With the season winding down, every point is crucial for teams to secure their direct invite to TI9. Nearly all of the 12 spots are still up for grabs and just making it to the Major will give teams a good chance at snagging an invite should they play well. Currently 12th place is occupied by 3 teams, all tied with 225 points. This means even a team with 0 points could nearly cut the deficit in half by finishing 2nd at the Minor at earning 100 points. It's going to come down to the wire to determine those final few invited teams and we expect to see teams throw everything they have to earn their points in Kiev.
The journey to Kiev has been feast or famine for South America’s lone representative, Demolition Boys. In the previous Major/Minor cycle, a prior iteration of the team near-swept their way through the Bucharest Minor qualifiers with a map score of 6-1, only to be met with a clean sweep in the other direction by getting blown out of the main event with a 0-6 map score. Following a roster swap, losing long time members Faker and StingeR, in late January after the Minor, Playmakers would bomb out of the group stage for DreamLeague Season 11’s qualifier, failing to even show up to play their elimination match against SG e-sports. A brief stint with a new sponsor, Team Odd, would revitalize the ailing squad as they plowed through the open and regional qualifiers for this event without dropping a single map, cruising to an immaculate 8-0 record. After no-showing at Liga Gaming Summer Madness, the team announced they would be leaving Team Odd after the organization refused to honor the stipulations of their contract.
So what of these Demolition Boys, the Peruvian players behind the team? At the 1 position is Kotaro Hayama, famously of the the bad-boy Unknown Gaming squad, who at 2015’s Frankfurt Major served Newbee a first round exit and became the first South American not only qualify for, but also to get a win at a Valve event. Also serving on that team was Accel, who all these years later holds it down as DB’s position 5 support alongside Scofield, whose recent accomplishments include placing fourth at DreamLeague Season 10 with Infamous. The final cores Jeimari and Sword, are Scofield’s former teammates from his time on Thunder Predator in the later parts of 2018 for the Kuala Lumpur regional qualifiers.
To play in the CIS region is to constantly operate under the shadow of one of Dota’s all time most dominant squads, Virtus.Pro’s current lineup. It is no small feat, then, to not only show up against VP to qualify for the Kuala Lumpur Major, but to also dispatch scene veterans and favorites at every step of the way. Following their winless group stage and miracle lower bracket run, the squad formerly known as Ferzee were signed by Gambit Esports. While their performance at Kuala Lumpur was underwhelming, and they would fail to qualify for Chongqing directly and peter out of the finals to EHOME in Bucharest. Despite these missteps, Gambit has done well for themselves by taking home their share of successes in non-DPC events. Prior to Bucharest, they shocked the scene by sweeping reigning TI champs OG to take first place at WePlay’s Winter Madness, then repeating with a 3-1 victory over NiP at WePlay’s Valentine’s Madness, and then taking home a respectable second place finish on LAN at ESL Katowice, raking in a total of $165k USD. With the exception of OG, Gambit is going to be the team to watch at StarLadder.
The long-time CIS pros that make up the majority of the squad have shown that they can still throw down and show up at the scene’s biggest events. The least senior of the group is Immersion, Gambit’s position 4 support currently on loan from Espada following the departure of KingR and Vanskor from the team after the Bucharest Minor qualifier. Joining him at position 5 is the team’s most accomplished and storied member, fng, who after his years-long stint on Team Spirit has brought the drafting prowess that outwitted the legendary TI5-era Team Secret squad to the capable hands of perennial CIS Reject Afterlife and Kompass Gaming’s own Afoninje. Rounding out the squad is the nascent Daxak, whose competitive career has not yet cracked a full year.in the scene. In the growing competition within the CIS region, Gambit’s achievements and ambition make them a favorite in the field at this Minor.
Royal Never Give Up
Royal Never Give Up’s role at this StarLadder Minor comes at a time where they, along with their scene-mates Vici Gaming, need to earn a statement victory for the Chinese region. Fresh off of the heels of pitiful showings from FTD and Team Aster at ESL Katowice, and having every Chinese team sink to the bottom of the final placements at MDL Macau (RNG included), getting another representative into the DreamLeague Major is a crucial first step to the path of redemption. Who better to take the reins than a squad containing two of TI7 third place finishers, Monet and Ah Fu, and the legendary LaNm? With lesser known talent like Flyby and Setsu percolating into prominence, the Minor could be the perfect time to become the next big Chinese powerhouse, just like PSG.LGD, Moogy’s Newbee, and Wings Gaming before them.
To get their, however, RNG needs to overcome the stumbling blocks that have been holding them back since their failure to qualify for the Chongqing/Bucharest DPC cycle. While their qualification for ESL Katowice may seem impressive, RNG’s stiffest competition in their half of the bracket, Keen Gaming, was eliminated in the first round by Dstones’ unsponsored stack Room 310, paving the way for an effortless 4-0 sweep. A similarly flawless sweep through the StarLadder qualifier over 310 and China’s biggest bust of the the year, Team Aster, gave RNG the best possible momentum for their run as Katowice. Despite a strong group stage resulting in a slot in the upper bracket, RNG never claimed a set victory on the main stage and fell to 5th-6th place. While surely not the preferred outcome to take them into a Valve event, Royal Never Give Up now has the opportunity to live up to their moniker and start the second half of the Pro Circuit off right.
