Another TI has come and gone and we have now entered a new season of the Dota Pro Circuit. The new season brings with it a slew of rules changes and, for the first time, we will be having a Major with no invited teams. The importance of the Minors has also grown as they serve as a sort of “last-chance qualifier” for teams that initially failed to make it to the Major. The Kuala Lumpur Major comes hot off the heels of the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. At DreamLeauge we saw 1437’s Tigers come out on top after a hotly contested grand finals with Na’Vi. The Tigers can’t rest easy though, this Major will be the first tournament of the season to be fully loaded with top tier teams. Most teams have had plenty of time to practice for this event, but there have been relatively few tournaments since TI8, meaning few teams have played multiple LANs this season. Evil Geniuses and Forward Gaming are particularly looking forward to this event. Both teams were forced to use stand-ins at ESL One Hamburg and performed underwhelmingly, making both of them hungry for a win in Kuala Lumpur.
The field is looking about as one might expect once the post-TI shuffle had completed. Barring the notable absence of Team Liquid and TI Champions OG, all other top teams are here. Liquid failed to qualify in the original qualifiers and then dropped out of the Minor for health reasons while OG chose to skip the first Minor and Major to take an extended break. With those two European giants gone, Team Secret have taken back their spot as most-feared European team. Secret is once again showing early-season dominance by winning their first two tournaments, the PVP Esports Championship and ESL One Hamburg. They would be the odds-on favorite to win the tournament, having dispatched both Virtus.Pro and a strong Vici Gaming in the ESL win. Puppey’s pickups of Nisha and Zai seem to have served the team well and an early win would take pressure off them for the remainder of the season. PSG.LGD and VP are two of the other championship-contenders, having both kept their same rosters from TI8 and performed up to expectations in their other tournaments (losing to post-TI Secret is nothing to scoff at).
These aren’t the only teams looking to take home a win though. SEA has a veritable all-star squad in Fnatic. While they lost to Secret at the PVP Esports Championship, it was 3-2 and they’re looking as strong as ever with top tier players in every position. On the other side of the world, Evil Geniuses are excited for their first real tournament since TI8. Due to visa issues they were forced to use CCnC as a stand-in for ESL One. This resulted in an expected, but still disappointing, 5th place finish. Sumail is surely eager to play in his first LAN in months, so expect the boys in blue to take some big names in Malaysia. Speaking of NA, we could also see high finishes from Forward Gaming and J.Storm. That claim, however, shows the trouble with making concrete predictions ahead of this Major. Much like TI8 there are clear strength differences between teams, but there is no obvious MUFC in this lineup. The only team that could warrant that argument at Kuala Lumpur would be paiN X because of the quality and history of the players on it. While there’s nothing specifically against them, paiN X consists of Tier 3 NA players and a pair of T1 SA players, none of whom have strong LAN records to fall back on.
Going back to our friends in the EU, NiP and Alliance find themselves in contrasting positions. For Alliance, this is likely the strongest team they’ve fielded in years and fans will have high hopes for them. With TI Champion and former Alliance captain Loda coaching them, a strong placement in Kuala Lumpur would be a huge morale boost to this mostly inexperienced squad. Regardless of their placement, this tournament will serve as valuable experience for their players. On the other hand we have NiP, led by the infamous PPD. This team has many more veterans of the scene, especially at the high level. While they have a TI Champion in PPD and a runner-up in Saksa, their performance so far has been underwhelming. They bombed out of the group stage at ESL One Hamburg with a scoreline of 3-7, an almost unheard of performance for a PPD-led team. If their troubles stopped there, we could be hopeful for an improvement over ESL One, but alas Neta ‘33’ Shapira was unable to secure a visa to Malaysia. The silver lining here is that they picked up one of the best possible stand-in in the form of MinD_ContRoL. Questions still remain though, will he meld well with NiP’s style? Have they been able to figure out just what went wrong in Hamburg? Only time will tell.
With only 5 Majors before The International this year and with the point distribution so heavily weighted on top placements at the Majors, you can bet every team will be desperate to get the biggest slice of the pie. An early lead is vital as we saw last year when Team Secret essentially secured their TI invite in the first couple months of the season. For most players, knowing that they’re likely qualified will ease much of the stress they deal with and allow them to solely focus on their game. A focus that you can only find without the weight of TI qualification weighing upon you.