Dota 2 Minor Team Preview: PGL Open Bucharest

5 teams set to make season debut on LAN as Mineski and Team Secret seek repeat top 4 performances

The Dota 2 season has officially begun, and the ball will continue rolling as fans prepare for a veritable flood of events and tournaments. Just days after crowning the season’s first Minor Champion, the eyes of the Dota 2 world now shift towards Bucharest as the second Minor is set to begin. The PGL Open Bucharest will pit 8 teams from around the world against each other for a share of a $300,000 prize pool and a chance to claim some all important Qualifying Points in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. Just how much will each team be able to claim in Bucharest? The prize pool and Qualifying Point structures have been released by PGL, and we can take a look at them right now.

1st: $130,000 & 150 Qualifying Points

2nd: $65,000 & 90 Qualifying Points

3rd/4th: $30,000 & 30 Qualifying Points

5th/6th: $15,000

7th/8th: $7,500

So, now that we know exactly what’s at stake at this Minor, we can shift our focus over from the tournament itself onto the teams that will be competing in Bucharest. In the field for this Minor we have 5 teams making their seasonal LAN debut(Evil Geniuses, LGD Gaming, Immortals, Infamous, and VGJ.Thunder), as well as 3 teams looking to build on their performances at the previous StarLadder i-League Minor(Na’Vi, Team Secret, Mineski).

Evil Geniuses 600px-EG

Region: North America

Qualification: Direct Invite

Qualifying Points Rank: T-5th(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev   2. Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan   3. Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora   4. Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen   5. Clinton “Fear” Loomis(Captain)

Evil Geniuses begins its season amidst a flurry of questions and unknowns following its offseason changes. The North American squad saw support player Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg depart the team, being replaced by former coach and retiree Clinton “Fear” Loomis. The roster changes may have also ushered in a difference in drafting style, as Fear took over the captain position for the team in the shuffle. These changes and uncertainties come at a somewhat inopportune time, as the North American region appears to have taken a significant step forward competitively. In years past, EG stood as the unquestioned champions of North America, dominating the region with veteran experience and brutal efficiency. Those days appear to be gone, as EG now faces a region full of highly skilled teams with experience at the highest level of competition. The NA squad is still a capable team with some of the most talented and experienced players in the world, but the path through North America has become much more difficult, and a lot more crowded this season.

EG’s pedigree as well as the team’s status as a directly invited team for this Minor place their expectations for the event fairly high. The team’s adjustment to the return of Fear along with the presence of some exceedingly strong teams in the field makes me slightly hesitant to declare it a favorite to win the Minor. That being said, EG is still one of the strongest teams in the world, with a roster of players who are all insanely talented and have played at the highest level of competition for years. While it is hard to view the NA squad as the clear favorite to win in Bucharest, the team is more than capable of claiming the title at this Minor, and a top 4 finish is well within the realm of reasonable expectations for the North American power.

We haven’t gotten to see too much of Evil Geniuses so far this season, as the team has participated in just 2 regional qualifiers so far. However, from those 2 events, we have been able to get a brief glimpse of how the team is adjusting and coming together with Fear at the helm. The squad’s season got off to a less than stellar start, as the team struggled slightly in the StarLadder i-League qualifiers. The team ran into a compLexity Gaming squad on a mission, losing the series 1-2 to drop out of the Upper Bracket. A fast paced 2-1 win over Immortals seemed to set the stage for one of EG’s famous lower bracket runs, but it wasn’t meant to be. The squad lost its next series against Team Leviathan 1-2 and wound up finishing the qualifier in 4th place. While the result is not what many EG fans were expecting, it appeared that the squad was utilizing this qualifier as a feeling out process, experimenting with different drafts and play styles to nail down what it felt most comfortable with. That experimentation paid off spectacularly as the team headed into the qualifier for the ESL One Hamburg Major looking like a completely different squad. EG tore its way through the qualifiers, frequently relying on highly aggressive and up-tempo drafts en route to a 7-0 sweep and a spot at the season’s first Major.

EG’s early TI exit and offseason changes raised some questions about whether the team would be able to maintain its place at the top of the Dota 2 hierarchy. The recent surge of talent and quality within the North American region threatens the traditional dominance that Evil Geniuses has enjoyed in the past, but the squad is still every bit as skilled and capable as it has been in years past. Though the season got off to a bit of a rocky start for EG, the team seems to have identified its style and is back to its winning ways just in time for the Minor. The road through the North American region may have become harder to tread this season, but EG appears ready to fight and remind the Dota 2 world why it was considered the King of NA for so long.

