Team Liquid, Team Secret, and Virtus Pro will all be present in Katowice. These three teams have been responsible for claiming the majority of DPC points so far this season. Team Secret holds a solid lead in first place, earned with a triumphant victory at the DreamLeague Major over Team Liquid. However Liquid has been clawing at that lead, placing second at Genting where Team Secret came 3rd/4th, and winning StarLadder where Team Secret were absent. Virtus Pro’s victory at the Hamburg Major has given them the majority of their points and has kept them within striking distance of both Team Liquid and Team Secret. With how many points are up for grabs any of these three teams could end up in first place by the end of Poland’s first Major depending on how the story unfolds.
NA / S(E)A
Traditionally the best North American team, Evil Geniuses has fallen from grace recently. Last year’s dismal result at The International put emphasis on the flaws of the post-PPD roster, namely that they never really sorted out their roles within the team. Since, the team has changed captains, supports, roles, and even gone as far as to remove Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora, a cornerstone of many successful EG iterations, from the team in order for SumaiL to try to find his place within the team’s dynamic.
Lately, EG has looked mortal, even within a North American scene that they have dominated for years. With an influx of interest from organizations in the North American space, the scene has attracted outside talent that now props up the disparate pockets of talent that NA teams have traditionally represented. Evil Geniuses comes into Katowice with much to prove - they are a team that could benefit greatly from finding international success, and it all starts with their first round match in Group B vs LGD.
Complexity’s history as an organization in Dota 2 has always been overshadowed by Evil Geniuses, their stature used as a point of ridicule when the rival roster falls below par, i.e. “EG lost to coL? Truly the mighty have fallen.” In some ways, they have embraced the North American scene’s tendency to make them the butt of jokes, with even their captain playing to type at times.
Beneath the jokes and caricatures, however, lies a more nuanced story. At one time, Complexity was on the verge of breaking out of the mold of being just a good North American team. With several strong results in the 2016 Major season, the team entered the qualifiers for The International with the expectation that they would carry that success into a strong showing at the most important tournament of the year.
Unfortunately for coL, a confluence of factors kept them from realizing their potential that year. In a weird turn of events, Evil Geniuses ended up playing in the qualifiers as well, lowering coL’s chances in what would have been a rather easy qualifier. They battled it out to a tie in the group stages, but lost the tiebreaker that would have sent them to the main event to EG after beating them previously, which sent them to the playoffs of the qualifier. Again, they reach the finals, and are one game away from qualifying only to lose an hour-long game to Digital Chaos and be relegated to the wildcards instead, where they famously flamed out against Execration to fail to make the main event at all.
That string of poor outcomes led to the roster falling apart, and only recently have they shown signs of life again, making a resurgence in a tumultuous North American scene that seems ripe for the taking. If Complexity is to rise up to become a successor to the throne, they must show that they have the chops, beginning with their first round match in Group A vs Mineski.
Optic Gaming’s Dota 2 roster is helmed by the veteran North American captain making his xiao8-like return from retirement, Peter “PPD” Dager. This event marks their first Major appearance and one of their first true tests on the international stage, the last being a middling performance at the Dota Summit 8. Most of the quantifiable strength of this team can only be measured against other North American rosters, and with the constant state of flux that the scene in characterized by, that remains an inexact science.
What can be said about this team is that they have struggled to find consistency at the 4 position, switching through several different players since the team formed after TI7. With the roster lock window now in the past, the current player, Neta “33” Shapira, is in for the long haul. His most relevant result as a player is a last place finish at TI7 under the Hellraisers banner after having qualified as Planet Dog in the bloodbath that was the European Qualifier.
The rest of the Optic roster certainly has the pedigree to be a successful team, but whether they will find form or not remains to be seen. Katowice could be a galvanizing moment for the team as they ramp up for the busy season of the Dota Pro Circuit, or it could be just another on what will become a litany of mediocre performances cited against those that would herald the return of North America’s only TI-winning captain.
A team with both Mushi and iceiceice? What’s not to love?
Mineski is a mashup of the remainder of the organization’s 2017 roster with pieces from the now-defunct Team Faceless, with a new core player as the glue. For what easily could have been just yet another SEA roster that flamed out in a short period, this Mineski squad has held together since they formed in the aftermath of The International 2017, aided by strong results at international events.