There are many different arcs that TI champions have taken throughout the years. None, however, have taken such an extended leave such as OG has done, and coupled with Ana’s hiatus has proven that it has been more rust than rest for N0tail and friends. Sure, the evergreen talent of Jerax that has been around since his time of QPad Red Pandas is still there, as is the tactical mastery of coach Ceb and New Prodigy On The Block Topson, but somehow the stars have not aligned for the team with their standin carries of Pajkatt and iLTW in the same way as they did last August.
It would be understandable that a team that took three months off would not be cleaning up LANs left and right. Perhaps these recent non-DPC competitions have sparked a budding new rivalry, seeing as Gambit Esports has swept them out of both the WePlay Winter Madness finals as well as offline at ESL Katowice. Or maybe with NiP, who they beat to qualify for the Bucharest Minor, only to meet them again in the lower bracket to face elimination (sent there from the upper bracket by, who else, Gambit Esports). This same NiP squad would send them tumbling into the lower bracket of the DreamLeague Major qualifier playoffs. This is to say nothing about the current top dogs of the region, Team Secret, who has been to both Major finals thus far this year, and Team Liquid, who despite their own struggled in DPC events have take home two first places on LAN. OG has proven themselves to be the ultimate underdog, however, and winning this Minor to go on to pull another surprise run at DreamLeague would be entirely on brand.
Vici Gaming has had a rough couple of years recently, going from red hot of winning 2015’s StarLadder StarSeries Season 12 to the sub-zero cold of recent days. Despite these shortcomings Vici are still feared and respected as there is no telling when they will flare up again. At their best can go toe to toe with the anyone and they have done so on their way to winning several majors and minors while coming in second in a few premiers such as last year’s ESL One Katowice.
While they ended 2018 on a bit of a high note, winning Dota 2 Professional League Season 2 in dominating not dropping a game against teams like IG and EHOME, 2019 hasn’t been as hot.
Vici 7-8th place in The Chongqing Major was a strong indication they are still gathering their strength. Their 2nd place qualifier for the StarLadder ImbaTV minor also doesn’t bode well as they lost to Team Aster whom don’t yet have any notable result to their name.
Vici do have a few things going their way though. The recent patches have the potential to shake up the meta enough to give them an edge against some of the stronger teams. In addition, their biggest threat, OG, has also had a bit of a rough 2019 dropping from their TI 2018 winning for to a 3rd place at ESL One Katowice 2019.
While impossible to predict at this point Vici do have a fair shot at taking this tournament.
BOOM ID are still a relatively small team from the Indonesia scene looking for a big break. Their results in their regional minor tournaments have been pretty good thus far, with them regularly winning them and also doing well in some qualifiers.
As far as Major or Premier tournaments they are still struggling but also slowly rising. Their first opportunity came at the PVP Esports Championship however they failed to take win a single game. At the Bucharest minor they did slightly better, defeating at least Playmakers but still struggling greatly against the other teams.
While BOOM did dominate the qualifier for StarLadder IMBA TV, the main tournament does have quite a lot of strong teams which means their run could be cut short again. At this point the best BOOM could hope for is to gather some more experience by beating some of the closer teams, like Playmakers, Flying Penguins and Old but Gold and maybe take 1 or 2 games off the bigger teams.
Old but Gold
Old but Gold are a new team from the CIS region founded just on the 23rd of Jan 2019. While the team is very young it does have some potential as, on paper, the players are quite strong being long time veterans of the scene. Firstly, 3 of the 5 players have been on Virtus.pro either recently or at some point in the not to distant past with the other two having been on Empire or Na’vi. In addition, all of the players have been in at least one Premier tournament with their previous team, with 3 of them having several Premier tournaments wins such as Illidan, G and VANSKOR.
Unfortunately, a lot of those great Premier results occurred as far back as 2015, and while you never know in Dota 2 when a player will rebound, either form a increase in motivation or a favorable meta, it does seem unlikely for it to happen so soon.
In addition, not only do the individual players of Old but Gold need to work on hitting their past strides, but they also need to work on team cohesion, a notoriously difficult task which can take many months and lots of practice.
In terms of recent results there aren’t that many and the ones we do have don’t paint a pretty picture, with ObG doing well against other small teams but losing to bigger teams such as Na’vi or Gambit. In all likeliness Old but Gold will probably fall pretty early in the tournament, being unfortunate cannon fodder against the stronger teams.
Flying Penguins is EternalEnVy’s newest team and passion project. It follows EE’s tried and tested pattern of team hopping/leaving shortly after an unsuccessful TI run to form his own squad and build it up just in time to hit the wall of the next TI.
You might fall into the trap of thinking FP is similar Old but Gold, a new team of old players trying to make their way in the huge world of Dota 2, but they do differ in one key regard.
Only two of their players have a Premier tournament win to their name, EE and Sneyking, the rest have participated in a few but never come close to a win.
So, while you’d think their chances of getting anywhere would be pretty low, Flying Penguin still managed to win the North America qualifier for StarLadder ImbaTV, mostly of the back of NA being the wild wild west of regions.
But now that they are in the main event and up against some of stronger teams, the chances of FP seem to have dropped as much as a certain aquatic bird trying to soar. Its hunting season at StarLadder and FP are the main course.
Writers: DoctorHeckle, Destructicon
Writers: DoctorHeckle, Destructicon