Dota 2 Minor Team Preview: StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3

Teams looking to start strong and make a statement in Kiev as season’s 1st Minor begins

The Dota 2 season’s first event is set to begin in just around a week, bringing a long and eventful offseason to a close as the eyes of the Dota 2 world turn towards Kiev. The StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3 kicks of the season with 8 of the world’s best teams competing to be crowned the first event Minor champions and begin the season at the top of the Pro Circuit leaderboard. If you’re looking for more information about the tournament you can check out my previous article here, but today’s post is going to be all about breaking down the teams that we will be seeing in Kiev. So without further ado, let’s take a more detailed look at the 8 teams that will be fighting for the crown at the StarLadder i-League Minor beginning on October 12.

Team Liquid 600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen   2. Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi   3. Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov   4. Maroun “GH” Merhej   5. Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi(Captain)

Team Liquid enter this season and this first Minor as kings of the Dota 2 world, having claimed the Aegis of Champions and crowned themselves winners of The International  in August. The European squad comes into this event as reigning champions on two fronts, being not only the most recent TI winner but also the champions of the previous iteration of the StarLadder i-League Invitational back in May. While the title of “StarLadder i-League Invitational winner” may not be as glamorous as that of “TI Champion”, Team Liquid won’t been keen on losing any titles in Kiev. Following its TI victory, the team opted to keep its roster intact going into the offseason, and now enters the new season with the same group that was last seen lifting the Aegis of Champions in Seattle.

As reigning TI champions and one of the two directly invited teams at this first Minor, the expectations for Team Liquid are sky high to say the least. Though the field of teams in Kiev does contain strong teams that have shown flashes of skill and talent so far this season, Team Liquid still has to be considered one of favorites to win and bring home the lion’s share of Qualifying Points. To be perfectly frank here, anything short of a trip to the finals of this Minor will likely be seen as a disappointment, and falling out of the top 4 and getting no Qualifying Points at all would be a disaster scenario for the TI champions. That statement may sound a bit harsh at first glance, but one needs to realize that those expectations are only a product of Liquid’s incredible level of play and recent achievements. Liquid continues to have one of the strongest and most balanced lineups in the world, with perhaps the greatest captain in Dota in KuroKy still at the helm. With that much talent, experience, and leadership on the roster it’s hard to imagine Team Liquid doesn’t come into this event at the top of its game.

This is the point in the breakdown where I would list a team’s achievements and prior performances in an attempt to form some sort of coherent argument that supports my assessment for this team and makes me sound like I know what i’m talking about. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to look at for Team Liquid so far, as the team has yet to play a single official match this season. For some, this fact may be a cause for some slight concerns regarding the European squad. As talented as this Liquid squad is, no one could really fault the TI winners for taking some time to enjoy their accomplishment. However, every player and every team is susceptible to slumps and rough patches, and Team Liquid would not be the first TI champions to suffer a drop off in results to start a new season. This concern is not without merit, but Liquid’s players have not necessarily been sitting idle all this time. Team Liquid had 2 of its members place within the top 10 in the September season of the FaceIt Pro League – Europe, with GH placing 10th overall and MinD_ContRoL coming in 1st place. Now, it’s true that FPL is not exactly the same as playing official matches, and the achievements of 2 of Liquid’s members in the league’s first month doesn’t really say much about the team’s position as a whole. However, the competitive environment, talent level of the players in the league, and the fact that FPL matches are played in the Captain’s Mode game type mean that FPL matches stand significantly above the usual pub matches with regards to a player’s skill and readiness to compete. With its players remaining active through the down period and KuroKy still leading the squad as captain, Team Liquid should not have many problems finding its focus and shaking off whatever rust, if any, the team picked up during the offseason.

