MDL’s direct invitation announcement sets field for Macau’s first Pro Circuit event.
- Edit: Since the original posting, Chinese squad EHOME was announced as a surprise ninth team to participate. This post has since been altered to reflect the team’s inclusion.
December is shaping up to be yet another busy month on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, as another event has finalized its team list following its collection of qualifiers and the announcement of its directly invited teams. This event is the MDL Macau Minor, and it takes its place amidst a crowded schedule that promises a rush of Dota 2 action to take us into the winter season. Organized by Mars Media as part of the company’s “Mars Dota 2 League”(MDL) series, this latest iteration will bring 9 Pro Circuit teams to the Chinese territory of Macau, the often stylized “Las Vegas of Asia”. Though the locale may be new for both MDL and the Pro Circuit, the event still has the promise of high quality matches and thrilling story lines that fans have come to expect this season. Of the 9 participating teams in Macau, three of them(VGJ.Storm, EHOME, and TNC Pro Team) will be making their first appearance at a Pro Circuit event, and at least four of the teams will be looking to earn their first Qualifying Points of the season. The event will run from December 8th through the 10th and features a Pro Circuit standard prize pool of $300,000 and 300 Qualifying Points, the division of which among the participating teams is outlined below.
- At the time of writing, there is no released information regarding prize pool distribution. This list will be updated as more information becomes available.
1st: Undisclosed Cash Amount(total) and 150 Qualifying Points(per player)
2nd: Undisclosed Cash Amount(total) and 90 Qualifying Points(per player)
3rd: Undisclosed Cash Amount(total) and either 45 or 30 Qualifying Points(per player)
4th: Undisclosed Cash Amount(total) and either 15 or 30 Qualifying Points(per player)
5th-6th: Undisclosed Cash Amount(per team)
7th-9th: Undisclosed Cash Amount(per team)
With so many teams in the field of participants either new to the Pro Circuit orholding no Qualifying Points, the MDL Macau Minor represents a particularly significant opportunity for new teams to add themselves to the Pro Circuit standings and claim a position as one of the world’s leading teams. So, let’s take a look at the teams that will be fighting to make their mark on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit in Macau.
- Disclaimer time: this post will contain some brief and shallow details for each of the competing teams. A more thorough breakdown of the participating teams will come closer to the start of the event itself.
The Direct Invitees
Virtus.pro(Commonwealth of Independent States) – When you stand at the top of the rankings on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, you can expect to receive a direct invite or two to events. Virtus.pro has participated in two Pro Circuit events so far this season, amassing a Pro Circuit leading 2295 Qualifying Points. By the time the MDL Macau Minor rolls around, at least one of those numbers will have increased, as VP’s appearance in Macau will mark the team’s fourth Pro Circuit event of the season. December looks to be busy for Virtus.pro, as the team is scheduled to compete in every Pro Circuit event that month. VP already enjoys one of the strongest and most favorable positions on the Pro Circuit, and the team’s potential to have that position cemented even further by the start of this Minor makes it one of the most formidable teams set to compete in Macau.
VP’s last LAN appearance was a 4th place campaign at the Dota Pit Minor in Croatia at the beginning of November. Since that performance, VP has continued to produce quality results, qualifying for two other Pro Circuit events. The team won series against both Vega Squadron and Na’Vi to claim a place at the Dota Summit 8 Minor later in December, and managed an 8-6 overall record in the combined Europe and CIS Qualifier that earned it a spot at the DreamLeague Season 8 Major. Vitrus.pro stands as one of the world’s best teams, and unless some sort of unprecedented meltdown occurs in the near future, that shouldn’t be changing anytime soon. VP should come into Macau as a favorite to claim another top 4 finish at a Pro Circuit event.
