Dota 2 Minor Recap: AMD SAPPHIRE Dota Pit League

Team Liquid narrowly edge out emergent Vici Gaming squad, earn 2nd Minor title

8 teams made their way to the Meridian Lav Hotel in Split, Croatia, each hoping to lay claim to a trophy and make their mark on the Pro Circuit standings. However, after 4 days of action at the Dota Pit League Minor there is but one team left standing as the victor. The defending TI7 champion Team Liquid once more stand at the pinnacle of success in the Dota 2 world, earning its second Minor title of the season. Though the results may not have done much to alter the standings, with 3 of the top 4 teams being secure in their current rankings, the Qualifying Points earned at this Minor do serve to fortify those favorable positions. The Dota Pit League was not exclusively an affair of the rich getting richer though, as Chinese squad Vici Gaming finally made its triumphant debut in the top 4 of a Minor and carved out a place amidst the Pro Circuit standings. With the event now over and the prize pool and Qualifying Points both divvied up between the participants, we can now look at how those teams performed at the Minor, and what challenges they shall face in the future.

Team Liquid 600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Place: 1st

Winnings: $125,000(Total) and 150 Qualifying Points(Per Player)

Following top 4 finishes at both the StarLadder i-League Minor and the ESL One Hamburg Major, the defending TI champion was already holding an incredibly favorable position as the team headed to Split. The European squad has done well to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued TI champions of previous years, opening the season in the same form that saw it claim the Aegis of Champions in Seattle last August. With momentum on its side and the team’s all-star lineup firing on all cylinders, Team Liquid had every reason to come into this Minor with the confidence befitting a champion.

That confidence had Team Liquid projected as a near guarantee for a top 4 finish at the Dota Pit Minor, and the team certainly did not disappoint. The squad swept through Immortals, Newbee, and Vici Gaming without losing a single match and locking itself into a top 2 finish. Only a rematch against Vici Gaming in the Grand Finals seemed to slow the juggernaut that was Team Liquid, with the squad needing all 5 games in the series to lay low the Chinese challenger. Team Liquid leads all Pro Circuit teams in terms of top 4 finishes, with this win at the Dota Pit Minor being the teams 3rd of the season. Though these 3 Qualifying Point-earning finishes have not given Team Liquid the top spot in the standings, the consistent performances allow the TI champion the hold a tight grip on a position as one of the top teams in the world. The Pro Circuit has a small break before its next big event, but Team Liquid won’t be sitting idly by in that time. The team is set to begin league play on November 8th in the combined Europe and CIS Qualifier for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major.

Newbee Newbee_logo

Place: 3rd

Winnings: $35,000(Total) and 45 Qualifying Points(Per Player)

Much was made of Newbee’s less than ideal start to the season, as the Chinese squad stumbled out of the gate at the StarLadder i-League Minor and finished in last place at the event. While the poor start was concerning for a team that had last been seen playing in the TI7 Grand Finals, Newbee quickly regrouped and put its poor start behind it. With strong performances in its home region and a 3rd-4th finish at the season’s first Major, Newbee appeared to have returned to form. The team’s recent run would be put to the test as the Chinese squad made its way to Split for the Dota Pit Minor.

Newbee’s recent successes made the Chinese squad a favorite for a top 4 spot in Split, and it managed to live up to those high expectations. After losing its semifinal series against Team Liquid, Newbee managed to win back to back best-of-one matches against both OG and Virtus.Pro to earn a spot in the Loser’s Final. Newbee came within 1 game of reaching the Grand Finals and a rematch with Team Liquid, but lost in a tough 1-2 series against Vici Gaming. This top 4 performance goes a long way to show that the team’s initial struggle was a fluke rather than the beginning of a pattern. With the team back in top form and holding its own against top international competition, the Chinese squad has more than earned its position near the top of the Pro Circuit standings. Newbee will have a chance to earn a spot in another Pro Circuit event in the near future, as the team is set to participate in the Chinese regional qualifier for the Captain’s Draft 4.0 Minor beginning November 9th.

