Eyes of Dota 2 world once again fall on Kiev as city plays host to season’s 1st Minor.
Another day goes by, and a new set of tournament qualifiers comes to a close as yet another event has finalized its lineup of teams. The StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3 has completed its regional qualifiers, setting the stage for another Minor as the season moves ever closer to beginning. This Minor plays a particularly big role, as the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3 has the honor of kick-starting the new season as the first event of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the details of this first Minor, as well as some of the teams that will be looking to claim the title of the first ever Dota 2 Minor Champion.
StarLadder events have a long and storied history in the Dota 2 world, going as far back as 2011 to the very beginning of professional Dota 2. Over the course of 6 years, StarLadder(and now jointly StarLadder i-League) events have delivered the highest level of competitive play with a host of the most popular and talented teams in the world. Aside from the quality of the competition itself, one other thing has remained consistent with StarLadder events, that being the location in which they are held. StarLadder is based out of Kiev, and nearly all of its events have been hosted there, with some recent exceptions following the combination of StarLadder and the Chinese i-League. For this season, StarLadder returns home, with the season’s first Minor set to begin in Kiev starting on the 12th of October and running through the 15th. 2 directly invited teams and 6 regional qualifier winners will make the journey to Kiev to fight for their share of $300,000 in prize money and 300 Qualifying Points for the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. At the time of writing this post, there aren’t full details available regarding the format and prize money distribution for the Minor, but we do have an idea of how the Qualifying Points may be handed out. The 1st and 2nd place teams will receive 150(50%) and 90(30%) points for each of its players respectively, while the 3rd and 4th place squads will receive points based on whether the tournament format determines an official distinction between the 3rd and 4th place positions. Should the tournament distinguish between the positions(i.e. a double-elimination bracket) then the 3rd place team will receive 45(15%) points and the 4th place squad will receive 15(5%) points. If there is a combined 3rd/4th place position to be shared between 2 teams(single elimination bracket with no consolation match) then the 2 squads will each earn 30(10%) points for the Dota 2 Pro Circuit.
The season’s first Major will take 8 teams from across the 6 regions and pitting them against each other in Kiev. the 8 teams are comprised of 2 direct invites, one of which is the returning champion from Season 2 of the StarLadder i-League Invitational, and 6 regional qualifier winners. At this time I will insert what is beginning to feel like a customary disclaimer with these posts. This post will not contain minute details regarding the teams, but I will release a more thorough breakdown of the competing squads in the days leading up to the start of the event.
The Direct Invitees
Team Liquid(EU) – It wouldn’t be right to officially start off the Dota 2 season without the reigning TI champions, and the tournament organizers apparently felt the same way. Even without the TI victory under its belt, Team Liquid had already earned its direct invite to the event by virtue of being the defending champions of the previous StarLadder i-League Invitational last May. In a move that surprised nobody, the team decided to keep its TI winning roster intact, and come into this first event of the season as a heavy favorite to win. We’ve seen some TI winners suffer a post-TI slump in the past, but Team Liquid have the perfect opportunity to start the season strong and show the Dota 2 world that it remains focused on and dedicated to dominating the competition.
Newbee(China) – The TI7 runner-up has a chance for redemption as it has also received a direct invite to the season’s first Minor. Newbee chose not to make any changes to its roster following its run at TI, and the Chinese squad enters the new season as one of the top teams in both its home region and the Dota 2 world as a whole. The last time we saw Newbee on the big stage, it was suffering an unfortunate 0-3 loss in the TI Grand Finals, but this Minor affords the Chinese squad with an opportunity to put that painful loss in the past and start the new season with a strong performance.
The Qualifier Winners
Team Secret(EU) – A somewhat disappointing finish at TI7 led to changes in the offseason for Team Secret, as the team dropped Maruice “KheZu” Gutmann and Pyo “MP” No-a left the team to join Team Phoenix(now Immortals). In place of these two, Secret added Danish carry Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard and German Midlaner turned offlaner Adrian “Fata” Trinks. The team has wasted no time getting to work in the new season, takign the European region by storm with a series of stunning victories. Team Secret has so far managed to qualify for both of the season’s first Minors as well as the first Major of the season, making a clean sweep of all 3 qualifiers it has participated in so far. Team Secret’s players are no stranger to international play, nor are they strangers to playing on the game’s biggest stages. The StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3 is just the first of many opportunities for the European squad to prove that it is ready to retake its place as a premier team in the Dota 2 world.
