PGL’s first event of the season boasts strong teams and exciting action in the Romanian Capital.
The Dota 2 Season’s first batch of qualifiers are winding down, and the fields for our first series of Majors and Minors are beginning to come into focus now. Just yesterday the lineup for the first Major of the season(ESL One Hamburg) was finalized, and today we have a Minor joining the list of tournaments to have locked in its participants. The PGL Open Bucharest had locked in its final qualifier team today, setting the official list of participants for the season’s second Minor. So, with the teams having been determined let’s take a look at some of the details of PGL’s first event of the new season.
PGL is an organization and production company that many in the Dota 2 world should already be familiar with. The company has been involved in a litany of recent Dota 2 events, including assisting or directly producing 3 previous Majors(Manila, Boston, & Kiev). While the PGL Open Bucharest is a Minor rather than a Major, this tournament should hold some special significance for the organization, as it finally has a chance to host and run a tournament on home soil. Like its name would suggest, the PGL Open Bucharest will take place in Bucharest, Romania; a city that just so happens to serve as the headquarters for PGL. The tournament will run from October 19th through the 22nd, with 8 teams(2 direct invites, 6 regional qualifiers) competing for a share of the prize pool and a chance to earn some highly coveted Qualifying Points. Those pools will be comprised of $300,000 and 300 Qualifying Points, though PGL has yet to officially announce how the prize money will be split among the teams. What we know for sure based on Valve’s released rules for Majors and Minors is that the winning team will come away with 150(50%) Qualifying Points for its players, while the runner up will receive 90(30%) Points. The split between the 3rd and 4th place teams will depend upon whether PGL’s tournament format includes a 3rd place decider match. Should there be a differentiation between 3rd and 4th place, the 3rd place team will receive 45(15%) Qualifying Points and the 4th place team will receive 15(5%) Points. Should PGL utilize a combined 3rd/4th place position, then the two teams will instead each receive 30(10%) Qualifying Points. So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the teams that will be battling on stage in Bucharest.
*Update* – PGL has announced its format and prize pool distribution in the time since the original post. The 8 teams will be divided into 2 GSL groups, with the top 2 teams from each group advancing to a single elimination playoff bracket. The prize pool and Qualifying Point distribution will be as follows:
1st place: $130,000 & 150 Qualifying Points
2nd place: $65,000 & 90 Qualifying Points
3rd/4th place: $30,000 & 30 Qualifying Points each
5th/6th place: $15,000 each
7th/8th place: $7,500 each
The PGL Open Bucharest Minor will bring together 8 teams to battle it out in the heart of Romania, with 2 invited teams and 6 qualifier winners. Once again I want to take a moment to clarify that this post will not contain high levels of details regarding the teams. A more thorough breakdown of the teams, players, and expectations will come closer to the start of the tournament, but for now we’ll take a surface level look at the competitors.
The Direct Invitees
Evil Geniuses(NA) – Following the team’s lower than expected finish at TI7, EG chose to make some changes to its roster. Support Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg departed the team and Clinton “Fear” Loomis was brought out of his retired/coaching position to rejoin the North American squad. In addition to rejoining the team, Fear has also taken the captain’s position, taking the drafting responsibilities from teammate Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen. Those are some significant changes to make for any team, but EG have the benefit of multiple veterans on the roster and a history of strong performances to fall back on. In this instance those factors paid off, as EG was given the opportunity to skip the regional qualifiers via a direct invite to the Minor. The roster and captain changes have a chance of affecting EG’s level of play, but it would be an egregious mistake for any team to underestimate the North American veterans.
LGD Gaming(China) – LGD Gaming capped off the previous season with an impressive rise into the upper echelons of the Dota 2 world. A victory at MDL 2017 alongside a 4th place finish at TI7 put the squad near the front of the field in an already stacked Chinese region. LGD tried not to rock the boat too significantly in the offseason, but the team couldn’t entirely avoid roster changes, as offlaner Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei left the team and was replaced by Xu “fy” Linsen. Fy is one of the most experienced and stable players in the Chinese scene, so LGD are hoping that his addition combined with keeping the rest of the roster intact will enable the team to carry its momentum into this upcoming season. LGD’s strong finish and relative stability throughout the offseason netted the team a direct invite to Bucharest, and now the onus is on the Chinese squad to show that it remains one of the premier teams in the Dota 2 world.
The Qualifier Winners
Immortals(NA) – With EG receiving a direct invite to Bucharest, Immortals represents the second team from the North American region to be participating in the Minor. Though the squad itself is comprised entirely of South Korean players, the Immortals organization is based out of North America and has officially decided to compete within the North American region. Though the Immortals organization may be new to the Dota 2 world, the players themselves are no strangers to the scene, or each other. The current roster of Immortals is actually a bit of a callback squad, with the team’s members having previously played together under the MVP.Phoenix banner back at TI6. Immortals already seem to possess the talent, experience, and roster familiarity needed to have a breakout season, and this Minor will be the perfect opportunity to see if the squad can realize its full potential on the big stage.