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $15,000

OG has not gotten off to the kind of start to the season that many were expecting from the European squad. The team has yet to earn any Qualifying Points so far, and the Dota Pit Minor was the first Pro Circuit event that it had qualified for this season. Inconsistent performances have marked OG’s season to this point, but this journey to Split, Croatia promised a chance for the team to turn its poor start around and get on the board in the Pro Circuit standings.

OG has a roster of extremely talented and experienced players, but its recent run of subpar results led to modest expectations for the European team. OG was projected to finish just outside of the top 4 in the 5th-6th position, and this projection proved prophetic. After an opening loss in its series against Vici Gaming, OG defeated Fnatic in a best-of-one match before being knocked out of the tournament by Newbee. In light of the run that Vici Gaming made through this Minor, OG’s 1-2 loss against the Chinese squad looks much less damaging than it could have. However, the loss and the failure to reach the top 4 much be a bitter pill to swallow for a team still searching for its path into the Pro Circuit standings. The good news for OG and its fans though is that the team appears to be trending upwards, and if things go right for it, a breakthrough may be on the horizon for the European squad. For now though, OG will have to earn another chance to make that breakthrough, as the team is set to return to action on the 8th in the Europe & CIS Qualifier for the DreamLeague Major.

Virtus.Pro 600px-Virtus

Place: 4th

Winnings: $25,000(Total) and 15 Qualifying Points(Per Player)

After a triumphant debut on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit saw Virtus.Pro claim the season’s first Major title, expectations were sky high for the CIS squad. The team’s accomplishment in Hamburg put it at the top of the standings on the Pro Circuit as the region’s sole representative. With the perfect combination of young talent and veteran leadership, VP stands in a position to both dominate its home region and consistently compete on the international stage.

Coming into the Dota Pit Minor, there were few reasons, if any, to doubt the ability of VP to claim another top 4 finish. The CIS squad placed 4th overall at the event, taking wins against Fnatic and SG e-sports but losing to Chinese squads Vici Gaming and Newbee. The performance in Croatia was certainly a step down from the team’s Major winning form, with its victories coming against significantly under-performing or struggling squads. However, the team’s ability to fight its way back into a top 4 finish does show a level of resilience and strength that will serve VP well as it looks to maintain its momentum through the rest of the season. That momentum will be tested soon, as VP will resume its run in the combined Europe and CIS qualifier for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major.

Immortals 599px-Immortals_org

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $10,000

Immortals opened the season with mixed levels of success in a North American region that does not seem to have a clear leader as of yet. Immortals’ early success saw the all-Korean roster claim a top 4 finish at the PGL Open Bucharest Minor to earn a place in the standings of the Pro Circuit. With that top 4 performance being the last event on record for the team, there was hope coming into the Dota Pit Minor that Immortals would be able to continue playing at a high level and string together two solid showing to advance up the standings.

Coming into this event, I had placed Immortals as a somewhat risky gamble for a top 4 spot based upon both the recent performance of the team and the struggles of some of its fellow participants. Unfortunately for Immortals, the competition in Split proved too strong to make that projection a reality and return the team to a top 4 finish. Immortals fell drastically and alarmingly short of those expectations, losing an 0-2 series to Team Liquid before being eliminated from contention in a best-of-one match up with SG e-sports. The team that had the upside for a sneaky top 4 play ended up falling out of the Minor without a single win to its name. The NA squad did suffer from the luck of the draw to a certain degree, being forced to play against Team Liquid in its opening series. However, this loss and the team’s inability to overcome SG e-sports do raise some concerns moving forward. Immortals will need to regroup and adjust, and it will have the chance to do both with a return to its home region of North America, as the team is currently participating in the regional qualifiers for the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor.

SG e-sports SG_e-sportslogo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $15,000

The season for SG e-sports has been one marked by a plethora of opportunities, as the Brazilian squad has emerged as a leading team in the South American region. Unfortunately, SG e-sports has yet to fully take advantage of these chances, failing to place within the top 4 at 3 Pro Circuit events so far this season. For a relatively new roster filled with players lacking international experience, these missed opportunities can be viewed as less of a failure to meet expectations than as a process of learning and adaptation.

