8 Teams headed to Shanghai for second StarLadder i-League Invitational of Pro Circuit Season
After a marathon of roster changes, qualifier drama, and pro matches marked the first month of 2018 on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, February is set to keep the action going. The month will begin with the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4, as the list of participants for the Minor is now set. Organized jointly by StarLadder and i-League, the Invitational is the second Pro Circuit event that the co-organizers have produced this season, with the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3 having opened the season schedule back in October. This iteration of the event will be hosted in China, as eight of the world’s best teams will make their way to Shanghai with the hopes of improving their position in the Pro Circuit standings. Running from the 1st of February through the 4th, the event offers prize pools of $300,000 USD and 300 Qualifying Points to be distributed along the following lines.
1st: $135,000 (Total) & 150 Qualifying Points (per player)
2nd: $60,000 (Total) & 90 Qualifying Points (per player)
3rd-4th: $30,000 (Total) & 30 Qualifying Points (per player)
The field of participants at the Minor has a rather interesting mix of teams, with the squads coming into this event with various levels of Pro Circuit experience and success. While the field contains three Top 8 ranked squads that are likely to lead in terms of expectations, there are opportunities for any team in the field to earn itself some much needed Qualifying Points. Through luck, skill, or likely a combination of both, any of the participants could walk away from Shanghai looking strong on the Pro Circuit. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the eight teams that will kick off the February action in China.
- Disclaimer: 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
Team Liquid (Europe) – The direct invite for the TI7 Champion was secured the moment the team stepped off the stage in Kiev at the previous iteration of the StarLadder i-League Invitational. As the defending champion of the event, Team Liquid’s spot in the field of participants was guaranteed, an occurrence that the European squad has likely grown used to by now. Team Liquid’s direct invitations to this point in the season have been more than justified, as the team has earned itself a Top 4 finish at every event it has attended so far. The team will be looking to keep that trend going in Shanghai as Team Liquid makes its sixth appearance at a Pro Circuit event. Given the team’s impeccable track record so far this season, Team Liquid must be considered one of the favorites at the Minor.
Newbee (China) – The other direct invite for the Minor went to Newbee, which currently stands as the highest ranked Chinese squad on the Pro Circuit after a successful opening to its campaign. With many teams within the Chinese region fluctuating in terms of their performance and consistency, Newbee’s stability has been invaluable in securing its spot at the top of the regional hierarchy. This Minor in Shanghai will mark Newbee’s seventh Pro Circuit appearance, with three Top 4 finishes so far earning the team a 4th place ranking. Newbee has taken a slightly longer break between official matches compared to some of the other teams in the field, but the Chinese powerhouse still enters this event as one of the favored squads in the field.
The Qualifier Winners
LGD Gaming (China) – One of two Chinese squads at this event, LGD Gaming is looking for a quality performance to bring to a close a relatively long period of uncertainty. After beginning the season with a Top 4 finish at the PGL Bucharest Minor, the squad hit consistent and significant struggles on the Pro Circuit in the months that followed. Those struggles eventually led to a roster change for the Chinese squad, as the team introduced two new players to its lineup. The team’s roster shift appears to be having the desired effect so far, as LGD Gaming has gotten off to a fantastic start to the year in its home region. However, the true test for the new look roster will come in Shanghai, as the team will play its first official matches outside of China at this Minor.
Mineski (Southeast Asia) – Mineski enters the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 as one of the strongest teams on the Pro Circuit, and the highest ranked team in the Southeast Asian region. This Minor will be the squad’s sixth Pro Circuit appearance of the season, with the team having earned three Top 4 finishes so far. The Southeast Asian region has become a bit more competitive than it was at the beginning of the season, but Mineski has been able to maintain its position over its regional rivals. With the team’s position at the top of the Southeast Asian hierarchy looking relatively safe, it would take a truly impressive string of victories for another squad from the region to surpass it. However, Mineski will still be looking to take advantage of this opportunity to widen its lead over those competitors, as well as to gain ground in the Pro Circuit standings.
Team Kinguin (Europe) – European squad Team Kinguin spent most of the early months of the season working its way up the hierarchy in its region. After consistently finding itself within the Top 4 in regional qualifiers, the all-Polish squad finally broke through and made it to the Pro Circuit stage with appearances at the Perfect World Masters and Dota Summit 8 Minors. Those two appearances led to the team earning its only Qualifying Points of the season, but the team is looking to increase its total at its third Pro Circuit event of the season. The team has looked solid and stable within the European region, and its few experience at Pro Circuit events has shown that it can compete on the international stage as well. While being far from a favorite to crack the Top 4 in Shanghai, Team Kinguin is certainly capable of making a strong run at the Minor.
Team Empire (Commonwealth of Independent States) – Team Empire spent the entire 2017 section of the season tantalizingly close to qualifying for Pro Circuit events, with the team pulling in multiple Top 4 finishes in CIS qualifiers, but just barely missing the mark every time. That trend came to an end in 2018, as the team made its Pro Circuit debut at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor earlier this month. The even itself may not have been a huge success for the team, but its a significant example of how the CIS squad has been building up momentum this season. With its consistently strong performances in its home region and international experience at third party tournaments, Team Empire will be a formidable opponent in Shanghai, even if the CIS squad’s odds of winning the event seem low.
compLexity Gaming (North America) – CompLexity Gaming has managed to carve out a favorable position for itself within the North American region so far this season. The team has established itself as one of the leading teams in the region, second only to Evil Geniuses in terms of rank. That region success has translated into moderate results on the Pro Circuit for the North American squad as it makes its sixth appearance at a Pro Circuit event. The team’s prior LAN performances earned compLexity Gaming two Top 4 finishes, but its other attempts have seen the team come incredibly close to increasing that number. The North American squad comes into the Minor in need of a solid performance to shorten the ever increasing gap between itself and the Pro Circuit leaders.
Infamous (South America) – South American squad Infamous was the recipient of a small bit of good fortune that resulted in the team’s participation at this Minor. Infamous was not the original winner of the South America Qualifier, with SG e-sports having claimed the spot at the Minor initially. However, both SG e-sports and the second place team in the qualifier, paiN Gaming, opted to refuse the spot at the Pro Circuit event in order to compete in other tournaments. Because of this, Infamous got a second chance to attend the event, defeating Sacred in a Replacement series to claim the South American slot in Shanghai. The StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 will be the fourth Pro Circuit appearance for Infamous, though the team comes into this Minor still searching for its first Qualifying Points of the season.