LGD Gaming(China) – With this upcoming minor being hosted in a Chinese territory, it would stand to reason that one of the direct invitations would be given out to a Chinese team. LGD Gaming was the recipient of this hometown advantage, having the luxury of avoiding an always risky run through a regional qualifier. The MDL Macau Minor will be the team’s third Pro Circuit event of the season, but only the second one in which the team will have its full roster available. The team’s 2nd place run at the PGL Open Bucharest was earned with the team’s coach, Yao “QQQ” Yi, standing in for normal support player Chen “Victoria” Guanhong. Because of the team’s use of a substitute player, its Qualifying Points earnings were reduced as per Valve rules, resulting in the team’s rather odd point total in the Pro Circuit standings(202.5). LGD Gaming is hoping that its normal roster can manage another top 4 performance and come away from Macau with a non-reduced haul of Qualifying Points to improve its current position.
LGD Gaming’s previous campaign at a Pro Circuit event was a dismal affair for the Chinese squad, as the team struggled at the Perfect World Masters Minor. LGD Gaming found itself up against Team Secret, Newbee, Mineski, and Team Kinguin in the group stage of the Minor. The team finished its group stage run with an 0-3-1 series record(3-5 overall) that earned it just 3 points and saw LGD Gaming eliminated from the Minor before the playoff stage began with a 9th-10th place finish. LGD Gaming has not seen action since that stumble at the Perfect World Masters, leaving the team on a bit of a low note as its heads into the MDL Macau Minor. The recent poor performance from this squad is certainly something to be concerned about, but hopefully the Chinese team is able to recover and prove that misstep to be an aberration with a solid showing in Macau.
EHOME(China) – EHOME was a surprise invite from MDL, coming after both the conclusion of the regional qualifiers and the later announcement of the directly invited teams. EHOME’s participation in this Minor comes from a fortuitous violation of Valve’s rules regarding Pro Circuit events. The MDL Macau Minor opted to replace a Chinese regional qualifier with the Dota 2 Professional League(DPL), reserving a spot at the event for the League winner. However, EHOME was not allowed to participate in the DPL season, an exclusion that violated Valve’s rules and led to EHOME’s direct invitation as compensation. The surprise appearance in Macau will be the Chinese squad’s first Pro Circuit event of the season, and the direct invitation comes at a key time for a team facing significant struggles so far in its home region.
EHOME has not yet appeared at a Pro Circuit event, but not for a lack of effort on its part. The team has participated in five regional qualifiers for Pro Circuit events this season, but has never finished any higher than 4th in those attempts. The squad just hasn’t seemed able to put things together against its regional rivals and produce strong results in a consistent fashion. That track record certainly doesn’t bode well for the team heading into its first Pro Circuit appearance. However, EHOME has a roster of talented and veteran players to lean on, including two TI winners in Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida and Zhang “y`” Yiping. However unlikely it may look for EHOME to make a sudden breakthrough, we’ve seen slumping teams have inspired performances on the big stage before, and the surprise final invite may have a few surprises of its own waiting for unsuspecting opponents in Macau.
The DPL Season 4 Winner
LGD.Forever Young(China) – Rather than having a Chinese regional qualifier, Mars Media opted to have the Chinese spot at MDL Macau go to the winner of the Top Division of the Dota 2 Professional League Season 4, a league exclusively for Chinese teams. LGD.Forever Young laid claim to that title, earning the team its an appearance at its second Pro Circuit event of the season. For a team that ended its previous season with a 3rd place finish at TI and kept its roster stable through the offseason, LGD.Forever Young have been somewhat quiet to begin this season. The team has performed consistently well in its home region, but has only recently managed to put itself over the top to earn opportunities to play on the international stage.
At the time of writing this post, LGD.Forever Young are currently still alive in the Perfect World Masters Minor, the team’s first Pro Circuit event of the season. Prior to its Pro Circuit debut, LGD.Forever Young have been producing strong results consistently in the Chinese region. The team has participated in eight Pro Circuit Qualifiers or events with associated Pro Circuit spots(i.e. DPL Season 4) and had finished no worse than fourth place. That is a significant accomplishment in a Chinese region that features a multitude of experienced and talented teams, including three squads with positions in the Pro Circuit standings. However, there is a small hiccup with LGD.Forever Young’s consistency this season, and that’s the fact that it has consistently come up short of actually qualifying for Pro Circuit events. Of those previously mentioned eight top 4 finishes in qualifying events, the DPL Top Season 4 is the only time this season that LGD.Forever Young has actually won a spot at a Pro Circuit event. The Chinese squad’s struggles overcoming that last hurdle to qualification may be frustrating for both the team and its fans, but the consistency with which it has played has to instill some hope and confidence that LGD.Forever Young can put together a solid run now that its finally getting the chance to perform on the international stage. Time will tell if the team gets it done in Macau, or falls short yet again.