 

LGD Gaming

800px-LGD

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Qualifying Points Rank: T-5th(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Wang “Ame” Chunyu   2. Lu “Maybe” Yao   3. Xu “fy” Linsen   4. Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng(Captain)   5. Yao “357” Yi(standing in for Chen “Victoria” Guanhong)

Despite a victory at MDL 2017 and a top 4 finish at TI7, LGD Gaming have been somewhat quiet so far this season, though that might not be as bad as it sounds. The team made just a single change in the offseason, losing offlaner Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei and adding Xu “fy” Linsen to replace him. The addition of a veteran like fy would normally be big news, but this past offseason saw almost every major Chinese organization making significant roster changes. In the climate of sweeping and widespread changes to rosters across the region, LGD’s singular move was somewhat lost in the mix. The team may not have snatched headlines in the offseason, but there’s a lot to be said for a squad maintaining a sense of stability and consistency in its roster, particularly when that roster is filled with young talent like LGD’s is. We’ve already seen some high profile Chinese squads fall short of expectations so far this year, with TI7 runner up Newbee and recent standout squad Vici Gaming both failing to win a single game at the season’s first Minor. With that in mind, LGD’s low profile and quiet stability to begin the season may be more of a blessing than a curse as the squad will look to avoid the fate of its regional rivals.

Heading into its seasonal LAN debut, LGD should feel some degree of confidence that it can make a run and be a legitimate contender in Bucharest. The team’s relative roster stability has served it well so far this season, but there’s been a significant development that holds LGD back from being considered a favorite to win it all. The team announced that one of its support players, Chen “Victoria” Guanhong, has been battling illness and will not be able to attend this event. Hopefully Victoria is able to recover soon and make a return to his team, but in the meantime the squad will be playing with a stand in for the foreseeable future. The team’s captain, Yao “357” Yi, will step back into the active roster at the support position. It’s hard to put any team playing with a stand in, especially one that has not been an active player for a few years, as a favorite to win a LAN event, and LGD is no exception to this. That being said, if anyone would be comfortable enough with a team’s strategies and play style to step in for an event, it would be that team’s coach. Even with the need to put 357 into the active roster, LGD should comfortably sit within the top 4 range at Bucharest.

LGD’s season has been interesting so far, as the team has been posting a series of respectable results. In 5 regional qualifiers so far this season, LGD has yet to finish any lower than 4th place among the Chinese participants. In addition to these qualifiers, LGD has been participating in the Chinese Dota 2 Professional League, where the team currently have a 3-1-1 series record(7-3 overall) that puts it in 4th place. Overall, these performances paint a picture of consistency that both LGD and its fans likely appreciate, with the squad posting a total match record of 30-23 so far this season. However, there is one major problem with LGD’s consistent results in that the squad is consistently falling just short of the mark to qualify for these events. Out of those 5 previously mentioned qualifiers, LGD has managed to win just one of them. In every other qualifier, LGD has been defeated, including a narrow 2-3 loss to Keen Gaming for a spot in the ESL One Hamburg Major as well as 3 series defeats against Vici Gaming. LGD Gaming is sitting just on the cusp of qualification for just about every event this season, but its inability to get over that final hump means that the squad will have to take advantage of these limited opportunities to make its mark on the international stage. With fellow Chinese squads Newbee and Vici Gaming stumbling out of the gate to begin the season, the way may be open for LGD to make that breakthrough and establish itself at the top of the Chinese scene.

LGD Gaming enters its first LAN event of the season with a quiet confidence and a level of stability and consistency that many of its regional rivals have been lacking of late. The addition of fy has bolstered the lineup considerably in a region where many teams made far more drastic changes. Though the squad will be playing down a man with the loss of Victoria, it can be somewhat confident that coach 357 will be familiar with the game plan and ready to fill in on the big stage. We’ve seen Chinese teams struggle mightily so far this season, and there is a chance that LGD becomes the next Chinese squad to fall short of expectations. However, should LGD hold firm and perform well in Bucharest, it could be that spark the team needs to take the last step into a dominant position in the Chinese region.