Team Liquid may have come into TI7 as a team flying under the radar, but those days are long gone as the new season gets underway. Liquid has earned its place at the top of the Dota 2 world, but as with every monarch before it Liquid will have to contend with rivals hungry to claim its throne for themselves. Team Liquid will start the season with a massive target on its back, and that target likely won’t go away anytime soon as teams will be eager to make a statement by defeating the TI champs. Even with every team in the world gunning for it, Team Liquid will enter this season riding a high of confidence. The team still has some of the best players in the world on the roster, and KuroKy remains an incomparable presence in the captain’s chair. The squad will face a tough test in Kiev to start the season, but Liquid will be ready and waiting to remind the Dota 2 world just why the team holds the Aegis of Champions.

Newbee Newbee_logo

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Xu “Moogy” Han   2. Song “Sccc” Chun   3. Damien “kpii” Cook   4. Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi   5. Zeng “Faith” Hongda(Captain)

Newbee comes into the new season in one of the most favorable positions in the entire Pro Circuit. As the TI7 runner-up, the Chinese squad has already received several invites to events so far and have a solid opportunity to begin the season at the top of the hierarchy in the new competitive system. The last time we saw Newbee at a major event, it was exiting the TI7 Main Stage after a heartbreaking 0-3 loss to Team Liquid in the Grand Finals. The loss on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage must have stung the squad, with the impact being all the more poignant with the recent release of Valve’s TI Final-focused episode of “True Sight”. However, the best teams find a way to bounce back from even the harshest of losses, and Newbee certainly have an opportunity to do just that as a new season gets underway. That TI finalist roster remains intact, and the Chinese squad come into the new season looking to write a new chapter and use the memory of that painful loss as motivation moving forward.

As a fellow TI finalist and direct invitee, Newbee finds itself in a very similar position to that of Team Liquid in terms of its expectations for this first Minor. Newbee is, at least on paper, one of the best teams in the world to start the new season, and they will be expected to post results commensurate with that position. With TI champions Team Liquid in the field of competitors, this may not be a “win or bust” scenario for Newbee, but anything outside of a top 4 finish would be appallingly below expectations for the Chinese squad. Newbee was one of the few teams in the Chinese region to escape the offseason without any roster changes, so the combination of the team’s stability with the unparalleled level of talent and experience it’s players possess sets the bar pretty high in a region where many rivals may still be struggling to fully adjust.

Newbee has received direct invites to almost all of the announced events so far, which means that the squad has not participated in any of the regional qualifiers of the new season. Despite that, the Chinese squad still has some official matches on record in the new season, as the team is currently participating in the Top Division of the Chinese exclusive Dota 2 Professional League. At the time of writing this, Newbee has played in just 2 series in the DPL, but even those few games gives some insight into the team’s state to begin the season. The team took a 1-1 split against Vici Gaming J.Thunder, as well as a 2-0 win against fellow TI7 attendee Invictus Gaming. 4 games is not exactly the largest of sample sizes for evaluating where a team stands, but the good news is that Newbee is scheduled to play at least 4 more series(8 games total) in the DPL prior to the start of the Minor. These games combined with what we have seen so far should give us a bit more insight into Newbee’s status coming into the event, but for now it appears that the squad is playing well and should be in top form heading into Kiev. The cynical fan or analyst could find a bit more cause for concern with Newbee’s limited pool of results, stemming from the competition more than the squad itself. As previously mentioned, the Chinese region went through a patch of roster shuffles in the offseason that left very few teams untouched. It is hard to say with certainty that all of the teams in the DPL have fully adjusted to their new players and styles, which could cause some to place less stock in Newbee’s matches. There may be some merit to those concerns, but the important thing to look at so far is the play of Newbee itself rather than the status of its opponents. From what we have been able to see so far, Newbee look to be on pace to come into the season’s first Minor focused and ready to step right back into its role as one of the world’s premier teams.

