see Complexity increase their lead over fellow NA competitors and move ever closer to securing a TI8 invite. They just need to continue to build on what they have already accomplished.
Complexity’s group will be a challenging one to say the least. Vici Gaming and LFY have both shown tremendous skill inside of China and in VG’s case on lan as well. Vega Squadron and SG e-sports are also both more than capable of beating teams in the volatile bo2 group stage format. After Kyle’s big words about how competitive the NA region is it’s time to back it up in China.
The all Polish lineup of Kinguin seemed to come from nowhere. Many people had never heard of the players on this team and yet almost immediately after the pick up they found themselves qualified for a tournament. Exotic_Deer, Nisha, Patos, eL lisasH, and kacor quickly proved they at least deserved the sponsorship they received as they 2-0’d Mouz and took down HR in the finals 2-1 to secure their seat at Perfect World. They met HellRaisers once again in the finals of The Summit qualifier where they won 3-1 as well to secure another lan spot.
While their results to make it to these tournaments have looked good they have yet to be truly tested by the top teams. Their recent 2nd place finish for the online tournament WellPlay Invitational #9 at the hands of Penta in a 3-0 sweep show there is still a lot of work to be done before Kinguin are considered a threat. Their group stage at Perfect World consists of Newbee, Mineski, LGD, and Team Secret which really sets them apart from their competition as the odd ones out. Taking down even one of those teams would be a monumental feat but luckily for Kinguin that may be all it will take. With the group stage only eliminating one team Kinguin will only have to perform better than one of the other teams in their group although even that will still be a monumental task.
Vega Squadron is a dangerous team to play against in a bo2 format group stage. Their knowledge of how to push an advantage to the limits supplemented by Kipspul’s coaching and analytical work behind them can give them the edge in any individual game should they catch another team off guard. ALOHADANCE, G, Afterlife, and CemaTheSlayeR are veterans of CIS Dota and Zayac is no newcomer either. Virtus Pro has paved the way for others in the CIS region to recapture some of their ground in the Dota 2 competitive scene. Na`Vi is in the process of establishing themselves as a top tier competitor once more and the PW Masters might be Vega’s opportunity to do the same.
In order to qualify for the Perfect World Masters Vega Squadron had to make their way through the entire lower bracket after losing in the first round. Of the 6 bo3’s Vega played only one series did not go to a game 3, their 2-0 win against Double Dimensions. They took out Na`Vi in the lower bracket finals before beating Empire to qualify for the event. While Vega Squadron is not favored to win their group, they could realistically end up in the middle of the pack depending on how many games they can take off the likes of Vici Gaming and LFY. It has been a long time since players really feared the name G, perhaps now is the time to remind everyone why he was once considered one of the best mid players in the world.
SG e-sports went through a massive roster change which left only 4dr from the old team. They consistently qualified for events after TI7 but have failed to perform well at each subsequent tournament. They have managed to take down VG previously during StarLadder but the VG they face now has been playing drastically different from the VG then. While South American teams have a penchant for upsets if SG wants to earn any DPC points they’ll need to do more than just make it out of their group.
Making it out of their group is in itself a tall order with VG, LFY, Complexity, and Vega Squadron all eager to take one step closer to TI8. SG’s best bet might be to prepare specifically to take down either Complexity or Vega Squadron to ensure they move on to the playoffs even if they don’t fare as well against the Chinese teams in their group (or vice-versa). Their 2-1 victories over Infamous and DC.SA proves they are among the best in South America and their victory over Immortals in a bo1 during Dota Pit shows they are capable of winning games against the international competition. The only question is can they win enough games to stave off an early elimination?
Nana, Mushi, Iceiceice, Jabz, and Ninjaboogie have formed a SEA dream team. Jabz proved himself as an exceptional position 4 player even before Faceless but his exceptional ability in the 4 role was brought out for all to see on that team alongside Iceiceice. The duo along with Nana joined Mushi and Ninjaboogie on Mineski and they have held a firm grasp on the SEA region in the months that have followed. The reunion of Mushi and Iceiceice comes with the success that the two had (mostly) missed while apart, already claiming a lan title at the PGL Open Bucharest and 2nd place finish at StarLadder.
Unfortunately for Mineski they had to drop out from Dota Pit which they had qualified for. In the time between that qualifier and now the competition in SEA has been improving which culminated in a loss to Fnatic 3-2 in the recent Summit 8 qualifier. However it will take more than just a single qualifier loss to dethrone Mineski as Mushi and company have secured even more lan events in their future. Like many of the teams who are attending the Perfect World Masters their trip through the qualifier was a series of 2-1 victories. We hope for the sake of SEA fans everywhere that Mineski does not follow the tradition that Faceless set before them of choking on lans.