 

Immortals 599px-Immortals_org

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-5th(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Kim “QO” Seon-yeob   2. Pyo “MP” No-a   3. Lee “Forev” Sang-don   4. Kim “Febby” Yong-min   5. Kim “DuBu” Doo-young(Captain)

The entry of Immortals into the Dota 2 world certainly turned some heads this offseason, as the organization not only signed an exclusively Koran roster but also choose to keep said roster in the North American region. The all Korean roster already had a small advantage over its rivals as soon as the team was signed, with its members having previously played together as MVP.Phoenix back in 2016. Immortals enters the North American scene at a time when the region is experiencing a massive uptick in talent and competitive balance; a development that Immortals itself has played no small role in bringing about. The newfound competitiveness of the region does make the path somewhat harder for teams looking to earn qualifier victories, but the added chaos and uncertainty also presents opportunities for a squad like Immortals to make its mark and represent North America on the big stage.

The expectations for Immortals coming into this Minor are influenced by a degree of cautious optimism. The squad itself has looked fairly strong so far this season, and while it is certainly not a team being looked at with favorable odds to win the event, Immortals still sits comfortably in the middle of the pack. The team is one solid performance or one minor upset away from being right in the mix for a top 4 spot in Bucharest. Its a scenario that we’ve already seen play out once so far this season at the StarLadder i-League Minor. TI runner-up Newbee came out of the gate struggling, and compLexity Gaming, another North American squad, was able to take advantage of this to launch itself into a top 4 position. The same scenario is not guaranteed to be repeated in Bucharest, but the blueprint is there and Immortals have an example to draw from as it begins its LAN debut for the season.

Immortal’s season has gotten off to a favorable start so far, with only a slight setback early on. The team began its season with the qualifier for this Minor in Bucharest, winning 2 of its 3 series in the group stage to move on to the playoffs. In the playoff stage the team managed back to back 2-1 victories against Digital Chaos and The Dire(now Optic Gaming) to earn its first spot at a LAN event this season. Following that initial win for Immortals, the team hit a slight snag, losing 2 series to Evil Geniuses in 2 separate qualifiers in the same day. Those losses put Immortals in the 5th-8th and 5th-6th position for those qualifiers, far short of the mark to qualify for the events. Immortals was quickly able to put those rough performances behind it, coming back with a 3rd place finish in the qualifier for the Perfect World Masters Minor that saw the squad defeat Blue Pikachu and The Dire before falling in back to back series against Digital Chaos and compLexity Gaming. The team’s most recent qualifier run afforded it a measure of revenge, as the team managed to win the North American Qualifier for the DotaPit Mionr. This qualifier saw the team win 2 series against Digital Chaos, and 1 of 2 series against compLexity, the two teams in the region that Immortals had struggled against most. These performances have put Immortals into a position where it can consistently compete in North America, though the team will have to take advantage of its potentially limited LAN opportunities given the balance we’ve seen in the region so far.

The addition of Immortals to the North American scene comes at an incredibly interesting time, as the already much improved region sees another quality team join the field of competitors. The team’s previous experience playing together could serve it well, as the players may be more comfortable playing a familiar strategy or play style. However, the recent rise of several prominent teams within the North American region will make it exceedingly more difficult for one team to distance itself from the pack. Immortals is looking to establish itself as that regional leader, but it will need a landmark performance in Bucharest to start that journey.

 

Infamous 600px-Infamous_2017_logo

Region: South America

Qualification: South America Qualifier 3rd/4th place. Replacement Match Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-5th(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Alonso “Kotarõ Hayama” León   2. Mariano “Papita” Caneda(Captain)   3. Steven “StingeR” Vargas   4. Elvis “Scofield” De la Cruz Peña  5. Christian “Accel” Cruz

Infamous’ path to this Minor is a rather unorthodox one, so we’ll try to take a moment to explain just what this team has gone through so far this season. In the offseason, the team underwent some rather drastic changes to its roster, losing 4 of its 5 players and retaining only Christian “Accel” Cruz. While such a significant change would affect any team, Infamous caught a slight break, as most of the other prominent organizations in the South American region also underwent major roster changes. Therefore, the normal adjustment period for a team with a brand new roster was significantly more pleasant for Infamous, as all of its regional rivals were going through a similar process at the time. The weirdness continued into the qualifier for the PGL Open Bucharest for Infamous, as the team did not actually win the regional qualifier. Infamous initially finished in the 3rd/4th place position and failed to qualify for the event. However, the team that did qualify, Digital Chaos.SA, changed 2 members of its roster and were therefore disqualified. Under normal circumstances, the qualifier spot would then pass to the 2nd place team, Infamous’ second squad Infamous Young, but it too had made made roster changes and were also disqualified. So, the two teams in the combined 3rd/4th place position ended up playing a replacement match to determine who would go to the Minor, an event that Infamous ended up winning to secure its spot in Bucharest, though in a somewhat strange fashion.

