New challengers join familiar faces among teams in first Major of the season.
The new Dota 2 professional season is upon us, with a litany of Minors and Majors having already begun the process of hosting Open and Regional Qualifiers. The first of these tournaments to have actually completed its qualifiers and locked in its full roster of teams also happens to be the first Major of the new season: ESL One Hamburg. Despite not being the first tournament on the schedule for the season(Both the StarLadder i-League Invitational #3 and PGL Open Bucharest Minors will begin prior), ESL One Hamburg is the first tournament to give us a complete list of participating teams to pour over and analyze. Before I get into the list of teams that will be competing in October at this first Major, let’s have a brief overview of the details for the ESL One tournament, along with a rundown of what’s up for grabs in Hamburg.
ESL is no stranger to the Dota 2 scene, with the organization having hosted its “ESL One” series of tournaments as far back as 2014(ESL One Frankfurt). For those who have previously watched ESL One tournaments, the format should be somewhat familiar. For everyone else, here’s the long and the short of it. The tournament itself will be hosted in Hamburg, Germany(hence the name) at the Barclaycard Arena from October 26th through the 29th. The field of participants is comprised of 8 teams in total, with 2 directly invited teams joining the 6 qualifier winners across the various required regions(EU, CIS, NA, SA, SEA, & China). These teams will be competing for a share of a $1,000,000 prize pool, alongside a Qualifying Points pool of 1500. The winner will come away with the lion’s share of both of these pools, claiming $500,000, 750 Qualifying Points for each of its players, and the iconic silver goblet that is the ESL One trophy. The runner-up in Hamburg will receive $200,000 and 450 Qualifying Points for its players, while the shared 3rd/4th positions will each earn $90,000 and 150 Qualifying Points. The bottom half of the participants will unfortunately not earn any Qualifying Points, but they won’t leave Hamburg empty handed, with the 5th/6th place teams taking home $40,000 each and the 7th/8th place finishers earning $20,000 each. In short, there’s a whole lot to play for in the Dota 2 season’s first Major tournament, but who exactly are the teams that will be competing for these rewards?
8 teams will be competing in Hamburg for a chance to claim the first Major win of the season. Let’s take a brief look at who those teams are and how they earned their spots in the field of competitors. Fair warning here though as when I say brief I really do mean it, as this post will contain a cursory rundown of the teams. As the tournament itself draws closer, I will post a more in depth and thorough breakdown of the teams and their prospects in Hamburg. For now though we’ll go with a short summary, beginning with our two directly invited teams
The Direct Invitees
Team Liquid(EU) – Defending TI champion Team Liquid was essentially a no-brainer as one of the 2 direct invites for the first Major of the season. The European squad has keep its TI-winning roster intact, and will look to pick up right where it left off and continue a run of dominance in the Dota 2 world. Though Team Liquid will be a participant in the season’s first Major, ESL One Hamburg will not be the first we see of the squad in a professional setting, as Liquid will be participating in the StarLadder i-League Invitational #3 Minor a few weeks prior to travelling to Hamburg. The Minor will give Team Liquid a chance to shake off any post-TI rust and build up momentum heading into Hamburg.
Newbee(China) – If the TI winners get a direct invite to the first Major of the season, it only makes sense that the TI runners up would receive the other invite. The Grand Finals may not have gone well for Newbee, but the Chinese squad still came away from Seattle with a second place finish, a feat that was more than enough to earn the team its own invite to Hamburg. Newbee’s roster remains unchanged following TI7, and the team is likely eager to prove that it is still one of the best teams in China, if not the world. Just like Team Liquid, Newbee will have a bit of a trial run prior to ESL One Hamburg, as the Chinese squad will also be participating in the StarLadder Minor. With a stint at the Minor serving to work out any off season kinks, Newbee should be at the top of its game in Hamburg.
The Qualifier Winners
Team Secret(EU) – Following a less than ideal finish at The International, Team Secret made some changes to its roster, adding Ace and Fata to replace MP and Khezu. The changes appear to be yielding results so far, as Team Secret have opened the season with a 19-2 overall record, including a stretch of 7 straight games en route to claiming its spot at the Major as the European Regional Qualifier winner. We could potentially be seeing quite a lot of Team Secret in the near future, as the squad is in the European Qualifier final for both of the upcoming Minors. The European squad’s current results, along with a multitude of upcoming tournaments combine to provide an ideal opportunity to start the season on the right track.
Virtus.Pro(CIS) – After a 5th/6th place finish at TI7, Virtus.Pro decided to stay the course with its roster, making no changes to the CIS squad. With Minors and Majors on the horizon, VP is looking to reassert its control of the CIS region and confirm its place at the top of the food chain in the Dota 2 world. VP had a strong run through the CIS Qualifier, posting a 7-1 record to earn its spot in Hamburg. ESL One Hamburg will be the first we see of VP at a Major or Minor, as the team missed the cut in the CIS Regional Qualifier for the PGL Open Bucharest. Despite this small setback, the CIS powerhouse will be eager for a chance to start its season off with a strong statement at the season’s first Major.
Keen Gaming(China) – One could be forgiven for not being familiar with Keen Gaming, as the Chinese squad has not made many appearances outside of its home region. Formerly playing under the Chinese organization EHOME as EHOME.Keen, the team recently left its parent organization to play under its own banner. Keen Gaming has the distinction of being one of just two squads to earn a place at the Major through open qualifiers, having won 3 straight best-of- matches to advance to the main regional qualifier. There, Keen Gaming took down TI7 participants Invictus Gaming, Invictus Gaming.Vitality, and LGD Gaming to win its spot in Hamburg. The team’s status as a relatively unknown squad outside of China, combined with its impressive victories over established Chinese powerhouses means that quite a few eyes will be fixed on Keen Gaming in Hamburg.
HappyFeet(SEA) – HappyFeet is another of the teams at ESL One Hamburg that many may not be familiar with. Much like Keen Gaming, HappyFeet has had limited experience outside of its home region. On top of this, the squad has recently undergone a roster change, replacing Jeyo with Filipino player Rapy. The team has found intermittent success in the Southeast Asian region, but has never really been able to maintain a high enough level of play to make runs into international tournaments. The team’s run through the SEA Qualifiers serves as a good sign that the team can put up strong results against regional opponents, but it remains to be seen if the Filipino squad can carry that success over against top international teams.
Evil Geniuses(NA) – The off season brought changes to North American squad Evil Geniuses, as former player and coach Fear rejoined the squad in the post-TI shuffle. With Fear taking over the captaining for the team, EG are looking to bounce back after a lackluster performance in Seattle during TI7. The team’s undefeated run through the North American Qualifier instills some confidence that EG can get back on track, and the PGL Open Bucharest Minor will give the squad an opportunity to test its mettle before the first Major. EG are in a better situation than most, but the NA squad will still need to score some wins on the big stage to prove that its back up to top form.
SG e-sports(SA) – Some may be familiar with SG e-sports from its runs in the South American region and occasional foray onto the international scene. However, this current iteration of the Brazilian squad holds few familiar faces, as the team recently overhauled its roster by replacing 4 of its 5 players. The only player to remain with the squad, 4dr, now leads a squad with essentially no experience outside of South America. The team has already faced a formidable test, fighting its way through both the Open and Regional Qualifiers to earn its spot at the Major. Despite this achievement, the concern that will plague the team is the same one that affects many of the qualified teams, that concern being whether the squad can translate regional success into international results.