Natus Vincere(CIS) – Following a rough end to the previous season and a failure to qualify for TI7, Na’Vi decided that changes were needed if the team was going to go back to being a contender in the CIS region. The team replaced carry Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille with Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek and traded out support Malthe “Biver” Winther for Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan. The changes, while appearing somewhat drastic, also appear to have had their desired effect, as Na’Vi’s level of play has been elevated significantly to start off the season. The team has qualified for both of the first 2 Minors of the season, and placed a respectable 3rd/4th in the CIS Qualifier for the ESL One Hamburg Major. While we have not yet seen how the squad fares against international opponents, the fact that it can compete with and defeat its regional rivals bodes well for Na’Vi’s prospects this season. This Minor in Kiev is the perfect opportunity for Na’Vi to show that it is ready to return to the main stage of the Dota 2 world.
CompLexity Gaming(NA) – CompLexity Gaming spent most of the previous season just on the other side of the proverbial hill in the North American region, never quite managing to get itself over the hump and into consistent contention for big tournaments. After a season of close finishes and near misses in regional qualifiers, including an attempt in the North American Qualifier for TI7, the team decided to make changes to its roster. Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho and Feras “Feero” Hroob departed the team, and carry David “Moo” Hull was shifted to the offlane role. To fill in the gaps at carry and mid, the organization welcomed back two former players in the Blomdin brothers, Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin and Linus “Limmp” Blomdin. With this new roster locked in, CompLexity Gaming has been making a push to reestablish itself in the NA scene, culminating in its victory in the regional qualifier for this upcoming Minor in Kiev. The team has been competitive so far within the North America region, but a solid performance in Kiev could be the opportunity the team needs to cement its place both at home and on the global stage.
SG e-sports(SA) – SG e-sports may be an organization that many are familiar with following its achievements in the previous season, but the team that plays under its banner today is almost unrecognizable from those teams of old. Following a bit of a shakeup in the South American region, the Brazilian squad has retained only a single member of its previous lineups, Adriano “4dr” Machado. With the rest of the previous roster scattered across other teams in the region, SG e-sports has fielded a new squad with the hopes of replicating some of its previous success in a new season. The team’s off to an impressive start so far, qualifying for this first Minor of the season in addition to winning the South American Qualifier for the upcoming ESL One Hamburg Major. Taking those early achievements into consideration, it appears that SG e-sports is holding a strong position within its home region, but the true test is about to come in Kiev as the relatively inexperienced SA squad is put to the test against some of the best teams in the world.
Vici Gaming(China) – The offseason brought some rather drastic changes to teams across the Chinese region, and Vici Gaming was no exception to this. Following the team’s failure to qualify for TI7, it retained just 2 players from its former roster, with one of those players, Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng being moved from the coaching role to the support position. Zhang “Paparazi” Chengjun, Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei, and Lu “Fenrir” Chao were added in September to form the new Vici Gaming roster. The new roster has seen mixed levels of success so far, qualifying for this upcoming Minor in Kiev, but falling short of the cut for both the PGL Open Bucharest Minor and the ESL One Hamburg Major. Though the team may not be consistently coming out ahead of its Chinese rivals, the fact that it is in the mix to start the season bodes well for the team’s prospects moving forward. This Minor will provide a key chance for the squad to adjust to its new roster, gain valuable experience against top teams, and get a leg up on its regional rivals.
Mineski(SEA) – In what appears to be a trend for teams at this Minor, Mineski sought roster changes in the offseason after a rough end to the previous season. Middling success in the Southeast Asian region and little to no opportunities outside of it prompted the team to replace 3 of its members in the offseason. Egor “.Ark” Zhabotinskii, Andrey “Mag~” Chipenko, and Ryo “ryOyr” Hasegawa departed the team and were replaced by Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng, Darkyl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang, and Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong to form an all SEA lineup. The changes have seemingly catapulted Mineski to the top of the SEA hierarchy, as the team managed to qualify for both of the season’s first 2 Minors. Though the squad fell short of the mark in the qualifier for the season’s first Major, these initial results seem to suggest that Mineski has what it takes to remain near the top of the Southeast Asian region. The StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3 is the team’s opportunity to reintroduce itself, not just as a regional power but as a potential contender on the biggest stages in the Dota 2 world.