Digital Choas.SA(SA) – The Digital Chaos organization may have taken an early exit at TI7, but that didn’t do much to discourage it from making major moves in the offseason. In addition to making changes to its main roster, the organization made the decision to sign another squad comprised of South American players, forming Digital Chaos.SA. We haven’t seen the largest sample size of games from the squad, as the team’s official roster was revealed just 2 weeks ago, but what we’ve seen so far is highly encouraging. The team dominated the South American Qualifier, posting a 7-1 record to qualify for this Minor. The team has had slightly less success in other regional qualifiers though, but this could easily just be growing pains as the squad adjusts to its new roster. Whether its recent success is the start of a strong season or just a flash in the pan, Digital Chaos.SA will be put to the test in Bucharest.
Team Secret(EU) – Team Secret came into the new Dota 2 season as a team on a mission. The team lost carry Pyo “MP” No-a as well as offlaner Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann during the offseason, replacing them with Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaards and Adrian “Fata” Trinks, respectively. If team is having trouble adjusting to the new roster additions, they certainly aren’t showing it. The team has already qualified to participate in the season’s first Major at ESL One Hamburg, in addition to winning the European Qualifier for this Minor. Add onto this the fact that the squad is also in the soon to be played grand finals for the EU Qualifier for the StarLadder Minor, and Team Secret could be participants in all 3 of the season’s initial tournaments. The team has been on an absolute tear to begin the season, dominating its European rivals with a 21-2 overall record through the qualifiers for the first 3 tournaments. Team Secret look to be making a strong statement to begin the new season, and Bucharest will provide one of many opportunities to show the Dota 2 world what it can do.
Natus Vincere(CIS) – Make as many “Na’VI is back” jokes as you like, the fact of the matter is that the CIS squad has been putting up respectable results of late. After a string of mediocrity, including a failure to qualify for TI7, the team decided to undergo more roster changes in the offseason. The team let go of carry Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille and support Malthe “Biver” Winther, replacing them with Vladislav “Crytstallize” Krystanek and Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan, respectively. The changes appear to be bearing fruit so far, as Na’Vi has successfully qualified for the first 2 Minors of the season(Of which PGL Open Bucharest is one). While the team fell short of qualifying for the season’s first Major, its recent performances have gone a long way to show that the squad is once again capable of contending with its regional peers. The CIS squad will have a chance to prove that it can replicate those results on the international stage in Bucharest.
Mineski(SEA) – Mineski has had a bit of a rough go in the last year, undergoing multiple roster changes and ultimately failing to qualify for TI7. In the offseason the Southeast Asian organization’s roster shuffles continued. Egor “.Ark” Zhabotinskii, Andre “Mag~” Chipenko, and Tyo “ryOyr” Hasegawa were all removed from the team. To replace these players, Mineski recruited several prominent members of rival SEA teams, picking up Kan “NaNa” Boon Seng from Warriors Gaming.Unity along with both Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang and Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong from the now defunct Team Faceless. The result of these moves is the formation of one of the most experienced and talented teams in the region, and Mineski have already gotten to work backing that statement up with solid performances. Like Na’Vi, Mineski has managed to win its regional qualifier for both of the season’s first 2 Minors, though Mineski also failed to qualify for a spot at the first Major. Mineski’s string of poor performances last year have likely cast some doubt on the team’s capabilities this season, but Bucharest provides the perfect opportunity for the SEA squad to put those doubts to rest early.
Vici Gaming J.Thunder(China) – Vici Gaming J underwent a bit of a brand remodeling following the end of the previous Dota 2 season. The team, already serving as a subdivision of the Chinese organization Vici Gaming, was further split during the offseason. The roster of Vici Gaming J became Vici Gaming J.Thunder, with a North American squad being signed to the VGJ brand as well(Vici Gaming J.Storm). The changes for VGJ.Thunder didn’t just stop at the team’s name though, as the roster was changed in its entirety for the upcoming season. Though the roster may be new, the players on it are no strangers to professional Dota, at least within the Chinese region. By shuffling and drawing on players from its other squads and youth/development teams, VGJ.Thunder has put together a solid combination of veteran experience and talent that was immediately put on display in the regional qualifier. The squad won 2 series against Invictus Gaming, as well as the grand finals against LGD.Forever Young to earn its spot in Bucharest. Though there is always a bit of a curve for Chinese teams trying to replicate success outside of its home region, taking 3 series against TI-caliber teams is a sign that VGJ.Thunder at least have the talent needed to fuel a successful season.