Dota 2 Minor Recap: MDL Macau

The Boys are Back: OG defeat TNC Pro Team for first Minor Title of season. Na’Vi, Virtus.pro hold down 3rd-4th positions in Macau.

Another Pro Circuit Minor has come to a close, and at the end of the action at the MDL Macau Minor, OG walks away with its first Minor Championship and its first top 4 finish of the season. Nine teams came to Macau hoping to make their mark on the Pro Circuit, but OG finally put together the kind of run that fans of the team had been hoping for, looking strong against all challengers. OG’s victory puts the European squad on the board in the Pro Circuit standings, but it wasn’t the only team to earn its first Qualifying Points in Macau. SEA squad TNC Pro Team made its long awaited Pro Circuit debut and came away with a 2nd place finish to become the Southeast Asian region’s second representative in the standings. The CIS region rounded out the top 4, with Na’Vi and Virtus.pro holding down the final two spots and strengthening their positions in standings. The results from Macau forced some small changes to the Pro Circuit standings, with OG and TNC Pro Team being added to the list at 8th and 10th, respectively. Despite its top 4 finish, Na’Vi shift down a spot from 8th to 9th while fellow CIS squad Virtus.pro remain in the 3rd place position in the standings. With the money and hardware handed out and the Pro Circuit standings adjusted, its time to look at how the teams performed in Macau, and what comes next for the nine participants.

Virtus.pro 600px-Virtus

Place: 3rd-4th

Winnings: $30,000(Total) and 30 Qualifying Points(per player)

So far this season, just about everything had been coming up positive for CIS squad Virtus.pro. The team’s successes at the ESL One Hamburg Major and Dota Pit Minor had earned it a top 3 spot in the Pro Circuit rankings and one of the most comfortable positions in the professional Dota 2 scene. VP came into the MDL Macau Minor looking to improve that already strong position, and even with coach Artstyle standing in for normal team captain Solo, the squad was one of the most dangerous and talented in the field.

Virtus.pro came into the event as one of the world’s strongest teams, but its performance on Day 1 of the Group Stage in Macau was not particularly impressive as the team played its first official matches with Artstyle on the roster. Wins against OG and LGD.Forever Young were mirrored by a 70 plus minute loss to LGD Gaming and a 27 minute rout at the hands of VGJ.Storm. The even Day 1 effort kept VP close in the standings, but it would need a strong showing on Day 2 to cement its place in the top 4 in Macau. The team looked a bit more confident on the second day of the event, defeating Na’Vi, EHOME, and TNC Pro Team while dropping only one match against South American squad Infamous. The team’s play on Day 2 left it with a 5-3 overall record, a spot in the playoff stage, and a top 4 position at the Minor. VP’s first opponent in the Semifinals would be Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team, making its Pro Circuit debut and hoping to secure a top 2 finish. Game 1 was a tale of two halves, with TNC controlling the early and mid-game stages but giving way to VP’s lineup in the late game. However, VP stumbled late in the game, losing a decisive team fight that left it without buybacks or defenders as TNC Pro Team claimed a win in the opening match. Game 2 turned out to be a much less ambiguous affair, as VP fell behind early and lost control of the map to Raven’s Terrorblade and Kuku’s Tinker. Facing a near 14k net worth deficit at the 25 minute mark, VP conceded defeat, losing the series 0-2 and ending its run in Macau with a 3rd-4th place finish.

There were questions as to how effectively Virtus.pro would perform with its coach standing in for the team’s captain, but VP looked every bit as confident as it had at previous events. Even with the adjustments the team needed to make having a substitute player, VP came into the event as a projected top 4 team, and the CIS squad lived up to those expectations in solid fashion. Artstyle is set to remain on the active roster for Vitrus.pro through the rest of December, and it doesn’t appear that VP will be any less of a threat during that period. The team won’t have much time to rest after its top 4 finish in Macau, as the team is on its way to the other side of the world to participate in the Dota Summit 8 Minor in Los Angeles beginning December 13th.