The expectations for Infamous coming into this second Minor of the season have to be somewhat modest considering this is a squad that wasn’t really meant to be here in the first place. Make no mistake, Infamous will be doing absolutely everything in its power to take advantage of this very fortunate opportunity, but its hard to see a team as a strong contender when it had finished 3rd/4th in its own regional qualifier. Infamous will enter this event playing the role of the underdog, but that doesn’t mean that the team has no reason to be optimistic. The season’s first Minor saw favorites and potential contenders struggle and underdogs step up under pressure, so its not outside of the realm of possibility that something similar goes down in Bucharest.

The season so far has been something of an up and down affair for Infamous, as this Minor marks just the second event that the team will have qualified for. The team’s performance and results to this point have placed it into a position near the top of the South American region, but it seems to still be one last step away from establishing itself as a consistent winner. The team began its season with the previously mentioned PGL qualifier where the team originally finished in the 3rd/4th position. Infamous posted a 2-1 group stage record before falling 1-2 against Infamous Young, but later defeated SG e-sports 3-1 in the replacement match. That initial performance was followed up a few days later at the StarLadder i-League qualifier, where the team won series against Mad Kings and Midas Club Victory before falling against Digital Chaos.SA and SG e-sports to finish in 4th place overall. After those 2 qualifiers, Infamous got an opportunity to step outside of its home region, as the team participated in the King’s Cup: America against teams from both North and South America. Infamous held its own rather well in a field of NA and SA teams, posting a 9-5 record in the group stage that advanced the squad to the playoff round. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t maintain its momentum against The Dire, losing the semifinal series 0-2 to finish in the 3rd/4th position again. Things took a rough turn for Infamous in the ESL One Hamburg Major qualifiers, as the single elimination bracket hit it particularly hard. The team played just a single series in the qualifiers, losing 1-2 against Team Taka to finish in a disappointing 5th-8th position. Since then, the team has gotten back on track, placing 3rd in 2 more qualifiers and managing to win one to qualify for the DreamLeague Major later this year. Infamous has not been able to establish itself as the clear leader in its home region, but it has put itself into a position to compete regularly, and could be just one step away from a breakthrough that would shake up the South American region.

Infamous is a team facing one of the strangest scenarios I can remember in recent times. The team’s significant roster changes do not appear to be hampering it much to start the season, due to both the skill of its new roster and the relative instability being shown in the rest of the region. The team is untested outside of the North and South American regions, which is a cause for some concern heading into a Minor, but Infamous have shown skill and potential so far this season, and it’s always possible for a team to make that transition into international play without any setbacks. Infamous are undoubtedly underdogs in Bucharest, which could be a blessing in disguise for the South American squad. The expectations are low for this team, and when you take into account the fact that it wasn’t technically meant to be at this Minor in the first place, Infamous is essentially playing with house money right now. If the squad performs poorly, then no one will be particularly surprised, but if the team manages to put together a strong performance then Infamous may be able to draw some extra attention moving forward. Either way, Infamous is the beneficiary of a strange yet fortuitous series of events, and the team will be looking to do whatever it takes to make the most of this opportunity in Bucharest.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-3rd(90 Points)

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

Team Secret came into the new season as a team hellbent on making a statement and dominating its region. The squad has accomplished both of those goals already, establishing itself one of the strongest teams in Europe. After an offseason roster shuffle that saw the team bring in Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard and Adrian “Fata” Trinks, there were some concerns that Team Secret would need some time to fully adjust to its new lineup. Those concerns were apparently unfounded, as Team Secret came out of the gate on fire, tearing through its regional rivals with a scary and brutal level of efficiency. Team Secret has already planted its flag in the European region, and at this stage is appears it would take a meltdown of epic proportions to dislodge this group from its position of strength.

