It’s been almost two years since the last Captain’s Draft tournament. It’s taken a while for Sunsfan to get this event up and running, but this will most likely be the most popular iteration of Captain’s Draft yet. Earlier this season SirActionSlacks proved how successful these wacky tournaments can be (though, given CD’s status as a minor, its result carries significantly more weight than Midas Mode’s results).
As the first Dota tournament held in Washington, DC, Captain’s Draft will feature an almost standard format with a group stage leading into single elimination bracket. The unique factor being the tournament’s namesake, the Captain’s Draft mode will force teams to think very differently when planning and drafting games. Drafting veteran Puppey is the most experienced player in Captain’s Draft, having participated in all four Captain’s Draft events so far. There are other strong drafters in attendance as well in Misery and Fly, but how will the rest hold up under the pressure of this strange format?
Captain’s Draft features a large spread in both strength and points of participating teams. The recently dominant Secret comes in as the favorite to win, having made the finals of two majors so far, even toppling Team Liquid for a win at DreamLeague. Given Secret’s recent form and Puppey’s already legendary drafting, Secret will most likely prove the toughest hurdle for any team hoping to claim victory. Following Secret are four championship contenders: Mineski, OG, VG, and Evil Geniuses.
Mineski have been kings of SEA this season, easily topping their region and holding similar points to EG and OG. Going from missing out on TI7 to picking up fan favorites IceIceIce and Mushi, Mineski are looking to continue picking up those valuable Minor points. While Mineski have been dominating their scene, OG have struggled to get results that match expectations for their roster. After dropping Ana and picking up Resolution, OG were thought to be capable of contending with the likes of VP and Liquid, but Fly and co. just haven’t been able to line things up properly. They were able to secure a win at MDL Macau, but another win here at Captain’s Draft would would be a great way to continue building their momentum.
Vici Gaming, the sole representative of China in this tournament, is hungry for a win. Having shuffled their roster after failing to qualify for TI7 (though to be fair they lost in the qualifiers to LGD and LFY, easily two of the strongest teams at the tournament), it had yet to be seen how this new team would perform. With new blood in Paparazi and Ori, and reliable veterans in Eleven, Lanm, and Fenrir, VG have taken a firm grasp of the Chinese scene. Outshone only by Newbee in this new season, VG look to further distance themselves from the rest of the Chinese teams. A win at Captain’s Draft would be huge as it would be their first win of the season after coming up 2nd at both Perfect World and Dota Pit while also pulling them ever closer to Newbee in the Pro Circuit rankings.
The last of these four, Evil Geniuses, are easily in the strangest position of any team here at the tournament. Much like OG, their results have felt lackluster given the quality of their players and the standard they hold themselves to. To this end Sumail was moved to offlane and Misery replaced Universe in an attempt to change things up and revitalize the team. While Fear and Misery are proven on their roles and Arteezy is sure to enjoy his return to priority core, this is the first time Sumail will play professional Dota 2 in the offlane role. Will Sumail prove his ability to move from mid to offlane like S4? Or will his inexperience in the role spell doom for EG? Sumail has only had a few weeks to practice offlane and Captain’s Draft will be the first tournament for this new roster, only time will tell if he has what it takes.
These teams aren’t weak by any means, but as there are always favorites to win, there must also be those expected to drop out early. These are the teams that have a shot against the Contenders, but would be hard-pressed to take a series off the likes of Secret. There is even a large spread within this tier, as these three teams are Pain, Empire, and Complexity.
This will be Pain Gaming’s first official tournament with this roster, having signed the old Midas Club Elite players. Having taken out the likes of Sacred and SG Esports in recent SA qualifiers, things are looking hopeful for this squad. None of these players have any Pro Circuit points or major results, so a top 4 finish for them would definitely be a huge success.
Empire, similar to Pain, have not managed to secure any Pro Circuit points so far this season. While they do have a tournament win from the recent ROG Masters, it was not a Major or Minor and thus had a significantly weaker field of teams in attendance. While they did defeat Optic 3-2 in the finals, this isn’t indicative of their ability to compete with teams like Secret. If Empire can overcome and put up a strong result it would be great for the players and the CIS region as a whole.
Complexity are likely the strongest of these teams and while it wouldn’t be shocking to see them in the top 4, a win would still be an upset and cause for celebration. This season has been a mixed bag for coL as they’ve proven their ability to contend with strong teams, taking games off of Mineski, LFY, and OG, but have yet to make it to the finals of an event. Placing top 4 at Perfect World and the StarLadder Invitational were enough to secure them some Pro Circuit points, but they’re going to need more strong finishes if they want to qualify for TI8. Starting the new year off with a top 4 would be nice for Complexity, but a finals appearance or a win is really what they’re shooting for.
As always, never underestimate the value of Minors, a team’s average Minor placing can easily make the difference between qualifying for The International, or watching it from home. Expect for players to bring their best, but for things to get a bit crazy with the effects of Captain’s Draft.