Newbee’s TI run may have ended in heartbreak, but the Chinese squad comes into this new season poised to make a statement and takes its shot at redemption. The squad maintained a level of consistency that eluded many of its regional rivals, and the team’s position as TI runner-up will afford it plenty of opportunities to compete at the highest level as the squad continues to accrue direct invites to events. Last year, Newbee was a team jockeying for position in the Chinese region, looking to secure its place in a field of talented Chinese rivals. This season, there will be no such jockeying and playing for position, as Newbee’s performance to close out the previous season has placed it at the top of its home region. Knocking the Chinese squad from its vaunted position is going to take a herculean effort on the part of another Chinese team, or a catastrophic meltdown from Newbee itself. Long story short is that Newbee’s strong position is its to lose this season, and the squad has an excellent opportunity to solidify that position for another season, beginning in Kiev.

Team Secret Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaards   2. Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng   3. Adrian “Fata” Trinks   4. Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat   5. Clement “Puppey” Ivanov(Captain)

The end of last season brought a lot of questions for Team Secret, as the future of the European squad was unclear to say the least. The squad ended its TI run with a somewhat disappointing finish in the combined 9th-12th ranking, and just days later announced the departure of carry player Pyo “MP” No-a and offlaner Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann. The team entered the offseason with an incomplete roster and an uncertain direction for its future heading into the new season. That uncertainty has fallen by the wayside though, as Team Secret has risen from the ashes to become one of the most dominant teams in the world and the leading squad in the European region. The team addressed its roster issues with the addition of Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard and Adrian “Fata” Trinks, and have been on an absolute tear in Europe ever since. Team Secret have wasted no time establishing itself as a premier team in its home region, and are now looking for every opportunity to make its case on the global stage, starting in Kiev with this first Minor.

Team Secret may not have managed to earn itself a direct invite to the season’s first Minor, but that doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have the highest of expectations in Kiev. The team may have made some recent changes to its roster, but the results following those changes are nearly unmatched by any other team regardless of region. Secret’s new roster has qualified for 3 events so far and have been invited to another, meaning that we will be seeing Team Secret at 4 of the season’s first 5 events. Those results put Team Secret near the top of the teams at the StarLadder i-League Minor, and the European squad should reasonably expect to place within the top 4 in Kiev. Team Secret is showing none of the issues that we see with other squads to make major roster changes, and team captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov appears to be leading the team in the right direction to open the season.

The recent results for Team Secret go quite a long way towards instilling confidence in the European squad, as the team has been taking its home region by storm to start the season. The team started its qualifier run at the European Qualifier for the ESL One Hamburg Major, where the squad swept 7 straight games to qualify for the event. The undefeated streak carried over into the next event qualifier as Team Secret won 4 best-of-3 series in a row. Romanian team 10 Rounds, Polish squad Team Kinguin, Hellraisers, and Mousesports all fell before the onslaught brought forward by Team Secret without taking a single match against the European powerhouse. In the European Qualifiers for this StarLadder i-League Minor Team Secret was finally proven to be human after all, with the squad losing 2 games, 1 against Mousesports and another against OG. Unfortunately for Team Secret’s regional rivals, those 2 losses didn’t do much to slow the squad down, as Secret pushed through to win yet another European qualifier. Overall, Team Secret has started the season with a 23-2 record, and the only announced event so far that the team won’t be participating in is one in which Team Secret actually withdrew from(AMD SAPPHIRE Dota Pit Minor). Basically, if Team Secret chooses to participate in a regional qualifier, they end up winning it. It is possible that Team Secret’s run of success comes to an end in the near future, but one of its regional rivals would need to take a major step forward to make that scenario happen as Team Secret doesn’t appear to be careening towards a breakdown anytime soon. The team’s new players have integrated with little to no trouble, its veterans are playing with an insane level of skill and consistency, and Puppey’s leadership and drafting are meshing almost perfectly with the new squad’s style.