The Qualifier Winners
TNC Pro Team(Southeast Asia) – Southeast Asian powerhouse TNC Pro Team has been absent from the international stage so far this season, a bit of a disappointing fact for a TI7 participant. With Mineski beginning the season on such an impressive run, the opportunities for TNC, or any other SEA team for that matter, have been somewhat limited to say the least. Despite a slow start, the rest of the SEA region appears to be waking up and some of the opportunities previously monopolized by Mineski are starting to be claimed by rival squads such as TNC. This journey to Macau will mark the team’s first Pro Circuit appearance of the season, and the squad will likely be eager to make up for lost time with a solid campaign at the Minor.
TNC has not played in a Pro Circuit LAN so far this season, but it’s results in regional qualifiers raises hope that the team will be able to perform now that it has the chance to play on the international stage. The team has participated in nine regional qualifiers for Pro Circuit events, winning just one so far to qualify for this event in Macau. Of those nine qualifier runs, TNC has managed a top 4 finish in seven of them, a somewhat encouraging stat for for a team attempting to recover from a rough start in its region. While the squad will be making its first Pro Circuit LAN appearance, its players are no strangers to the international stage, and that experience at the highest level of competition should give TNC a small edge as it looks to build some momentum in Macau.
VGJ.Storm(North America) – The North American Dota has looked considerably stronger this season than in previous years, with multiple squad rising up out of the region to claim opportunities and Qualifying Points at Pro Circuit events. So far this season, VGJ.Storm has not been one of those teams, as the squad has run into some difficulties establishing itself in a now much more formidable field of regional opponents. VGJ.Storm will be making its first appearance of the season at a Pro Circuit event in Macau, and will be attempting to become the fourth North American squad to earn Qualifying Points so far. The team has some talented players along with veterans of the of North American scene, but VGJ.Storm will be facing a tough test in its Pro Circuit debut.
VGJ.Storm has not attended a Pro Circuit event prior to this Minor in Macau, but the team has looked stronger of late in its home region following an incredibly rocky start to its season. The team’s success in the regional qualifier for this Minor represents the teams first qualifier win in seven attempts so far as the team has struggled to contend with its North American rivals. VGJ.Storm’s performance in these qualifiers has been largely inconsistent with its seven qualifier runs being divided into four top 4 finishes and three finishes at 5th or worse. It’s difficult to tell which version of this squad will show up in Macau, but we’ve seen flashes of strong and encouraging play from VGJ.Storm this season. Should the team come into the Minor prepared and confident in its own skill and strategies, there’s potential for VGJ.Storm to break through in Macau and join its NA rivals in the Pro Circuit standings.
Infamous(South America) – Infamous has been on the rise of late in the South American region, as the squad has been hard at work establishing itself in a region that had been controlled by SG e-sports for a significant portion of the season so far. With multiple teams in the region showing improvement recently, Infamous has been seeing increased opportunities to put its considerable skill on display. The MDL Macau Minor will be the team’s third appearance at a Pro Circuit event so far this season, though the team has not come away with any Qualifying Points just yet. This Minor represents an opportunity for Infamous to become the first South American team to earn a spot in the Pro Circuit standings, but the team is going to have to bring down some formidable opponents to accomplish that feat.
