Teams will be battling in Bukovel to determine who will earn the right to play at the second Major of the year. A few surprising faces will be appearing in Ukraine as we see Nigma joining the likes of NiP, Gambit, Team Spirit, Fighting Pandas, Royal Never Give Up, Furia, and Geek Fam. With only one team qualifying for the Major through the Bukovel Minor, there is a real possibility we see Nigma miss out on the second Major of the season, proving just how close the competition has become in recent years.
There aren’t really any teams you can write off in Bukovel. NiP and Geek Fam were eliminated during the group stage during the last Minor, both taking 3rd place in their groups. Each team will have been using the time between DPC events to nail down how they want to play on this patch and develop their chemistry as a team. For Geek Fam and NiP it is less about making it to the Minor, and all about making it to the Major. They aren’t teams are of young hopefuls that just want to get a chance to prove what they have, they’re seasoned vets (mostly) with experienced leaders who already know that they have what it takes to make it to the Major and find success.
Nigma on the other hand should really be coming into this tournament with the assumption that they will be making their way to the Major. They finished 2nd at TI9, have 4 previous TI winners, and none of their primary rivals are in attendance at the Minor. That being said we have seen Kuro and his teammates struggle, and even fail, during tournaments like these. You can’t take anything for granted and while Nigma will be the heavy favourites, we might see a tremendous upset from a team we normally wouldn’t expect it from.
Team Spirit, Gambit, and Fighting Pandas were all at the first Major of the year. Team Spirit and Gambit fell in the best of 1’s, while Fighting Pandas was eliminated in the round that followed. All 3 teams missed a pretty good opportunity to earn some big DPC points and now have some serious obstacles in their way to earn some more. At least for this Major. The strongest team in this group based on previous results is Gambit without question. They’ve looked good for most of 2019, and while they did make some pretty massive changes to their lineup, it came with a 2nd place finish in Hamburg, and 3rd place in Singapore at the end of December which consisted of teams like EG, VG, Secret, and PSG.LGD among other solid competition. If anyone is going to bring down Nigma, it might be Gambit.
In another sense this is also Geek Fam’s return, although to the Minor and not as a team trying to make it back to the Major. Geek Fam has made a roster move to try to help them reach DreamLeague, removing Ryoya in the midlane and Karl has taken his place. Outside of TNC, SEA teams have been struggling lately, it would be nice to see Geek Fam find some success and help put more SEA teams back on the map.
While Furia and RNG both attempted to make it to the first Major, both suffered defeats during the qualifiers and sadly did not even manage to make it to the first Minor of the year. Alternatively Nigma took a longer break than most teams and hedged their bets that they would be able to make it to, and probably win, at least one of the Major’s which would guarantee their direct invite to The International. A risky decision that has yet to pay off, especially if one of the teams here take them down.
For Furia and RNG this Minor could be incredibly important to how the rest of their season goes. Never underestimate what a great performance can have on team morale for the rest of the season, while the opposite can also be true if they struggle and are eliminated without being able to put up a fight. It will be interesting to see if yet another South American team will have a break-out performance, or if RNG will prove that there is yet another team in China that everyone has to look out for.