Team Secret went into the offseason with a multitude of questions and not many answers, but the squad responded in absolutely spectacular fashion. The team’s roster issues were addressed early on, and the new additions have integrated almost seamlessly to create a powerhouse that has dominated the European region. Team Secret’s performance in the European region has been impressive so far, but it remains to be seen if the squad will have the same results on the global stage. All signs so far point to Team Secret being a legitimate contender, and it will have several opportunities to prove this, beginning with this first Minor in Kiev.

Natus Vincere 668px-Natus_Vincere

Region: Commonwealth Independent States

Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winners

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek   2. Danil “Dendi” Ishutin   3. Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini   4. Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan  5. Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev(Captain)

Natus Vincere is one of the most storied and accomplished organizations in professional Dota 2, but that legendary organization has suffered a fall from grace of late. A roster experiment saw Na’Vi bring 2 EU based players into the traditionally CIS exclusive squad, but that risky move failed to produce significant results and Na’Vi missed the cut to qualify for TI7. Wits its season hitting an early end, Na’Vi had plenty of time to consider its next move heading into the offseason period. The team parted ways with its two EU players and opted to return to an all CIS roster, picking up Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek and Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan. The roster moves appear to be paying off, and Na’Vi looks like a team getting back on track as it begins a campaign to reestablish itself in a CIS region that the team dominated in years past.

Coming into this first Minor of the season, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the expectations should lie for Na’Vi. Even with the team’s positive results to begin the season, it falls short of the level of favorites like Team Liquid and Newbee. However, after those two teams there isn’t a clear picture of who is next in line, which leaves an opportunity for Na’Vi to step up and claim a top 4 spot. The new additions to the roster appear to be meshing well with the team, and Na’Vi still possesses a level of veteran experience that could make the difference at a LAN event like this. That being said, it’s fairly obvious that every team in the field for this first Minor has enough talent to make a quality run, and underestimating any opponent could drop a team out of a top 4 finish and short of the mark to claim Qualifying Points.

Na’Vi began the season with several strong and successful runs through regional qualifiers, but the squad has come back down to Earth a bit recently. The team started its season with the CIS qualifier for this event, taking series against Gambit Esports and Team Empire before dropping a series against Team Spirit in the Upper Bracket Final. Thankfully for Na’Vi the qualifiers were run in a double elimination format, so the squad was able to bounce back against Spartak Esports and force a rematch against Team Spirit that it was able to win to qualify for the Minor. A few days later, the team kept momentum going in another Minor qualifier, posting a 4-0 overall record in the group stage of the PGL Open Bucharest qualifier before taking down both Vega Squadron and Team Empire to earn another spot in a Minor to start the season. Na’Vi rounded out its strong start with a win in the open qualifier for the DreamLeague Major, earning a spot in the combined Europe and CIS regional qualifier. Following those initial successes, Na’Vi has hit some trouble in its region, as its regional rivals appear to be stepping up and presenting a more serious and consistent challenge. Na’Vi has participated in 3 more qualifiers but haven’t managed to break through and claim another tournament spot since it’s initial successes. That might be troubling news to some Na’Vi fans, but even though the squad has not won these recent qualifiers, it is still performing well and consistently. The CIS squad has finished in the 3rd/4th position, 4th, and 3rd in its last 3 qualifiers, so the team is still holding its spot near the top of the hierarchy in the region. It won’t be as easy it is had been to start the season, but there’s no reason to believe that Na’Vi can’t take that little step forward again and reclaim that level of success.