Team Secret’s expectations in its second event of the season are sky high, and it has both the skill and the results to back up those lofty ambitions. The team has won match after match against some of the best team Europe has to offer, and the team’s performance at the season’s first Minor proved that the squad is more than capable of translating that success to the global stage. Team Secret has to be considered one of the favorites to win this event in Bucharest, as there are few matchups, if any, where the European powerhouse won’t have the advantage. While Evil Geniuses and LGD Gaming received direct invites to the Minor, we haven’t seen either squad in a LAN setting yet this season. Meanwhile, Team Secret has a proven LAN performance on record, along with the Qualifying Points to show for it.

As previously mentioned, Team Secret began the season with a stretch of some of the most impressive Dota in recent memory. The team has participated in 3 qualifiers so far this season, and it has won every single one of them fairly easily, losing a grand total of just 2 matches over that time. In addition to those qualifier wins, Team Secret has also received a direct invite to the Perfect World Masters Minor, as well as the combined EU/CIS regional Qualifier for the DreamLeague Major. Team Secret’s success has not just been limited to online qualifiers, as the team has already found a degree of success on LAN in this season. The team managed to make its way out of the group stage of the StarLadder i-League Minor, enduring an opening 1-2 loss to Na’Vi before taking back to back 2-0 wins against Newbee and that same Na’Vi squad in an elimination rematch. Unfortunately, Team Secret’s first playoff match up came against reigning TI champion Team Liquid. Secret have been playing fantastically of late, but the TI champs were at the top of their game and Team Secret didn’t have enough to get past them. Team Secret may not have come away from the StarLadder i-League Minor with a trophy, but the squad still earned 30 points for each of its players, and now stands among the top teams on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit.

Over the course of the offseason and the first few weeks of the new season, Team Secret has transformed itself into one of the strongest and most impressive teams in the Dota 2 world. The team’s offseason roster changes have paid off and then some, and the adjustment period for that new roster went by in the blink of an eye. This team is playing in peak form already at the start of the season, and that’s been reflected in its dominant performance so far. Team Secret will be looking to keep that momentum going as it prepares for its second Minor of the season and another opportunity to add to its Qualifying Point total in Bucharest.

 

Natus Vincere(Na’Vi) 668px-Natus_Vincere

Region: Commonwealth of Independent States

Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-5th(0 Points)

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

After the rough time that Na’Vi had last season, just about any changes would have constituted an improvement for this team. After returning to an all-CIS roster in the offseason with the additions of Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek and Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan, Na’Vi have looked and performed like a much better team to start this season. It’s been quite some time since the organization stood on top in the CIS region, with teams like Virtus.Pro and Team Empire having filled the gap left in the wake of the disbanding of those legendary former rosters for Na’Vi. However, this season appears to be seeing a return of Na’Vi to relevance within a region that it once dominated. Though it’s been a few years since Na’vi has been considered a front runner within the CIS region, its performance so far this season has inspired hope that the squad can at least compete on a regular basis with the region’s best teams.

Na’Vi has already seen one Minor so far this season, and heading into it’s second event of the year, the expectations for the CIS squad haven’t changed all that much. Na’Vi is by no means a favorite to win in Bucharest, but the team can sit comfortably within the mid-range among the field of participants. Should Na’Vi manage a solid win against one of its constituents, then the team is set up for a top 4 finish and a playoff run. Na’vi may not be considered one of the powerhouse teams so far this season, but there aren’t any match-ups at this PGL Minor where I would say that you could count the CIS squad out.

