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It’s that time of year again. Our friends over at DreamHack are hosting their second DreamLeague of this year’s Pro Circuit, though this one will be a bit smaller as its a Minor. While it is a Minor, DreamLeague Season 9 shouldn’t be underestimated, as it is still one of the few tournaments this season with a full double elimination bracket. The field looks strong as well, with top tier contenders in Team Liquid, Team Secret, and Newbee making this event have a very strong top end. That said, the rest of the teams aren’t half bad either: Fnatic and Immortals round out the mid tier of this tournament (though a wide tier it is, with OG & Fnatic having 600+ DPC Points and Immortals having only 90). Finally we have Pain Gaming and Team Empire, while neither are expected to lock up DPC points, this tournament should provide them some valuable experience.
We’ve reached the halfway mark of this year’s Pro Circuit (roughly 50% of the season’s DPC points have been won) and while some teams are basically guaranteed for their TI qualification, that also means there are still many teams fighting for the remaining spots. Any team that can turn its season around still has a solid chance of TI qualification.
It’s hard to say that there are 3 favorites in an 8-team tournament. It almost seems silly to call almost half the teams likely to win, but that’s where we stand. Liquid and Secret have been on fine form and were even the finalists of the DreamLeague Major earlier in the season. It’s easy to say that Liquid and Secret are a step ahead of Newbee based on the DPC rankings, but a check of recent form is important as well. While Secret may have “stumbled” (if you can even call it that) in the past couple months, having missed out on the finals of their past two tournaments, their losses in those tournaments were to two of their competitors here, Liquid and Newbee. With competition like that it’s almost a gamble to see how the brackets turn out, luckily for us the brackets have already been released. With possible matchups of Newbee in the Semifinals and Liquid in the Winner’s Finals, expect to see Secret in the top 3.
Liquid and Newbee. What more could you ask for? The two finalists of TI7 will be attending DreamLeague and while Newbee may not have shown the consistent dominance of Liquid or Secret, China’s strongest team is certainly capable of taking it all. Having broken their curse against Liquid at ESL Genting, Newbee finally defeated their rivals to take home gold. Overcoming Secret and Liquid for first would certainly provide a nice boost to their DPC ranking, but more importantly it would be a massive boost to their confidence going into the final stretch of pre-TI tournaments. As for Liquid, plenty has been said about them already. TI Champions, successfully avoided the post-TI hangover, finished in the finals or top 4 of almost every tournament they’ve played in since then. Even Virtus Pro, the current DPC leader with a staggering 7000+ points, was overjoyed to defeat Liquid in the semifinals of PGL Bucharest. Afterwards VP made the finals look like a walk in the park, commenting that really the only team they felt could challenge them was Liquid. In the end seeing Newbee outside of the top 4 would be a surprise while Liquid finishing outside of top 4 or even top 2 would be a major upset.
Here we have Fnatic and Immortals. While they may be in the same category, there is a rather large difference between the two. Immortals have struggled since the former MVP players move to America, eventually being forced to swap players out, removing QO and Forev to add Ryoya and Velo. The problem being, Immortals have had months to adjust to this roster change. If we were going to see something new from them, it would have happened already. Something serious needs to change if they hope to contend with top teams. Meanwhile Fnatic has been on the upswing as of late, proving the value of adding Universe to their roster. Recently at ESL Katowice they only lost to VP and Liquid. It’s hard to knock a team for losing to the two best teams in the world, but that might mean that Fnatic might be moving up from hopeful to favorite in these next months. Then again they have EE on their team so anything is possible, good or bad.
Finally we have Team Empire and Pain Gaming. Neither of these teams are particularly accomplished. While each has triumphed in their own qualifiers for this event, these qualifiers had relatively weak fields. These teams aren’t here for the DPC points as they would have to collectively “realize the truth” and start winning majors / minors to actually qualify for TI that way. That isn’t why they are here. They’re here for experience, to learn, to challenge the best teams in the world. A top 4 finish for either team would be fantastic and would be an accomplishment in its own right. Then again, remember that this is Dota and anything is possible. If SG can defeat Team Secret or Ad Finem could reach the finals of the Boston Major then maybe there is hope for Team Empire and Pain Gaming..
Are we forgetting someone? Ah yes…
OG have yet to be mentioned so far because they can’t be ranked yet. Having recently released Resolution, they’ve subbed in their coach 7ckngMad until they find a new replacement. This has two major effects: 1) They can’t qualify for TI8 through DPC and will have to go through qualifiers and 2) This will be OG’s first tournament playing with Sebastien, making them a complete unknown. While OG’s performance this year has been lackluster, this move tells us that they strongly believed they lacked a shot at winning TI. Despite their performance so far, they achieved enough points to make a significant difference, sitting at 10th place with 630 points. Forcing themselves to play through the qualifiers for reasons other than qualifying to or winning TI seems absurd.