Na’Vi ended the previous season on about as low a note as possible, but the squad has bounced back and appears to be in a position to start the new season in a favorable position. The team’s roster changes have resulted in a higher and more consistent level of play that has made Na’Vi a leader in the CIS region once again. The most recent batch of regional qualifiers has put a slight damper on the team’s initial success, but Na’Vi should still be a threat to take any regional qualifier moving forward. Na’Vi has emerged as a power within its home region, but this first Minor on home soil in Kiev presents a prime opportunity for the team to show that it is capable of competing at the highest level of competition.

compLexity Gaming 727px-Col_big_logo

Region: North America

Qualification: North American Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin   2. Linus “Limmp” Blomdin   3. David “Moo” Hull   4. Zakari “ZFreek” Freedman   5. Kyle “melonzz” Freedman(Captain)

CompLexity Gaming spent most of the previous season as an afterthought in the North American region, as the team struggled to find consistent success. The team made appearances in numerous qualifiers and smaller regional tournaments, but could never get itself into any significant events  outside of North America. This struggle came to a head as compLexity Gaming placed 4th in the TI7 North American Qualifier, failing to claim a spot in Seattle and bringing its season to an ignoble conclusion. As the offseason began, compLexity Gaming decided that it would need to make major changes to keep pace and compete consistently in the North America region. The team parted ways with both Feras “Feero” Hroob and Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho, while moving David “Moo” Hull from the carry position to the offlane. To fill in the gaps in the roster, the organization called in 2 of its former players, brothers Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin and Linus “Limmp” Blomdin. With this new roster completed, compLexity has taken a huge step forward and is emerging as a contender in North America to start the new season.

Heading into the first Minor of the season the expectations for compLexity cannot be considered to be very high. The team’s offseason changes have lifted it into a competitive position within the North American region, but against the top international teams, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that compLexity will find success. There is a chance that things fall perfectly into place for compLexity, perhaps a lucky break with the groups or an upset from itself or a rival team. Should something like that happen, then compLexity could be a sneaky play to slip its way into a top 4 spot. However, as previously mentioned it would require either an inspired level of play from the squad itself or a large amount of help from another team to make that scenario a reality.

The recent results for compLexity Gaming tell the tale of a team slowly on the rise within its home region. North America finds itself a much tougher region to compete in this season, with teams like Immortals and Optic Gaming presenting new and formidable challenges to the previous hierarchy of teams. To its credit, compLexity has managed to hold its own in the face of these new challenges, posting a series of encouraging results to begin the new season. The team started its season with a small regional tournament in the King’s Cup: America, where the team posted a 10-4 group stage record before losing to Digital Chaos in the semifinals. The PGL Open Buicharest North American Qualifier saw compLexity post another impressive group stage result, going 4-0 before losing another semifinals matchup, this time against The Dire(now Optic Gaming). At the NA Qualifier for the Hamburg Major, it seemed compLexity may have finally gotten a chance to breakthrough as it defeated the Dire 2-1. Unfortunately, it’s opponent in the next round was NA superpower Evil Geniuses, and compLexity Gaming ended yet another qualifier in the 3rd/4th position. CompLexity’s moment finally came in the regional qualifier for this very Minor, as the team defeated Team Leviathan in the first round before managing an impressive revenge win against EG 2-1 to move out of the semifinal stage for the first time this season. The squad followed up that win with back to back series victories over The Dire to secure its first LAN event of the season, punching its ticket to Kiev in dominant fashion. Just 3 days later, compLexity managed to repeat its success in another Minor qualifier, posting a 10-2 record en route to qualifying for the Perfect World Masters in November. Unfortunately, the team followed up those qualifier victories with a less impressive 4th place finish in the NA qualifier for the Dota Pit Minor, but the fact remains that the squad has proven it has the potential to come out of the North American region and play its way to LAN events. The talent and potential may be there, but compLexity is going to need to make the most out of its opportunities on the global stage, as winning the NA qualifiers on a consistent basis is going to be a tall order for any of the teams in the region.

The gloom of compLexity’s disappointing finish to the previous season has slowly given way to cautious optimism and hope as the squad enters a new season. The roster changes have had a marked improvement on the team’s performance, and the squad is posting consistently respectable results in a region that has seen a significant influx of talented teams so far. CompLexity Gaming’s potential to compete on the international level seems a bit limited so far, but this first Minor could prove to be the launching pad for a successful campaign should the NA squad find success in Kiev.