Na’Vi’s season got off to a strong start, with the team winning 2 Minor qualifiers as well as the open qualifier for the combined EU/CIS regional qualifier for the DreamLeague Major later this year. Those 2 qualifier wins have resulted in the team’s participation in the previous StarLadder i-League Minor, and this Minor at the PGL Open Bucharest. Unfortunately, Na’Vi’s hot start has cooled off a bit as the season has continued, and the team’s results have taken a slight downturn. The team’s run in the ESL One Hamburg Major Qualifier was cut short in the semifinals after a run-in with Virtus.pro that ended in a 1-2 defeat and a 3rd/4th place finish. That loss was followed up just a few days later with another setback in the DotaPit Minor qualifiers, as Na’Vi was swept by both Team Empire and Team Spirit to finish in last place in a pool of 4 participating teams. The CIS Qualifier for the Perfect World Masters Minor presented a prime opportunity for Na’Vi to get itself back on track, and it seemed as though the team was looking better after back to back 2-1 wins over Effect and Double Dimension. However, the squad had the misfortune of running into Team Empire yet again and lost the series 1-2 to drop down to the lower bracket. Any plans for revenge were put to a halt by a strong Vega Squadron, which essentially came out of no where to snag both the series against Na’Vi and the qualifier itself. With these recent defeats playing spoiler to Na’Vi’s earlier success, the team entered the year’s first Minor with some doubts clinging to them. However, everything looked to be falling into place for the CIS squad, with Newbee losing its opening series against compLexity and Na’Vi itself taking a hard fought 2-1 win against one of the tournament favorites in Team Secret. Na’Vi came within one game of winning its group and securing a top 4 finish, but compLexity’s win against Newbee proved to be more than a fluke, as the NA team beat Na’Vi 2-1 to force a deciding elimination rematch against Team Secret. This time though, Na’Vi couldn’t pull out the win, dropping the series 0-2 to place in the 5th/6th position at the first Minor of the season. While Na’Vi didn’t come away with any Qualifying Points from this event, the team’s performance went a long way to show that it is capable of competing with and beating some of the best teams in the world.

Na’Vi’s season started with a level of hope and excitement that fans of the team have not been able to experience for quite some time. The team has returned to prominence within the CIS region, and is competing on a frequent basis with the previously established titans of the region. The recent rough patch that the team struggled through did raise some doubts about the team moving forward, but an encouraging performance at the StarLadder i-League Minor restores hope that this team will be able to recover and put the pieces together for a strong run through the rest of the season. The team is just one small step or a single lucky break away from a top 4 spot and its first Qualifying Points in Bucharest, and the CIS squad will be eager to build upon its performance at the previous Minor.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: SEA Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: 2nd(270 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.

If we’ve been able to learn anything about the Southeast Asian region so far this season it’s this: Mineski owns the Southeast Asian region. The team has had the number of every other team in the region so far, easily surpassing another potential rivals. When the squad added Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng, Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang, and Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong in the offseason, the general consensus was that this Mineski team would improve significantly and be able to compete on a consistent basis within the region. However, few people would likely have predicted just how well this team would perform to begin the season. The influx of talent and experience centered around one of the game’s most legendary players in Mushi creates one of the most dangerous rosters, not just in Southeast Asia, but in the entire world.

Expectations are high for the Southeast Asian squad as it heads into its second event of the Dota 2 season, especially after the team’s performance in Kiev at the StarLadder i-League Minor. Mineski’s commanding run and success within its home region translated onto the international stage in a huge way, with the team even giving the TI7 champion Team Liquid a run for its money in the grand finals of the season’s first Minor. With all of these positive results racked up for Mineski, and over half of the field of participants in Bucharest making their seasonal LAN debut, Mineski stands as one of the favorites to win this event and add to an already amazing start to its season.

I previously mentioned that Mineski has basically controlled the entirety of the SEA region so far this season. However, I fear that even that statement may undersell just what the team has been able to accomplish in its home region. Out of 5 regional qualifiers that Mineski has participated in, the squad has won 4 of them, with a record in series of 3 games or more of 14-1. Only a single 0-2 loss to Fnatic in the SEA Qualifier for the ESL One Hamburg Major mars an otherwise perfect series record. With results like these, there’s no doubting that Mineski is a superbly talented squad, but there were some questions of whether Mineski could continue to perform to such a degree outside of the SEA region. The first Minor of the season provided a true test of Mineski’s abilities, and the SEA squad passed that test with flying colors. After an initial 0-2 loss to Team Liquid in the group stage, Mineski came chargin back with 2-0 wins against both Vici Gaming and SG e-sports to work its way into a top 4 position and a playoff berth. Mineski continued to shine in the playoff bracket, defeating compLexity Gaming 2-1 before taking a game off of the TI champs in an eventual 1-3 loss to Team Liquid. Any team that can make Team Liquid sweat in an extended series(3+ games) has earned its spot as a top team in the Dota 2 world.