 

LGD Gaming 800px-LGD

Place: 5th-9th

Winnings: $9,000

LGD Gaming got off to a strong start to the season looking like a leading team in the Chinese region and claiming a top 4 finish at the season’s second Minor. Since then, the squad has been struck by a string of inconsistent performances, at some times looking like the solid team that had opened the season and at others appearing to struggle significantly against Chinese and intentional teams alike. After a disappointing showing at the Perfect World Masters in November, LGD Gaming was looking for a chance to swing momentum back in its favor and put that poor performance behind it in Macau.

LGD Gaming proved unable to take advantage of its opportunities at the MDL Macau Minor, as the Chinese squad faced further struggles on the international stage. The best-of-1 format of the group stage didn’t do LGD Gaming any favors as the team couldn’t seem to build any momentum across its matches. Day 1 of the Group Stage saw the squad lose matches against LGD.Forever Young, Na’vi, and TNC Pro Team, managed just a single win in a 70 minute long game against Virtus.pro. Day 2 proved to be just as tough for the team, as it earned just one victory against VGJ.Storm and lost its matches against Infamous, EHOME, and OG. The team finished 2-6 in the Group Stage, a record that was tied for the worst performance among the teams in Macau. The team’s struggles put it in the 5th-9th place range, and left the Chinese squad well short of the mark to earn Qualifying Points at the Minor.

While the performance from LGD Gaming in Macau was somewhat disappointing, it wasn’t necessarily unexpected. The team’s lackluster result at the Perfect World Masters had already raised some doubts as to whether the Chinese squad would be able to overcome international competition. Coming into the MDL Macau Minor, I had LGD Gaming projected as a 5th-9th place team, with its potential success being largely dependent on the squad’s ability to regain its early season form. We’ve seen LGD Gaming put together impressive performances this season, but the recent struggles with inconsistent play seem to have left the squad looking for answers at an incredibly inconvenient time. The team will be getting more chances to turn this latest slump around in the near future, as the team is set to attend the Dota Summit 8 Minor beginning December 13th, and will be participating in the upcoming China Qualifier for the Galaxy Battles II Major.

 

LGD.Forever Young LGD.Forever_Young

Place: 5th-9th

Winnings: $9,000

LGD.Forever Young came into the MDL Macau Minor riding a high from a successful debut performance at the Perfect World Masters Minor. The team’s consistent results in the Chinese region combined with its recent top 4 finish in Shanghai put it in a strong position to make a push for more Qualifying Points and continue climbing the Pro Circuit standings as the calendar year nears it end. With many of the teams in the field of participants in Macau either lacking experience on the Pro Circuit or struggling in international play, LGD.Forever Young presented itself as one of the stronger squads coming into the Minor.

Unfortunately for the Chinese squad, that perceived strength didn’t end up being enough to fuel another successful run. The team put forth a less than ideal series of matches on Day 1 of the Group Stage, taking wins against LGD Gaming and Na’Vi but losing to OG, EHOME, and Virtus.pro. LGD.Forever Young needed a clean sweep of its three Game 2 matches to make it into the top 4 but the squad only managed to win two of those three games, defeating VGJ.Storm and Infamous but losing to TNC Pro Team. That performance on Day 2 left the team with a 4-4 overall record in the Group Stage, finishing in the 5th-9th place position but coming just one win away from a potential tiebreaker scenario.

While LGD.Forever Young did manage to come close to a top 4 finish, the fact that the Chinese squad ended up just short of the mark to earn Qualifying Points in Macau comes as a bit of a surprise. The team’s relatively consistent play in China combined with its solid results at its Pro Circuit debut at the Perfect World Masters appeared to have set the team up with a fair amount of momentum heading into this event. Taking that into account along with the state of the rest of the participants, I had projected LGD.Forever Young to claim a top 4 spot at the Minor. That projection proved to be a little bit off the mark, but the team’s performance in Macau is still cause for optimism as the Chinese squad moves forward in the season. So long as it can avoid any large scale setbacks, LGD.Forever Young is set up to produce solid and consistent results at home and remain competitive in international play, a combination that makes it a strong squad as the Pro Circuit shifts from 2017 to 2018. The Chinese squad is set to take a small break before returning to Pro Circuit action, as the team’s next scheduled appearance is currently the Galaxy Battles II Major in January.

