Poland to host first Dota 2 Major as ESL brings Pro Circuit to Katowice
With the recent removal of the Galaxy Battles II event from the list of Majors, there has been a larger than usual gap between Majors on the Pro Circuit to start 2018. The good news is that fans will be able to get their fill of Dota 2 Major action in the near future, with the Pro Circuit having two Majors scheduled back to back in February and March. The first of these Majors is ESL One Katowice, the latest event from organizer ESL in its ESL One series. As the event’s name would suggest, the Major is being hosted in Katowice, Poland and will bring sixteen Pro Circuit teams to the Spodek Arena for a chance to be crowned the first Major Champion of 2018. Beginning on the 20th of February and running through the 25th, the ESL Katowice Major will feature prize pools of $1,000,000 USD and 1500 Qualifying Points, with the distribution outlined below.
1st: Unknown Cash Amount (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per player)
2nd: Unknown Cash Amount (Total) & 450 Qualifying Points (Per player)
3rd-4th: Unknown Cash Amount (Per team) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per player)
5th-6th: Unknown Cash Amount (Per team)
7th-8th: Unknown Cash Amount (Per team)
9th-12th: Unknown Cash Amount (Per team)
13th-16th:Unknown Cash Amount (Per team)
With sixteen teams in the field of participants at the Major, there’s going to be quite a lot of competition to reach the Top 4 in Katowice. Every current Top 8 ranked team on the Pro Circuit will be in attendance, and all but two of the sixteen squads have earned Qualifying Points so far this season. With the field stacked full of strong squads in Katowice, we can take a look at those teams that will be competing at the first Major of 2018.
- 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
Virtus.pro (Commonwealth of Independent States) – The highest ranked squad within the CIS region and one of the strongest teams on the Pro Circuit, Virtus.pro has more than earned its place at the top so far this season. The team has looked dominant within the CIS region, and its four Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events have displayed the team’s ability to win on the international stage as well. The CIS squad even attended its last two Pro Circuit events without its usual captain, playing with a stand-in during the month of December but still managed to earn a Top 4 finish at the MDL Macau Minor and a 1st place finish at the Dota Summit 8 Minor. With the team’s normal roster now back for the 2018 section of the season, there’s no reason to believe that Virtus.pro won’t continue its dominant run on the Pro Circuit.
Team Secret (Europe) – It has been fantastic season so far for European squad Team Secret, as the team stands at the very top of the Pro Circuit rankings heading into this first Major of 2018. The team has been nearly untouchable within its home region, dominating its fellow European squads on the somewhat rare occasion that it has to play in regional qualifiers. The impressive performances are not just limited to Europe though, as the team has put together four Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events so far this season. Those finishes may have earned Team Secret its current position at the top of the Pro Circuit standings, but the ESL One Katowice Major offers the team a valuable opportunity to increase its lead over the world’s other leading squads.
Team Liquid (Europe) – Team Liquid have been one of the most efficient squads on the Pro Circuit so far this season, with that efficiency earning the team a spot among the top squads in the rankings. The TI7 winner has played in just one qualifier so far this season, having been directly invited to all of its other Pro Circuit events. That’s where the aforementioned efficiency comes in, as Team Liquid have finished in the Top 4 at every Pro Circuit LAN it has attended so far this season. The squad will be looking to continue that streak as it enters its seventh Pro Circuit event and despite the large number of teams at the Major, Team Liquid has to be considered one of the favorites to win in Katowice.
Newbee (China) – As the highest ranked Chinese squad on the Pro Circuit, Newbee enters the first Major of 2018 carrying the expectations of an entire region. The team has done an impressive job of representing the Chinese region so far, with three Top 4 finishes earning Newbee a spot within the Top 8 teams in the Pro Circuit standings. The team has been able to perform on a consistent level both at home and on the international stage this season. So long as the Chinese squad avoids an uncharacteristic breakdown in Katowice, it should have a good shot at earning its first Major Championship of the season.