Mineski got off to a great start, coming in second in their initial LAN showing to the powerhouse that is Team Liquid, and following that up with a victory over LGD in the final of PGL Open Bucharest the very next week. Since then, their finishings haven’t been as high, but they remain one of, if not the best side in the SEA region, and certainly more than a match for their first round opponent in Group A, Complexity.
It’s safe to say that Fnatic’s current roster would not exist were it not for the Dota Pro Circuit. Or, perhaps it would be better to say that such a roster would not be playing in this region. The circumstances that brought these players together are truly quite unique, with Jacky Mao’s decision making leaving everyone in the Dota sphere bewildered and surprised, as always. That’s not to mention the most recent acquisition, one Saahil Arora, the odd man out of the EG bromance, playing with EE for the first time since that doomed Team Secret roster in 2016.
Add in one of the rising stars of Dota in Abed, SEA’s best support player in DJ, plus EE’s longtime partner-in-crime pieliedie, and one has one of the most unique rosters in the scene today. One might expect this team to top the region, but they have traded blows in the qualifiers with Mineski and TNC, having beaten the latter in order to make it to Poland.
The team’s international results are surprisingly unremarkable. Without any particularly high finishes or memorable series wins over the Liquids or Newbees of the world, there’s not much to point to to make a case that this roster is an especially dangerous one in the stacked field of Katowice. Still, they may yet find better form as UNiVeRsE adjusts to his new teammates. Or, they might dramatically fail to win even the most mundane series. Such are the Dueling Fates of any EternaLEnVy team.
As the sole South American representative at ESL One Katowice 2018, Infamous will be looked over by many analysts and fans in the days to come, and justifiably so. Of this roster’s five LAN tournaments, they boast a combined record of 3-20, with all of those wins coming in the round robin stage of MDL Macau. With so little success across what is a rather healthy sample size, it’s difficult to be bullish on the chances of the largely Peruvian side.
That said, it may prove useful to analyze how it is they won the few games they did, seeing as 2 of those 3 wins were over better teams in OG and VP. In both of those games, they were allowed to pick both Omniknight and Morphling, and the Morphling had a strong laning phase that eventually led to him becoming too farmed for the enemy team to deal with. Granted, these games were played on 7.07c, but they do represent some of the better performances this roster has put on, so they may still provide a useful blueprint to how Infamous might create an upset in Poland.
All they have to do is pick an unkillable hyper carry and have him steamroll his lane. Easy enough, right?
When the curtain was brought down in Key Arena on the 12th of August 2017, the cruel verdict given by the Chinese dota fans was that the only team that could walk back to China with their head held high was LFY. In their minds they were the only Chinese team who had come tantalisingly close to stopping Team Liquid from winning the Aegis. It was the apocalyptically dispiriting performance that Newbee gave during the finals that doomed their reputation. With the noble and notable exception of SCCC, none of the other four players, or the management, and even the analytical teams could not avoid the wrath of SGamer. Icefrog chose to ignore the runners-up in his post-match Weibo post and it did not escape anybody’s eyes.
Then, the win against Liquid at ESL Genting brought relief for all the Newbee employees and their supporters. More than that, their performance at the tournament as a whole was something to celebrate. Newbee have reforged themselves as a team to beat through all their trials and tribulations. This Major is the next step for Newbee. A win here against the stiff competition would be another huge confidence boost for everyone on the team.
Vici Gaming on the other hand continues to impress. After the acquisition of Paparazi and Ori we’ve seen VG grow into a team of their own with LaNm guiding the less experienced players with his own knowledge. Very few players can claim that they have played in the grand finals of The International and LaNm is one of them. His performances on the world’s largest stage have always been something for others to learn from. Vici Gaming is still thought of as being an underdog, one step behind the likes of Team Liquid, Newbee, and Secret. This mentality is dangerous for any team who believes that they are truly one step behind. VG has placed 2nd at three different tournaments, losing to Liquid and Secret 3-2 after having a 2-1 advantage. If teams put too much attention on trying to prepare for the big three VG might find themselves in the grand finals of the Major leaving their adversaries wondering what just hit them.