 

TNC Pro Team Tncproteam

Place: 2nd

Winnings: $65,000(Total) and 90 Qualifying Points(per player)

With teams like Mineski coming out of the gate hot and claiming top 4 finishes, and squads like Fnatic attracting headlines with with big name roster acquisitions, there wasn’t much consideration given to TNC Pro Team to begin the season. The squad’s roster had remained unchanged over the offseason period, and it hadn’t earned any notable Pro Circuit victories in the season’s first three months. However, the MDL Macau Minor represented the team’s first significant chance to make a statement both within the SEA region and on the Pro Circuit as a whole. With a field full of Pro Circuit veterans and newcomers alike, TNC Pro Team was looking for a show of strength in its debut Pro Circuit appearance.

The SEA squad came out ready to play on Day 1 of the Group Stage, getting itself off to a fantastic start with victories over Infamous, VGJ.Storm, and LGD Gaming. After going undefeated on the first day of the event, the squad would have a slightly more anxiety-inducing performance on Day 2. After opening the second day of play with a win over LGD.Forever Young, TNC proceeded to drop matches to OG, Na’Vi, and Virtus.pro to put the team just a single win ahead of the 5th and 6th place teams. The team’s final match against EHOME would determine which squad would advance to the playoffs, and TNC Pro Team managed to dominate that final matchup with a win in 26 minutes to secure a top 4 finish in Macau. The Seminfinals of the Playoff Stage saw TNC Pro Team go up against CIS powerhouse Virtus.pro, but the SEA squad didn’t appear intimidated by the match up. The squad lost an early lead in Game 1 of the series, but managed to weather the storm through the late game to take a decisive and game winning team fight in a 51 minute victory. After the relatively long opening match, Game 2 seemingly went by in the blink of an eye, as TNC dominated the map and VP’s lineup early to force a “gg” from the CIS squad in just 25 minutes. The victory gave TNC Pro Team a 2-0 series win and sent the team to the Grand Finals for a match up with OG for the Minor Champion title. The SEA squad would be unable to replicate its success in the Semifinal against OG, as N0tail and Resolut1on caught fire for OG and dominated both games of the series to shut TNC Pro Team out with an 0-2 loss. The loss in the Grand Finals ended TNC Pro Team’s run at the MDL Macau Minor with a 2nd place finish in the team’s Pro Circuit debut.

TNC Pro Team came into the event with potential and veteran experience, even if that experience was not from the Pro Circuit. The team’s relative success in the SEA region and strong showings at third party events had the squad looking impressive, but there were still some questions regarding how well it would perform against top international competition. My preview post had the team as a projected 5th-9th place team, but with the potential to jump into the top 4 with a solid performance or a mistake from a leading team. As it turns out, the team got both, looking strong in the Group Stage as other competitors seemed to struggle. The team’s impressive series against VP in the Semifinals served to further boost the squad’s profile on the Pro Circuit, as a win against one of the top ranked teams, even one playing with a stand in, is a significant accomplishment. The 2nd place finish in Macau puts TNC Pro Team on the board in the Pro Circuit rankings, and makes the squad just the second team from the SEA region to have earned Qualifying Points this season. The schedule is empty for TNC Pro Team through the rest of 2017, with the team’s next appearance on the Pro Circuit currently being the Galaxy Battles II Major in January.