Evil Geniuses (North America) – North American squad Evil Geniuses had a rather successful start to the season in 2017, with the team earning a spot among the Top 8 ranked squads on the Pro Circuit. At the end of the year, the team underwent some roster changes, adding a new captain and a new coach and changing the positions of some of its players. The team’s new roster didn’t produce immediate results, as the North American squad missed the mark for a Top 4 spot at the Captains Draft Minor at the beginning of January. However, the lineup looked relatively strong in its first official matches together, and by the time the Major begins, the North American squad will likely be fully adjusted and ready to play at its full potential.
Mineski (Southeast Asia) – Mineski has stood as the uncontested leader of the Southeast Asian region for the entirety of the season so far, as the team found success early to claim a spot in the Top 8 on the Pro Circuit rankings. Where other SEA teams were suffering from poor play or inconsistency, Mineski displayed a stability and strength that has been the calling cards of the Pro Circuit leaders. With its regional rivals beginning to get back on track though, Mineski is going to find itself facing more competition for spots at events in the near future. For now though, the Southeast Asian squad will be looking to maintain and improve its Pro Circuit standing in Katowice.
Vici Gaming (China) – Newbee may be the highest ranked Chinese squad on the Pro Circuit, but it isn’t the only one inside the Top 8. Fellow Chinese team Vici Gaming has put together an impressive season so far, earning itself a tie for the fifth place position in the Pro Circuit standings. Vici Gaming has displayed an incredibly impressive level of success and consistency within its home region, finishing within the Top 4 in every qualifier it has played this season save for one. Combine that consistency at home with three Top 4 finishes on the international level at Pro Circuit events, and Vici Gaming comes in as a legitimate threat and a contender for the Major Championship in Katowice.
Natus Vincere (Commonwealth of Independent States) – When the season began, many weren’t quite sure what to expect from Na’Vi with its relatively new roster. After beginning the season with two pedestrian efforts at the first two Minors, confidence was not particularly high for the team. However, the CIS squad has turned things around, becoming a dominant force in its home region second only to Virtus.pro and finding its rhythm on the international stage with two Top 4 finishes in December. The team has momentum going its way so far in the 2018 segment of the season, but the true test will be come in Katowice as Na’Vi attempts to earn a Top 4 position at its second Major of the season.
The Qualifier Winners
OG (Europe) – European squad OG has found itself quite busy in the last few weeks, after what had been a somewhat quiet start to the season. After middling results in the European region and a single appearance at the Dota Pit Minor, the team finally put the pieces together and began an impressive run both at home and on the international stage. That run has now produced multiple qualifier wins, as well as three straight Top 4 performances at Pro Circuit events, including a 1st place finish at the MDL Macau Minor. All of this has OG cracking the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, but that position is far from secure. With many teams waiting in the wings for a chance to leap up into the Top 8, OG is in need of a solid performance in Katowice to help secure its position. If the European squad is able to hold on to the good form and momentum that it has seen over the last month or so, it should have a good chance to compete for a Top 4 spot at the Major.
Team Kinguin (Europe) – Polish squad Team Kinguin has been a pleasant surprise on the Pro Circuit this year, with the team coming out of Europe despite the strong teams in the region. After a run of Top 4 finishes in European qualifiers, Team Kinguin finally broke through with an appearance at the Perfect World Masters. Though the team didn’t make the Top 4 in China, it showed the Dota 2 world a remarkable level of poise and talent in its Pro Circuit debut. Those qualities helped the team earn its first Qualifying Points of the season at the Dota Summit 8 Minor, putting the team on the board in the Pro Circuit standings, albeit in a tie for fifteenth. The team’s position may not be high, but the Polish squad has proven it at least has the potential to compete against some of the world’s best teams, and it can’t be counted out in Katowice.