Infamous’ last appearance at a Pro Circuit event was a disastrous campaign at the PGL Open Bucharest Minor in October. The team was overwhelmed in the group stage of that Minor, losing 0-2 to both LGD Gaming and Team Secret to finish without a single win and in the 7th-8th position. Since that forgettable performance, the team has been looking much improved in its home region, sparking some hope that the SA squad may be ready for another attempt on the international stage. Infamous have placed 3rd or better in three qualifiers since the PGL Open Bucharest Minor, including the 1st place finish in the qualifier for this Minor. These results against regional opponents are positive signs for Infamous, but it remains to be seen if the squad is ready to carry those successes over onto the international stage. We will see if the improvement at home bears any fruit overseas as Infamous make their way to Macau.
OG(Europe) – Out of the European region comes OG, a team still looking to find its footing on the Pro Circuit after a less than ideal start to the season. This powerhouse of the Dota world in previous years has struggled to make its mark on the Pro Circuit this season. The MDL Macau Minor will be just the team’s second appearance at a Pro Circuit event this season, with OG still without a single Qualifying Point to its name. OG’s roster contains some of the most talented and well regarded players in the world, and despite the rough beginning to the season, the European squad is starting to look more like its old self as it hopes to begin its march back to the top of the Dota 2 world. It will be quite a long climb for OG to return to its former glory, but the MDL Macau Minor could be the first step for this veteran team.
OG has just one previous appearance on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, and its wasn’t a particularly impressive one. The team participated in the AMD SAPPHIRE Dota Pit League Minor at the beginning of November, but put together a rather disappointing performance. After losing its initial series 1-2 against Vici Gaming, the team won a best-of-one match up with Fnatic before falling to Newbee in the next round to finish in the 5th-6th position. The team’s performance in the aftermath of that lackluster finish has been decidedly more impressive, with the squad qualifying for two Pro Circuit events. OG won the Europe Qualifier for this Minor in Macau, as well as the qualifier for the Captain’s Draft 4.0 Minor to begin 2018. The European squad came within a game of making it a three for three sweep of November qualifiers, but fell just short of qualifying for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major. These performances paint a picture of an OG that appears to be on the right track in its recovery. The MDL Macau Minor will a perfect test for OG to gauge whether this squad is ready to reclaim its place as a top tier team in the Dota 2 world.
Natus Vincere(Commonwealth of Independent States) – Serving as the second representative of the CIS region at the MDL Macau Minor is Natus Vincere. Na’Vi has put together an admirable start to the season, rising from a relatively weak position last year to become one of the region’s leading teams again. The MDL Macau Minor will be Na’Vi’s fourth Pro Circuit event so far this season, though the team has found difficulties replicating its regional success into results on the international st age. Na’Vi has yet to earn any Qualifying Points so far, but the team’s players and fans are hoping that the squad can change that in the near future. The team’s inability to convert opportunities into success at Pro Circuit events is discouraging, but Na’Vi’s recent performance has it looking significantly stronger heading into the MDL Macau Minor.
Na’Vi’s last Pro Circuit LAN was the PGL Open Bucharest Minor, where the team struggled considerably. After losing 1-2 in series against both Mineski and VGJ.Thunder, the team was eliminated from the Minor in the group stage for an ignoble 7th-8th place finish. Things have certainly been looking up for Na’Vi since that regrettable performance though, with the squad appearing to find its rhythm in the CIS region. The squad defeated prominent CIS rival Team Empire to qualify for this Minor in Macau, placed second in the CIS Qualifier for the Dota Summit 8 Minor after a 1-3 series loss the Virtus.pro, and posted a 10-4 record in the combined Europe and CIS Qualifier for DreamLeague Season 8 to earn a spot at the Major. Most recently, Na’Vi has found success at a non-Pro Circuit event as well, winning the Adrenaline Cyber League final in Moscow by defeating VP 3-1. Though that last win won’t earn Na’Vi anything on the Pro Circuit, its performance shows that the squad has improved and is capable of competing with the best teams that the Pro Circuit has to offer. The real test for Na’Vi will come in the next few weeks, as the team’s performances in the DreamLeague Major and this MDL Macau Minor will set the tone for the team heading into 2018.