 

VGJ.Storm 600px-VGJ_201710_logo_notext

Place: 5th-9th

Winnings: $9,000

VGJ.Storm made its way to Macau facing a startlingly high number of questions for a squad making its first ever Pro Circuit LAN appearance. The North American squad has had a tough road getting itself out of its home region and qualifying for events, but the team’s recent roster news cast a shadow over its Pro Circuit debut. Without its full roster, it wasn’t entirely clear how VGJ.Storm was going to perform in Macau, but the use of Newbee’s kpii as a stand in at least provided an intriguing story line as the team looked to make a successful first run at a Pro Circuit event.

Unfortunately for VGJ.Storm, the temporary addition of kpii to the North American squad did not end up being enough to push the team into serious contention in Macau. Day 1 began well enough for VGJ.Storm, with the team taking a short and surprising win over Virtus.pro in its opening match along with a relatively easy win over South American squad Infamous. Losses to TNC Pro Team and EHOME left the team in a decent position, but Day 2 would prove a more difficult endeavor. The squad couldn’t replicate any of its Day 1 success on Day 2, losing to LGD Gaming, OG, LGD.Forever Young, and Na’Vi to end the Group Stage with a 2-6 overall record. That record was tied for the worst of all the participating teams, and put the North American squad at the bottom of the standings with an unfortunate 5th-9th place finish in Macau.

So the experiment of putting kpii together with four North American players didn’t produce much in the way of positive results, but the expectations for the team coming into the event were already fairly low. No team comes away from a roster change without some adjustments, and for VGJ.Storm having replaced a key member of its squad on relatively short notice meant that the squad would not be playing at its full potential at this event. Without a clear perspective of how the team would play with a stand in, VGJ.Storm came into the event as a projected 5th-9th place team, a projection that the squad fell directly into. The only real hope VGJ.Storm had to make a deep run in Macau would have been some sort of miraculous, lightning in a bottle, stars aligning scenario in which kpii managed to perfectly fit into the team’s play style. Kpii’s a fantastic player, but that scenario relies more on just plain old blind luck than any skill on his part. VGJ.Storm’s Pro Circuit debut was certainly not ideal, but the squad returns to the North American region with valuable experience on the international stage. The only question remaining is who will the team look to to fill its still vacant roster slot moving forward? The team doesn’t appear to have an immediate answer to that question, as VGJ.Storm are about a week away from the regional qualifier for the ESL One Genting Minor.

 

Infamous LOGO-INFAMOUS-COMERCIAL

Place: 5th-9th

Winnings: $9,000

It’s been a season of pros and cons for South American squad Infamous, as the team headed into its third Pro Circuit appearance. On the positive side, the team has emerged as one of the leading squads within its home region, standing alongside SG e-sports, Sacred, and Pain Gaming as South America’s most talented teams. However, the team’s regional success has yet to carry over to the international game, as the South American squad has struggled significantly when facing opponent from outside of its home region. The two previous Pro Circuit appearances had not yielded much success, with the team failing to win a single match in back to back 0-4 performances. As the team made its way to Macau for this latest Minor, it was looking for any sign of improvement against international opposition.

Infamous managed to put on a much stronger show than we had seen from the team at previous events, but the results were still somewhat lacking for the South American squad. Day 1 of the Group Stage was not kind to Infamous, as the team lost all three of its opening day matches, falling short against TNC Pro Team, EHOME, and VGJ.Storm. Day 2 proved to be a more positive experience for the South American squad, with the team winning its opening match against LGD Gaming. Back to back losses to LGD.Forever Young and Na’Vi pretty much ended the team’s hopes for the playoffs, but Infamous managed to finish strong with two more wins over Virtus.pro and OG to close out its Group Stage run with a 3-5 record. That performance left Infamous short of the mark to move on to the playoff stage and ended its run in Macau with a 5th-9th place finish.