As for other Chinese teams, LFY’s disbanding is unfortunate but has its causes. VG and LGD are those benefits. LGD would be kicking themselves if they don’t seize the chance of getting an easier group during this Major. Despite having a perfect reason of having just done a reshuffle, SGamer will take every opportunity to poke fun at the most controversial team with three most controversial individual players even in the notoriously competitive and pressured environment of Chinese dota - just how long Ame, Maybe, and Fy can hold on will be the question. Indeed, the very act of their reshuffle will be called into question, too. LGD has been on a tear inside of China lately, followed up with their 2nd place at StarLadder they have pushed their way to the forefront of international competition. Each of the Chinese teams in attendance have the capability of placing well in Katowice, it’s only a question of if they can bring out their full potential when it matters.
EU / CIS
The gap between Team Secret and the bottom of the top 8 is monumental. It is nearly a statistical impossibility that we will not see Puppey’s team be awarded an invite to TI8. Their 1st place finish at Captains Draft and 3rd/4th place finish at ESL One Genting with a stand-in for Fata has further increased their point lead to such an amount that Secret plays more to stay in first than to secure their invite. Ace has proven himself to be an excellent addition to Puppey’s army after years of unsuccessful attempts to break into the upper echelon of competitive Dota 2. Perhaps we should also give Puppey credit for scouting a player few others noticed and bringing out his full potential. Puppey’s abilities as a leader have been on full display since Dota 2’s birth and while there have been flashes of captains being his equal they have not lasted nearly as long. MidOne and Fata seemingly have no weaknesses playing on this iteration of Team Secret as we have seen some incredible ingenuity come from both players. With the three cores on Secret in sync with each other it makes it simple to assume we will be seeing them in the grand finals.
Team Liquid was the other European team who received a direct invitation to the Major and given their performance after their TI7 win it is no surprise. Team Liquid has earned DPC points in seven out of the seven tournaments they have entered after TI including six finals appearances, and four championships among those seven tournaments. Kuroky is coming off his 1000th career win, being the first player to ever earn that milestone and he no doubt aims to add more accolades to his name. Winning the ESL One Katowice Major in Poland would put Liquid above Team Secret in the standings and given Liquid’s performance post-TI7 there is little doubt that it is a target that Kuroky has his sights on. Team Liquid will have their work cut out for them but the level of consistency they have shown over the last year has been outstanding.
The two qualifier teams from Europe are OG and the home crowd favourites Team Kinguin. It feels strange to talk about Fly and N0tail as players with very little hope of winning a Major, not to mention Resolution, Jerax, and s4 with them. Recent months have not been kind to the former Major kings. They find themselves 9th overall, just outside the TI8 invite list which makes Katowice even more important for OG to perform well at with LGD and Fnatic breathing down their necks. Kinguin on the other hand get to perform in their home country at one of the most prestigious events of the year. It is a little unfortunate that they might not get the chance to play in front of a crowd but if they can recreate some of the magic they had from The Summit anything is possible.
Virtus Pro and Na`Vi both earned themselves invites to Katowice. It will be the first test for both of their new lineups, VP with RodjER and Na`Vi with both Lil and Lebron. While the change for VP might not change the way they play too much Na`Vi’s loss of their in-game leader may be difficult to recover from. We have already seen signs of Na`Vi being unsure of what to do in their games as time progresses and while Lebron has had great individual performances on Bane and Naga Siren he has not had the same impact that we saw from Sonneiko or RodjER just yet. VP and Na`Vi sit 3rd and 5th respectively but the gap in points between them is quite large. If Na`Vi can manage to get into the top 4 in Katowice it would be a huge victory, not only for the short-term points acquired, but for the longevity of the team.
Effect is the last team who made it through the CIS qualifier by defeating Vega Squadron 3-0 in the finals and Team Spirit 2-1 in the semi-finals. Afoninje, Afterlife, and KingR are all veterans of the CIS scene but unfortunately have never done much in the endless team swaps that have plagued the region. While it seems a little cliche to say, focusing on learning from their scrims against other teams and using it to make their way to more events might be a wise undertaking for Effect while they are together in Poland.
Facebook Link | Multi ESL