SG e-sports SG_e-sportslogo

Region: South America

Qualification: South American Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile   2. Adriano “4dr” Machado   3. Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos   4. Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro   5. Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa(Captain)

SG e-sports had a rather interesting offseason period, as did most of the squads in the South American region. After falling just short of the mark to win the TI7 South American Qualifier, the organization ended up making massive changes to the roster. Adriano “4dr” Machado would remain with the team, but every other member of the squad ended up leaving to join a rival team. In place of those lost players, SG added Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile, Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos, Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro, and Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa, essentially creating an entirely new roster to compete in the new season. So far at least, that gamble is paying off for the Brazilian team, as it has dominated the South American region to begin the season. The new squad appears to be adapting to its new personnel and play style at a rate that far outpaces its regional rivals, and it has emerged as the premier team in its home region.

The expectations for SG e-sports heading into this first Minor of the season have to be considered the lowest of any of the teams in the field in Kiev. The Brazilian squad is certainly talented, but the combined of an almost entirely new roster and a significant lack of talent on the international level means that it’s quite hard to expect for the SA squad to stand out in this Minor. While the South American Dota scene isn’t exactly new, its acceptance and integration as a region into the wider world of professional Dota 2 is still a recent and ongoing process. One cannot expect SG’s players to have high amounts of international experience because so few South American teams have ever been included in international events. Make no mistake here, SG e-sports has a talented roster of players, and like compLexity Gaming, could make a surprise run into a top 4 spot if everything falls into place for them. However, as previously mentioned in the compLexity section, it would take a bit of help from another team for SG e-sports to make that run happen. It would be wise to keep expectations low for SG e-sports in this first Minor, but don’t sleep on the Brazilian team, and absolutely do not underestimate them.

SG has enjoyed a nearly unmatched level of success within its home region to start the season. The squad’s dominant performance in South America is almost Team Secret-esque with the way it has performed so far. The team’s start to the season did little to suggest that it would put on such an impressive performance, as it struggled slightly in the qualifiers for the PGL Open Bucharest. SG posted a 2-1 group stage record before losing 1-2 in the semifinals against Digital Chaos.SA. In the South American Qualifier for this Minor, the team was knocked down to the lower bracket after an early loss to Luccini, but managed to make an impressive run culminating in a 2-0 victory in the grand ginals against Digital Chaos.SA to earn its spot in Kiev. From that point, SG e-sports appeared to hit its stride just as many of its regional rivals appeared to be fading away. The team went 9-2 to qualify for the season’s first Major in Hamburg, followed by an 8-2 record that saw it qualify for the Perfect World Majors and defeat Digital Chaos.SA yet again. The team suffered a slight setback in the regional qualifier for the DreamLeague Major, losing series against both Infamous and Digital Chaos.SA that knocked the squad out of contention. However, the Brazilian squad managed to earn its revenge just days later, defeating both teams to secure its place at the Dota Pit Minor and a 4th LAN event to start the season. SG e-sports has the talent and now the results to lay claim to the title as the top team in South America, especially now with its two biggest competitors going through late roster changes. Both Digital Chaos.SA and Infamous have made recent roster moves(before the roster lock), and will more than likely need some additional time to fully adjust to its new players. Their loss will be SG’s gain, as the team should have an easier time holding its grip on the region for the time being.

SG e-sports underwent massive changes to begin this season, but those changes have yielded some very impressive results so far. The team’s new roster is playing well and consistently coming out on top against regional rivals. With the major competitors in the region undergoing some last minute roster changes, the Brazilian squad look to have a fairly secure hold on the region going forward. This should result in even more opportunities for the team to secure spots in LAN events and gain much needed experience at the international level. SG e-sports may not be the biggest threat to top international teams at the moment, but the longer the season goes on the better this team is going to get and the more confidence it is going to play with. SG e-sports now faces the challenge that every notable South American team has faced; turning regional dominance into success against top international teams, a process that will begin next week in Kiev.