The performance from Infamous in Macau may not have been particularly impressive, but the team entered the Minor with some incredibly low expectations. Within that context, the team’s run in the Group Stage was a source of considerable encouragement for a team that hadn’t scored a single match win at a Pro Circuit LAN previously. The team’s lack of success on the international level prior to this appearance had Infamous projected within the lower end of the 5th-9th range, and its performance in Macau lined up perfectly with that projection. Despite the low finish in the standings, Infamous still comes away from the MDL Macau Minor with more experience and its first taste of success on the international stage. The question for this squad moving forward will be whether it cant continue improving and build on this performance. The team could have some time off in between Pro Circuit performances, as Infamous is not scheduled to attend any Pro Circuit events until the Galaxy Battles II Major in January, 2018.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Place: 1st

Winnings: $130,000(Total) and 150 Qualifying Points(per player)

OG’s performance to this point in the season had been somewhat disappointing for a squad that had been one of the leading teams in the world last year. Limited success in the European region had kept OG relatively quiet and given the squad precious few opportunities to put itself on display on the international stage. With the MDL Macau Minor being just the team’s second Pro Circuit event, the pressure was high for the team to finally make a breakthrough and get itself on the board in the Pro Circuit standings and perhaps turn around what had been a disappointing start to the season.

OG began the quest for its first top 4 finish with a solid start on Day 1 of the Group Stage in Macau. The European squad opened up the action at the Minor with wins over EHOME, LGD.Forever Young, and Na’Vi. A single loss to Virtus.pro prevented the team from taking a clean sweep on Day 1, but OG’s performance set it up with a favorable position heading into the second day of action. OG followed up its impressive Day 1 performance with a repeat showing on Day 2, defeating LGD Gaming, TNC Pro Team, and VGJ.Storm and dropping just one game to Infamous. At the end of the second day of play in Macau, OG stood with a 6-2 record that put it into the top 4 and the chance to choose its first opponent in the Playoff Stage. OG chose to face Na’Vi in its Semifinal series, and the series opened with a marathon of a match in Game 1. OG managed to take the win after 62 minutes behind  a strong late game lineup led by a core trio of Naga Siren, Shadow Fiend, and Puck. Game 2 was a much shorter affair, as OG simply dominated the game from the outset. The European squad jumped out to an early lead and found thirty three kills to just seven on the side of Na’Vi in what was a 37 minute long rout to earn OG a 2-0 series victory and a spot in the Grand Finals. OG would face SEA squad TNC Pro Team in the final series of the event, and the momentum of the European squad proved too much for its opponent to handle. Resolut1on absolutely dominated the series for OG, posting a stat line of 17 kills and 17 assists with 0 deaths across a quick 2-0 victory for the European team. With the final obstacle removed from its path, OG laid claim to the title of Minor Champion with a 1st place finish in Macau.

Coming into this event, OG was in relatively desperate need of a statement performance to buoy what had been a somewhat unimpressive start to its Pro Circuit campaign. Even with its limited success to this point in the season, the team had a wealth of talent and experience at the highest level that simply couldn’t be ignored. In my preview post for this Minor, that skill and experienced was the driving factor behind a tentative projection for a top 4 finish for OG, but the team went far and above that prediction in Macau. The hope for the European squad now is that this win at the MDL Macau Minor gets the team rolling and gives it the momentum it needs to continue competing both in the European region and on the international level. With Team Liquid and Team Liquid still largely dominating the region, it will be a tough task for OG to continue its climb, but the MDL Macau Minor represents the first big step for the team as it looks to reclaim its old position as one of the leading teams in the Dota 2 world. The team has quite a few opportunities to continue moving up the Pro Circuit standings on the horizon, as the team will close out 2017 with an appearance in the Dota Summit 8 Minor before starting off 2018 at the Captain’s Draft 4.0 Minor and the Galaxy Battles II Major in January.

 

Natus Vincere 668px-Natus_Vincere

Place: 3rd-4th

Winnings: $30,000(Total) and 30 Qualifying Points(per player)

The early stages of the season saw Na’Vi produce solid and consistent results in the CIS region, alongside some disappointing appearances on the international stage. Following the team’s breakthrough performance at the DreamLeague Season 8 Finals Major, Na’Vi looked to be in a position to emerge as a true competitor on the Pro Circuit and perhaps joining Virtus.pro as the another CIS representative among the top tier of professional Dota 2. The team had the momentum and experience on the international stage, and the MDL Macau Minor provided a perfect opportunity for Na’Vi to make a show of strength and improve its Pro Circuit ranking.