Mineski came into the new season with a roster full of talent and experience, and the team carried a sense of confidence and optimism into a region with no clearly established leader. That void of leadership in the region has been filled entirely by this new Mineski roster, as the team has crowned itself the seemingly uncontested kings of the Southeast Asian region, at least so far. Everything is falling perfectly into place for Mineski right now: the team’s new roster has skill, savvy, and experience in abundance, it’s control of the region affords it multiple opportunities to attend LAN events, and the team has already put together a performance to convert one of those opportunities into Qualifying Points. Mineski holds one of the most favorable positions in the Dota 2 world, second perhaps only to that of the reigning TI champion itself, Team Liquid. Mineski’s performance so far this season has been truly impressive to behold, and the team will be looking for a similar outcome at it makes its way to Bucharest.

VGJ.Thunder 600px-VGJ_201710_logo_notext.png

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: T-5th(0 Points)

Roster: 1. Lui “Sylar” Jiajun   2. Lui “Freeze” Chang   3. Zhou “Yang” Haiyang   4. Pan “Fade” Yi   5. Fan “Ayo” Tianyou

VGJ.Thunder is a squad that has received little fanfare so far this season, and for somewhat valid reasons. The team, formerly known as Team Vici Gaming.J or VGJ, signed an entirely new group of players after the disbanding of its former roster in the offseason. While the team’s new roster contains some familiar names within the Chinese scene, it can hardly be expected for a new squad playing under a new team name to garner much attention in one of the Dota 2 world’s strongest regions. With many other big organizations and teams in the Chinese region also undergoing roster shuffles, it makes some sense that VGJ.Thunder’s formation got lost in the mix and was largely overlooked. However, the team is not short on talent by any means, and the squad has the perfect chance to properly introduce itself to the Dota 2 world in Bucharest.

While the VGJ.Thunder roster contains talented players, and some of its members are not exactly strangers to the pressures of the international stage, the team is still something of a long shot to win in Bucharest. The expectations have to be set fairly low for a team that hasn’t shown too much in terms of positive results to this point in the season. Nothing is outside of the realm of possibility, as it is absolutely possible that VGJ.Thunder pulls off an upset and fights its way to a top 4 spot. However, VGJ.Thunder would have to put up a monumentally impressive performance to make that scenario a reality, as the Chinese squad will be playing the role of underdog in this second Minor of the young season.

VGJ.Thunder’s results so far this season have not been particularly impressive, though they could certainly be worse. The PGL Open Bucharest Minor is the only event that VGJ.Thunder have managed to qualify for so far this season. The squad took a 2-1 win over Keen Gaming.Luminous, followed by a 2-0 victory over Invictus Gaming before dropping down to the lower bracket after a loss to LGD.Forever Young. VGJ.Thunder showed off its determination and skill here, beating Invictus Gaming again 2-0 before getting revenge against LGF.Forever Young in a 2-1 series that secured it a spot in Bucharest. Replicating that initial success has proven somewhat difficult for VGJ.Thunder as the season has progressed, however. The team won a series against open qualifier squad Team Serenity to open the ESL One Hamburg Major qualifier, but a quick loss of LGD.Forever Young again in the next round resulted in a disappointing 5th-8th place finish. The Chinese Qualifier for the Perfect World Masters Minor proved a slightly better experience for the team, with it scoring another opening round victory against another Open Qualifier team in NGA Gaming. However, a 1-2 defeat by LGD Gaming dropped the team to the lower bracket, and despite a strong 2-0 win against EHOME the team still fell short of the mark for qualification following a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Vici Gaming. That loss ended VGJ.Thunder’s run with a 4th place finish, significantly better than the previous result but still not as far as the squad had been hoping to go. Most recently, VGJ.Thunder have placed 3rd in the Chinese Qualifiers for the World Cyber Arean 2017. Though this event is not affiliated with Valve’s Dota 2 Pro Circuit, the solid performance  is encouraging for a team looking to find its footing in a tough Chinese region. The season has been a bit of a struggle for VGJ.Thunder so far, but this opportunity in Bucharest could be just what the squad needs to put its slow start behind it.

VGJ.Thunder did not come into this season as a front funner in the Chinese region. A complete roster overhaul combined with a re-branding on the part of the organization did not necessarily do much to draw attention to this squad, but it’s still fighting to make a mark in a talented and crowded Chinese region. The team’s somewhat lackluster results to begin the season don’t do much to instill confidence that the Chinese squad will be able to find success at the Minor. That being said, we’ve already seen examples of underdog teams coming up with big wins and favored teams under performing, so it’s entirely possible for VGJ.Thunder to experience the perfect storm of occurrences and play its way into a strong position in Bucharest.

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