Vici GamingVICI_Gaming

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun   2. Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang   3. Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei   4. Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng   5. Lu “Fenrir” Chao

Vici Gaming was another team to end the previous season in less than ideal fashion, as the Chinese team failed to place higher than 5th in its last 3 competitions. One of those contests was the Chinese Qualifier for TI7, and the team’s failure to qualify for the biggest event of the year prompted some drastic changes to the roster. The team parted ways with 4 of its players in the offseason, retaining midlaner Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang and moving Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng from the coaching role to an active slot as a support player. To fill the rest of the lineup, Vici Gaming acquired carry Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun, offlaner Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei, and support Lu “Fenrir” Chao. It was a sweeping and significant series of changes to the roster, but Vici Gaming caught a bit of a break in that just about every other team in the Chinese region also made changes to their rosters during the offseason. With most teams in the region trying to adjust to new rosters, the team to come together first would have a significant advantage over its rivals, and that team appears to be Vici Gaming for the time being.

Vici Gaming’s expectations for the StarLadder i-League Minor should be modest, but still hopefully optimistic. The team’s strong performance in the Chinese region so far instills a decent level of confidence in the team’s style and capabilities. While the Chinese squad is not quite up to par with favorites like Team Liquid and Newbee, it becomes hard to identify another team in the field beyond those two that are definitively higher up the ranks than Vici Gaming. With this in mind, it seems reasonable to assume that Vici Gaming can make a run at a top 4 spot in Kiev. There is always a slight concern when looking at a Chinese team attempting to translate regional success to the international level, and the roster shuffle in the offseason did not alleviate these concerns. It’s hard to say for certain whether Vici’s success in China is a product of the team’s skill alone or if the squad is benefiting from a slow adjustment process for its rivals. Either way, it’s clear that the Vici Gaming roster is full of highly talented players, and the StarLadder i-League Minor will provide a perfect opportunity for the Chinese squad to display that talent.

Vici Gaming’s results are highly encouraging, despite the fact that the team got off to a bit of a rough start to the season. The team posted a 4th place finish in its first qualifier fothe season for the PGL Open Bucharest, falling 0-2 to Invictus Gaming in the lower bracket. The qualifier for the Hamburg Major was also rough for Vici Gaming, as the squad lost in the quarterfinals to LGD Gaming to finish in the combined 5th-8th position. It appeared that the squad was having trouble putting the pieces together, just as many other Chinese teams were to start the season. However, just 5 days after the rough finish in the ESL One Hamburg qualifier, everything clicked for Vici Gaming. The team made an impressive run through the lower bracket of the StarLadder i-League Minor Chinese Qualifier, defeating TI7 attendees Invictus Gaming, LGD Gaming, and LGD.Forever Young to qualify for its first event of the season. From there, things continued to go Vici Gaming’s way, as the team swept through the open qualifier for the DreamLeague Major and secured a spot in the regional qualifier. Days later, the squad posted and 8-3 record to earn one of two Chinese spots at the Perfect World Masters in November. Most recently the team has won the Chinese Qualifier for the Dota Pit Minor, which may have been the teams most impressive performance yet. Playing against Invictus Gaming, LGD Gaming, and LGD.Forever Young yet again, Vici Gaming absolutely dominated with a 7-0 record that easily won it yet another spot at a LAN event this season. In a matter of just a few weeks, Vici Gaming went from looking like just another team in the pack in China to one of the region’s most impressive and dominant squads.

Vici Gaming’s participation in the most recent iteration of the “Great Chinese Shuffle” was a big point of concern for many coming into the season. However, the team’s roster changes appear to be coming to fruition much faster than any of its regional rivals. Despite a slow start to the season, the new Vici Gaming roster has quickly established itself as one of the strongest teams in the region, and sit in a powerful position to make a statement on the international level. The current roster adjustment issues plaguing some of the other teams in the Chinese region afford Vici Gaming opportunities to stand out and pull away from its rivals, and this Minor in Kiev should be the first step of any plans to emerge as a global power.