Heading into the Dota Pit Minor, it was apparent that the previously mentioned process would not be bearing fruit at this particular event. SG e-sports had made significant strides as a team, but against this level of competition it would still struggle to find its footing. Projected as a last place team in the combined 7th-8th position, SG e-sports managed to outperform those meager expectations in Split. The team put up a strong fight against Newbee in its opening series before losing 1-2, and followed that up with an impressive victory in a best-of-one match up against Immortals. Though a run in with Virtus.Pro in the next round ended SG’s time at the Minor, the resulting 5th-6th finish is still more than might have been expected from the South American squad. The team has shown that it is capable of holding its own against the weaker participants on the Pro Circuit, but it still seems to be a few steps short of truly challenging the elite squads of the Dota 2 world. SG e-sports will be back on the international stage after a brief break, with the squad’s next scheduled event being the Perfect World Masters Minor beginning on November 19.

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Place: 2nd

Winnings: $65,000(Total) and 90 Qualifying Points(Per Player)

With the Chinese scene having experienced some roster shuffling in the offseason, hopes were high that Vici Gaming would be able to rise from the chaos and claim a place among the leading teams of the region. The team’s hot start seemed to lend credence to those optimistic hopes, as the team managed to open its season by qualifying for 3 Pro Circuit events. The team’s seasonal LAN debut at the StarLadder i-League Minor proved to be less than ideal for the Chinese squad, with the team placing in the 7th-8th position. It appeared that the team’s solid start in its home region had not fully prepared it for competition on the international level.

With both the initial successes and recent struggles of Vici Gaming being taken into account, the Chinese team entered the Dota Pit Minor with a moderate projection within the 5th-6th range. The talent of the team had been apparent, but the execution on LAN had been severely lacking in its first showing of the season. Those issues were handily dealt with in the interim apparently, as Vici Gaming blew those meager expectations out of the water entirely with a 2nd place performance. Victories against OG, Virtus.Pro, and Newbee showed that VIci Gaming was more than capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the world’s strongest teams. In fact, Vici Gaming was even able to push the defending TI7 champion Team Liquid to a full 5 games series in the Grand Finals, an accomplishment few other teams can lay claim to. This 2nd place finish finally puts Vici Gaming on the board in the Pro Circuit standings, but the Chinese squad will have little time to sit back and enjoy its performance. Vici Gaming are set to participate in the Chinese regional qualifier for both the Captain’s Draft 4.0 and Dota Summit 8 Minors.

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $10,000

Fnatic has not had the most impressive of starts to this season by any means, as the SEA squad has run into some significant early struggles. The team has yet to qualify for any Pro Circuit events so far, having reached both the ESL One Hamburg Major and this Dota Pit Minor because of the inability of another team to attend. Even with those rare opportunities afforded to it, the team has not been able to keep up a consistent enough level of play to compete on the international level. The team’s run at the ESL One Hamburg Major did little to instill confidence in the squad, as Fnatic failed to win a single game and finished in last place.

With only a string of poor results and missed opportunities to judge Fnatic by, there was little room for optimism as the team made its way to Split for the Dota Pit Minor. The team was projected to fall in the combined 7th-8th range for another last place finish, and the unfortunately could do little to avoid that fate coming to pass. The team put up some resistance in a 1-2 loss against Virtus.Pro, but was subsequently eliminated after losing a best-of-one match up against OG. Though this poor showing is exactly what was expected from Fnatic, it is still difficult to see such a storied and accomplished organization struggle to such a significant degree. There is still a long way to go between now and TI8, but if Fnatic wants to avoid falling even further behind, its going to need to come up with a solution quickly. Fnatic’s next opportunity to find that solution will begin November 17, as the team will participate in the Southeast Asian Qualifier for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major.

 

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