Na’Vi’s journey at the Minor got off to a decent start, as the team played half of its Group Stage matches on Day 1 of the event. Wins against Chinese squads LGD Gaming and EHOME were positives for Na’Vi, but losses to LGD.Forever Young and OG left the team at an even record heading into Day 2. The event’s second day began with a loss to fellow CIS team Virtus.pro, but Na’Vi turned things around from that point forward, regrouping to take wins against Infamous, TNC Pro Team, and VGJ.Storm to finish the Group Stage with a 5-3 overall record, a spot in the playoff bracket, and a guaranteed top 4 finish in Macau. The playoff stage with Na’Vi facing off against European squad OG in the Semifinals, but the team couldn’t manage to avenge its earlier Group Stage loss. After a 62 minute long opening match, Na’Vi found itself down early in series, and OG didn’t give the CIS squad much room to mount a comeback effort. Na’Vi followed up the hour long Game 1 loss with another defeat in Game 2, ending its run at the MDL Macau Minor with a 3rd-4th finish.

Na’Vi’s top 4 finish is another achievement for a squad that finds itself in the middle of quite an impressive run on the Pro Circuit. The team has now gone from back to back failures at the StarLadder i-League and PGL Open Bucharest Minors to successive top 4 finishes at the DreamLeague Season 8 Major and this MDL Macau Minor. The team’s increasingly more frequent success at home, combined with its recently found strength on the international level had Na’Vi projected as a top 4 team coming into the event, and the squad certainly didn’t disappoint. These two top 4 finishes put Na’Vi in a solid position as 2017 winds down, and the team itself will get a chance to take a step back and enjoy its recent successes over the holiday season, with team having no further Pro Circuit events on its schedule

 

EHOME 800px-EHOME

Place: 5th-9th

Winnings: $9,000

Heading into the MDL Macau Minor, the season had been an incredibly quiet affair for EHOME. The Chinese squad didn’t have many recent accomplishments to its name as it prepared to make its Pro Circuit debut in Macau. Significant struggles within the Chinese region had kept EHOME out of the discussion as one of the region’s leading teams. While EHOME’s participation at this Minor came from a rule violation on the part of the organizers rather than a qualifier win, the Chinese squad was looking to make the most of its opportunity and put together a solid performance in its first Pro Circuit appearance.

EHOME didn’t quite manage to crack the top 4 in Macau, but the team still maanged to put together a respectable showing in its first Pro Circuit event of the season. Day 1 of the Group Stage started the team off on a relatively positive note as it won games against LGD.Forever Young, Infamous, and VGJ.Storm and lost matches against OG and Na’Vi. EHOME needed a solid showing on Day 2 to push itself over the edge and into a top 4 spot, but it couldn’t come up with the wins it needed. The Chinese squad defeated LGD Gaming, but fell to both Virtus.pro and TNC Pro Team to end its Group Stage run with an even 4-4 record. That record came just short of a top 4 spot and earned EHOME a 5th-9th place finish, though the team came in at the top end of that range.

Despite failing to make it into the top 4 in Macau, EHOME still put together an admirable performance at the Minor. The team was projected to fall within the 5th-9th range at this event based on its poor results in the Chinese region as well as its limited experience on the international level this season. While the team did end up in that 5th-9th position, its placement near the top of that group and its even Group Stage record are still encouraging takeaways from the team’s performance. Considering EHOME’s struggles to this point in the season, the showing in Macau represents a significant step forward. The team will have another chance to show its strength against its fellow Chinese teams, as EHOME will be participating in next week’s China Qualifier for the Galaxy Battles II Major.

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