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: SEA Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-1st(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng  2. Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung(Captain)   3. Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang   4. Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong   5. Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

The previous season for Southeast Asian squad Mineski can be summed up in pretty much one word: bad. The team missed the mark for qualification in event after event, and the team’s prestige and threat levels fell off a cliff as the season came to an end. Just as rival teams within the region were on the rise, Mineski found itself free falling through the ranks of premier SEA teams. As the season came to an almost merciful close, the organization realized that something would need to be done if the team wanted to have a chance to compete in the new season. Roster changes was the solution that Mineski went with heading into the offseason, with the team dropping 3 of its members. In place of those 3 players the team recruited highly talented players from rival teams, getting Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng from Warriors Gaming.Unity, as well as both Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang and Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong from the now defunct Team Faceless. The results of these moves was a team bursting with talent and experience and eager to reclaim control of the SEA region.

The expectations for Mineski at the first Minor should be moderately high, and the team should be feeling strong and confident heading into Kiev. The team’s dominant performance in the SEA region bodes well for its chances of success at this Minor, and the fact that its members all have previous LAN experience puts it in an even more favorable position. Aside from the two direct invites, none of the other participating teams seem like a lock for a top 4 spot, which means that Mineski has a solid opportunity to claim that position should it manage to carry on the momentum that it has accrued in its home region. It’s true that the SEA region has not looked particularly good to start the season, with many of its traditional powers either adjusting to roster changes or simply struggling to find their footing. In that regard, Mineski’s performance in the region takes a very small hit in terms of its prestige and importance. However, no matter how much the region may be struggling at the start of the season, Mineski’s performance and consistency are still impressive and are exactly what you want to see from a team trying to make the leap back onto the global stage.

The team’s results to begin the season have been absolutely fantastic, as Mineski has taken the SEA region by storm. The team began its season with the PGL Open Bucharest SEA Qualifier, posting a 2-1 group stage record before sweeping series against WG.Unity and Execration to net a spot at its first LAN event of the season. The strong performance continued just days later at the qualifier for this StarLadder i-League Minor, with Mineski going a perfect 8-0 to win another spot at a Minor. The team’s only setback so far this season unfortunately came in one of the more important qualifiers so far, as the team failed to make the cut to participate in the ESL One Hamburg Major. Mineski won its initial matchup against Open Qualifier squad Alpha Red, but fell 0-2 to Fnatic in the quarterfinals. Missing out on the season’s first Major was a tough blow, but Mineski has managed to regroup and get back on track in near record time. Just 5 days after the ESL One Hamburg qualifier, Mineski won the Dota Pit Minor SEA Qualifier, defeating TNC Pro Team and winning a best of 3 and a best of 5 series against Fnatic to qualify. Most recently, the squad has won the Perfect World Master qualifier for the SEA region as well, marking the team’s 4th qualifier victory to start the season. Mineski’s performance has allowed it to qualify for 4 of the season’s first 5 events, and the hold that it has over the SEA region looks about as secure as possible at the moment. It would take a massive breakthrough from a rival team or a meltdown from Mineski itself to dislodge this team from its position at the pinnacle of the SEA hierarchy.

Mineski comes into this first Minor of the season as the premier team in the Southeast Asian region, and one of the stronger teams in the field at Kiev. The team’s offseason roster changes, though drastic, were a necessity to get this team and organization back to the forefront of SEA Dota. The team’s string of dominant results to open the season is a testament to the skill and adaptability of its players, as we’ve seen many teams that made similarly significant changes struggle to adjust to their new situation. Mineski have the talent, it has the experience, and with its success in the SEA region it now has the opportunities it needs to emerge as a potential contender on the international level. That emergence can begin in one week’s time in Kiev as Mineski hope to prove that its ready to compete and win on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage.

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