Effect (Commonwealth of Independent States) – Effect is a team and a name that many Dota 2 fans may not be familiar with unless they have been paying close attention to the CIS scene. The team has been a relative afterthought in a region largely dominated by Virtus.pro, Na’Vi, and now even Team Empire to some extent. However, after languishing in the periphery of the CIS hierarchy all season long, the team has finally found success with a spot at the Major. The team is set to make its Pro Circuit debut in Katowice, and while the expectation for the team may not be particularly high, it will still be intersting to see how Effect plays on the Pro Circuit stage.
compLexity Gaming (North America) – The longer the season goes, the more compLexity Gaming is improving its case as one of the leading teams in the North American region. The results are there for the team already, as the squad has not finished outside of the Top 4 at any regional qualifier so far this season. That level of consistency against regional rivals is highly valued in a team, and it has afforded compLexity Gaming multiple opportunities to showcase its talent on the Pro Circuit stage. The team’s two Top 4 finishes may not have it sitting in a fantastic position in the Pro Circuit standings, but a strong performance at the Major has the potential to skyrocket the North American squad up the rankings.
Infamous (South America) – The South American region has been a confusing and exciting situation to see unfold so far this season. While multiple squads have emerged from the region to have stretches of strong play, there isn’t a clearly developed leader as of yet. One of the squads that is at least in contention for that leading position is Infamous, as the team will be making its fifth appearance on the Pro Circuit so far. While Infamous has not necessarily dominated its region in terms of qualifiers, the team has come closer than any other to finding a consistent level of success. Unfortunately though, that success in the South American region has not translated into any results on the international level, as the team is currently still looking for its first Qualifying Points of the season. Given the team’s previous performances on the international st age, the expectations for Infamous has to be low, but you never know what team will make a unexpected run at an event, and there’s always a chance that Infamous has figured out what it needs to compete in Katowice.
LGD (China) – It’s been a roller coaster type season for LGD Gaming so far, as the team has gone through some highs and lows already with several months left to go before TI. The Chinese squad opened its Pro Circuit campaign with a Top 4 finish at its first Minor, though a substitution gave the team a penalty to its Qualifying Point earnings. Then the trouble started, as LGD Gaming put up three staright last place finishes at Minors and seemed to be suffering from some internal issues in addition to its poor play. Those issues culminated in a roster change for the team, and said change appears to be having the desired effect on the squad. LGD Gaming has come out in 2018 looking like a different squad, stringing together three straight Top 2 finishes at qualifiers, including two wins. The new look LGD Gaming roster appears to be ready to compete again, but the Major in Katowice will be a huge test of the Chinese team’s abilities.
Fnatic (Southeast Asia) – Fnatic made big news recently with the announcement of a roster change for the Southeast Asian team. After having acquired Abed in November, the team made another move to bring in NA veteran UNiVeRsE as the team’s new offlaner. The addition makes Fnatic one of the more frightening teams in the field in Katowice, and also makes it a potential contender to the leading position within the Southeast Asian region. Prior to this move, Mineski stood as the uncontested leader of the region with a significant Qualifying Points lead. The addition of UNiVeRsE’s Qualifying Points puts Fnatic in a position to catch up to its fellow SEA squad, and the player’s talent and experience will definitely help the team take advantage of its opportunities on the Pro Circuit stage. We will see how far this new look lineup can go as Fnatic makes its way to Katowice for the Major.
OpTic Gaming (North America) – Following a somewhat controversial disqualification from the original North America Qualifier, OpTic Gaming received a second chance to go to Katowice in the North America Last Chance Qualifier. The North American region may be largely dominated by Evil Geniuses and compLexity Gaming so far this season, but OpTic Gaming has been slowly working its way into contention as well. After finalizing its roster in December following the departure of one of its players, the team has recovered well and continued to compete against top North American squads. The team is set to make its second appearance at a Pro Circuit event, and the Dota 2 world will be waiting to see if the team can take its regional success and turn it into tangible results on the international stage.